Hidden realities….

I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing as the deckboards came up. What had looked so attractive on the surface was a whole different story underneath… I was just glad that it was being addressed before someone had been seriously hurt.

Eight years ago, my son bought a bungalow. The garden looked unloved. The design lacked imagination, not to mention colour and, although there was plenty of green, it came mostly from mould and lichen. It was also entirely unsuitable for my son, being full of level changes neither he nor the wheelchair could cope with. We already knew we would have to gut the bungalow to get it to work for him… redesigning the garden was just one more job.

Eight months later, the house had been stripped back to a shell and almost entirely rebuilt. The garden was unrecognisable. The dark, dank yard had been transformed into a bright, accessible space, full of colour, scent and sound. While it still looked a little stark that first year, by next spring, it looked amazing and, when summer brought the roses into bloom, it was fragrant haven. We had designed it to be full of life. Water and birds played with the sunlight, the sounds of a busy world retreated as the garden came into its own.

For the next few years, the garden matured, becoming more abundantly beautiful. Newness was  softened by time, plants and trees grew… and so did the fish in the pond. Delivery drivers, evangelists, salespeople or guests… it did not matter who came to my son’s door, everyone commented on his garden. You couldn’t help it. Then my foot went through the deck.

Fast forward a year. The workmen brought in to put it right had done even more damage. The only options left were extensive repairs or a complete redesign with more durable materials. Either would be incredibly expensive, but there was little choice with safety the primary factor. We thought the rotting wood was simply a result of time and weather, even though we were surprised that the high-quality, treated materials had not lasted longer. As soon as the new work began, we learned the reason why…

The raised flowerbeds had not been lined with damp-proof membrane, and wood does not fare well in contact with damp soil. The heavy sleepers had rotted from below and the damage spread. That was bad enough. A little common sense would have prevented most of the visible damage and saved thousands of pounds. But you never know when apparent disaster might actually be a good thing…

What shocked me most was finding that the huge, heavy stone barbeque… taller than me… framed by its semicircle of stone flags, had been sitting, not on concrete or stone as one would have expected, but on a ‘floating floor’ of unprotected plywood. The plywood was so rotten you could have torn it by hand. The flags, with the underlying damp, had degraded badly and, once disturbed, now bounced on the underlying sponge. How the barbeque had remained standing and not crushed someone is beyond me!

Balancing half a ton of stone on a few bits of wood is not a lack of common sense… it is utter stupidity. Any other comments I may have made are unprintable.

But, at least now we know. The barbeque has been dismantled and safely stored. The garden is disappearing as fast as the weather will allow. The people now working hard to make it both attractive and safe are listening to what is needed, are flexible enough to adapt plans as we go to make sure my son can actually enjoy his garden safely and have a practical, common sense approach to how things should be done. I have high hopes and the whole episode is providing a graphic illustration of finding an unexpected ‘silver lining’ in disaster.

It illustrated something else too… that whatever the surface may show, what lies beneath may be very different from what the world sees and assumes to be true. From the craftsman who cuts corners when no-one is looking, to the charmer with the rotten heart, the analogy fits all too well. But it can work the other way too… the most positive person may hide the deepest scars, the heart of gold can be found in the unlikeliest-looking breast and the greatest teachers can be found in the humblest of places. Especially, it seems, when you look below the surface.


About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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58 Responses to Hidden realities….

  1. Sadje says:

    That is criminal waste of money and time. Such shoddy workmanship should not go unpunished. You’re right. The view we see can have a lot hidden underneath it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Darlene says:

    Oh dear. At least you found the problems before anything terrible happened. I agree, things aren’t always what they appear to be on the surface.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mary Smith says:

    When you look at that lovely photo of the garden with the beautiful raised flowerbeds and the barbeque it’s hard to imagine everything rotting away below. Thanks goodness it has all come to light before either Nick or you were seriously hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jenanita01 says:

    I am always amazed by what some people think is acceptable, and have uncovered some potentially disastrous situations in my time. It takes no more time to do a job properly and will ensure it endures… As my dad used to say, it will be wonderful when it’s finished…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you got the pictures when it was lovely – because indeed it was!


  6. joylennick says:

    Thank goodness: “All’s well that ends well…” came to fruition! xx


  7. Very wise words. Also, I’m incredibly relieved you discovered these issues before they caused someone serious harm.


  8. Adele Marie says:

    Thank goodness everyone is alright and that it was noticed before any serious damage to you all. What a thing to happen shoddy workmanship by the company before, I hope it is done to exacting standards this time, Sue. xxx


  9. So sad that the beautiful garden and barbeque had to come out and everything redone. Plus the cost and hassle. I’m glad no one was hurt as the underpinnings decayed. I hope the silver lining is an even more accessible and beautiful garden for Nick.


