There’s no situation that’s not redeemed by a slice of cake

I know that’s a bold claim to make, but time without number I’ve found that baking cakes beats any antidepressant on the market. Yesterday was a total bummer, what with the shed and the greenhouse being vandalized; and it went on getting worse when the lights all failed, and then Madame came out of the bathroom with wet feet and we discovered that for the second time we were being inundated with water from the flat above. Actually after some frantic messaging on the house Whatsapp group, we discovered that the water was coming from two floors above us and filtering merrily down through the electricity conduits and out through a light fitting! – it was the result of a botched attempt to remove a blockage from a bath that somehow disconnected the whole pipe. Luckily we caught it in time and after a couple of hours dripping into a bowl, we ran the dehumidifier flat out for a couple of hours. Living in a concrete building means that the winter is a constant battle against black mould and so we circulate the dehumidifier around the flat to keep it under control. Profuse apologies from our upstairs neighbour gave us the chance of a first conversation, although I’m not sure what he made of us.

Of course the night before last was pretty much taken up with lying in bed staring at the ceiling and trying to manage my anger. I think I got about four hours sleep in the end; my placid and saintly response yesterday was only possible after an exhausting inner battle. Then very early today – just to compound our joy – there was a burglary next door at four thirty a.m. with a good deal of shouting and revving of engines none of which I heard because I was sleeping with my deaf side uppermost. Helpfully, Madame soon woke me and obliged me with a running commentary. The police turned up mid morning and gave the owners a crime number, which will be the last time that anyone hears anything.

If there’s a lesson in all this it’s simply that sometimes I find I have to manage my anger intellectually and then allow the resolution to percolate through to my unconscious for a couple of days to mature into acceptance. The shed and the greenhouse were our Christmas presents to one another five years ago when we took on the second half-plot on the allotment. But there – we can walk away from any unforgiving, angry feelings because we are free to be free of negative thoughts. The people who did the damage may not have mastered that gift yet and more likely than not, their lives are completely impoverished and blighted by destructive instincts . I wish them no harm other than the harm they bring on themselves which, if they choose, can become the motivation for change.

Anyway, an early grocery delivery had me out of bed soon after six, and I decided that the only way forward was to bake a cake, make some bread and go up to the allotment to finish the running repairs – which is what we did. I think we both came to the conclusion that rather than spending a great deal of money on replacing the toughened glass, we could substitute polycarbonate sheets that, ‘though they wouldn’t be quite as good, are at least much harder to smash. When we first took on the allotments we wanted everything to be as perfect as possible but the thieving and vandalism are so prolific we just can’t risk the expenditure – and so just as we did when the cold frames were stolen – we look for a route around the mountain rather than over it. The shed window is now covered with an old compost bag, and the greenhouse is swaddled with some left over pond liner held in place with posts, staples, and gaffer tape. It’s not pretty but it keeps the wind and rain out. We’ll never let the darkness win.

When I started this blog I put in a category called “Uncle Jim” which I don’t think I’ve ever tagged a post with. For a long time I considered removing it from the list of categories. In the HG Wells Story “A history of Mr Polly” – which gave me the name for the blog – there’s a drunken and violent character known as Uncle Jim, the landlady’s nephew, who remains a constant threat to the hero until one day, he returns to the Potwell Inn breathing fire and revenge. After a series of epic battles and in the course of the ninth chapter he manages to steal Mr Polly’s coat and an old rifle and then disappears altogether only to be found washed up on a beach wearing Polly’s coat. He is then misidentified as Polly which frees our hero (and his wife) from a suffocating marriage. She claims the insurance and finds happiness running a cafe in Canterbury, and he returns to the generously proportioned landlady of the Potwell Inn – a sort of Ma Larkin – in a setting suspiciously familiar to me. And so, today, I’m tagging this post as the first and possibly the only time I’ll use the category Uncle Jim.

Tomorrow we shall have tea and cake and do the seed order. I can almost taste those Minnesota Midget melons already!


Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

One thought on “There’s no situation that’s not redeemed by a slice of cake”

  1. So sorry about the vandalism on your plot. We used to experience that occasionally at the herb farm. A good roll of greenhouse tape, and putting a piece on each side of the hole is a good, quick remedy and will last for several years. Your cake looks delicious, and enjoying it while ordering seeds sounds like the perfect plan. May your New Year 2022 be a happy and healthy one!

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