Thursday 8 July 2021

The Challenges of Domesticity

 It occurred to me today, as I chopped away at long grass and sticky willy with the garden scissors, that when you are a Searching Single, your principal challenge is changing your Single state, but when you get married, you have a whole new list of challenges. One trap you can fall into is going from weeping over your Single state to weeping over your childless state---unless you do have children, in which case you might weep over never having any time for yourself/not becoming CEO. Weeping seems inevitable, but you can choose not to indulge in it most of the time. 

My principal challenge is doing all the things I want to do as well as all the things I have to do. There are only so many hours in the day and, besides, my arms hurt from overuse syndrome and my ankle hurts from excessive pronation. Also, I want to put another big overpayment on the mortgage but, for the sake of my excessively pronating ankles, I had to buy orthopaedic slippers. (My physio says I can no longer walk about my home in socks.) I wanted to avoid buying slippers made in China, but the "Made in Austria" claim of the snazzy slipper manufacturer actually means "Assembled in China or Vietnam." (The slippers were invented in, and the wool is still grown and made into fabric in, Austria, which the manufacturer thinks counts.)

As usual, my principal challenge can be summed up as Being Rooted in Reality. In related news, this morning I again handwashed my three pairs of Made in England socks, which together cost £45.50. Benedict Ambrose says there is no way they will last, but I am sure that socks of such good pedigree will last if they are treated well. Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme believes one should pay good money for top quality tools and clothing---and nothing else except stocks, really. 

One of Jacob's many axioms that I find particularly helpful is that when you have a problem, you should think about how to solve it without spending any money. For some years, B.A. and I have had the worn-upholstery-on-our-green-and-pink-armchairs problem. Occasionally we discuss having the chairs reupholstered and ponder how we would get them to an upholsterer (could we carry them without attracting a crowd of yobs and urchins?). Meanwhile, the arms get more and more worn, and I took to putting a bed sock on the right arm of my chair to stop my own overused arm from getting prickled by horsehair. So far so good, and no money spent. But as it happened, we invited our priest for dinner, so really, something had to be done. First I thought I would make armchair covers from corduroy bought from a hobby shop. But then we couldn't get to the hobby shop, so I had to come up with another solution. Jacob's axiom sprang to mind, and then I remembered I had green-and-pink dinner napkins somewhere. I dug them out and--Behold! Instant armchair covers. 

Listen, it's not that I'm cheap. It's that I'm 50 and want to pay off the mortgage fast, so we can save for retirement. 

Another domestic challenge is our two out-of-control beech hedges, aka Our Shame. Our Shame impinges on the garden of our downstairs neighbour on the south side and that of her next-door neighbour on the north. We would blot out Our Shame ourselves if B.A.'s illness hadn't wrecked his ability to balance and if I didn't have overuse syndrome. It's annoying, and we feel like old crocks, but in this situation we really do have to get someone to do it. 

"£800," said the first someone (from a large firm) who looked at Our Shame when I got back from paying my physio £50. He then had a look at my face and suggested £700 cash-in-hand. We said we'd think about it.

"£200," said the second someone (from his own firm) who looked at Our Shame.

"Done," I said, so happily that the young man seemed surprised. He then suggested that for £230 he could make sure all the leaves and branches were taken away. 

"Done," I said again. 

I did, however, repeat that this was going to be £230, and he agreed. I don't know if he will do as gold-plated a job as the large firm would have done, but being Rooted in Reality here, I'm not paying £700, let alone £800, to have the beech hedges cut down to size. This is not the New Town, pal. This is not Dublin Street. Meanwhile, we had the roof fixed last month, and that was £288.

Homeownership is one long song of expenses, and I will enjoy totting up the figures when the mortgage is paid off to see if it is indeed cheaper than renting, as B.A. swears it is. I'm hoping B.A. wins that particular argument, and indeed I am helping by chucking as much as possible at the mortgage. 

Meanwhile, it's a good day already because I did half an hour of gardening, half an hour of Polish study, an hour of exercise, including most of those prescribed by my physio, and have managed to blog. Now I must go to work, which will not be as difficult as yesterday, for I have already translated two-thirds of an Italian interview with Cardinal Sarah and need only to write my article and move onto the next thing. 


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