Monday, February 04, 2008

The Greenhouse

One of the nicest feelings one can experience is seeing the fruit of one's hard work...

Early last summer, some friends of ours decided to emigrate back to their home Country, Egypt, and they put their house on the market.

In their garden, they had a small, but rather pretty greenhouse, and my wife has always admired its elegant shape and understated appearance.. So, before they sell the house, we asked them if we could buy the greenhouse, but they insisted that we can simply 'have it'.. and despite all our insistence, they totally refused to accept any payment...

So, one Friday afternoon in June, I rented a small van, drove all the way to Burton-on-Trent where they lived, and spent a few hours carefully dismantling the delicate glass and hard wood structure.. Eventually, I managed to load all the bits and pieces in the van, and drove back home.. It was nearly dawn break before I got home..

Due to the bad weather we had most of the summer, and because I had so many other commitments at the time, my plans to build the greenhouse were put on the back-burner for a while...

When I returned from my trip to Damascus, I thought I'd better start with my little project.. First of all, I had to choose a spot in the garden.. and I found the ideal place: a sunny spot close to the vegetable patch, away from the large trees.. (Well.. in our garden, you can never get completely away from the large trees.. We have some 35 of them, some are over 80 years old!..)..

So, armed with my iPod...

...and a few basic tools...


.. I started to work..

I carefully measured and marked the area I had chosen..

and started digging the soil up..

...until I ended up with a big hole!..

Then, having ordered the chippings, the sand, and the flagstones in advance, I laid the edging blocks, and began filling the hole with one-and-a-half tonne of stone chippings, then one-tonne of sand..

Then, after firmly compacting the base, I laid the flagstones.. It took a whole weekend to do all that, but the result was quite pleasing..

The spot I had chosen was on an incline, so before I could erect the greenhouse, I had to build a new base to compensate for the gradient.. otherwise, the greenhouse would come up lopsided!.. Now that was not as easy a task as I thought.. Plenty of thought and planning went into it, and numerous measurements and calculations were needed.. laser pointers and multi-directional spirit levels were used to ensure that the base ended up absolutely level...



Then, it was time to face the most hateful task.. Before I could re-assemble the greenhouse, I need to CLEAN it!.. And, boy, was it filthy!!.. All the glass and wooden panels were covered with moss, dust, cobwebs, and God-Almighty gunge!!..


Each had to be individually scrubbed clean before I could even think of fitting them back together...

So, after several hours of cleaning and scrubbing, the panels were ready to be assembled..
I was a bit concerned that I might need another pair of hands to do it.. I could have easily recruited the help of a good friend of mine, but it would have meant waiting until both of us are free, and hoping that it would coincide with decent weather!!.. So, I thought I'd take my chances..


I had to wait for a spell of good weather.. I did not want to battle against the elements with no help!.. So, one sunny Saturday, I set about putting the structure together.. It did not take me long to get going, and within a few hours of steady, sustaied effort, the main frame of the greenhouse was erect, and I went on to assemble the roof.. Not wanting to waste the rare opportunity of the good weather, I carried on well after dark, and had to resort to using floodlights to iluminate the area...

It was after midnight before I finally stopped!.. After a hot shower, I collapsed in a heap, completely exhausted.. That night, I slept like I had not slept in ages!...

Next morning, I gave the woodwork a coat of paint.. White on the outside, and dark green on the inside (my wife's instructions, of course..).. Then, I fitted the worktops and shelves, and the roof was ready to be lifted on top of the frame.. But that I could not do on my own.. Well, you know the saying: 'The impossible: we do immedaitely. Miracles might take a short while!...'


So, I had to wait a couple of weeks until my son and daughter came home one weekend, and with their help, and with a few adjustments, the roof went on, and the structure was complete.. As a matter of fact, we had to do it in driving rain, simply because it would be several weeks before I can have them both at home again, with no guarantee that the weather would be any better, anyway..

In fact, in one stormy night, one of the sliding door panels was blown off while it was leaning against the wall, and the glass pane was shaterred..

It was not a major problem.. It took a quick trip to the local glazier and glass merchant, followed by a few minutes of work, and the panel was as good as new..


So, the Greenhouse is now up.. It's not big, but it is quite pretty.. Well, I think it is, anyway..

It took me nearly five months to finish it, but hey, it was a solo effort.. well, almost!.. Just think Michaelangelo and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!.. It took him four whole years to do it.. OK, his masterpiece was a little bit more elaborate than mine, but you get the picture!...

So, now the ball, as the saying goes, is in my court... It is up to me to ensure that the Greenhouse is used effectively.. Time and other commitments permitting, I will soon have it full of young plants, tender home-grown vegetables, and beautiful brightly-coloured flowers..

And when that happens, I will be back with some more pictures...

13 comments:

Omar said...

I envy you, handy people, for having the patience and the passion to work on something like that.. the light bulb in my own bedroom has been burnt for over 6 months and I haven't replaced it yet...

I stopped in London on the way to Damascus this Christmas.. for the first time in 8 years.
I considered contacting you to arrange a meeting while I was there, but my stay in London was cut short to less than 3 days.. so I guess this will have to wait until later...
good to see that you're better than me and still writing!!

abufares said...

