Stone clearing is the new rock-and-roll. In fact, it would be more accurate to say "rock-and-roll is the new stone clearing", since stone clearing has been around for much longer, and it even involves "rolling" actual rocks (which are a type of stone).
Just like any other rock star, Richard gets many emails from fans. Unlike some rock stars*, he replies to them.
Here is a sample of their correspondence.
Richard from Herts (definitely a different Richard)
"Is it OK to wee on the cairns?"
Richard (Herring) says yes, this is acceptable.
Alan suggested a way to calculate the size of the field, which Richard did.
Ian Tree, Simon Fence & Gloria Pebble
All three asked "how do you select the stones to be cleared?"
The answer is they speak to you (though not literally)
Andy said something about size, which is irrelevant.
"I love the podcast. It's in the top 4 Stone Clearing podcasts. How do you keep this from your wife?"
Rich said he has tried to broach the subject, but she seems uninterested.
"Love the podcast"
"Do more stone clearing"
Chair Breakfast-Items (I think it's Dutch)
"Can the podcast be an hour long?"
Love the podcast
We don't know what she said, but it was undoubtedly positive.
Disapproves of Richard's transgressions into the other field.
"Stanley should not have been allowed to act like a dick" - see Chapter Nine's Encounters
"The best part of the podcast is when Richard hits the pole"
Holly Tree (What were her parents thinking?)
"Can we have a robot voice counting the stones?"
Richard pooh-poohed the idea, as such technology would not be true to the tradition of stone clearers past. With their metal-mesh gloves and head-torches.
Sven said "It's difficult to stone-clear in the snow", strangely pre-empting the topic of this chapter.
"Are you not aware that removing the stones will compact the soil and make the field unable to grow crops?"
Richard gave this very short shrift. He said that it was far more important to clear stones than to have sex with lots of different people. Which was strange, because Charlie hadn't even mentioned sex.
Simon Stone & Martha Grass
"You should not have gone into the other field"
"Are the stones literally talking to you?"
Obviously not, Brian. Fucksake.
"I really like stone clearing"
"Can you make a podcast which is all about hitting the post?"
Richard said this would spoil it.
"I enjoy the podcast"
Ian Pielov-Leaves (a Russian)
"Never stop. You're an inspiration to all stone-clearers"
"I don't really like this podcast. I like the other things you do, but this is weird."
Ian was cross about Richard's transgression into the next field.
Simon thought that Richard should remove the tennis ball from the cairn. It's organic, Simon. Calm down.
"The emails are the best part"
"Why is it mainly men who email in?"
Because of people like you, Simon
"I'm a woman. What's Simon Recycling talking about?"
How did you know Simon had emailed in?
"I'm also a woman. What's going on?"
Leander is a man's name. You're not fooling anyone, mate.
It's hard to be sure about this, as it was recorded inside a pocket, but I think Simon suggested that the freezing and unfreezing of the soil was bringing more stones to the surface.
Richard dismissed this out of hand.
Simon prefers it when the podcast is recorded from inside a pocket, which is just rude.
"Richard's podcast is much better than Brian Bramble's"
"By putting stones on the Central Cairn, you are not actually clearing them from the field"
However, given that the cairn is next to a telegraph pole and a bush, is it not fair to say that this represents an island in the stocean, and therefore a valid position?
Sven has written down the rules of stone clearing, albeit in a poorly translated form.
"I like the pole part. Can you make a podcast of just that part?"
Don't be ridiculous.
"Can you remove the music from the end of the podcast, as it wakes me up?"
Sarah Stick, Qashqai (An exotic name!), Brian Honda
Generic words of support
"Stone clearing is for women too"
His favourite part is when Richard hits the pole. He likes it so much he cheered when he was listening to the podcast at his grandmother's funeral.
