The hedge-planting season is drawing to an end, and I soon need to find a substitute for the day a week that I have been working at Mill Farm Trees.
To be honest, it has been the surprise package of my winter, and I have enjoyed no bit of it more than taking deliveries out to the farms, sites and villages of the area.
The first time I set off as delivery driver back in December, I had that long-forgotten thrill of nervous apprehension, a kind of feeling in the pit of my stomach that it might go wrong. What if I didn’t find the place? Or couldn’t undo the knots on the rope securing the load? Or left the wrong plants at the wrong place? Or they thought I was a prat? And it slowly dawned on me how important that nervousness is to all human progress. Without it, we just plod.
I have learned again to navigate without the help of a Satnav, by studying and memorising the route on a map before the journey, and only stopping to confirm it if absolutely necessary. And I am prouder than I should be that I have never once had to ask anyone the way.
I have lived again in a world of no hands-free phone, where the wretched thing just goes into a pocket for the duration of the journey, and have felt once more the joy of no one else knowing where I am.
I have secretly basked in the warmth of being paid to sit in a traffic jam, and noticed what a difference that makes to the quality of a journey. And I have relearned the fine art of thinking about absolutely nothing, and doing it for hours: birds beginning with the letter ‘E’, for example, or reasons old girlfriends dumped me. Therealreasons, not just the ones they said.
I have found places to buy snacks where I didn’t even know that there were places, and I have watched eight red kites circling high above a hill that only I was on.
The February and March financial records of the Rownhams Services branch of Macdonalds will show that I ate Big Mac Meals on three occasions, not because it was a meal time, but because I was hungry. Eating a meal just because you are hungry is an under-rated freedom these days. Eating a private meal that you are publicly rude about is better still.
I have loaded the pick-up whilst listening to a nurserywoman telling me about the poetry she writes to raise money for the centre that looks after her bipolar sister. And when I asked her to recite some, she did, and it was beautiful.
I have measured my journeys in the sounds I hear, in the specific radio programmes I tune into, and out of. I scored eighteen points on Pop Masterson two occasions and thrilled to the seductive Wirral tones of Winifred Robinson on You and Yours every time I went out. Moreover, I now know without doubt, thanks to Melvin Bragg, that Thomas Aquinas’Aeterni Patris is the definitive exposition of Catholic Doctrine. And no, Jeremy Vine never lasted more than three minutes.
Ultimately, you can’t beat Maslov and the third of his hierarchy of human needs, belongingness. To be part of something that a great friend has created from nothing, and to understand after all these years that he wasn’t just sitting with his feet on a desk drinking coffee and eating cheesy wotsits.
Not all the time, anyway.