If you'd told me 12 months ago that I'd be spending today swinging a pick axe, I'd have either nodded, forced a mild, placatory smile and deftly changed the subject; or..... no....it would have definitely been my standard 'you're slightly mad, let's just pretend you didn't say that' drill. But then life is full of twists and turns.
It all started a couple of weeks ago, with our second 'holiday' of the year. No pre-emptive stocking up on travellers' cheques, Immodium or Jackie Collins needed; just another call to the skip hire company and some thinking about what to dump. The rotting mattress and leatherette bedhead that someone jettisoned over the garden wall are definitely skip material, as are the awkwardly tall and surprisingly heavy clothes line poles Dunc man-handled out of the ground. Otherwise, to qualify for precious skip space candidates have to be 1) tricky to dispose of by other means or 2) conveniently fit into the pesky nooks and crannies left between the 'proper' skip items.
A spur then to get serious about plaster and tarmac. Keen to reclaim some of the building's original domestic character, we've made a decision to reintroduce open fireplaces to the top floor bedrooms. The old ones have long since been removed and skimmed over, but we've already made a start on chipping into the smooth chimney breast render where the timbre of the wall changes to begin the process of opening up the cavities. With a skip to fill, we redouble our efforts on this.
A bigger task by far is to tackle the crumbling tarmac that sits on top of the paths in the front garden like an unconvincing toupee. The decision to press ahead with lifting this stuff emerges from one of our typical worm can dilemmas. With so many projects to work on already, do we really want to be taking up the tarmac to be left with another set of loose ends? Yet the paths are already a problem, so shouldn't we take a step towards trying to fix them? The 'any progress is progress' argument wins out and the tarmac lifting and shifting begins.
We all have a role to play: Dunc is chief pick axe wielder; I work with him to harvest the clods of tarmac, pack them onto the garden trolley, wheel the trolley across the garden, and fling them into the skip; and Kofi basks in the sun looking beautiful.
Stan takes his role of 'Guardian of the Tarmac' seriously, ensuring we have a vital reference point in the event of forgetting where (or indeed how to figure out where) we've got to with the excavations.
Sadly, it all proves a bit too much for the trolley, but we squeeze enough shuttle runs out of it to fill the skip. And with Dunc's unquenchable thirst for rationalising spaces (he cut his teeth with this at university figuring out how to get the most salad into a Pizza Hut buffet bowl......clue....it involves lining the dish with cucumber slices), we end up with a beautifully, usefully, thoughtfully packed skip.
As for me....I've discovered that pick-axeing is curiously addictive.