When I left high street bookselling, I swore that I'd never work on a Saturday again. But that was before I ended up here:
Even on a grey, misty morning, the drive to my cow shed always cheers me up. The fields appear still and empty, but the surrounding hedgerows are full of life and as I approach, rabbits, squirrels and pheasants run for cover, whilst hopeful sparrowhawks hover above. So far I haven't hit any animals, but a man in Spandex cycle shorts almost came a cropper.
The cow shed may be rather spartan, but it is in a beautiful, quiet place, run by an old Sussex 'gentleman farmer', whose family have been there for generations. After years of working in awful places like Slough and Crawley, it seems too good to be true.
I could quite happily stay there forever, but sadly I'm about to leave and move here:
This is a very different sort of farm - one where sullen, limbless people glare at visitors and the ground is littered with dead rats, whilst semi-erect dogs bark half-heartedly. I'm not joking about the limbs, by the way. I saw four people today and only two of them were in full possession of their extremities. I shall steer clear of any farm machinery while I'm here.
Why am I swapping my rural idyll for this post-apocalyptic settlement, you may ask? The answer is simple: money. The new barn is relatively cheap, with enough space to allow the business to expand significantly. It also has doors that are big enough to take lorries, so deliveries and waste collections will no longer involve an absurd, albeit scenic, time-wasting drive around the lanes of East Sussex.
The one downside of a large space is that it will be impossible to heat, so I have spent most of today building a garden shed-cum-office with a carpenter from Brighton:
I'd been a little apprehensive about spending a whole day making something with a complete stranger, but I needn't have been. The carpenter from Brighton was a true gentleman and when the time came to say goodbye, I felt a genuine pang of regret.
As we chatted, he told me that he'd left school at 16 and joined his father's business in the building trade. He loved the work, but hated the environment: "You know, there's only so long that you can work with racist, homophobic Sun readers." He has now set up a silk screen printing business, but still does a bit of carpentry on the side. I wish him well.
The shed may not be the height of luxury, but it will be warm and I'm sure that with a little effort, I can imbue it with the opulence of an Ottoman palace.
It took six hours to build the shed, which was quite long enough for me - I'm not a huge fan of manual labour. When I returned home, my reward was reading the Guardian Weekend magazine in a very deep, hot bath.
I will miss the old farm, with its chocolate box scene of lush green fields and rolling hills in the distance. The new farm is muddy, smelly and unfriendly, but offers me the chance to make hay while the sun is still shining, if you'll forgive the crass metaphor. I've no idea what will happen to the book trade during the next few years, but I have to assume the worst.
In the meantime, I have found a new rural idyll:
While I'm hanging around, waiting for my son to finish his hour of 'farm therapy', I get to brush the mud out of a pony called Lucy. She seems to enjoy it and I'm picking up a useful skill for the post-apocalyptic society that will begin in 2017.
Everyone's a winner.