Being a Man. This means different things to different people, sporting prowess, building stuff, using tools. And cooking on a BBQ. I am going to concentrate on the building and tools bit, the weather in the summer has not been good enough for a BBQ for the least couple of years!
Doing what I do, being an accountant, generally means I spend a lot of time behind a desk and not doing much physically, other than tapping on a keyboard (I write reports – not just playing with a calculator!). This means to ‘prove’ I am a real ‘Man’ I need to build something, and use tools to do it.
We moved into our house in April 2007 and to be fair the garden was pretty plain, fairly large for the size of house in a modern estate, but plain – just grass and a shed. This was my canvass. As soon as Vicky said she wanted to do more in the garden, the drawing board was out. I was onto it in a flash. This was my first opportunity to prove my worth as a husband, to be ‘Manly’ – other than flat pack Ikea stuff (which doesn’t really count as DIY in my view – DIY means do it yourself, blunder your way through and not follow instructions!).
Raised flowerbed was the plan, in brick. Brick was my idea, I’d never done more than change a plug really, bang a few nails through the mother-in-laws central heating pipe’s – the usual stuff for a rooky! But to build something properly and lasting it has to be in brick. It was going to be in the top corner of the garden, which was not at a 90-degree angle due to the boundary, so triangle is the obvious answer. Not to the adventurous person that is naively, blindly heading into something they have never done before. I decided on a nice ‘S’ shaped curve across the front instead of a straight line!
I have a book called ‘DIY Know How With Show How’ and I would recommend it to anybody, aspiring ‘Man’ or single lady. It will show you how to do anything you may need around the home, including what tools and materials you would need. On a more sarcastic note, I know exactly how to build a block wall in the middle of my living room, the use for this wall I am not so clear on. Still, good book.
It was tough work digging out the foundations in our clay soil, and they weren’t deep only about 15cm as I recall and about 30cm in width. As I was working full time and given our rubbish weather it took me quite a few weekends to dig out the foundations. I dug out the soil onto some tarpaulin leaving a surprisingly large mound that made the back garden look fairly untidy. Don’t think the neighbours were thrilled! Getting the footings level in 3 dimensions is not so easy.
Then the ‘Manly’ bit started, mixing the concrete for the foundations. For a novice with no old head giving me advice, I just plodded on following the instructions on the packet and it worked quite well. The concrete set solid and fairly even right around the shape. Next step, brick laying.
I used a Flemish Bond as this was the most attractive and straight forward type I could find. The first layer was quite easy as I only had to worry about brick position and not if they were flat too. Worrying about whether they were flat as well as in line was the worry for the next layers! In all honesty, I basically muddled my way through it and made it up as I went along, especially if I couldn’t find out from my book or the web the exact scenario I was in.
At the end of the day, I’m proud of the wall and it will provide a very useful place for us in the garden and something that is pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Just to add that extra bit of fanciness I subsequently added some up-lighters to give a nice warm glow and to show it off a bit at night.
Whilst I’m proud of the wall, it is not my greatest achievement to date….I’ve slipped in a picture as a hint, I’m sure you’ll pick it out.
I am now going to watch sport, drink beer, talk about cars and cook meat on the BBQ……