ONE of my wife’s biggest regrets is that she married a man who is bereft of any DIY skills.

So, when she decided we’d have our patio overhauled, with a pergola, garden pond and ornamental slate borders, she called “Ian The Handyman”.

Ian’s one of those annoying people who can turn his hand to anything. He and his ilk were sent by God to make unpractical husbands like me look inferior.

Consequently, it hasn’t been easy having him round the house for the past few weeks while he’s been transforming our garden, although I grudgingly have to admit he’s done a good job.

The pergola is a magnificent structure and the pond has a waterfall that makes a wonderfully relaxing sound. The finishing touch was to lay the ornamental slate (a fetching green and plum mix) around the borders.

Well, I couldn’t just sit back and let him claim all the glory, could I? It became increasingly obvious I’d have to make a contribution to avoid getting slated by my wife – so I offered to be Ian’s labourer.

My wife ordered two tonnes of slate, which was dumped by a builder’s van on our front drive, and it was my job to ferry it round to the back garden in repeated trips with a wheelbarrow.

Believe me, two tonnes is a lot of slate. It nearly killed me but I ploughed on, manfully, for four hours until it was all shifted.

While I did the heavy labouring, Ian raked the soil, carefully cut the membrane to size to stop weeds coming through, and evenly laid the slate on top.

With only one border left, he had to go off to walk his dog, so it seemed incumbent on me to offer to finish off the last leg.

“Do you think you can manage?” he asked, somewhat condescendingly.

It was a question that didn’t deserve a reply but I’d watched him at work and I was confident I could rise to the challenge.

Despite having blistered hands from wheel-barrowing two tonnes of slate, and dripping with sweat, I got to work on the last border. I raked the soil, snipped the membrane, and evenly shovelled the slate into place.

I have to admit that I was very proud of myself so I shouted my wife to come and see.

She took one look, shook her head, and said: “You’ll have to do it again. The slate’s sitting too high on your border compared to all the others – you haven’t raked the soil enough.”

Crushed by the criticism, I proceeded to pick up every sodding piece of slate by hand and put it in a big pile, before lifting the membrane, and re-raking the soil to make it deeper. Then, I re-laid the perishing membrane, and spread the pigging slate back over it for a second time.

It was only when I’d finished that I realised my wedding ring wasn’t on my finger. Frantically, I sifted through the soil heap I’d raked up, then lifted every single piece of slate – literally thousands – in the desperate hope of seeing a flash of gold.

I was just about to troop solemnly into the house to confess to my wife that I’d lost my wedding ring (again) when I spotted the gardening glove I’d pulled off and cast aside when I’d finished my labouring shift.

I felt inside the glove and, to my eternal relief, the ring was nestling at the end of one of the fingers.

It’s probably best that I avoid getting involved in future.


THANKS to Hayley Jones, of Hurworth, near Darlington, for telling me about five-year-old son Henry’s response when he was asked at school to name his greatest wish.

“My wish is to eat better food,” wrote Henry.

His mum is now reassessing her culinary skills.

THANKS also to Jason Slater, a member of Darlington Operatic Society, for getting in touch about something rather touching his wife, Susy, said when she was little: “You’re very nice, Mummy. I was coming here anyway – but you put my head on.”

SAMANTHA, aged seven, turned to her dad, Phil, in Darlington, and said innocently: “Daddy, there are two doves doing a funny dance in the garden but one’s being a bit rough with the other one – it keeps trying to climb on its back.”