After moving back to Leeds from Newcastle we sold our first house, went over the top of the hill and bought a bigger house halfway down the other side, this was to have been our family home, we had a big dog and a little girl and soon after another little girl on the way, it should have been blissful.
And in the main it was, apart from the back garden.
It wasn’t so much a garden as thirty square yards of concrete paved wasteland and because it was sunk three feet below the level of the house it had a tendency to flood.
What am I talking about, it flooded even if it wasn’t raining very hard, it even flooded if it wasn’t raining.
You see, half way down the hill on our side of the street had been a stream running through the birch woods that had been on the land before our house and rather than divert the stream into underground culverts the builder had obviously decided that it would be just fine if you built the houses on top of the stream and, well that was it, build the houses on top of the stream and the stream would go somewhere else.
But of course streams don’t go anywhere else they just keep on running in the same places that they’ve always run, and in our case that meant underneath all of the houses on our side of the street and our low lying garden was a wonderful stopping off point for the stream to ponder awhile before rushing off down the hill again.
But my father had one of his good ideas.
He knew someone who owned a quarry, don’t ask, he knew lots of people who did all sorts of different things, suffice to say that if you wanted anything at all then my father knew someone who would get that thing for you, for cash, no receipts of course.
And so one Saturday morning a truck reversed down my drive and upended several tons of crushed Limestone , which was a bit of a surprise because no-one told me that this would be happening, and when the truck returned half an hour later with several more tons of sand to tip in my driveway I have to say that curiosity was getting the better of me and I asked the driver why he’d picked my driveway to blockade with stone and sand.
“Your dad asked my boss” is all the driver would say, and then he was gone.
I have to add here that at the time I was mortally wounded for I had crushed a disc in my spine and was officially off work for eight weeks in order to lie on the floor and not move a muscle and so the thought of hand-shifting many tons of stone and sand didn’t exactly fill me with deep joy, nor did it fill my wife with deep joy as she asked me who the hell was going to shift all of this lot so she could get her car out of the garage – I returned back to my piece of floor in front of the TV where I’d already lain for four weeks, and the dog joined me, where she had already lain for four weeks, what with lying on the floor watching TV and getting absolutely shit-faced on codeine and other strong pain killers, I could almost put up with having a duff back.
But just then my father and our Ned turned up with some shovels and a wheelbarrow and my father confessed that it was he who had organised the whole thing as he’d decided that our back garden was too low lying and needed to be raised by several feet, hence the roadstone and sand.
I took great delight in watching them both shift several hundred barrow fulls of stone and sand that weekend, into the back garden where they gradually built up the level by about three feet – and when it was done, the following week the truck turned up again with topsoil and they spent the following weekend laying that while I watched them, and the week after that some turf turned up and I watched them lay that too.
You could get used to watching someone else do all your gardening.
But still there was a slight problem, there was still a very damp patch right at the back of the garden, right up against the fence that adjoined the really big posh houses that were behind our house and when I mentioned it to Ned he told me that when they were laying the stone down they’d found what was left of an old surface drain and directed it towards the back fence, but it wasn’t quite long enough to reach the fence and so it sort of dumped all of the rainwater underneath the lawn just there.
Which was a bit of a shame because other than that they’d done a cracking job.
And I had plenty of time to lie around, watch TV and pop painkillers and during that time I came up with a little plan of my own, to be executed when fit again.
So when I was fit again I took a shovel and excavated down through the lawn and the soil and the sand and the stone until I reached the point where the end of the drain appeared, and I went to the DIY shop and bought a short piece of similar earthernware drain pipe and extended the pipe underground until it actually touched the back fence, and there was a little bit left.
The following Saturday I was up with the larks, up before the milkman and being as quiet as I could I removed a fence panel from our back fence and stepped into the garden of the very posh house behind.
Very quickly, but very quietly I dug down about eighteen inches into their garden and then extended my drainpipe into their land and quickly filled the hole back in again – I was back in the kitchen having my breakfast with the fence panel back in place long before anyone in the big posh house woke up.
It was about three weeks later that we had a torrential downpour of rain.
Out of idle curiosity I went upstairs to the back bedroom and gazed out over the fence at the back of our garden into the garden of the big posh house behind where the owners seemed to have acquired a new water feature being mainly of a bubbling spring that erupted from under the grass right at the top of their garden and cascaded water all across the long sloping back lawn that was manicured every weekend by the man of the house with a pair of nail scissors – it looked really nice under several inches of cascading water did his lawn.
And while I was staring out of the window at my nice dry lawn, dry even in this torrential rain because of the excellent drainage that I now had, I suddenly became aware that the man who owned the big posh house behind ours was standing under some trees gazing at his new water feature with extreme sorrow, anger and much puzzlement writ large on his face and as I stared at him he slowly turned and stared up at our bedroom window – I ducked behind a curtain and completely manged to avoid any contact with him for the next four years, not even a cheery “Good Morning” over the fence as I would cut my nice dry lawn and he would be sweeping the debris that is associated with calamitous flooding off his lawn.