I've had many an occasion to be thankful my neighbour's a plumber. He connected up the washing machine the day we moved in, saved the pre-school from flooding with the timely intervention of some scary looking rods and even rehung the shower door after it fell on me (I did make sure I was both conscious and dressed first).
Now, this week he saved me from hunting for hula hoops. To avoid confusion, let me explain - we're not talking the baked potato snack, but rather the O-shaped, waist jiggling apparatus. And, no, I wasn't planning on restarting a 1950s fad, instead I needed some materials for my cloche.
You see, my pre-school gardening club has resurfaced after the summer recess and I'm desperately searching for weekly activities. We've already planted up the hanging baskets and harvested sunflower seeds, but I was keen to get some new crops planted - namely runner beans, garlic and onions.
With temperatures dropping I thought a cloche was in order and, as usual I was keen to save our non-existent budget and use old materials if possible. Apparently, old hula hoops, cut in half, are ideal supports. Fantastic, except this isn't an item I see rolling around everyday and I was running out of time. Then I remembered Colin's pipes.
My lovely plumber had knocked on the door a few months ago and said "I thought you might have a use for these." In his hands were various offcuts from water pipes. He had no idea how I might use them but obviously had enough faith in my both my weirdness and skip-diving mentality to believe it possible.
And yes, I used some for creepy crawly compartments in my insect hotel, and now I've used the rest, stuck onto short lengths of bamboo sticks for a cloche.
I strengthened these uprights by strapping across three longer bamboo sticks, tied on with twine, and then used old plastic balls to ensure the kids don't poke their eyes out on the ends of the canes.
The whole structure was covered with horticultural fleece - or the 'plant duvet' as my pre-schoolers now know it - and secured with clothes pegs.
It all appears to work remarkably well - and all you need is some fleece, plastic balls and proximity to a plumber - what could be easier?