Tuesday, February 21, 2017

O Reader's Adventures in the back garden

Or, undiscovered country, perils therein and hidden treasure ...

The hills are alive...

            Two quotes come to mind when I think of Wales. The first is Julie Andrews spinning around and trilling “The hills are alive with the sound of music...” OK - so that was about Austria, but it applies to Wales. Music and hills. The other is from the British sitcom Blackadder. The main character describes Wales as a ghastly place, “Huge gangs of tough sinewy men roam the valleys terrorising people with their close-harmony singing.”
            Wales has the singing. Wales has the valleys. And it goes without saying that if you have valleys, then you have hills. Lots of hills. Everywhere. Nearly everything is built on a hill. Some streets go up and down them. If you come out into the road in the snow, you will immediately find yourself 100 yards further down the hill in a heap.
            But most are sensible and go ALONG the valleys. Ours does.
            If you drew a short straw, you would have the hill rising at the back. So the rear of your property is in permanent shade, and you need a mountaineering course to reach your garden. We are on other side - so we are on the ground level at the front, while the rear garden disappears below us. Further up the street the hill is so steep that houses have two more stories underneath what Brits call “ground floor” and Americans call “first floor”. [Americans say both – ed.] It makes for more space and lots of exercise.
            For us, you go down steps to the garden and we just have a head high cellar.
            But out of the back door is a patio area and then steps down to the garden.
            The original steps that came with the house in the 1880s were positively lethal. They were obviously designed for people with very small feet who burrowed underground for a living; it approached what appeared to be almost a sheer drop.
            So when we came here, one of the first things we did was to rebuild the steps. To extend them we created a platform and it just suited the lay-out to put in a manhole cover at that point to reach the sewer. It was discreetly overlaid with a decorative flagstone and then you stumbled through raised flower beds to finally reach the garden.
            But now, the big plan for 2017 is to have a raised decking area, so we will come out onto a large flat area, with much shallower and wider steps at one end down the side of garden. We will be able to bask on our veranda in the two annual days of Welsh sunshine and look at the panorama of other people’s washing... The height of the proposed structure and interminable laws about health and safety meant it took some time to get planning permission, but my son-in-law works in a family engineering business, and he and my daughter have designed it all for us. It is to be of metal but powder coated to resemble wood, and then covered with special boards that will not rot. An earthquake could hit the village and this decking will be the one structure still standing. It is just as well. Just before the law required such detailed checks, our neighbor built his own huge decking area, and after less than ten years had to rebuild it all in the interests of his family not ending up in the hospital.
            We are of an age when that is not a desired option.
            The problem though is that in taking out the steps in readiness this last week, our manhole to the sewer was suddenly revealed, now rising phoenix-like above the level of garden. So we got the builders to re-build it and drastically reduce its height. There was one dodgy moment when they asked us not to use the downstairs smallest room. But just at that moment our home was invaded by gaggle of volunteer workers (R will know who I mean) and all the girls in the cold weather wanted to visit the Welsh “tŷ bach”. I went to put up a sign not to flush, but it was too late - all of a sudden there was an agonized bellow from the garden. It was so expressive. The builder put such a lot of thought into it.
            Anyhow, the workmen have now gone, and my garden is full of rubble. I have just spent a day with rubble sacks transporting it to a local facility that takes it free of charge. I just hope my auto’s suspension survives the experience. I ache, therefore I am.
            All the rockeries and raised beds that were alongside the house have now been transferred to the other end of the garden. And I have to say that I’ve enjoyed the creative aspect of dry stone walling, as I did when I built the originals back in the 1980s.    
            Of course Mrs O has been out there with her phone and her tablet taking pics, and has put it all on Instagram for her circle. It means that when I attend meetings twice a week, I am invariably greeted by individuals who point fingers and chortle. Fortunately nearly all you dear readers haven’t a clue as to who I really am, and you’ll never get anywhere near Mrs O’s account.
            So if I continue this saga I can get away with telling whatever fibs I like.

1 comment:

  1. Two sunny days in Wales? Are you sure you are not exaggerating?

    I suspect the builder was very expressive! :-O

    I will have to start offering decking concerts as well as house concerts.