I have been writing a little about concrete in my latest posts and that will continue in the next post at least. Since my retirement ten months ago I have kept to a routine and have kept myself busy doing things at home, projects and maintenance. It is good to keep one’s self occupied, especially when retired from full-time work. I set myself routines and kept to them for the most part, everything set in concrete but along the way I have learned it is best not to be too regimental with schedules. I found myself breaking my own rules, usually because I was tired or simply wanted a change. Working on my latest project made me realise that I have to take a break now and then. In fact I have been forced into doing so, that is my body tells me it wants to rest! This morning (I write this on Sat 10th) I slept in. I had a bit of a restless night again and found it difficult to get to sleep even though I was really tired after the day’s work. My thoughts were all over the place, an over-active brain has always been a problem for me. I simply cannot stop thinking about things when lying there in bed. My body says sleep but my mind won’t let me! It didn’t matter that I had a lie-in, I needed it. My project has kept me from a ritualistic exercising regime and it has proved to be of more benefit to me. I realise my schedules don’t have to be set in stone (concrete) for I can and do exercise at will more so now than I have ever done.
Yesterday after a hard day at the office so to speak I found myself taking exercise on the Elliptical trainer for a while. At the time it wasn’t a problem because I find that it is only when I stop working or exercising that I feel tired or feel the effects of the day’s workout. I suppose that is the same for everyone. In any case I should have fallen asleep within minutes but I didn’t. I guess I am more relaxed about flexible workouts than I am in thinking about them. Things play on my mind as if they are supposed to but they are not, especially when I am tired. So now my life is taking a turn or rather my habits are, work, play and exercise are now to be followed in a more relaxed way and concrete will be kept solely for the work department.
During the work of digging out the cellar floor I had been anxious about the stability of the remainder of the floor close-by to the pit I had dug. In yesterday’s post I wrote about filling the bottom of the hole with hardcore and propping up the side walls to prevent the loosened sand from slipping away. I felt a little relieved having done that work but by the afternoon of the next day, Friday 9th, I felt much better about it. I had spent the whole morning mixing concrete and laying it. After breakfast I made the trip to the builders yard to purchase some granite stones and cement. I didn’t need to purchase sand of course for I had bags of it! On my return home I set up the mixer outside in the garden and proceeded mixing the concrete. Rather than pushing the mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow to take it indoors I filled a bucket several times and took that inside instead. There are steps leading down into the cellar room and using the wheelbarrow would be too awkward and probably messy. I found it easier and quicker using a bucket but it took four mixing sessions with the mixer and several journeys with the bucket. I used the wheelbarrow to collect the mixed concrete and then shovelled it into the bucket. When doing this sort of work I get into a routine and it makes the work easy. This is how far I got..
You can see that I have cemented in the tiles which I used to support the opened side to prevent the sand pouring out. Naturally at this stage it is rough but it makes the finishing stage easier to do. The far edge in the top picture and the near edge in the lower picture, both the same edge, have yet to be worked on. That will begin soon I hope.
It was Thursday and I decided not to take an early morning walk as I might otherwise have done but chose instead to carry on with the work in the cellar. More sand needed digging out before I could make any decent progress so after breakfast that is what I did. However before I got started I did a little sweeping up of leaves in the garden as it was beginning to get a bit untidy. It didn’t take long and soon I was digging out the sand. Have you ever tried shovelling sand that has been kept dry for 140 years? It takes patience. The next step was to shore-up the exposed edges and fill the base with hardcore. Hardcore is something we seem to have most of the time from the various projects we have done at home. It is produced and later used then more is produced from other jobs. We never seem to be free of it. Anyhow I got this far before lunchtime…
You may be able to see some bricks lying laterally across the base. I used these to split the area into three sections thus making it more stable whilst the work is ongoing but it also adds to the strength. Once I have mixed the concrete and spread it on the base the next task will be to add concrete to the side walls to stabilise and strengthen them. For the present I have fitted stone tiles against them to prevent sand from falling out. It was now twelve-thirty and I asked E if she would like to dine out for lunch. Normally she would be going shopping but she cancelled that and we went along to the Mexican Bar and Restaurant down by the sea front. It has been a long time since we visited a Mexican diner, though E is rather fussy about eating spicy foods. She actually had a steak with pepper sauce whilst I had Burritos filled with chicken for our main course. It made a change from our usual dining preferences. There are a few eating places down by the sea front though we seldom dine at any of them. That was about it for the day and we spent the rest of it relaxing at home.
