You know that feeling when you just have to have an urn and simply nothing else will do?
Well, I had that at the back-end of last year and so I ended up ordering one. It is one of those things that has been on my mind for many years and so in some ways, it’s wasn’t an impulse buy, so much as giving-in to my inner-nagging. There’s only so many years I can resist the “buy it, buy it, buy it” that rages in my head every time I am reminded of that which I do not have, yet. For the urn, it never was a question of “if” but rather, “when”.
In this case, the “when” was late 2018, precisely at the point I picked up the phone and called the cast-stone company. After an understandable delay due to Christmas and the New Year, it finally arrived onto the drive in set pieces, ready to assemble – all 500kg of it. The delivery, unfortunately, wasn’t to the point of construction, round the side of the house, down a couple of steps and all the way towards the bottom end of the garden.
Cue the rest of winter, spring and early summer to think about how to transport the heavy pieces and then stack them in place; it was the elephant in the room (or drive). Pulleys, winches, joists, scaffolds all went through our minds as we pondered over the problem. At least, as the pieces sat on the drive for the next several months, I didn’t have to worry about someone coming along to steal it. The pieces were so heavy that anyone with the cunning and persistence to lift off with them were welcome to.
We bought a flatbed trolley; this turned out to be incredibly useful for other jobs around the garden too. We dug and made a concrete base, ready for the pieces to be assembled on to. All the while dancing around the issue of just how on earth we were going to move and assemble this thing.
The base piece alone weighed just over 100 kg, the shaft that sat on it was over 150 kg. Note that these pieces are hollow too. Then comes a cap stone at a very reasonable 70kg before it gets silly again with the urn body at 100+kg. This needs to be lifted almost five feet in the air in order to slot on to the urn stand (neck). The final piece is an easily managed finial at 20kg.
It was finally in early summer, while my father, my sister and her partner were staying over that we decided to have a go at assembling the urn. I’m still not quite sure how we did it, but a combination of using wooden rollers, ropes, levers and wedges allowed us to get the base piece onto the flatbed and down to the assembly site in the Rectangle.
The shaft was another issue entirely, with it being so heavy we only managed to tip it on to the end of the flatbed, where it had to be prevented from flipping the whole trolley by having someone as a counterweight on the front – the combined weight of which warped the whole trolley. Amazingly the wheels didn’t burst but the trolley is forever damaged from the ordeal, and so are we.
Lifting the urn body was yet another challenge. Smooth, round, no hand-holds and weighing over 100kg, it needed to be lifted above chest height. We got part of the way using a stack of pallets. We then enlisted the help of our neighbour and together, were able to brute-force lift the urn onto the top of the shaft, before another heave lifted it higher onto the the urn neck. Some fine-tune levelling using 50p coins and a finial later and whole thing was complete and very “present”.
Even now I think the only reason we were able to lift the urn body was because no-one wanted to be under it if we lost control. It either had to happen successfully, or we would be calling the emergency services, or Co-op Funerals. The strength given by the adrenalin from simply trying to “stay alive” was sufficient.
What’s also sufficient is going through this exercise once-only.
Now we have an urn, in the Rectangle, a formal grass area with hedges on the short sides and borders on the long. The Rectangle isn’t quite complete yet. I should be able to mark out the final border line and re-seed grass where I need to to get to the ultimate shape.
It’s odd that in previous years, progress has been measured by border areas made, yet this year it’s the grass sward pinned at one end by the urn that gets the attention – a kind of anti-border. It’s important though as despite being grass, the Rectangle both ties and divides the front and back areas of the garden (kind of like the duck/rabbit optical illusion).
In its own way, the work on the Rectangle counts towards the blog’s strap line of “Transforming a large garden, one border at a time”. It’s not a border, yet it will be a key piece of the garden when complete.