This summer’s Do-it-Myself project is to relay the driveway and I am doing it one yard at a time, literally one yard at a time, one bag of sand and one bag of pebbles will do about two yards down the middle of the two rows of concrete paving slabs that I’m re-aligning, I go through one bag of sand and one bag of pebbles per weekend, I have a low boredom threshold see, and mixing sand and cement is actually quite boring.
So by yesterday I’d managed to finish off the first ten or twelve yards and I got the jetwash out to clean the concrete slabs, and I got to thinking about the story of Michael and his patio.
Michael was a business partner of ours, ten years older than me and incapable of doing DIY even before he had both legs amputated, this story happened before his legs were taken from him, parcelled up and sent on to heaven in front of him (I always wonder how amputees get on in the story about heaven, are their limbs waiting to be re-attached when they get there, is there a left luggage office where you go to collect them)
So he buys himself a new bungalow and some time later decides that what it really needs is a patio around the back and being a non-DIY sort of person he decides to get some builders around to give him a quote and the quotes turn out to be outrageously expensive, but fortunately he’s stood in the driveway one evening telling the latest builder how outrageously expensive he is when along comes the milkman collecting his money for the week.
The builder leaves and the milkman asks Michael what it is he’s getting quotes for and when he tells him the milkman’s face breaks into a grin and he tells Michael that its his lucky day for as well as being a milkman he is also a bloody good patio layer.
Now at this point you’re probably thinking, “Huh?” and frankly so was Michael.
“Thats a strange sort of career combination, milkman and patio layer” Michael mentions in passing
“Yeah, well, I laid my own patio once and its very nice”
“Hmm, I was sort of looking for a professional job”
“How much have you been quoted?”
“Lots of money”
“I work really cheap”
“When can you start?”
And so Michael contracted his milkman to lay a patio for him, foundations onto bare earth and everything.
And a few weeks later it was done and Michael had to admit that for a milkman he did lay a darn good patio, but it wasn’t quite finished yet.
“What about the gaps between all the pavers?” Michael asked, “don’t you fill them in with cement or something?”
“Not exactly” said the milkman “you fill them in with yoghurt”
Actually I lied about that last bit just to keep the milkman theme going a bit longer, what he actually said was “you fill the gaps with a sand and cement mix, let it settle, and then when it rains it sets really solid and Bob’s your Uncle, Fanny’s your Aunt”
And so thats what the milkman did, he sprinkled a sand and cement mix in between the paving slabs, brushed the whole area clean, took his money and left.
That night there was the most tremendous thunderstorm which is what the milkman had not counted on, what he was counting on was some gentle dew like rain through the night that would simply dampen the sand and cement mix, what he got was raindrops the size of tea plates that splashed the sand and cement mix out of the gaps in the paving slabs and left it scattered all over the paving slabs themselves.
Michael went to work and didn’t notice but when he came home from work he soon noticed that now he had a patio which was covered in concrete which had dried out during the day, his nice new sandstone-effect concrete paving slabs were now ruined.
“Oye you” Michael said to his milkman when he rang him that night, “this new patio that I paid you for is ruined, come and fix it”
“Oh dear” said the milkman “thats never happened before”
“Probably because its only the second patio you’ve ever laid” replied Michael, “get round here and fix it”
And so the milkman came around with a stiff broom and he tried to sweep the cement off the paving slabs but the cement had got right into the grain of the slabs and couldn’t be shifted, he promised to ask around for advice (probably from other milkmen) and come back the next evening.
He came back the next evening with a big industrial jetwash on the back of his milk float.
“This will clean your paving slabs” he proudly boasted, “just stand back and watch this”
And so Michael stood back and watched as the big industrial jetwash consumed hundreds of gallons of his water (yes he was on a meter too) and afterwards had cleaned not one square yard.
“Let me go ask someone else and I’ll come back” said the milkman.
He came back the next evening with a big tub of something.
“I need you to go indoors and close all the windows” said the milkman
“What is that?” Michael asked
“Caustic soda” said the milkman, “it will burn its way through the cement and leave your slabs nice and clean”
“Are you sure?” asked Michael
“Oh yes” said the milkman, “a milkman mate of mine told me so, by the way, can you go up and down your street and tell all the neighbours to stay indoors too?”
Michael stood at his bedroom window and watched as the milkman put on some pink rubber marigold gloves and spread a white powder all over the ruined patio, then with a smile and a thumbs up at Michael he took a watering can and started to sprinkle water all over.
Then he fell unconscious to the floor.
Michael continued to watch through the window as his patio fizzed and burned like a firework and a white cloud rose from the ground enveloping the prone body of his milkman, “Michael?” asked his wife Lesley “isn’t that our milkman laying on the floor under a cloud of smoke?”
“Better call for an ambulance” Michael told her, “and, erm, call the fire brigade too and tell them there may have been a chemical incident”.
It took four firemen in chemical warfare suits to remove the prone body of the milkman from Michaels patio and two paramedics and a week in intensive care to revive him, it also took several thousand gallons of water from the fire engine and an evacuation of the street to finally make the caustic soda safe, but after that nothing ever grew in Michaels garden again and the milkman stopped delivering milk there too.
They sold the house to a person who had never read of the incident in the Yorkshire Evening Post.