Wednesday, 22 March 2023
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

There is something therapeutic about working with your hands

Written by  Apr 09, 2022

Just how good are you with your hands? Would you prefer to make it yourself or buy it? Or indeed would you even know where to start if you wanted to make something?

There is something therapeutic about working with your hands. And I had a very therapeutic weekend.

We decided to leave the world of Airbnb behind, at least for the foreseeable future, meaning as we aren’t renting we have a garden to use this summer. However, that same garden had already been transformed into a dog friendly and tourist friendly one, basically a whole truck of pebbles was dumped into it and our “low maintenance” garden was complete. So actually getting to the soil to plant vegetables is near impossible, meaning a creative solution was required.

“Why don’t you make one of those wooden raised gardens? You know the construction that looks like a wooden box on legs,” said my mother, who is much more green-fingered than me. It made sense, easy to use, off the ground and portable.

But my hands are now soft from too much time spent poking at a keyboard. I can’t remember the last time I used them for twisting a screwdriver or slamming home a hammer. And then the opportunity arose.

My wife and her friends had decided to go to Šibenik for a few days. Not only was I going to be home alone, but also I could (if it worked) surprise her when she came back. I mean just how difficult can it be? So luckily when I was growing up, through my formative years, my father taught me to be practical with my hands. Whether that was fixing my dilapidated car or welding a new bike stand, there was always some project.

And I always loved working with wood. Firstly, the smell of fresh cut wood should be made into perfume, but seriously this is a material that grows, it starts its life as a seed, and then we build houses, bridges and furniture from it. Wood filters our air, provides us warmth in the winter and shade in the summer, provides paper for our books and offers a natural carbon-neutral material to build whatever we want. It has both strength and softness.

So armed with a whole car full of new tools I set about my new garden project. I was excited. “Measure twice, cut once,” was one of the pieces of advice my father had given me. I had a whole workshop of wood, off all different lengths, and armed with a tape measure and a pencil I put my “logical hat” on and got to work. My workshop smelt like heaven and has soon as the electric saw, the sander and the drill were in action the smell (and the sawdust) got more divine. Wood is pretty forgiving, it’s like it really wants you to make something from it and if you screw up you can always find a way to fix it. As the rain fell the garden solution was coming together.

In fact, somewhat to my surprise it looked pretty good. It was like the different side of my brain was working. And it was coming together quickly. I was getting more excited to see how it turned out and now just wanted to finish.

“Speed is your enemy,” I remembered another one of my late father’s quotes, and took a coffee break.

Creating is definitely good for the mind. If more people spent time creating and not destroying, this world would be a better place. I pressed on, the closer I came to the end the more I was encouraged to see the end result. There was also some recycling, or upcycling, as I repurposed a couple of old pieces of wood just to give it a “greener” touch.


Not too bad for a first try - Photo - Mark Thomas 


“Where did you buy that, it’s great,” said my neighbour as she saw it for the first time. “No, you can’t put that in your garden, it’s too nice,” she added. Yes, my hard work had paid off. I had been a day of hard work, but one of the most fulfilling in a long time. So what was my wife’s reaction. Firstly, shock. And then pride. And then (and I expected this) “Well if you can make that there’s a lot more jobs I have for you.” You know what, not only am I ready but I’m looking forward to it. 

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