You will have noted that Nick, blog owner and master of Podding Acres, wherein lies the humble structure from whence emanates that sporadic outpouring of general guff, known to its small band of faithful adherents as The Podding Shed, and to which he extends his not inconsiderable patronage, let slip that it is about to make its hugely un-awaited return.
He also hinted at the unseemly demise of the ramshackle outhouse in which the recordings, if you can really dignify a sadly predictable, verbal car crash with that description, took place. The almost biblical rains of early summer swept away the pile of rusty nails and rotten timber that proved so fecund a womb to so many progeny, somewhat sadly devoid of creativity.
But what was kept from you all was the rather unseemly battle that raged through the corridors of the world’s great architectural practices when it was announced that there would be a competition instituted to commission a replacement, an architectural “statement”, in the grounds of Podding Acres. It all culminated in a rather nasty punch up in RIBA’s reception, when Terry Farrell, a couple of heavyweights from Norman Foster’s outfit, IM Pei and Zaha Hadid all turned up to collect their entry forms and realised they weren’t just up against “Roofing” Ron, the local thatcher and a couple of small time builders. It is worth pointing out that Ron only uses tiles and is known as a thatcher due to his predilection for removing people’s milk just after the morning’s delivery, as opposed to any facility in the ancient country skill.
It got even uglier a few weeks later when it was announced that Nick had opted for a simple package from “World of Sheds” (heavily discounted I might add), which “Nervous” George the local handyman erected in a matter of weeks. It would have been sooner but there were a few lightning storms, celebratory Olympic fireworks and sundry other noisy events that made George well, nervous. Let’s just say the avalanche of legal paperwork from some of the world’s great designers of “Bricks and Sticks” had to be seen to be believed. They’re a precious and vindictive bunch it has to be said.
Let’s face facts, in those heady days of May and June, who wasn’t thinking that we were now Champions of Europe and podding in a shed was, well somewhat humbling? We should at least upgrade to a cabin, chalet, perhaps even a lodge. There were some, who shall remain nameless, overly influenced by Downton Abbey perhaps, that wanted a loggia or God forbid, a gazebo.
Goodness, even someone as sound and rooted as myself would have to admit, there was just a moment where I idly contemplated something in the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style.
But good sense soon reasserted itself, and we are nothing if not honest down to earth men of toil. For yes, we are Champions of Europe. But while that is a matter of pride it is also something that should only be appreciated when a hard morning hoeing the radishes or dead heading the sprouts is behind you and you can sit gazing over your allotment, with perhaps a slightly larger capacity flask allowing that extra ration of tea, a little more ‘baccy in the roll-up and that warm glow of contentment spreading out from the breast bone.
Yes, perhaps the casual passer-by might mentally note that your plain moleskin trouser is cantilevered by a more brightly patterned pair of braces than usual, one’s cap is set at a jauntier angle but there is little else to inform that you are a dedicated supporter of the Champions of Europe.
This is how it should be and the spirit in which we shall re-assemble. For like some hardened veterans returned from the front, we have experienced emotions that can never be repeated, witnessed events that no man born had ever seen and yet we boast not; politely declining the offers of drinks and invitations to embellish around a warming fire. We were there, we came home. We did only what any other person would have done in our situation. Yes we are proud, we can be satisfied but we are above boastful display or a craving for recognition.
We shall foregather with the scent of fresh Cuprinol in our nostrils, maturing manure in our fingernails and a whole heap of new season enthusiasm in our hearts. (Cuprinol is on the list of banned substances in the Olympics – it’s heavily used by fencers… suit yourselves.)
I have contributed very little in the way of bloggage this summer and can only plead pressure of work and a curious emotional disengagement exacerbated by the hi-jinks down the road in Stratford. I believe I have been afflicted by something that has been diagnosed in a lot of Munich veterans and referred to by experts as PBSD (Post Beermatic Stress Disorder). It appears German beer is very good stuff but you shouldn’t inhale anything through, on or with a German beer mat. Let that be a warning to you all.
Fortunately I have sojourned and convalesced in Suffolk, a county of great charm and not a little interest. Though it should be said that any accident at Sizewell B during the height of the season, sending a radioactive cloud in the direction of Southwold and Thorpness would possibly remove the majority of the English Bar, vast swathes of the medical profession, numerous key players in the media and the great percentage of the UK’s private school population.
But I digress.
Reading and contemplating, while enjoying the pastoral tranquillity of Suffolk, has rekindled my heightened sensitivity to the interconnectedness of the everyday. The subtle layering of moment, event and emotion, which can be overlooked in the frantic, time-poor chaos of the modern urban life.
For instance, on Saturday as we returned to London, while taking tea and scones in Great Dunmow, I idly read the bottle that had been purchased for the refreshment of the son and heir. He was partaking of a Fentimans Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger. Now apart from the fascination of the word “jigger”, which among other things has nautical connotations of which more later, what caught my eye was the fact that this excellent refreshment was brewed in Newcastle.
I was immediately struck by what sort of omen this might be with such a vital early season game only hours away? Neither I, my son or anyone else of my acquaintance had partaken of a Fetimans “Jigger” to my knowledge. Why now? Why today? It was perplexing and it would not be until later, having watched an encouraging display unfold on the screen that I was able to relax and look to Fentimans as a recommended source of non-alcoholic refreshment when the Geordies hove into view. (Other beverages are available.)
Returning to the nautical theme mentioned above and continuing on my motif of how subtle ties bind seemingly disparate things, I had some days earlier been up in Southwold gazing out onto what was once commonly referred to as the German Sea, searching in my mind’s eye for the billowing sails of the Dutch Fleet as it hove into view, catching by surprise the combined English and French strength as it sat refitting in the sheltered waters and so commencing the Battle of Solebay (1672), one of the major naval actions of the Third Anglo-Dutch Wars. One of the most significant events was the setting to fire and sinking of the flagship HMS Royal James and the death of the English Admiral Edward Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, who’s scorched body when washed up was only identifiable by the Order of The Garter on his clothing.
Yesterday I was in Greenwich and on approaching the Old Royal Naval College, I looked up to see a bust of none other than the Earl of Sandwich in place amongst other well known maritime figures from these fair islands. Further thought and a little light research leads me to believe that this gentleman is probably John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich and not his unfortunate predecessor.
So being in Greenwich, matters nautical continued to be the theme of the day. And it was somewhat later in the Royal Observatory, I was once more reminded of the sad fate of Admiral Cloudesley Shovell and the disaster that befell his fleet in 1707 in the Isles of Scilly, where on the 22nd October over 1400 sailors and their commander lost their lives as four ships were wrecked due to inaccurate longitudinal navigation. Shovell’s flagship was HMS Association, which sank along with HMS Eagle, HMS Firebrand and HMS Romney.
Part of the exhibit consists of some plaques listing the names of those lost in the disaster. Amongst the crew of the Association there are three listed with the name Dyer. Two of them with the initial J.
So when you listen to the first of the season’s podcasts with the usual chaos, technical glitches and mass confusion, you may remark on the fact that while Tony, Mark and myself may not be used to being involved in a complete wreck and going down with the ship, it seems to be in Dyer’s blood.
A final thought. Who when Eden Hazard scores a headed goal will not immediately think of Genesis 4:16? And for those of other faiths or none let me quote from the King James version (many others are available):
“And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.”