Time off, trips and gardening. 

The last 10 days I’ve had some time off work, and it’s been glorious. Whilst I love my job it’s been really nice to have some time at home with the family. As I mentioned in the last couple of posts we went up to Wales for a few days at the start of my time off to visit some family and had an all round great time. We visited a huge waterfall, climbed a mountain, took a ride on a steam train, went to Liverpool and visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum, it was brilliant. 

On Tuesday it was time to go home and on Wednesday the work started.

We only moved into our current home about 6 months ago, and one of the nice things about it was that there was no work that needed doing immediately so we could wait and see what we wanted to change. We’re just starting to put our own stamp on the place now but one of the things we knew we wanted to sort was the garden. 

Don’t get me wrong the garden was very nice, built over 3 levels with a small fortunes worth of block paving and very little maintainance needed it was perfect, for the 60 something widow that used to live here. For a family with two young children on the other hand it was a hospital visit waiting to happen. The upper levels were fine with plenty of space for a garden table and BBQ ready for grown up entertaining but concrete blocks and kids don’t mix. With this in mind we’d made the decision before we even moved in that the bottom of the garden was going to become an area for the kids to play and this week was the week I’d selected to do it.

It started off looking like this:

Day one was dominated by the block paving, as I was working largely alone (I did have a little bit of “help” from some small people and my wife did put a coat of paint on one of the fences) pulling up the blocks and carrying them up the stairs to the front of the house to throw in a skip took a full half day. After that it was time for some painting, there would be lots more to come, but at least I had some help! 

He insisted on wearing his hi-vis vest because that’s what builders wear! Once it came to the outside of the summer house I’d managed to rope in another helper. 

At the end of day one the blocks were up and the first coats of paint had been put on the fence and summer house. As you can see we went for really dull neutral colours! 

On day two the help I’d got on day one seemed to have lost its enthusiasm and I was on my own. Plus the sun had come out, bad news for a ginger having to work outdoors all day! The plan for day two was to get the new ground surface down, we wanted something that would be softer than the blocks if the kids fell on it. After doing a bit of reasearch we decided on recycled car tyres. Literally the ground of the play area is covered with old tyres that have been shredded and dyed. Softer and less biodegradable, and therefore longer lasting, than wood chippings they also help the environment by finding a use for old tyres otherwised headed for landfill. 

So having put a weed repressing membrane down and armed with a wheelbarrow and a shovel (and a hat to keep the sun off my big bald head) I started the task of carting 600kg of the stuff from the front of the house down to the bottom of the garden, the result is well worth the effort though! It looks great and is safe for the little ones to fall on, as my son keeps showing me by deliberately throwing himself on the ground! 

After the ground was dealt with there was more painting to be done (there’s a recurring theme here) more coats on the fences and summer house. 

Day three and my helpers had emigrated to the park with their mum and some friends so I was on my own again. Day three was time for even more paining and some finishing touches. My wife had had two brilliant brainwaves, first, in a pique of Pinterest crazed fervour she suggested that I should do something with the pallet the recycled tyres had been delivered on. Dutiful as always I got my paintbrushes and tools out and with the help of a scaffold board shelf I’d made for our old house I made a pretty cool shelf. 

Her second idea was even better, she thought the kids might like a chalkboard in the garden. So I picked up a sheet of MDF and some blackboard paint at our local DIY superstore and the results are fantastic and the kids love it. 

Some more wifely Pintresting had resulted in some pretty cool ideas for hanging baskets and planters and so out came the spray paint and compost! 

Day four was dominated by the arch. It was a bloody hot day for April and the arch was to be frank, a bastard. The last few times we’d been at the shop my wife had mentioned she liked the look of a wooden arch that was on sale, as she was out for the day I decided to surprise her. 

Three coats of paint, a mere 8 screws, some digging, half a a dozen nails, a complete disregard for the “do not attempt to build this arch with any less than two people” instruction and a LOT of swearing later the arch was up. A few finishing touches and a bit of a tidy up and the garden was complete, and I was exhausted. Back to work tomorrow, and though I’m not looking forward to that I am looking forward to getting back in my gym routine. 

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