He loves the podcast but wondered if Richard had any tips for removing wet dog food from a dog water bowl. Luckily, Richard had literally just experienced this minor inconvenience. If Simon had emailed just a few seconds earlier, Richard wouldn't have had any advice for him, but he just got lucky. Life's funny like that.
William likes to kick stones on Brighton Beach, but his partner told him to stop for fear of hitting people. Evidently his partner is aware of rule 2.
To be fair, unless you are actually clearing the stones from the beach, I'm not sure the rules apply. What would even be left if you removed the stones from Brighton Beach? The whole thing is stones. You'd have to go down to the Earth's core. Then there are the constant waves bringing French stones to replace the ones you've cleared.
Brighton Beach: very much the Final Boss level of Stone Clearing
Chapter twenty one:
"Can I get a stone from the field"
Yes, if you contribute to the Kickstarter.
"Is there a texture of stone that is best?"
No, each one is unique.
Richard from Herts (The same as in Chapter Four)
Richard (the listener) asked whether, since weeing on a cairn is an acceptable practice, is it also allowed to... uh... project other bodily fluids onto the cairns. Richard H said that, while it is unlikely that you will produce a human/stone hybrid, it is not impossible.
Chapter twenty two:
"I think it's disgusting to ejaculate on stones"
Don't worry, Simon. We feel the same way.
"I am seventeen years old and I like both stone clearing and jokes about Easter Eggs appearing in the shops too early"
Well, you've picked the right podcast, Brian.
"I like the stone clearing bit"
I would hope so. Otherwise what are you doing downloading this podcast, Brian? Just think about it, for fucks sake.
Chapter twenty three:
"What's your favourite stone?"
Richard has no favourites. It wouldn't be right.
"Are nettles a problem?"
Yes. That's why some stone clearers wear gloves. Not Richard, though. He prefers to forgo safety in return for the tactile experience of physical contact with the stones.
John Nettles (Not that one)
"Have you ever seen a triffid?"
No. Stop taking the piss, John.
Chapter twenty four:
"Thanks for inspiring me to stone-clear. I'm clearing a field in Cropland"
Well done, mate. I'm certainly not going to look up your town to see if it's real. I trust you.
"I've been stone clearing in Anglesey. I have cleared over seven stones."
Richard was very polite. Personally, I would have said that seven is not an impressive total. In fact, they'd probably already grown back by the time she finished typing the email.
"I've been clearing stones longer than you, and I clear them better than you, and I don't like stone-clearing"
How very rude, Basil. I'd expect that from one of Bryan Bramble's listeners, but not here. Maybe you should switch podcasts.
Chapter twenty five:
Simon is from Tretrünke in Switzerland, and is working on the technology to replace human bones with stones, as described in Chapter 24. He offers Richard a voucher for 10% off the procedure when it comes to market.
"My favourite bit is the... I don't work in any kind of secret laboratory, by the way, in case any of your other listeners do, I'm just a regular person. I live in Sidcup. My name is Holly Nettle. I'm no relation to the other Nettle or Nettles there have been. I think they were called Nettles. My favourite part of the podcast... I love the podcast, Richard, and I'm a woman so there you go. I like the bit where you throw the stones at the pole and I always cheer when you do, whatever I'm doing.
Once I was attending an accident because my job is I'm a paramedic and I was attending a terrible road accident but I was listening to the podcast at the same time because it helps to blot out the horror of life and death, although it often reminds me of it through the challenge it is to my own mortality and how short my span is and how meaningless everything we do is. But anyway when you hit the stone pole I cheered, and the wife of the bloke who'd been badly injured in the road accident... she did look annoyed, Richard, I have to say, but then I said 'Hey, do you listen to Richard Herring's Stone Clearing podcast?' and she said 'No, I'm a woman! And also, how many people do you think listen to it? Do you think there's a chance... and also my husband is seriously injured so I don't really want to talk about podcasts' and I said 'Well, look, I'm not cheering because your husband's been injured. That would be unprofessional. I'm cheering because of Richard Herring... he hit a pole with a stone on about the fifth attempt this time (hope you do better next time, by the way Richard).
