The rotted panel wasn’t heavy, but being the second light thing lifted and lugged along the awkward assault course at the rear of our house, done, I lay against the wall. The big tough rugby player removing our shed said, “You all right?” “Need a rest.”
“He shouldn’t be working!” my wife chided. “So take it easy, mate.”
I gave up and watched my wife help him and another guy because one of the young fellows we’d hired hadn’t turned up. “I get fed up with unreliable people,” the rugby guy said, “happens all the time, last minute they ring in ‘sick’…..”
The other guy added, “Always those younger than 35….” “Them in their twenties…useless…..”
“Makes you wonder what the future holds….” “Our 24 year old plumber’s great,” I intervened. “Yea! There’s a few gems like 11 year old Max Woosey, garden-camping for an entire year to raise money for his local hospice. And look at you! An old geezer…” “Hey come on!” I play-pushed the air.
The big guy laughed, “Very, very old and sick but still pulling your weight….” “Hardly anything. It’s instinct. You do what’s to be done….”
”You’ve not got The C virus?” The big chap winked.
“No, unless you’ve given it to me.” The other guy said, “Seen those young Bristol idealists all crammed together in protest!”
I said, “I agree with their principle, but in Covid times!” “Yup, We’re at war with this virus, laws have to reflect it until we’ve won.”
The rugby guy looked at me, “So come on,” he laughed, “what’s up?”
“Amongst other stuff, if I over-do it I’m in danger of another mini-stroke.”
”Blimey! That’s not happening on my watch!”
“It’d be my fault…” “But who’d pay me?” He chuckled.
“My wife would still be here….” “Oh, that’s good then, but what’d we do with you?” “Kick me into that hole…” “I’ll do that now, save us all the bother. So go on, tell more.”
“It’s boring, long, complicated, unbelievable.” “Shock me!” He laughed.
“OK. Here’s an outline. Working for a charity years ago, several tropical diseases, dengue fever, glandular fever and cholera, ruined an Olympic fit man. Six years ago, during a knee replacement operation my heart expanded, a series of mini strokes ensued; I climbed back slowly. But this last year’s been tough, three intensive viral attacks, to my brain, to my muscular system, and another rendered me extremely vulnerable. After ‘an internal procedure’ in hospital, serious internal infections held me bed/sofa-bound for two months. They looked inside me, it happened again. On doc’s orders, a bag’s always packed for rapid hospitalisation….There’s more, but that’s enough detail.” “Cor blimey!” He looked at me. “Quick, pay me NOW! incase you’re a gonna before I finish.”
It took them two hours for the three of them to clear the shed and clutter, lifting each segment out of a 3 metre sunken area beside our house, up steps, along and around the rear of the house, down more steps, through a narrow passageway, down more steps and on to his truck. They were all exhausted, my wife included. I love these tough Somerset guys, they work like devils and don’t complain, ‘Salt of the earth’, as they say. You laugh and tease one another and for those few hours you are the best of mates. That’s one of the great things about South-West England.