I see the first signs of spring are encouraging my fellow-hibernators and dormice to shake legs, make marmalade, take baths in the open air, roll the 2CV sun-roof back, drive from New Mexico to Wisconsin, celebrate Green Beer Day, find human hairs in the apricot crumble, digest the Leicester Mercury, frolic in the woods, etc, etc, so it's high time I too poked my nose out from under the covers and got out and about bit more.
So yesterday I dusted off my masonry tools after their long winter break in the garage and set to on the 2010 edition of The Great Wall. I capitalise it unashamedly, knowing that in no sense can it possibly rival The Other Great Wall, the one that Dave is helping to build for Z. Theirs is a true wall, standing independent and proud, with cunning see-though panels to re-orientate yourself if you get lost navigating the length of it. Mine is merely a single-faced terrace wall, designed to hold back the hillside behind our house.
It will see me out, this wall. I started it 6 years ago. At the present rate of progress it will take 30 years to finish. I shouldn't be doing it at all, really. There's a wall there already, but so derelict that it's crumbling away here and there. Rampaging wild boar make further breaches in it, sending jagged boulders crashing down on to Lydian Acres. I'm only repairing it, admittedly by totally rebuilding it. It doesn't belong to us: in France uphill walls are the responsibility of the uphill proprietor. In our case the land behind the house belongs to the commune, the most local unit of local government. Our commune hasn't got two sous to rub together, so I'm doing them a big favour.
It's slow work. The photo above shows the total of one day's work, digging out, measuring, heaving vast stones, planting foundations. The square stone is the first of a flight of steps. Last year's progress included three primitive peg steps, in the local fashion, in another section of The Great Wall. There's a photo below. Not a very good one: I should have got Dave to take it. I 'm proud of those steps. I use them every day to get to the bird feeders. Each 'peg' is actually a stone at least a metre long, but most of the length is hidden, inserted into the wall to provide stability. They will bear virtually any weight. The principle is the inverse of Pythagoras' theory of levers.
In respectful view of the multitude of gifted Classical scholars who come here every day, I'm happy to quote Pythagoras' idea in the original:
Δος μοι που στω και γιγνω την γην
(Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth, but I'm sorry, I've forgotten how to do accents. Detention's the only thing for it, I'm afraid. )