Bank Holiday rain. On and off all morning. Skies grey.
Breakfast: two boiled eggs, two rashers of bacon, six pieces of toast, marmalade, strawberry jam. No butter. One and a half cups of coffee.
Then I set about the brick shed in our garden. At the end of last year I was impatient to rebuild it: replace the tiled roof, glaze the open front, put in an old piece of carpet, a wood-burning stove, poke a chimney through the rear wall …
Not now. Close inspections made me re-think the job. Half of the tiles were brittle with frost damage, the timbers rotten, the mortar cracked. ‘There’s nothing here’, I told myself, ‘you’d have to rebuild the whole bloody thing. It would costs thousands. And it’s too small to use as an office.’
And I could do with the exercise. There are only 26 days until the swim. It’s all going to be in the shoulders. Any excuse to use them.
So today I set about it. I started up on the roof, pulling off the tiles and flinging them down onto the lawn. When they were all off I let Fred climb up the ladder and sit on the top, looking out over the village. We looked up the length of the village to St Michael’s church with its union flag, which has been flying since the Jubilee. Then I followed him back down the ladder and we started work on the brick walls, punching out holes with the heavy iron spike. We wore cycling hats for protection, and sunglasses and gardening gloves.
Elevenses: long swallows of water from the metal bottle C took around the world with her when she filmed ‘Where did we come from?’ for Nat Geo.
It rained. It stopped raining. It was warm and in my boiler suit I sweated until I was soaked from the combination of rain and sweat. The boys went inside for lunch and I manage to get the roof down without destroying C’s washing line.
Lunch: a bowl of Heinz tomato soup, mackerel paté left over from Friday night’s dinner party, fried new potatoes, tomato and mozzarella salad, stilton, bread and olive oil. Two choc ices. A bottle of Three Castle’s Vale Ale, and half a bottle of Languedoc.
A cup of mint tea, half a crunchie bar.
I climbed back into my damp boiler suit, which was covered in red brick dust. Outside the shed was blunted and broken.”It looks like its’s been shelled” said Fred. The boys armed themselves with hammers, clambering over the wreckage, picking off bits and pieces. I sat on the grass in front of a great pile of rescued bricks and with a hammer and chisel chipped away the mortar. “Clean brick” I shouted each time I finished one and a boy ran forward and put it in a pile.
We are recycling the good brick to lay a path in a diamond across our vegetable patch. We need 400.
Heavy sustained rain. At last we ran inside, lit a fire and sat down to watch ‘Die Another Day’, perhaps the worst Bond film ever made, and the boys’ first. Of course they were too young and the plot threw them. I found myself talking ceaselessly, explaining the ludicrous storyline and fast forwarding to the sword fight filmed at the Reform Club and various car chases. Meanwhile they ate their tea on their laps: pasta and tomato sauce, slices of pear and Cadbury’s chocolate rolls.
One cup of tea, no sugar. A Cadbury’s chocolate roll.
Back outside. We stacked the clean bricks, and filled the wheelbarrow with the broken ones and dumped them on a growing pile of debris bound for a skip. Fred climbed the hazel tree and then fell out. Jake took a pee. Slowly we cleared up, took up all the pieces of broken brick and mortar off the grass, removed the broken timbers impaled with long grey nails. We haven’t finished the job but we’ve made progress; we’ve done a decent job.
After the boys had gone to bed I had a long bath reading the London Review of Books. Afterwards I cooked C and I supper.
Fresh pasta with ham, peas, shallots and some chopped mint scattered on top at the last minute. Yoghurt and honey. A bottle of Soave.
That’s it. The end of the holidays; one of the last days of this wet, happy summer. A full day of exertion and consumption.
For the record, I finished the job on Saturday 15 September.