Having cut along every conceivable dotted line on my body in the pursuit of the autumnal pruning regime: sticking plasters over every jolting puncture wound and binding each twingeing muscle in the aftermath of preparing the garden greenery for winter, the time has now come to pack and store away the various wood and metal gewgaws that litter my small square of England’s green and pleasant sward during the summer months. I have alerted the relevant emergency authorities, Elastoplast have gone on to twenty-four hour shifts in preparation and my wife is laying in a darkened room with a dampened cloth over her eyes. Wrapped within sufficient thermal insulation to keep a dormouse snugly at the South Pole, I will venture out into the garden where the garden bench that has spent the entire summer gently divesting itself of various arms, legs and backrests will stoically resist all attempts at disassembly. Muttered oaths and whispered threats will, on past evidence, prove wholly ineffective and the subsequent search for the axe will serve merely to unearth approximately sixteen new strains of fungi in the garden shed. Global Warming and the consequent threat of flooding the streets of York precludes the possibility of burning it, so the bench will be left to complete the decomposition at which it has heretofore excelled.
Metal benches, chairs and tables are not, unfortunately, quite so accommodating. They require careful deconstruction in order that they can be carefully packed away through the winter months allowing for easier disposal of the rusted remains in the spring. The liberal application of WD40 to the nuts and bolts should allow easy removal. Should, but does not. The separate elements remain fused as one by a layer of binding oxidisation and the oily layer from the spray merely accentuates the fact that the spanner I have for the job just doesn’t quite fit. It is imperial, whilst the bolts are metric. Or the other way around. I have no idea how you can tell. One way or another I have removed more knuckles than I have fingers – that total not necessarily being the number I started with – and (if you will forgive me) completely rounded my nuts. I would hacksaw them off, but the hacksaw is still conjoined to the garden bin where I left it last year. I have an electric jigsaw that would effortlessly cut through them, if only it had not cut through its own cable with similar ease the last time I used it. I will return to this particular problem once I have found my big hammer.
Having already removed most of the mirrors that are dotted around the garden I must now remove the shards that remain fixed – either too tightly or too loosely, I am never sure – to the walls. I approach the problem forearmed with such a variety of Pozidrive, Phillips, SupaScrew and Flat Head screwdrivers that Wickes – should they be able to see them through the various layers of paint they have been used to stir – would probably throw in the towel. Unfortunately, whatever screws I have used quite clearly require a completely different model. My attempt at removal with a claw hammer, although unsuccessful at loosening the screw, does remove the mirror and the lower third of a finger that, truth be told, I use very rarely anyway. I am relieved to find that the two mirrors I affixed to the fence are no longer my responsibility as they currently lay, still secured to the larch lap panels, in next door’s pond.
My previous attempt at mending the ailing garden gate ensures that no burglar can now enter our premises from that direction. Unfortunately, as I appear to have fixed the new hinges to the latching side, it also means that I cannot put the bins out. In order to facilitate the necessary revamp I conducted a careful search for my hammer which was subsequently found propping up the sagging rear corner of the shed. Having carefully removed it, replacing it with a brick that, until that moment was blocking the bigger of two mouse holes, I set about trying to get the handle back in it. What I needed was a hammer, but… Having used the brick instead I was thrilled to find that the shed lurched no more than forty five degrees without it. I will reset the clothes pole as soon as I have found some means of opening the shed door to get at the spade. Having spent the entire evening reattaching the wobbling hammerhead to the hammerstick-thing with gaffer tape, I intend to tackle the ‘gate conundrum’ tomorrow. Should I move the latch to the hinge side or vice versa? If I leave the hinges where they are, I will have to move the little hook that holds the whole thing, when it is capable of being opened, back against the garage wall. Without it, I recall, the gate does nothing but flail itself to death. I am tired of hammering the gate post back into the wall.
The final pre-winter garden task is to move all pots, tubs and planters under cover for the duration. The cover, in this instance, is the greenhouse. It is also partial. Such broken panes as do not have black plastic bin liners sellotaped over them have been replaced with variously assembled pieces of hardboard, cardboard and, in the door, a piece of mirror that gives me a terrible fright each time I open it. None-the-less the greenhouse is a wonderful refuge for all the bulbs and rhizomes that, having survived and wilted through the summer, need somewhere to go and quietly die. The smell of the greenhouse in Spring speaks volumes about the fragility of life. The crackling sound under my feet speaks volumes about the fragility of glass.
And so, like the rest of nature, the garden is prepared for the travails of winter. For months ahead there will be no tinkling of water-feature, no twinkling of solar lights and no inkling of why everything else, including the lawn, has turned to brown sludge. Come the Spring, after a dark eternity, new green shoots will appear everywhere I don’t want them to and every plant that I treasure will snap when I go near it. As soon as the clocks go forward, I will retrieve a large bag of six inch nails from the back of the garage and see if I can get another year out of the garden bench…
Blow, blow thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude – William Shakespeare