Friday, 10 August 2018

Tackling the Vandals

There are a lot of advantages to living up a kilometre of dirt track. Of course, peace is pretty near the top of the list, plus the fact that one gets to see a thrilling selection of wildlife.

We continually count our blessings too, because there are just two more homes up the hill from us, which are close enough for any of those living up here to be on hand in the event of an emergency, yet not so close as to mean we sacrifice any of our privacy.

The view is, of course, a big factor in the equation. Our sea view is lovely, whilst that of the two houses higher up than us is even more spectacular. With all the new development that's going on along the coastal strip, we are hardly affected at all, which is a huge plus point. Just to illustrate this. There is a UK couple living a couple of kilometres from us, yet their house is only a hundred metres from the beach across what was formerly flat agricultural land. When they moved out here, their rear garden backed on to fields that the farmer used to use to grow aubergines and onions. He would regularly tell the couple that they were welcome to go into the field to salvage leftovers from the crop, which we also were able to do from time to time. There were neglected vines growing along the chainlink fence that bordered the country lanes there, which meant that passers-by could also pluck a nice bunch of grapes as they passed, during the right season.

Recently, however, a huge new all-inclusive hotel has gone up in the area between their back garden and the beach, resulting in them now having a water chute twice the height of their house towering not metres from their fence and emptying out into a very noisy pool, which is so close they can almost feel the spray from the splashes as kids hit the pool after a slide down the chute. Word is going around that the couple were offered the chance to sell up to the developer before it was too late, but no one ever refers to the fact that the developer wanted to give them a pittance for the property.

The issue referred to above is a very, very hot potato and doesn't merit my going into here, but it does highlight the fact that, to the layman like me, it seems that planning and development, and how the infrastructure is meant to cope with all of that, seems very much to be a profit-driven thing here, with scant regard for the consequences of each new development to the locals.

Up here though, at least for the foreseeable future, we still count our blessings. One could argue the case for living in a village. It's largely down to personal choice. For us, the village mentality, which although has its advantages, don't get me wrong, would be a little too claustrophobic.

The downside of living up here? Well, for at least six months of the year it's a virtual impossibility to keep your vehicle clean from the relentless fine, yellow dust, which has an almost flour-like consistency. You could be cleaning your car every single time you get home, since a dust cloud erupts behind you as you drive along the lane. I've recently taken a leaf out of the Rhodean taxi-drivers' book by purchasing one of these...

Having seen taxi drivers busily buffing up their vehicles with these while killing time waiting for fares, I thought, "Aha! That would save a lot of water at home." And you know what? It does. When we get home now, during these dry months when the landscape is tinder-dry and dust is everywhere, in merely two or three minutes I can run this baby over the sides and rear door of the car and it comes up like showroom! With not a single drop of precious water used. So you get the added bonus that they're environmentally responsible too. You just have to remember to bash it against your hand every few sweeps, to remove the dust that builds up on it.

Another slight pain about the lane is the fact that the undergrowth, the local vegetation, is always making incursions from either side as you drive up and down it. Some of the plants and shrubs are OK, quite innocuous, but others, and these are the ones I call the vandals, if not cut back now and then, can seriously scratch your paintwork and thus need showing who's boss.

Thus it was that yesterday,, wait, the day before - it all becomes a blur - when I spent a very sweaty time of it lopping and secateuring this stuff, which had begun to project so far into the lane that we were having to weave about with the car to avoid it. It's gorse, and it takes no prisoners...

Now, those spikes are its leaves. That's why gorse can survive, even become invasive, in dry climates with poor and rocky soil. Not much transpiration. It even scores when there's a fire. Yes it's extremely combustible and burns quickly, but it will also re-sprout from its rootstock within days of the fire having passed. The spikes can be an inch and a half long and they are so hard that they will easily puncture a car tyre if hit at the right angle. I know, because it's happened to us. So the job of cutting it back has to be undertaken now and then. You can imagine how careful one has to be when pruning this beast. We rarely manage a session without sustaining a few punctures of the forearms. You have to try and get in as low as you can with the cutters, then gingerly grab the piece you've lopped, while it does its level best to swing around in the breeze and stab you, and then sling it as far away from the lane as you can, being careful to take into account the wind direction in the process. If it comes back at you, you'd better run. It's vitally important too, to do a visual sweep of the lane afterward to pick up any of the pieces that drop, for fear of your tyres running over them.

Most swords have two edges though. Yes, during the summer months we curse the stuff, yet in winter, as spring approaches, gorse fills the hillsides with not only a glorious display of bright yellow flowers, but also a heady scent too. Taking that side of it into account, I have to say that, although gorse is a vandal intent on running a scratch right along the side of your car, it kind of redeems itself at other times. I suppose you can find some good in everyone if you look hard enough, eh?

You still have to show it who's boss though. So, without further ado and without looking for any more excuses, I'd better grab my loppers and secateurs and get off down the lane for another session. When your lane is a kilometre long, you don't tackle these vandals all in one go, it takes several sessions with factor fifty smeared all over your exposed skin!

No comments:

Post a Comment