contracts – the garden from hell

Wednesday 27 July 1664
an insight into the making of contracts – reflections on death –
...and acquainted them with the death of Mr. Alsopp, which Mr. Lanyon had told me this morning, which is a sad consideration to see how uncertain a thing our lives are, and how little to be presumed of in our greatest undertakings….

Pepys shows a real knack of putting things in perspective in a few words. I’m sure he could have made a good poet had he not been so involved in the world of ship building.

Yesterday I went to see one of the most difficult gardens I have ever had to quote on.  The company who built the estate wanted to make extra money out of building houses basically against a hill and so carved out an area to provide gardens or garden like areas. the difference between street level and the garden level was 3 m and I was confronted with such a formidable wall when I was considering how to get my tools into the garden.

The only way is through the house and in the house resides a dog which although friendly is very large and curious. I’m taking the unusual step of publishing the full quote just to show you that the job of landscaping and gardening and clearing is not that straightforward.

Hello XXXXX, thank you for showing us your garden.
As we seem to have agreed, renovating this garden area contains pretty much every difficulty that can be thought of.
You have told me that you want the back cleared including all overhanging hedges, and the other hedges at the site right down to the road not forgetting the hedges on the left side. You have asked us to clear all the grass and rockery area.
We are majorly concerned about the dog faeces because although they can be cleared up, you can be sure that the whole area is contaminated in the soil itself and it will be very easy to pick up an infection. We feel that we should start by disinfecting the ground at least the lower part.
We also note is that the side steps are very slippy  due to mould and before starting we will jet wash the steps in order to ensure that we do not slip going up and down.
When the ground is cleared will the dog continue to use the area to relieve itself? if so the droppings will be more unsightly and will need to be cleared on a regular basis I would have thought.
There is a large element of danger in the work for example cutting the hedges at the end standing on a 45° slope. This is plain and simple dangerous and prone to slippage. It will take approximately 3 times the amount of time it would take if the whole was on level ground.
The side area is quite tricky as well and I shall have to make two or three passes walking along the wall with safety assistance to get the thing halfway decent.
Because of these dangers, and the advanced dereliction of the whole garden, I will have to call in someone else to assist mainly for health and safety reasons. Accidents can all too easily happen.
It is preferable that you are present while we are there because you would be amazed at the questions that need a decision, not to mention the requirement for supplies of tea and the loo for Francoise.
I do believe that the decking that you propose will look very nice but you need to make sure that the weeds underneath are very definitely deprived of life otherwise they will eventually poke up through the decking. I have seen examples of where people have had to replace the decking due to this reason. You may also want to have two or three central steps up from the gravel area to the decking itself.
The quote I am going to give you will be about double what I guess you would expect. The uplift is due to the slope of the garden, the unsanitary area due to dog faeces, the fact that we will have to take away the considerable amount of spoil, (we reckon there are about six journeys here),  and finally that the equipment has to be bought through the house – but not the bags which we have agreed we will drop over the wall.
The quote is £xxxx
The condition of the working is that we can only function after 24 hours without rain because of the slippery nature of the slope.
We will not start work unless this area is cleared of faeces and we ask you to clear other rubble which might get in the way of our work.
We normally ask for 25% of the payment after the first working day and the rest on satisfactory completion. That means you and your Nan going round on a tour of inspection.
If your Nan, whom you tell me is paying for the work, wishes to speak with us we shall be only too glad to come down and see her.
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I know full well that because of the complete lack of access she will find it very difficult to get anyone else to even consider the job. Working on a 45° slope especially in the wet invites slipping and accidents. Especially in view of my accident last October, where my blogg starts, I would insist on being assisted by my wife or someone else at all times.
My advice to people who quote for difficult jobs is to spell out the whole thing in advance before you even start. Is the risk worth it? You don’t want to start the job and find it is too difficult or there was something you have forgotten. Planning really does pay
         power tools + 45° + hidden stones + very uneven ground = danger
Anyway, I don’t mind if I don’t get the job. It is so taxing physically that four hours per day would be enough so we would have to make more visits. Watch this space.
I’m giving a talk on 6 September to a group of clinicians and doctors in the North Bristol area of hospitals. It is quite a privilege to do this. The title of my talk will be “Trauma viewed from both sides of the fence”. We are all faced with traumatic situations or potentially traumatic situations and in awaited decision whether to  classify something as traumatic whether we deal with it on another level and  not let ourselves be affected. Doctors and staff are hugely pressurised and it is a wonder if anyone of them does not take their work home with them. You cannot switch off from a patient who has been in great pain or who has just had a life-saving operation.
I have already finished the first draft of my talk which is only a 20 min one so 2000 words or so should be more than enough. I’m trying to find a balance between humour, that those good and depressing and finally positive and encouraging conclusions as to what can be done to make a difference.
I do wish someone would make a difference to this rainy weather which seems to be this setting this country while the south of Spain and Portugal basks in 35° heat. I’m fed up with reading all about this climate change business and how we should stop using fossil fuels and so on. Yesterday, NASA confirmed that the sea levels were dropping and had been doing so for the last two years. You can cook virtually any figures depending on where the  instruments you use are situated for measuring the temperature. I believe the figure for overall world temperature increase is about  9/10 of 1° which is probably the same thing that happened in the Middle Ages warming period where there were not many internal combustion engines, only cows and volcanoes.

 

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