The Systems Administrator has finished rebuilding the wooden steps down to the bottom lawn. The old ones lasted for years, but reached the point of rottenness where I wouldn't risk leading visitors up them, and then one of the middle treads broke, and the whole flight was rendered impassable by the sprawl of rambling rose 'Paul's Himalayan Musk', which has never seen why it should restrict itself to climbing up the wild cherry when there was all that lovely sunlight to be had by sprawling out over the deck, the lawn, the steps and anywhere its wild tentacles could reach.
I had made footling efforts to tuck the errant growths in rather than cut them all off, but that simply made the problem with the steps worse as the curved stems bulged out over the route, and I was even more loathe to cut them off because they were supporting growth somewhere inside the great mass of rose. Then I steeled myself to give the rose a severe pruning to open up the steps, but it was not severe enough, so last autumn I gave it a second going over. Then one day when I was using the steps to lead a hose down to the beds in the bottom part of the garden a second tread disintegrated, and I made an inelegant descent on my bottom.
As this spring's drought wore on I was awfully keen to have some usable steps, while not wanting to nag the Systems Administrator about it. Domestic life is rarely improved by nagging, and after years of working with and for a series of wildly unreasonable and aggressive people I have an almost pathological dislike of trying to make people do things. But the steps were jolly useful, because they gave a straight line of access from the corner of the house where the outdoor tap is right down the garden, ideal for pulling a hose along. The only other route meant taking the hose across the lawn, being careful not to pull it into either rose bed, and through a one hundred and eighty degree bend before taking it back across the garden being careful not to pull it across the fritillary lawn.
Happily the SA announced that he was going to build new steps without the impetus of frequent reminders, AKA nagging, and it even turned out that we had some suitable wood in stock. Years ago the SA bought a job lot of pine salvaged from some old pews that came out of a chapel that a colleague's father-in-law was renovating, not with any particular use in mind for it but because the SA had room to store it and they agreed it would be a shame to waste it and it would come in useful eventually. And now it has. The design proved more difficult than the SA expected, not being a regular at building steps, and the first attempt was too steep because the pews were slightly shorter than the existing flight. If you make steps too steep then the useable width of tread is reduced because the one above it hangs over it, not so much of an issue when going up but tricky going down, and the only way round the problem is to increase the rise, which is not user friendly either. Also the two sides have to be absolute mirror images of each other, otherwise the treads will not be level. The steps accordingly went through a couple of preliminary incarnations before coming good, and the sides are peppered with dowels filling the extra holes drilled during the earlier attempts, but that isn't a structural issue. Painted with Sadolin to get maximum life out of the pews they look the part, and the supports for the treads will never rot because they are recycled plastic, left over from a garden railway project.
I am very pleased with them and have said so a number of times. Come next week I shall be taking the hose down them. And it is nice when walking round the garden to be able to come back by a different route, even if it's only a matter of reappearing at the opposite side of a not very big lawn.