At last it is spring, when the days should be getting longer. So why do mine seem to get shorter? Maybe it’s my age. No sooner am I out of bed at daybreak, running around like a headless chicken, gardening, lambing, building, pruning, tidying and scheming, than the sun is going down and the gin beckoning. As I flop down to watch the golden glow disappearing on the horizon, my mind is a whirl with all the things I haven’t achieved that day, while tomorrow’s list spills on to extra pages. I am sure it never used to be like this – this hectic life of mine. I know, I shouldn’t complain, especially as it is 22 degrees here in France today, with the grass growing and the colourful blossom out.
While on the subject of headless chickens, why is it that while we are away in Scotland for the winter months, a whole zoo full of animals immediately move in? For the last three years, we have come back home to more cats than we left behind, and this time two toms have moved in, spraying their nasty smells around the garage and howling all night. That wouldn’t be so bad but we also have another unwelcomed resident, one red-crested cockerel which has taken to living with the sheep and waking up at 5am. In fact, I think it has palled up with the ram and the toms in some sort of male orientated sit-in, each one trying to outdo the other with its nocturnal din. Well be warned, incomers, amongst tomorrow’s list of jobs is to search out a couple of bricks with which to dull the tom’s enthusiasm, and then dig out the large pan from under the stairs ready for some coq-au-vin.
As it happens, pots and pans are one thing we are no longer short of, having cleared out Wendy’s mother’s house into my mother’s back bedroom a few years ago, and then eventually cleared that out and delivered it all the way to France. Not that it was an uneventful journey, towing a sheep trailer from which the newness had worn off long ago. By Oxford, we lost a wheel, and limped along on for a hundred more miles until I could collect a replacement. Then, just outside Rouen, the entire suspension collapsed, hanging on by one thin rusty bolt and threatening to upturn the whole thing every time it passed a pothole, despatching my whole cargo of junk all over the autoroute. Thankfully, with the aid of some rope, it did manage to stay together for the 1200 mile journey, at 40mph, which took two whole days.
After a glass of wine and well earned sleep, I take to unpacking the splitting cardboard boxes for which I had risked life and limb, to find them all full of completely useless stuff left over from 1973. We now have a very fine collection of pyrex dishes in avocado green, assortments of mis-matched tablecloths and a full set of cookery books by Fanny Craddock. To compliment these, 300 vinyl albums weighing approximately seven tonnes also made the journey, which include such masterpieces as Edgar Broughton’s greatest hits (did he actually have a hit?) and the somewhat ironic Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic, all from much the same era. Even that would have been an almost acceptable risk to take with my antique trailer, were it that we had a record player to air them on. I have to admit, albeit secretly, that I do get a feeling of ecstatic wistfulness when I run my hand over the well worn cover of Led Zepplin’s Houses of the Holy, or a mint copy of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, that makes me want to root through the cupboard for my flares and headband. Who said nostalgia is a thing of the past?
Anyway, with that lot all safely tucked up in the loft for another decade, it’s onwards towards my next project, the extension of the house into our barn. Were I to stop and consider this for too long, it too might prove to be a rather futile exercise, as this house is surely big enough for two of us already. In fact, I am struggling to justify the mammoth task to myself, with the only really valid reason to convert the barn to living space I can come up with is that I am doing it ‘because it is there!’
However, straining at the leash as I am to get my teeth into it, there is one more pressing job to be undertaken, that of a seat with a view for the missus. Not just any seat, but one under water. You may recall that for most of last year our swimming pool was leaking water faster than the Titanic and a decision was made to invest in a replacement liner for it. So while the water is out, I have been instructed to build a metre wide platform in the shallow end where Wendy and her pals can sit in six inches of water and partake in their early evening G&T with their feet dangling in the depths. Having taken specific measurements for depth, and width, I now have to consider of what material to construct it and my choice of steel re-enforced concrete has been met with some rather stern retorts! If you don’t hear from me again, try looking for me in the deep end wearing wellies filled with the same material!