Friday, 19 February 2016

Back to the Future

I’m writing this as I sit on the train pulling out of Euston station after a week working back in the City. As I click-clacked my way along the platform in my suit and trench coat, faithful wheelie bag at my heels I could almost have been mistaken for a Londoner. But anyone paying closer attention may have clocked the traces of mud on my boots from falling foul of the muddy puddles on our drive. They may have spied the callouses on my rough hands from dragging heavy branches across the lawn after cutting down an enormous Western Red Cedar on the land last week. They might also have detected the scars on my arms from battling vicious brambles whilst trying to tame out of control hedges as part of our vain attempts at a garden ‘spring clean’. Yes, underneath this cool, City exterior lies a crazed, country bumpkin going half mad in her craving for fresh air and daylight, like a smoker with a 40-a-day habit desperate for a fag.

So how was it, my first excursion back to the corporate HQ office since our Big Move? Well, to be honest I felt like a character in one of those films where they wake up to find they’ve been transported to some vaguely non-descript time in the near future. Not at first. At first I bowled in and it felt like absolutely nothing had changed. But then it turned out that someone had nicked the bloody photocopier and replaced it with some colossal indecipherable machine that does any number of things except copy (spent the whole week hand writing notes instead). And the new coffee machine requires a PhD in Engineering to just work it out (too embarrassed to ask anyone I’ve not had a hot drink all week). And don’t even get me started on the new video conferencing technology. I did not have a Scooby Doo what was going on (which was somewhat unfortunate given that I was supposed to be the one running the show.) And just when did they start employing children to work for the company? These new joiners are so fresh faced and enthusiastic reeling off the names of tools and apps and gadgets that are a complete foreign language to me. Ask me anything you like about the process for butchering a pig or cultivating your own asparagus but when it comes to the latest social media technology it turns out I am completely in the dark.

The view I would have had all week (had I not been in a room with no windows...)
Then you have the slightly more subtle changes like the fashion which all seems to have moved on in the last year or so. Ankle boots and dresses, all the rage apparently. Flat brogues for the ladies, very much the order of the day. And seems like long hair is quite the thing, which is just as well since I haven’t yet found the time to find a hairdresser in North Wales and I didn’t quite fancy taking up my husband on his offer to cut my hair with on his various cutting implements previously used in the dissection of a hog. Then you have the crazy, futuristic iWatches strapped to the arms of every bloke in the office, providing yet another source of distraction and instantaneous information overload.  And who had the genius idea of putting wifi on the tube? That would be utterly brilliant were it not for the fact that you are so tightly packed in that you literally can’t move your hand from your pocket to retrieve your phone to avail yourself of this service. Either I had forgotten the sheer horror of travelling across London at rush hour or they have made the trains smaller. Either way I have never been in such close, uncomfortable proximity to strangers. I felt like one of the cows that our farmer brings over to our place in the cattle truck, except in comparison his cows are travelling on the bovine equivalent of the Orient Express: room to move, swish their tails, a nice view and fresh air – talk about the lap of luxury!

As we leave the urban sprawl of London and the South behind (we’ve just left Milton Keynes) time to turn my attention to the tasks for the weekend. Apart from spending as much time as possible outside, getting dirty and having incomprehensible conversations with my children and chickens (not the fancy ones obviously, they still consider themselves too posh to deign to speak to me), it is about time that we dig out our propagator and sort out the seed box. It is one of my most favourite times of the year as you put together a plan (in my head, not in any Microsoft application, thank God) of what you want to grow and eat for the coming year. You can pretty much guarantee that roughly half of what you plan to produce won’t actually come to fruition but every year that we do this I think we get just a little bit better.  Well that’s the optimist in me speaking. And the best thing about growing vegetables is that it can’t be ‘digitized’, you can’t build an app for it and you certainly can’t replace it with some new-fangled technology. With all this focus on the future and always trying to do things faster and better, there is some wonderful consolation in working with the timeless rhythms of nature and surrendering the control that we seek to exert in other areas of our life to just ‘wait and see…’. And on that somewhat philosophical note (it's been a hard week), it’s time for me to switch gear, take off the heels and the make-up and slip back into quiet(ish) sanctuary of the Welsh hills for a while. Happy weekend!

24 hours later

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