Incompetent me, who can’t possibly do manual labour…

I’m pressure washing the patio. It might not seem like the most ideal way to spend a Tuesday afternoon, but it needs doing. There are many things that need doing. Including dealing with the fence. My aim for the summer is to not touch the fence. The fence is very long and making it respectable again is the sort of tedious job that mean gods might give to someone troublesome like Sisyphus to keep them out of trouble.

Anyway, returning to the patio. It is made of huge stone slabs that have gone green over time and need cleaning up. Incompetent me, who can’t possibly do manual labour, set the pressure washer up, despite the yellow beast being stored on a high shelf in the garage and being a little bit broken.

Now as we don’t have an outdoor tap, I had to use the one in the garage. Surprisingly I actually managed to find the key. I opened the window careful not to disturb the spiders. Through this I poked the hose pipe. One end was attached to the tap (there was a pot beneath it because it drips) and the other end was attached to the yellow beast.

At the other end of the house, in the kitchen, I put the plug in the electricity socket and told the Mother to stand guard as I ran from one end of the house to the other switching on the electricity and the water. She was instructed to shout if anything appeared to be acting in an outrageous manner. A bit of water pooled out of the beast which purred slightly, but nothing went bang.

I began work.

Forty or so minutes later, just as I was in the rhythm of things, the yellow beast stopped growling and refused to cooperate any longer.

I squeezed the trigger a few more times and nothing happened, so I put the water gun down and went over to see why the beast was upset. I switched it off and took a closer look. Interestingly, it had stopped pouring out water. For a foolish moment or two I just stared. And then it dawned on me that I was looking in the wrong place.

I raced to the garage, which involved going up a step, through two doors and down a few more steps. I leapt through the jungle of tools, wood, ladders and random pipes scattered on the floor.

There was a waterfall. The end had popped off the hose pipe, soaking everything. A river flowed through the garage adding more victims to the chaos, including the Tall Aunty’s bed (no she doesn’t live in our garage).

And so, with much regret, the yellow beast was caged for the day. I attended to the flood and put the Tall Aunties bed and a few other damp things outside in the sunshine. Everything done, I gave up with the cleaning efforts and sat down to write this blog post.

Then it started raining.

A Game Of Hangman And The Start Of A Journey

One of my best teachers in school was the rather eccentric man who taught classical civilisation and ancient history. Why at GCSE it was named classical civilisation and at A-level it was called ancient history I have no idea.

This story happens inside one of those classical civilisation lessons.

Noph and I sat together, on the right-hand aisle, maybe three rows back from the front of the classroom. In most lessons we’d be seated girl-boy or by alphabetical order, but in classical civilisation we could sit where we liked.

I’d say that the classes where I sat beside Noph (sociology, maths, physics, chemistry) were the same subjects as I would discuss outside of the classroom and therefore the subjects in which I was most likely to develop a natural interest. Coincidence?

Back to classical civilisation, where our teacher would perform the lesson. Perform is a good word to use. It encapsulates the material – which was often amusing Roman plays or stories of the original Olympics – and the dynamic, enthusiastic teaching style.

There was plenty of big gestures and occasionally singing.

This particular lesson we had been reading from the Odyssey. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Odyssey is an old story originally told by an Ancient Greek man called Homer. It tells the story of a chap called Odysseus. In the film Troy, he’s briefly portrayed by Sean Bean (and doesn’t die).

The Odyssey starts after the Trojan war, and is the tale of Odysseus’ epic journey home (where his devoted wife is waiting). It’s a long journey because of the various magical women Odysseus offends or seduces.

One of the essay based exam questions was to be about the characteristics of Odysseus. Something like ‘Was Odysseus brave?’, although my memory might be simplifying the matter.

In preparation, we’d been discussing Odysseus’s characteristics.

Typical classroom scene. Noph is beside me. The teacher’s stood at the front. He picks up a whiteboard marker and draws out a row of horizontal lines ready for a quick game of hangman. Of course the whiteboard marker doesn’t work, so he finds another one in the desk drawer and tries again.

Ten blank spaces.

Someone calls out a letter, I forget which, and the base of the hangman is drawn. Another letter is shouted and this time it’s added into the word.

Then, Noph calls out, “Altruistic.”

The teacher looks at her a little put out whilst everyone else turns to stare, as if she’s shouted out something in Latin.

With a little less flare than when he started, the teacher writes out the letters on the whiteboard and asks Noph to explain what it means. She does. Flawlessly as always.

Altruistic – having unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

Now, I’m unlikely to describe Odysseus as altruistic. I used to be able to give you a detailed for and against argument to explain this, but alas I am out of practice.

Noph however, she’s got an unconditional unselfish concern for my welfare that keeps me grounded. For her patience and care, I am deeply grateful.

Tribes

By Posted on Location: 2min read

From the corner of the sofa where I had sunk, sometime so late that the silhouette of the trees could be seen, again, I admired the amazing people around me. They were speaking of nonsense, sentences interspersed with song lyrics and imitations of YouTube videos. They knew the names and relationship statuses of various beautiful people whom I had no idea existed. They knew all the words to whatever that song is called in Frozen and sang them in a chorus, which wasn’t quite as tuneful as the songbirds outside.

I can neither recall all the events in the Royal Henley Regatta, nor name all the words in an unspecified Beatles song. I can’t sing along to Cher’s Believe with such gusto because I’ve got no idea what the words are.

Nor can I think of a single song to add to the playlist. Even if I know there’s an artist I like, and even if I can name a song title, I can’t imagine the song in order to decide if it’s the right sort of song for the moment. And then there’s my problem with comedy, I’m uncertain as to what sketches are funny, and I’ve no idea why some clips provide such apparent addictive entertainment.

