Thursday, 2 June 2016

Tunnel vision

This post has been a long time in the making. We started clearing and levelling for our polytunnel back in March and only this week can we be so bold to suggest that it is now ‘finished’ (give or take a few minor fixtures and fitting details...). For the uninitiated amongst you, officially a polytunnel is the next level up from a greenhouse, a tube of plastic fixed over metal bars for (allegedly) growing veggies all year round. Unofficially it’s basically like trying to erect the world’s largest condom in your back yard and about as bloody difficult. And I’ll tell you for why…

For starters, you’ve got to measure up to ensure that all of the poles are in EXACTLY the right position to make sure that the thing is square, peddling out all your schoolboy mathematics, soh cah toa and all that, to get those corners just right. It would take the average person about say, oh I don’t know, an hour tops to get this to a point you are happy with. For my husband this took the best part of a day, getting the measurements to the finest millimetre, not helped by our three year old’s best attempts to use the tape measure as a lead on which to take her imaginary dog for a walk throughout the proceedings. Finally, FINALLY, we were able to set the scary looking ground anchors into concrete and then spent the next 24 hours attempting to banish children and animals from leaving their indelible mementos on the surface.

Digging out... it's a family affair

Then you have to assemble the startling array of poles and metal with an even more baffling set of nuts and bolts and washers. For anyone who has ever had the pleasure of assembling any flat pack furniture from Ikea, this was like that, on speed, times ten. The instruction manual rivalled a tome from Dostoevsky to give you a clue as to the complexity of this task. And as if that wasn’t hard enough, we gradually realised over the course of a number of weeks and much head scratching and swearing that some of the critical bits were missing. You know that feeling you get when you have finally managed to get a child engaged in a jigsaw puzzle only to realise that the vital pieces have been lost behind the sofa long ago…? So it was back to the supplier, let’s call them Acme Polytunnels to protect their sheer ineptitude, for the missing parts, not once, not twice but an unbelievable SEVEN times before we finally managed to get the full complement of parts. And apparently they are still using the Pony Post wherever they are based as each delivery took on average two weeks to arrive only to find it was the wrong bit. Unreal. This goes some way to justify why it has taken us longer to build this sodding tunnel than it took them to build the entire Walkie Talkie building in the City (that I watched going up with great interest from my desk overlooking the whole thing in the building next door). Although, even though it is bloody hot with the plastic on, we have fortunately so far managed to avoid setting fire to any Jaguar cars from the reflection on its roof. (Google it).

Erected in less time (feels like)

Structure complete it was time for the plastic. There is a snobbery among polytunnel aficionados (we have since discovered) around how tight you can get your polythene. It wants to be, and I quote, “as tight as a drum” but you then have to play Russian roulette with the stuff, stretching it to the limit without letting it rip and then having to go back and replace the whole bloody lot at huge expense. You will be pleased to learn that we did indeed manage to get it pretty tight and we now can’t go anywhere without comparing the tautness of our tunnel with everyone else’s. Ah, what it takes to keep up with the Joneses' around here...

How toight is your tunnel...?

And then, just like that, we had this whole new wonderful space, casting a lovely light and warmth over everything and protecting us from the rain and the wind. We set about creating raised beds from some galvanised steel panels which we picked up for nothing somewhere along the way and which we fixed to the ground using solid steel pegs courtesy of my dad’s trusty welding set. I tell you what, when the house and all of the barns are long gone, those raised beds will still be standing, nuclear war, next ice age, you name it. They are completely indestructible. Then all that was left to do was to fill the beds with manure and compost et voila. A whole new area for veggies and a whole other level of watering commitments to add to my growing list of dependents and to dos.

You're indestructible. (Always believe in)

Not that I really mind though. Working up there in the evenings when the heat of the day is still lingering in the tunnel, it’s like being in a cocoon, far away from the stresses and strains of it all. Some women plump for these crazy flotation tanks for their ultimate relaxation therapy. For me it’s some obscure evening programme on Radio 4 to give the brain a bit of an intellectual workout whilst physically beasting the body barrowing shit and digging holes. All accompanied by the calming pitter patter of raindrops on the roof and the symphony of evening bird song. And if I’m really working the relaxation vibe, possibly an ice cold can of Kronenbourg 1664 to top it all off. And that, my friends, is just the kind of classy bird that I am.  

Best place for a well-earned sundowner

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