Floorless logic

05Nov14

Boooo, here comes winter. Boooo. The weekend of recuperation in Hereford was wonderful, though I must remember in future that I am useless the first day back – there was a lot of wanting to read the paper and drink tea and stare into space. This was thrown into sharp relief by the host’s hyper-busy cousin, who was endlessly up ladders, replacing lights, pruning roses and walking dogs, and by the two children who were swimming, running half-marathons, going to parties, playing badminton and entertaining friends.

Since then I have been walking a few times, sometimes in Ireland (Wicklow and Kilkenny) and last weekend in Henley. Again I overestimated what we could achieve in the hours of daylight and so we cut slightly short our wondrous walk through sunny Buckinghamshire beechwoods and floppety-rabbit-nibbled valleys. The route was up for modification anyway, as just before lunch we found ourselves directed towards the guns of a pheasant shoot, who had at the very moment of our approach wounded but not killed a hen pheasant, which bounced and flapped and bled for a long time before finally expiring. This was not calculated to mollify my 30-years-a-vegetarian friend, who responded with loud conversational potshots at the shooting party – ‘You going to be able to eat all those, are you?’ – while spent buckshot pattered down around us. ‘Let’s run over there shouting “Votes for women!”’ was her vintage suggestion, but allowed herself to be steered away up the hill, out of range and into the woods.

This, oddly enough, was restful compared to the state of the homestead. On my return from Ireland a few days earlier, I reported a flashing light on the boiler and nothing but icy cold water from the taps. The landlord and I shared one of those Airport 77-style phone chats – ‘Can you see a silver pipe with a black tap on it? Ok, turn the tap 90 degrees. What’s the pressure gauge saying?’ – but to no avail. There was a leak somewhere in the house.

Our noble landlord arrived that evening, having only just finished up a three-week maintenance programme on the house, God love him, which was meant to leave him free of landlording nonsense in time to start his new job. No such luck. I was having friends over for dinner and what had threatened to be a slightly stressful evening quickly turned hilarious with the news that the leak was probably under the kitchen floor and had to be tracked down immediately. Ten minutes later I was slicing potatoes on the hall table while Colin from across the road was on his knees by the cooker gripping an angle-grinder as it screamed through slate. The friends arrived, graciously consumed a half-teaspoon of kitchen floor with their Spanish omelette, and we sat in the front room drinking wine and chatting. A sudden silence from next door was finally broken by the landlord’s voice. ‘Shit. It’s not under the floor; it’s in the wall.’ Which called for another handsome bumper of red and heartfelt thanksgiving for my brilliant, selfless, lovely-chap landlord.

You can scour all the etiquette books you like and I daresay you won’t find it recommends offering a weekend guest stone-cold water in which to wash, a hellishly early start on Saturday and a skitter through gunfire, but actually, in the context of Colin and his screaming angle-grinder, it was a picnic.

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