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Thursday, 2 June 2011

I slept close to ten hours last night. Perhaps it was the warmth: the temperature only got down to 64, making it by far the mildest night since I got here. But no, it wasn’t that. It was not wanting to wake up and face today’s task. That’s what it was.

I used to be inflicted with a passion for what we Brits call DIY, or Do It Yourself – and for some reason I just can’t think what the Americans phrase is. But I’m talking about home repairs. When I was young, energetic and foolish I would tear down brick walls, rip up floorboards, build closets with my bare hands, re-lay drains, attack simple wiring and plumbing jobs and climb triple-extension ladders to dab paint on the furthest extremity of the gable. I’ve scraped, painted, wall-papered, drilled and plugged, built up large collections of tools, knocked lumps out of hundred-year-old houses - and myself – with the best of them. And I did all of these things several times over as we moved from one house to the next, each one larger and more challenging than the one before. And then one day I decided I’d had enough. I should add that I got divorced. Not once but twice. I no longer own a house and I feel no sense no regret whatsoever. One way or another my passions have dissipated. And it ain’t as bad as it sounds. It leaves you feeling kind of peaceful inside.

But the fact is that today I am confronted by what ought to be a simple DIY task. I am hanging the screen-door I bought last week. Correction: I plan to hang the screen-door. Because I know, deep inside myself, that a simple task like that is fraught with hidden complications. The way I saw it, it would be a case of two hinges, six screws and – as we like to say back home – ‘Bob’s your uncle.’ Job done. Then I opened the cardboard packaging and saw this lot.

But even as I balked and started muttering about needless add-ons I stopped, and said to myself, ‘Come on, are you a man or a mouse?’ And immediately I recalled Groucho Marx’s answer to that one. ‘Put a piece of cheese on the floor and you’ll soon find out.’

I shall pause here, eat my oatmeal, and come out fighting. And post something quite irrelevant – a picture of an abandoned truck I came across the other day when I went to the farm shop out by Chadron. It cheered up my good friend Greg in the U.K., and it cheers me up too. Think of it as an ad break.

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned the fact that some years ago – 1999, I think it was – I wrote for a TV soap. We were Britain’s second most popular, with 12 million viewers four times a week. That’s one fifth of the populus. I hated it: the ludicrous plots, the silly, silly characters, the unseemly wrangles in the story conferences, the tears shed around that table, the petty jealousies amongst the writers (there were 14 of us). There was just one thing I loved. The money. I dug myself out of a huge black hole in eight months flat, paid off $25,000 of debt, then got the hell out. But I learned a few things about cliff-hangers. (This is a really, really cheap shot….) Yep, I’m going to leave my screen door right there, and reveal the outcome tomorrow. Perhaps even later: I just went outside and found quite a wind blowing, and a few grey clouds gathering. You see, I’m lining up my excuses… Oh dear: there goes a distant rumble of thunder. This could be catastrophic…. 

Yesterday was a bitty day. First of all, Mercy. The front offside tyre (yes okay, tire) had been leaking air, very slowly, for some time. When I went out yesterday it was, like yours truly as he opened that screen-door packaging, visibly deflated. I drove up to Matt’s workshop, where he has a compressor and airline. But he was out, and I couldn’t figure how to work things. Didn’t want to screw up. So I did my Internet stuff, slung my laptop over my shoulder and legged it back here.

A few hours later I walked back up. It takes about 25 minutes. I enjoy it more than anybody would realise. At home I regularly walk to town from where we live (just outside the cathedral city of Durham) and, depending on which route I choose, take 30 to 40 minutes. Sometimes I’ll take the bus home. More often than not I’ll walk it,  with my groceries in a back-pack. It’s a change from sitting at my desk, being a writer. I relax, think deep thoughts, improve my cardio-vascular health, enjoy the landscape. Here I’ve stopped relaxing. Instead of watching the sky and conjuring up deep thoughts, I watch the ground, and wonder whether it’s true that the Native peoples used to prescribe a brief nap as the best response to a rattle-snake bite.

I was barely halfway when I spotted the snake, lying right slap bang on the road in front of me.  As I stood there, deciding that it definitely was a rattler, it coiled itself up in the ‘prepared to strike’ position’ and shook its tail feathers, so to speak.

So now I can add snake-proof boots to my shopping list. Later, when I got to the workshop and went online again, I found that most fatalities from rattlesnake bites in the U.S. befall young males who try to attack or kill said snakes. Those youthful passions again, you see? Land you in trouble every time.

Well, we got some air into Mercy’s tyre, but in the time it took me to drive down to Merriman half of it was gone. She now sports a brand new tyre, and I shall try to make sure that every time I park I do so in a way that displays it to full advantage. Mercy may be getting on in years, but I am given to understand that she’s a lady….

A footnote on the screen-door. It is a matter of some urgency. I have just inspected the front door and found two ticks pacing up and down looking for a way into the house.

Theme tune, credits, ads….

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