Tea break and Paul, Beloved and I are sitting in the conservatory over a cuppa. It’s eleven a.m. We’ve been depressing ourselves thoroughly, talking about politics and the mess current and future politicians are creating. We’ve roamed from national crises to the apparent willingness of a particular prospective politician to drop nuclear bombs as a means of emphasising a point.
Paul laughs, “this is depressing, have we had enough?”
I have been meaning to talk to him about a particular matter, which you already know but he doesn’t.
“I want to change the subject” I say, " it’s confession time”.
Paul sits up. “Oh dear?"
“Yes, my confession time.
You must have seen that various jobs have been done in the garden, but not by you?”
“Yes, I have,” Paul is all ear and I can tell he is getting nervous.
It comes out in a bit of a rush. “I have been very unhappy with the state of the garden for some time, as you know. It looks like we’re never going to get on top of it. I can’t do as much as I once did and your three or four hours a week, with interruptions because of weather, illness, other obligations, don’t cover the work there is.”
I carry on talking, noticing a bit of a pink glow on Paul’s face. But I need to say it all, I can’t allow misunderstandings.
“So what I did was ring Austin, my previous gardener and ask him for help. I asked him to chip in with two or three sessions a month, mornings only and he agreed to come. Do you mind awfully?
Paul swallows hard, I think he thought I was going to dismiss him.
“Not at all,” he said quickly. “Not a bit. I do as much as I can but I never thought I could do the garden all by myself during the hours I have available and I can’t give you more time.” He repeated himself. “I do as much as I can but I always said that if you need someone else that’s alright with me.” I’m not sure that he said that about someone else in so many words before, but I’ll take it as fact.
We’re both relieved. Wisely, Beloved has kept out of it. Paul does his whole speech again, and I redo mine about being unable to do as much as I’d like to do, about being sad and having lost interest because of the uphill struggle, about even Paul's and Austin's combined mornings not covering as much ground as a fit and healthy Austin and me used to cover over a monthly average.
We’ve finished our tea, Paul and I get up and say “Best crack on.” We drop the subject and instead talk about the newly pruned hedges. The hedge cutters came yesterday and there’s a bit of their mess left behind, although they cleaned up after themselves as well as they could.
Paul’s going home time is one p.m. He collects his bags and I stand at the backdoor with his pay and some magazines I keep for him during the week. As he turns to go he says “Thank you for being open with me, I noticed that you had had work done but I thought you weren’t going to mention it.” He gets a bit pink again and I go a bit mushy myself.
“Of course I needed to tell you”, I say. We’re both a bit touched at how well we understand each other. “See you next week,” we call out in parting.
After Paul has left I tell Beloved about his comment. “Well, you did that rather nicely,” he says. “You spared Paul’s feelings and still got what you wanted.”