Monday, 15 August 2011

So there's a lesson

Yesterday I am discovered, by Mick the neighbour. Passing, he glances up at me. I am draped sad and exhausted over a garden wall, pathetically tugging at an ivy trunk as thick as a builder's biceps.

'Do you need any help?' he calls.

Of course I imagine I am very English about this offer of help. I muster up what I think passes as a smile and I whimper, 'That's very kind of you but I'm doing fine'.

I do not know why I say this. I am caked in ivy dust, layered two inches in insect corpse and am a woman in defeat.

But even at this stage it is impossible for me to accept any offer of help. I do not know why. I do not know whether being a home educator is something to do with the mix. We certainly become very self-reliant types. Maybe it is because whatever I need to do, I can usually do it. I have lifted concrete, laid paths, built brick walls, cooked dinners, taught river erosion, painted walls and made clothes. (Sometimes on the same day.) Or perhaps I am so much on my own I just assume I am beyond the point of all help, probably with anything, least of all an ivy tree and a blocked gutter.

Indeed I will have a go at almost anything on the assumption that no-one else is going to do it, so better get on with it. Only electricity defeats me on the grounds that I cannot pick it up and handle it without having my hair stand on end. (Household finance also has the same impact.)

Well today I have my lesson. I am atop the wall again hacking feebly at the embrace of ivy arms, and Mick cycles by, stops his bike, and says, 'I'll be back in five minutes with my big clipper'.

Moments later he returns with he-man clippers and rubber gloves and he's up the ladder and into the gutter with the ivy. Three hours later and we've achieved more than I would singly have done in three months. The devil twine is eliminated from wall, gutter, wood, tile, and flashing, and I need not wake in Hong Kong at 2am worrying about another season's green and woody growth clutching the fabric of my home to slow but inevitable destruction.

I am utterly grateful to Mick, grateful not only for the he-man clippers up the ladder, but for ignoring me a little and bringing his benevolence to my house.

And I am chastened. I am not about to trade in independence and armour for helplessness and vulnerability, but I recognise that it should have limits, this permanent assumption of self-reliance. I should know when to stop and say, Yes, I could do with some help, thanks.

For once, not me up the ladder.