Prettifying the Privet

photo 4Last week I gave the 84 year old fellow swimmer a lift home and I was telling her my parents were coming to stay and Dad would be cutting my hedge. She said ‘I hope he doesn’t say to your mum I wonder what job’s Frances will have lined up for me this time’ apropos of wondering if he minded. Of course he doesn’t mind I confidently responded! He likes being able to do something that really helps me and its true or at least he’s never said otherwise (and I haven’t been foolish enough to ask thereby giving him the opportunity to say no)! OK he did repeatedly say he wished he’d brought his electric hedge trimmers with him but that was nothing to do with me so he used manual loppers and did it over two days with the assistance of my mother who was instructed to sweep up the clippings! And thank you very much Dad it looks fabulous! Last October when he did it he was overheard saying to a passing pedestrian that he’d come 200 miles to cut this hedge!

I do every now and then wonder if I could be accused of elder abuse but parents tend not to refuse to assist with such minor domestic tasks at least not in my experience (and yes I know I’m lucky). This morning I was reassured when I saw an eldery couple arriving at my new neighbours house and unloaded two very long pieces of wood (and two trays of tinned goods although I couldn’t identify the contents). Their arrival coincided with me taking a shower in the bathroom where the window is plain glass (I like to see the trees when I’m in the bath). Although I’m confident no one can see me I did feel a tad vulnerable and kept as far from the window as possible just in case – wouldn’t want to give either gentleman heart failure when using power tools!

The wood it turns out was to erect a washing line something the adult female had been telling me she couldn’t live without a moment longer. In her defence she does have four children including a part toilet trained 2 year old and a 5 month old baby. Me well I have quickly fallen in love with my washer dryer – excuse me while I go and remove one load and feed in another whilst lovingly stroking said machine encouragingly! And wouldn’t you just know I’ve managed to bite into a juicy strawberry and as a result I now have a splodge of red juice on the sleeve of the white top I am planning to wear to a 40th birthday party tonight! Well that’s simple I will just ignore it and if anyone points it out I will feign surprise and say it wasn’t there when I put it on! I won’t actually be lying now will I. Unable to resist popping another one in me chops before stepping out I made sure me lips were perfectly sealed after inserting before chewing. Got it! The thing is with my teeth being a fragile as they are I just squash the fruit with my tongue against the roof of my mouth thereby avoiding the risk of chewing enamel – tried it and it’s unpleasant and utterly tasteless unlike the blood that usually following chewing pieces of yer own teeth!

photo 3My writing retreat in remotest Pembrokeshire was quite successful as I managed to complete about 2/3rd’s or perhaps 3/5th of what I had planned to do. The cottage was attached to the main house but with a suitable distance for privacy from all except an ancient moth eaten cat who I foolishly allowed to come inside especially in the latter part of the week when the rain and mist descended. Little did I know that the wee beastie was a farm cat that wasn’t house trained; at all. I don’t think there was one bodily function that she didn’t share with me, some more than once! Half way through the week when the weather turned colder the owner popped in and suggested I could light the wood burning stove. In the woodshed around the corner along with a plentiful supply of wood was a little kennel labelled ‘Cat’ so the little minx rightly identified this spinster as a soft touch!

Now with the poor manual dexterity and vibrate mode permanently stuck in the ‘vigorous’ setting I probably should have left the wood burner alone. This I did for about half a day suspiciously eying it every time I walked passed; each time getting a little closer until I thought ‘how difficult can it be?’After all readers may remember the Spinster has her Girl Guide Backwoodsman badge; later I realised that was the last time I had actually lit a fire c30 years ago. The burner bit was already laid out so I gingerly got down on all fours and sprinkled some bits of firelight over the ‘pyre’ and struck a match (well 7 to be precise as the box was ancient, a bit soggy and was marked ‘made in Czechoslovakia!)

Eventually the fire caught and I stood mesmerised by my handiwork. After 5 minutes I went off to do something else no longer paying attention. I didn’t notice the smoke until the smoke alarm went off upstairs and suddenly became aware the whole cottage was full of smoke! As fast as I could, juvenile snail’s pace, I opened all the doors and windows including the velux above the mezzanine where ancient kitty was (no longer) sleeping! I was flummoxed as to how it happened although later deduced it was a combination between moss covered wood and something to do with the flue! But as they say it only happened once, no one was hurt and I now feel confident to light a wood burning stove; the manoeuvring of a basket full of wood around from the wood shed on one crutch when the ground was rather slippery as wet was sheer performance itself!

photo 2 photo 1Adjacent to the cottage was open farmland populated by rabbits and a flock of 4 sheep: 2 (off) white and 2 black. The curious sheep grazed in circles around the field always staying together as if performing graceful manoeuvres. If I did anything to disturb their peaceful pursuit one of them would momentarily pause to raise their head, make eye contact with the most convincing look of indifferent boredom I’ve ever been subjected to in my life; utterly hilarious!

When I arrived the owners helped me unpack the car and as we went into the cottage the man paused and said ‘didn’t you used to run the Arts Council?’’Yeeesss’ I replied cautiously adding ‘that was a very long time ago’. On occasions like this, which happen seldom these days given that I left 10 years ago, I brace myself because it could go either way. ‘I used to run an arts charity we were very grateful for your support’ he added smiling! On the way back to the car I quietly said to his wife ‘oh the joys of Google’ and she laughed thankfully. It’s a mixed blessing having held positions in public life albeit rather minor ones as in Wales neither the anger nor the gratitude tend to be forgotten!





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