Now, in the tranquil calm of the early evening I can look back over a day spent in demeaning but necessary chores. “Demeaning” is not, of course, the right word – it’s just that I sometimes like to think of myself living above such mundane necessities as ironing, sweeping, clothes washing, tidying, rubbish gathering, shoe cleaning, door sponging, mat beating – and all the other –ing words which require quotidian physical effort. Essential I know, but I am always defeated by the inescapable fact that you have to do them all over and over again.
This “activity” is tradition for me at the start of a major holiday – and what is more major than my (sixth?) retirement! And I feel that I have achieved an –ing task worthy of such an occasion.
We have hard water of such toughness that I am surprised that it ever makes it out of the taps. This means that anything that uses water rapidly takes on the appearance of having been set on some sort of coral reef as mineral accretions soon limit the life and certainly challenge the appearance of any machine that uses water. Such a machine is one of our toilets.
I realise that last line gives the impression that we either have en suite bathrooms to every space in the house or that we are living in a public urinal. Neither is true, so perhaps I should have said “the other” toilet. Just above the bend inside the bowl and below the water line the build up of extraneous roughcast is most unsightly. This mineral deposit has the tenacity of superglue and the strength of carbon steel.
Unbeknownst to Toni, for it is in his bathroom, I have been running a series of extended scientific experiments when he periodically decamps to Terrassa to watch his nephew play in increasingly prestigious juvenile football teams. As his present new team is going to meet one of Barça’s junior teams I thought that it merited a Renewed Effort to get rid of the barnacle-like eruptions on the erstwhile smooth porcelain surface.
You have to understand that the calcium has resisted bleach and a whole range and variety of squirts, drips and sprays from proprietary toilet cleansers. I have even; donning rather fetching rubber gloves for the occasion, used wire wool – which I hasten to say that I discarded at the end of the abortive attempt to get the stuff to flake away.
I comforted myself, after all my efforts, with the saving lie that “it looked a bit better” but even I couldn’t convince myself that I had approached anything like success.
A colleague having recommended vinegar and/or bicarbonate of soda I called into Lidl after depositing Toni in Terrassa and bought a bottle of vinegar. Admittedly it was apple vinegar, but I was sure that the principle was the same.
I forced the water away with a deftly wielded toilet brush and then applied the vinegar. Any hopes that I had that there would be a fizzing reaction when the acidity of the vinegar hit the carbonate nature of the accretion was dashed immediately, but never despairing I applied half a bottle and left it to soak. Overnight.
The morning did not bring shining whiteness, but again, using brute force and the other end of the toilet brush flakes, positive flakes were seen to detach themselves. Buoyed up with incurable optimism I hit the growth with my second weapon, anti-calcium water softener tablets. These (I used three) did fizz up in a most satisfactory manner and, with more force and an eventual second application I have now achieved something approaching pristininity – and yes, I do know that word doesn’t exist, but after all the effort that I have put in I think that I am entitled to a neologism of my own!
The bed is made, the path is swept, the tearoom is tidy, things and washed and ironed and I am bloody exhausted.
By way of relaxation I read a short book I bought when I was last in Tesco in Cardiff, “The Welsh National Anthem - its story, its meaning “ by Sion T Jobbins. This is a polemical little screed which insults everyone who doesn’t speak Welsh. It did however afford me a moment of pleasure when I discovered (as surely I must have been told sometime in the past) that the first public performance of “Mae hen wald fy nhadau” was in Tabor Chapel in Maesteg! A place that I have passed time without number when visiting my grandparents.
I have a little painting of a chapel in Merthyr by Kernick which reminds me of Wales and the nonconformist tradition and, although Tabor is a little more ornate than the chapel in my paining it is near enough for me now to associate the national anthem with it each time I pass!
Early night and quick early swim in the pool with water the temperature of which was just short of certain heart failure this morning. A lazy time sitting in the sun and cloud listening to the sequence of music determined by my iPhone juxtaposing Stravinsky and “The Green Berets”!
Up to Terrassa for lunch and return to what will be a re-run of World War II as the night of San Juan advances. Perhaps I will saunter along the Paseo and watch families and groups of friends settle down for a night of drinking! It only happens on this particular night and it is always a shock as you see unexpected revelry involving alcohol and Catalans! The authorities have banned fires on the beach – which were a tradition part of the night – though this does not stop everyone. I hope there are fireworks so that I can attempt the Perfect Firework Shot which has, so far eluded me.
As the day advances the results of all the little booths selling the equivalent of penny bangers will be clearly heard and my only hope is that the sequences of explosions will finally put pay to the local infestation of rat dogs which emasculated men take for walks on thin strings in this area. Their hearts must be the size of stunted peas and therefore the mere sound waves should surely do for them! My heartfelt prayers for their destruction are never met and the bug-eyed, squeaking monstrosities do their impressions of Futurist Paintings as their twig legs blur as they try and keep up with a slow walking pace. God rot the lot of them!
And then there are the kids. On this long, long night they are obviously allowed to stay up even later than normal. OK, Castelldefels is a seaside resort and when on holiday kids are given leeway. Far too much leeway from a British point of view, but let it pass. So not only will be have sporadic explosions but also the constant screaming of indefatigable children. God rot them too. Though they do need to survive and thrive so that their taxes can pay my pension. Though, as it happens not in this country, so, as far as I can see they are a completely unnecessary luxury which, in these times of frugality, we can surely do without!
Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday and therefore my most recent retirement cannot start until the Tuesday. However, even though I am not entitled to the couple of months off with pay that my colleagues who have worked throughout the year are entitled to, I find that I have had 14 days paid holiday pay allocated to me so my actual (most recent) retirement starts in the second week of August. I will contain myself in patience until then and have a modest celebration!
Now off to a distant lunch.