"I agree", "You are right" and "I love you". A wise husband will fall back regularly on one or all of those simple phrases which, if followed up with appropriate action, will help to ensure a happy woman.
I had another bright idea. I had spent the morning demolishing more dead and straggly undergrowth, while the chaps ferried barrowloads to the bonfire. I know, it would be good to shred it but there's too much.
In the afternoon, the Sage went out to do a Good Deed and ventured out again to do some scything (in a flowerbed!) and cut back some more stuff. I was particularly happy to discover the little three-cornered bit at the back is a wonderful mini-wilderness, with prostrate ivy on the ground and peacefully shady elm saplings. Dutch elm beetles attack after a few years, so we don't have elm trees any more, but the roots put forward new shoots. When I mentioned it to Al this evening, he knew all about it. He and the other children had played there throughout their childhood, but I never knew as it was hidden behind the lilac.
The original elm tree stump was there too, now completely dry and rotten. As I cut away some ivy, it started to powder away. I'm rather inclined to leave it. The Sage remembers climbing the tree as a child. He particularly remembers being too young to climb it - being 4 and 6 years younger than his siblings - and his brother dropping apple cores, known as 'mineral deposits' on his head.
When I had had enough, I looked around at the laurel hedge. Earlier this year, I cut it back from 12 or so feet high to stumps (this was the first outing of my lovely pruning saw). It has grown back to about 3 foot. I took shears and started to cut it level. Then I gazed at it again. And realised that it would never look good. It has been there for decades and been razed several times, only to grow rampantly again. Now it is, in places, about 8 foot deep and is a series of thickets rather than a hedge. Nothing grows successfully near it except ground elder and I have become so disheartened by the whole area that I tend to ignore it - hence the weeding by scythe.
The Sage came home. I asked him how he'd got on and we chatted for a bit and I started dinner preparations while he opened some cider - I'd already poured myself a glass of wine. Then I asked him if he'd come and give his opinion outside.
"How would it be," I asked him (and Al, who happened to be around) "if we got Alan in with his JCB and had all the laurel rooted out? We could clear the area, except for a few big shrubs, and take the lawn to the edge of the drive. I've always wished the lawn were bigger. It would mean we'll actually have to mow it regularly, but we'd have an incentive."
He thought about it. "I agree", said the Sage. "I'll ring Alan and see if he can come out soon."
Earlier today, he said that he's had a message from the brickmaking company to say they've got enough suitable bricks for us. He's looked at lots and decided to go for new ones after all, but traditionally hand-made ones. He spoke vaguely about aging them - is he going to use the yoghurt and dung technique, I wonder?