As I mentioned in the post that immediately preceded this one, I've recently managed to escape the Hellish existence I'd been leading in a small northern town on a now irrelevant island floating off the shores of a disinterested continent and, at least for the time being, am living a life of luxurious poverty, lazing on a succession of sunny afternoons. How long this will last I have no idea, but even were it to end tomorrow it would've been well worth my giving everything up for.
Especially since I had nothing to give up.
Each morning, after having taken my hounds for a dip in the nearby river, cycled into the village to get myself some breakfast and having showered beneath a hose pipe with a watering can rose taped to it (my stable loft is equipped with many things, alas mod-cons aren't amongst them) I generally spend an hour or so sitting in the unglazed window and watching the world around me gently come to life, puffing on my pipe and grinning like a Cheshire cat at the locals while demonstrating the full extent of my French with a few hearty "bonjour"s and "ca va bien, merci"s as my neighbours wander beneath my dangling feet.
For the last five days I've watched three builders attempt to fit a door to an ageing cottage. Much to my dismay, the door they are fitting is brand new and constructed from uPVC. In my opinion it's a sin, but it's a family home and I'm sure that, come the approaching winter, the family in residence shall be grateful for the lack of draughty gaps that the previous, ancient, wooden door had. French tradesmen, it appears, don't do urgency.
Why should they? "You get nowt good from rushing" my dad always said. But five bloody days to fit a door?
The craftsmen turn up, they "ooh" and they "ahh" and they plot and they plan, then they go for breakfast. Upon returning they break out the hand chisels and the lump hammers and they chip away at the three foot thick wall around the doorway, puffing on Gauloises and laughing. They work like this until noon, when the sun enters it's hottest phase, then bugger off to do whatever it is that the locals do for the daily two hour period during which the streets are empty, returning later to smoke a few more cigarettes and prop the old door in position, making safe the property until the following day.
As a small boy, I had a big box of Stickle-Bricks. I spent many a Saturday morning with those colourful, plastic brickettes scattered around me, the tip of my tongue protruding from the corner of my little mouth as I struggled to recreate the magnificent models that were printed on the inside of the box lid. Bi-planes, cars, bridges, all manner of convoluted and colourful creations were assembled and disassembled over and over again until, bored by the limitations of the inventor of my favourite toy's own imagination, I began to attempt my own designs.
One fine Saturday morning, as Champion the Wonder Horse flickered his way through another grainy adventure on the crackling, monochrome tube in the corner of our lounge, I began work on my largest project yet, a castle of epic proportions. It included a keep, battlements, turrets and towers with arrow slits to allow my toy cowboys to shoot at the dinosaur riding Apaches that roamed the countryside beyond the safety of the citadel's walls. Walls thick enough to withstand the assault of the swiftest arrow whizzing from a bow or even the mightiest of cannonballs.
Alas, the castle was missing two pieces, the portcullis and the drawbridge. They were to be the final parts of the epic construction, but I'd used the last of the prickly pieces providing the ramparts for the Lone Ranger and his band of merry men to perch upon and take their potshots.
I asked my dad to help me, as all young men do when they realise they've buggered something up, and he gave me his empty Silk Cut packet to use.
I was less than happy with this solution and I told him so.
"Let's go out then, son." He said as he rose from is armchair, an unusual occurrence on one of those rare Saturdays on which he wasn't required to work at the timber yard.
"I've not finished though, dad." I moaned, but he said I could wear my cowboy outfit if I did and so, cap guns blazing, we burst through the front door of our house like Butch and Sundance.
I really hadn't wanted to go, but had I not then I'd not have found myself having a gunfight with another, similarly ridiculously dressed, preschool gunslinger. Nor would I have eaten a bacon sandwich at the cafe up the road or a choc ice in the park. I would likewise have missed out on being hoisted aloft to ride on my father's shoulders and wouldn't have seen the hungry fledglings in a nest that their mother had built atop the bus stop and, most importantly to to the rather mercenary four year old that I was, I'd not have strode back up our garden path two or three hours later clutching a new, slightly smaller and cheaper than the old, box of Stickle Bricks.
At last, the treasure of the cowboys would be safe from the marauding savages that coveted their riches.
I can remember every single moment of that brief trip to the shops in the nineteen seventies, Salfordian sunshine. I can further remember returning home to find my mother had "tidied away" [dismantled, stuffed in the box in a haphazard fashion and dumped on my bedroom floor] my construction and I can remember not caring a jot about the undoing of all my hard work.
The following Saturday, as my father emptied another pack of Silk Cut and read the newspaper, I rebuilt my castle, this time with all necessary security features, on the rug in front of the fire.
Seven days to fit a door?
You get nowt good from rushing, but plenty from taking your time.