Long story short I was in a lot of trouble that day with the paramedic boss. He called me in and said if anything like that happened again I'd have to consider handing in my gun (which I have) and my paramedic badge."
Yeah, we didn't ask for your life story, Holly.
Chapter twenty six:
"If you're trying to achieve immortality via your stone clearing but yet stone clearing has been going on for a long time, and you admit that stone clearers from the past are forgotten, what makes you any better than those who dedicated their lives to it and we still don't know who they are and see very little evidence of their work, what makes you think that you won't be as forgotten as they and that all thy work is for naught?"
Long story short, Richard has better equipment and should have a longer lifespan. The clearers of the past had yet to invent the archaeological trowel, which is a tremendous labour-saver. One can only imagine what tools the stone clearers of the future might have. Probably drones with laser guidance or something. What a thought!
"Silicon is essentially a stone, I think. I'm not an expert but I work in Silicon Valley with computers and stuff and we use silicon, think, and maybe your brain could be transferred onto silicon, if you're worried about your brain not being replaced with stone"
This service is worth £50-£60 to Richard.
"Thank you for stopping Brexit. Do you think you could stop war, child hunger, famine. That might be more important than Brexit"
Bit rude. Why don't you move some stones to stop hunger? Whatever happened to the Big Society? Did David Cameron's words land on stony ground?
Chapter twenty seven:
"Looks like Brexit is going to happen in a disgusting fashion, despite your ditch. How will the trade agreement with America affect stone clearing?"
Richard says that Trump is probably in favour of stone clearing, given that a key part of it involves building a wall.
"I love the podcast and hope to do some stone clearing of my own soon. What is the best stone?"
Richard is disappointed with this email. Richard likes all stones equally.
"Can I buy some of your stones for use in my constructions? Because as well as my name being called Justin Construction, I also construct things. It's called nominative determinism, Richard. Do you know that phrase? Would you consider selling me all the stones, so I can build a house of the stones and say 'this is a house made from Richard Herring's stones'"
Richard rejects this enquiry. He prefers to build his own constructions, and the stones can not leave the field. Justin's house would be cursed.
Chapter twenty eight:
"Why don't you read more emails, rather than talking about foreskins like I predict you will in the next podcast?"
The podcast can't be tied down. It must go wherever fate takes it. Sometimes that will be foreskins. Richard makes no apology for this.
"As you can imagine with a surname like this, I get the mickey taken out of me quite a lot, so please don't. It's an old Bratislavan surname. If you had to give a new stone clearer some advice, what would it be?"
See episode zero, Graham. It's all there. Stop wasting my time.
The Duke of Wellington
"Are you sure that foreskins are there to stop brambles cutting people up? I know that hasn't happened yet, but I have a feeling that you will talk about that subject at some point."
Richard said that he does not want to get into a long conversation about genitals on this Stone Clearing podcast. I know. I couldn't believe it either. Maybe Richard has been replaced by a clone?
I think he should have reached out to the Duke on this. Like Richard, the current Duke seems to be doing his best to stop Brexit in the House of Lords. I mean, it's no ditch, but it's a start.
Chapter twenty NINE:
"I notice you speak Anglo Faxon in the podcast quite regularly, but why are you not also changing Us for Vs as you should be?"
It's all about inclusivity*, Brian. People will come for the stones, and gradually learn to love the language.
"Love listening to the podcast, Rich. Have you got any tips for clearing up cat sick?"
What's that got to do with anything, Simone? Just because stone clearing technically involves cleaning detritus from a field, that doesn't mean that we're open to any and all cleaning-based questions. A dustpan and brush.
* Sorry, 'inclvfivity"
Simon took a brief break from promoting Brexit, making shit hoovers and being a general bastard to email this:
"What are the ethics of taking stones off the field? Won't your family be suspicious? What about the curse?"
