It is a truth universally acknowledged ... that if the plumber is coming in the morning to place a new oil tank in a spot where an oil tank has not been sited previously, then the site agreed (with aforementioned plumber) needs to be prepared and the new flags laid down as a base.
Thus it was one bitterly cold March afternoon on our smallholding high up in the Durham dales. In the morning we had dug into the fellside at the back of the house and had reached the point where there was only space left for one person to work. At this point we went indoors for lunch, during which time a few snowflakes began lightly drifting down, but we remained upbeat and light-hearted and tucked happily into our hot soup and crusty bread.
After lunch there was some dispute as to which of us would be going outside to finish the hacking out of the fellside. My other half was all for tossing a coin to settle the matter, but when it was pointed out to him that if I was out there working at the sharp end of things, (a) I could not indoors preparing a gastronomic delight for his supper and (b) if I did the job, I would be too knackered to do anything but throw a dry crust his way when I came in. And as cooking is not his forte I knew I was arguing from a position of strength. Better half loves his grub and the thought of no dinner clinched the deal.
We went our separate ways, me to commune with my pots and pans and him to climb into his wellies. Only ten minutes later he was back under my feet again, looking mournful and chilled. "It's blowing a hooley out there," quoth he "and blizzarding with snow." Now, I come from tough stock and was having none of this. "Your skin's waterproof," I said and also pointed out, quite truthfully, "You'll be sheltered around the back. A deal's a deal, so hop it."
Possibly he was too flabbergasted at my reaction to argue and he trailed back outside again, reappearing an hour or so later when the job was finished, looking tirumphant but frozen. My heart smote me (a little) and I poured a slug of whisky in his coffee to defrost him.
What has all this to do with 'Not Spring Cleaning'? Stay with me, we are getting there. My farmer friend has recently put her cows out to summer pasture and we were all set to start the spring cleaning of the byres. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has not fully made her mind up about the arrival of Spring and mischeviously keeps flinging heavy bursts of rain at us in between beautiful sunshine and then very cold winds. All in all, we don't really know what season we are in. But with the rain continuing to rain and the nights being cold, my friend has decided to continue bedding the byres and allowing the stock to wander in at nights to keep warm and dry.
So, we are not spring cleaning byres just yet. The knock on effect is that I can't get a haircut. What has that got to do with cows? Everything. I'm not going to shell out shedloads of dosh on a fancy haircut, (or in my case once round with the scissors quick as you like) and then jam a woolly hat on my new improved bonce as a small protection against the jet-spray and cow muck flying around the byre as we go about our cleaning.
And the connection to the better half digging away in a blizzard? His skin is waterproof and so are the cows. Should I tell my friend her beasts are wearing leather coats and they are meant to be outside at this time of year, not inside holding up the proceedings and leaving me uncut and looking as if I have been plugged into the mains?