That Awful Mess At Sludge Hall Farm

Legal Notice : The Sludge Hall Farm in this piece ought not be confused with the Sludge Hall Farm mentioned on Wednesday. They are two distinctly different farms, and halls. The sludge itself is, in most respects, broadly similar.

It is a meteorological peculiarity that the sky over Sludge Hall Farm is always leaden, the air thick and oppressive, as if a storm is imminent, but a storm never comes. Equally anomalous is the fact that, over at Sludge Hall itself, the storminess never ceases, the semidilapidated building forever assailed by thunder and wrack and downpour.

One does not often meet with a trio of stylishly dressed Italian police investigators tramping up the path to Sludge Hall Farm. In their Giuseppe Fonseca suits and Boffo Splendido shoes, they cut the sort of dash not seen in this landscape for a century, since the heyday of the so-called “peasantry moderne” movement. They have come from Sludge Hall, where they were received in the cubby by the monopod major domo, who served them with cream crackers and iron tonic. Thus fortified, the detectives announced their intention to visit the farm. The major domo shuddered, but swiftly dissembled, creaking on his crutch over to the dresser upon which rested Sludge Hall’s only metal tapping machine, a vintage wonder.

“I shall let the farmer know to expect you,” said the major domo. The detectives preened their mustachios and glanced at each other, and then at their host, and then out of the smudged cubby window, its frame rattling as the tempest roared outside.

Having tapped out his communiqué, the major domo made arrangements for Lars, the factotum, to take the Italians on his covered cart half way towards the farm, to the point where the storm weirdly ceased and the leaden pall sapped all vigour from the air. And it is some yards beyond where Lars dropped them off that we find the detectives now, each walking with insouciance and swish. If Sludge Hall Farm harboured a comely milkmaid, no doubt she would swoon at the sight of such unimpeachable foreign elegance. Alas, it is many a long year since comeliness in any form has blessed the farm. As the policemen are about to learn, it is now a grim and godawful place.

No one knows the name of the farmer of Sludge Hall Farm. He is a hermit and a mystic and a polevaulting champion. Though aged and wizened, and though his many, many medals are now rusted and the velvet cushions upon which they sat are eaten away by worms, the farmer still polevaults every day, morning and evening, under the leaden sky at Sludge Hall Farm. He is puffing from a polevault as the Italian detectives push open the gate and greet him.

One wonders what will happen. Will the farmer of Sludge Hall Farm speak for the first time in twenty years? Will he use his mystic powers to crack asunder the close-knit and almost telepathic team spirit of the detective trio, until they are snarling at each other like mad dogs and fighting with pitchforks? Will one of the detectives seek refuge in a barn, only to be set upon by a hideous mutant angry pig that has snapped its chain? Will the pig, its thirst for Italian blood unquenched, then rampage around the farmyard causing the surviving pair of policemen to hide in a hayloft? Will the farmer placate his mutant pig and place it in a trance? Why is the hay in the hayloft not like normal hay? Is it hay from another dimension, or from somewhere else in the space-time continuum? How has the farmer managed to fill the Sludge Hall Farm hayloft with inexplicably bizarre hay? Why have the mustachios of the Italian detectives shrivelled by dint of their huddling in the hay? What in the name of heaven is the mystic farmer doing, leading his entranced pig in ever more rapid circles around a bonfire? What is the exact nature of those sparks shooting from the fire? Why is the leaden sky turning a violent orange? Why are the detectives now sprouting hay from every pore? Is there any intelligible meaning to the deafening grunts the entranced mutant pig is making as it circles around the fire faster and faster until it is a blur? Why, back at Sludge Hall, are the major domo and Lars hyperventilating, convulsed by giggles, slapping their thighs and dancing a jig upon the dining room table?

Tomorrow, when we read the front page headline in the Daily Farmyard Polevaulter, will we be any the wiser about that awful mess at Sludge Hall Farm?

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