Figuring things out doesn’t have to be instant

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I had the pleasure of meeting a delightful lady of 90 years of age whose husband died 10 years ago. It was in the service and they had to move every couple of years until he retired. They live in a delightful workers cottage, previously occupied by agricultural people and the house is supposed to go back to 1681. She wanted me to cut a long hedge which people have had a go at but frankly had made a hash of or simply abandoned it halfway through.

On the face of it, the hedge which must be about 70 m long is a disheartening job to contemplate. It is gnarled, high, irregular, and I had somehow to bring it into some order. We went along to visit it this morning and I came to an initial conclusion that I could not find a solution that was safe. The back of the hedge was on a slippery slope, a bank indeed, with many opportunities to get copiously scratched by the brambles not to mention losing one’s foothold and tumbling down. I told the lady that I would try and find someone else to do the job but then I thought to myself that if I try to see it from the correct perspective surely there must be a successful formula. I did not want to let her down.

I started off by mowing the area adjacent to the road which had lots of weeds and dying grasses. After that was all cleared the whole aspect looked much cleaner. I then realised that if I divided the job up into sections, I could adequately deal with it, with help, over a couple of days. There was precious little space to put the spoil as a prelude to burning it. The amount of spoil was potentially so great that it would need five or six journeys back and forth in the car. I decided to create an area where the cuttings could be left to dry and I could return on another occasion and have a bonfire. The disposability of the spoil was the main problem and that blocked all the other thinking.

I eventually made an offer to the lady to continue with the job. She was grateful because she could not find anyone else to do it and I believe the price I offered was reasonable. It is a good thing that I have access to a variety of power tools that don’t take any prisoners. I have an electric and a petrol chainsaw, an extendable electric hedge cutter, a chainsaw attachment on the end of a long pole, a short hedge cutter and some hand tools plus a couple of ladders of varying lengths. I realise that I didn’t have to rush the job and just do it in bursts of energy.   The customer was with me during my change of mind and so working out a final solution was quite a relief for her. It may not have been totally professional but at least I was honest. It is so easy to just walk away and tell the potential customer that you will give them a call and you never do.

Before leaving, the customer offered us a glass of rather fine sherry which we enjoyed with our conversation. She told us of a spring that used to come down the hillside and which during times of flood actually came through the house. They eventually persuaded the council to lay a deep drain and divert the water.

Weather permitting we shall start work next week.

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Praise be, the new allotment tenant that I signed up yesterday has already dug a quarter of the plot. I had written them a really long letter of encouragement as I think I mentioned before and that action paid dividends. People are so used to impersonal relationships, I think they were dubbed by Marx as the ‘Callous Cash Nexus’. To treat people personally and with respect and actually given time is a breath of fresh air.

She just wrote to me ” Hi Brian – Yes we had a lovely morning getting started, even the little one* got stuck in! We will take absolute care to leave the area/ plants at the bottom and the left over bags of manure etc until we hear more” (re the outgoing person who may want to lay claim to them).* she is 2 years of age. I said to mum ‘start them young’.

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And so the last days of the ‘week of nothing’ as I call it are drawing to a close. Tomorrow it is Sunday or is it Saturday or maybe Monday. This week was one with no appointments and thus the usual mental orientations did not take place. We bought some champagne to see in the New Year. We just about make it to midnight, watch the fireworks from London and elsewhere, and fall into bed.

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