Monday, 30 November -0001

Crazy Paving

If you want crazy paving, be prepared to pay crazy prices, says Sam Taylor

Written by Sam Taylor
‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ cried the People’s Front of Judea. As Life Of Brian fans will know, the list was seemingly endless and it should have included ‘crazy paving’. No backdrop to a film set in ancient Rome is complete without a haphazard assemblage of rocks and stones.

It’s not really clear where the term originates from (presumably a disgruntled homeowner on seeing a chaotically laid patio). But there was a time in the 1970s when DIY enthusiasts embraced this ad-hoc system of piecing together bits of broken stone with gusto. Even chimney breasts fell victim to the craze, as it were.

As a child, I remember my father covering our sitting-room fi replace in a jumble of York stone. It was his first (and possibly last) attempt at home improvement. Decades later, people are still chiselling the remains off similarly endowed walls.

Laid well, crazy paving can actually be rather lovely. If you use a mix of slate and Cornish stone, for instance, it can give the effect of a terrazzo floor, exactly like those laid by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Held together with cement or mortar, the stones weather well and can survive for decades, if not centuries. The cement bases used in Roman constructions are still in use: the Pantheon is a glorious example. However, most of the crazy paving we encounter makes our hearts sink, being lumps of bashed-up paving slabs coated in gritty mortar.

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According to Neil the landscaper, if done correctly, it is more expensive to lay crazy paving than the ‘normal’ alternative, because it takes longer to get that messy effect. In short, if you want crazy paving, you have to be prepared to pay crazy prices.

Which is a shame, as I had rather hoped that much of the broken remains of the old patio might somehow be hastily thrown together in a random, ironic way and leave me clear to spend the rest of my small budget on plants. In particular, roses. This would involve a trip to the garden centre, where I will be contributing to the £5 billion a year we spend on plants and other bits and pieces for our gardens. That’s even more than we spend on chocolate.

But as George Eliot famously said, ‘It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees.’ And buy them in the first place.

Next week: Catnip


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