Picture of a judge's wigThis Is Not A BLOG!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 13/09/13

Can Yo' Dig It?

It is ever Yer Judge's cute way to take you on an occasional stroll through the minutiae of his life...whether you want it or not.

I hadn't really wanted to go to town yesterday. The one trouble with spending more than a couple of days off work at a stretch is that it tends to induce hermit-like tendencies in me; since finishing work a week ago to the hour that I'm writing this, I have spoken to/with: our village pharmacist and his assistant; one of my nephews; two of his colleagues at the supermarket; two medical receptionists; the guy who came to do the annual (in effect, ten-monthly) gas safety check; one bus driver; the woman on the till at the greengrocer's and the woman behind the counter at the chippy. Eleven people in all. No matter.

Still and all, I needed to go into town for a severely practical reason, although paying 3.50 for the delight of travelling four miles to buy a carrot and two tomatoes did seem on the face of it a wantonly disproporionate effort.

So I hied me into Wrexham on the 11:40 bus, got some money out of the bank and made my way down to Henblas Street to Covent Garden to get the veg...

(Yes, I am aware that tomatoes are - in strict point of classification - fruit, and that carrots were re-categorised as fruit by the EU to ease the passage - as 'twere - of Portuguese carrot cake into the system. So sue me).

For a Thursday, town didn't seem too busy, although there were at that time of day an awful lot of students around; or should that be 'a lot of awful students'? I may be getting cynical in my old age. But even that minor input of tangential social contact seemed to lift my mood a little and, as the weather was pleasant, I decided that yes, I would after all stroll up Charles Street (one of the few streets in Wrexham which hasn't been thoroughly denatured by idiot developers - yet) and partake of some fish and chips from Jones' on St. George's Crescent. This constitutes an occasional treat, about twice a year because I seldom get the time to go up that end of town when I'm working.

I took my foam carton of fish and small chips and, out of a sense of gleeful cussedness and radical posturing, went and sat on the wall outside the local franchise of a global sandwich emporium to eat it (the fish and chips, that is; not the carton - it's only in places like McDonalds where the packaging is invariably of more nutritional value than its contents).

The portion of chips seemed slightly smaller than the last time I'd had one, but that didn't matter too much because the old portion was, if anything, slightly too large for my appetite. They were still very good and the fish - as ever - was perfect.

Wiping the grease off my fingers (I didn't bother with a fork; I have this teeth-on-edge reaction to using wooden cutlery), I made my way slowly back up town and caught the bus home.

I arrived just on 14:00, and then decided - as the weather looked as if it would hold for the moment - to get on with a job I'd started a couple of weekends ago.

Regular readers (in this, I make two big assumptions: firstly, that I have more than one reader; and secondly, that they are all regular) will recall the sad demise of The Shed as a consequence of the blizzard of late March. Well, having used some of the wooden slats to demarcate the front lawn (the flower bed had encroached upon it so that said bed was now a foot wider at the gate end than at the house end), I chopped up the rest. In addition, between the late shed and the fence was a pile of old wooden window frames which had been placed there when the Council had put in double glazing in about 2001. Those had been intended for firewood, but the Council then put gas-fired central heating in and knackered that idea.

I had thought that, as they had been out in all weathers for over a decade, they would be mostly rotten and so would go straight into the green bin. No they bloody weren't, so no they bloody didn't; they all needed sawing up at those odd moments over the summer when I had the time, the weather and the energy to do it.

Anyway, to cut a long story slightly less long, the end result was a great big pile of firewood at that end of the back yard which precluded any further work on the shed site until the friend I'd offered the firewood to came and collected it.

So it was a week last Saturday before I could start work in earnest. My idea was to fork the area over, sieve the remaining small bits of wood and what-'ave-yew out and level the remaining soil. I had already removed a few smallish stones and bricks which had formed a rudimentary step to the shed door and a large reinforced-concrete post which the front of the shed had been resting on, so I set to the rest of it...

Only to find that, when they had put the foundations down in about 1984, my father and brother had not exactly been mucking about. I found an extra set of four bricks at the front, and put them to one side. The thought then occurred to me that similar delights may be awaiting me on the remainder of the site, especially as stabbing the ground with the fork brought that familiar jarring 'clunk' which indicated stone of some sort.

So, indulging in my fantasy of being a member of Time Team, I got my trusty trowel out and started on the area from the back. Over the next couple of hours, I unearthed - well, I had hoped at one point for Roman, if not Late Neolithic, but it wasn't to be - the following:

I had also discovered that the foundations were about half as wide again as the shed itself had been. As I said, no half measures in this family when it came down to making sure that - whatever else might happen down the years - the shed wasn't going to subside.

But it had started to list, even before the snow had come, something which I had ascribed to the long sequence of wet seasons causing the ground to soften. It had started to lean noticeably from front to back; the line of the roof was no longer horizontal, but showed an ominous slant of about nine or ten degrees.

It was while I was in advanced Phil Harding mode that I discovered the real reason for the decline; namely, viz. and to whit, a very large piece of wood, about seven inches by four in section and over five feet long, which had caused the roots of the weigala which had been leaning against the back wall to spread its roots laterally along it.

This large lump of timber needed a fair bit of persuading to shift; this was partly because it had was so firmly embedded in the ground, but also because it weighed a bloody ton. When trying to saw it up afterwards, I realised that it was an old railway sleeper (translation for Americans and other exotics: 'railroad tie').

This - and the second concrete post - needed some hefty manoeuvering to clear the area for further work, and set me to thinking what exactly I was going to do with all the bricks, stones, etc. which I'd unearthed. I didn't quite have enough bricks for a bungalow, but I then thought of a use for them. I have nine paving slabs under the front window, and the soil beneath them has eroded and left them uneven and rocky (although not quite as rocky as parts of the path down the side of the house, where you can put your hand right under some of the stones), so I will use those - the risk of "that first careless rupture" permitting - to firm them up. Once I've cut back the cotoneaster which got flattened in the Good Friday avalanche, of course.

As for the stones and the concrete posts, I pondered for a while then resolved to create a sort of rockery or wall along the fence, which could be regarded (at least by me) as a 'feature', or at least get the bastard things out of the way. So I dug a small trench and rolled the smaller post into it, piled the stones in a not-very-ordered fashion on top of it and wrenched the larger post into position above and just behind them. I could then attend to the soil itself.

However, because the foundations had been significantly wider than the shed, I had had to dig out a section of the lawn itself. This left a drop of about five or six inches from the remaining grass onto the bare area. I had doubted whether I would have enough soil to bank it up to be level, or just above level, with the edge, especially at the back end. On Tuesday, I set to riddling the debris out of the soil and got about half way through the job when I had to stop. Wednesday was a complete wash-out, as we had all-day rain which hadn't been forecast, so I had to set to it again when I got back from town (which is where we came in, dear readers, about seventy-five paragraphs ago).

Pleasingly, I found that there was enough soil which could be shifted to where it was needed, although there's still a sharp drop behind the weigala. However, as I won't be running a mower over that precipice, it doesn't matter too much.

This, then, is how it looks now:

Picture of a square area of bare soil

Looking at it yesterday evening, I noticed that I hadn't quite got the contours of the soil right (the intended slope down to the opposite corner is uneven), and resolved to put that right today...

Except that it's been pissing down all day again, hasn't it?

So that's what I've been up to with my precious leave so far. There's a lot to do in the garden but, having carried out my threat to the buddleia globosa that it would be cut right back if it didn't flower properly this year (perverse creature decided that it wasn't going to flower at all), I don't have any more room in the green bin until next Wednesday afternoon. And then there's this bloody weather, of course.

I'll get there eventually...