  10. Oddly enough, today I bought the stain/water-repellant/UV protector semi-transparent (but not thin) paint for our aging deck. The good news about our decks is that it’s up in the air. You can walk underneath it and see how it fairs. It’s got a serious splinter issue, but it isn’t rotten. i don’t even know how old it is, either. Could be 20 years or 40, though I doubt it’s 40. And the steps were replaced about 5 years ago. I’m just hoping it isn’t a much bigger issue than it seems to be. It’s only a 12X12 wooden deck and with a sprayer, once it has been powerwashed and allowed to dry, it SHOULD be relatively easy. SHOULD is one of those terrible words, deep with hidden meanings. There’s also a bit of sagging where the deck attaches to the house. Very minimal — so far — but down the road we will have to replace at least the beam where it attaches to the house — and will the vinyl cladding allow us to do it?

    Meanwhile, the bird feeders have to come down and maybe that’s just as well. The birds and squirrels need a reminder that they are wild. We have a standoff at the feeders: the squirrels stand guard under the feeders so the birds won’t use it. If I chase away the squirrels, the birds get spooked too and THEY disappear. So I think just taking them down for the summer and putting them up again when the weather starts to shift to cold might do birds AND squirrels a favor.

    It’s so frustrating trying to keep a house in decent condition, especially on a short budget. There’s so much worrying and waiting — worrying BECAUSE you are waiting (will that chimney decide to collapse? Will the deck fall apart or tear off from the house? How to find people who will do small jobs at a reasonable price — but do it well — and what IS a reasonable price when compared to the very little amount of money we have?

    I suppose the only thing worse than having to maintain a house is not having a house to maintain.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      It is a neverending story, isn’t it, maintining a property. There are times when I am very glad that I don’t own a home…


      • I OFTEN wish I didn’t. I do love the space, the land, the woods and we couldn’t keep this number of dogs except out here where no one cares if they bark themselves into a stupor. The price of maintaining this house in semi-decent shape is making every other activity impossible. Literally, everything goes to the house. Any little purchase that isn’t absolutely necessary is out. But on the other hand, being in a rented property with a landlord who doesn’t do the work either is even worse and I have a lot of friends in THAT position. We just do the best we can with what we have and hope it works out okay. I suppose that’s what we all do.


        • Sue Vincent says:

          There’s not much choice really…


          • No, there isn’t, but it gets very frustrating. I really want a vacation. We both NEED one — a real one. But the harsher reality is even if we had the money, we couldn’t take a long vacation. Two of our dogs are old and don’t do well when we are gone. So unless we could take them with us — and that would not be a real vacation (kind of like taking the toddlers with you!) — we aren’t going far ANYWAY.


            • Sue Vincent says:

              I know the feeling. I have a week coming up… but I’ll be driving over fifteen hundred miles during that time, trying to fit in meeting people (which dictates where we can go) and we have a workshop in the middle of it. That’s as close to a holiday as we’ll get this year again… but I am grateful for even that. I’m so tired.


  11. Widdershins says:

    Bloody criminal. There’s no excuse for that kind of … of … arrogance.
    Having got that out of my system, may I politely inquire as to the posting of assorted, ‘work in progress’ photos as it goes along? 🙂


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Don’t get me started… 😉

      I’ll document what I can. I did with the original works and we’ve been glad of those photos as we’ve designed the new garden. I’ll be away for part of the works though… and may be glad of that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. CarolCooks2 says:

    How dreadful, Sue but the good news is no disasters and soon it will be safe and lovely for Nick… I am sure all your flowers and plants will eventually come back up again…I like your comparison with the human race though…we have often been delightfully and unexpectedly surprised or disappointed when the outside doesn’t match the inside…Lovely post :)x


  13. Eliza Waters says:

    Wow, what a cautionary tale of poor workmanship! What a relief no one was hurt. x


  14. dgkaye says:

    Omg, I was gagging just thinking about all that work. And now those beautiful garden beds that were half to blame are gone too? Did you retransplant somewhere else temporarily? I can’t believe watering the garden rotted the ‘treated’ wood. Good moto – We never know what lies beneath. ❤ x


  15. Jennie says:

    Wow! I suppose it’s a lucky thing that it was only your foot that ‘discovered’ the damage. Just terrible!!


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