our diy awning

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Last year we treated ourselves to a drive-away awning. It was on special offer at a Somerset dealer’s warehouse. We took it to Bristol and erected it as a trial run. The poles were bent; the fabric ripped; springs had sprung. The dealer changed it without a murmur, however, and we eventually set off for Scotland to enjoy the fine weather with our new awning.

On the Mull of Kintyre we assembled the various parts. Then, before I’d had a chance to hammer in a few pegs, a gust of scurrying wind sent the entire flimsy structure hurtling into the side of our Hobby. A clip on the Fiamma roll-out awning snapped and one of the supporting poles was severely bent. This special deal was beginning to prove expensive, what with extra diesel to make exchanges and repair costs.

Dispirited, we stopped using the thing. A drive-away awning seemed like a good idea once, but the extra weight, the time taken to put up, the costs of making good and the sheer effort involved somehow seemed a waste of energy, especially as we move around a lot. So we abandoned the thing. It was wrapped securely in rolls of polythene sheeting and stowed away in our home garage.

Then we had an idea. During a recent trip we actually had a couple of days of sun. Our Fiamma awning was supposed to provide shade but somehow direct rays slipped beneath the canopy and we slowly baked to a crisp shocking pink. What we need, we decided, is a light and quick-to-erect sun blocker to spread across the front of the roll-out canopy. And we could make one cheaply out of the redundant drive-away awning languishing morosely in the garage. Good idea?

To do the job, Mrs Subbuteo needed to buy a sewing machine – £189. The front panel of the awning was cut away and the sides discarded. She stitched a band of slotted webbing to the top of the retained panel – the Fiamma has a groove into which the webbing will slide. Edges were cut to size, shaped, hemmed and stitched. Thus, we have a bespoke front-panel sun blocker, albeit one which looks a little odd and will raise a few eyebrows on camp sites. It seems to work, although we need a little more sun to test it thoroughly.

When I totted up the overall cost of the improvisation, we received a shock. Including ‘van repairs, the purchase of a sewing machine and the price of the original awning, our unique sun-blocker cost about £620. One is for sale on E-bay at £24.99. Economics were never my strong point.

Still – sun here we come. As I type, the rain is lashing down at the windows. Didn’t the Met Office forecast a ‘barbecue sizzling summer”? These so-called experts are not contrite and embarrassed enough for me. It was their prediction that led us to believe we needed one of the most expensive sun shades in the western hemisphere. According to a spokesman, I misheard what he said back in April. What he intended me to understand was that there would be a 35% chance of heavy rain. I’m in touch with my solicitor now they’re forecasting persistent rain during August.

We’re trying to work out what to do with a spare set of awning poles. Mrs Subbuteo had a good idea, but I think it’s illegal and probably anatomically impossible.

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