Essential maintenance

By David Medcalf

'This is a winter job,' declared Eldrick with the wisdom of beady-eyed hindsight.

'Unh!' I replied as he sat on my shoulders wielding the hammer. It must be at least twelve years since our son last went piggy-back on my shoulders. Back then, he was a chubby-faced little cherub who laughed happily when lifted off the ground. He loved being swung around, or tossed in the air, or hoisted into the best seat in the house holding on to his dad's ears. The cherub has since morphed into twelve stone of athlete with the build of a full grown adult.

'Unh!' was as much of an answer as I could coax through gritted teeth, teetering slightly under the load. This shaky arrangement should really have been the other way around, with the ageing parent on top. But Eldrick had insisted on the tossing of a coin and then making the correct call.

This unsteady arrangement was achieved only with much huffing and puffing as he was heaved heavenwards. I have yet to assess whether or not it has wreaked any permanent damage to spinal discs. This frankly daft arrangement was not really necessary at all as there is a perfectly good step ladder somewhere on the premises. It's just that neither of us knew exactly where. Instigating a full scale search hardly seemed worthwhile when all we had to do was bang in a couple of tacks.

'Unh!' I grunted once more as he shifted his position, causing me to stagger slightly. As I swayed, Eldrick's aim with the hammer was knocked off kilter. The tack he was addressing with the hammer clipped my nose as it fell down and disappeared into the grass underfoot.

'It's okay, I have another one here,' said the young man on top, creating further imbalance for the old man beneath as he rummaged in his pocket.

'Urgh!' Of course, our son was quite correct. Repairing the fruit cage was indeed a task that should have been done months ago.

The fruit cage at the heart of food production at Medders Manor comprises a series of stout timber poles set in concrete bases, supporting a framework of lighter wooden struts, all festooned with netting to keep birds away. The gauge of the netting is such that the pollenating bumble bees gain access but thieving blackbirds are denied a ready meal at our expense.

In the lean years prior to installation of the fruit cage, all the currants and maybe half the raspberries were pillaged by feathered bandits before they could be harvested by human hand. We naturally dread a repeat of such grand larceny as seams in the fabric come apart or the netting falls susceptible to occasional tears. Such gaps in the defences are at their most obvious before the growth spurt which comes in late spring and they really should have been attended to long before this. Nevertheless we did our best as the fruit on the bushes inside the cage began to blush with luscious promise and the blackbirds massed in the undergrowth ready to pounce. With me as donkey and Eldrick as jockey, we eventually managed to put everything right.

A plateful of home grown raspberries is a source of immense pleasure, made complete by the merest sprinkle of sugar and a dollop of natural yoghurt. Next year, any fruit cage upkeep will be carried out in February. Eldrick had better hope that we have found the step ladder by then because I will be the man on top…

Young Persephone turned 15 the other day, a milestone marked by a celebratory family meal in Our Town's most popular restaurant. The birthday girl was joined for the occasion by her parents, her brother and Her Majesty the grandmother. Hermione, dear sentimental Hermione, looked at her daughter and shared memories of how our daughter arrived mid-way through the Republic of Ireland's World Cup victory over Saudi Arabia.

'It seems like only yesterday,' she sighed. 'She will always be my baby. I can't believe she's 15.'

Her Majesty looked at Persephone's impeccably made-up face and fashionable dress, a young lady brimming with style and self-confidence.

'You can't believe she's 15? I can't believe she's not 18.'

Wexford People