The Augean Garage

He hadn't even started...

He hadn’t even started…

“There you are, Tom, if you want something to do in the summer holidays you can clean out the garage. It would be a fantastic help and we’d obviously pay you.”

What an offer. And Tom reacted exactly as you’d expect him to react. He went up to his bedroom and spent the summer designing Formula 1 cars. Which explains why Jane delivered him to Brackley last week – and why there are parts of the Amazon jungle that have been visited more recently than the back of our garage.

Bluntly, it’s full. It’s full of junk and it’s needed emptying for years.

But it’s a Herculean task. In fact, it may be more than that…

‘Slay the hydra? No problem. Capture the three-headed hound that guards the gates of the underworld? Do it before breakfast. But clear out your garage…’ Sucks in breath, shakes head, imitates garage mechanic talking about your first car. ‘Sorry, pal, you’ll have to find yourself another demigod.’

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat (if you’re allowed to write that these days…) Or to empty a garage. Step forward, Ben. Exams finally finished, Duke of Edinburgh expedition completed, blisters healed. And just the young man for the job.

“There you are, Ben, if you want something to do in the summer holidays you can clean out the garage. It would be a fantastic help and we’d obviously pay you.”

“How much?”

Yes! A bite.

“Thirty pounds,” his mother offers.

Thirty quid? Has she gone mad? “Actually, darling,” I say, “It’s worth at least forty.” Between you and me it’s worth a hundred but children need to learn negotiating skills.



“Yes. Why not?”

Strike while iron is hot and all that. A verbal contract is agreed. Hands are metaphorically shaken.

And the boy is a whirlwind. A revelation. The pile on the lawn increased daily. Half a bike, a discarded carpet, the box for the computer screen Jessica threw a ruler at nine years ago. Guns, swords, and look – Tom’s cloak. The one he wore for the three months he spent as a cavalier thanks to Children of the New Forest. Ah, happy days…

“Tom, it’s tea-time.”

“No! The king’s majesty rides forth!”

“Well before he does that could the king’s majesty just eat his fish fingers?”

So that was that. What was once in the garage was now on the lawn. And my role in life was simple. Take the vast majority of it to the tip. Or recycling facility as we must learn to call it.

Sadly the heatwave had given way to the end of the world. But I couldn’t let Ben down. Time to man up and get wet.

I liked the tip in the old days. Now it’s a police state. Flout the authority of Tipman at your peril.

“Neon strip light?”

“Stack it in the corner, mate.”

“Rusty golf clubs?”

“Scrap metal, mate.”

“Knackered old hoover?”

“That’d be a small appliance, wouldn’t it?” Ominous glare. “Mate.”

I stifled an anarchic temptation to wait until Tipman was distracted, sling it all in ‘landfill’ and drive away as quickly as possible…

Back at home Ben was the hero. “Awesome, Ben. You’ve boldly gone where no man has gone before. Well, not for ten years anywhere.”

“To be honest, Dad I was disappointed. All I found at the back was an old table and tins of paint.”

“What did you expect?”

“Something exciting. A long lost family secret. Maybe you were secretly keeping a fourth child in the garage. The Child in the Iron Mask or something.”

I could just see it. ‘Iron mask? No problem. Scrap metal, mate…’


  1. Yikes! Well done Ben! Is Ben also available for a garden makeover? We got the keys to our new home in January. Let’s be polite and say that the previous owners had neglected the place a little, OK, A LOT! Three months of hard work, blood, sweat and tears (literally!) and we finally moved in over Easter. Our first night was going to be the Easter Monday 7th April. We had a lovely day, the weather was great, the in-law’s had done a bbq and we were all very excited about having our first night in the new place and then my wife went into labour!

    At almost 5am on the 8th April our little Freddie arrived and after a couple of nights in the hospital we all finally came home and moved in. We are still doing bits and pieces internally but the garden is going to be a massive project. There is something resembling a shed in the far car and it’s overgrowing with Ivy and what looks like a tree growing straight through the middle and out through cracked glass window panes at the side. The door barely opens and I dread to think what may be hiding inside.

    Oh the joys! I am confident that it will soon be lovely, once I am brave enough to start on pulling everything apart.

    • Well first of all thanks for the comment – longest one I’ve ever had I think! And congratulations on Freddie: hope everything is going really well. And I absolutely empathise: my wife and I went through our house like a tornado when we moved in – about a room a month. Then she got pregnant, then it was full of children and now we manage a room every ten years… And in answer to your question re gardens, he’s a teenage boy: he’ll do anything if the bribe is high enough and you feed him a giant bowl of Cheerios every hour. Thanks again and enjoy your weekend 🙂

  2. Well done to Ben for helping out and leaving your wallet a little lighter. For us, it’s the shed that mascarades as a tip. Neither daughter will ever be persuaded to set foot in there as it’s mostly their tat that’s filling it up. Has this inspired you to carry on into other uncharted territory in the house?

    • Izzie, if by uncharted territory you mean the loft then the answer is ‘no.’ There must be 20 years of junk up there and to be honest, I’m scared of disturbing it as it’s probably insulating the house! But blimey, he did a brilliant job. If you lived closer I’d send him round…

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