The Eccentric Englishman.
Simplicity is Freedom
My Secret is Out.
Well folks, word is out. The mad Englishman living in Ireland is now officially eccentric… or so they say. They’re all wrong of course, it’s just that I’m living in the wrong era. I should in fact have been in my prime in the 1940s, when life was much more simple and straight-forward (if you forget the war).
Most of my ‘eccentric’ retro habits are largely hidden from public view. I grow my own fruit and veg in the garden. I use old wooden handled tools to grow heritage varieties. I use reclaimed wood to build Heath Robinson raised beds and I lovingly fork over my compost bins made out of old water-tanks. I even pee in them to activate the compost. I reward myself at the end of a digging session with a glass or three of my own home-made beer, cider, wine or sloe gin that was made from the produce of my garden or the hedgerows.
I own nothing that is made of plastic except for some modern electrical appliances (they didn’t ever make computers with wooden cabinets as far as I know). I much prefer the look and feel of wood, metal and natural materials, which can add considerable time to a shopping ordeal. I can usually find what I need by rooting around in cardboard boxes at car boot sales, junk shops or auction houses. The only drawback to this approach being, that I invariably end up bringing home armfuls of curious items that ‘might come in handy when I work out what it’s for’. Strangely, my wife doesn’t always share my enthusiasm for old fountain pens, seed dibbers and enamel buckets.
I collect old, third-hand copies of long out of print books that have useful 1940s-style tips on essential life-skills such as skinning a rabbit; making pigeon pie; making ink from oak galls and fixing five-bar gates, as well as table seating plans, should Her Majesty the Queen pop round for afternoon tea. I listen to 1940s bakelite records on a wind-up gramophone that came from a junk shop. The music from which is interspersed every hour with the sound of wind-up clocks chiming the hour to a variety of different tunes.
Washing is done with washing soda and carbolic laundry soap and then I hang my clothes, which have done the full circle and are now back in fashion, around the range on a wooden clothes horse, to dry. I clean the toilets with vinegar, the brass with brown sauce, the windows with newspaper and the silver (plate) in a bucket of hot water laced with washing soda and aluminium foil.All of this was hidden behind my garden walls, where nobody knew any different. My little foibles were secret. Until that is, I returned, after twenty years, to driving a 2CV.
My first car was a 2CV back in the late 70s, so were the next two cars I owned. My love-affair with the 2CV came to a shuddering halt after I got married and my wife decided that she couldn’t fathom the workings of the gear-stick and convinced me to get a ‘normal’ car. Thus, I endured driving around in various models of anonymous square metal boxes. Then in 2007, it became necessary for us to get a second car due to moving out to an old house in the country. I was finally able to put 20 years of plotting and scheming into action and I bought myself a 2CV. This was lovingly planned in conjunction with Darren at Frome 2CV and a ‘brand new’ restored 2CV Charleston, with my own 1940s colour scheme, was delivered on the back of a trailer…and that’s when my little secret became public.
There were never many 2CVs in Ireland and these days they’re as rare as hen’s teeth, so you could say that I stand out when driving into town. Especially when there are a couple of fruit trees apparently growing out of the back seat and protruding skywards through the rolled back roof and Glenn Miller and his orchestra can be heard from within.
I noticed people staring at ‘the lad in the ol’ car’, and they started asking questions. It always starts off innocently enough, asking “What make is it?” “How old is it?” and “Where did you get it?” Then it deteriorates into “What made you buy that?” and “Are you interested in old things?” It all goes downhill from there.
So, thanks to a 2CV, they all know my secret. Yes, I admit I have unusual tastes, I admit to living a simple lifestyle and I admit that I couldn’t care less what the Jones’ have. You could call it eccentric but I prefer to think of myself as simply being a little ahead of my time because me?...I’m recession-proof.