I am alone. Just for the evening, that is, the Sage is at a meeting. I feel more pleasure than is warranted by his absence, because he’s at a PCC meeting, and I’m no longer on the PCC (this is, I should explain, the committee that runs the church. I used to be secretary and then, for six years, churchwarden). I have been asked if I’d be willing to rejoin at the AGM in April and I’ve said no. I was forewarned that the present secretary is standing down, and I have to admit to myself that I don’t want to be secretary of anything again, partly because I’d have no one to delegate to. But I’d not do it anyway. If anything proves to me that I made the right decision, it’s the glee I feel when there’s a meeting on and I don’t have to go to it.
The Sage’s sister gave us a tin of chocolate biscuits for Christmas. We’re quite matter-of-fact about this, we give her Stilton and she gives us chocolate biscuits. When the Sage opened the tin, he offered it to me and I took one. Just now, I thought that maybe I’d have another. I’ve just looked and there are three left. Hmm. Not that I’ve any objection to his eating of good quality chocolate biscuits, but I’ve only seen him munching two or three of them, and the tin has been in this room the whole time. He’s a secret muncher!
Anyway, I thought I might watch television. Nothing appealed. The least tempting offer was on Channel Four – sorry, Channel 4 – Grimefighters, A Dagenham flat overrun by cockroaches. So I’m listening to a CD of Round the Horne, instead.
I am quite relaxed around all sorts of creepy crawlies. I’m the one in the family who’s called on to lift spiders out of the bath, centipedes out of the artichoke and bishy barnabies (not that anyone dislikes them, of course, except the Harlequin variety on principle) from the rosebud. I did have quite a thing about cockroaches, however. We once had a load of coal delivered, when I was a child, into the cellar and it must have contained eggs, because during that winter a great many of the little beasts emerged into the kitchen. They’re terribly difficult to kill, being almost impervious to insecticide. Stamping on them is the best option, and my mother used to sneak out into the kitchen, snap on the light and lunge on to as many as possible as they scurried for cover. It was most unpleasant. Eventually they were vanquished and I never saw one again until, in a fairly basic hotel in India, they were always to be found in the bathroom. To my surprise, they didn’t bother me at all. They were quite small, for one thing, and they weren’t in a kitchen (my poor ma, how horrible for her). I was relieved that what I’d thought was a lifetime phobia had resolved itself into matter-of-factness. I still don’t want to see a television programme about them, however.
As I say, they’re almost impossible to kill except by a direct blow, and there are various creatures and plants like that, and I always wonder, why haven’t they completely taken over? In my garden, it’s a constant battle – well, it would be if I hadn’t given in long ago – against ground elder, thistles, nettles, brambles and bindweed. So how come they don’t cover the entire ground? And sycamore trees! – A large example blew down in 1986 and we were getting seedlings sprouting up for years afterwards. I was really pleased when it blew down, even though it landed across the drive (no harm done) because of those damn seedlings, and there are still a few saplings that, however often they’re cut down, keep sprouting again. Then there’s hawthorn, which self-seeds everywhere, elder bushes, all sorts of things. Is there something self-limiting about them, so that they kill themselves after a few years’ proliferation?