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Monday, 25 July 2011

I Slept Like A Dead Man

I slept like a dead man. I suppose a night-cap of Irish whiskey will have helped – thankyou, Don - and then of course there’s the fact that I’d sat and watched the first half of Lonesome Dove. More likely, though, it was the busy afternoon I spent, armed with scythe, wire brush and paint-roller.
Some years ago somebody started painting the garage here, and ran out of paint – or time, or desire. Whatever the case, they left a large patch of bare grey cement block wall that’s been bugging me since I got here. So, by way of warming up to the task of painting the front of the red house, I got to work. With a large step-ladder and a roller on a long pole I reckoned I might just about able to reach the top of the grey patch, way up towards the ridge. First, though, I needed to clear some of the weeds, which are now around six feet tall, so that I could get within touching distance.

The old scythe isn’t in good shape. Every few swings the handles start to loosen, but I was in determined mood. Those weeds seem to be the favourite food of the grasshoppers – now that they’ve demolished my lettuces and beans – and I was enjoying myself, watching them fall in great swathes. In fact, I got carried away and started mowing out the front. I could be tempted to make this my daily work-out routine, if I believed in such things.

As to the painting, well, I had a few shaky moments up there on the step-ladder, and I’ve splashed a few spots of red paint down my nice hiking trousers, but at least the garage now looks as though somebody cares about it.

I also did a test patch on the house. The worn concrete sucked the paint in like a sponge. It is, of course, getting on for ninety years old. It may be that it’ll eat up two or three coats. In any case it needs a good hosing-down and a vigorous wire-brushing before I start on it.

Later today I’m off to Gordon to buy more paint, and a broad brush. But before that I have to take my broken plate to the dentist and see what the damage is there. Fortunately, I have my UK dental insurance package with me. It’ll be a novel experience. I’ve rarely gone to the dentist and not worried that I might get hurt.

Watching Lonesome Dove last night was a surprise pleasure. I tried to read the book many, many years ago and somehow never got on with it. I am  a big fan – or used to be – of Larry McMurtry’s early fictions, in particular Horsemen, Pass By, which became the movie Hud. I also enjoyed The Last Picture-Show, which was filmed by Peter Bogdanovich and gave an early role to one of the few current actors whose work I still enjoy, Jeff Bridges. I suppose it’s an age thing: when you’re young you have movie heroes. They tend to be father figures, or the big brothers you wish you had. Then you get older and find it harder and harder to take the youngsters seriously. I found Brad Pitt, for example, particularly difficult. As to McMurtry’s early works – and I’d include Desert Rose and Leaving Cheyenne among the ones I liked - I have a suspicion that I wouldn’t enjoy them as much now. They had a bitter edge to them. I recently re-watched Last Picture-Show and found it quite dismal in mood, full of life’s losers. But then I recall finding The Graduate terribly funny when I was eighteen or nineteen, whereas now I can’t watch it without dwelling on the tragedy that was Mrs Robinson’s story.

However, Lonesome Dove. Marvellous. How often do you find a movie-maker who dares to take so long to get his story under way, who allows the camera to linger, the dialogue to proceed at such a slow pace, in fragments, with thoughtful pauses – the way it sometimes does in real life – in order to allow the audience to get to know and care for the characters? Can’t wait to see part two, most likely tonight.

They’re saying that the cooler spell is over. Back to the mid-90s today. We shall see. I have no trust whatsoever in these weather experts. I am reminded of the British forecasters, who never seem to notice that the east coast, where we live, has its own micro-climate. Maybe it’s the same with these sandhills. This morning we’re still covered in low, grey cloud, although it’s only seven-thirty.

Last time I put up a picture if this little metal bird-box, which hangs from the eaves within a couple of feet of my front door, it had an icicle dangling from it.

To my great surprise I find that it is now occupied. I think it’s a wren. It looks like a wren, although it has a longer tail than the ones we have at home. I’d seen it darting to and fro, but it was only when I watched it fly in with a twig in its mouth, drop the twig, and fly down to retrieve it, that I was convinced. There – I just went to the door and it flew off to the tree. More follows, as they say.

Today is my brother’s birthday – I mean the one in Kentucky. Happy birthday, Tony. I wonder whether A’s grandchild might finally arrive – some ten days after he or she was supposed to - and share the date with him.

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