Jonathan: Working at Mouchel office in Chelmsford today – very near the station. Took 80mins to travel 40miles there and another 30mins finding somewhere to park. Carrying out an independent check of major changes to a new road already under construction. The scheme is the extension of a Roscommon Way in Canvey Island, from the roundabout by Morrisons to industrial and housing areas close to the Thames shore. It was designed as a dual carriageway, but due to spending cuts it is being reduced to a single carriageway. Over 32 years in this business I’ve worked on lots of ‘dualling’ schemes: but ‘singling’ a road is a first for me! Original design was done well: the singling in a hurry, and it shows. I never like doing independent design checks: all the fundamental problems are always ignored, usually just a few of the relatively superficial errors are sorted out, and even that’s done grudgingly.
For all that Essex is a wealthy county and Chelmsford the county town, it seems to me a worn-out, dirty place. But the tiny CofE Cathedral has lovely grounds, and I enjoyed my lunch sitting on a bench in the September sunshine, watching the world go by. It was striking what a high proportion of people seemed to be young women: and striking also how most of them seemed to either be footballers’ wives – or wannabe footballers’ wives! Back at the office I mentioned this: Essex Girls, apparently, are in a class of their own.
To be honest, my day in Chelmsford left me more depressed than I’ve been for a while about the dreary shallowness of modern life. I cannot for the life of me think what I would do with myself if I had to live here in Chelmsford.
Jonathan: Still August -just! – but as everyone is saying it already feels like late September. There’s something about the light, the temperature, dew on the grass, the smell of the soil … and already dry soils and hot winds have resulted in some leaves turning golden already.
But how I love this time of year! Winter and Summer are straightforward in what they promise (though rarely live up to!). Spring and Autumn are seasons of contrast and contrariness: Spring of glad relief and untamed hope; and now in Autumn a time of poignant reflection … and a solemn dread of what must yet comem (not an exaggeration for Hebridean winters!)
How soon would I tire of life in a place that knew no seasons!
Jonathan: Motorhome, Welwyn Garden City. Bank Holiday weekend – Sunday. Dark outside now, curtains drawn, listening to Canadian band Blue Rodeo – Five Days in July: great stuff. Introduced to this seriously great band by my colleague Tia Nagi. Tia’s a Sikh, from Kenya, now living in Hemel Hempstead, but brought up in Calgary, Canada. The only Sanskrit-speaking cowgirl I’ve ever come across! Thanks to Tia I’ve developed a real curiosity about Canada. Thanks to Google Earth and street view I’ve driven from Calgary along the Trans-Canada Highway to Banff, looked round the shops and explored the back streets. I’ve even turned off the main road at random and nosied around small settlements, looking for houses for sale! Yes, lots of time to kill, here In Exile: Yet so many jobs back home left undone and unfinished.
Jonathan: Here I am in my old motorhome, on a caravan site at Welwyn Garden City (N of London). This is where I work – well not the campsite, but in an office here in WGC! – designing maintenance and improvement works, mostly in Hertfordshire. Three weeks away, one long week at home: that’s how its been for the past year and a week: Yup, we need the money! I’m supposed to be designing major works, but the little work that comes my way now is trivial. Designing bypasses, upgrades to motorway, new tram systems, that’s what I’m used to: right now I’m down to sorting out broken pipes and resurfacing roads! And even that work I’m having to stretch out. Driving me mad! Brain going dead! Anyhow, back in Uist, our finances are now not in so desparately bad shape, and our various enterprises are slowly making progress and giving us increasing confidence in the future. So now it looks like there’s a change coming up, one way or another. I’m looking forward to it!
Jonathan: Further report from home. Denise arrived at croft this morning to find ewe back with the rest – just her lamb still on the wrong side. Opposite of what I’d have expected, since gaps tend to favour the small and lithe, not the big and rotund. Best not to dwell on that, not a good time for base assumptions to be challenged. Anyway, Denise turned off the electrics, opened up all the ‘gates’ in the dividing electric fence – and the little one trotted meekly back to its Mum. And to think this is my breeding stock – in a few years time I could have dozens of sheep all with the same genetic propensity to wriggle under or somersault over electric fences.