At the moment we have the builders in – when they finally arrive for the day. This can mean any time between 8.30 and 11 30 am – more often the latter. We thought it was a small job – just a roof repair on an out building  – but they’ve managed to extend it to 10 days so far. Fortunately we are paying by the job rather than the hour. One of them will go off for a spade, a special one he can’t work without,  or to the post office ( 5 doors way) and then doesn’t reappear for 4 hours..

My lilies are struggling to bloom in between bags of cement and odd planks. Every petal and leaf is covered with a fine layer of dust. The lawn has streaks where planks have been laid for weeks. In the front garden it’s a free for all. We have a wide double drive, but somehow when new building materials arrive they end up in the rose beds. That’s not to talk about the way cement and brick dust are tramped   through the house and the amount of tea, cake, sausage sandwiches and cheese toasties to be provided.. My knees bear two huge bruises because I fell over on to a stone floor  – the culprit  a piece of equipment they were storing in the conservatory to keep it dry.

But they are really nice people and my older daughter keeps me on track. ‘They’ll soon be gone, the rain will wash all the dust away, the plants will survive  and we’ll have a building that will last another hundred years.’ 

She is one of life’s perpetual optimists. There is a saying ’Two men looked through prison bars. One saw mud and one saw stars.’  She would see the mud, but it wouldn’t bother her. Her life hasn’t been an easy one – even before she was born things began to  go wrong – she tried to come out sideways. There followed lots of operations and brittle bones have meant lots of fractures – at one point 5 different ones from different injuries. At present she is unemployed like a lot of graduates today- but she thinks that just gives her more time to look for that perfect job. Such optimism is a gift to be cultivated.

Back to the builders – two of them. One, a short plump Yorkshireman,  is eternally cheerful. Offer him a simple cup of tea and he beams.  Add a slice of cake and he practically floats with happiness and well being. 

His companion, both in Tyneside about 50 years ago,  a man who has spent his whole adult life drifting from one relationship to another , job after job and place after place,  rarely smiles, complains often and has never been heard to laugh in the two years we’ve known him.

 Both have difficulties in their lives, not always their own fault. One gradually overcomes each difficulty as it comes along – but it is always someone else’s fault  – so he moans about it. – a lot  The other has just as many difficulties but sails through to the other side still smiling ‘These things happen’.

Which would you rather be? The circumstances they live in are very similar, but one enjoys the simple pleasures of life and the other sees problems at every corner. I know the rest of his family and they are all bright, happy people with beaming smiles – something must have happened that he never got over, but his brothers and sister were brought up by the same parents in the same house. 

Think of these two when you are struggling with your language learning. Either it is a chore to be got through, or it can be fun and you can enjoy new things. It is the same language with its awkward verbs and strange constructions  – it is how you deal with it that can make all the difference.