Having spent most of my life as a townie, I had always assumed that fields and trees and hedges stayed the same for year after year unless you did something to them. When I retired and bought a house with a paddock and lots of trees and many hedges, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the opposite is true. Fields and trees and hedges only stay the same if you keep doing things to them. Nettles, thistles and brambles take over your paddock, your hedges turn into rampant 16-foot tall Triffids, and trees shed large rotten branches onto passers-by and grow into neighbouring power lines, thus cutting off the electricity supply to much of the village in windy weather.
There is a cure for all these ills, but it always involves backbreaking effort. Thomas Hardy in one of his novels based on life in Dorset mentions women who worked in the fields as scrattlers, digging out thistles for sixpence a day. Having tried a bit of scrattling myself, I now accept that the function of the gentleman is to provide employment for the worker, so now I always 'get a man in'.
This generally involves a haemorrhage of cash. I was quoted a price of £470 to trim my hedges recently. When I pointed out that the same job by the same firm last year had only cost £300, this required some explanation. It seems that it was all to do with VAT, which hadn't been added.
OK, VAT last year was 15%, so that would have made it £345 rather than £300.
Yes but VAT has gone up to 17% this year.
OK, so that's another 2%, making it £351, but that's still a long way short of £470 isn't it?
Ah, but petrol and wages have gone up a lot in the last year.
Oh dear, what a pity, because my pension hasn't gone up a lot, so I'll need to get more estimates.
OK, Let's call it £360 cash.
This nit-picking over the odd £100 contrasts with the documentary I heard on BBC 4 on the same day about Fine Art sales at Sotheby's. The obviously very well-connected young lady with the cut-glass accent explained that the art market is just about holding up in these straitened times. There are still plenty of people who can afford 3 million for a painting, but the number who can afford 30 million has sadly dwindled since the banks collapsed. Breaks you heart doesn't it!
This reminds me of the banker who ordered a new Porsche from the dealer and posted an enthusiastic message on Facebook to say that he couldn't wait for the new 911. It seems that about 500 Taliban members immediately added him to their list of Friends.
Only joking.....(Nervous laughter. Legend - don't be tempted).