Saturday, 13 March 2010


There’s one day in the year when you suddenly realise that Spring has arrived. That day was today. And not before time. It’s been a long, cold winter and it’s about time we saw some sunshine. Although we’ve had a few sunny days lately, it’s been jolly cold, but this morning was appreciably warmer, birds sang louder, people were out and about without their coats and as the day wore on I became distinctly aware of that emblematic sound of approaching summer: the distant – and not quite so distant – hum of lawnmowers. Even though the clocks haven’t yet gone back, already the evenings seem lighter. I’m not sure it’s time to put the potatoes in just yet, though.

* * *

We’ve had a weird series of unfortunate – and apparently unrelated – events with our plumbing over the past week. What started with a small leak in the shower quickly turned into a burst radiator on the landing, then the water softener started to make a strange roaring sound – so much so, I had to turn the water off at the mains every time I wanted to make a phone call. On Thursday morning I came downstairs to a distinct damp patch on the kitchen ceiling, and an ominous dripping sound outside. This week I’ve seen more of Erik the plumber than I have of my own husband. It doesn’t look good.

“I can’t ring Erik again,” I said to Paul as he disappeared off to work, “he’s going to start thinking I’m stalking him.”

Thankfully, I was on Erik’s list of house calls, and he disappeared up into the loft to sort out the pipework, reappearing again to sort out another problem with the shower and fix another radiator valve that had inexplicably gone wrong, probably wishing he hadn’t popped round in the first place. It seems we’re not the only people in the village to be suffering an unexplained rash of plumbing problems at the moment – another symptom of the relentlessy long, harsh winter – and Erik’s services are much in demand.

Erik is tirelessly cheerful and efficient (and thankfully he doesn’t whistle, unlike the plumber we had at our last house. Whenever Tony came round to fix something or other, this eerie whistling sound would echo and reverberate spookily around the house through the copper pipes. I used to think to myself that, if the plumbing work dried up he would always be able to find work providing soundtracks for Spaghetti Westerns). Still, every cloud has a silver lining – even plumbing-related ones. I’ve now learnt how to fix recalcitrant radiator valves (you give them a swift tap with a hammer) and get stubborn limescale stains off a shower cartridge (boil it up in a pan of Sarson’s White Vinegar), and I can now find my way confidently around the plumbing section of the Screwfix catalogue. But that’s probably enough about me and my plumbing…

* * *

The allotment is beckoning. At the moment, it looks a bit bleak and sparse. I’ve given up trying to dig all the weed roots out, but I went out for some more seed potatoes from Nurden’s Garden Centre in Malmesbury (excellent cafe there, too, if you ever find yourself feeling peckish on the A429) – if you haven’t already got yours, I suggest you nip down there pretty sharpish, they’re nearly all gone – and I’m ready to go with my onion sets if I get a chance amid all the doubless lavish Mothers’ Day activity my family has doubtless got in store for me tomorrow…

And it’s the annual Allotment Inspection on Tuesday, April 6th – a time-honoured tradition enshrined in Great Somerford's Enclosure Act of 1806, when it was laid down that the allotments should be allocated Yearly and every Year on the Tuesday in Easter Week.

I’d better get my spade out, then.

And some more good news – I’m going to be a Compost Ambassador for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Well, let’s face it – it’s probably the only kind of ambassador anyone will ever ask me to be. The allotment holders are probably finding it difficult to contain their excitement at the thought of the Ambassador spoiling them with news of new and improved compost containers, ways of avoiding embarrassing ‘compost slime’ and getting tiptop compost out of even the least promising bits of garden rubbish.

Don’t ever say there are no perks to having an allotment in Great Somerford.

* * *

PS I’m afraid it seems I was misinformed about the would-be shop robbers – it turns out the Police didn’t catch them after all, but at least they didn’t get away with anything, and I guess it’s unlikely they’ll be back in a hurry.


  1. I love the sound of Tony the Spag. Western Plumber... although it doesn't sound as though you did. Oh dear, you've certainly had a busy time with your waterworks. I hope all is back to normal now! Congratulations on your appointment as Compost Ambassador... will you be spoiling everyone with those balls of chocolate wrapped in gold foil or a sprinkling of blood, fish and bone?

  2. I hadn't thought you'd take up the ambassadorship yourself! Will look forward to your advice and suggestions. Hope your leaks have sorted themselves out. Pleased to see my scarecrow here - I will post a photo of its current state at my place soon. Am planning a new outfit for this season's growing.

  3. Surrounded at present by whistling plumbers and electricians but keep telling myself to be hugely grateful they are here in the first place. On the day that you wrote the blogpost I reckon it was the coldest day we have had all winter !!

  4. Vinegar is my weapon of choice for nearly all domestic challenges - white vinegar, mind you. Descaling the iron, kettle, coffee maker, shower head - you name it, vinegar does the job.
    You'll made an wonderful Compost ambassadress. Just be grateful that you're not, like a friend of mine, assigned to 'solid waste'. I feel very sorry for her every time she has to make a council report!