At the End of the Day

There haven’t been many At the End of the Days of late, and this may have something to do with the fact that there hasn’t been much time At the End of the Days of late for writing At the End of the Days. I didn’t get where I am today by knowing where I am At the End of the Day, Reggie.

This is probably the one time of year – after Bonfire Night and before Christmas – when as a kid I would happily have lived somewhere else other than Manchester. It really was, as a season, neither one thing nor t’other.

In the footie sense of season, of course, it was time for the cloggy, heavy pitches whereupon midfield artists like myself found it hard to weave patterns and passes of genius to thrill the crowds (often as swollen as 17) who turned up to watch Prestwich St Margarets play. Mainly, it was hard for me to kick the ball out of the Somme-like mud for much of the time. As a bit of a skinny wimp in those days, I would often be knackered after about half an hour.

Whereas later – as December got the pitches in its icy grip – a midfield pocket general comme moi had the advantage of big defenders who’d been chopping me down into the mud of October. With the ball at my feet, just one well-performed hip-dummy had the wing-half on his backside and me heading for goalside glory. Or a badly grazed kneecap, depending on my stud length.

Here in South West France, the mud stage is just beginning. But the colours remain an encyclopaedia of pastel, ranging as they do from faded red via half-hearted rust to washed-out yellow…and something approaching a greeny-cream. The leaves cover the grass in parts – and where the field is far from shedding Ash trees, the green spikes endeavour to taunt me with their increasingly feeble attempts at growth. I am left in no doubt that at some point over the next fortnight, the sit-on mower will be employed again: but during the shorter days that somehow seem boringly longer, it can be a joy to wrap up well and career around the land here…bestowing a vague sense of neatness that represents more a vague desire for aesthetics than the bourgeois drive to have the Centre Court in the back garden.

I do not have a back garden….there is only a 360 degree mish-mash of bushes, trees, couche grass and hedges to be trained but never tamed. I like it like that. But come Spring next year, I’m going to have to learn how to master the terrain enough to grow some self-sufficiency. Some good topsoil has been bunged onto raised beds, and then covered from sunlight (using what the French call bashe) to keep the weeds at bay. Beyond that, however, much of this is uncharted waters for me. At the moment, to be honest, it looks like a polythene recycling centre splattered with stones from an ancient eruption.

Something, after all, has to keep the ground cover from blowing away, and thus leave the ground uncovered.