De-fence of the realm

01Jan14

And a merry new year to us all! Mine’s already an-order-of-magnitude better than the last iteration because when it started I was upright and enjoying life, as opposed to shivering in the host and hostess’s darkened bedroom and throwing up with norovirus.

The end of the last one was a bit spicy, though, eh? Fleeing was the best part of valour on 23 December, resulting in shelved plans and my just squeaking through Salisbury 15 minutes before all trains west were cancelled. The home village flooded in all the usual places – the ones that periodically attract the attention of property developers, who in turn attract sardonic comment from locals. Walking was restricted to roads; trees and branches were down, debris everywhere and mud up to the eyebrows.

On Boxing Day we drove up to Oxford, to my brother’s family as usual. Ten minutes before departure my father handed me a map and said that we would follow the route of my walk as closely as possible. Couldn’t help feeling that was a mite tactless – five days’ effort reduced to a two-hour drive – and it was strange and a little bit sad to see it all again through a windscreen. Though we didn’t quite see it all, of course. No plunging into the weir for a swim in Figheldean this time.

Half the fun of Christmas, for me, is coming back to real life, though the contrast between Wiltshire and London was not as great as usual, thanks to the discovery a few hours after my return that a good 66 per cent of the neighbour’s fence panels had been sprinkled by giants across our lawn and theirs. Actually, it’s not the neighbour’s fence, it’s my landlord’s but it feels a bit uptight to be drawing boundaries when we’re now basically sharing the space. And it might stay that way for a while. Judging from eye-witness evidence gathered in the course of trans-borough potterings, I think new fence panels are going to be rare as hens’ teeth for a bit. And there’s more foul weather on the way. I’m meant to be walking in Kent this weekend, but I think that plan might have to go the way of the garden fence.

Swimming isn’t any more enticing either – I went this afternoon and the new-year resolutioners were already peeping forth. Bless them, I admire anyone who makes any midwinter to-do list and actually sticks to it, even just once, but that level of mixed ability makes the pool a challenge. The newbies wear holiday gear – pretty swimsuits and funky shorts that will rot in days in the levels of chlorine required in a municipal pool, no hats, huge goggles bought for snorkelling – and by the time they’ve swum one length they’re churning water like a ferry in trouble. Between the rubbish weather and the chaotic pool etiquette, it looks like January will just have to mean less exercise and, yup, more crisps.

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