Monday, 28 February 2011

Cost-benefit analysis

The streamlining continues.

Yesterday I parted with my stock trailer.
This wasn't as much of a wrench as I thought it would be. I decided to sell it because it is too heavy for me to manoeuvre alone and I just cannot hitch it up without assistance. It also needs a jolly good clean. My original plan was to buy another, smaller trailer that I can easily handle - I only ever need to carry two or three animals at a time - but I have had a couple of offers of loans, so I might not need to at all.

This feels like a positive step. The trailer was just sitting there, slowly deteriorating and turning green from algae, and it was another symbol of the things I could not do any more. Clearing it out felt like a breath of fresh air.

And the best part was that it sold for a tenner more than I paid for it!

I am finding that this acceptance and jettisoning of what I cannot cope with on my own brings a real sense of peace. Heaven knows I have fought against it for long enough.

I was talking to my sister-in-law the other evening. She has some significant health issues, including having had major back surgery. Although she is still working, she finds anything like gardening, which involves pulling and bending, to simply be too painful. Their garden is beautiful, and they put so much work into turning it into a little haven of loveliness. But over the past year they have gradually accepted that she can no longer do what is necessary to keep it looking that way, and have taken the decision to turn it into much more of a low-maintenance garden.

This was a heart-breaking decision for them and is the sort of little domestic loss that needs to be mourned. But she can also see the possibilities that the new garden will open up for them. More time to travel, for example, and certainly not being tied to the place during peak sowing and planting season. More cash to spend on other things, and no longer feeling a need to shoot rabbits from the upstairs windows to keep them off their newly-planted seedlings!

I started feeling the benefits of this simplification process myself this weekend. With just one henhouse to clean out, and no large smelly duck house, I had a lot more spare time. This meant I could make a start on clearing the decks for my new flower cutting garden, and just generally tidying that part of the garden which tends to be the dumping ground for all sorts of things I can't find a home for. The mess around there has been seeping into my consciousness for a long time now, despite my best efforts to ignore it.

The picture was taken last year, so I would like to clear it properly before the nettles and brambles spring back into growth with a vengeance. Then I can perhaps get a path laid and the flower bed edging in place. This will have the knock-on effect of not having to control the triffid-like weed growth in that area during the summer - which will hopefully save me more time.

It is all good.

This little fellow wasn't keen on being exposed though!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Thoughts on watching the cricket

I have just been sitting here watching the highlights of the World Cup match between Australia and New Zealand. I guess the Kiwis can be forgiven for a lacklustre performance today.

It took me back to 2003.
We had tickets that year for the World Cup in South Africa. I had bought the tickets about 6 months ahead of time when they were still quite cheap. Then we started house-hunting, and decided to buy this place. Had all gone to plan we would have been settled in here by the November and could have travelled, but it all went haywire and turned into the move from hell.

As the whole sale process dragged on and on, we ended up having to cancel the trip, much to our huge disappointment. Ultimately we moved house right in the middle of the competition.

Although we cancelled because of the house move, it also proved to have been the right decision in another way - my Dad died right in the middle of the time we would have been in Cape Town. He had been living with leukaemia for many years, and his health was up and down all the time, but his death came right out of the blue. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I had been a 12-hour flight away. I think there was less than 2 weeks between his death and our move, with his funeral in the middle of it all.

It is funny how things like conveyancing and packing, which seemed incredibly stressful before, suddenly became of no importance whatsoever. We had brought Dad up to see the house the Christmas before he died, but only from the outside. He never got to see it inside, or the land that goes with it, which he would have loved. We never got to ride together on the steam train that sets off from my nearest town. So many things we were unable to do together.

After missing out on South Africa, R and I talked a lot about going to the West Indies for the 2007 event. But by that time he was contracting and was reluctant to commit to going, just in case it would have prevented him picking up work.
I wish we had gone. I know the whole event was rather chaotic and the cricket wasn't great that year, but he could have at least ticked off a few more 1st class grounds from his bucket list.