In other words, I’m completely oblivious to what’s going on around me.

I enjoy watching though, as the conversation bounces around the room, as spurts of laughter rock back and forth. Somehow, these little things, song lyrics and comedic references, build a warm connection within the room. Indeed this feeling is so familiar I can hardly believe it’s been so long since we were sitting in a similar arrangement singing the same familiar tunes.

It’s just a simple evening – a few friends, a few drinks and frivolities – but it means a lot.

June – Don’t take gardening tips from me

By Posted on Location: 2min read

Moving house, which finally happens this week, involves moving the garden. Luckily, with my approach to plants – alternating smothering with attention and then complete neglect – there’s not too much to do. However, since I have had a little success, and transportation to the new house is likely to be a traumatic experience for my darlings, I feel now’s the time to document their existence.

Most precious of all my plants is my chilli plant, which shockingly has a chilli growing on it. Part of the reason this is so shocking is that I hadn’t paid any thought at all to pollinating my flowers, so I can only assume that during an afternoon outside in the sunshine (my chilli lives indoors) a bee paid it a visit.

Second to that are the numerous cauliflower plants which I’m growing for the cauliflowers’ biggest fan – the Father.

Hanging in a basket at the front of the house are my strawberries – very small but beautifully sweet. I’m in shock every time I look and see that I have actually grown something I can eat. There is no picture because I ate the strawberries.

Moving on to my accidental, sunburnt pepper plants. Both the sunburn and their existence is accidental – their mother pepper came from Aldi and made up dinner some weeks ago. Since they germinated only at the end of May, I’ve little hope that they’ll give me peppers, but I can’t just kill them. Out in the back garden, alongside the cauliflower are numerous cherry tomato plants. Hopefully, my tomatoes will at some point have a growth spurt because next door’s are at least three times the size and have flowers.

The two pots that contain my tomatoes were gifts from my kindly neighbour. He went to pick up a piece of furniture he’d bought from somebody’s house, and spotted these two large pots standing empty by the door. Being a man of great enthusiasm and better at small talk than anyone else I’ve ever known, he commented how splendid they were and hence was given them as a bonus gift. When he got home and placed the pots outside his own front door he decided that actually he wasn’t all that fond of them after all. Sometime shortly afterwards, during a conversation about bark, he asked me if I would like them. Being short of pots, especially non-plastic pots, I said that would be great.

Finally, in the list of plants that are moving garden are my sweet peas, coriander, thyme, beetroot, carrots, parsley and chives. Just a few small experiments.

All gardening advice is always welcome, trial and error is exhausting.

Advice on washing machines

By Posted on Location: 1min read

Yesterday I tried to wash some clothes. I put them in the drum, added the purple goo to the drawer and switched the machine on. It beeped as normal and I settled down on the sofa, tucked myself under the blanket and began to read. I was disturbed two minutes later by the washing machine beeping furiously.

An error code flashed on the screen.

I turned it all off, turned it all back on again. The same thing happened.

I found the manual and looked up the error code. Except there was no such error code.

Our landlord has a team of highly practical men who do useful things like mend boilers, put up washing lines and sort out washing machines. These men know everything; they built the house. Within about half an hour my go-to-guy was at the door with the answer to the problem. He explained that the previous day he’d popped in to check the washing machine filters and had forgotten to turn the water back on.

24 hours later as I was loading the washing machine again, I realized that the error code H2O wasn’t an error code. It’s a chemical formula.

So my advice: less panicking, more thinking.

A debate on vaccinations, and why my Father is the best

Me, at school, being vaccinated.

I’m sitting at my desk in the office at work and the discussion at the table turns to vaccinations. One of my colleagues is heading off to India for his holidays and has just had been injected three times as a precaution.

The conversation bends to recollections of our school time vaccinations. One colleague is wary of vaccinations. I briskly point out that the human body hasn’t had the chance to naturally evolve for international travel and with the wide range of things we can catch when we dash from country to country. I’ll take every help medicine can give me.

He nods, and says, “Suppose so.” But he isn’t convinced.

And then he’s says how we have an awful lot of vaccinations before we get a choice in the matter.

This makes me smile. I’ve had a choice in the matter for as long as I’ve had the skills to make the decision. In fact, for every vaccination I can remember.

The father has always been very clear that rules that apply to other people don’t necessarily apply to me. This isn’t because other people don’t have the option to bend rules, it’s because most people don’t consider that they can.

It’s all a matter of choices and consequences.

My Father, who is a great supported of eradicating polio, but has otherwise never told me what to believe about my own vaccinations, consented to me choosing for myself.

In his eyes, I was capable of making decisions about my health by myself. He adamantly refused to make the decision for me.

The Mother’s comment on the matter was, “Speak to your father.”

Which meant I was the only kid in the vaccination line at school whose form wasn’t signed. Instead I had a letter declaring that my father had passed such responsibility on to me – on the one condition that I was appropriately informed of the consequences of my decision before I made it.

Inevitably, I was the last person in the class to be vaccinated, every time. Someone had to discuss the vaccination with me and find me a pen.

I explained this to my colleague. He looked at me as if I was crazy. He asked how a twelve-year-old could make such a decision. This surprised me.

At twelve-years-old, I had no doubt that I could make an educated decision. I read every word on every leaflet and asked questions. At the time I found it all a slight inconvenience; I had to deal with the flustered nurse (always the one in charge). Then there was the problem of explaining to my classmates why my form wasn’t signed. It’s slightly embarrassing having atypical parents. Yet I didn’t doubt that the Father was right.

I’m glad he made me think for myself and recognise that at the end of the day, I’m responsible for me.