Mid-November was busy – the jobs kept coming and I was out in the fields late almost every night. Most of the time I was driving other farmers gear but, occasionally it was our own. The money we were making allowed us to buy a bale wrapper after which I was able to do a silage job for Jean Cuvier with our own equipment. That earned us some good money but as I was driving the Fiat down to the animal dealership, I noticed a bit of a cough from the exhaust.

The cough continued the next day and I was concerned. It wasn’t like the Tractor had flu or anything… It was just a muted sound from the exhaust that didn’t sound right. That evening I decided to check the manuals to see if it was something that I could fix. Then I hit a snag. I searched through the internet looking for the Fiat 1300DT super and found it. But it was just a 150HP tractor with no mention of turbocharging or 185HP! I was baffled and I spent quite a lot of time searching that would probably have been better spent out in the fields. In the end I gave up and rang Jean. “Bring it down tomorrow evening and I’ll take a look – It’s probably nothing serious.”

Late afternoon the following day, after doing what I could to clear off the workload, I drove down to Armand Moteurs. Jean was waiting with a small toolbox in hand, the last of the normal customers having left for the day. I stood around looking guilty of breaking something while he delved away in the engine. Then he stood up and asked me to fire it up… It purred – if a loud growl can be considered a purr. What I mean is it sounded wonderful again. “Come into the office” said Jean “and I’ll show you why you couldn’t find the right manual.”

The Office was cosy – not too brightly lit and the blinds were down to keep out the chill of autumn. Jean motioned for me to take a seat at a table and produced a set of folders. The first I recognised immediately – “That’s the Fiat manual I found!” Then Jean started talking me through things – “This is for the 150HP 1300DT Super” he said. What you were missing were these…” He produced a couple more folders with manuals inside. they weren’t Fiat manuals at all. “These are the manuals that go with an after-market upgrade which is what you have. This is the Turbo manual and this other one is for the intercooler. They will boost the engine power up to somewhere between 175HP and 180HP. The rest is down to tuning. When it started coughing; that was because the tuning was a little out!”

Then Jean started telling me a lot more about tractors, engines and more specifically our Fiat. As we sat there and I listened to him talking, I found myself staring deeply into his eyes and suddenly realised that we were holding hands. He was looking into my eyes too and it felt right… We stood as one and hugged, then Jean stepped across to the door to lock it before guiding me back to behind his desk where I was surprised to find a bed. Sinking onto the bed together and making love was only natural. This time it felt much more than the sweaty evening in September – this time I knew I had found someone with whom I could share my life…

I left the dealership very late that night and drove the tractor back to the farm. I now knew that I couldn’t sweep this under the rug – I would have to talk honestly to Mark. This was no longer a fling and had probably gone beyond being an affair too. I really didn’t know what I would tell him or how I could explain things. Whatever, I would have to bite the bullet and talk to Mark in the morning or…

Of course, I couldn’t talk to Mark about it in the morning. In fact, I ducked the issue the next day too. It was only on the third day that I finally arranged my life to sit down with Mark over dinner and talk. I told him everything; how it started by chance and how it was now something I no longer had control over. He looked at me through moist eyes as I spoke. I was waiting for the angry outburst, but it didn’t come. Mark just looked very sad, and I felt worse than if he’d berated me. Then he started to tell me his side of the story…

“I’ve not been happy here for some months. You’re out in the fields all day and we never seem to spend time with each other. I’m so lonely here, some days I never see anyone. I thought that we would be running a gite with guests but here we are with a farm. I miss our old life too… I was going to ask you if I could go back to London over Christmas and the New Year – I wanted to meet some of our old friends. Have a good time once more…”

He was crying now and so was I. I was trying to recall when we’d last had some quality time together and some fun and I realised that it was probably during the previous Christmas when Mark had built snowmen. Since then, it had been nothing but work, day in-day out except for the first anniversary of the farm meal – and that had been engineered by Monsieur Gerard otherwise it probably would have passed us by. It dawned on me that where I had been able to adapt to the change of lifestyle, Mark could not – He had always been the party animal, engaging everyone in conversation while I stood quietly by. There was more quiet tearful conversation and then we went up to bed where we hugged each other to sleep.

The next morning, we talked long over breakfast. Mark had decided to return to London. “Will you be back?” “I don’t think so” he said. All that was left was for Mark to book his train journey. We decided to make as clean a break as possible immediately, so I moved my things into the spare room to give him the space he needed until his departure. Four days later, the cab turned up early in the morning to take Mark to the station. I bade him farewell and safe journey, a stiff handshake sealing the moment. I was left on my own to ponder…

I made sileage from our field – strange how I was still thinking ‘our’ when Mark was gone! Then the snows came and the work dried up on the surrounding farms…

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…I settled into quietly looking after the chickens and the greenhouses. I had the time now, but it was time alone…

This lengthy story post fits in with a very quiet period in game. I know where the farm will be developing in the future and the story is going to take us there. What started as a simple story of farm life has gone through a sordid period. There is still a little more to this chapter, which I will tell in the next post from Ferme du Vieux Chêne.