We are congratulating ourselves on a small but significant victory over inertia. At the end of last summer, the Real World Consultant donated some surplus props to the household – he had personally seen enough of them, having toured them round Europe in a truck for weeks on end – two potted date palms named Gilbert and George, and a black fibreglass column. On a day of being severely snowed in earlier in the year, the black fibreglass column moved into my study and became a white fibreglass column, and subsequently, a marbled column. Since its destination was the greenhouse, I then coated it with clear satin-finish yacht varnish. But at this point things went pear-shaped; the clear varnish was not, it turned out, clear. It was yellowish-brown, and it collected in the flutes of the column. In short, it looked like death. Not without a certain amount of grinding of teeth, I painted the whole thing white again. And there, for four months, it stayed, white and reproachful, in the middle of my study. I knew damn well that if I moved it it would never get done, but it is, or should be, a truth universally acknowledged that while it is often possible to find time to do a fiddly little job, it is almost impossible to find time to do the same job twice. But at last, yesterday, before we went to Strathdon, I did it, and what is more, I marbled the concrete bust of the Venus de Milo which was to go on top of it. The gamekeeper, who had rashly turned up with four large trout, was co-opted, grumbling furiously, to carry the bust round to the greenhouse. To his severely practical mind, a greenhouse is for growing tomatoes in; he cannot see why we want not only to grow tomatoes, but to pretend, from time to time, that it is Alderman Shufflebotham’s Winter Gardens. ‘daft … you two are bloody mad, d’you know that?’ and suchlike illiberal sentiments were heard to escape him as he shuffled, muttering, round the side of the house bent beneath the weight of the Venus de Milo … but whatever the gamekeeper might think, it looks very nice. And the passionflower has come out. Oh, and the Real World Consultant has given me one of the kind of strelitzia which grows 10 metres high, which is something to look forward to.