Today I have been hauling logs about like some sort of serf. A serf with a wheelbarrow and a bad attitude. If I had had a mud-brown sackcloth tunic on, I would have looked like a woodcut from the Fourteenth Century. Terry Jones would have used my picture in one of his historical programmes, with some hilarious animations to make my head fall off.
Why? Well, I'll tell you.
A few weeks ago we had the apple tree in the back garden pruned. It has been reduced by about a third, maybe more, to try and encourage it to grow more healthily. I hope it works. The pruning meant that a huge heap of branches were left on the lawn, much to the interest of the birds. Today was the day we dealt with them. I loaded up the wheelbarrow and dragged the larger logs to the woodshed*, grumbling fluently the whole time.
Mr WithaY, meanwhile, was manning the chipper. This is not, as the name suggests, a machine for turning potatoes into delicious hot chips, to be sprinkled with salt and vinegar. No. It is a frankly terrifying machine that you feed with sticks and it spits the resultant woodchips into a suitable container. It's more of a monster that needs appeasement than a garden tool.
You feed it with sticks which the machine grabs, sucking them into the whirling Blade of Doom. It spits chunks back out of the top at high speed, aiming for your eyes. If it decides to keep all of the stick in the grinding, roaring innards, it jams bits of them in the workings, forcing the user to poke at them with other sticks until they too are minced up.
It's all very unsatisfactory and alarming. If the whirling, chopping blade grabs the branch while you're still holding onto it, it whips it about in your hand, which is painful and scary. I was harbouring fears of being sucked in and shredded. Not that I'd fit, of course, but it wasn't an entirely rational fear. It was like feeding the maelstrom. With sticks.
Also, given Mr WithaY's track record, I was yipping with alarm every time he poked the machinery with the Poking Stick. No wonder I was relegated to the lowly Serf With Wheelbarrow position.
Other news: Friday night we were in the pub, chatting to some mates about films we've watched recently. Mr WithaY and I were talking about "In Bruges", which we watched before Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed.
"Oh, I saw that!" said a friend. She went on to tell us that when she watched it she was struck by the incredible versatility of the lead actor, especially his convincing Irish accent. She said it was some considerable time before she realised that Colin Farrell was the man in question, not, as she had at first thought, Will Ferrell.
"I saw him in "Elf" the night before, and was amazed how different he looked!" she told us. Bless.
Also, we have bought some more fish. Ten little neon tetra, which just light up the tank beautifully. No more fatalities since the hideous outbreak of shrimp-eating, which is encouraging. The fish shop we go to also has a garden centre with lots of statuary on sale. I was most taken by a giant Chinese stylee stone lion. I have no idea how much it is** but I already know where I will put it if I do ever buy it.
Maybe later in the year, when things are more organised out there.
*Where I didn't see Something Nasty, thankfully
**I'm guessing A Lot