You're a fine one to talk about ethics, Simon. Why don't you sod off to China or wherever you've moved your factories to this week? I hope you get your dick caught in a fan blade.
Chapter Thirty One:
"Where's my stoneclearing podcast please Richard? I have come to rely on it and it wasn't there, so I'm very upset about that"
"I can't sleep without my ftone clearing podcast, Richard. It's what sends me to sleep at night, and it wasn't there this week. I'm furious!"
"There had better not be another week off Richard, I can't live without my stone clearing podcast. It's so good and the best podcast there is"
John Lewis Serviette
"Richard, please don't have another week off. I don't have much of a life beyond listening to this podcast."
These were just a sample of the emails from indignant, entitled listeners who wrote to complain about the momentary break in the podcast schedule. Get a grip, fnowflakef. Richard has a busy life. It's not all stones, stones, stones. Sometimes it also involves re-filling a cash machine. It's a bit like a photocopier (except the paper is more expensive!)
"I'm bananas about the stone clearing podcast. Don't listen to the others, do what you want. I know you promised to do 25 extra podcasts this year and you're probably regretting that (I'm just guessing, I don't know). But I say do what you want, and if you don't want to do 25, don't do 25. Just do none if you want. I like them, but that's just Brenda Coldgravy, that's me."
Thanks, Brenda. That means a lot.
"There was no stone pole in the last episode!"
Apologies, Ear. It's not Richard's fault. Blame the stone stasi.
Chapter Thirty Two:
"I'm upset that there haven't been any podcasts for a while. I don't pay my licence fee for this, and I won't pay it until there are more"
"I'm glad there haven't been any podcasts, because I don't even listen to it"
These two emails illustrate the two sides of the stone-clearing coin. Which, naturally, is a coin made of stone.
Chapter Thirty three:
Brian Blackberry (Brother of Errol?)
"I'm worried about Brexit"
Clear some stones then. Pick a ditch, and chuck some in. If we all do our bit, it can surely never happen. And if it does happen and things are terrible... well, you know what you voted for.
"What is your favourite stone you have cleared so far?"
Richard compliments Brian on the originality of this question, even though Chris Wolfie asked exactly this in Chapter 23. Luckily, the answer is the same, so Richard is at least consistent.
"Do you have a favourite stone?"
Chapter Thirty four:
"I'm not the Lesley Ash from Men Behaving Badly. I'm not even a woman, I'm a man. I'd like to ask what you do if there's a fire on the field that engulfs some of the back fences and stuff?"
That's a good question, Leslie. In fact, it's suspiciously good. Almost as though you knew it would be relevant. You haven't been visiting fields in Hertfordshire recently, have you? It's alright, we don't mind if you admit it. You can always claim you were throwing flints onto a cairn and the sparks got out of hand. There's not a court in the land that would convict you.
Chapter thirty Five:
Ivy Holly Blackberry
"Richard I'm quite disappointed by the standard of questions that people email in. It's almost as though they haven't put any thought into it and they just blurt out the first thing they think of and its often quite a dull question that doesn't even need answering. What can we do about this? When is someone going to ask an interesting question on the email facility?"
Well, you have a point, Ivy Holly, but I would point out that two of the recent chapters have had emails from men with the surname Blackberry. Are these members of your family, and if so should you be complaining to them about the quality of their emails?
"Is it bin day today, Rich?"
Well, coincidentally yes, but is this really what email was invented for? Is this the sort of banal communication that Ian Email had in mind when he first connected two computers together with a piece of string and pulled it tight? I don't think so.
"Is there a much more metaphysical significance to the podcast than it seemed at first glance?"
No, there's nothing else to it. It's about a man pulling stones from a field and explaining how you can do the same.
