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Why is it so difficult to retell a joke which seemed so funny when first heard? I learned this aged 12; I was asked “Who was the first Scotsman?” “Dunno, who?” “MacAdam!”.

So, soon afterwards I tried it. “Mummy, who was the very first Scotsman?” “Don’t know, Eric, who?” “Tarmac”.

Since then I have been more circumspect in telling jokes.

But it does explain George The Tractor. For outside the pretentiously titled West Wing of the 500 year old George Hotel at Hathersage is – or was – a VERY unsightly patch of tarmacadam (a product invented, incidentally, by Scotsman John L MacAdam in 1820). Efficient it might be, but attractive it is not so, as proprietor of said George Hotel, I invited my colleagues to propose something to conceal it. Predictably the popular solution was “flowers…plants…things that grow…vegetation”.

Fifty years of hotelkeeping has taught me that at the mention of a garden many will volunteer to maintain it, but interest soon wanes. I thought too that it was not very original, aka boring. Which got me thinking: what would one consider to be a common sight here in the centre of the Peak District? Rock strewn hills? Green fields? Stone walls? Suicidal sheep? Busy tractors? A TRACTOR!

So, for a few hundred pounds I found and restored a 1950’s grey Ferguson T20 tractor, obtained some life-sized sheep (not real!), then filled between them with boulders from nearby Long Rake Spar to discourage too-close inspection (together with CCTV). Every hotelier likes to hear folk talk about his hotel, and the feature is clearly doing that, whist achieving its main ambition of making attractive a previously unattractive patch of blacktop tarmacadam.

Eric Marsh, Proprietor, The George Hotel, Hatherage, S32 1BB www.george-hotel.net

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