A Country Diary – 38
11 January 2005
YESTERDAY I WAS up in front of the beak for my driving offences. I had tried to mitigate the sentence by taking all my documents, MOT, licence, insurance, into the police station last week and filling in a form. The policewoman on duty put a note on the form to the effect that my friend’s insurance policy didn’t seem to cover me, but wrote in the details anyway. Lawyers had warned me that I was looking at a fine and six to eight points on my driving licence. Well, I bathed, shaved and put on a suit and tie and drove to the magistrate’s court for 11am. Did I look smart, or just like a homeless man going to court? I sat outside the court rooms and filled in a means form while various ne’er do wells in hooded tops shuffled and swaggered in and out of the courts. At first I thought I was the only one there who had bothered putting on a tie, but then I noticed that a bright blue tie had suddenly appeared from beneath one chap’s hooded sweatshirt. Just before his appearance, he took off the hoodie altogether. On leaving the court, it went straight back on again. Another cocky young man with a constant smirk pushed open the door to a court room before turning back round to his girlfriend and saying: “it’s that old slag again,” presumably referring to one of the magistrates. After a two hour wait, it was my turn. And the, and then well, let’s say that I believe in miracles. I walked into the giant court room. Three magistrates sat behind a bench. There was a female clerk and a recorder in a gown. I stood up, gave my name, sat down, stood up. Then the clerk began to speak. “Mr Hodgkinson has now produced his documents so that charge no longer stands which leaves us with the one remaining charge of failing to produce his documents at a police station when first asked, which is non-endorsable offence.” I was on the point of interrupting to say, had they really looked closely at the insurance document but decided it would be wise to follow correct procedures and only speak when asked. I watched in disbelief that the gods had smiled on me so decisively as the magistrates peered at my documents. The central one then said in his croaky septuagenarian voice: “well, everything appears to be in order. And can you tell the court why you didn’t produce your documents in the proper time?” I replied that the car was not mine and I had thought that the owner was going to send in the documents. “Well, that is very clearly explained. You will be aware that failing to produce your documents has led to administrative costs for the court. Therefore you will be fined £65 and thank you for coming to the court.”
THE WEATHER has been grim lately but we’ve been managing to keep the house heated up. After three years I seem to getting the hang of the wood-burner. The key is in adjusting the vents at the bottom which control the air-flow. At night, you can close them completely and the fire will still be smouldering in the morning. If you have got it right, all you need to do is open them up and the fire will roar into life. It would be nice to have more wood-burners around the house. To this end we have mentioned to the landlord that we’d like to stay longer and have mooted the possibility of doing a five year deal, rather than the month-by-month thing that we’re on now. I have made investigations and this seems perfectly possible. Given that the landlord does not want to sell the house and that we could not afford it anyway, it makes a lot of sense to continue to rent. We are all obsessed by owning houses these days, but if renting was reasonably priced and the leases were longer, why bother buying? John Seymour rented for may years, as did the Bloomsbury group at Charleston and, of course, Crass at Dial House. When you know you are going to be in a house long term, then you don’t mind spending some time and money on improving it. And as for the argument that renting is “throwing money away,” what then are mortgage interest payments? Surely it could be argued that they are a worse case of “throwing money away” since they disappear into the moneybags of the usurious mortgage company, never to be seen again?
THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS plants, while disappointing, did offer up a couple of bowls of sprouts for us, and what’s more, the children like them, which is quite amazing. I read in the paper that kale is some sort of wonderfood with cancer-killing properties, so I wait eagerly for my kale plants to grow back after the sheep attack. I’ve been working on clearing all the overgrowth from around the veg patch wall, and things are starting to look a little less scruffy up there. One idea is to move the strawberry plants into grow bags and put them along the top of the wall as an anti-slug measure. My plan for this year is to plant a lot of fruit, something along the lines of Graham Burnett’s forest garden so any tips as to what I should be planting and what sort of soil and conditions they like would be very welcome. I have started with one blackcurrant tree and one redcurrant tree, which I planted in the front garden. They cost only £1.50 each which I thought was good value.
WE’RE SKINT AGAIN. The royalties cheque I received in September has all gone, and more, leaving us in debt mode once again. I will next get money when I hand in the draft of the new book, so I really ought to hurry up and finish it rather than indulging myself in enjoyable distractions such as writing this diary.