Chapter Thirty Six:
"I really miss the aspect of the podcast where you throw the stones at the stone pole, that's my favourite. I know its a bit of fun and you've said before that stone clearing is very serious. I mean, you've said it before, not on this episode, though coincidentally you might have said it on this episode, but I'm not talking about this episode."
They're called chapters, Simon. Not episodes.
"The end of my life is approaching and I'm trying to get my field cleared but I'm worried that the stone clearing might kill me."
You are merely dust and you are here to serve the stones. Stop complaining and clear them.
Alternatively, if you limit yourself to no more than 90 minutes a day, you might live to see the field cleared of all stones. Won't that be a thing worth living for?
Chapter Thirty seven:
"What do you do if you've got a nice top on and you get carried away carrying stones and the top gets mud on it?"
That's always a risk, Twiggy. I suggest wearing overalls or going naked. Actually, definitely the second one.
Chapter Thirty eight:
"I love the podcast. Congratulations on stopping Brexit, but I worry about getting stone-blindness when my field is ploughed."
It is a problem, but if you focus you can do it. You'll be sad when the ground is frozen hard, so make hay while the sun shines.
Chapter Thirty Nine:
"Are you ever going to talk about the legends of the stone people?"
Bizarrely, this email came just after Richard did exactly that. Weird.
"When are you going to do the stone pole again?"
He just did it. Stop sending emails straight after he does the thing you're writing about.
"I hope you'll never sell out and have the podcast sponsored. That would be a terrible betrayal of your fans"
It's inevitable, Henry. The advertisers are queuing up to pay good money for this stuff.
"What does Hasslehoffing mean?"
For heaven's sake, Simon. This is all established knowledge. It's not my job to educate you.
"Does Hasslehoffing refer to the that time when David Hasslehoff sang on top of the Berlin Wall? Because you're building a wall and he knocked one down, didn't he?"
No, he didn't actually knock it down, Brenda. And anyway, it's not about that.
Duke of Wellington
"How do you choose which socks to wear inside your wellingtons?"
Richard wears Crossetts, of course.
"Have you ever mistaken a toadstool for a stone?"
No, they are different textures so this is not a concern for Richard.
"How much do you respect the paths around the field?"
You don't HAVE to ask a question based on your name, Bryony. Come up with something original.
"How can we be sure that the emails you're getting are not from made-up people. Some of the names sound like things you've seen on the journey and that you're making it up and... sometimes the way you're reading the emails.. sounds like you're... making them up"
You'll just have to take his word for it, Lavender. I mean, you're definitely a real person, so this is evidence that he didn't make up your email, isn't it?
War Memorial Bus-Stop
"If Lavender Leaf is wrong, how come I'm called War Memorial Bus-Stop?"
If Richard was making up names, you would be called Simon. The fact that you have such an obviously-made up name is proof that it's genuine. QED.
"Thanks for the podcast, you're great. I'm not the Steve Berry you know, I'm a different one. I see you took your son out on the field. How would you feel if your Son became a better stone clearer than you?"
How did you know Rich knew a Steve Berry, Steve Berry? Bit creepy, mate.
Richard declined to respond to Ian's email, since he had an obviously made-up name.
"How can you tell which names are real and which are made up?"
Richard has an eye for fakers pretending to be real people by using ridiculous pfeudoymnf.
"Where is the stone I earned through the Kickstarter?"
Unfortunately, Richard had already answered this question just before reading Brenda's email. It would be better if listeners would take the time to predict what Richard is likely to say in advance, in order to avoid such embarrasing situations.
"Ian" had another go at fooling Richard into thinking he was a real person. Give it up, mate.
"I'm studying at Bryan Bramble's college. What would you say is the symbolism of the stones?"
Richard gave this email very short shrift. In my opinion, the exact length of shrift it deserved.
"Keep up the good work. I hate academics. I feel that even istening to the podcast is too academic, so anyone doing that is also a fraud and an idiot"
Steady on, Ian. While I agree with your sentiment, there's nothing wrong with listening while stone clearing. There's a happy medium. Or at least a contented large small small.
