Sometimes items on my to-do list simply fall off the bottom because they are tired of waiting. I can categorize our flagstones thus with little chance of contradiction. We bought them more years ago than I can count on two hands. We used more than half of them to make our "sit-ootery" (some non-Scots refer to such paved areas for outdoor teatime as "patios"), but it became clear that we'd ordered far too many of them.
These flags are not concrete, but natural stone. Real stone is not the sort of thing you throw out without a nagging sense of irresponsibility. So I arranged them carefully into a wall-like pile in the middle of the garden to await further inspiration.
Although the wall was meant to be temporary, it's been an obstruction for years. A couple of months ago, the planner in our house mentioned that she was by now so accustomed to it that perhaps we should simply think of it as a permanent feature.
I don't think she was being more than lightly ironic. It was beginning to look fairly mellow, softened by lichens and mosses. It seemed likely that our mouse population relished its cracks and crevices and might even raise families in its inner recesses. And possibly our local wren, by nature shy and a lover of stone interstices, used it as a bolt-hole. Slugs shelter from the noonday sun therein.
I must admit it had achieved the air of a work of art. It might have been a sculpture by Carl Andre or an Andy Goldsworthy. Or some kind of excavation, perhaps, suggesting a relic from the Stone Age. (Pity it isn't; we could have charged good money at the gate.) For all I know, it might be visible on Google Earth. Yet I still felt that the flagstones might have some better use.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, the long-awaited inspiration struck like a lightning bolt – an inspiration of beautiful economy and rightness.
Besides the garden at home, I also have another wee garden for vegetables down on the allotments just over a mile away. I am slowly trying to invest this plot with the character of an old kitchen garden. Brick paths running diagonally from corner to corner are bordered with miniature hedges of clipped box (a plan still half-finished). Since childhood I have fostered an ambition to grow boxwood hedges. Gardener Walter Ducker taught me how to take cuttings. They root well, if slowly, and in a year or two gaps between them fill in and take on the look of a hedge.
Fergus, who gardens two plots away, told me the other day that my box hedges can be seen on Google Earth. I've seen it myself now, and it's true. And also can be seen the round hole I dug in the center of the plot some years ago.
There is something that tickles my fancy about these tiny fractions of garden design being identifiable from space or wherever Mr. Google spies from. But it's not this discovery that has at last moved me to a fresh effort to actually make the round hole into the round pond it was always meant to be.
I have a liner ready for this pond, but had never found a way of consolidating the edges of the hole so that they stop collapsing inward and spoiling the circle. The thing is, because these plots can't be owned permanently by those who use them, concrete structures are not really permitted. So my pond-to-be needs strong, solid edges that could be easily dismantled.
Now the solution seems obvious, but somehow or other the putting of two and two together was a rather prolonged calculation. The flagstones, of course! Laid flat on top of one another, they make a stable wall with no need for mortar or cement. We don't really want them still at home, so what could be better than to transfer them to the plot?
So – very slowly, one barrowload of five or six flags at a go – the stone wall at home is growing lower and the sides of the round pond are growing higher. For once, two birds are, as they say, being killed with one stone. Well, several hundred stones, actually. But at least I am not (as often happens) simply moving one heap to make another heap.
In the allotment gardens, Lesley and Joe found two old rolled-up carpets behind their shed and don't need them. They'll provide padding under the liner. The unused gravel that had been piled by our front gate has been transferred to the plot to fill in gaps between the stones round the pond. The overflowing compost heap has been reduced to provide further filler.
And very soon the pond liner itself, which has been cluttering up my shed for a long time, will be draped in place. Then ... let the rains descend! I haven't decided about goldfish yet. No doubt frogs will come of their own accord.