Dex the digger, brought his mate Luke to work one day saying that he would share his wages with him, but needed, or perhaps he said wanted, someone else to work with, I can’t quite remember. Well, pleased that the work would get done quicker, I insisted that Luke should be paid equal wages too. Seeing two grown men working for half wages did not sit right with me. However, over the next few days, it did seem to be taking a long time to do these last bits of garden. work Then the rain came, and came and came and came, so that when Dex and Luke came to work, they had to take shelter in the shed at frequent intervals. I was away for 3 days and left them to work, as I had done before when Dex worked alone. This time on my return however, there definitely did seem to be less work done than when Dex had been alone. Did I smell a rat? Had it rained that much? Was I getting paranoid? I pondered over the weekend, and decided to ask Dex to come to work early on Monday, without Luke. I would then work with him most of the day myself. I rang on Sunday to arrange this, but couldn’t speak to Dex directly, leaving a message instead. Early Monday came and went. Dex did arrive late morning with Luke, full of apologies. Unfortunately his personal life had fallen apart that weekend and he had to travel from Kent that morning, from where he was now staying. The cost was outrageous and accounted for most of his earnings that day. We all three worked in the garden till early afternoon and got most jobs finished and the place looking tidy. The new turf had taken well and loved all the rain. I had bought just the Cordyline I wanted and found the perfect place for it. But that was the last I saw of Dex and was left feeling very sad for him. I left thinking about the rest of the garden for another time.
I am over the worry of it now and on the downhill stretch. There were enough bricks reclaimed to remake the wall, and it looks great in light yellow colours of the old London Stock bricks that the house is built in. The path beside it we started in the crazy paving that was down before. However, I was using them only because they were there. I don’t really like the look of crazy paving in a Victorian house setting. The Dex came up with a plan. He had only just started and the cement was still wet. It takes quite a time to fit the jigsaw puzzle together and we reasoned that laying concrete was quicker. Dex’s master plan was to inlay white stones in the cement. I was due to rush to Sussex on a school pick up run in an hour, but chose to rush to the local Jewsons to buy more cement and white stones. I couldn’t quite picture the white path, but took a chance that my taste and Dex’s would match. I flew down to Sussex, but had a bad night there imagining the path to look like a long trail from the top of a grave. The next morning a friend commented that that he had never seem a garden makeover with a graveyard theme….that helped.
But it was lovely and I am so pleased. It still has to have a resin coating so I think it will wear well.
And just little Topsy, it grew.
The work has now expanded and is transforming ¾ of the garden; transforming in a good way. It’s just that, although relatively inexpensive, in terms of labour, the whole job has still cost a small fortune. It’s one of those buying things you sometimes do in Ikea or a pound shop where all the things are such good value for money that you end up buying them all, get to the till, and then faint. I really would never have dreamed of putting this amount of money into the garden.
And I am also not going to feel even more uncomfortable about having done it by adding up all the expenditures to know EXACTLY how much it has cost. I want to be able to just get to the bit where I buy the plants, the delicious bit, without really knowing. After all, I have already got to the squirming stage without the real pleasure, to offset it… And it will be wonderful, like a new garden again after 30 years, I will have fun out there, breakfast, parties, padding pools, I will lounge, sunbathe and, and……no, I will just enjoy working in it like I always do. I will look at it and drink in the beauty of it, you just can’t put a price on that. Perhaps this is not so exciting a stage anyway as it is all the hard landscaping of wall and path preparation, all mud and cement.
So now we are set up to plough through the rest of the plot with the system in place to filter to soil… However, Dex the digger finds yet another layer of buried debris, and we review our tactics. I looked at hiring a small digger, one small enough to get round to the back garden; but that would set me back £186 for the week, plus £30 each way to deliver and collect. Even then, we would still need to spend time sifting the soil.
Meanwhile at the local tip where I had just dumped the first rubble load of the day, the sun was shining. I returned with another load, not an hour later to meet the man at the gate doing the waggy finger thing at me saying “No, no, no, you got to go to the weigh bridge.” Spluttering and protesting I went there, explained that this was all new to me and I had no money on me. The patient and understandably defensive man showed me the signs that explained this new policy, but let me leave the rubble this time as a sort of trial run. The eight bags that were light enough for me to lift would have cost me £55. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT! Was this the end of project revamp?
Since I was in any event going down to deepest Sussex the next day I checked with the dump down there. No proof of residency and no charges, hoorah, job done. Now the top soil and turf is ordered, next comes trellis and the decorative planting. Since the chap from the job centre is sooo good, many other jobs are being tackles as well; just a path relayed and a side bed wall rebuilt, but I will stop as we approach the walls of the house itself.
I hired a wacker plate this week for the very reasonable sum of £23 for 24 hours. It went in the back of my estate car as the handle folded down. Having leveled the new top soil it needed compressing so that it would remain level and not sink in odd places. Dex then laid the turf just before the hosepipe ban came in, and we had a timber to walk across so as not to damage the new grass.
Well….This is getting exciting. The keen garden labourer returned. There was still debris in the ground. I had dug over the entire plot 30 years ago…twice and got out 2 skips of rubble. The section at the end only got one dig over, in a hurry. The grass that had been down there was always poor and the ground hard and lumpy. I knew it was going to be hard going in this bit of garden, hence the need for help. This chap now took to the task with a vengeance. He constructed a giant seiving system out of an old fire guard, several spades, the legs of a dead table and a grass rake. That started to take care of the filtering out of the rubble, but he excavated a trench that was remenicent of a Time Team excavation and has discovered so far: one wheel barrow, one tin bath and a timber shaft of some kind. Tune in next week to find out what it was. — Wendy