Friday 30 July 2021

Green Fingers

As a carer during the pandemic I have been cautious about mixing with others. I can’t risk my husband getting covid-sick on top of his medical state. And if I got covid he couldn’t care for me. My outlet has been: a ‘literature on film course’, swimming, art challenge, carers cafe, covid-safe meet-ups with mates… and my garden.

At the start of lockdown #2, November 2020, our garden fence and hardware chap said my shed was rotten. I was happy to replace it with a potting shed. We have little substantial window ledge room in our house making germination of seedlings difficult. A potting shed or greenhouse was required. This same chap said it was impossible to build a potting shed where I wanted it and thereby talked himself out of a job. A friend of ours understood exactly what I wanted. We perused websites and brochures and I ordered a £700 potting shed. Expensive but taller than average with double doors, space for the pine table we had from uncle when we got married, with good sized windows and much space for shelves and hooks. The greenhouse I chose was a wooden construction with polycarbonate windows. And about a third of the price. 

By January my friend-cum-gardener had made space for concrete bases for the shed and greenhouse in our top garden. He shifted the raised beds and ordered bags and bags of sand and cement. All was going well until the shed suppliers said there was a delay in receiving the shed sections their end. Was it covid? Was it Brexit? Either way we had to wait. Meanwhile the inferior greenhouse was available. As was the so-called help on their switchboard: 

Me: ‘Does the greenhouse come with its own staging?’

Reply: ‘What’s staging?’

Clearly an expert.

Nor did they know if it came with its own floor. 

However on delivery day, at the end of January this year, my friend and I waited for the driver to deliver the sections of the greenhouse via the back roads to the rear of our house. It takes some doing manoeuvring around our neighbourhood for someone with a lorry driving up from Southampton in hail and sleet. My friend and I stood at points along the road to flag him down in case we saw him driving the wrong way. It’s surprising what you learn about lorry types, their width and tonnage, when asking them to reverse down hill to your garage. And a neighbour had just had a load of logs delivered which was blocking the entrance to our slip road. That meant more work for my friend. But he is very fit, rarely tires and was a mountaineer in a past life. 

The sections were duly delivered but my friend discovered there was no greenhouse floor. He, being a quick thinker with an eye for a bargain, asked what the piece of wood was that was next to the shed and greenhouse sections on the back of his lorry.

Driver: ‘Oh that’s packing material.’

My friend: ‘Can we have a sheet as a floor for the greenhouse?’

Driver: ‘I don’t see why not. It’ll only go for scrap.’

Within minutes the driver had left to deliver another substandard shed to the Forest of Dean and my friend was raiding a skip for a doormat and blocks to use as a step into the greenhouse-to-be. 

As the concrete base had already been made I asked a young person I know if he could help assemble the greenhouse and next day the two men were in the top garden messing about with silicon sealant, nails, screws drills and polycarbonate windows. And no the pieces did not fit well together, yes there were gaps and it was a very cold Thursday in January. 

By mid afternoon I ordered them takeaway fish n chips as they’d been out there in the cold for ours. It was still lockdown and only takeaway service was available. And it was dark at 5 pm. So they sat with their fish n chips in the cold while I dished mine up on real plates. They didn’t come inside the house. It wasn’t wise and none of us were jabbed by then. 

But by the Saturday evening we had a greenhouse. Hoozah! It was then that the problems really started. So much sealant was needed to glue the sides together. The condensation was dreadful and the greenhouse window would not open. Then when it allowed itself to be prized open it would not shut. 

Should I have bought a more expensive greenhouse? Probably. But, as I write, it has grown my petunia plants, all my climbing and dwarf beans and is now producing sweet red tomatoes. Not all bad then. 

Next time I will write about the arrival of the shed. Not quite as exotic as the the arrival of the magi but it was an impressive bit of kit. 

Stay safe. And adieu till next time.


Sunday 4 July 2021

Applause for the pause

It has been a couple of months since my last blog. I - along with a friend or two - have been busy transforming part of my garden. Applause for the pause and more of that later. 

For all of us 15 months of lockdown, changing habits, using sanitiser, masks and contactless payments, standing a metre or two apart and joshing for supermarket delivery slots have altered us. I haven’t had the strain of home-schooling, nor working from home with a dodgy signal nor with bored children needing a lot of attention. I haven’t had to travel to work on a crowded bus, train or tube. But I am a carer. And I don’t watch football or tennis from the terraces. 60,000 spectators are due to watch the next round of our fabulous football team versus Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday but what of the covid risk? 

‘We are all spectators in a giant human health experiment.’

More prosaically I have chosen to go to friends, usually meeting in their gardens or in a conservatory, to outdoor cafeterias or to a carers’ cafe. But I haven’t gone anywhere with crowds. When I go for a swim I walk there through the city. Bath’s Pulteney Bridge has become very crowded  since the April lockdown restrictions were lifted. Traffic is back to its usual heavy self but the walk to my swim is along a lovely Georgian boulevard, up an incline and into a fairly spacious changing room in a hotel. Residential hotel guests are asked to change in their rooms meaning our changing area is for us - the members of the spa club. Fairly safe in terms of social distancing. 

I have, in the main, been able to keep my distance during lockdown but with rising cases owing to the delta variant of covid I am inclined to continue wearing my face mask and sanitising frequently whatever Bojo announces for the July 19th lifting of restrictions. 

But back to the garden. Since January friends and I have transformed an area at the top of the garden which was formerly just gravel with a few raised beds. It now has a greenhouse, a new substantial potting shed, three water butts with new guttering and the raised beds are truly raised. They are on legs! As I write my dwarf beans are in flower, the leeks are still thin but not still like strands of green hair, the climbing beans are climbing, spuds are flowering, the cabbages are getting fat and a few pea plants are growing strong. The rest have had it. But I never promised you a pea garden.

Beans are my thing! 

Next time I write I will tell you of the triumphs and frustrations of my more recent gardening life. Especially now I’m waiting for an op. on my knee. Just like Roger Federer. I have yet to get the deckchairs on the lawn this year. That tells you something! 


Bye for now.