I learned a long time ago never to volunteer and really should know better - but find myself saying every time: 'Of course I'll help, no problem........'
Which is why today I was to be found in helpful mode, lending a hand in a friend's greenhouse-building project. To be more precise this was my third outing with spanner, screwdriver and ever diminishing reserves of patience. And the Thing is no nearer completion.
I should have known from the outset when L. proudly displayed the nascent greenhouse in the form of assorted bits of aluminium and plastic ranged haphazardly on a barn floor that this was not going to be straightforward. There were XL1s, 2s, 3s and 4s and a 5, XL1-Ss, XL5s, XL55s and 56s, 128 flanged 8mm screws with hex nuts, 130 8mm self-tapping screws, 8 slotted screws and 8 square plates, D4s (x 8), a pair of angles, SANs 12, 13, 16, and 17, CTs and WTs - 88 and 87 and a solitary D147. A numbers' game. It wasn't immediately obvious what any of the pieces were or how, by joining them together we'd form a greenhouse.
OK. Have a cup of tea and read the instructions. Never trust a set of instructions that don't give you a list of tools required but do suggest that a table knife will be handy.....Second up; on my List of Never Trusts come the words: 'If after a period of time your panes work loose, tweak them back into place.' There's a technical term for you. Tweak. And I recommend if those pesky panes do work loose you'd better be quick off the mark in the tweaking department as due to its insubstantial construction a strong gust of wind will blow this greenhouse right into the next parish.
We identify some bits of aluminium and begin the task of bolting them together with the minuscule 8mm flanged screws and the things we have decided are hex-bolts - not helped by painfully inadequate working drawings and instructions that read like algebraic code. L's enthusiasm has waned a bit and I have decided that were this my greenhouse it would be shipped back to Norfolk Greenhouses. Now. PDQ (With a covering letter to the MD using words like: 'suitable for purpose? I think not.' In bold type.)
After many putting togethers and taking aparts we end the afternoon with the finished front and back frames leaned against the barn. Our fingers are sore from screwing and unscrewing the minuscule 8mm flanged screws and in need of comfort we go and eat cake.
Day 2 sees the framework completed - well, we think it's completed but there are a lot of bits of aluminium left over. Doors; aha! they must be door components. And those are window bits. L.'s enthusiasm has returned. But it has been a hard slog. We offer things up this way and that. Nothing is clear. We take stock and look at the instructions for tomorrow's job of 'Applying the Trim and Glazing'. OMG. The last of the afternoon sun leaves us feeling chilly, our fingers are sore and we are in need of comfort. We eat more cake.
And today we set about Trimming and Glazing - which involved trapping plastic sheets in plastic trim which clips onto the aluminium frame. (The table knife was very useful at this stage.) We manage to 'glaze' both sides - which sounds impressive but there's an awful lot more to do. We're not finished yet. My heart sinks at the prospect.
Most of me wants to help my friend out with her greenhouse - for which she has paid hard-earned folding money. The rest of me wants to rant about awful-dreadful-terrible design, cheap-shoddy components and indecipherable instructions, all of which combine to take a pair of capable people an inordinate amount of time to make into an insubstantial substandard piece of kit. Rage, growl, snarl, grumble.....a hearty curse on all purveyors of bad design