Mucking in

17th July 1998 at 01:00
Ned Sherrin, who was brought up on a farm, usually spent childhood holidays helping out with harvesting - not a favourite pastime for someone who hated getting his hands dirty

Being brought up on a farm, my early life was one long holiday, but sometimes my older brother, Alfred, and I used to be taken to Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset to spend two weeks in a boarding house while father was haymaking.

It was a long time ago. What I remember most about these holidays now is playing on the sands and going to the ice-cream parlour, where the big treat was an exotic concoction called a "north pole". We never stretched to a "knickerbocker glory", but "north poles" were very exciting and had a cherry on top.

When I was older, I was a weekly boarder at Sexey's and away at school in Bruton at haymaking time, but I was home during harvest and had to help with that. I didn't get paid for this holiday job; it was considered one's duty to lend a hand.

Alfred and I shared a passion for cricket, which we played on the lawn at home. Later, when we had days out together rather than holidays, we would cycle miles to watch Somerset play. Sometimes we took the train from the nearest station, Charlton Mackerell, to Taunton.

On one memorable occasion, we saw Arthur Wellard hit five sixes in a single over off Frank Woolley at Wells. Woolley was a great old Kent player, and it was his last season. Some years later I proudly told the actress Peggy Ashcroft this story. She countered with: "And I saw Gary Sobers hit six sixes in the West Indies."

I never went on any school holiday exchanges or anything like that - we didn't believe in things like that in Somerset. And when I went up to Oxford University I tended to spend my summer holidays back on the farm, making up for the work I hadn't done during the terms. Pretending I had to study was a good way of getting out of helping with the harvest.

I was never very keen on farm work. I didn't like getting my hands dirty and found it simpler to be a swot and plead pressure of homework. Sometimes, though, I had to muck in with the chores. I can remember Alfred and I chasing 30 or 40 cows along the roads to greener pastures and helping to collect eggs and kill ducks. I would spin out each job I was given for as long as possible.

As a child I much preferred to spend my leisure time dressing up, writing plays, making model theatres out of cereal packets and thumping away on the old Bechstein in the drawing room. My most prized possession was the real model theatre my parents bought to replace the cardboard ones I had made when I was about 10.

I was also very keen on botany and spent a lot of time in the woods near the farm in Kingweston collecting specimens for my pressed-flower collection.

I lived in a world of my own. My father was bemused. His response to these holiday pursuits was always: "What use is that to a boy?" Ned Sherrin is a writer and director and comperes 'Loose Ends' on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday mornings. He was talking to Pamela Coleman

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