Over the weekend, I somehow ended up spending three and a half gruelling hours raking the churchyard. Try as I might, I have no recollection of volunteering my services. I can only suppose that it must have been very late, and that I must have been particularly well oiled. This suggests commendable (and characteristic) shrewdness on the part of the person who enlisted me.
However, of one thing I am quite certain: I would never knowingly have volunteered for anything which started at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. (I was about to say “at the ungodly hour of”, before realising that it was quite the opposite. God thrives on Bright And Early Starts.)
Let me make something quite clear: I am, by nature, a self-confessed Effete Drawing Room Fop. Extended periods of physical exertion are anathema to me; for I have no wish to be brought face to face with my wide range of incompetencies. Show me a hoe, and I will automatically hold it upside down. Put me in charge of a lawnmower, and I will squeal with terror as it charges away with me. Hand me a rake, and I will deploy it in such a way that my entire body will hum with pain for days afterwards – as evidenced by my current pitiful physical condition.
The worst of the pain is centered around my lower back, and – thanks to a brief but debilitating attempt to wield a pair of shears – both of my wrists. “They’ve never exactly been my strong point”, I quipped, somewhat daringly, over lunch in the pub with the rest of the morning’s conscripts – carefully curling my delivery with the requisite degrees of irony. With gags like these, you walk a tightrope.
Dragging my rake directly over the top of the village’s former chief supplier of heterosexual pornography (we ate lunch together only three years ago), I was surprised – cheered, even – to feel not even the slightest of shudders. In a village, you can readily attain an easy familiarity with the cycles of birth and death.
Later that afternoon, hobbling round the cottage like an elderly arthritic, I caught sight of the bulls in the field opposite, and mused benignly upon the gastronomic pleasures that lie ahead. At times like these, one feels so deliciously elemental, my dears.