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Table of contents

It was the perfect hunting environment for a fridge, but that aside it was also ideal conditions for using a tractor to tow a sledge. Now, for the sake of a pseudo-description, the Kubota tractor in question was about the size of a horse. Not a big horse, mind you, but about the size of a Shetland pony standing on top of a pig.

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It had six gears and a high and low differential what with it being a tractor and all and could probably outrun a reasonably quick dog. Driving around the yard and then through the trees in an almost figure-of-eight with a chicane in the middle, the tractor and our sledge quickly compacted the snow beneath. We then slowly increased the speed as we completed each lap.

After a while, requiring some additional element of excitement we piled some cardboard and wood at a particular point towards the end of our circuit. This we then set ablaze. Joe hopped onto the sledge and took hold of the makeshift straps fashioned from a length of rope and I thrust the accelerator forward it was a secondary control to the side of the steering column, the first being a foot pedal. Moments later we raced away through the snow. The first part of our circuit featured fairly wide turns around a variety of obstacles including the family car.

I steered the tractor away from its current path towards my own certain aggravation, immediately glancing back again hoping that the sledge had turned too.

No stranger to the P45 - Volume One

From the outset neither Joe nor I had considered either the dynamics of momentum and trajectory or the responsiveness of a sledge towed behind a tractor travelling beyond the speed of that half-whippet. The sledge had therefore, simply remained on its course towards the tree. I climbed off to check on Joe who was now laughing hysterically inside a snowdrift next to a hedge.

The smash had torn away one of its runners and had snapped the tree in two. We decided then to hide the evidence by extinguishing the fire and hurling the remains together with the now-defunct sledge onto a pile of garden rubbish. We then parked the tractor and hid for the rest of the day.

My father failed to notice the destruction of his tree for some time to come. He discovered it long after the snow had melted when he and I were wandering around the garden and he was looking for fluffy bunnies to blow off the face of the Earth with his air rifle. It must have been the rabbits. For me, a nursery is not the most enjoyable of places to spend my time since not only do I not know one type of plant from another I also hate kids.

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It was simply because I had nothing better to do on this particular day that I agreed to travel with my father to one such establishment purveying plants and a variety of other pieces of vegetation. He wanted to buy some leaves and things from the auction being held there because it was closing down. I had no idea that at this auction I would seize on a money-making opportunity and become convinced that I had all the makings of a super-successful businessman. I also had no idea that I would not remain convinced of this for very long. Many years ago I had a friend whose father had a farm on the outskirts of a village.

It was a small village named Standerwick similar in size to another one named something else, and it was a little farther than a violent sneeze away from the desperately dreary town of Frome. It included a number of buildings fashioned from olde worlde stone and there was also a large barn built of corrugated tin. Machinery often defying description and of purpose unknown to me lay apparently neglected and rusting to pieces in a corner of the yard.

In another corner sat an old stone trough, and in another still: a shed. One of the olde stone buildings was used for milking the cattle while the barn housed their winter feed of hay. In this room the family also kept their jackets and boots. My friend told me once that one of the cats had given birth to some kittens. This had failed to surprise me as much as it would have had I been told that the same cat had given birth to a wheelbarrow full of penguins, but my friend then told me that at less than a week old one of the kittens had found its way inside the wellington boot of her father who had been rather surprised early one morning when he felt his foot squelching against something in that boot and something else oozing into his sock.

It was at the time the market was still located in Frome that I first visited an auction simply to see what one was like. I had a sneezing fit halfway through and very nearly bought a goat. I remember being unable to understand a bit of it, for it was as if he spoke in another tongue. All the same I wandered around looking at shrubs and sticks in small plastic boxes, and as I did so I have no doubt that I occasionally puffed out my cheeks, thrust my hands into my pockets and scuffed the dirt a couple of times in misplaced petulance.

