Back in 1971 a new Yorkshire TV series, aimed at children and teenagers, first aired on British TV. Based on the book "Cobbler's Dream" by Monica Dickens, it concerned Follyfoot Farm "home for unwanted horses and unwanted people" and the gradual falling in love of its two central characters, Dora and Steve. The series has since been shown all over the world, being available too on DVD, its ageless themes of falling in love, prevention of animal cruelty, and trying to find our place in the world, still popular today with all age groups, including many of the children and grandchildren of its original audience.
This story takes you back to the music and fashion of 1971 and how it all began…
When the snow falls even the windows clothed in mismatched curtains and the old blankets nailed where draughts have slithered into the farmhouse for three hundred years or more can't keep out the icy breath of the wild wind that whistles hauntingly down from the Yorkshire moors and gives the nearby village of Whistledown its name. Still it determinedly finds every nook and cranny of Follyfoot Farm, chilling me through to my bones despite my thick sweater, despite the heat of the blazing fire, despite Steve's strong arms wrapped tightly around me as I lean my head contentedly against his chest.
We gather close around the old black hearth where the copper kettle promises solace from all life's troubles, where the wavering red and yellow blaze crackles and leaps and sparks, where fingers of flame bow and dance and dart like people greeting one another and then hurrying on by.
With a contented sigh, Slugger lays down yesterday's newspaper folded at the Easy Crossword, puts the stub of a pencil behind his ear, yawns and stretches. He pauses as he flexes his locked fingers, studying the long-haired, denim-clad figure slouched like a dead man in the out-of-place expensive arm-chair, like the two-seater Steve and I share, brought down months ago from the manor house to replace the farmhouse's crumbling furniture.
Ron Stryker's head is thrown back, mouth wide open, eyes fast shut, arms and legs sprawled, snoring like a train rumbling out of the station, a drained giant mug of tea close to slipping from his grasp being held precariously enough as it is by only one finger and one thumb curled indifferently around its handle.
"Lazy bloody blighter!" Slugger remarks contemptuously. "Can't ride 'is bike 'ome in the ice, 'e says. 'Ave to stay overnight, 'e says. What I want to know is, what'd 'e ride 'is bloody bike 'ere for in first place when 'e knew perfectly well it was 'is day off? After free scoff, that's what it is! After a bellyful of me famous stew and a fry-up in the mornin'! Thinks it's a bloody 'otel, 'e does."
Clicking his tongue, Slugger steps over Ron's lanky legs, removes the mug out of harm's way to place (albeit with alarming heavy-handedness) on the mantelshelf, grabs the brass scuttle and shovels yet more coals into the ever-hungry fire. Satisfied at last that the blaze is well fed, he springs to his feet with far more agility than one would expect for someone of his advancing years, absently scratching the back of the pencil-less ear.
"Lazy bloody blighter!" He repeats, his gaze falling on Ron once more, but the red glow of firelight shining on his weathered face betrays his indulgent smile.
Ron is the son Slugger never had. The son that, if only he and Betty had been blessed with children, would have driven them to despair with his idleness and brawls and brushes with the law, and taken their breath away with his generosity. In the irony that is life, Ron and Slugger, father and son in all but name, can never be father and son, while Ron and his widowed parent, father and son in name only, tolerate one another at best. Mr Stryker senior, who begged Uncle Geoffrey to give Ron a job, any job, at the farm he owns to "keep him out of trouble" is a high-profile city businessman embarrassed by his wild only child; Ron is a free spirit embarrassed by his strait-laced parent.
To Ron Stryker, the horses at Follyfoot are "stupid clapped out old nags not worth me bother", so he says, while fussing over Copper or Jack or Lady, who nuzzle affectionately against him, for all the horses at Follyfoot sense his love and adore him.
A breathless timelessness descends over Follyfoot Farm, the silence broken only by occasional gentle snorts and whinnies from the stable block, pure white snow lending the night a hushed air of magic. Inside shadows flicker peacefully on the walls, lights dimmed by low voltage as the electric company fights to keep power alive over the blizzard-hit county, and Ron's snores subside into slow, rhythmic breathing as Slugger's newspaper rustles and the fire roars.
Uncle Geoffrey is still busy in the manor house at the top of the drive, dealing with important paperwork that should have been dealt with last week; soon he'll take me back with him in the land rover to my luxurious bedroom a million miles removed from the old farmhouse. Slugger and Steve each have their own tiny, cramped rooms, once the quarters where the farm workers got what little sleep they could inbetween tending the animals and crops. And where Ron will sleep tonight, he neither knows nor cares.
There is an old Yorkshire superstiton that says if a young girl looks out on to the untrodden snow at the stroke of midnight when the moon is full and whispers three times "Tell me true! Who will love me?" then listens closely to the whistling she will hear the name of her true love. But I already know my true love, I have his heart and he has mine as we snuggle together in the ice cold farmhouse, safe and warm.
While the snow swirls through a whistling wind.
And dreams are being born...