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Date: 22/06/15

Break Off

Well, that's that then. My customary June fortnight away from the pickle factory ends tonight. As ever, I find myself wondering where it has gone. Some malign spirit put its finger on the 'fast forward' button back on the evening of the 8th, and will remove it again at about 0600hrs on Tuesday.

For someone like me, with a rather melancholic 'glass half-empty' temperament, its also a reminder that the nights are now going to start drawing in, and the long incline to autumn and beyond begins here.

I now face the prospect of working without a break right through to the second week in September. This is as a result of what I refer to (partly in jest) as The Mummies' Curse. The vast majority of my colleagues (beyond my own team as well) being female and of child-rearing age, it is inevitable that many of them will want (indeed, need) to take time off during the school holidays. I don't have a problem with that per se; it's just that senior management is absolutely obsessed with having a certain percentage of staff (sorry, 'resources') in every day, irrespective of what time of year it is. This means that there is deemed to be little or no scope at all for any of the rest of us who do not have those responsibilities (either because the offspring have gone beyond school age, or because - like me - they decided not to jump in the gene pool, such a facility lacking even a life-guard, let alone an adequate supply of chlorine) to take so little as a day off between mid-July and early September.

It is that idée fixe on the part of management (doubly foolish because its strictures have no noticeable impact on 'production' at all; in fact, it may harm it due to the inevitable jem'enfoutisme caused by resentment) which means that I will have to work about twelve straight weeks before I get my next parole approved.

I worked things slightly differently this June, though. In the past, I would have finished on the Friday before my birthday and returned on the third Monday after that. The problem with that was that it meant coming back to a full five-day week, which would feel like trying to clear a six-foot brick wall from a standing start. This time, I worked the Monday of my birthday week then took the rest of it off, along with the whole of the following week and the Monday after that (viz. today); this means that I go back to only a four-day week, although that itself is bad enough, and I have cause to envy my retired former colleagues (such as the ones I have bumped into in the supermarket each of the last two Mondays) who never have to face that prospect again. Ever.

Now, an examination of the bare figures would suggest that this wouldn't work to my advantage, in that instead of being away from the treadmill for sixteen straight days, I would only have fourteen days of sedulously avoiding looking at the place whenever I passed it on the bus. And this would be true enough; I'd be working one day in seventeen. But I've found that arranging things this way has a certain psychological benefit beyond the knowledge that I would be nearly halfway through my first week back before I knew it; under the old way, I would get somewhat downcast on the middle Saturday by the realisation that I was half-way through, in recognition of the truth uncovered over forty years ago by the sage Coren when, describing the night he turned thirty-five, he said that:

"There's no pleasure, however intense, that cannot be flawed by a brief reflection upon its inevitable transience."

This time, however, I was able to console myself with the thought that - at that same point - I still had nine whole days before I had to submit myself once more to the knout. And it did make a difference.

The weather having been more than usually kind this June, I haven't just been sitting here (which would explain the paucity of new material posted here of late; well, that and not being arsed, of course). The first week was the occasion of some intensive weeding. The daffodils, wallflowers and bluebells having passed through their flowerings in turn, the columbines have now also finished importuning every passing bumblebee. The lysimachia are now coming out, as is the lavender, and the one peony which has emerged so far is a deep red (although past experience indicates that any later blooms might revert to pink just to be awkward).

I have one success and one failure to report in my attempts to get two of my more recalcitrant tenants to bloom. The buddleia globosa didn't flower at all last year, after a period of diminishing returns prior to that. So, I decided not to cut it back at the end of last summer, and am currently being rewarded by more flowers than have appeared on it in the last five years combined. The same cannot be said of my philadelphus, however; nearly at the end of June and devoid of blooms for the second successive year.

It hasn't all been outdoor work, either. Last Wednesday afternoon, I finally plucked up the courage to lift the landing and stair carpet. This I deemed to be necessary to avert the increasing likelihood of my catching my foot in one of the holes which had appeared in it and going arse-over-tip down the stairs. It took me a mere twenty minutes or so to remove the carpet, but the backing had turned into that horrible fine black powder, and it took me a good couple of hours and nearly two full vaccum cleaner bags to get rid of it. I'm not going to bother re-carpeting it; the boards are sound enough and, suitably sanded and stained (and the gaps filled in where the heating bods put them back rather less than tidily in 2004), they should pass muster. The trouble is that - because of custom, habit or mere frugality - previous tenants had only had a strip of carpet up the middle of the stairs, with the five inches or so either side coated with white gloss paint; so I'm going to need a paint stripper to deal with that before I can get much further with it.

All this has meant that I've seldom ventured beyond the gate in the last fortnight. Two trips to Sainsbury's, two into town itself (the second only a brief visit, as I was in something of a fugue at the time and - but for needing to get fresh veg and five birthday cards to cover family occasions in the near future - I would have preferred not to have gone at all). I did get out for a walk last Friday afternoon, just round The Pool, over the Wonder Bank and down to the new road that they've put in (and which has finally opened). Apart from that...

So, I now view the grisly propspect of a long, sticky trudge through to the verge of autumn. It'll be here soon enough, I daresay.