27 August 2009


On Monday afternoon, a big truck arrived from Wickes - the DIY/Builders' Store. I jumped in the cab with the friendly driver - let's call him Humphrey - and directed him round the back of our house where there's a little private lane. Unfortunately, because of overhanging bushes and trees and the sheer size of the truck, Humphrey was unable to back his vehicle far up the lane so expertly, using his heavy duty crane, he swung my items round the back of the truck and drove off. I was left with a massive bag of pea gravel and a palette of thirty paving slabs.

Using a builder's wheelbarrow I had borrowed, I made over thirty trips back and forth to make sure that the gravel and the the paving stones were safely in our garden before nightfall. I was sweating like a Finn in a sauna.

Last weekend I had laboriously dug out a channel for our new garden path - transporting barrowload after barrowload of earth to the dumping ground. On Tuesday, the path laying commenced but it was rained off on Wednesday. It was mainly about levelling. I also had to use an angle grinder to slice a couple of the slabs. Can you picture me - safety goggles and green ear protectors and a tea towel tied round my face to prevent inhalation of concrete dust.
At one point, above the channel I had previously excavated, I seem to have unearthed some of the corrugated remains of a World War II Anderson Shelter. Digging this out was no joke.

Anyway, come Thursday evening I had laid twenty eight slabs - all butted up together and pretty much level, laid on a bed of pea gravel that I had compressed with my new "rammer" (see right) - what a beautifully simple DIY tool! I wonder who invented it. Probably a caveman in the year dot.

The path is not quite finished but I am getting there and you know - I have enjoyed every minute of this job - the planning and estimation, the heavy lifting, the sweat, feeling physically tired and seeing my twenty metre path growing slab by slab. This has felt like real work - so different from burning the midnight oil to correct English exercise books or waxing lyrical about Seamus Heaney. As I make it, I wonder how long my path will last. Some time in the future - perhaps fifty years from now - will there be a guy up our garden digging up my slabs and marvelling at my workmanship - "They don't make paths like they used to!"


  1. Yup - that's EXACTLY what they'll say.

  2. Deirdre7:18 am

    OOOooh I'm impressed....we just paid a builder lots and lots of money to do just that....my drive slabs were all wobbly and up and down so he took them up and relaid them properly and made the drive bigger by adding 3 more rows/lines.....had I known you were such a handyman I'd have asked you!! well done! an academic and handy around the house..what a catch you were for your lovely wife!!

  3. MOPSA Trouble is, I won't be around to hear them. Up our garden I have found allmanner of things over the years including coins and broken old clay pipes.
    DEIRDRE You know, I'd never thought of it that way but you are right! My wife did get lucky that night long ago. Should you need any other jobs doing, I will be happy to pop round. Nobody should have to tolerate wobbly slags.

  4. Wobbly slags? Ooh er.

    Ahem, now stop laughing TLC and remember what you were going to say...

    That sounds like a lot of hard work, hopefully all worth it by the end.

    The buried Anderson shelter must be a Sheffield tradition - I also dug up one of those when I moved to Crookes and attacked the wilderness/garden at the back of the house.

    I also found a selection of broken chimney pots and a couple of smashed up fireplaces. If only they had been in one piece, they were much sought after at the time.

  5. And you thought retirement was going to be all peaches and cream!!!!

  6. If you have a moment, I have a waterlogged pig hut to sort out.

    More important - any chance the Tigers can go easy on the Wolves this afternoon?

  7. With all that "muck tha' must have saved tha'self a bit a' brass?"

    Welcome to the world of DIY.

  8. TLC - Couldn't you have glued those fireplaces and chimney pots back together - as in "Time Team"?
    RHYMES WITH.... Peaches? Isn't this the Georgia state fruit? I never thought retirement would be peaches and cream - I thought it would be arthiritis, destitution and bad breath.
    MALC I phoned the lads at halftime to tell them to let Wolves have a gift goal after halftime and they agreed. Waterlogged pig pen? Send in the missus while you're blogging and checking out the Wolves homepage.
    KIPPERS DICKIE Imitation of the Yorkshire accent is deemed to be a heinous crime in the eyes of the Equality Commision to which you have jusat been reported. Have a nice day!


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