Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Man Shed of Destiny draws crowds

One of the very first things we wanted to do before starting any real work on the main house was to create a space where we could scream at each other relax and escape everything. Somewhere clean and tidy with comfy chairs, the telly, maybe even a bed-with-all-necessary-council-permissions-and-approvals.

The natural choice would be a caravan in the back garden-type area and we looked at quite a few a couple of months ago, only to discover that our criteria for relaxation somewhat outweighed our realistic budget. And even if we could stretch to a 20-footer with a bar and putting green on the roof it would be a right mess around to sell it later on and we'd probably make a loss.
So we decided pretty early doors that we would get something that, once it had served its original zen purpose, we could re-purpose for something we'd need. A log cabin or summerhouse would be nice, but would it be anything other than an occasional-use thing afterwards?
Stuff dem base-laying skillz.
I can haz dangly string.
With that in mind we decided on a shed in the front garden. Yes, a shed. A ginormous 20ft x 10ft workshop shed, mind, but still a shed. There were a few main considerations for this:
1. It's classed as a temporary structure and therefore avoids planning permission
2. Cost. Our Billy-Oh 5000 set us back around £1,600 whereas a good log cabin could land in the region of £16,000 or more
3. Once we can relax somewhere in The Lodge itself we will use it for its original purpose as a workshop where I plan to learn me some new woodworking skillz, while it doubles-up as a...
4. MAN SHED!!!1!

So cutting a long story short we enlisted the help of our mates Andy and SamTheDog, who is a dog, and we flattened the former chicken enclosure in the front garden with a JCB borrowed from our neighbour, painstakingly leveled a 22ft x 11ft base using earth, bricks and swear words, laid a giant weed-proof geotextile membrane, laid and leveled 36 toughened plastic grid-tiles, filled them with half a ton of gravel which was then leveled, positioned sleepers on the base (leveled, of course), then started laying out and fixing the floor. We then leveled it.

Real men
While all of this was happening over the course of a few days, we learnt something very important. It is this: when people tell you that life in The Sticks is different, believe them. Particularly the bit about random strangers just popping in to say hello for no other reason than they wanted to. Try that on an estate in Grimsby and you'd be flattened.

And so we had visitors. Some were friends who were just dropping by, but most people were complete strangers who were just interested in what was going on. Some may call it 'nosey', yes, but not us. We spoke to a couple of neighbours from something like a mile away, one or two horse riders, some general randoms and the police. Twice. The 5-0 came over for a chat twice. That's my gambling den idea out the bloody window for a while.
The first time that Ade the PCSO swung by was a bit of a surprise. I was, prophetically, finishing a bag of bacon Frazzles and Dawn was in the courtyard hanging out her bras to dry on the line. It was classy stuff.
A marked police car pulled up to the back gate and a moment later my own underwear needed drying. Our fire a few days earlier hadn't been that bad, had it?
But, no. Ade just wanted to chew the cud, as they seem to do out in t'countryside. We chatted about the house, our plans for it and what we thought of the area. It all ended with a cheery warning about rural crime and what to watch out for, and he was off in a giant plume of dust. Only to return a couple of days later in a glorified golf cart, while I had gone the whole hog and was gnawing on a bacon sarnie and Dawn was sprawled out delicately on the shed roof like a cranefly.

Basically, showing off

The Filth.
This time he brought his colleague (Sian?) and appeared to want nothing more than to show off his JCB-donated 4x4 ride - part of the Rural Crime Unit, which I duly laughed at. I asked if they got embarrassed when people ran past, if they collected rubbish bags in the back and why there wasn't a front registration plate, as per the legal requirement for such a motorised road-going vehicle, especially when there was a dedicated space for such a crucial item in the fight for law and order on the bumper. Then they were off in a small puff of dust, presumably down to the driving range to practice before lunch.

Former gamekeeper George fondly remembers
shooting his own house. In the face.
And then there was George. George, who is obviously cracking on a bit although I didn't ask his age, lived at The Lodge as gamekeeper for 25 years between 1981 and 2006. With his wife-to-be, Val, on his heels he wandered around the exterior of the house and the gardens, showing us where he kept his aviary and his Koi Carp and recounting a story from when he managed to shoot the front of the house when his sparrowhawk target made its escape.
He chatted for a while, promising to return one day with a painting of the property that someone gave him many years ago. Lovely chap.

Anyway, while all of this social lark was going on and Andy was working on the shed alone, we managed to take our eye off the ball to the point where the shed wasn't level any more. Now I'm not laying blame at anyone's door, but Andy was working on the shed alone. For quite some time. In fact it wasn't until the giant workshop was almost up that we realised it was shaped like a horse's saddle, by which time it was too late and the doors didn't fit. Out came the sander, the electric plane and the circular saw and hey presto! The doors now almost fit.
Just today we laid an 18mm plyboard floor over the top of the 'premium T&G' that was sagging alarmingly in places, threw some curtains up and we aim to open the Zen Zone for business tomorrow, all being well and barring visitors.

My undiagnosed OCD is screaming at me to centralise the door. But it's like that for a reason, I'm told. By Dawn.

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