Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Lesson Learned?

I realise with alarm now that it was nearly 25 years ago. In a bid to make my then house more habitable, particularly in the winter, I decided that I would plumb the depths of central heating.
I took out a loan from the bank for an amount that frightened the life, but that met the expectations of avarice expressed to me by a triumvirate of local plumbers and Gritish Bass. For the sake of a round figure I settled on two thousand shiny pounds.
And then I started to spend it hand over fist.
My sister and I hoofed it of to Ibiza.
I bought my first British Bike.
Much conspicuous consumption occurred.
To the point that my once ample sum dwindled to the point that I had enough money left to buy a stove, and the requisite pipework, but would not be able to afford the expertise of an experienced installer.
My solution then was to do it myself. Undaunted by my own lack of expertise, buoyed by the enthusiasm of youth and mindful of the promise to the bank about security of investment, I installed a central heating system.
It took me six months. Lots of trips to the library. Visits to the solid fuel advisory service where eventually certain experts would hide if they saw a man with a helmet approach the door.
But in the end the result was good.
Winter became a whole load more tolerable.
And that was an end to it. Never again, I swore, would I be so foolish. Had I employed the aforementioned experts the whole would have been completed in weeks rather than half a year. Many of the naive mistakes could have been avoided, and I could have rested far easier at the end of a day, rather than returning home from a demanding job and then having another one to take up the next eight hours. I was young and perhaps a little foolish. It was fun in some regards but …… but…..
Well you wouldn’t want to do it again.
……except. Well the thing is…..
It has been a bitterly cold winter up here on Hallett’s Mountain. I have been tempted. She Of The Townhouse has been banging on about how nice a Rayburn would be in the kitchen. How it would provide hot water and drive a few radiators.
So here I am again. In the absence of expertise and mastering no wisdom of years I am contemplating opening a chimney, rewiring much of the house, hanging radiators, putting a new tank in the loft, reorganising my kitchen space, installing a Rayburn, laying a new floor….
After all, how hard can it be.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pins In A Map

Dear Reader.
In case you wondered where I had gone. I have had the flu. Its been a quiet week round here apart from the coughs and sneezes. I have not felt like writing.

The memories that I hold most dear are manufactured. If not to a greater extent then certainly in the detail. If you are pretentious enough (as I am) to write, then you find this to be so. If you turn over your own baggage with any attempt at honesty then I am afraid you will find the same. Others recognising the skeleton on which you hang a tale will inevitably chip in with things that you miss and yet to them were significant at the time. And so you check back on the details.

Look for the date.
The significance of the day.
The weather.
The time on the clock.
Where the sun stood.
How green were the leaves on the trees in my valley.

And while the memory holds strong you realise that it cannot be so. The picture that you have painted over the years is just that. An artists contrivance.

When admiring a watercolour it was explained to me once; by the artist at her task. The cottage scene was set in mind but the purple headed mountain needed moving left two or three miles to achieve the required harmony.
So looking up there it was. In admiration of the rendition I had lost the grip on reality. Perhaps that is overly dramatic. Rather I should say that I recognised that my disbelief had been suspended by the cunning of the artists hand and eye.

As I return here time and again to explore my own past and to put some pins in the map I realise that all I can ever manage is an occasionally pretty fiction. Like the artist, in looking to improve upon the composition, it is hard to maintain the agreement.

Yet I don’t think this is a bad thing.
Crumbs! Imagine if we had more than this. Had it all to hand. Ready for the microscope. How would we stand up to the full reality of aspects of the earlier day without some kind of filter in place.

Better then to smile wry with the artist and, if not agree, at least look to the trick.
So then. Don’t worry if you step along this road beside me.
It is, after all is done, a story.