Picture courtesy of Playing My Way 13.04.16

“one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”

This space makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It reminds me of my Grandad’s garden, greenhouses, open water butts and vegetable patch. A kind of workshop where he turned old knackered stuff into something else. Something useful. Like an old rusty piece of corrugated iron from the Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden for a shelf in his potting shed, an old internal door for a side gate, scraps of wood and wire netting for a composter, twine for a washing line, jam jars for cups (he’d laugh if he knew people were actually buying them to drink from now). It was wild and messy and a little bit dangerous – well, really quite dangerous actually. I recall my cousin Denise almost choking herself to death on the low slung washing line as she lost her footing on a wobbly part of the garden path, my baby sister Jenny breaking her collar bone when she slipped from the top step of the stepladders leaning against the wall and landing in a metal mop bucket, my other sister suffering concussion when one side of the aviary fell down landing right on her head, a friend having to have a tetanus jab when she stood on a piece of wood with a protruding rusty nail and a kid from next door but one needing stitches after standing on a piece of glass from a smashed window in the greenhouse. Risk assessed it most definitely was not. It makes the picture at the top here look about as safe as a soft play area. And what kid wouldn’t want to play here?

Now, I’m known for my up-cycling skills and I’m known for not being able to pass a skip. Indeed, I’ve been a fan of recycling, re-using and reducing since the days of Why Don’t You. I loved that show and I can still sing the whole song word for word from beginning to end and hey, that’s not easy you know? [Why isn’t it still on now?] Back in the 70s they knew that sitting in front of a screen all day wasn’t good for us. We’ve not moved on much have we? But anyway, everybody that knows me knows that they can’t throw anything away before running it by me first. I’ve gone through skips, and kerb-side boxes and recycling bins at the back of shops and raked through bin bags long bagged up and destined for the charity shop just to make sure I really can’t re-use something in there. And I cannot, cannot walk past a charity shop without popping in and buying something. In the very least there will be a wooden bowl in there with my name on it – there always is – without fail. I remember once finding a set of 4 tiny carved African masks. I thought they were quite pricey at £4 and I passed them over. It wasn’t easy. And all the way home I was kicking myself and I just couldn’t get them out of my head. I rang my dear father-in-law who popped into town daily. I asked him if he’d call in the next day to see if they were still there. They were, and now I have them. Phew! I don’t know what I was thinking, I really don’t. They’re made from wood. They’re clearly hand-crafted. And they’re multicultural. They were actually a bargain considering. I’m never ever doing that again. If in doubt buy it anyway is my motto now.

Anyway, one day I looked out on my garden and I thought “what is the matter with me?” Had I become the hoarder next door? Was I the occupier of the scruffiest house in the street – the one kids daren’t ride their bikes past coz some weirdo lives in there? [There was a house like that in my Grandad’s street and I shudder just thinking about it. Rumour had it a nasty old lady lived there and to this day I picture an ugly witch poking a stick through a cage, prodding poor Hansel to see if he was fat enough to eat yet. Eugh]. Did my garden look like a wonderful and exciting play space or was it more like Steptoe’s yard? Worn tyres, unwanted cable drums, pallets, decking planks, lengths of guttering and plumbing tubes. What the…? Had I unwittingly turned into my Grandad? And just when exactly did I start calling our family garden a play space? My beautiful, painstakingly-planned, meticulously-executed haven of zen tranquility. It’s a bit like when we Childminders used to get all uppity about our homes being called settings. Remember that?

I thought, when was the last time I sat in my special secluded corner to read a book drinking prosecco and listening to Moroccan street music?hippy

Oh, that’ll be when it was converted to an “outdoor classroom” for want of a better term. With tables, chairs and shelving units on wheels and wall-mounted dry wipe boards. When was the last time I hung up potted plants in macrame hangers in my garden room? Erm, that’ll be when it was converted into a music room. And oh yeah, when did I last hang out my washing in my side shelter on a rainy day? Oh, that’ll be when it was re-purposed as an all-weather creation station. And when was the last time my son had space to put up his pool table, table tennis table, air hockey table or football table? I honestly couldn’t remember. Sigh.

But wait a minute. Didn’t I make this career change for the benefit of my family, my own son in particular? Where had it all gone so horribly wrong? I came to the realisation that not only had childminding taken over every single corner of my home, but it had also invaded, pillaged and raped my garden too. I’d lost my beautiful home and garden and gained a business property.

So, would I have all that junk in my garden? Would I really want my garden to look like my Grandad’s old kitchen garden come scrapyard come recycling workshop? Well, as much as I have streamlined, I have kept the pallets to hang pots and tins from and to store bamboo canes etc. Oh, and I’ve kept a couple of cable drums coz they’re super useful. And an old soil pipe. And lengths of guttering. And plumbing tubes. Oh and there’s my cooking station (recycled fence) and my water station (left-over decking planks) and my nature station (up-cycled bookcase) and my weighing station (coat hanger, string and 2 tin buckets) and… who am I trying to kid right? Like it or not, I am my Grandfather’s granddaughter. His namesake.  שאלוהים יברך אותך Andy Ealand.