Many of us are, in our heads, much younger than we are in reality. For example, in my head I’m 19, although possibly not quite as naive as I was then, and Richard has often admitted to being still 12, which he claims is a not uncommon state for many men. I guess there are a couple of his colleagues who might share his opinion.
There is a problem with this, though. Twelve-year-old boys are easily bored and months of living under house arrest was inevitably going to take its toll. I was nervous at the outset because in the past, whenever Richard has had longer than a week at home he has entertained himself by masterminding “a project”. Some husbands might decide to paint the shed or creosote the fence. But not Richard. The motto isn’t “go big or go home” but “go big, you’re at home.”
When we moved into our house 12 years ago there was a very overgrown area beneath the trees in one of the bottom paddocks. After months of clearing nettles and brambles we discovered a pond down there and “the dingle” was born.
Even though we had the big pond in the field, and the dingle beyond, we weren’t prepared to venture further along the overgrown watercourse. The brambles and weeds were so dense the only creatures who knew whether there was any water in its dark depths were the rabbits whose burrows are in the roots of the big oak tree on the bank above.
We’d seen the stream that emerged at the edge of our land, but it practically dried up in the summer months, denying our neighbours the babbling brook which only came to life after a downpour.
For years we’ve discussed clearing beyond the dingle; for years we’ve abandoned the idea of crossing the muddy ditch there after nearly losing a Land Rover in the bog – but then lockdown arrived and with it boredom. And so a new project was born.
As soon as the Government said they were allowed to work, a gang of men arrived with strimmers and shovels and after a few days of hard labour they’d cleared a path for a mini digger to pick its way in and scoop out the black gloop. There was tons of the stuff, although unlike the Clampetts [The Beverly Hillbillies] we hadn’t struck oil – just many decades of decomposed, sludgy foliage.