In every respect, never has the expression ‘it never rains but it pours’ been more apt! As a recently single individual for the first time in many, many years I was just getting used to the single life and all its benefits; time for reading, control of the TV remote so I can finally watch the motor racing, and a host of other things. For whatever reason, some women seem to love drama in their lives, but give me the peaceful life any day in preference to arguing and bickering.

However, time’s a funny thing and before long, like any red-blooded male, the mind begins to mend the past and imagine the future. A dollop of female company wouldn’t go amiss occasionally! Unfortunately, I’m now of an age where most people are coupled up and, having been out of the loop for over 30 years, I’ve no idea how the dating game works. Colleagues have suggested various websites and even certain bars, but this all seems a little seedy to me, so I had decided to stay single for a little longer. After all, a sawmill is hardly the place to meet the opposite sex. Or so I thought...

In what seemed no time at all, various ‘opportunities’ presented themselves. Women do come to the sawmill, often for sawdust for animals or to place orders and, on this occasion, a nurse 20 years younger than myself gave me her number and suggested we go cycling together. I have to say I was very flattered, but she lives with someone and I couldn’t understand why on earth she’d want to have the company of an older man. Although I’m reasonably fit, I had visions of her disappearing over the horizon and me left gasping in her wake. A few days later, while I was mulling over whether to accept her request, another lady appeared at the mill. She entered like a mini whirlwind and although her partner was with her (he’s collecting timber) she was gushing with complements about the place; the smell, the trees, the noise, the saws. Probably the closest thing to a sawmill groupie you’re going to get. “Are there any jobs going?” she asked.

For a split second I nearly said yes. I’ll work alongside women just as I would a man, but then I quickly imagined the consequences. The workforce would turn into jabbering, salivating wrecks with a beautiful woman in their midst! So I pretended not to hear the question. I know in these days of equal opportunities one shouldn’t think this way, but a few days later, as if to illustrate a point, another female appeared on the scene.

She was dressed to kill and carried a couple of bags in her hands with which to collect a bit of firewood. Her strapless cashmere top hung loosely around her upper body and kept creeping down as she walked, revealing her ample cleavage. It was very difficult not to look as she bent over in a somewhat staged fashion to collect morsels of wood. The lads working on the machines usually gesture to visitors as to where I might be found, but on this occasion they’d collectively left their stations and were like bees round a honey pot. It was customer service gone wrong! She finally came across towards me and, as she lent forwards to speak, it was difficult not to notice what the cashmere top was intended to contain. Struggling not to stare, I suggested she came back after 5pm, when things would be quieter, the lads would have gone home and I’d have time to sort her order.

Sure enough at 5pm she turned up. It was then I realised this was the sawmill groupie I’d seen a few days earlier. She still had her partner in tow but this time the makeup was gone. The cashmere top was replaced by a washed-out tartan top and baggy jeans. The image I’d held all afternoon was torpedoed into a million pieces. I presumed this would be the last I’d see of her, but a few days later, when I returned from delivering timber, there she was waiting by the cabin.

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On our previous encounter I’d lied about my marital status (out of sympathy to her partner) and played down my love of motorbikes. This time, however, she came prepared and had clearly done some homework. She came armed with pictures of motorbikes she claimed to own and clearly seemed to know a lot about me. The conversation was easy, flirtatious and full of innuendo. And then she came out with something astonishing. Would I mind if she came and looked after me? She offered to clean and cook free of charge – and all this from someone whose name I didn’t even know. Being quite naive in these matters, I wasn’t sure what she was after, but I was beginning to get a good idea! I turned her down.

Now before you all collectively say “what a gentleman”, I have to admit to not turning down all of her requests. This single clause in the contract appears to have frightened her off for the time being. Like most men I enjoy a bit of flirtatious banter with the opposite sex, but I’m not going to get involved with sordid affairs. Maybe it’s the new normal, but it’s not for me. So I’ve decided to avoid women for now and focus on work.

Autumn seems to be developing into the rainy season. For the last few years, October, November and December have been incredibly wet. For anyone who’s spent time in the woods on a chainsaw you get pain in a joint just above the hips on both sides. Cold, damp weather really attacks these areas and with years of wear and tear I’ve had a lot of pain in my back and joints. I also think using cant hook levers to heave trees has caused a lot of problems and, in hindsight, I’d have probably used wedges a lot more to prevent the wear and tear on my body.

Fortunately, I’m now living in a cabin which is fitted out for site use. It’s well insulated with electric heaters and warms up quickly. In the evening I jump into the shower, pop the kettle on, throw something into the microwave, turn on the heating and throw my dirty clothes into the washing machine. In 15 minutes I’m clean, warmed and fed and, after a quick wipe round, the cabin’s clean. If anyone has ever spent time in a cold, dark caravan in a wood with a Calor gas heater that doesn’t work, then the cabin is the Ritz in comparison. This all means  it should provide serious health benefits through what appears to be another very wet autumn.

Because of the weather last year, we had a huge amount of dirty logs. As the ground became waterlogged, handling the timber became dirty work as well, with vehicles splashing them when passing. A neighbour has let me use his field to store saw logs so I have forward bought most of the timber I’m going to need for these wet months. I’ve also decided not to accept logs covered in mud as last year I spent the best part of a week pressure-hosing the mud off timber after our saw sharpening bill doubled. So, please keep wood out of the mud and slow down when passing log stacks.

One advantage of being a small operator is versatility. The mill is booked up for most of the winter as merchants search for stock after being wiped out in the lockdown. The pressure is starting to ease and if a lucrative one-off job comes along, I’m light enough on my feet to take advantage of the opportunity. This week I’ve had to let the lads catch up on their holidays after what has been an unprecedented period of production. Luckily an order arrived for some large blocks. With no need for re-sawing, cross-cutting or treatment, it makes for an easy production run. The job is for a fish quay and it’s nice to use home-grown timber on a feature which should last a lifetime rather than turning good wood into garden sleepers!

P.S. I know I said I’d decided to stay single for the time being, but after a phone call and a visit, it looks like I’m going on a date.

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