Many decisions involve consequences which might not be fully appreciated at the time.
When I planned to go to Greece for the summer I knew that for the first time in very many years I would not be growing vegetables, that I would not be able to harvest the fruit, and that the garden would continue to grow. I also knew that it would be unfair to ask anyone to look after the chickens for such a long period and that they would have to be re-homed. I didn’t really appreciate the full impact of these things.
There would be no point in planting veg to be harvested in the summer as I wouldn’t be here to harvest it never mind to eat it. I had covered most of the vegetable terraces with weed suppressant fabric to keep the worst of the weeds at bay. I also planted winter veg to be ready when I got back. However I underestimated the amount of ongoing care which goes into keeping an eye on winter veg to ensure a good crop. The onions and garlic grew well but I wasn’t here to harvest them and most of them went rotten in the wet August. The sprouts and red cabbage didn’t do very well at all and yields are very low while the weeds around them flourished. Beetroot did amazingly well but were ready before I got back and one of my neighbours harvested them as I had asked – better that someone had the benefit of them. A very unproductive year, no French beans to go in the freezer for the winter, no courgettes to make ratatouille to freeze for the winter, no tomatoes to make soups to restock the freezer.
We always harvest large amounts of soft fruit: raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries , blackcurrants, red currents, rhubarb, and this year for the first time blueberries. We not only eat these all summer but freeze large quantities for the winter, usually at least 40 pounds. We also have large crops of apples which we store to eat and cut up windfalls to make smoothies. This year I have salvaged a few pounds of windfall apples and a few handfuls of Autumn raspberries. The rest fell and rotted. There is still fruit in the freezer from last year but the stock has not been replenished at all.
The garden has indeed continued to grow. Lawns and hedges have been well taken care of by Ed from church and are under control. The weed suppressant fabric has done its job reasonably well but weeds are growing tall around the edges. Elsewhere the garden is covered in weeds which have gone to seed creating a problem for future years. With the generally grey, wet weather it is a daunting prospect to get it under control again.
Sounds a strange thing to say but I miss the hens. Looking after them wasn’t onerous but imparted a simple structure to the day which began with feeding them and letting them out and ended with collecting the eggs and shutting them in. The daily routine has gone and with it the impelling urge to get out of bed early in the morning to feed them. Since I got back I open the kitchen blinds in the morning and my instinct is to go down the garden to the hen run.
Do these unexpected consequences of being away in the summer make me regret going? Not at all. It is a matter of finding how to deal with the issues they raise. In any case they are, in the greater scheme of things, mere inconveniences.
Of much greater moment is the unexpected consequence of the decision over 40 years ago to get married. At the tender young age of 24 the words “until death us do part” trip glibly off the tongue. There is a nominal acknowledgement that one could get run over by a bus but, other things being equal, the anticipation was that we would continue together into the distant and difficult to envisage future. If we had to put a finger on the implications of what this would mean in practical terms we would ferret around in our imaginations and come up with something along the lines of growing decrepit and unable to look after ourselves. The thought of death is in the context of the first person singular – “I might die”. We tend not to think of our life-partner dying.
For some years before she was diagnosed with cancer Enfys would now and again mention the possibility of dying before me and I would simply pooh-pooh the thought and point to the average life expectancy of men compared with women. We would briefly discuss what would happen if one of us did die, usually in the context of moving house. I was all for staying here, Enfys was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to cope with the garden. For me at least, there was no reality about the discussion, it was entirely theoretical.
But it isn’t theoretical anymore. It has happened and the consequences of it happening were unexpected and are difficult to deal with and very painful.
Do these consequences make me now regret having got married, with the emotional commitment that involved? Not for one second! It would be a very sad life if we didn’t make commitments because we were afraid of unforseen consequences. But more than that, the difficulties weigh light against 40 years of happiness and 2 great kids (and 4 granchildren). If I knew then how difficult it is now would I have got married all those years ago? Lead me to it!!!
I finished work on 19 August 2005. When I got back from my leaving do at 20.00 Enfys was sitting on the balcony having a coffee, a magnificent sky behind her. I knew then that it was a portent. We had 4 good years after that.
Why am I getting so heavy in this blog? It is a year ago today that Enfys died.
I’ll try to get back to normal grumpiness next time.