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Chapter One

Reb Williams
On the front page of the Observer in a gigantic pile of recycling
You are reading an extract from Chapter One
Dilapidated, crumbling, vermin-infested, spidery dumps
Chapter Two
The mirror can’t hurt you
Chapter Three
Little forests of soil testing kits
Chapter Four
Old Grandpa Shepherd's grizzled old face melted forever
Chapter Five
Just one overgrown, overlooked marrow makes about fourteen jars of chutney
Chapter Six
a huge, talon-ridden white vulture with an enormous beak
Chapter Seven
If you’ve never driven thirty or forty miles with a calf in the back of your car, I recommend it
Chapter Eight
All this self-sufficiency lark didn’t exist in a vacuum
Chapter Nine
Gang-Ging Up
Chapter Ten
There was nothing to do but hide behind the piano eating crisps
Chapter Eleven
The bass bits in At The Name of Jesus really set you up for the day
Chapter Twelve
Six sets of beady little eyes looked up at me
Chapter Thirteen
You could easily pretend that there was a monster there about to burst through and eat us
Chapter Fourteen
Cows come into season like dogs
Chapter Fifteen
I first knew my mum and dad had become ecofreaks when I ended up on the front page of the Observer in a gigantic pile of recycling.

They’d gone to a Friends of the Earth rally along with “a cheerful group of young people” (the Observer’s words) to highlight the amount of paper London wasted every day. It was 1974, and I was a cute, obedient three year old with blonde hair. A journalist spotted a photo-opportunity and asked if he could snap me on top of the pile, so my parents chivvied me up it.

Little did I know this was just the start of something that would change our entire lives. It may have begun with a bit of innocent recycling, but then it got out of hand. They set out to chuck the rat race altogether and chase the self-sufficiency dream, and we ended up with a small herd of cattle, dozens of chickens, two hives of bees, some feral guinea pigs and an orphaned cat. Oh, and vegetables. Rows and rows of vegetables, plum trees and apple trees, a fruit cage, a huge compost heap, a coal shed, a hay barn, and a lot of nettles. And we squashed it all in, along with our actual house, on a bit of land a third of the size of a football pitch.

That’s what happens when you have a mid-life crisis.

Unlike Tom and Barbara in The Good Life, my dad didn't start out with the intention of starting a farm in the back garden. In fact, he hadn’t seen The Good Life – nobody had at that point, because it hadn’t been on telly yet. We came first. Tom and Barbara copied us and the other self-sufficiency nutters, not the other way round. The resemblance was uncanny though.
In the sitcom, Tom Good hits his forties and suddenly gives up his job in a London advertising firm.
In real life, my dad hit his forties and suddenly gave up his job in a London advertising firm.
In the sitcom, Tom Good is an incurable optimist who decides to turn his dream of self-sufficiency into a reality.
In real life, my dad… well, I don’t need to spell it out for you.

He aimed big. He didn’t just want a few veg and a pint of milk for his efforts, he actually wanted us to be so self-sufficient we’d be making our own electricity. The plan was to buy a watermill which could provide power, and enough land for a proper smallholding.

It was a good plan before we found out how much watermills cost. But more of that later.

Of course, I was only little and if they told me what they were doing, I didn’t pay attention. I couldn’t help noticing when they wanted me to climb recycled paper mountains, but I didn’t pick up any of the talk about moving to the country. We were city people - South Londoners. Wimbledon Common was quite rural enough for my liking, and of course, quite tidy, as the Wombles had taken all the litter.

I wish I could say that I could remember the day my dad came back with the glow of the newly converted Good Lifer on his face, but I’d be lying. I probably was there during the key conversation where he persuaded my mother it was okay for him to change our entire lifestyle because it offended his morals, but I may have been concentrating on drawing 666s on the Radio Times. The moment is lost. All I know is that by the time I was four, my mother asked me what turned out to be a crucial question: was I getting bored at Playgroup?

“There doesn’t seem much point in going to Playgroup if you aren’t learning anything,” she went on. “After all, you won’t be going there much longer. And you won’t being going to school here after all, so don’t worry about it for the moment.”
You’d think I would have noticed that little word here. Unfortunately I didn’t pick up on the right bit. All I could think was: Hooray! I wouldn’t have to go to school, ever! What could possibly go wrong?

Copyright © Rebecca Williams 2009
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Read an extract from Chapter Four about Growing Your Own Veg or
Read an extract from Chapter Seven about Growing Your Own Cock (ahem)
An evil temper
Chapter Sixteen
I started thinking about popping down the shop and just buying a pack of Lurpak
Chapter Seventeen
My father was flat on his back with his legs in the air
Chapter Eighteen
My mum’s particular skill for burning herself
Chapter Nineteen
A row of red ants exploring their way in a line up her leg
Chapter Twenty
A bit of a love hate relationship
Chapter Twenty-One
We hadn’t wasted anything and that was the main thing
Chapter Twenty-Two
The endless power struggle between a man and his Dexter
Chapter Twenty-Three
I usually ploughed straightaway into the nearest drift
Chapter Twenty-Four
Unfortunately there weren’t any pirates or drug smuggling rings in rural Oxfordshire
Chapter Twenty-Five
I always opened my little ‘Tuck’ pot with fear
Chapter Twenty-Six
About as punk as West Oxfordshire ever got
Chapter Twenty-Seven
In the rat race you only have to get up early five days instead of seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
The Battle Of Cliff's Field
Chapter Twenty-Nine
I pass myself off as a normal person
Chapter Thirty