Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Aspiring to country living begins with looking out your townhouse window at your fat neighbour getting out of the shower and vowing to replace your current view with one of devoid of other people.
That done and a couple of years pottering about the village, boasting to city friends about the quality of local schools, tinkering about making jam for the farmers market one has finally had the last of the Cath Kidston sale fabric made into cushions and it is now time to get serious. The next step is self-sufficiency, the ultimate badge of the nouveau country wannabe – I speak of course of the polytunnel.
A couple of years ago we were out of our minds trying to score a bit of fresh coriander in the village shop and coming home from the supermarket bemoaning the price and quality of slimy bagged salad leaves. This year the asian herb has already bolted and there is a veritable field of mixed greens for us to choose from. Am I feeling smug? Frankly, if I wasn’t me – I’d hate myself.
Recluctantly I have to admit the polytunnel is not an entirely sole achievement. We share it with our neighbour Steve although, that was my idea. I knew if we invested on our own it would quickly become one of our great family failures. Like the platinum gym membership a life-changing lifestyle choice that came with great intentions and turned out to be a waste of money. My husband used to be one of those men who would edge himself out the patio doors for the odd fag, shrugging himself cautiously against the bit of rain, doubtless still wondering just quite how in God’s name he had come to live in Killala, County Mayo when he had signed up for a life in Dublin’s city centre with a media chick. Steve, on the other hand, is one of those energetic outdoorsy types, always mowing his lawn and calling to the door with hand-picked mussels and going mackerel fishing so I hoped he’d be something of a driving force.
As with most of my ideas I had sold it to my husband as a no-big deal thing. I have a terrible tendency to understate the amount of work involved in any outdoor activity I commission of him - my complete ignorance overtaken by unreasonable expectation. “It’s only a tree babe – how hard can it be to trim a tree? Look, I’ve borrowed you a ladder and everything….” So, having booked the tunnel men to come and erect it for us, (and having cleverly absented myself from all real work by falling pregnant) all the men had to do was dig up a patch of land. Easy. Or not at all, as it turned out. It seems that the scrub grass growing on our narrow field was, in fact, an obnoxious weed whose roots had reached down into the earth’s core. They hired every shape and type of man equipment from the man equipment hire store to no avail. Strimmers, rotivators, killer-grass cutting machines – until eventually they found somebody with a digger deep enough to wrench the triffid a few feet from it’s bedrock, and stop it growing for long enough to get the tunnel up.
Steve had, of course, already seeded his lettuces and planted them all in a neat row on his side. So, I had to quickly run to the garden centre and stock up on seedling greens, sprinkling a bit of compost over them so I could make them look convincingly home-grown. Other veg enthusiasts gave us various plants which I threw down willy nilly with great enthusiasm, labelling nothing and hoping that every salad contained actual lettuce and not a roving, poisonous weed.
A year later it’s a different story. My rain- reluctant, urbane husband has transformed into a Monty Don pin-up – all Hunter wellies and Barbour Jacket – out there every night watering and weeding and keeping evil slugs and weevils at bay. Every time I see him leave our back door, trowel in hand full of stern intent to plant another lettuce, or attack a chard that’s grown too big for it’s boots, I get a quivery feeling of marital contentment.
I remember sitting in a married friends kitchen in my early thirties and watching her husband mow the back lawn. I wanted what she had so badly - a kind man and a shed for him to potter about it – yet, at thirty three I thought I would never find it.
I assume, like everyone that life is short, yet my life suggests it is long enough. I look back on where my life was before I met Niall twelve years ago and it looks so different now.
Day by day, step by step in small un-noticed increments, my dreams have come true.
I’ve got a sexy outdoor-man in Hunters and a polytunnel full of fresh veg. Life doesn’t get better than this.