We were there – well not there in the photograph, but around at the time and living near Bath – which made lunch last week with one of the original provocateurs and his partner a total joy. Most young people probably think we’re a bunch of old farts who never did anything interesting – after all the world was only invented when they came along – but here’s the evidence – complete with incriminating photos and only mildly bowdlerized accounts of the fun and games that went on. There was a serious side to the counterculture because it helped mobilize public opinion against the Buchanan Plan which was contemplating the destruction of one of Bath’s most historic neighbourhoods in order to build a huge road. As it was, a great chunk of old Bath was demolished in favour of ugly flats – now a local crime hotspot – a habit which has continued with the recent Crest Nicholson Western Riverside development which would make a Russian bonded warehouse look good. There’s a well known polemic called The Sack of Bath written in 1973 by Adam Fergusson which also threw a spanner into the planners’ designs and undoubtedly helped save Bath from wholesale destruction. Interestingly we bumped into his daughter in a bar in Hay on Wye in December. She was very proud of her Dad who’s still alive. We need him back here!
A lot of last week was taken up haggling with recalcitrant software. As ever the obvious problem with my mobile router never occurred to me until I’d tried everything else out and wasted vast amounts of energy shouting fruitlessly at a lump of space junk whose only fault was an expired SIM card. Of course, somewhere at the back of my disorderly mind I’d known it all along, but – hey ho. The router will soon be needed as we get the campervan back on the road. After a couple of years of Covid when we often couldn’t use the van, we’d seriously considered selling it. It costs a lot of money just to leave it standing in a compound doing nothing and we thought it might be better to spend the money on trips. For one whole evening we even thought we’d buy an interrail pass and spend six months back in Europe. The downside to these utopian plans was always that we have a family, an allotment, the Bath Nats and a pile of friends we like to keep in touch with. In the cold light of morning and whilst putting the empties out, Plan A sounded a bit naff because what we really really enjoy is to park the campervan up on a site somewhere quiet and remote in the midst of a wildlife hotspot – like Mendip or mid Wales for instance – and go walking, birdwatching and plant hunting. So the plan was shelved with the two of us in complete agreement that we needed to keep the van.
The campervan’s been standing idle since we got back from St Davids in September and whilst we agonised over it we also neglected it a bit, so as well as software wars we also took ourselves down to the edge of the Severn to get the batteries recharged and to empty out the cupboards and generally get it ready for spring. We soon found that the upholstery had got very damp, the sink needed repairing (again!) and the mice had raided for nest building materials although a thorough search failed to find any nests; cue much more irritable spluttering and rummaging through tiny spaces at the expense of bashed elbows and a sore head. Ah – life’s rich tapestry – we thought as we lumped an 80lb generator and our dehumidifier into the car along with a spare battery and a heap of tools.
However, amidst all these distractions I also managed to spend time getting my head in gear for plant hunting in a few weeks time; checking out useful databases and maps and scouring lists. I do love a good list – this may be some kind of symptom. The upshot of all this botanical fantasising was that at the AGM on Saturday I volunteered to join the Council of the Bath Nats, thereby turning my retirement resolution never to join another committee – on its head. Naturally (it’s a voluntary organisation) my offer was warmly accepted and after a brief moment of undeserved pride I fell into a pit of self-doubt, bordering on imposter syndrome. The members of the Council are just so much more experienced and knowledgeable than me, they’ll find me out in a moment. Another sleepless night.
And so today has two tasks; to go back to the van and figure out how to carry out the necessary repairs and to run the dehumidifier for a few hours now we’ve remembered to put some petrol into the generator. Then I need to get a new data SIM and get the router working and sit down with Madame and plan the seed order for the allotment. We’ve already agreed to simplify and to concentrate on low maintenance plants to give ourselves more time for the other things we like to do. Then there’s marmalade to make as well. Who knew retirement could be so exhausting?