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Author of the Patterdale Hall Diaries and steward of the Hall itself Chris Wyatt proudly displays one of his handmade walking sticks. (Submitted photo)

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Getting busy, getting happy

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DATE: Nov. 10, 2022

We live a divided life these days. The Yellow Springs address is sorted structurally (touch wood) with few issues. Well, except mice, who aren’t terribly structural. Archie can sense mice in the heating ducts at Elm Street. They are almost certainly there; his hearing is en pointe. Staying up late whining and drooling by a heating duct is not good for little Arch and it’s happening every night. The main reason that this is an issue just now is that it’s about to get really cold and I will be decamping to Patterdale Hall to keep the place above freezing. Archie has bonded very hard to me, and so I will take him along. Patterdale Hall is made of mice. It is a beacon to vermin. Archie will likely lose his tiny mind staying overnight.

That said, I often have to sleep downstairs at home because Karen snores. Most nights around 4 a.m., I pick up pillows and head to the mattress in the library. Archie comes with me and slots straight into my right armpit. It is one of the most wonderful things. I completely love this little beast. He pays no attention to the mice, he curls up by my side under the covers and falls fast asleep.

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This weekend I’ll find out whether he just slots into my armpit or if he loses his mind. “Archibald Napoleon Poop Minor” will stay out with me overnight, unless we have to come home. There are no coyotes under the house anymore, so that madness is over, but oh boy, are there rodents. This may well be Archie’s long night of the soul, and I thank the lord that I don’t teach Monday morning, just yet. My gut feeling is that after going bananas for a couple of hours he will tuck in to me on the sofa and all will be well. However, when we took the dogs out there a while back and there were coyotes under the house, Archie was trying to dig through a wooden floor to get at them. While the coyotes are now gone, their smells are still there, and so acclimatizing little Arch may be a fairly drawn-out process. Which is fine, he is a good boy. We have time.

The temperature will drop below freezing for significant periods of next week. We have bought a cold-activated radiator that will help keep things from freezing when we cannot be out at the Hall. Both Karen and Frank championed the brand De’Longhi, so that is the one we chose.

Bob and I are about to start splitting wood as an exercise in survival.

I make walking sticks. It’s something I decided to do during the COVID lockdown, and it really is the hobby of old men. Sticks get harvested in the winter when the sap is down, and then they need to dry for a year or so, depending on the wood. Blackthorn has to dry for three years, incredibly. Then the bark is carefully removed, often leaving some underbark because it’s pretty. Sticks are then sanded, treated with linseed oil over multiple days, allowed to dry and then polished with beeswax. It’s good to have things to fettle with, and having enjoyable basic tasks has become more and more important to me over the last five years.

During the COVID lockdown my brain changed dramatically. I lost all desire to be a research scientist and decided the best use of my time was to teach as many people as possible. My research scientist colleagues were appalled. I completely adore teaching and I loved research, but I would like to spend the next 10 years training doctors and scientists en masse, not focusing on high-level research students. Sixteen years at Wright State University and I have trained four Ph.D. students. I pour myself into training these students, they get everything. I run out of everything. I am so incredibly proud of the Ph.D. students and master’s students who moved through my lab, but I am completely done. Now I want to help as many people as possible get to where they want to be in “biomedical sciences.”

While I realize this is drifting into the arena of “me” rather than Patterdale Hall, you will begin to see what is happening. I now have more time for Patterdale Hall, but much more importantly, I have much more time for Karen. Karen said “yes” when I got the job in America, and we moved here with a 2-year-old child. Karen was six-and-a-half months pregnant. I then spent more than a decade working hard in my job and helping at home. I want to shift that dynamic so I work harder at home and help more students at work. I love my job. I adore taking difficult topics and breaking them apart so that people not only understand them, but also see how amazing they are. The human body is remarkable, fragile and resilient, and medical students need better training.

What else is happening? Well I am getting happier. In no small part because of the decision to buy Patterdale Hall. I have to work just as hard, but I’m doing something I love, and on top of that, I have stuff to do. I’m getting busy. It’s a wonderful thing.

*Originally from Manchester, England, Chris Wyatt is an associate professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology at Wright State University. He has lived in Yellow Springs for 16 years, is married and has two teenage children and two insane Patterdale terriers.

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