I am amazed to find everyone up and eating breakfast at the time we had stipulated. Remembering the saucepan banging and ankle dragging we had to do last year to get them up every day, I had not expected the morning to begin so smoothly. Akira and Fabian (our fabulous co-leaders) say everyone slept really well and they didn’t hear a sound after midnight. Last year, I had dancing on my ceiling at 2 am and an egg frying feast most nights at 4, so Akira and Fabian are clearly doing something right.
The farmer takes us on a tour of the farm and there is much involved comparison of farming methods in Iraq, Sudan and the UK. Everyone however agrees that the bull, whose job is to service 50 cows and then have a long rest, is very lucky. The sheepdogs fascinate everyone, but especially when the pup-in-training falls under the feet of an escaping sheep. S laughs so hard he falls over, and ends up with a “cow present” on his trousers. Then half of us go to the beach, while the other half stay with Trill Farm resident chef, the very brilliant Chris Onions.
The boys are delighted to leap into the sea, and immediately less delighted to discover that English sea is “very cold and very salty”. Not that it stops them. An impulse purchase of a rugby ball leads to the birth of an unusual hybrid of rugby and water polo, which exhausts everyone by the time lunch has arrived, the classic fish and chips on the beach. Tartare sauce is declared to be “very really disgusting”, but everything else is received with joy. I am momentarily disconcerted when R runs to me to tell me in panic that M is being attacked by many “big angry girls, shouting and biting and trying to eat all his chips” but relieved to find out it is only that M had decided to ignore the warnings not to feed the gulls, and was experiencing the consequences. It is incredibly hot and sunny and I get sunburnt. The boys are fascinated and amused by this; they try to look sympathetic but I have now learned the word ‘tomato’ in both Arabic and Sorani.
Back in the kitchen, the other team have baked 50 rolls of bread, and prepared onion and garlic flatbreads for tonight’s evening meal. Group 2 set to making two enormous curries which are to be heated on the campfire tomorrow, with naan bread and vegetables. They chop the salads from the garden with such competitive gusto, that our excellent co-leaders hover anxiously, but no one loses any fingers. Supper is set out in the courtyard, and there is real contest to wield the barbecue tongs and be the one to decide when to turn the meat. This indeed brings up much noisy debate, on how and when and which to turn first, but it is all a success because the lamb koftas barely touch the table before they disappear. Several of the Trill Farm team join us for dinner and it is a noisy, clattering affair, with everyone pointing out exactly what they had made, and declaring it the best.
After tea, there is a huge game of meadow football, which ends abruptly when the ball is kicked into the middle of an adjacent pond. One of our aforementioned co-leaders, Fabian, gallantly strips off and prepares to jump in, but the boys won’t have this at all and in the end, S pushes past and runs into the stagnant water fully dressed to get the ball. He emerges dark brown from the waist down and the boys show their gratitude by holding their noses and shouting “Eeuw, you smell”.
Tomorrow they can get up later and they are all happy about this. I have promised to run an extra grammar class for anyone who wants to get up early, but oddly, no one has signed up for this yet...
We have arrived - three hours late, but at least in a dignified fashion. unlike last year, when the entire group shot out of the bus and fell retching at the feet of the startled greeting line of Trill people, after an unfortunate travel sickness incident just before arrival. The boys are mostly excited - they have loved the scenery on the way down, especially the emergency hedgerow pitstop, on the top of the hill. A couple of them, however, are wary; a little confused about what has brought them to a farm in this remote part of the world. One says to me “But what we DO?”
Three hours later, they have had a carpentry lesson in the workshop, and put the first steps in place towards making a kitchen stool. They have made two columns of herbal soap each, mixing their own fragrances out of herbal infusions from the garden outside. They have picked and packed trays of onions in Ash and Kate’s vegetable garden, finishing it in under half the allocated time. They have played football with the Trill residents, both senior and mini, and taken a leap into the lake to cool off. And they have demolished trays of jerk chicken and lasagne. The ones who had been reluctant to come seem to have changed their minds. And the lad who asked me “But what will we DO?” is asking the same question, but in a way that is now far less puzzled, and far more full of anticipation for tomorrow.
Our two co-leaders are doing a marvellous job. And somehow I have found myself in a glorious room in a separate building, with two of the quietest boys next door. I have been careful not to mention any night time stories of last year to the marvellous co-leaders. I don't want them running for the last train to London. Anyway, let’s see. Maybe this lot won’t hold a rave at 3am, while frying every egg in the building.