We bought the poly tunnel as a Christmas present to ourselves. After last year’s disastrous growing season, we would erect a shelter, defy the elements and ensure that our seedlings got away to a decent start. Maybe we’d grow tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, grapes, figs, pawpaws….
The component parts arrived early in the New Year. There were sections of steel tube, some curved, others straight, all of them about seven feet long; there were several bundles of timber, similar in length but of various dimensions – and for the most part straight. Throw in a roll of polythene sheeting whose bulk resembled a living-room carpet, a hefty box of miscellaneous hardware… and then the instruction booklet, some 24 pages of A4. We did the only sensible thing: shoved it all in the garage and closed the door.
Somehow, as the winter wore on, we recruited sufficient energy to go down to the allotment with a collection of short steel tubes, a spirit level, a hammer and a ball of string. There we averted our gaze from the pathetic crop of leeks that resembled so many healthy chives, the six sorry parsnips that had somehow survived the summer inundation, the emergent rhubarb with its bright yellow leaves (you tell me…) and set about inserting the Foundation Tubes in the morass of yellow clay that lies beneath our topsoil. Here I was able to dust off my ancient technique for creating right angles at the corners, the old gardener’s
3-4-5 triangle trick which is based on Pythagoras’ Theorem. 5 squared (25) must equal 3 squared (9) + 4 squared (16). So that part, which we did during a mild spell in February, went quite well. You might say it was a triumph of sorts.
With the weather turning nasty we then opted for a nice indoor job. I mean in the garage. I hesitate to come clean about just how long it took us to fit together the steel tubing. The problem there was the self-tapping screws. Trying to drill holes in the steel tubing revealed the utter inadequacy of (a) our drill-bits, (b) our vintage drill and (c) my own physical strength. I’ll keep this bit short. We made it, but only at considerable expense.
Buoyed by our progress, we tackled the door frames. Yes. I like woodwork. Banging the component parts together was a little like having fun – until we realised that the three-inch nails you were supposed to whack in to keep it all rigid had a penchant for hitting the shorter nails with which you’d fixed the uprights to the lintel, shearing off at a crazy angle and protruding through the frame. Some strong language ensued.
After that, with the weather stuck in an icy, easterly rut, we rested from our labours. Week after week after week, until yesterday. Yesterday the wind finally turned. It came in muscular gusts from somewhere west of south. The temperature shot up from a miserly 4C (39F) to a balmy 11 (52). We rejoiced. We turned the heating down. We ventured back to the allotment, lugging the segments of steel frame, the door frames, the hardware (miscellaneous) the tools and, of course, the instruction manual.
So far, so good…. As you can see, we progressed.
Ah… here comes the courier with the page proofs of Mike Pannett’s Yorkshire. I shall rest from my labours, look at all the photographs that John Potter has gathered over the past twelve months and consider how I might embellish them with my own silken prose, thereby justifying my 50% share of 12.5% of the cover price. (This is a good deal for a writer. Ask any writer.)
When we make further progress with the poly tunnel, rest assured that I will file a comprehensive report and put up pictures of it on the blog – unless, of course, we make a pig’s ear of it. Perish the thought.