1. Riding the Water Dragon.

Whatever calculation you use, we’re now in the Water Dragon, the Year of Sudden Change: landslides literal and political, seismic events of all sorts. So hold onto your hat. What can happen, may.

Here’s the Readers Digest version of what to do for health, wealth and wellbeing in 2012:

1. Occupy, face, activate West, East, North East and (careful) South.

2. Don’t face North or South East.

3. Don’t dig or drill North West, South East or South.

4. Don’t expect much from the South West other than arguments.

There’s more, a lifetime of nuance and the fact that we always retain choice unruled by mumbo jumbo or random fate and this month I’m off toThailand to pursue the leading edge in Date Selection but broadly that’s it. If you want to make the feng shui changes properly there’s still time; you can get me in or there’s a Do-it-Yourself version of my Tune-Up Drill (including email back up) now available for a small(ish) fee. Apply within.

2. Roots

Doug makes me a cup of tea while we wait for the architect and the planning officer. We’re intending to take a couple of trees out of Doug’s garden. The trees are in the South West. Isn’t that asking for trouble? Yes it is. It’s literally asking for an argument. In 2012, we only do that sort of thing in the South West with great care. It has to be an argument that’s inevitable, that must take place before we can move on.

The planning officer is approaching retirement. He’s actually planning a move to Northumberland.

“Beautiful up there,” says Douglas.

He nods and purses his lips.

“Trees give a neighbourhood solidity, tradition, atmosphere,” he says. “Not the leylandis so much. Those are probably only five or six years old but they do do a job.”

He gestures at the 20 foot high wall of conifers at the bottom of Doug’s garden.

“It’s the oaks and the ashes, the chestnuts and the sycamores that mark a place out.”

The architect arrives, he’s younger and less philosophical.

We stumble out into the cold; too cold for snow.

The oak must be a hundred and fifty years old. It’s a little inhibited by the conifer growing under its canopy. The roof of the house is hard up to the conifer.

“Too close to the house,” says the architect. He can already see a third and fourth bedroom here.

“The cypress? I’m afraid you’re right,” says the planning officer. He has no ties locally, he says, only a ninety year old father in a home in Devon.

Beyond the garage is another smaller conifer.

“This has to go too, I think,” says the architect. He’s clearly right. But the oak remains a little too close to the house for his ambitions. He’s a rocker and a roller. He’s enthusing about a blues guitarist he’s going to see at Leicester De Montfort Hall. Doug’s interested- he likes his music- there’s a Buena Vista Social Club poster featuring Ibrahim Ferrer on the wall of the drawing room. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never heard of the guitar player. I know the skilful manufacture of rapport when I see it though.

“Spindly for a mature cedar,” says the planner. “There’s some years in it nonetheless. Deceptive they are.” He expresses concern that the proposed bedroom (s) will be in the shade of the oak tree.

“We can deadwood it,” says the architect. “Do it the world of good.”

“I expect you’re right,” says the planner. They agree to exchange paperwork. Apparently the trick to obtaining planning permission is getting the plans registered which the authority may resist because at registration a meter starts ticking that commits them to making a decision.

Apart from the potential bedroom(s) we’re moving the trees for a number of reasons, including that they squeeze the breath out of the South West. The South West is the area of the mature woman of course and of relationship. In his relationship with the very beautiful Tina, Doug feels constricted and is smart enough, brave enough and sensitive enough to conclude she does too, even though the feeling is unspoken. The path around the house on that side needs freeing up because it effectively cuts off a chunk of the garden to the front but this lopping is also deliberately provocative. He knows these things need to get out into the open and this will do it. That intention is registered now. He’s committed to a decision.

We all shake hands. The architect is full of plans. He’ll be running them by me and I’m  sure they’ll be first class. The civil servant shuffles off. I doubt I’ll see him again. I think I hear the oak let out a breath.

Richard Ashworth 2012.

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