We open the doors to the public very soon. The weeks before re-opening are always a manic time of trying to get all your essential repairs and building works completed with no staff and no budget but this year has been even more frantic than usual.
To condense many months of ongoing drama and angst in certain quarters the end result was my Boss and our volunteer shop manager resigning simultaneously and not entirely unexpectedly at the end of the pre season volunteer meeting just a couple of weeks ago.
To compound matters the volunteer shop manager also provides most of the stock. Since she was leaving she decided to take all her wares with her, leaving me with some dusty bare shelves and the pricing gun.
So, in addition to the usual long list of requirements before opening (re-lettering and replacing the signs, interviewing and hiring seasonal staff, unpacking the many boxes of 2009 literature and recruiting materials in the ticket office, updating the handbook, proofing a myriad of advertising, agreeing budgets, and so on) McColleague and I have also had to become impromptu shop managers. We have been scavenging every stock and store room in our quest for merchandise. There was great excitement when we unearthed an entire box of out of date crisps - that's lunch sorted for the next month!
Normally we make great use of the wardens in our pre season preparations, as they are so helpful when you need to move heavy oak furniture or shift an ice cream freezer. This year, however, we are effectively down to just one. Luckily that one is Lovely Warden but he is over-burdened and we try not to add to his workload if we can avoid it. Hence my decision to pressure wash the courtyard myself.
In the shady areas a treacherous green algae proliferates, making the surface incredibly slippery when wet. I donned protective clothing - wellies, cropped trousers and a mac - plugged in the pressure washer and did my bit for health and safety. It's a fearsome beast the pressure washer. It removes algae and dirt effortlessly and blasts them safely onto my face and body in a thick coating of filth. Effective at removing years of mud, it is equally good at removing huge chunks of cement and gravel from the courtyard surface itself, and you can't get cleaner than that.
After many, many hours I had completed cleaning maybe a third of the courtyard. I was caked in goo and my trigger hand was still vibrating for hours after I finished. The rubble and silt I had created had blocked the drains and the muddy water refused to drain away.
"I tried to save you a job," I explained, as Lovely Warden unblocked the drains and shovelled the mud and rubble into a wheelbarrow. "Would you like some out of date crisps?"