When you think you have a 'normal' lifespan stretching in front of you, it is so easy to let things slip or pass by because there will be plenty of time to do them later.

If only that were true for everyone.

In my new life I am much more inclined to seize the day. It is hard not to regret the missed moments. All I can do, though, is to ensure that there aren't so many in the future. I just wish R were here to share the unmissed ones.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A year in the death: February

It has been a heck of a week, including two nights working way into the wee small hours. Moose was a little stir-crazy too as his dicky leg has been playing up and our walks have been necessarily foreshortened.

We therefore both needed a little fresh air this afternoon and, as I had to go to town to pick up a parcel, it was a good opportunity to visit R on the way back home.

Spring seems to be on its way. Snowdrops punctuate the periphery of the field, and there are catkins on the hazels already. The grass has that dead, brownish shaggy look that it takes on just before the new shoots start to appear.

Today I did something that I haven't done for a while, which is to walk up the hill from R's grave to admire the view from the top. I used to do it every time I visited, but seem to have got out of the habit lately.

From the top of the hill I can look out over the Severn valley and the flat flood plain that is regularly underwater. It is dotted with the small mounded hills known as "moel"s that are so prevalent in this area (moel means "bald" in English, and they are very reminiscent of round tonsured heads). There is nothing that makes me feel so close to R as being at the top of a hill.

And I wanted to 'talk' to him. To explain why I feel it is the right time to at least open myself up to the possibility of finding someone else. I am pretty sure he would be OK with the idea. Certainly there were no signs from beyond the grave that he didn't approve. There were no flashes of lightning. The clouds didn't form themselves into a giant NO! I didn't even step in a pile of fox poo on the way back down the hill.

R just didn't do standing still.
He fidgeted and paced and marched ahead.
Looking back I have lost count of the number of buses we missed over the years because he couldn't bear to wait at the bus stop for one to arrive, and so we had to walk to the next stop along. And then the next stop. And the one after that. Invariably the bus would arrive while we were between the two.

He would understand me not wanting my life to stagnate.
I have no idea if anything will come of this and, to be honest, it doesn't really matter if it doesn't. What is important is to feel as though I am taking my life back, being active rather than simply reactive. And I know he would approve of that.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lonely hearts

As seen from the top of the Berliner Dom last year.
Yet another set of steps that we never got to climb together.
I was a little bit mad that day, so I walked up all 270 steps twice - once for each of us.

I so miss being able to share views like that. Just to be able to get to the top of a hill with someone and talk about what I see. It is almost as though the experience never really happened if there isn't another person there to remember it as well.

So I did something this weekend that rather took me by surprise.
The fact that someone else was 'driving' the computer may have had something to do with it - or perhaps it had something to do with the large amount of red wine that was drunk that evening. But I signed up for an online dating agency. (And if you happen to read this, C - thank you!).

Am I ready for this?
I really don't know.
What does 'ready' mean in any case?
I am pretty sure that I don't want to spend the rest of my life on my own. I know that I like having someone to love and look after. I don't feel at all needy - just that it would be good to share with another person once more.

At some point I have to be ready. So why not now? Before the hard, hard shell I have been busily building around myself becomes too thick to chip open at all. Before I get too stuck in my ways and forget how to share.

I won't ever stop loving R, so there is no point in sitting here waiting for that to happen. I am comfortable in my own skin and know I won't settle for just anyone. I know how a good relationship feels and am not prepared to compromise on a bad one.

That all sounds terribly confident, doesn't it?
In reality I am trying not to freak out about the fact that several men have responded to my profile and am wondering whether to simply run away from the whole idea for another 6 months. The process makes me feel like a naive 15 year-old who has never been kissed.

Perhaps I am not ready after all.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A talking-to

I came inside from feeding the sheep the other morning and caught sight of myself in the mirror.

What a state!
Hatty-hair, covered in bits of hay, wearing R's tatty old padded shirt that makes me look like a tartan Christmas pudding, grubby jeans and wellies.
Here I am in my winter plumage.

