This weekend was yet another one that was good for the soul. I spent it gardening, baking with Oldest Son and reading. It was also one, where, thanks largely to my garden, I began to reconsider what I was ‘good’ at and what I could and couldn’t do.
I spent Saturday morning weeding, mowing the lawns and scrubbing the moss-covered patio. Whilst it’s still nowhere as pristine as my neighbours’ and friends’ beautifully kept gardens, at least my garden is now beginning to look like someone cares for it and it gives me such a sense of pleasure to look out on it and see what a difference I’m making. I know nothing about gardening, but I’ve bought myself some twine to train plants along the trellises and fences and some new secateurs to help keep on top of the existing bushes, I’ve got lawn feed to encourage my, now regularly mown, grass to grown lush and green and I’m planning on heading to a garden centre soon to buy some bedding plants for the newly dug flower beds. I’ve also got a tiny patch of land at the front of the house that’s fenced off, it was obviously originally intended as a sort of mini-allotment space and so I’m planning to dig it over and plant some vegetables. I want to grow carrots, potatoes, garlic and onions – stuff that I use every day. I have no idea how easy or difficult they are to grow, or when to plant them, but I can’t wait to learn. I’m also planning to plant lavender bushes and roses in both the back garden and the front garden – for no other reason that I love the way they fill the air with their scent and bring it alive with the sound of happily buzzing bees. To finish off my grand gardening scheme, I’d like to plant up some big pots with herbs – mint, parsley, chives and rosemary. And – a little bay tree – I’d really love a little bay tree.
The garden is a kind teacher and I suspect it will tolerate my mistakes. If a plant doesn’t thrive, it will forgive me and I will learn where that plant likes to be, or I’ll find something else to grow in its spot. I’m so looking forward to learning. I know I won’t be in this house forever. I think there’s only so long E and P will tolerate my living in a five bedroom house, sitting on E’s share of what little equity it has, whilst they live in a two bedroom flat in Tower Hamlets (with a view of the river if you lean out of one window in the right way – according to Youngest Son, who hasn’t been there but has absorbed every detail of what his Dad told him), but I’m looking at working on my garden anyway – even if I can’t stay, I can learn lessons that I can take with me to my next home.
As I mowed and dug and raked and then carted sacks of green stuff to my burgeoning compost heap (there MUST be a metaphor in there somewhere…), I began to seriously consider taking on more stuff in the house. DIY was always E’s area. He wasn’t particularly good at it (I have curtain poles that are virtually diagonal, and all the kids know not to put too much pull the kitchen curtains too hard ‘because Dad put them up’), but until now, I’ve always assumed that he was better than me at it. However, this weekend, when I was talking to Oldest Son about how I didn’t know *how* to use a drill, his slightly gobsmacked reply of: “surely, you just plug in in and point it at the wall?”, whilst missing the finer nuances (and every single health and safety hazard) of drill use, made me realise that, actually, as long as I know how to avoid pipes and electrics and can work out which drill bit/rawl plug to use, it’s not bloody rocket science. It occurred to me, for the first time in my life, that maybe I could use the drill.
(If my Dad is reading this, he has probably just collapsed in a horrified faint, could someone please revive him and give him some hot sweet tea?)
(If E is reading this: I’M GOING TO USE YOUR DRILL – AND ALL YOUR TOOLBOX STUFF -AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP ME!)
(If P is reading this: don’t ask E to fit a curtain pole. Ever.)
I’m not planning on heading out fitted up like Rosie the Riveter just yet, but I am planning on trying to learn how to do more things around the house. Apart from anything else, I don’t want to have to ‘call a man’ to do basic stuff around the house. Even if I make a mistake (apart from previous provisos re pipes, electrics and basic health & safety) it will be repairable. Actually, even pipes and electrics can be repaired (someone check on my Dad again please).
For years, received wisdom in my family – well, to be honest, actual experience, based largely my Woodwork Teacher’s face one parents’ evening when he mentioned the sheer terror of having me in his class; and the extremely wonky wine-rack I once attempted to assemble – is that I am crap at all things DIY. Everyone knows I’m rubbish at practical stuff like that – even though I’ve never done any. Because everyone, including me, knows I’m crap, I have never even attempted basic DIY. Because there was always someone else there to do it, nobody ever suggested I tried (although, to be fair, this might be because they were haunted by my Woodwork Teacher’s horror).
It occurred to me on Saturday that, really, if E could do it then I’m pretty sure I can at least give it a go. E could only do the stuff he did because he learned how to over the years we were together – when we met he didn’t know one end of a drill from the other. If he could learn, then surely I could? At the end of the day, if I really am crap (and we end up needed to rewire the house), then I’ll happily admit defeat, but I am at least going to try.
(I’ll stop now, just in case my Dad is in need of a defibrillator).
The other thing that E always did, because I thought (and because he told me) I was crap at was the painting. But, hands deep in soil, I decided to give that a go too. Compared to using the drill, I’m hoping this one will be heart-safe for my Dad and everyone else to contemplate. The kids’ bedrooms all need a new coat of paint (especially the boys who are currently sleeping in garish 90s paradises of orange, yellow and green), so one of my summer holiday projects is to paint their rooms. Again, if I make a total pig’s ear of it, it’s repairable – it’s only paint.
Tackling the unknown territory of the garden, and watching it begin to thrive, has helped me begin to lose the fear I’ve had for at least twenty-five years of ridicule and failure. My not having the courage to try some of the most basic DIY stuff wasn’t E’s fault, yes he joked about my lack of ability, but, because I already lacked confidence and thought I was rubbish, I absorbed his joking and turned it against myself, into ‘I’m crap at this and I don’t want to embarrass myself by failing at it’.
Now, thanks to E’s departure forcing me to strike out on my own, for the first time in my life I’m prepared to try and learn new skills, knowing, but not giving a damn, that I might fail.
That drill is totally in my sights…