Cleanliness, people used to say in the days when not everyone had a multi-directional combined shower, and jacuzzi-cum-orgasmotron in the bathroom, is next to Godliness. Judging from the unholy smell occasionally emitted by the human body after too many days without access to a proper shower in Southern Europe, I think they almost certainly had a point. Which is why last night I repaired up the road from here to two good mates in order to avail myself of their shower.
Motor home showers are all very well when one is Kerouacing, but when you stop and analyse the process later, it is a bit like having someone urinate on your head. While there are Conservative MPs who would pay good money for such recreational perversion, it doesn’t do it for me. I’m all for the American hotel experience of being blasted into the next suite by hot water. And as my mates near here run to that model, I drove but a few miles across truly glorious countryside late yesterday afternoon to power the muck of the last few days from my person.
I had started out last Thursday as a horny-handed son of the toil, but by Sunday morning I was a thorny, knackered ton of soil. Cleanliness may well be next to Godliness, but occasionally one has to turn right not left, and achieve deification via many a detour – ranging from spades and spanners all the way through to hedges, grass, and the undersides of tractor mowers.
Not only did these friends allow me free access to the sort of shower that could decontaminate the worst tank at Fukushima within minutes, they also laid on a late-in-the-day roast lamb Sunday meal of outstanding quality….followed by apple crumble with lashings of custard. Amazing.
So it was that I drove back here at the first tweet of sparrow this morning, the better to start a day advertised on Le Meteo as likely to offer the dizzy heights and enervating delights of 27 degrees centigrade. The spreading blue-grey vapour trails of early aeroplane take-offs somehow added to the magic of a Spring morning sky bathed in pink light; to the left and right of every winding road there were soft-fruit trees whose cream blossom promised a summer of sweet delight to come.
When I arrived back at Slogger’s Roost, the three conifers that now dominate the southern aspect were showing off tight flowers of gleaming gold. At this time of year, they act as a ferocious punctuation of the darker green needles on these noble trees. For many years I was rude about conifers, but not these days: their bent trunks are the giant beanstalks of natural reality – perfect for the fixing of hammocks – and the fruits that fall as cones during the summer can be fashioned into every kind of stunning artifact indoors. (One must, however, dunk them in eco-disinfectant to ensure that genuinely dangerous mites don’t crawl out and do damage to the human or canine form later.)
The sun was properly up and about to get its hat on. Spearmint-green, brand new leaves were poking through the buds of the ash trees. There was a light, still-chilly but soft breeze from the south-east. Monsieur Morgue’s gundog puppies were not as yet in a frenzy of barking pre-breakfast expectation, and so I stood marvelling at the planet’s ability to conjure up a dizzying colour spectrum and pure silence at one and the same time.
All of this, dear reader, I regard as reality. What intervened thereafter was something else, as the Americans say.
I took the clothes that had been tumbling around aimlessly in the dying washing machine, wrung them out by hand, and then hung them on a line that sagged almost audibly under their weight. I replied to a long, tortuous and specious email from the robbers at HMRC. I wrestled with yet more apps in the continuing attempt to get back on Skype and Gmail talk. I cooked some cheese on toast under the grill of the zero-thermostatic oven. I took the tractor-mower from its billet in the barn, jacked it up onto disused oak beams and fiddled with butterfly clips, fan belts and wheelnuts until its blades once more burst miraculously into life. I used the mower to transport old planks to the east of the property for use on the new shed. I cut some grass for ten minutes until the fan belt wrapped itself up itself again and the mowing interlude ended abruptly. I had a discussion with Colin the architect about the trade-off between the spiral staircase and a proposed wetroom. I rang a range-cooker supplier and had a rambling conversation about kitchens, architects, and the need to change plans yet again. Then the plumber turned up and asked if I’d considered the idea of having the wetroom downstairs, and the kitchen upstairs. My response was negatively terse, while trying reasonably hard not to be gratuitously dismissive.
Before any of us knew where we were (least of all me) it was 2 pm. So ignoring the insistent messages in my right cerebral hemisphere that suggested a snooze might be in order, I took two salvaged oak bits from an old table and sawed them into four equal parts, these to act as the legs for another garden table top already fashioned from old floor planks and suspect ceiling beams. This was a welcome return to real life. More wood primer was applied to the unique combo rocking chair, bench and tea-time receptacle slowly taking shape on the westerly grass of the garden. And finally, various drill bits for use through wood were inspected and declared fit for the purpose of burrowing into old thick pine off-cuts. These tunnels would act as the housing for bolts that might create a garden stool tailor-made for my uniquely perfect granddaughter Lyla when she next makes a Royal visit to Opa’s French domaine.
There were entirely daft and hair-pulling bits during today, but I reach the end of it happy in the knowledge that I am more fortunate than the overwhelming majority of humankind: as indeed are most of you – if, that is, you’re prepared to separate natural needs and pleasures from the high-fat saturates of materialist bollocks with which we are assailed on a daily basis.
Fine, ok – I know I’ve had more than my fair share of the breaks. So I’ll sign off with just this one plea for someone who had no emotional breaks at the outset, made her own way through various existences afterwards, and emerged via a proper grown-up distinction in the proper practice of the Law to emerge as one of the very, very few scrupulously honest and brave bloggers of our time. Tomorrow she enters hospital yet again to do infinitely courageous battle against an obscene disease. Whether you be Christian, atheist, fundamentalist, Buddhist, Adventist, feminist, Communist or even Faragist, I ask you please to focus for just a few minutes, and try to arrange the quantum future in her favour.