Most recently there were three days in Sussex. With no time to go before her MA course started, C had no home, no belongings, no idea. But those three days were enough to locate a room, shift her piles of junk from L’s stepfather’s house in Chichester, find her a battered old bike and point her in the right direction. Not that she couldn’t have done all that for herself. But it’s good to feel useful. Occasionally.
Before that, it was Sicily. Four days. That was our summer holiday. I hate going places in summer, so we waited until September. But it’s good to breath sea air every now and then. We don’t get much ozone, here in land-locked Umbria. Except the air of Sicily (and we were by the sea) was rain-laden for most of the time that we were there. Which is, in one way, a shame. Then again, it doesn’t really matter what the weather’s like in Sicily. It’s always just too fascinating.
And then – home, work, rush, organisation, people. Come to think of it, September always goes by in a blur. That’s just the way it is. Suddenly you realise that it’s dark at seven thirty in the evening, then seven, then… Why do evenings close in so fast? Before we know it the clocks will be going back, and the whole world will become cold and gloomy.
Being in Sussex is always odd, and all the more so this time because Clara was going ‘back’. Not that she has ever really spent any time in that part of the world. It’s me who was there but that makes me feel there’s a kind of family stake in the place.
It’s strange to be in Brighton, seeing the same kind of hippies with the same kind of dungarees and multi-coloured hair, despite passing decades. The city – the little I saw of it – was looking bustly though, in its alternative way. I’m told the smart side has returned too after years of decline, though I can’t say I had a chance, in the general rush, to verify this.
And it’s strange to be in Streat too, where everything looks much the same and people seem to sail serenely on to startling ages looking not at all the worse for wear. Or did they always look so old when we were children that the passing years don’t seem to have caused too much havoc. Presumably it is they who find me startlingly changed.
Back here, the garden is looking oddly summery finally, and there’s that usual autumn flurry – a fairly minor one – of people looking for garden help.
Besides projects with Peter Curzon, I’ve had three requests. One is a cooking school near Lake Trasimeno, and one a terrace in Rome: both small, both at the feeling-the-water stage. It’s terribly difficult, this initial shadow boxing. How much time to spend, how much detail to give? After all, these things may come to nothing. Then there’s that nail-biting pitching of proposals and prices. I try to be objective, of course, and keep my standards and costs up. But there’s always that niggling doubt: will I scare this particular customer away if I tell them that much? Could I shave something off here and do something less than what I’d want in order not to loose that trade? Should I press the button on this message containing an estimate which might result in that potential client fleeing and never coming back to me again? Peter is so much better at that than I am. He asks impossible figures and people, impressed, say yes. Mind you, his clientele tends, on the whole, to be very well heeled – more so than mine, I fear.
Except for the third. This is the most touch-and-go of all: a large project in fantastic Val d’Orcia. So far, I haven’t even managed to convince the potential client that I’m worth taking a punt on. Mind you, so far the potential client hasn’t even bought a property. For the time being I’ve come up with a report on one of the places on his might-buy list. It went down well. We shall see. I’ve never had anyone demanding references and proofs before. Most peculiar… in this business, though normal practice in just about any other, I suppose.