Practical, but good grief. Not day in, day out for three months or more. Time for a bit of a talking-to.

Time to get a grip, woman. Time, at least, to wear your own clothes - you know, the ones that actually fit you. You have been wearing R's waterproof in the rain since he died. That's two and a half years in a coat at least three sizes too big. Come on now, it really wouldn't hurt to go shopping - would it?

And about that hair.
Go on. Pick up the phone and make an appointment. Your hair looks quite nice when it's short and cut properly. Then you won't need to cover it up with a woolly hat that makes you look like a bag lady. And I hate to say it, but are you really mentally prepared to look quite that grey? Why not use that box of colour that has been sitting in the bathroom drawer for months? Just for a bit of a boost.

And while you're at it, how about a touch of lippy next time you venture into civilisation? Probably a good idea to check the use-by dates first if you want to avoid some noxious infection due to wearing out-of-date cosmetics.

Or a skirt, perhaps. You know, those things at the far recesses of the wardrobe that are a dim and distant memory. You do have legs, you know, and they aren't too dreadful. Although you might want to take a razor to them first. I'm sure you remember how to do that.

This is your Vanity talking to you. There was a time when you paid me a lot more attention and I like to think you scrubbed up reasonably well when you did. Go on. Pick up the phone. Oh, and make that dentist appointment while you're at it.

Just think of it as another decluttering project, if that makes you feel better.

(This picture just makes me laugh. J the sheep whisperer is humiliated by her ovine charges yet again!)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

End of an era

This afternoon I said goodbye to the last three Muscovy drakes.
It is the first time I have been without ducks for about 7 years and the place seems very odd without them. They weren't there waiting outside the back door when I went to feed the sheep this evening. Now Moose will have to find something else to pester at feeding times.

Muscovies are simply the most laid-back poultry I have ever kept. They don't seem to be bothered by anything much and are quite happy just to sit and chill or relax around the pool while all the other birds around them are busily looking for food or destroying a flowerbed or something similar.

But they had to go.
I sold quite a lot last year, and the fox took the two ducks I had planned to keep. That left me with the three layabout drakes that were serving no useful purpose whatsoever. They were too old for the freezer and just represented another responsibility that I don't have the headspace for right now. When I was offered a couple of bales of hay in return for them, it seemed like the sensible solution - and one fewer journey to pick up hay. But I am really going to miss them with their football hooligan greeting behaviour and incredible fecundity.

And it is one more admission of defeat.
One more spirit-sapping move away from the reason we came to live here.
I sometimes wonder whether it would have been better to sell up and move somewhere smaller right away than to witness this death of our dream by a thousand cuts.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Will this wind be so mighty...

... as to lay low the mountains of the earth?

A bit of Pete and Dud always hits the spot!

It seems a little churlish to complain about the weather after all the people of Queensland have been through over the last couple of days but, by heck, it's a bit blowy out there today.

The wind has been gusting at about 75 mph, with a peak of 90 mph this afternoon. I can hear the roof slates rattle with every gust, and it sounds as though a whole host of banshees are circling the house. The power has been on and off all day, and the TV gave up the ghost this evening (something to do with the pressure, I think).

I tried walking the dog, and got about half a mile before I had to turn back because it was just too much like hard work. There are times when I wonder at our sanity when we moved to a house at the top of a hill. The wind whistles along the ridge at the best of times, but days like today are quite breathtaking - literally!

When I went out to feed the sheep this afternoon there were a dozen windbreak willows and one 25' conifer down, bringing up the fence with its roots. There was also another, larger conifer that was looking distinctly dubious. The duck house that normally takes 2 people to move it had been lifted up and thrown on its back.

Hopefully the worst is over now. If I get through this night with my barn roof intact and nothing worse than a few slipped slates on the house, I will be very happy. What I really don't want to be doing tomorrow is dealing with a whole load of storm damage, but I am going to have to do something about the fallen conifer before the sheep get out of the field and onto the road.

I guess I won't be able to keep that promise about not using the chainsaw after all.