Who would have thought volunteering at your local library could be so fraught with danger and sometimes downright embarrassment? So it has turned out to be for me at the library in our nearby seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, local government has received ever-decreasing funding from central government with the result that savings have had to be made by cutting local services. In our particular case, gardening services provided by the Council have been withdrawn from the library - except for cutting the lawned area that separates the library from the adjacent supermarket car park. So, all the flower borders around the library were going to rack and ruin and as a keen gardener I could not bear to let this situation continue and nor could my friend, Pat. We decided to tackle the gardens ourselves before they became any more of an eyesore.
All well and good, except we had not reckoned with the great British public's ability (a) somehow to overlook you when parking their cars and and nudging you into the flower-beds, (b) the wit and wisdom of passers-by and (c) the total inability of elderly library users - of both sexes - to negotiate their way out of the narrow car park without running us down and (d) my being taken for someone on a day out from the local asylum.
In the words of the letters pages of the Daily Telegraph 'I could go on' but I won't, I think I have have enough material here to explain my indignation at the antics of the library and supermarket users.
I'll expand a little on all of the above and I think you could well come round to my point of view that the great British public are an odd bunch. Take Point (a) - I know I'm a bit on the small side, but at 5' 2" still very visible I would have thought and yet when working on the flower bed that runs alongside the supermarket car park, there have been many times when four-by-fours have swept into the parking spaces and applied the brakes at the last moment, by which time I have already dived into the border to escape being flattened. By the time I have recovered myself the driver, blissfully unaware of the gibbering wreck he/she has left behind, has swung gaily off into the supermarket.
Point (b) - Yorkshire folk are renowned for many things, but I have to admit their wit is not the first quality that springs to mind. I wish I had a pound sterling for every man and woman that announces as they pass Pat and I by, 'you can come and do my garden when you've finished' and they chortle on their merry way. Original or what? I would be a millionaire by now. What I really want to do is silently hand them a garden fork and tell them to get stuck in. But I just glower after them. And here's the best one - obviously we spend a lot of time bending down as we haul out the weeds 'Eee, lass,' come the remarks, 'tha must have the best known backside in Yorkshire. I wouldn't recognise your face, but I'd know that backside.' Convulsed with their own wit, they stagger away into the supermarket.
Point (c) - It is a mystery to me that only the very elderly, frail, obviously poor-sighted - they have to be from the way they drive - and half-witted library users avail themselves of the library car park. The young, fit and able bounce into the supermarket car park, dump their cars and walk round to the library. Sadly for me, the library car park is not very big and therefore requires quite a lot of manoeuvreing in order to get the car out of the car park space and turned around to face the driveway out. I repeat - it is always elderly and possibly poor-sighted ladies and gentlemen undertaking this exercise. On four occasions, at least, drivers have reversed out of their space, swung the wheel around and continued reversing - right at me! Sometimes I am absorbed by the task in hand and not watching what is going on behind me, (how can I?) and then I suddenly become aware of the heady smell of exhaust fumes far too close for comfort and a revving engine. (Why do they do that when they're reversing?) Twice now I have retreated into the border and still the car keeps coming at me. I jump up and down, waving my arms about and shrieking like a banshee but soon I will have no place left to go, except be squashed against the wall. I think someone has put a contract out on me and they are trying to kill me. No-one will convince me otherwise. After all, who would believe a sweet little old lady or gent would deliberately squash someone in a library car park?
Point (d) - And the most embarrassing of all. My friend, Pat, is smaller than me. We were minding our own business, pruning some very tall grasses that had got way out of hand. Pat was well inside the border and I now realise, dwarfed by the grasses and hidden from view. I was on the edge of the border, (yes, in view of the above, I must have a death-wish), hacking away at the grasses whilst talking to Pat, gesticulating with my secateurs to re-inforce the point I was banging on about - planting blackcurrant bushes, I think. Anyway, this lady approached me - carefully, it has to be said - in readiness to lead me quietly away to a place of safety until the social services could be summoned for me. Only as she took my arm and I turned in surprise, did she spot Pat lurking in the back of the border and then realised her mistake. She thought I was standing there talking away to myself and throwing my arms about at nothing - thought I might need taking back to which ever hospital I was out on licence from! I know I had an odd lookig sun hat on at the time, but really...
So if I'm not run over, flattened or squashed by the elderly patrons of the library or carted off to the hospital by a well-meaning member of the public, I hope to see you here in a few weeks time. I'm taking a summer break and will be back in late September. I hope you are all having a good summer and we will meet again, refreshed and renewed for the autumn. My good wishes to everyone, happy holidays.
So, as I mentioned in my last blog, in a very weak moment I agreed to go with spouse to a food festival which was being held at a nearby castle. We went to church on the Sunday morning, had a quick coffee and a biscuit (biscuits plural for spouse - he has to keep his strength up) and then we set off for our castle event.
A we neared our destination, I could feel the excitement emanating from spouse. His face was wreathed in smiles as he imagined all the culinary delights to come. I was imagining too - only my thoughts ran on very different lines from his. This became obvious when he smiled seraphically at me and said 'I wonder if they'll have fried bread there?' He smacked his lips in anticipation, almost, but not quite drooling at the thought. Fried bread! We were attending a festival showcasing the finest cuisine the U.K. could offer and spouse is hoping for fried bread. I give up. Pearls before swine
Food festivals are wonderful events. You get to try so many delicious and varied foods, your taste buds have to work overtime. Needless to say, spouse dived in with enthusiasm. Breads dipped in flavoured oils and vinegars went down the hatch and met with his approval, jams and chutneys were sampled and purchases made, beer, wine and best of all his beloved Yorkshire pork pie. SMALL samples of foods are put out for prospective customers to try - only when the stallholder was looking the other way, spouse helped himself to several samples, blissfully munching away - at some distance from the stall by the time the owner looked his way again - surveying his empty sample plates with dismay.
Spouse has no frontiers where food is concerned. Spanish chorizo sausage was followed by Indian, Vietnamese and Italian food. Everything met with the same sincere appreciation. Amazing cheeses, wines, cordials, teas and cakes received equal attention. I should say that by now we were on our second trawl around the festival and I was about ready to drop. If I didn't see another cheese, dessert, savoury or sweet tart it possibly would not be too soon.
Spouse showed no sign of tiring but I was hopeful that we would soon retire to the castle tearooms and thence wend our way homewards. Which we did, only I wasn't spared any embarrassment as I had hoped to be. We came across an irresistible collection of chutneys. You were supposed to just sample from a wooden spatula. Spouse does not like them. He had his own way of tasting - take a chunk of cheese and dunk it in the chutney and haul it all out with the spatula. Result! Spouse got a good helping and loved it, but the stallholder was hopping mad and promptly sent him away, (that's putting it politely) - and all before we could make a purchase.
By that time I had had enough and walked a good ten paces ahead of him - disassocation I think it is called - and left spouse to carry the many and varied food bags we had accumulated along the way. Next time he mentions visiting a food event in whatever guise it comes in, I hope I will be sane enough to decline the offer. Or if we were foolish enough to go to another, tape his mouth up on arrival. Now, what an interesting day that would be ...