Thursday, March 31, 2011


… fingernails too, they came in useful, although I found an old kitchen knife with a broken blade that worked better. That was for digging along the cracks between the boards to clear out the sand, fur, feathers, grit, leaves, twigs, crumbs, cobwebs and dead insects that had accumulated in the decade or more since the deck was last stained or even, if I’m honest, swept. My excuse is that the breezes take care of any loose detritus and everything else simply lodges where it will.

The deck is more of a veranda because it has a roof, and it is shady in the summer and sunny in the winter. There is, yes, indoor/outdoor flow – essential for true deck-worthiness. It is a place to loll with the newspapers or a book and a cup of coffee, to soak up the warmth, or catch a cool breeze, or just to think.

The deck is appropriately furnished. First, that essential on all proper New Zealand decks – a sofa. It is old. And shabby, a bit scuffed, with the pattern faded out of it. There are breadcrumbs embedded in its upholstery. It is for putting feet up on, or spilling drinks on, without worrying about the consequences. There are cushions, although not quite squashy enough for my taste. There are a couple of rustic tables, five plants in pots, two concrete cats painted in uncat-like colours and patterns, one ceramic bowl containing clothes pegs (don’t ask) and an old bedspread ready for covering the sofa in windy weather – the nor-wester brings leaves and twigs scudding across from the forest behind the house.

Once in a while the deck has to be flossied up, just a little, and recently I decided to do it. I moved everything off, except the sofa, and piled it against the garage wall. I got to work on my hands and knees, scratching and probing, brushing and vacuuming. In fact the vacuum cleaner hardly stopped for two days, its cord permanently stretched across the living room floor. Opening the new and unnervingly large tin of brown deck stain I wondered how I could possibly paint that vast empty acreage of boards. And goodness, I could see through the gaps into the newly lit wild life sanctuary below, which was now carpeted with sand, fur, feathers, grit, leaves, twigs, crumbs, cobwebs and dead insects.

When I finished at last, the deck looked quite smart but not too smart – as was proper. The furniture was back in place. My shoes had acquired brown freckles. OMG, so had my feet.

Three days later: another earthquake. The deck shifted sideways, and was covered in silty footprints. @%&*@#!

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