Apologies to our old and valued client for prolonged neglect. Things have been a little complicated. We had an Unlamented Uncle to dispose of – the old party in question having outlived his friends, wife, wits, &c., was not any great source of grief; so condolences are quite otiose. The funeral was a perfectly dignified affair, conducted by an obvious PageRunner, a tubby, slightly camp and perfectly sweet minister of the Global Standard Deity (vide Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair, and subsequent volumes.). This fellow finessed as best he could a life which could only be described as a no-score draw (terms in prison: 0. achievements, 0. children, 0. etc). Then the erstwhile Uncle (of whom my only memory is that he contrived to fall in a goldfish pond at his sister’s 70th birthday party, emerging covered in duckweed but otherwise reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty, since he was holding a champagne bottle on high in case anything got in it), was whisked off discreetly to become a pile of fluffy grey ash, and enrich the Memorial Garden. This is planted with roses, which thrive on rich feeding, and I am sure that come the summer, they will be a perfect picture. I only hope they dig the old boy in under a Whisky Mac; it would not be inappropriate.
We returned to our remote northern fastnesses to find that the Apparitional Gamekeeper had been busy. Bursting with pride, he showed us a regiment of small pots in the greenhouse – he had decided to become pro-active with tomatoes. He’s rather taken to the greenhouse. We told him that if he was going to build a house and become self sufficient (this is on his agenda) he would have to learn about growing vegetables, and he evidently took us at our word. He also discovered that on a day of uninterrupted brilliant sunshine (we do have them, honest) the temperature in the greenhouse will rocket into the mid-thirties if not higher, so that if you hose the whitewashed wall the water comes straight off again as steam. He told me he had availed himself of this to have a DIY sauna which amused me very much. Some time I must tell him that in these circumstances one opens the door and allows air to circulate since it’s terribly stressful for the plants, but tact suggests, not just yet. Anyway, he was back with us again today, covering himself with mud and glory in equal proportion. Last year, Mark the Squaddie attempted to dig me out a future herb garden from the tarmac at the back of the house. But he didn’t dig deep enough, and failed to break through the puddled clay which once upon a time, underlay a cobbled back yard. The result, in the wet winter which has just passed, turned into a dank and depressing water feature. However, in the course of today, the Apparitional One dug out forty or fifty cubic feet of waterlogged earth, hacked through the clay with his dad’s pickaxe, found, barrowed and tipped in load after load of rubble, slates, and pebbles, built up the sides of the future bed with disused railway sleepers to raise it a foot above ground level, put all the earth back, and even tidied up after himself, amazing to relate. Even he is going to be as stiff as a board tonight; it was very heavy work and after all, he is only sixteen. We were immensely pleased with him for sticking at it, though. It takes a lot of character to see a job like that through to finish.