Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Storm and a teacup

Agents Orange - Sue, Michael and Terry

Yet another tedious tempest ravaged docile Larrikin’s End all last weekend. This time around Seat of Pants copped a more serious trouncing. Two trees toppled, including the one I thought was dead. Well it is now. Fortunately for me, they fell into the front fence. Not so lucky for the fence, obviously. I slept through the whole thing, but then I slept through the great London maelstrom of 1987 which uprooted most of the city’s stately old trees. I’m quite a heavy sleeper and there’s only so much fascination to be drawn from the furious elements waving their meteorological arms about before one gets bored and throws on a Lara Croft DVD to nod off to.

About halfway through Sunday morning it occurred to me that I ought to check out the state of the Pantation. It’s what you do when you have a house and it’s no one else’s job to worry about whether or not bits of it have blown off and sliced someone’s Schnauzer in half. At first I just stood there fascinated by the jumble of leaves, gnarly branches and splinters of fence decorating the road. It slowly occurred to me that I would have to do something about this but I had no idea what that course of action could possibly be. Then I remembered that I had a fridge magnet with the number of the State Emergency Service on it. Unsure if the situation before me constituted a genuine emergency but at a complete loss as to who else to call, I dialled the number. I nervously explained the predicament, anxious that I might get into trouble and receive some kind of fine or demerit for misuse of officialdom. I am quite jumpy since I discovered that demands for money can come in the post if you have driven your car at the wrong speed.

I needn’t have worried. Within the hour, the three wonderful orange-clad angels pictured above had chopped the fallen foliage into cartable pieces. Until I came to live in the countryside, I had never really understood why there are men on the planet. I now totally get it. They go on the other end of a chainsaw and chainsaws seem to feature quite prominently in daily life here in Larrikin’s End. While Michael chomped and Sue and Terry stacked my troublesome dead wood, I slipped up to the kitchen to make them a much-deserved cup of tea. In an emergency, one should stick to what one knows.

So, I have now spent an entirely unscheduled two days breaking up branches into kindling and stacking logs in the shed but at least I won’t be short of firewood next winter. The fence is covered by insurance and the claim was relatively easy to initiate. As with everything financial, I simply went down to the marvellous Commonwealth Bank, looked helpless and handed over the little card they give you that contains all the details they need to sort out whatever mess you’ve got yourself into. It remained then to find yet another man, one who could fix the fence. Man, I have discovered, is not simply an all-purpose term for one who either mends or demolishes and removes broken things. It is actually much more complex than that. They have distinct specialisms. I phoned Newton, the fire alarm-taming man who doesn’t do electrics. He also doesn’t do fences. He suggested I try Mitre 10, our local hardware shop.

Mitre 10 and I have a somewhat fractious relationship as I keep trying to buy a particular type of sun lounge there that they continually advertise but flatly refuse to sell. I’ll admit I don’t know much about the vagaries of retail but this does seem a strange phenomenon. They deposit catalogues in the Seat of Pants letterbox. I go down there and they make a grand pretence of checking their official-looking database and then they tell me that the sun lounge I want is ‘not available’. Actually what they say is, ‘it’s showing negative eight,’ which appears sort of plausible until you think it through and then it just sounds like a politician’s explanation for why the world economy is in freefall. I thought shops were supposed to be profit-driven so where’s the payoff in creating a demand you don’t intend to fill? This happens about twice a week. It’s probably just as well as the sun is nearly always unavailable too. I don’t wish to malign the people at Mitre 10 as they’re very nice and they can’t really help it if they don’t have what people want to buy. I dare say if I asked them for a Sara Lee Cheesecake or a Jackson Pollock they probably wouldn’t be able to help me there either. Anyway, they successfully hooked me up with a fencing contractor who helpfully dropped around today to give me a quote. I also bought a NO JUNK MAIL sign for my letterbox. In the future, I think it would be better all round if I didn’t know what I couldn’t have. That just brings me down…