Brenda wanted to tell us about her stone-clearing antics, but Richard's wife was in earshot so he had to curtail the email in case his secret is revealed.
"What is your handwashing regime?"
Wash them thoroughly. Let the water warm up, use a nail brush or washing up brush (though that is not hygenic). Sing Happy Birthday and get between your fingers.
I wonder why you're asking, though? It's November 2019 and there's no reason to be so fastidious with hand-washing. Honestly, what's the worst that can happen?
"Does it really matter? Is life meaningless? Does it really matter how many stones you clear? Isn't it ultimately all just a way of avoiding the realisation that life is meaningless and you're going to die?"
It does matter, Ethel.
I'm sure it does.
"Do you accept questions about stone clearing on your podcast?"
Yes, but only one. You just wasted your chance. You just got Edmondsed.
Brian's email went unread and unanswered. I wonder what it was?
"Is it all right, to occasionally skip one of the podcasts just because I feel like I know more about stone clearing than your average person and you know some of it's a bit obvious."
Absolutely not. How dare you even suggest it? You have to listen to every one, including the one that was just a muffled noise from Richard's pocket. In fact, especially that one.
"Richard, I've seen you on House of Games this week, doing very well. Pretty much trying to throw away your lead every time but just like, do you think stone clearing has helped you get good at TV quizzes or maybe made things worse."
Richard considered this for a while, but decided that stone-clearing and tv quiz shows really have different requirements.
"What's the big deal about the ditch that stopped Brexit. Has it been broken?!
For context, this episode took place just after the General Election in 2019. Brexit has not happened yet, but its nay-sayers like Norman who will make it happen. You have to believe in the ditch.
"I feel really let down by the ditch that stopped Brexit"
Another one? Good god you people never stop moaning. Richard is doing his best under difficult circumstances. How many stones have you thrown in a ditch, Holly?
Mud (The Band)
"Richard, we obviously have loved stone clearing since the 70's. Les Gray was a keen stone clearer (rest his soul). Do you know any other 70's bands who were into stone clearing?"
Richard had a good think but was unable to come up with any bands from the 60's or 70's who had the word "Stones" in their name. So it looks like Mud are the only band to have named themselves after something you would find in a field. Except maybe Styx.
(Richard mistakenly thinks that Bryony has written before, but that was Bryony Path. The idiot.)
"Richard, I'm a bit disappointed that we did not get to see the Stone Pole in the stone clearing documentary you made for the Kickstarter."
Richard apologised for that. I suppose there is simply too much to talk about for a single documentary. To be honest, I think Stone Clearing needs a Netflix mini-series to definitively capture the nuance of the pursuit.
(The actress from Saved BY The Bell)
"Rich, I love the stone clearing podcast. I gave up being an actor and the money I was making from Saved By The Bell to clear stones in California. It's going very well. I am pleased to hear of other people who used to be on the telly devote their lives to stone clearing instead of acting and entertaining"
Richard is still entertaining, Lark. How dare you? It's only a matter of time before stone clearing gets a Netflix series AND a glitzy Saturday night gameshow format, probably involving contestants trying to clear as many stones as possible against the clock, while Stephen Mulhern sprays them with Stones Ginger Wine (sponsorship deal).
"Happy New Year, Rich. Although you don't recognise the importance of human years as much as the aeons of stone time. I wish you a happy Anuary. May you clear many new stones in 2020."
Thank you for your email Stephen. He will continue clearing all year, barring any reason why he can't go outside. Can't imagine why that would happen.
A Surfeit of Simons
Richard has commented on the number of Brians who email the show, but it's Simons who top the table. Given that the popularity of "Simon" peaked in the early-to-mid 1970s in the UK, we can infer that the average Stone-Clearing listener is a 45 year old man.
And he almost certainly works in I.T.