We’ve been paying a great deal of attention to our electricity bills as the winter advances on us. The Government’s Panglossian approach towards other people’s hardships has meant that we’ve turned the central heating off in all but one of the rooms in our flat because not withstanding the unstinting generosity of the press releases, our bills have always been higher that the so called averages quoted by them. Sadly we’ve been twinned with a steelworks for the purposes of averaging out the bill. The fight against black mould is continuing in spite of repeated appeals to our landlord – the Church of England Pensions Board if you’re interested – whose rent increase this year pretty much swallowed up their pension increase. “Well, we all have to do our bit” we say through gritted teeth.
So what to do? The allotment is one way of getting warm. Clearing the beds of last year’s crops and weeds is excellent exercise that apparently rivals wearing lycra for fending off heart attacks. There are just a couple of beds left to clear but this week we turned to the polytunnel because that will be the first area to be planted up. First we clear all the plants, and in normal years that would be the end of it but this year the encroachment of bindweed means that it needs digging. In a perfect world we’d be committed no-diggers, but the Potwell Inn has to make do with living in the real world in which bindweed – if it’s not controlled – will choke out almost any plant, however vigorous. The thick, 2mm diameter rhizomes, can spread amazingly quickly and even the smallest broken bits, left in the ground, can regenerate. Our second – only slightly lesser problem is couch grass which invades every year from the neglected plots next to ours. Then there’s the green mould that gradually builds up on the greenhouse and the polytunnel. We scrub it off with an organic product called Citrox which has an immediate beneficial effect on the light transmission. Yes, most days – if it’s not raining too hard – we spend a few hours up at the allotment keeping warm and fit. Then most days we come home and fall asleep for half an hour. For some obscure reason I’ve always loved digging, so even if it’s only a few selected beds it’s a joy only slightly tempered by protesting joints and muscles.
But the mess on the dining table tells another story. Back in the day when I was writing radio scripts, it would take roughly an hour to write a minute’s worth of broadcastable material. Sermons took the same amount of time when I wrote them out in full; but over time I learned to work firstly with notes and then eventually I could ad lib after a good deal of study and practice. Always, though, a very slow process. The dining table library is all about identifying the things we’ve found whilst out walking. The fungus season has reached its peak a little late this year due to the weather, but being relatively new to fungi it seems to take an eternity to identify them fully. Why it should be that there’s so much intellectual satisfaction from identifying the LBJ’s (little brown jobs) is a task for a psychologist probably; but I love the challenge, and going out with friends looking for fungi is even more fun.
Then of course there’s writing this blog and cooking meals for ourselves and occasional family members and shopping, oh and meetings, drinking coffee, eating too many biscuits and watching the telly (except for news programmes which upset me). On the best days Madame and I share the table and I write while she draws at the other end. As you see in the photograph, I may have encroached on her territory.
I suppose when spring comes and the weather warms up we’ll move back into our respective workspaces but for now – although you might imagine we’ve had a row as we work in silence – the arrangement suits us both. The only loser is the electricity company – well tough!