Godstone Farm: Getting More Than You Bargained For

I grew up surrounded by farmland which was mildly idyllic, although now I associate farms and farmers with a chronic intolerance of trespassers, putting stray kittens in bins and being simultaneously rich and miserable. This has not been passed onto the Major because pretty much ever since he’s been able to point at something and squawk he’s been fascinated by farms. When I say farm I mean livestock and not arable. He’s not well into barley for instance.

We are fortunate as we live near one called Godstone Farm where you are invited to watch, feed and interact with the animals. It’s the very place if you’ve always yearned to interact with a terrapin.

Godstone Farm is gigantic and the best thing about it is that it feels like a farm would be if it had been designed by a child. So along with all your industry-standard farm animals there’s an entire section inhabited by dinosaurs. I should clarify that the dinosaurs are synthetic. One of them does growl as you walk past, although it is standing suspiciously close to a speaker system. There are also two vast Saharan sand pits, a barn housing only slides and an entire silo full of jelly beans. Okay, there are no jelly beans. Or a silo.

There are some things you should know about Godstone if you are thinking of a visit. Firstly due to a strategic oversight the goats have been installed next to the entrance. I doubt that their cleansing routine is any less enthusiastic than its neighbours but the odour they emit is worse than the vague smell of manure everywhere else. It hits you in the nose and the eyes and mouth as soon as you’ve negotiated the ticket office. But just get your head down, walk on and soon there will be sweet-smelling turkeys.

If you’re a big fan of cows you may be disappointed. There are two token cows here. But there are pigs everywhere. The reason for this is evident. In my experience pigs are friskiest of all the farm beasts. My family and I once witnessed this at close quarters when two of them went for it big-style recently. While other parents ushered their children away, my wife and I stood transfixed as the couple embarked on a brutal but impressive routine during which the man-pig sniffed his mate from behind, bit her in the udders and then mounted her in the most punishing way imaginable. The results of this kind of action are all over the farm and they are genuinely adorable.

Godstone Farm has a solid selection of poultry. I continue to be impressed by the ducks here. They can walk, swim and fly but don’t make a massive fuss about it, getting all up in your grill like the geese sometimes do. There are also more leftfield animals, by which I mean not traditionally farm animals as opposed to animals standing in a field in the left. Chipmunks, tarantulas, ferrets, and a gecko called Erica.

So for us, and our growing family of farm-obsessives Godstone Farm is a godsend. And we will continue to visit until our boys become interested in something else. Like barley for instance.

Any good?

Why Play-Doh is Like Kryptonite to Me

I didn’t have many dealings with Play-Doh as a child so when I did come into contact with it I regarded it as lurid, exotic substance. My grandmother owned a Play-Doh Mop Top Hair Shop, the mechanism of which allowed the operator to shove Play-Doh up through the follicles of plastic figurines with the intention of styling their newly-grown Play-Doh hair. It was rich in creative possibility. You could make your clientele look variously like a Vegas drag queen or a proto-hipster or a weirdly-coiffed tramp. It was brilliant.

So I was very enthusiastic when the Major expressed an interest in Play-Doh and slavered slightly as I prised open the lid of his first tub and reluctantly handed over the pristine lump. But it seems that in my old age I have become quite particular in the way I like Play-Doh to be handled. Because there is something about the sight of the Major mixing one colour in with another that strikes at my sense of what is right about this world.

Of course I would never seek to intervene with his artistic method so I have to watch on as the process is repeated again and again until all the original vivid hues have been replaced by a single greyish slurry-brown. Play-Doh also disintegrates into tiny flecks which are unnaturally resistant to hoovers and require cleaning up with a dustpan and brush, the least satisfying of all household chores. It’s basically multi-coloured gravel, only good for constructing wacky driveways. After only a few days of Play-Doh action each tub has a fraction of its initial wedge, containing something that resembles a prehistoric turd.

Regrettably both my sons have dabbled in clay in recent times. Clay is like some Play-Doh that’s let go of itself. If it had a personality it would be embittered. Embittered that it’s been taken out of its home in the ground and given over to the whim of small erratic children. It dries exceedingly quickly, turn one’s back for one second and a small pile of stones has appeared at the kitchen table. Clay leaves a powdery residue in its wake like a grainy snail and it also sucks the juice out of hands, rendering them shrivelled and lifeless.

For reasons best known to himself, the Minor decided to sample a morsel of clay, which compelled me to frantically examine the side of the pot to check if it was poisonous. It was at this point I shouted to my wife, “it’s okay, it’s only a choking hazard.”

Which is the best thing I can say about clay. It’s only a choking hazard.

Any good?