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Life Chez Dee Episode #68: DIY SOS

We’ve just got back from an impromptu break away for a few days to Cornwall, staying with my lovely sister in law. We were a little uneasy about having a holiday given the current COVID situation, but since we were staying with Justin’s sister, we thought it would be a lovely change of scenery for us, and a much needed break to be honest, given that J hasn’t had any time off since his few days at Christmas.

We’ve spent many, many days in this lovely part of the world, and it holds many special memories for us. We’ve been to plenty of tourist spots, photogenic locations and sandy beaches, but for this break I wanted our holiday to be a little different, I wanted to be outside, I wanted to explore and go to different places, and we’d warned the boys that they’d be clocking up the miles as we were planning to walk every day. I wanted to get off the beaten tracks and away from people as much as possible, I wanted to be in the outdoors, having breathing space and fresh air in our lungs.




As is so often the norm when we visit Rachel, there’s lots of little jobs she needs doing, and this year was no exception. On our visit to the supermarket to stock up on goodies for the week, J spots some paint in a lovely blue colour and says that would be good for Rachel’s shed. Without a moment’s hesitation, there’s a tin in the basket, along with a couple of paint brushes, and within minutes of us returning to her house, J is already slapping it on the shed, which is in dire need of plenty of TLC.

One tin, however, was nowhere near enough to cover the whole shed, but it was enough for Rachel to look surprised when she returned home from work. She loves it, and the colour, and says that since the paint is on offer at only £5 a tin, she’ll pick up another the following day. We also talked her into getting some Ronseal for the fence too; never having had a coat of paint, this too was in need of some love and attention.

Justin clearly has the DIY bug. He’s pretty good at most projects, and can turn his hand to most things, and chatting to his sister, mentions the missing kitchen blind needing replacing, the coat hooks we bought her for Christmas (lovely bespoke design featuring her two lovely doggies in silhouette) needing to be put up, the shed needing lots of repairs, the house doorsteps front and back needing painting ….. I could go on and on. We talked about all this and Rachel seemed keen to sort out if possible.

We’ve done an enormous amount of DIY, both inside and out, during lockdown, and maybe J still has the bug for getting things done, and of course he’s a lovely brother helping his sister, but in any event he was in for a busman’s holiday it seemed. Not a busman’s holiday from work …. there was no aeronautical engineering needed, but a busman’s holiday from DIY which has seemed like a second job for him during lockdown.

The first few days of our holiday we were out for the day on long walks. Rachel was at work, the dogs were sleeping at home (they’re getting a little old now for coming on very long walks), we had glorious weather and it felt so wonderful to be out and about feeling that we’d been given our freedom. I didn’t realise how much I’d felt confined in lockdown, until I felt the freedom of walking on those cliff paths and smelling that sea air.

Midweek, the weather was pretty miserable. Oliver too was getting pretty miserable; his legs were tired, and the steep hills and the rain, tipped him over the edge. We decided to head for home and drop the boys off for an afternoon chilling out, whilst we went and bought all the items needed for Rachel’s DIY SOS projects.

The hardest thing about doing DIY projects for someone else is making sure they have the necessary tools. Rachel has no tools ... none! She’d managed to borrow a drill from a work colleague, but there were so many other bits that we needed to pick up: Perspex, roof felt, wood, screws, nails, pins, rawl plugs, picture brackets, sealant, hack saw, tenon saw, sealant gun, paint brushes, spade, gardening gloves, secateurs, hand saw for clearing garden vegetation, and of course a new kitchen blind.

Justin started on the jobs straight away, and the kitchen blind and beautiful coat hooks were up before Rachel came home from work again.

William helped Justin empty the shed and then lift it out of the corner it was tucked in so that all sides could have a lick of paint. The roof felt, eaves and rotten planks were replaced, door strengthened, hinges replaced, Perspex in the window all fixed in and sealed. It looked so nice, rather like a little beach hut in the back garden. The fence too was beginning to look good with its makeover of dark oak colour.



The shed door was jamming though due to a willow in the garden which had been allowed to take over far too much, and it was decided that it was way too large for the garden and had to go. Rachel couldn’t believe how spacious the garden now was, and by the time Justin had dug out some of the earth around where the willow had encroached onto the space needed for the shed door to open, it was all starting to look much better.

On the other side of the garden was a beautiful acer. Beautiful, but again so big that it was looking like some overgrown “hairy mary messy fluffball”, and so I decided to give it a good, yet rather severe haircut.



The grass was looking pretty rough. Any dog owners will know how much dogs ruin your grass, but when you’re not a keen gardener and you allow the dogs to wee, poo, roll and dig, it is never going to look great. Being on a slope, drainage was also a bit of an issue and some of the grass, nearer the house was interspersed with patches of wet slime. I suggested to Rachel that she might like to think about taking up the grass here, and putting down stones. It would look neater and help with drainage too. Rachel, seeing the massive improvements by the day, was sold on this idea, and the next purchases were weed control sheeting, and a dozen bags of stones.

Saturday, both J and I were enjoying our little DIY SOS garden project and started work on the new stone patio area near the house. J dug up the turf, which I then transferred to where the willow had been, and the bare patches, or slimy unsalvageable patches I turned upside down and put these sods around the edges of the garden where there were gaps under the fence, levelling the garden in the process.

Justin dug out a channel to put wood to form a border between the lawn and the patio, and although pressure treated, we gave it a helping hand at lasting longer with some Sickens. Having nothing to hold the wood in place we cut up bamboo canes to use as pegs and then back filled with earth to hold in place. More of this edging was put around the door to the shed so that gravel could be placed here too.



A dozen bags of gravel goes nowhere, and although more stones were needed, the project was finished just in time, as it was time for us to return home. All that was left for Rachel to do was to add another dozen bags of gravel to the three areas being stoned, and finish painting the fence.

What a lovely project for us to do; what a difference this has made; I’m both exhausted and proud of what we’ve done for Rachel and so happy that she can now relax in and enjoy her garden. Woe betide those pesky dogs if they should dig up where I’ve levelled and returfed! Already Rach has enjoyed a sociable tipple with her neighbour, who’d like us to return to do a little DIY SOS project for her too. Maybe landscaping should be a little sideline for our good selves; we make a good double act …. “Dees DIY”.



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