staying alive

Everybody I speak to loves spring. 

Pam the Painter loves it because she is a devoted gardener and it leads to summer.  Yes, the green, yes the light, yes the young – the robins have hatched in the jug in the garden.  Yes, brighter light and longer evenings.  But spring is moody.  It flips from almost muggy warm to suddenly chilly – and card carrying POT (poor old thing), I feel it.  And shorts. 

Shot of a man measuring his overweight belly

  Oh Lord, it’s the same as Lycra – everybody who shouldn’t wear them, does and you long to tell men nicely, you don’t beat the bulge – it beats you.  And shorts sitting under it don’t help. 

Soft warm light fell this morning on a Middle Eastern woman in a long pretty shaped garment in plum over a very dark navy dress and I exclaimed at the colours.  She was delighted.   And the gardener came, more hairdresser than horticulturalist, absolutely unreservedly worth waiting for – polite, professional, careful – and left me with neatened everything, minus the laurel that was ravaging the bed outside the back door, carefully pruned viburnum,

honeysuckle and broom.   Everything swept, everything watered.  I keep going to look at it, like a child with a new toy. 

People seem to be going for holiday earlier this year  – Ginny is off to Sardinia  on Wednesday, Wal is  looking at china on ebay in Spain.   Not sour grapes, I don’t want to go away – as Linda says, no matter what money you have, travelling nowadays isn’t fun.   And the big set pieces of international diplomacy stand like heavyweight screens around the wounded body of the world,

saying what I regret we thought they’d say and leading to a columnist I respect writing that the words he would like to hear from a G7 leader are “Honestly, I don’t know.”   And saying just that in a professional context is how I come to know the name of Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, US .   Sentimental admiration aside, to admit that you don’t know everything and haven’t got all the answers, takes guts and some skill in public address and is more use to those you serve than blandishments.    

Every so often I haul off and write to a public figure,

not because I think I will be recognised, but because I must.  I wrote to the head of the National Farmers Union several years ago when foreign labour shortages began to bite, with a suggestion about employing able bodied pensioners.   I wrote to Lord Rose, formerly head of M&S, because I saw him speak sense about Covid live on tv.  I wrote back to the man who came after me for a comment on meeting Barbara Cartland.   I wrote to the founder of Bloodaxe Books on his birthday which I discovered in the Times, to tell him that one of his collections changed my life.   Responses vary.  But I am going to have to write to somebody about building new houses because, before we do, we have to accept that it is not “new “ we need but units.     

There used to be something called a compulsory purchase order and surely we need to assess how long property is allowed to stand empty in a housing shortage – for our own, let alone anybody incoming – before it is acquired by the local authority for use at the lowest market price.  It is always possible that making good will be more expensive than new build  – but it should be examined in public view, so that we could start using numbers of the unemployed or prisoners to fix the electrics, whitewash the walls, check the plumbing and move towards roofs over heads.   Homelessness is a scandal and if I had had to spend my 20s with my mother, neither of us would have benefited.

As well as spring, I am the only person I know who growls about the Chelsea Flower Show, smack on a bus route.  This year however I shall not be growling because the reallocated and rebuilt Waitrose in Kings Road doesn’t float my boat.   Economically, three rebuilds ? I have found another where …. 

That should happen more often.

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