Hard Labour

Haven’t been down South at this time of year for a while. Last year, I was wrestling with an unfinished apartment in George Street, Jerusalem and the year before, Paris. So, the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, leaf mould, blocked guttering  and all the other little idiosyncrasies of a seven-acre plot all added up to a spot of Hard Labour. All the tasks that one could never find time for, delicately procrastinated into the sweet bye and bye descended like the Assyrian hordes, all at once. 
It’s been raining here. Rather a lot, as it happens. The high water table on the elevated parts of the land means that when there’s a deluge, it all finds its way south, carving pathways through stones and gravel. For weeks we had quite a few streams that moated the house, all of them having gathered momentum higher up, lifting stones the size of basketballs. In short, instead of delicate indentations in the unmade road, we now had ruts the depth of trashcans making visitors with low slung vehicles nervous. Gipsy with her usual optimistic insouciance airily brushed aside the task, claiming a few barrows of rubble would fix the problem, at least for the time being. I listened, gloomily, envisaging slashed tyres and broken axles followed by a requirement of lorryloads of gravel. Where’s some slave labour when you need it? I reminded myself that the place wasn’t Downton Abbey, rolled up my sleeves and started shovelling, pushing images of prisoners in labour camps to the back of my mind. G, being a solidly built creature, hauled and shoved with me and at least a few of the ruts are passably filled in. I recalled the Rule of St Benedict and smiled grimly.

Having a pool with pretty underwater lighting is delightful. In July. Having to bed it down for the winter involves a little delicate chemistry, plus encasement in its winter coat. Scorning all assistance, when G had gone on some small errand – nail varnish, as I recall, being on the list – I elected to unwrap the robustly constructed made to measure cover, all fifty-five square metres of it, and put it on unassisted. There were regrettable outbreaks of bad language, unheard except by local wildlife. I’m surprised they didn’t turn up to watch. I won’t go into detail, it’s too painful. G returned from her shopping trip, took one look at my sweat-sodden face and remarked “It’s the wrong way round.” Indeed it was. I had been attempting to force it to be the right way round for some time. She and I then unhooked it from its retaining divots or whatever they’re called, folded it, turned it, and on it went like a well-tailored suit.
The pool house door doesn’t shut. I am confident that with a little bit of paring with a wickedly sharp Swiss Army knife, any swelling can be expeditiously removed. The number for the ambulance is in the book and if I survive without too much blood loss, I’m going back to Paris.

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