The little things… there’s nothing bigger, is there?

Yesterday, during a huge deluge of rain, I heard an ominous dripping noise. I’m largely deaf in my left ear and amuse my family by not having much sense of direction for sound, but I eventually tracked down the steady beat to the chimney; fat drops of rain falling behind the wood-burning stove. I rang a local builder (who specialises in restoring beautiful slate roves, but is wonderful for many jobs) and he promised to take pictures and see what can be done, but the worst-case scenario is a dire amount of money. I left the rain falling indoors to make more phone calls – organising the return of a computer that doesn’t work; the annual check up from the Child Benefit office to ask (again) why I home educate and whether I am really doing so; chasing up paperwork for my daughter’s new flat that was several days overdue; wrestling with a new service for emails that had proved a nightmare to set up. The days dose of bureaucracy over, I turned to editing a poetry collection that is wonderful, but is proving a leviathan at this stage: a trilogy in one volume with each of the three books in sections and around fourteen line drawings scattered throughout. The final files numbered forty-four pdfs and, of course, when I combined them into the master document there was a page more than there should have been and I had to spend time searching for the point from which the page numbers had gone awry and redoing all the pdf documents affected. By lunch time the rain had stopped and I was feeling optimistic about my progress with the trilogy. After lunch one of my sons took a shower and the other called me to see the waterfall splashing down the newly painted hallway wall on its way to the bottom floor. The seal on the bath, over which the shower is installed, had perished (again). I tracked the water down to the bottom floor to find not only more wet walls, but also that the cat had decided against using her litter tray. Later, when we cleaned the house ready for guests arriving on Monday, the hoover blew the trip for the top two floors and we discovered that a wall socket attached to the extension cord had fallen into several pieces. Sometimes I think that a neat little modern house with actual plumbing and central heating instead of dodgy chimneys and wood burners that need constant work would make for a saner life. Some days there are so many maintenance jobs – for the house, for family events, for minor crises… that I wonder how I manage to find time for actual work. In a world of political and economic uncertainty that is rife with injustice and casual in the face of ecological disaster, bad plumbing and the quirks of an old building are as nothing. And as for a saner life… What could be better for sanity than walking into my kitchen/dining area to admire the tiling and decorating that my sons and I have done over the last couple of weeks – or teaching myself how to apply sealant to the bath to stop the leaks (despite it being noxious and very hard to wash off hands) – or walking through the village on a grey, but beautiful August day, in awe for the thousand thousandth time by the view of the Moelwyns and charmed by the steam train running by? What could be a better way to make a living (if sometimes precariously so) than working with words? As the main character, David, says in the movie Vanilla Sky:

The little things… there’s nothing bigger, is there?


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6 responses to “The little things… there’s nothing bigger, is there?

  1. Oh what a lovely blog entry. The so-called “little things” – the intangibles, the view, the ambience of a place, the satisfaction of a small tweak to the aesthetics of one’s environment… I just bought a perfect tiny blue cup in a charity shop here in France where I’m writing, and the wee espressos I am having out of it to break up my day are moments of perfect contentment.

    But I’m so glad I don’t have a chimney like yours, Jan.

  2. Great blog, Jan.
    Your kitchen looks lovely.

    Next time I am passing I shall drop in for a coffee.

    The riots in Hackney have blown themselves out. At least our chimneys and plumbing are working well.

    See you soon


  3. Lovely blog, Jan. Keep it coming. I’m absolutely with you on the little things. I have so many small sources of pleasure in my life and my home. When people ask me, ‘Are you going on holiday?’ I never quite know what they mean. Holiday from what? It is smashing right here, mmmm. xx

  4. The little things are great, Jan; thank you for this sneak peak into your universe. As a (reluctant) engineer, I have spent my life designing solutions to other peoples’ problems and to excel at that I always search for the smallest, littlest, minutest thing. Experience shouts that is the root cause of all users woes and once fixed all the other problems will fall by the wayside.

    As for your wood burning stove needing contant attention, if one of those attentions is regular refuelling, have you heard of Blazers Fuel Logs? They are awesome and made in Wales. They are cheap, contain 10% moisture, burn for hours and provide the same heat output as dirty smelly smutty coal. Sales pitch over. And no, I do not have shares in the small family run company. But being able to have shares in a family run small press, now there’s a thought.

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