The camera sweeps through our slightly tilted lych-gate and up the leaf-strewn drive. Thos is out in the rain planting theChristmas tree in a pot. Voice over: Hello everyone. We bring you the latest episode of your Christmas soap, The Greens! Yes, it's them again. Who is not panting to hear the latest episode? And why not? Camera knocks politely on the studded door and finds itself in the hall. Voice rabbits on ....
At Easter we became free of builders. Their work has been quietly deconstructing itself ever since but we won't make a thing of that, and instead celebrate the remarkable intelligence that it then only took another 7 months to excavate all the rooms. Jo's old habits die hard, and none of our breathless followers will be surprised to learn that by the time the builders left she had managed to get the third loo operational. Thos's old habits die hard, too, but even so it does seem astonishing that he should have been so careless as to go and start another contra dance club. Contra-dancing is to an English ceilidh as lightning chess played on roller skates is to ludo. He advertises his club as Fast Fun and Friendly but it should really be Hurried, Hard and Hectic. He's learning a lot, he says. Like, which pubs have upstairs rooms. Camera flash to upstairs at the pub: they don't need to bother much with cleaning it, because the lighting is so bad. The dancers are hysterically confused -- but they do keep coming back.
Sedater and sensibler, Jo has calmly played the viol, popping along every week for a 6-person fantasy or two. Camera lingers on 6 serious people sawing quietly. T's fantasy is to join her fantasy with his concertina but the other 5 fantasists don't seem to think that concertinas come with enough strings attached. Camera glimpses the fantasy and shudders, then looks for a more suitable scene, lighting on a well- open mouth and a well-hoisted chest ... Sedater than T but by no means quieter, Jo has started singing lessons, ('can't imagine ever stopping', she says) - which has raised her life to a higher plane: she went in an alto and came out a soprano. The cats knew all too well what had hit them.
Work continues. Jo's unit has changed its name, not an easy matter, now Mother and Infant Research Unit. Work continues for Thos, too, which is another oversight he could do without. But he did some nice consultancy near Boston - he was actually paid to attend a smoke-free Irish session (though the jet lag had him and he was 3/4 asleep), an English dance and two contra-dances. True, he did work as well.
So much for work, back to serious stuff, back especially to old habits dying hard - we found ourselves helping to organise a festival in our 'village' (of course it's a village, got a bottle bank, hasn't it?). Just like old times. Well, not quite. The chief organisers were a group of very together people called Women In Design and Construction, who did it on a scale that quite outshone the Rock Road Street Party: bands, bookstalls, and banners, sponsorship and poetry performances and street drama. Camera beside itself with ecstasy showing all these in action. (Proudly) we trained as stewards. Camera zooms to a big copper: "Got that, then, folks? First sign of trouble, get help. I'll just go over that again:" etc. Right, we thought, we can do that. But we didn't get the chance, it was very well-behaved, and someone had even organised the raingods to provide a light warm drizzle just before midnight so the crowds wandered away and all of us were left stunned that it had happened at all. Next year, what's left? Synchronised bottle-banking, pancake racing, and an illustrated talk on the history of the hinge?
1998, The Summer of Slugs. The dreaded fun-loving Leeds slug frisks all over the footpath at unsuitable hours (like, when you want to walk there yourself) and has eaten all the best plants so close to the ground we can't even tell where we planted them. Attempts to train the Black & White Felines as Slug-Hawks have been only partially successful; they're quite good at circling, they've got talons, and they can even stoop to conquer once they've got their bellies out of the way, but they can't match the speed of the Leeds Slug &endash; they just go to sleep on it, leaving it surprised but undeterred.
And with the last of the summer rain, T realised that this year he'd bought 4 straw hats, one each time it stopped raining. The God of Small Things has a sense of humour.
The leaves seem to have been falling all year, but the other end of the trees kept growing, and the roots got into the drains, so we now have a fetching little video epic called 'Up Your Sewer', videoed by the Drains of Doom. Danger-type music as camera sinks headfirst into the hole. We have no VCR so half your authors have never seen it, but the other half cries: It's Dramatic! It's nature in the raw! [So she expected it cooked? Ed 1]. Gallant little camera desperately tries to force its way through the tree roots. Can't wait.
Sad news, if you have followed enough previous episodes (back numbers available if you poke around at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/greenery/ ) Babar, the Transit formerly known as Gloria ('cos he was sick, gettit?), is no more. Unbelievably, he was stolen for a quick getaway, a role that we knew only too well that he was ill-equipped to perform, resulting in high drama and a blown-up engine on the A1. One good thing about the summer rain, the thieves probably got very wet. Rather spookily, the elephants' graveyard where he ended his days was at the end of a mile-long cart-track in a small hamlet north of Wetherby called Allerton Park. Clearly meant to be.
Better news, though. We have sold T's parents' house in Spain and although nostalgia sometimes tinges our G&Ts, we're glad not to have to go and spend our time doing bricolage in Spanish. Even meant that we felt able to have a genuine DIY-free holiday in Spain, making it as far north as Santiago (no not in Chile, the original one). Highly recommended, especially the amazing 12th century stone carvings of stoned musicians.
News of the Generations: Owen just had a year of working 9 to 5. Probably for the last time in his life if things go the way he'd like - equally likely to be the last time if things don't, of course. Now back for his final year at Salford. Martin has been playing with three bands this year, getting quite well-known. How lucky they're both doing what they want to do.
[Producer to Director: The love interest! We forgot the love interest!] Camera hurriedly runs down the drive and down the M1 to say hello to ... Cath, how are you? Cath is unable to answer, though. She's playing the cello very energetically while singing a slow, slightly sad song at the same time. Cath, Martin, Nigel and Kev, now called ThoughtGang (the artist previously known as Whiskey Before Breakfast) (camera lingers meaningfully on the cover of their new release) have been seen in many a spot all over Britain, say our spies. Camera, panting slightly, runs back up north to find ... Kerry, come into our letter. Kerry and Owen are both wearing black but Owen's head's furry and Kerry's is blonde. No, that was last week, black-and-chestnut this week. Kerry is laughing at our portrait of Owen in earlier letters. Little does she reck who'll be reading our portraits of her one day ...
Cut back to Christmas tree standing in pot in garden. Camera starts to zoom back. Cats look meaningfully at tree. It slowly falls over as the picture fades.
Thomas and Jo