Hi ho, hi ho ……

IMG_20191119_141743There’s nothing quite as irritating as being stopped in your tracks in the middle of a job for lack of something really stupid – like the right screwdriver bit: unlike these scaffolders who seem to be immaculately clad for their job – I think they thought I was a secret health and safety inspector – hence the strange looks.

In the true spirit of the moment yesterday, I got as far as driving in the wooden supports, cutting the path lining boards to length and I was quite sure the job was, so to speak, in the bag. In the bag, that is, until I attempted to drive in the first securing screw.  These were quite large because they are to be part of a load bearing structure, holding the water tanks. A quick scout through the toolbox yielded the battery drill – fully charged, and two new packets of screws.  However the only screwdriver bit I could find, apart from a large number of completely knackered ones, was a size too small, that’s to say for the technically minded a PZ2 rather than a PZ3. The difference when you’re trying to power in a large three inch screw is fundamental.

A wiser man would have stepped back and thought of something else to do, but I am not one such. And so with Darwinian inflexibility I set to, knowing in my heart of hearts that this was a lost cause.  After 20 minutes of fruitless swearing and a great number of steel fragments, the first shuttering board resembled a hedgehog with broken, bent and headless screws decorating the first fixing point.

Eventually I gave up, long after I should have, and resolved to get the correct driver bit today,  and this involved a trip to the local Screwfix.  I always enjoy a trip there because my passion for lists extends into catalogues of every kind, but particularly artists’ materials and tools of any sort. After a happy hour on the laptop I knew more about screw types than I had ever known and the order was transmitted from the laptop to the stores where I was already imagining ranks of firmer chisels, jack planes and slaters’ rippers wrapped in greased paper. I have a vivid but hopelessly outdated imagination.

At the stores, and surrounded by excessively manly men wearing holsters and pencils behind their ears (the pencils that is!), I sheepishly handed over the collection note to a girl who wanted to be somewhere else – anywhere but at work. Modesty prevented me from narrowing my eyes and saying “it’s the PZ3 I’m after – you know the biggest one …. for driving in the biggest screws …. ” I could already see myself stepping back from the completed job – but it was raining.  It’s always raining these days. And so I frittered the day away cooking and making stock and by the time I finished I’d forgotten to cook anything we could actually eat today – so it’s jacket potatoes again.

I once scrounged a superbike off a friend and took it for a ride around the village.  The sheer acceleration was thrilling but quite terrifying and I so hoped that someone who knew me would wave in a friendly manner so I could look in the mirror and see them staring after me in awe and admiration. The village was entirely empty; as empty as it might have been if the television was running a royal wedding on one channel and the Wimbledon men’s’ finals on the other. I fear my moment with the PZ3 screwdriver will be much the same, but I’ll put my best bib and brace on and saunter down through the allotments with my toolbox as if I know what I’m doing.  Somebody’s bound to notice ……

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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