I have finally started fixing fine grade chicken wire to the deck and wooden steps en route to the conservatory. The look is not very Chelsea Flower Show or Gardens Illustrated. Nobody in the world of designer gardens has any worries about slipping over on their exterior wooden surfaces, it seems. Or they reckon their insurance will cover the damage if the gardener breaks his wrist. Who knows? But back in the real world of daily watering, the decking does get slippery after rain even when it's clean, and there are times when it needs cleaning, and I've been meaning to staple some wire along the strip leading to the conservatory door for a long time. I even got as far as buying a roll of one centimetre hexagonal mesh, it's just that having bought it I put it in the garage instead of unwrapping it and fastening it to the deck.
I began to feel more urgent about the task because our holiday is approaching, and I do not want the housesitters slipping over and hurting themselves while trying to water our pots. They are nice people and I should feel bad about it. And they have always got on so well with the cats, though they have yet to meet the kittens. And they have done very well with the watering, given that neither claim to be keen gardeners. And when you find people who apparently like your house and your animals and have got the knack of keeping your plants alive for a week, you cling on to them.
The sense of urgency was heightened when I heard that somebody I know had broken her wrist in two places falling over. Initially I was told that she broke it at a funeral, then it transpired that she had broken it handing round plates of sandwiches at the do afterwards, when she slipped on some wet decking. That has to be marginally better than interrupting the main proceedings by tripping over in the crematorium. Just as the vicar or the oldest friend of the deceased is about to say nice things about them there comes a thud and a howl of pain from one of the pews. That would be really bad. But still, to break your wrist when you are only trying to be helpful is bad enough, especially as it is her left wrist and she is left handed.
So I thought I'd better get on with fastening the chicken wire down. It is taking a phenomenal quantity of staples. Once I'd managed to remember where I put the big staples for the staple gun (in a spare cache pot on a shelf in the garage, not in the box in the study with my pen knife and magnifying glass, or in the drawer in the study with the normal staples for the desk stapler), I fetched a couple of strips and used them all so quickly it felt as though I must be trying to make the deck non slip using nothing but staples. A finalist on some television gardening competition a long time ago actually did use nothing but zinc nails, and very elegant it was too, but he was driving them into full blown railway sleepers, not just decking boards. I went back down to the garage to fetch the entire box, and was grateful it was almost full.
As it is I suspect I'm going to run out of netting before I've done all the steps. I didn't measure up and do any proper QA before starting, just bought a roll of chicken wire when I was in B&Q, and each step is using more than it looked as if it was going to. Happily and by pure fluke the steps were slightly wider than the netting by a very small margin so the wire fitted neatly without having to cut one side. The passage along the side of the conservatory was slightly narrower than the roll of netting, but I managed to bend the surplus down over the edge of the deck without it fouling the track of the conservatory door.
Vita Sackville West never had to worry about such things, or Gertrude Jekyll, or Marjorie Fish, or Christopher Lloyd. And yes, I know that using decking in the UK climate is asking for trouble, especially in shade, But York paving can get pretty slippy as well. If you want to create level areas on a sloping site, which we did, or camouflage a miscellany of concrete rafts resulting from different building projects at different times, which we did as well, and don't have a budget comfortably stretching into five figures for the project, which we hadn't, decking is a very useful material. Ours is American red cedar.