It was Homer in The Odyssey who first described dawn as having ‘rosy-‘ or ‘rose-tinted fingers’. This morning we saw how apt his description was. There is, of course, as much controversy about the identity of this ancient Greek, or even Greeks, as there is about our own William Shakespeare’s. Something else the two have in common is that their phrases have become part of international language without speakers necessarily knowing from where or from whom they originated. I expect you can all think of examples. For starters, here is one I learned only this morning: ‘Manners maketh man’. We must have all heard this one, but where does it come from?
‘William of Wykeham’, according to Barrie Haynes, ‘was not a bad lad’. This is how my friend began his ‘Between Ourselves’ column of 22nd July 2009, in a Lincolnshire newspaper, Target Series. He then goes on, among other pieces of information, to tell us that William founded both Winchester College and New College, Oxford. The phrase quoted above has been adopted as their motto by each of these educational establishments, for it was their founder who coined it. Thank you, Barrie, I didn’t know that.
Barrie’s column ran for 76 weekly issues from 2009 to 2010. It is entertaining, sometimes provocative, and a mine of information. I am slowly working my way through the collection he sent me. I am not tempted to skip anything. The man is a delight, and I hope he soon succumbs to my pressure on him to start writing a blog.
During an hiatus in the work of Sam, The Lady Plumber, who fitted our dishwasher this morning, I walked the route through Roger’s fields, along the side of the wood, left along the bus route, and back up Downton Lane, pausing as usual to admire the cottage garden on the corner. Cosmos, marigolds, and nicotiana were the plants I could identify.
A crow, with another in the distance, tracked the hang glider that reflected the deep blue of the Solent, visible from the fields at our end of the lane.
As I walked along the side of the wood, my face tickled by spider’s strands stretching across the footpath, I felt thankful that I was not a fly, one of which basked in comparative safety on a dead branch.
To return to Sam, she is not phased by any problems she encounters. On each occasion she has worked on our plumbing, she has found the need for another piece of equipment, and has happily gone out and shopped for it. Today the pipe leading from the dishwasher to the water supply was too short, so she bought an extension. Sam is also willing to sort out other problems. Whilst testing the machine she spotted a leak in one of the sinks, unscrewed the elbow and found a broken washer. This meant another trip to the suppliers. She had other jobs to complete first, but undertook to come back to us afterwards, which she promptly did. Matching the washers had been a difficult task, so Sam was justifiably triumphant when she had fixed the new one to her satisfaction.
Work continued somewhat sporadically in the back drive. We are slowly getting there.
The Happy Wok at Ashley once again provided our evening repast, liquid refreshment being Hoegaarden and Bishop’s Finger.
Had the rain not driven us inside yesterday, before I’d assembled the first of the benches for which we had purchased the wood and bolts, I may have been saved the rude awakening in the middle of the night when I realised a somewhat more than minor miscalculation. It is customary, you see, for me to make a slight error when attempting D.I.Y. Had I discovered this one before going to bed, I may not have dreamt about it.
The two pairs of garden bench sides required a total of nineteen wooden slats. I also needed the bolts and nuts to fit. So how many nuts and bolts did I buy? With the possible exception of Orlaith, my youngest grandchildren could probably provide the answer.
So. Jackie’s first task this morning was to drive off and buy another nineteen of each.
Whilst she was out I carried on with the job. Had I realised that it would be simpler, and easier on the back, to assemble the seat on a table rather than on the ground, I may have got a little further than raising a sweat. I had just begun to work on a small table by the time Jackie returned. It was her suggestion that I should use two tables and balance a borrowed section of the IKEA wardrobe fence across them. One of the cast iron sides was broken, and so deprived of a hole through which to thread a bolt. I thought it sheer genius to suggest we borrowed a washer from one of Barrie Haynes’s favourite wheelbarrows to secure the bolt. Apart from Jackie’s brains, I needed her to help screw in the bolts and tighten the nuts.
When Jackie had photographed me on the Nottingham Castle bench, Becky had commented that the structure came with its own hobo. Naturally, therefore, this shot had to be reprised as I sat admiring the vista opposite.
Both our sheds were leaking, because their roofing felt has perished, and one had rotten barge boards. Rod’s Repairs, who are to be highly recommended, came and fixed them today, as I began bolting the seats into our second spare set of cast iron side pieces. Having been well schooled in the process with the first one this morning, I didn’t need to take Jackie away from her own gardening tasks too much, except to hold the structure in place near the end of the job.
Except also for the car ride, that is. We needed some different length bolts so went back to Travis Perkins for them. They were closed. So we did an about turn and drove to Knights at Lymington. They were closed. So we did another about turn and went to Milford Supplies who had not had the right length this morning, but had some a bit longer. We bought those.
Apart from interruptions, Jackie had finished emptying our predecessors’ compost maker, and, as usual, been astounded at what they had thought might make good compost. In fairness, it may have been the dog that buried the bone. She had also heavily pruned some overgrown euphorbia thus revealing some other treasures, such as a clematis, a camellia, and a rose that had all been obscured by it.
Having returned home I continued with my task. The sides of the bench I was working on still contained bolts well rusted in. Considerable pressure was required to sever these with the heavy duty cutter. As I clipped through sixteen of these I thought of a story my old Westminster Social Services friend Ken Coleman once delighted in telling. One of Ken’s responsibilities involved regular visits to a residential care home for people with learning difficulties. Each time he attended the establishment he was presented with the bolt cutter challenge, as was virtually every other visitor.
One staggeringly strong young male resident was engaged in what must have been quite a long term fencing task. This involved cutting through an Alcatraz type metal trellis with a cutter most other people would be unable to lift, yet alone employ. He was immensely proud of his implement and what he could do with it. The unwary visitor would be given a demonstration of how easy it was to cut through the cable, and invited to have a go. The initial wide welcoming grin would, almost imperceptibly take on a wicked twinkle as he handed over the weapon and supervised the ensuing struggle. His victim would be unable even to prise apart the handles, and very quickly forced to admit defeat. Our young man would take back his cutter, and beam with unashamed pride.
Our second refurbished garden bench has been deposited in what is still the kitchen garden, in readiness for its metamorphosis into a rose one. When the transformation is complete, the seat from which Jackie is, when I am not standing in the way with a camera, looking out down the Heligan path, will be set back against the fence behind it.
We dined this evening on pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce; wild rice and peas; and Heinz Beanz. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.