This is the round-robin letter we send out .... For new readers, Smith and Jones are the cats, Jo is the female Green, and Thomas is the male one; Owen and Martin are our sons.
Hello everybody. So we've had a year in The Big City. Leeds - land of the Pizza Mahal! "Every dish can be cooked to your choice - either Vindaloo or Madras". (Genuine quote. I think.)
No street parties up here, it seems. At least, not where we've been living, though they might have been hot stuff at one of the houses we didn't buy; it was an eighteenth century cottage marooned on a large traffic island (Robinson Crusoe Escapes from the Car?) (or maybe not - Ed). We could have specialised in circle dances - 'Round the Island and Back Again'.
We have instead experienced a techno-street-concert, and an unbelievable racket it was. A powercut made every burglar alarm in the street go off at the same time. Big ones, small ones, shrill ones, deep ones, quick brr-brr ones and continuous on-and-on ones. Imagine a flock of over-excited sheep, all baaing away nineteen to the dozen while dancing on an organ. And the houses all have flashing strobe lights, too - that's so that when one goes off, you can quickly see where the noise is coming from. A whole street full of flashing lights is a bit different. I stood at the door and gawped with admiration. But alas, the power came back on and bit by bit they relapsed grumbling into quietude. Pity, I was going to get the tape recorder and grab a snatch of sound so it could be sampled onto Owen's next epic.
Owen has a year off from his course on Aural Satisfaction and is calibrating bits of kit somewhere in Hitchin. This is supposed to advance his understanding of something but nobody has told him how or what. A year from now we expect him to be Chief Gaffer's Mikestand Holder's Mate for Roué Records and investing in our future. Martin has been having a year on, not off - the band's first year as fully pro, bouncing around the map of the British Isles from yon to hither and getting lost in all the likely places and some you've never heard of. They actually called one of their tunes London Signposts because they'd seen so many that day and none of them pointed to where they were due to play. A year from now we expect him to be using his experience by working as a guide for Frantic Groups Trying To Find Their Small Seedy Venues Within the Next Ten Minutes, covering every town in Britain except those anywhere near Leeds, where unaccountably the band has yet to play.
The editor says we'll have to talk about the new house and get it out of the way. Well, we at last found one that didn't already have three loos (new readers, you should subscribe to our Back Number Service) so Jo could amuse herself by having another one put in ... also a cloister for the freezer and a peninsula for the Spanish and a window for the French. But no barn - bad luck, Dutch. There may be photos on the web by the time you see this, but they won't show the finished article, because the builders are STILL HERE. Every now and again we have a go at removing dust and grime but why bother, for once we have a perfect excuse for our twinkle-freedom. Lots of scope for the cats: a box room, a spare room (Readers! please come and try it), a utility room &endash; and all with built-in cupboards and other unlikely holes suitable for portly pusses. Not to mention the chimneys that Smith longs to ascend.Watch out, Santa, Smith's fatter than you are.
Having bought the house, we looked forward eagerly to examining the deeds in order to find out something of its history (it's not as old as it would have you believe, but still...). When the deeds finally arrived we were hugely disappointed to find that you no longer get all that interesting bumph telling you everybody who ever bought or sold the house, but instead a boring statement from the Land Registry, and &endash; the consolation prize &endash; a statement from the Coal Authority, assuring you solemnly that there has not in the past been any underground mining, nor is there at present any underground mining, BUT &endash; wait for it &endash; "reserves of coal exist in the locality which could be worked at some time in the future subject to feasibility, licences and planning consents". Oh yeah? If we get to be rich on the mineral rights we'll let you know.
Last year Gardener Green was looking for books like The Joy of Moss, and very suitable that would have been, but better still would have been Snowberry Snubbing for Fun and Profit. The previous owners did little to the garden but the snowberries compensated for their inactivity. Grubbing out snowberry gives rise to strong feelings of living-on-the-land, blood-of-ploughboys-in-my-veins, Songs-of-my-Saxon-forebears, has given me Repetitive Snowberry Injury and makes me wonder again and again how the hell they deforested half Britain with bronze adzes and not much else.
And have you ever tried to plant a thousand daffodils? That's the number we were told we needed, for a garden like this. That would be 25 a day for 6 weeks if it didn't rain. Being Leeds, make that 4 months, allowing for rainy days. We're plodding along. It was the 623rd that was the worst. So far.
Indoors, Decorator Green is to be found pondering curtains, paints, etc, all the usual things they try to sell you in DIY shops. Ragroll your window! Stencil your cat! Distress your spouse! (No don't, he's losing his tresses already.) We're taking the easy way out and keeping much the same colour scheme - not that it took much scheming, it's mostly Magnolia, the Sharon of paint colours, this whole place is a Magnolificat. Except of course that the dining room is currently furnished in raw plaster. When we looked at wallpapers we both homed in on the one that almost exactly matched the raw plaster. Tempting to leave the paper off altogether.
Our latest expertise is ... transient expertise. Want to know about the rake of your garden steps? Our architect friend says that twice the height of the riser in inches plus the depth of the tread should be equal to 23.Ish. No, we don't know why either. Want to know a fine colour name? Try 'Sarabande ' &endash; the usual prizes are offered for guessing what colour it is. Take note, the name has been trademarked by Crown Paints. (Wonder what happens to composers who want to write a new sarabande. Maybe we could trademark something a bit more everyday. How about 'Song '?) Why are there no teaching techniques available that specialise in imparting temporary knowledge, with a promise that you'll forget it again within two months? All gone or your money back. Protect your brain cells, unlearn with the Greens.
FORGET train-spotting in Glasgow. TAKE UP bus-spotting in Leeds. A hobby with fun and profit. Jo has been learning the Folklore of the Buses, sharing tips with friends and strangers on which bus is the best. The famous 2B is the prize catch, spoken of in hushed tones up and down the town, much the most convenient but so rare that it's believed to be a distant relative of those American cicadas that appear once every 17 years.
Have we ever mentioned our toe-hold in Spain? T's parent's house, inherited jointly with his sister Prue. It seems that this year it will really have to be sold. Much nostalgia for its unusual garden, where the parents collected all sorts of rare plants, built terraces and made designs from broken tiles found around the countryside, and for the strange ornaments &endash; a simulated cave painting and a small stone circle in the garden, and T's father's fine photographs in the house. Nearby is a small and friendly town which we have visited for so long that it feels like a bit of home.
Enough news (news? Ed). For anyone who's lost our address, it is:
Season's greetings to everyone, and we look forward to seeing you again soon &endash; do come and stay. The spare room now has a bed in it (previous guests will know what an advance that is), not to mention a whole case of verse and without doubt a flask or two of wine not too far away. All we need is thou beside us. Bring a snowberry-tool.
Best wishes from
Thomas and Jo