Thirteen weeks sabbatical and I still do the letter two days before posting deadline. Is bone-idleness genetic? Only deadline panic really helps.
'You know what I have loved about your sabbatical?' Liz speaking now. 'It's spending the evening with you on the sofa zzz zzz zzz snort.'
It is advent. Christmas music is playing in the cafe where this is being begun. I hate joy at this time of year. There is a very ugly dog tied to a radiator. No idea how long it's been here. Could have been months.
Am really in the café to dodge the cleaners who come on a Wednesday. This is where my middle-class angst has delivered me; hiding from people who are being paid to make my life better. Did I flush all the toilets before leaving the house? I'm sure I did.
So we have begun to come to terms with being in our sixties. OK, we have set out the terms. We will not use our Christmas letter to:
Moan about the many bits of us that no longer work
Discuss rail cards or bus passes
Remoan or Trumpet
Liz is enjoying her part-time work at Lakeland Bath although having taken this option in order to reduce her working hours she is frequently up at 5.00 a.m. to get to the shop in time to take in an early morning delivery which has been cancelled without telling her. The good news is that as this is now somebody else's fault it no longer stresses her out.
We note in passing that her old South African holding company employer (the people who owned Cargo) took over Poundland, changed the pricing structure (restoring 'How much is it' to the status of non-silly question), reported a massive loss and saw several senior management arrested in the far east. None of them would be likely to be women.
First Great Western try their best on the stressing out front. Cows on the line (a recent problem) may not be entirely their fault although they tell me fences are an excellent precaution, but late departure due to missing driver has cropped up more than once this year. As has cancelled train due to platform widening.
'This train consists of two carriages' might be one of the most depressing sentences either of us has to listen to week by week.
Returned electrical goods cannot be re-sold to the public due to safety regulations. They are sold off to the Lakeland staff by auction and the money goes to charity. We got a Vitamix. It is a blender gti. Leave it on for ten minutes and it makes house bricks into soup, warming the house the while. If the lead was long enough we could make frozen lake sorbet.
So, sabbatical leave - a three month break from duty this autumn which has been a privilege not many occupations offer. I have written a few new pieces which will be off seeking a publisher shortly (let me know if you are interested, especially if you are, in fact, a publisher). Also tested the welcome in a lot of local churches. Written reports available for a fee.
We try to avoid talk of bereavement round here (the dear, departed Roger would understand) but The Barn at Wraxall closed. The finest drinkers' pub we have ever had the good fortune to live near simply curled up and died last month. Tragedy. Strongly considering trying to buy it. Saturday lunchtime footie and the Guardian will have to be relocated.
Also Maitreya Social shut up shop– a magnificent veggie restaurant in Easton. Is it us?
At least the Pony and Trap at Chew Magna continued to be wonderful and we have an anniversary gift voucher still to spend there. A pre-starter course called 'snack' is a delight.
The local churches once again made a good fist of the election hustings and my colleague James chaired an evening with four of the five candidates. Sadly the missing one was our MP, the International Trade Secretary. He increased his majority from 13,000 miles. I swear if he jumped off a cliff he'd be elected unopposed on the way down. Not many Guardians sell round here.
Trendlewood Church contributed hugely to the third Trendlewood Community Festival. For a population of 2,250 it was pretty impressive to get 1,500 through the gates and an unexpectedly large profit for charity. Steve got to play keys with Rachel Taylor-Beales and even to cover for her as she remembered half way through the tune that she had not put on her harmonica. Liz got to check the temperature of a couple of thousand burgers. Vegetarians love this sort of thing.
Trendlewood Church was granted its independence and there followed a year of doing everything independently for the first time. Including spending our own money. The vicar is more to blame than he used to be although he delegates it when he can.
Whilst not paying enough attention Steve was appointed Assistant Rural Dean. Anxious to avoid tiresome admin and awkward questions about things he knew nothing about he wrote his own job description sticking carefully to things nobody else knew anything about. That said the deanery now has a vision document.
Gigs included Josie Long, David Sedaris, Stewart Lee, Laura Marling (supported by the excellent Ethan Johns) and a particularly strong Tobacco Factory Othello. We also enjoyed another 5x15 where five people speak for 15 minutes on matters on their heart. We enjoyed historian Matthew Green who explained that the advances of seventeenth century thinking were due to disgusting coffee and The Canary editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza (nothing to do with Norwich City and not for those of a right-wing disposition).
The honorary chaplaincy of Nailsea Mountain Rescue Team continues to be undemanding apart from the need to write an amusing after dinner speech annually.
Steve also saw Ghostpoet and, along with Jon, Mercury Rev and the Northern Symphonia. The band seemed happier about the orchestration than the orchestra were about the band. They looked, to a person, as if they would rather be anywhere else. They might have run for it save for the fact that moving the gig from the Colston Hall to the O2 Acadamy delivered more people onto the stage than usual at such venue. The percussionists had to crawl under a keyboard to get in position.
The event of the year was our ruby wedding anniversary. September 10th marked forty years since Liz walked down the aisle, heavily made up to hide the fact that her cat had slashed her face first thing in the morning. This developed a theme of our marriage as felines were variously shoe-horned into our relationship and then out again due to lack of love from 50%, soon to be 25%, of the hosts, plus apparently fierce dogs and the sound of asthmatic sneezing. She was to get knotted to a man who looks like it was a couple of years before he could get parental permission to marry.
We celebrated by my having the last day of church duties for three months. This meant Liz going to a hog-roast harvest lunch. Vegetarians love this sort of thing.
Curate coming next year. Yabadabadoo. Welcome to Nailsea; a town that swamped a small village in the 1960s is moaning about new housing. Pass the Daily Mail.
HC2U from S and M (Oops) L