The sun is shining and the trees are green, the birds are singing, and the Wanton Toast Eater has nearly finished building his pizza oven. Ah. Maybe I didn't tell you about that yet.
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far far away......
Well, nearly. Early last year the Wanton Toast Eater's best mate, Dr Grumpy, watched rather too much Jamie Oliver At Home. The result, some time later was first builders, then rubble, and finally an elegant hole in a brick wall with a chimney poking out of the top. The first Orchard pizza oven had arrived in Northamptonshire. Not to be outdone, and being somewhat under employed at that moment, the Wanton Toast Eater decided he wanted one too. But to save loads of money, he would Build It Himself (very credit crunch zeitgest, he reckoned).
It is amazing how busy and happy a man can be when he's building a project which (he hopes) will eventually outdo his mate's pride and joy (not that the WTO is at all competitive, you understand.). First there's the Planning and Design stage (lots of drawings and little lego models and measuring and re-measuring). Then there's the Breaking Ground, which involves picks and shovels and cursing recalcitrant roots. Next comes the Hiring of the Concrete Mixer, and the Laying of the Holy Slab. It was at this point in November that the Wanton Toast Eater's back went phut which was a shame, since he was getting on so well.
Fast forward to February. The WTO's back was up and running again, and out he went like a busy spring bee with the trailer to purchase breeze blocks, sand, lime, a mortar trowel and other sundry necessities. But inconveniently for the project (though fortunately for the family finances) the period of underemployment had now come to an end. The project was now strictly weekends only, and what weekends they were for the WTO! Up with the lark and mixing mortar in the older and more rust-ridden of the two barrows (recipe courtesy of the internet); scouring the garden and eBay for old bricks, (more cursing as they failed to break in the right place when he hit them); learning bricklaying skills on the job including how to brush out the mortar (he failed to do this on the first few and was chastised when Dr Grumpy came to inspect); borrowing a terrifying cutting wheel for the breeze blocks which dusted the garden with grey for a whole week till the rain came; constructing an arch with plywood and hope and much finger crossing.
Everything and anything else was put aside, and finally, by Easter, the base was ready. It looked big enough for a family of small hobbits to move into (but we trust they won't since the door is not round). A date was set for the nice helpful oven people to come and put the actual cooking apparatus in place (see above). Was this the end? Might we eat pizza? Oh no.
Next came the Rendering Of The Dome. Now, in case you should be confused, render is NOT in any way the same as mortar. It requires a quite different sort of sand, for a start. It also has to be worked with very quickly. Suffice to say there was more cursing and a lot of splatting as the first lot fell off, rather like a series of large cowpats. But perseverence (and a little judicious remixing of the recipe) triumphed, and I am pleased to report that we are all smoothed out and Nearly There (see picture below). All that now needs to happen is the resolution of the arguments over Choosing Of the Paint Colour (he favours Mediterranean Pink, I favour a more discreet Stone), the painting itself (two coats at least), and the all-important first few delicate firings to coax the oven into life and 'prove' it.
Then, and only then can we have the wood-fired pizzas we have all been waiting so long for. Dr Grumpy will, naturally, be the first guest to taste them. But the Wanton Toast Eater won't be gloating. Of course not. You don't do that sort of thing to your best mate. Do you?