In the sticks: Just put your lips together and blow

DOUG IS getting restless, his empire is not expanding at the required rate. It's the fault of this nice weather really. While it was raining enough to provide Gene Kelly with a set to sing on in every field, Bob our neighbour (he with the licence to kill moles with his bare 12-bore) had nothing much better to do with his time but worry about the price of straw and how to sell us a bit of field for the price of three Seychellois islands. But now the sun has put on a Panama, he and all the other farmers round here have gone into hyper-drive like a classful of five-year-olds out of their trees on tartrazine, and Bob hasn't time to negotiate about land sales. So Doug's poly tunnel erection schedule is more than a little behind.

Not only that but we're all risking our lives every time we venture out into the lane. That's because in the rush to salvage something from this Johnny-Come-Lately-Noahs-Fludde of a summer almost anyone and anything is being pressed into service to cut hay fields and harvest wheat. Step out of the gate at the wrong moment and a 12-year-old driving a tractor that's spent the past 10 years as duck accommodation is likely to leave you as a raspberry-coloured stain on the tarmac.

But it's an ill wind... In his desire for productive activity (something I only experience in nightmares) Doug has set about transforming my study, knocking out tiny windows and putting in doors, tile laying, beam stripping and wall painting. And he's doing it properly, which is quite a contrast to my style of decorating, which leaves as much paint on the furniture, carpet and dogs as it does on the walls and woodwork. My style of blob- creation decor is, however, very fast. You don't even have to bother with dust sheets if you're in a real hurry and you can transform a room in a day: perfectly ordinary in the morning, splattered in rogue cerise splodges by nightfall. "Properly" takes time, and just as Doug is twitching over the poly tunnel delay, so I am twitching over the piles of books and papers festering unattended beneath the dust sheets. Anyway in an effort to find some happy middle ground between our two styles - "proper" but also fast - I tried to help by painting the book shelves: Great-I'll-have-this-done- by-lunchtime- singalonga Radio 1.

It was only when Doug had gone a funny mauve colour that I realised I'd made some sort of mistake. He didn't shout about the drips, or the fact that I'd poured the paint on in one or two very flat places. He just sort of emanated this glow of profound disapproval and extreme irritation, as if I had transgressed some fundamental law of the Universe. Sort of how I imagine the Queen might behave to a favourite corgi who'd done a huge poop on her best throne.

Now it's a strange little peculiarity of mine - a constant barrier to the full expression of my feminist ideals - I find male censure on a personal level very hard to take. I can talk about wresting power from the fists of the patriarchy (we must take it sisters, because they will never give it) but if some boy I like - Dad, Brother, Husband, Lover - says a mildly admonishing boo to me, I burst into tears. So things went from bad to worse. I wept over the paint work and could have cheerfully offered myself to the wheels of an antique Massey Ferguson.

We were both, I decided, getting a little overwrought, what with plants un-grown, words unwritten and the English rural version of the Wacky Races continuing until moonrise outside the door. No use seeking the peace of the garden amidst the revving of diesel engines and the clanking of baling machines. What we needed was an urban cultural escape. A session at the multiplex half an hour on the motorway should do the trick.

Nothing like an evening of Bruce Willis kicking asteroid butt to stop a person fretting about a weeping girlfriend, rivers of paint and 200 bay cuttings without a home to call their own. Doug was very cheerful on the way home, but I was still snivelling over Bruce's demise. And I'd started worrying.

"Could we really blow an asteroid up if it was going to hit the earth?" "Hah!"

"Whaddyamean `Hah!' ?"

"You know `Voyager'?"

"Twelve tons of metal steered through the solar system by..?"

`Huge jet thruster thingys.'

`No. One small canister of camping gas. A millisecond of phhhttt and you've a course set for Uranus. You could deflect an asteroid by standing next to it and blowing hard.'

Wonderful! What's a little testiness over a paint job when your man can save the world with the breath he'd use to blow out his birthday candles?

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