Thursday, 16 April 2015

Grappling Irons

Being offline right now as I am (aboard the M/V Bretagne between St. Malo and Portsmouth), I have no real idea what grappling irons actually are, though I’ve a suspicion they’re something to do with climbing. I have my doubts, therefore, whether they’d help me successfully grapple with the self-imposed dilemma I’m currently facing.

You see, like many of us, when things are swimmingly along quite nicely I get this temptation to complicate them a little. The plan had been to buy next door in France, then spend the next year to 18 months doing the place up progressively, whilst I carried on working in the UK when work was available. We’d move in to it this summer after a few basics were addressed, and all would be well.

Well….that still might turn out to be the plan, but there’s a bit of me that’s mighty tempted to take some extended time off now – till the end of July say – and blitz all the jobs that need doing. As I write, I have no confirmed work for the coming weeks, and I’ve been messed around a bit over the last couple of weeks by my regular source of work, another factor contributing to the consideration of a working sabbatical. (You might ask why I’m going home at all, if I’ve no work next week. Good question, but there are some loose ends to tie up, including confirming an agreement to do a minimum of 6 days work over the next few months with a new source, which is good).

A further factor still is that the “jobs” are, in the main, such damn fun. Over the last ten days or so I have, in roughly reverse order:

-         -  Had a fantastically aggressive bonfire last night with all the things we’ve cut down, pruned or pulled out of the ground; inevitably the wind was blowing in precisely the wrong direction, so the few neighbours we have would have been overcome by smoke till the thing was damped down (sorry to them. Sorry also if they witnessed me peeing on the compost heap earlier in the week; it needed watering, I needed a wee and I was outside, it seemed like a happy confluence of considerations)


-          - Bought and now used in anger a ride-on lawnmower. Three quarters of an acre of mowing done in an hour, bosch. Letting the 10 year old son of our new Scottish neighbours drive the thing a couple of nights ago also put a big smile on his face, which was nice

-         -  Dug and planted some of the veg plot.  God knows if anything will germinate, but if it does, we’re in for a salad-based treat
-         -  Knocked down two internal walls and made good the resulting holes and assorted other damage.  That’s the least interesting thing of all, but also the most time-consuming; the skirting boards took ages to fit and fill

-         -  Bought a roll-end of lino and fitted it in a bathroom, and not too disastrously at all as it turned out

-         -  Jet-washed anything that moved; good job the cat was inside

-         -  Conspicuously failed to get a tap working from an outside tap. I know that sounds like it should be straightforward, but with nearly 80 metres between the tap and the outer reaches of the veg plot, we opted for two cheap hosepipes and equally fittings. Mistake. Leaks, punctures and frustration abounded

I’ve been ably supported by Mrs M of course, who’s undertaken a Herculean amount of weeding herself, along with the catering, and if she could catch me, supervision of my efforts.
The point is, it’s been fun, and apart from one ride and one run, I’ve denied myself my usual athletic pleasures. If I was here for a longer period, those sacrifices wouldn’t be necessary – it was a delight to re-acquaint myself with French backroads in temperatures of 24c plus – and I (we) could both take the raw materials we’ve bought and turn them into a very splendid French home, and make the existing place more rental-friendly.

So there we are: should I stay or should I go, and all that? Going (back to France) would be the slightly irresponsible thing to do, in that I’ve never either been unemployed or turned down work as a self-employed person in my life, and whilst I would probably only be lighting a candle under my bridges rather than burning them down completely, it still goes against the grain a little. On the other hand, I’ve spent nearly all my working life being sensible, and when I have taken risks (changing employers, changing professions, becoming self-employed), they’ve always worked out ok. And whilst taking the time off would feel irresponsible, the fact is that I’d be creating value on a property rather than squandering it on world tour or suchlike.


Well, I’ve got the next 8 hours to contemplate things, as that’s how long I’ll be sitting on this ‘ere boat. I’ll let you know what happens.

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