Annagram: Boardwalk, don’t let me down

In danger of disappearing under a mountain of paper scraps, I was forced to clean out my work area. This is not an exaggeration – I was busy creating a collage once when the pile rose up, as of its own volition, and Thistle emerged, shook himself off, and strolled away, with bits of coloured paper dangling from his tail.

All sorts of other paperwork get caught up in this pile, including computer printouts. ‘How to lay a ‘floating’ floor’; 24 pages on how to create a clay pizza oven; and ‘Basic steps to building a boardwalk’.

These instructions are passed on to the Man of the House, who is the only one capable of carrying them out. I have the ideas, he does the work.

But not from step-by-step instructions.

He glances at the printouts over his bifocals, grunts, and goes his own way.

Hence the ‘floating’ floor is a piece of plywood painted to resemble planks; the pizza oven never materialised because the Moth does not like Pizza; and the boardwalk, winding in and out of the front garden beds, and linking the deck to other paths, was created from old paling fences and cast out palettes.

The latter are of variable quality. Some are quite sound, and others flimsy. This means that while I can tread firmly on some of the boardwalk, I need to tiptoe over or avoid other parts of it.

I know this from the walk unexpectedly giving way beneath me. True, I don’t sink far, and have not as yet sustained an injury, but the uncertainty is always there; and the need to warn visitors that the boardwalk is more for looking at than walking on.

When I first suggested to the Moth that such a boardwalk would be a pleasant addition, enabling us to enjoy our front garden to the full, he appeared to be on board with the idea, excuse the pun.

I stressed that I wanted such a walk to be in keeping and link up to the present deck; a project that he completed some years ago with great skill, using all the right materials, in a relatively short time. This deck has greatly increased the appeal of both our home and garden; I tell the Moth often how much I love it, and what a great job he did.

But he can never quite come at the cost of commercial decking, and blenches when quoted a price.

The Moth loves to recycle building materials, rather than see them go up in a bonfire, and I applaud his thrift and recycling tendencies.

He works hard on such projects, mainly because he’s got to pull out a lot of rusty nails and try to make a lot of oddly disparate palettes into an integrated whole.

I’ve observed in our life together that if there is a hard way and an easy way to do something, the Moth will always select the more difficult option. This means weeks of work (occasionally years) rather than days.

 The results aren’t bad aesthetically, either. The winding paling fence path complemented the Japanese feel of the garden, and the palettes, although a little gappy, gave an organic feel to beds of lilies that Van Gogh might have liked to paint.

 But when I was forced to get down and dirty with an overflowing septic tank in his absence, and had to kneel to the grease trap, accessed via the old fence palings walk,  matters weren’t helped by the palings beneath my knees disintegrating.

When I finally managed to extricate my knee caps and get up out of the mire, I went inside and looked up “How to construct a boardwalk” on the Internet.

Of course, the instructions began with “Purchase required quantity of decking”, which is what the Moth wouldn’t do in the first place. 

However, as his strength returns to him after some months of inactivity, he seems more amenable to taking on board a few basic instructions, rather than following his instincts.

Neither is he quite so averse to buying the correct materials, and even having some of them cut to size.

So when I laid a pile of printouts at his elbow, with neat pictures of how to construct a boardwalk, he actually put on his glasses and looked at them properly, at least for a minute or two.

Mind you, when I complained that I had once again put my foot through a palette on the old walk, he simply picked that section up and put it to one side.

So now there are not only small gaps and weaknesses to navigate, but a large missing section.

Never mind. In the depths of winter he will work on it, and come spring we will admire the flowering bulbs from a new boardwalk – one that won’t let us down.

- Anna Buck

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