|A Hole in My Fence|
By day, Pixelsmith is the news editor of a regional newspaper in England. His boss's misguided decision to give him a weekly column has already led to him admitted to dangerous driving and owning a pet fly. Which makes it a perfect fit for RollZero.
There's a car gazing up at me from the tarmac. This should be reassuring - it is, after all, my car, trusty companion for the daily commute - but it isn't. From this window, I shouldn't be able to see my car, or the tarmac, or the rustic collection of weeds framing the scene. But there's a gap in my fence.
Perhaps "gap" is underselling it. Of the six foot high, solid wooden fence which formerly defended my back garden from invaders, this gap constitutes around half. For some reason best known to itself, the fence decided some time ago that it had had quite enough of protecting my lawn and promptly gave up on life, taking the gate with it. It happened two weeks after this year's earthquake, which I have taken to blaming because it sounds exciting.
In the world of barriers, a small structural defect is generally considered a bad thing. Technically this fence is almost 50 per cent defect, so it clearly needs mending. Therein lies the trouble."My father walks into Homebase with a plan. I, meanwhile, walk in and buy a kettle that lights up"
So I'm a home owner. I'm 28 years old and the grounds of this terraced house have provided shelter for myself and the aforementioned car for around a year and a half. In that time, a range of unexpected yet staggeringly mundane challenges have arisen. When abandoning the security of a house-share or parental abode and gaining official responsibility for many tons of brickwork and a shed, you fear the headline grabbers - fire, flood, monsters in the loft - but it's the mundane things which cause the problems. How often should I be cleaning the oven? Do I need to water the tree? Where the hell does all this dust keep coming from? And how, precisely, do you mend a fence?
There seemed to be three possible solutions to the last of those quandaries. One was to become "handy" and do it myself, a course of action only marginally more likely than waking up with a second head. The second was to give some money to a man who would do it for me. The third was to ask my father. In hindsight, I should have picked option two.
My father is a man in the advanced stages of home ownership. Three decades of holding this status has bestowed him with an inherent understanding of tinkering, fixing, painting and utilising tools to achieve practical tasks. He is no DIY enthusiast, but by a slow process of osmosis he has become one with his house. He walks into Homebase with a plan. I, meanwhile, walk in and buy a kettle that lights up.
On presenting a broken fence to this man, I figured I had every right to expect him to sort everything out. But this is no longer my childhood - and it very much is my fence - so shrugging off the responsibility turned out to be tricky. "We can mend it," he assured me. This implied that I was expected to help. "Go and get some fenceposts from a timber yard," he added.
The instruction could have been issued in Russian for all the sense it made to me. Where are these "timber yards"? What kind of fence posts? How do I get them home? I felt as ill informed as a person told to find a car mechanic and ask for "a sprocket".
Nevertheless, just five short weeks later I was the proud owner of three huge lumps of wood. My father arrived, armed with a look of determination and an oddly shaped spade, and began sizing up what was left of the fence. We ummed. We ahhed. We set to work, cleared weeds and dug. We toiled in the glorious sunshine of a Saturday afternoon and, like father and son, we bonded.
Then we hit concrete.
We found that the posts had rotted underground, shattering my earthquake theory but presenting an amazing get-out clause from this reluctant venture into DIY. For the broad mass of man-made rock housing the wet, splintered remnants of fencepost proved too tough for us amateurs.
"We can't break this with the spade," said my father. He was right. This was my way out. I may have wasted hours of my weekend, but by some concrete miracle the lazy solution had arisen phoenix-like from the ashes of my fractured fence.I would give some money to a man. In my mind, I began making him a cup of tea.
My dad scrutinised the hole, his thoughts a blur of tool hire. "We'll have to get a Kango hammer," he said.
Some months on, I'm looking at my car. Having half a fence is not without its advantages - the lack of a gate to open each morning means I can spend two more seconds in bed - but I won't be sorry to see the gap go. It looks scruffy, it has filled my shed with wood and, most of all, it is a daily reminder that I am just not manly enough to own a house. If only I could pay someone who is.
Hey you! Sign up for the RollZero weekly email (top of this page). It's lo-fi and cosy, plus we promise your details won't be sold to evil Nigerian scammers. Unlike your kidneys.