A few more lockdown restrictions were lifted this week and we were able to enjoy a bottle or two in the garden of our local hostelry. It was pleasantly sunny to match the mood of our hosts and fellow punters. Relief all round was the order of the day.
The weather’s been unseasonably cool of late despite the spring sunshine, with a definite chill in the air. But, after over three months under house arrest, a force nine gale wouldn’t have put us off. We supped well-wrapped in thermal long johns and bubble jackets accessorised with gloves, hats and scarves. It was like après ski but without the ski.
Last summer, Mr Mole was that unwelcome guest at a party who refuses to leave. We tried everything – organic repellent, castor oil spray, coffee grains, stomping and wailing too – all to nought. Mr Mole simply moved home to a different corner of our small plot. In desperation, we invested in an industrial strength sonic spike to drive the little bugger out. Despite plenty of hard evidence to the contrary, it worked. Rather than buy a pair of ear plugs, Mr Mole upped sticks to greener, less noisy pastures.
Chances are it’s a lost cause. We’re surrounded by fields and thickets littered with molehills. Flat, wet and fertile, the land serves up a juicy banquet of bugs and grubs – enough to fatten an unholy legion of the pesky pests. Our weekly constitutional takes us across Chedgrave Common, a boggy meadow punctured by muddy mountains of stone and soil, an obvious sign of the city of moles that lies beneath.
This is their party and we are the unwelcome guests.
Fleeting spring warmth, the partial easing of lockdown and the Easter break brought villagers, young and old, out onto the streets to make the most of the fine weather. And we were no exception. Downing tools for the day, we trotted off to Pyes Mill for a spot of lunch by the sparkling waters of the River Chet. The most direct route to the waterside clearing is across a boggy field which the owner has since barred after (allegedly) irresponsible dog walkers allowed Fido and Rover to trouble his cows. These are the same cows who troubled us the first time we ventured across his field forcing us to run for our lives. Just saying.
So we took the circuitous route via graves ancient and fresh, a tunnel of wild foliage, a babbling brook and a couple of country lanes. Pyes Mill was less busy than expected, though there was a swan having a good lick (and who wouldn’t if they could?), a few young families mucking about on the grass and a gang of naughty lads sharing a spliff. Liam can smell a joint at twenty paces.
We found a bench among the molehills and unpacked our picnic. When I say picnic, it was a meal deal from the Co-op. After months under house arrest, alcohol was first on the menu. Drink was drunk but rather too quickly. We regretted not picking up a second bottle when we had the chance. Lesson learned for next time.
I’ve always said that if I was a stick of Brighton rock, you’d find the words ‘city boy’ stamped all the way though me. And if, as a city boy living in the city, I’d heard gunshot, I’d have called the old bill, no hesitation. The truth is, despite the crime and the grime on the mean streets of old London town, I never heard gunfire for real, not once. Now I’m in the middle of huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ country where men are men and birds are nervous, I’m slowly learning to embrace the back of beyond. When I hear both barrels go off in the mean fields of Norfolk, I just shrug my shoulders and chuck another log on the wood burner. Pity the poor pheasants, though.
We’re currently living next to a building site. A local developer is chucking up a few more bungalows, like the world really needs a few more bungalows – affordable housing for the cash-strapped, yes, more well-appointed dwellings with double garages for the well-heeled, no. It’s a lost cause and we’re resigned to it.
While a big, butch workman swinging an even butcher mechanical digger was busy excavating a trench for a new drain, he ripped out an underground communications cable, cutting phone and broadband lines to every house in the street.
This is during a pandemic with people trying to earn an honest crust working from home, doing their bit to keep themselves and the economy afloat. Head-scratching all round by shuffling workers in hard hats and a ‘wasn’t me, gov’ vacant look on their red faces.
Engineers from Openreach* armed with tools and sensors rode to the rescue, plugging us back in the very next day. I call that a result. It’s a temporary fix, though. The cable can’t be re-buried until the new drain is finished. So the builders have protected it from further damage with a tatty old upturned wheelbarrow. Very hi-tech. What are the chances?
And for my next trick – no water and no electricity?
* For the uninitiated, Openreach is the company that manages much of the UK’s fixed-line telecoms infrastructure.