Save and savour the stuff of life

IAN COLLINS One of the saddest aspects of human nature may be that we appreciate something most when set to lose or leave it. Holiday destinations usually look at their loveliest on the last day of a summer fortnight, I find.

IAN COLLINS

One of the saddest aspects of human nature may be that we appreciate something most when set to lose or leave it. Holiday destinations usually look at their loveliest on the last day of a summer fortnight, I find. Weekends hit a really poignant patch on Sunday evenings.

What's true with things and places may also be true with people. The maxim about absence making the heart grow fonder is close to tragic. If only familiarity bred contentment rather than contempt - as I really do believe it should.

But: here's a big consolation. Ever since we were pitched from the most parched period for 70 years into the worst drought for a century, I have been revelling in rain.


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While those national treasures known as weathergirls continue to don doom-laden voices at the prospect of a slight shower - "There may be outbreaks of light rain today so do take care won't you" - I want to tear off all my clothes are dance naked in a downpour. And swimming in the rain really is my idea of bliss.

I'm still recovering from shock statistics that London's long-term rainfall is now below that of Rome, Dallas or Nairobi, and that the South-East of England has lower water reserves per head of population than Sudan.

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I wish it would rain and rain and rain. It's true that, while always enjoying wet weather, I didn't quite feel so passionate about it when living on a London floodplain. But now installed in an 11th-floor eyrie I long for a sustained drenching. Roll on those torrential drummings on the skylight above my bed in Southwold.

I love the patterns rain makes on walls of Barbican glass. I leave doors and windows open to the sight and sound of rain. It's great to feel pelted and pummelled by the elements.

Now that my gardening is reduced to balcony pots gradually being stocked with desert-style spiky and herby plants, plus a yard in Suffolk and one third of an allotment (mine being the bit we leave to run wild as a nature reserve), rain is for purest pleasure.

Oh the joy of April showers - of seeing how rain collects

like scattered diamonds on alchemilla leaves and on the very tips of still-curled-up hosta leaves. I relish the smell of gardens in general, and of box hedges in particular, after a soaking.

I most love the look of Britain when it is wet, green and shiny. Just as it looks right now.

While I can't quite think a dripping tap should be a criminal offence, as the most officious officials now suggest, clearly we need to conserve water stocks far more carefully than we do. It's all part of the art of appreciation which is the key to a fulfilling and worthwhile life.

Water meters should be compulsory - it being a matter of both economics and ethics to use scarce resources sparingly. My water bill halved with a meter.

My tiny Suffolk cottage is about to be completely overhauled, and one innovation will be a rainwater butt. At my last place in London I fed the garden with all the nutrients of rainwater - with an extra dash of the drowned nettles which kept the tank free of mosquitoes.

A hot bath is my ultimate luxury, and the centrepiece of the new domestic plan will be a model in which I can stretch out and properly wallow. The current 1930s half-bath, in the corner of my kitchen, requires a contortionist's three-point turn to immerse torso and limbs. Such acrobatics won't suit the aged resident I aim to be.

But, to compensate for bath heaven, I'm also investi-

gating ultra-efficient water-saving taps, loos and showers

via the Green Building Store (01484 854898; www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk).

Meanwhile, I have just enjoyed a weekend in an ancient East Anglian house which once boasted the 17th-century version of running water.

The house was built over a stream, which ran in a channel across the kitchen floor until the 1950s. A culvert by the front door became a fridge.

Now diverted around the side of the house the stream, fed

by garden springs and flowing through the fiercest drought, still supplies all domestic water. Sometimes the bath runs

the colour of mud - for which you'd pay dearly in some fancy spa.

We now consume mountains of medication, when the three things we need most for good health are warmth, sleep and water. As for the latter, let's avoid bottles of polluting plastic and savour our great fortune - as billions of human beings cannot - in the stuff of life on tap.

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