Man I love this post.
I wish I was there to help. You could've made me work day and night and I'm relatively cheap to operate as in such times I run exclusively on beer.
You're quite a craftsman and you have all these nice tools ...
The wedges you made to level the greenhouse were simply a masterpiece. This is the best and most challenging part of this job.
Thank you for the photos.

The Syrian Brit said...

Omar,
I do wish you had tried to contact me.. I know we live some three-and-a-half hours from London, and that I was working through the Holidays, but it would have been nice to make contact.. but as you said, perhaps next time..
My daughter was in Damascus over Christmas, and she tried to make contact with your mother to interview her for her Masters project (see the post on: http://syrianbrit.blogspot.com/2007/12/in-pursuit-of-knowledge.html), but after making an appointment, you Mum had to cancel due to other commitments.. So, once again, it is a case of 'perhaps next time'!..

Abu Fares,
Now there's an offer I could barely resist!.. That would have made light of all the hard work, and would have made it all the more enjoyable altogether..
And you're right, the wedges were, indeed, the most challenging part of the job..

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Hello Mr. Syrian Builder! I enjoyed this post immensely. Always a pleasure for me to watch a structure, no matter how small it is, coming up together.

Omar said...

I know that this will sound cheesy and a bit unbelievable, but tell your daughter that throughout the 3 weeks I spent in Damascus, i got to see my mother for less than 6 hours all in total.. and most of these 6 hours were in the late nights when I was staying up waiting for her to come back from their HQ meetings at 3.00am .. so tell her not to feel bad because I never saw her that busy in my life...
she will probably have more breathing time now that all the opening ceremonies are over.. but I guess a trip from England to Syria is not a 30 mins ride eh?

Omar said...

by the way.. if she ever wants to go back and meet more people, I can hook her up with Dima Orsho (who livesin Boston now) and Rasha Rizk (who lives in Damascus).. both are opera singers, have their own musical projects and bands.. and both happen to be very good friends of mine (we were all colleagues in the Conservatory in Damascus.. they continued and I backed out after 8 years of training).. I don't know Lena Chamamyan in person but we have lots of people in common so I might be able to even get to her also..

so.. if she still needs to get in touch with them let her contact me (omar@morscad.com) and I will try to arrange something for her... she is almost virtually family after all, right?

Syrian in London said...

That was highly enjoyable Doc. I raise my hat for the work/effort and skill involved in such a project! I’m not too horrible in dyi (you have to be able to do the basic things in this country or go bankrupt) but my poor fence is still waiting for its fix since last winter's gail (opss)

it is very enjoyable to build something with your hands especially if your day to day job is not too much a hands on one (talking about myself here, you cannot get more hands on than an ER doctor) and such a mental relief from desk work. I remember being so proud when I finished putting my bedroom furniture together (bed, 6 drawer set, 3 drawer set and a wardrobe) from flat pack! It was tiring and getting your head around the instruction is just as challenging as the physical side but the end result held a triumphant glow that one takes pride in!

Enjoy the home grown herbs and plants

Regards

SiL

The Syrian Brit said...

DJ
I agree.. No matter how big or small, seeing a structure coming together is a very satisfying experience..

SiL,
Thanks for the kind words.. and well done for sorting out your furniture!.. I know many men and women who would stumble at that hurdle!..

The Syrian Brit said...

Omar,
Dana knew from the outset that your mother was going to be extremely busy, particularly in the lead to the opening ceremonies and all that.. So, although disappointed for not meeting her, Dana totally understood..
Thank you very much for the kind offer.. Dana met Rasha Rizk, and Wa'd Bou Hassoun, and one or two others.. She had several telephone conversations with Lena Chamamyan, and interviewed her over the phone. She also met a number of academics, composers and historians, including Ilham Abu S'oud, Suheyl Arafeh and Sammeem Al-Shareef.. She met Nabeel Ellaow, (Director of the Opera House?), and also interviewed a number of amateur performers, some from the older generation (including my own Aunt!..) So she really has enough material to keep her going for a while.. Nevertheless, we know where to go should she need any more!.. She will surely come knocking on your door!.. Thank you very much indeed... I truly appreciate your kindness..

Rime said...

You are a man of many talents, I am so impressed! I am useless in diy of this sort and full of admiration for those who make things from nothing. Thanks for a very enjoyable post.

But what I really really want to know is: so what else do you have on your iPod? :)

The Syrian Brit said...

Now, now, Rime.. That's the kind of question that a CNN interviewer asks a young Syrian President!..
Just remember that I have a musician for a daughter (An ethnomusicologist, if you please!. in reference to her interest in Ethnic Music and Musical Anthropology..), who keeps introducing me to all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff!..

abufares said...

I know you don't like it much but I just tagged you.
It's not that bad I promise. A little difficult perhaps, but I couldn't think of a better old mate than you.

The Syrian Brit said...

Oh boy!..
Can I remember THAT far back?!!...
I shall do my best!!!...