Thursday, 31 October 2013

Box (31 OCT 2013)

The front wall bordering my property had one capping stone missing. Though the rendered coating looked intact, some areas on the inner side could be picked off by hand, loosened by retained moisture. In an attempt to repair the wall, I dislodged and cracked some bricks which provided some entertainment for the people walking by who probably didn’t even know who lived in my house before.

The most difficult part was deciding where to draw the line between adequate and in need of renovation. At one point I considered knocking down the whole wall and laying bricks from scratch, it would have been easier. A builder driving by stopped and quoted £800. I was tempted, but declined - I had begun and would finish, somehow.

It didn’t take long for the conquering spirit to wane - I wished I had never started, vowing to think twice in future. I was staring at the wall hopelessly when a passing stranger asked if I was trying to take the wall down. I explained that when I tried to remove the damaged parts of the wall, the bricks underneath broke off too. He gave me a tip on how to handle the bolster correctly. Thanks to him - I finally removed the damaged bricks in less than ten minutes.

I hardly spoke to my neighbours “before the wall”. Everyone is occupied with their own business in London and it’s normal for neighbours to be unfamiliar, even if I stop for a chat I never know what to say. However, exposing myself to the world, sweating as I toiled in my worn-out tracksuit and slippers, remarkably, drew people to me and I became a local celebrity, on my half of the street at least.

I learnt to mix mortar, starting with a prepared mixture, then graduated to mixing cement and sand. A wooden spoon and a bucket were the only tools required - just like mixing cake batter. The wall was repaired as intended, though it will probably need to be redone by a professional in a year or two. One of my neighbours informed me that I was in good company with Winston Churchill. I checked the internet curiously and indeed found pictures of him bricklaying while smoking a cigar. I can understand how it could become addictive, I had grit in my hair and my hands were ruined, yet it felt so good - a world apart from my office job.


During this time I experienced an epiphany. Without analysing my future prospects, I found myself checking out the internal job postings at work and applying for a position which was a bit more creative and a bit less corporate than the current one. I interviewed for it (thought it best not to mention the wall) and start tomorrow ! 

Having invested so much time and care on the wall, I imagined the final touch would be a traditional box hedge. A friend warned that they are more trouble than they’re worth as their roots penetrate deeply and can destroy the foundations of the wall. Literally the weekend after, I went to the supermarket to buy groceries and there was a trolley at the entrance advertising buy-one-get-one–free box plants for sale. What was the likelihood of that? Of course, I bought six.

The boxes looked like they needed repotting. The soil fell away in clumps, as if the roots had been folded over and packed in. They seemed fibrous and it was hard to imagine that they could cause damage but I chose to stay on the cautious side keeping the plants in pots.

For now, the boxes are lined up with their soil covered with pieces of broken render. I’m hoping that as the months go by they will merge together into a sort of hedge. (It’s possible to encourage more open-growth by hanging fishing weights from the outer branches.)  Anyway, they distract one’s eye from the wall behind them.

Today I'm linking to Patient Gardener's End of Month View :

©Copyright 2013 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for


Stacy said...

Oh, well done, you--on both the repairs and the new job! Hope the new direction is a satisfying adventure.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Stacy. Hope everything is going well for you.

HELENE said...

Congratulations on new job and fixing the wall, isn’t it satisfying when you find you can do things yourself instead of paying someone to do it?! Tonight I fixed my toilet, it suddenly had water pouring out of the cistern every time I flushed, I got my tool box out and fixed it myself, not a drop of water on the floor anymore. Probably saved a fortune not having to get a plumber tomorrow :-)
I also find that when I am outside in my front garden taking care of my plants there, that’s when I get to speak to the neighbours in my street.

Angie said...

Who would have thought repairing a wall would have led to a change of job. Good Luck with it and of course your new found celebrity :)
Box will look great - I did wonder though if maybe troughs would have lent themselves better in what you are trying to achieve.

HolleyGarden said...

You did a great job on the wall. And how nice to meet and talk to some of your neighbors. The box looks so nice - I love box, and yours are beautiful lined up in their pots. Do you think that if you root pruned them once a year they would cause much damage? (I read to do that with box surrounding vegetable beds.) Good luck with your new job. I bet you will really enjoy a position that's a bit more creative.

Caro said...

Wow, I'm super impressed all round! Your renovated wall looks terrific, congratulations on starting a new job, and your replanted box balls really enhance your front of house space! What a find - 2for1 box! I hope those planters are good and heavy, they look mighty tempting! I know people that won't put nice pots in the front in case they get pinched!
When I worked for a few days in a client's front garden, I got to know all the neighbours - people love to know what's going on!

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

Hi b-a-g, you give me hope that, perhaps, this mortar thing isn't so difficult after all for an enthusiastic amateur to tackle with reasonable results. I always fight shy of doing such tasks, but I feel encouraged to have a go.

I am always surprised by how much chat and friendliness one can get when gardening out the front, I have grown to like it, which is just as well given how enormous and exposed my front garden is!

Congrats on followig your gut and going for a more creative post, I hope it - and your box hedgelet - work out really well for you.

Diana Studer said...

Wish you every success in your new job. Sounds as if it was meant!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Amazing work B-A-G. Well done and the box makes a lovely addition. And how great to take the leap and find another more creative.

My job has become mundane and I am reducing my time to 80% (4 days a week in January before I retire in June). I need time away and less stress...too bad there are no options for another job but I am fine with my choice.

Alistair said...

Hi B-A-G
Wall is looking good and the Box compliments it well.
I have been holding back waiting for a more recent post from you. I hope you haven't given up your blogging and its only the pressure of the new job keeping you tied up.
Keep well if I don't hear from you again and good luck in all you do.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Alastair - I've tried to start blogging again ... not sure how long I'll be able to keep it up though. I really admire your perseverance!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...