Wood, sweat and tears

You know when you do those things that seem like a really great idea at the time, but then half way through you wish you’d never started? I’m just in the middle of finishing one of those projects.

A couple of weeks ago on Pinterest I came across a great idea for a small garden hideaway. That’s doable I thought. We’ve got loads of bits of wood kicking about, how hard can it be? A week and a half later my elbows, wrists, shoulders and back can testify in applications of Voltarol just how hard it could be.

I’m on the home strait now, just frustratingly held up by the local DIY store running out of OSB board. Oriented slant board, apparently. That’s something I didn’t know a week ago. But the hideaway now has sides, a door, a roof, a pull-down table and will be something that when it’s completely finished I will be rather proud of. Proud because I eschewed the rather tempting ready-to-put-up garden sheds and structures, tempting though they were, in favour of designing my own bespoke construction and re-using as many materials as I could. There really is something great about this sort of challenge, I’ve used my brain and my hands, I’ve worked out problems and found solutions. All in all, it’s been far better for my health than simply clicking ‘add to basket’, which would have taken no effort whatsover and cost me an awful lot more money.

I’ve also discovered how much I really love wood. It’s so easy to repurpose. As well as the garden retreat I made a mud kitchen from an old pallet for my son. All from bits of wood retrieved from a neglected bit of the garden, which once cut, sanded, cleaned and painted came up as good as new.

It may take my aching body a few days to recover from this building work, but it has been worth it. I’ve enjoyed knowing that I can make something entirely from scratch, and although I’m not the best wood-worker in the world I honed my skills as I went along, and in no small way it has been good for my soul. I just need to make sure that I’ve got enough Voltarol to see me through to the finish line!

ANTIDOTE: Make things, and don’t worry too much about how much skill you think you have or have not. Making things with our hands keeps us connected to previous generations.

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A little red sun hat

Last night while my son lay sleeping on the bed next to me I was silently stitching a small patch over a hole in a sun hat. This hat had made an reappearance in my life some 30+ years after it first came into it, during a wet family holiday to Wales.

For some reason, known only to my former self it came to reside in a very small red suitcase with an assortment of other items that I had deemed collectible reminders of my childhood. There it stayed in the loft until discovered by my four-year-old, and so my little red sun hat came out once more into the daylight.

He needs a sunhat for nursery, so why not my old one? The edge was a bit frayed, which is why I was carefully sewing, with tiny neat little stitches a small piece of red fabric over it. When I’d finished I was rather pleased with the results. Until a little nagging voice started, ‘why not just buy him a new one like his friends will have? No-one else will have a patched-up old hat on that used to belong to their mum.’

But these are society’s issues to do with status and as such when analysed have no logic to them. I have a perfectly good sunhat that’s been neatly sewn with a patch. It will shield my son’s eyes from the sun and protect his head and ears from sunburn. All the rest is just nonsense. Making do and mending isn’t the done thing in our status-anxiety filled days, but it should be. I took a great deal of satisfaction from sewing the hat, he looks cute in it, it does its job, and every time I look at it I’m reminded of my first ever family holiday and of my now departed dad. On every level it beats going out and buying a new one. That’s not to mention the fact that this country throws away, that’s throws away, not recycles or donates, millions of items of clothing a year, all in the name of our high-turnover fashion industry where things are so cheap to buy that they have become disposable. Well, not in this house, not while I’ve got a needle and thread they won’t!

ANTIDOTE: Make do and mend. It’s old fashioned, but worth doing.