I accept that it’s the done thing to suggest that you’re not afraid of hard work, but we are.
We both hate DIY with a passion. I have no idea how it came to be considered a leisure activity, and even less idea how we all conspired to believe that we have to live in show homes. I say this as a person who even wants the insides of her cupboards to be stylish. I have been suckered in more than most.
In reality, it’s just an advanced way of creating more work for ourselves. Is it middle class guilt? Probably. We come from parents who worked on their feet, on shop floors and building sites. We – desk cats, both of us – are self-conscious about how soft we’ve become. We feel like we ought to justify it somehow, lest we appear lazy.
Well, the last three weekends, we have made amends. Our small back garden, which came into our hands neat and tidy – if populated by plastic flowers and and array of gnomes – had come to resemble a post-apocalyptic landscape over the few years we’ve owned it. In an initial burst of enthusiasm, we dug up the twee pond and fake well, and dismantled the range of ugly brick beds.
But then…well, we did nothing, other than to add more crap to it, and watch it get covered in bindweed. For four years. Herbert would nip outside and mow the sorry-looking grass once a year, and I would do my best to distract anyone who tried to look at it.
But no longer. It has been reformed, with the help of a truckload of old scaffolding planks and a terrifying number of plants. We have a deck, so that you no longer rick your ankle when you try to step outside the back door! We have a washing line! We have THREE trees (and apple, a greengage and a fig, all of which lost their fruit in transit), and a herb bed! We have garden seating! It is no longer frightening to be there!
And every part of this new wonderland was put into place in a spirit of resentful, self-pitying fury. Because it was horrible: dirty, back-breaking, spider-infested, hot and seemingly endless. I, for one, will be sticking to the desk job, and ensuring that I earn enough money to pay someone else to do the hard work in future.
Despite this, I managed to put a chicken in the oven last Saturday while H toiled on, and we ate on the deck it with good bread, home-made mayonnaise and my summer favourite, lettuce and peas. I’d like to say it made it all worthwhile, but particular sentiment might yet require a few more weeks of hindsight.
Lettuce & Peas
Over a low heat, fry a small, finely chopped onion in 1 tbsp olive oil.
Add 1 cup frozen peas (or fresh ones if they’re really fresh, i.e. you grew them), and then 1/2 a shredded lettuce (something like a butterhead or soft lettuce works best).
When the peas & lettuce begin to soften, add 1 cup chicken stock or Marigold bouillon. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the peas are ready. Season, and either add 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint or basil, or a drizzle of basil oil.
(This is great for using up tired-looking basil. Be warned – it doesn’t keep for long).
Blitz 1 cup basil leaves with 1/2 cup olive oil (or more if you want a thinner consistency).