Man versus nature

Battle of the Cranbrook carport — the annals of a legendary do-it-yourself project.

Peter Warland

“I am always doing what I can in order to learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

‘Growing old is no more than a bad habit that a busy man has no time to form,’ I hear, so I’ll probably not grow old; I’ve been so busy that I would never be able to find time to go to lucrative work again.

Last year as I watched the car-port on my house disintegrating at an alarming speed I realized that I would have to do something about the situation before I too disintegrated; I called in the contractors. They did a creditable job until I shut down for winter. I called them back again this spring and they made a good headway but, to my alarm, so was the assault on my diminishing bank account.

Then, when my electric drill/screw-driver died, I had to buy a new one and the shock of the price forced me to make up my mind: I’d do the rest of the car-port job myself.

I hauled out my ancient electric saw, an assortment of tools, some of which date back to my father-in law, who died and left them to me sixty years ago, a new socket/ratchet set that I had been forced to buy in order to keep my lawn mower going, many ancient drill bits, some apparently broken, a set square and level in order to keep me on the straight and narrow, and off I went. Fools rush in etc etc.

So far nobody has actually sneered. In fact my neighbours dropped by daily the way crowds do at the site of a nasty accident. Sometimes they offered useful suggestions, some of them have genuinely helped; the others I stored in my mental ‘spam’ account.

To start with lumber was a problem. When the two-by-fours were delivered, I had to be careful. If a stack was disturbed, I had to leap back with alacrity or I’d be engulfed. There were times when I felt like the old Greek Heracles wrestling with the Hydra, the many headed snake of legend. Very quickly I learned to nail the bits down before they wriggled off into the undergrowth of my garden. Some pieces, I seem to recall, were so green that they lay squirmed themselves into pretzels or sprouted new shoots: I could tell some pieces were spruce by the needles they grew.

Adjusting, I rooted around my place and came up with some very old lengths of two-by-four. They may have been twenty or more years old and full of nail holes, but they lay straight and behaved themselves. I think we learned to respect each other.

My main task was the construction of the railings over the car-port and round the side of the house. I built new uprights, painted them basic black, and bolted them on. If they had been soldiers on parade, the sergeant major would have had a screaming fit. I had to get them into line with brute force and some ingenuity.

At corners, I bolted a post on each side but, when it came to making a pair stand together, they disagreed like sparring politicians. After trying nails, screws and clamps, I threw a rope around them and applied a tourniquet, the way we should treat politicians; reluctantly, they came together.

When it came to selecting colours for the new construction I almost panicked. My dearly beloved was the artist and I usually left colour selection to her. But I was alone this time and had all but had decided that a basic black would be ideal for the whole kit and caboodle when I leaned back and noted the colour of our metal roof. I checked with the family and went ahead. A local paint store matched the colour perfectly: black and green.

I think that my neighbours are expecting some sort of party when I’ve completed the job but they’re S.O.L. Personally, I shall be burning the blood-soaked, paint-stained, sweat-stinking clothes I’ve been wearing all summer then heading for the hills before anything else crops up.