We had arrived at about ten in the morning and by eleven I would have found it more interesting watching cement set. I decided to focus my thoughts on the auctioneer and try to figure out what was being said. The rapid monotone was that of a somewhat melodic machine gun. It was similar to stones rattling down through a drainpipe, or to the chant of an Aborigine with the backing of a didgeridoo. I began to pay more attention to his performance, noting that during the bidding each incremental rise in the price of a particular lot was accompanied by a nod of his head and a point of his finger at one of the green-fingered mob surrounding him.

It was almost as if he were crooning on stage to an audience of grandmothers. As I wandered I soon discovered a garden mower in a shed. I guess the excitement was merely that of a boy of about thirteen: one whose father had collected many of the things over the years and had left them scattered about the numerous corners and bushes of his yard.

I toyed with the idea of encouraging my father to place a bid upon it and left the shed to see how the mass of green fingers, Barbour jackets and wellies was progressing. It was still some way away from the lots within the shed but I immediately noticed that in the midst of the throng was my father. I watched as the mass moved slowly from one lot to the next, and as my father raised his hand in the air to buy a hedge.

The garden mower was one of those sit-on things that doubled as a pathetic-looking tractor. It had a trailer attached to the back and I decided that my friends and I could have a great deal of fun with it should I be able to convince Dad to actually buy it. I went back in to the shed to look it over again and not long after returned outside to try and talk him into the purchase. At this point Dad was nowhere to be seen and for reasons unknown the number of Barbour jackets and wellies had swiftly dwindled to about thirty.

It had reached a pile of paving slabs and a few rocks and, covered by various pieces of vegetation, a stack of flower pots. There was a pallet of plastic ones of different sizes, all of which were coloured black, and behind them an even greater stack of orange and green terracotta pots.

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They were green with moss and ivy and dozens of other leaves, the names of which would still be completely irrelevant even if I did have the faintest clue. For a moment I pondered nothing in particular. I simply stood next to the pots and decided that I quite fancied a cheese sandwich. The mass of Barbour jackets, wellies and a clipboard attached to the auctioneer came ever closer and soon enough I found myself in its midst. It was then that I heard the auctioneer burble something about the terracotta pots.

It could well have been either of those things. I looked around me at the faces of the Barbour jackets and the wellies and at the auctioneer standing a good head-height above everyone else because he was on top of a box.

A Rabbit Poem

He began to call for the bidding against the lot, his gaze falling expectantly upon each of the Barbour jackets and the wellies in turn. The suggestion was again met with the same uncomfortable silence, but undeterred he continued on. There was a rustling of Barbour jackets, a scrape of wellies and a nondescript murmur. Will anyone offer me two? Going once. Going twice. There was more rustling, a little more of a murmur.

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Someone definitely laughed. I immediately forgot about the cheese sandwich and tried to work out how I was going to break the news to my father whom, I had just noticed, was across the yard poking his head into a tree. Do you need any pots?

No stranger to the P45: Volume One

Certainly there was disbelief, bemusement and a hint of horror. But he did. Halfway through the four trips it took us however, a man walked up to me and offered me a fiver for a thousand. I thought, thoroughly pleased with myself. It was my first ever business deal!

Now, for the sake of a pseudo-description, twenty-five thousand flowerpots is a lot of pots. I had no idea what I was going to do with them but over the coming years I sold a few thousand, used a few more thousand for anger management after discovering their particularly therapeutic qualities when hurled against a wall, and I attempted to turn a few more into candles to sell at car boot sales.

But as with anything and Me, after a while I lost interest and Dad used the remaining thousands to bury one of the half-dozen vans rotting away at the end of the garden.

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Like I said, inspired by my wheeler-dealing and belief in my own entrepreneurial abilities I soon visited another auction convinced that I could spot a deal and make myself a vast fortune. It was one of the last auctions I ever went to. Hinton Poultry was a particularly foul place to work, perhaps on a par with having someone push your head into a bucket of maggots. It was a chicken processing plant to which tens of thousands of chickens were delivered each day to be unceremoniously massacred, plucked, and then ripped to pieces.