PHIL CALVERT: Tea bloat or a beer belly?

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IT’S all part of my morning routine.

Let the dog out, scare away the heron and then put the kettle on. But while Monty and our resident heron never disappoint, the all important first-brew-of-the-day has been much less easy to rely on, as recently tea bags have been conspicuous by their absence.

As previously related, Wifey has pressed hard in recent years for us to redecorate the house and, after only 22 years, I finally caved in. New curtains and carpets were booked and we agreed to get someone in to help with the decorating and fettle those little jobs around the house that accumulate as the years pass by.

In fairness, things have gone very well but I should have been just that bit suspicious of what I presumed was our decorator’s beer belly. Now in the illustrious circles I socialise in such a physical attribute is considered something of a badge of honour. Unfortunately, I am no Sherlock Holmes, and I failed to question the evidence clearly available to me, and so my diagnosis was wrong.

Everyday the job progressed well. Our decorator arrived on time and, without delay, launched himself into the travails of the day. Barely stopping to take the odd break, he applied himself to his tasks with commitment diligence and professionalism. We were impressed.

But then I noticed something. The kettle never seemed to cool. We seemed to get through gallons of milk and, most significantly, the tea bags seemed to evaporate. Such energetic application to his work had to be fuelled by a constant supply of tea and custard creams. At one point the power had to be turned off, and you could see the naked fear in his eyes that brews might not be forthcoming. I had to counsel him with the reassurance we could always boil a kettle on the stove and his panic subsided. The work continued apace.

It was at that point I realised he was a disappointment. I could not fault his professionalism or his commitment to the task in hand. Indeed it was not unpleasant having him around, but there was a deep character flaw that dismayed me. This was not a man to invite on our cycle tours. That was no beer belly. It was tea bloat.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for me, and so the diet continues. After an impressive start losing a stone, I have been unable to shed any more weight. I need to get back out on my bike but the frozen ground twice thwarted my plans. The freeze, and the fact I no longer bounce like I once did, meant that cycling on the canal bank was just too hazardous. Instead Wifey and I pulled on our boots to go walking instead. Even this was not easy. Rain had fallen on frozen ground leaving everything covered in what climbers sometimes call ‘verglas’, a thin coating of ice (as on rock). We plodded along for a few miles but packed it in as we realised we had taken in no views whatsoever, so careful were we to avoid a fall onto that iron-hard surface.

In truth the cold snap had been a blessing. Everything has been held back by the cold temperatures allowing us to concentrate on the house before the beginning of the garden season. Mind you, the thaw this week has been rapid and after just a few days of more moderate weather the odd crocus has joined the snowdrops in flower. The daffs once more will start to grow at speed and life will soon return to the countryside and our gardens, and with it I will start to be busy at work.

We re-open at Reedley on March 1st and I can see March being a busy month for us. I’m quite excited about it really. I tend to get all fired up and often skip meals relying instead on that mark of the true professional, a constant supply of brews to keep me going as we set things out. My only concern? After all this decorating, will there be any teabags left?