….or a hole in the cellar floor! In yesterday’s post I wrote about beginning the work in the cellar room we now call the gym (boiler room too). The work is being done to lower the floor where the Elliptical trainer stands. It is now Wednesday 7th as I write late in the afternoon having spent a few hours in the cellar though that is not strictly true. On getting up this morning I spent some time on the treadmill before breakfast and after breakfast I began the laborious task of digging out the exposed sand until at the end of the working day, that is four o’clock by which time I had filled these bags…
…which left this hole in the floor…
The heap of broken bricks together with the smaller pieces in the large white bucket had to be filtered from the sand too. It was very tiring work as sand, even this dry stuff, is quite heavy. Although I spent five and a half hours working only three and a half were spent digging the pit. I had also spent an hour in the garden digging out a few bluebells which had appeared beneath these bushes and trees left of centre.
The other hour was for lunch, the only break I had in the day. Initially I had thought there would only be sand to dig out but builders will be builders and they put all the building rubble in with it. Actually I suppose that makes sense and for two reasons, one, it saves disposing of the rubble in land-fill and two, it makes the area more solid for laying the stone tiles. The sand fills in the spaces in the rubble and provides a cushion for the tiles to lay upon. I am able to dig alongside the remaining tiles without fear of them dropping into the hole as long as I don’t disturb the foundations beneath them whilst the work is proceeding. It would be impossible to do that if there was only sand beneath them. Even so I will have to add concrete to the exposed foundation as the work progresses.
After I had written yesterday’s post late in the morning it was lunch time. I had just moved the Elliptical trainer if you remember and now after lunch I was eager to make some sort of start on the floor. E had a scheduled appointment at three o’clock with her physiotherapist for problems with her shoulder. It was only the previous week she had similar treatment for her ankle. Evidently they couldn’t schedule the appointments to run consecutively, something to do with different therapists and/or treatment. This mean unless I stayed at home I wouldn’t be available to receive her batch of medication drugs when it was delivered. I wanted however to get into the cellar and do some work and might not be able to hear the doorbell should it ring. I wasn’t prepared to just sit around on the off-chance the guy delivering the drugs called while E was out. I left the doors open in the cellar and upstairs and was able to begin the work of removing the stone flooring. It was easier than I had first thought. The main problem was in removing the first couple of stones. I chose to remove those already broken and in less than twenty minutes had this much done…
Storing the good stones here next to the boiler…
Once I have sorted the far end of the area where that concrete block sits my next task is to dig out the sand. The sand incidentally is clean enough to be used for mixing the concrete! The guy delivering the drugs didn’t arrive whilst I was doing the work but came later.
Tuesday (6th) was forecast to be a cold wet and miserable day starting off with a snowfall. Actually the snow was predicted to fall during late Monday night and on into the morning. As it happened it hadn’t been snowing by the time I awoke at six o’clock though I could detect one or two flakes every now and then. By the time I was dressed and downstairs however it began snowing in earnest. I was off for an early morning walk and had to keep the hood of my coat up the whole time I was out, about two hours. When I arrived back home the garden looked like this….As you can see by then the snow had stopped falling but notice it didn’t stick to the path. It was the same story everywhere I walked, snow only stuck on the grass and elsewhere was simply wet. About a centimetre or so had fallen. Around these parts over the last few years it has hardly snowed at all and if it did it didn’t last more than a couple of days on the ground. Sign of the times on this side of the country hereabouts. Rain was predicted to fall later in the day and it also began to get warmer. The snow didn’t last. Once my exercising was out-of-the-way I thought about the next project I had in mind to do. It had been on my mind for weeks really but I had been busy doing other things. It was to move the new Elliptical Trainer temporarily to a new position in the cellar room so that work could begin on lowering the floor where it stands. With the use of a trolley we moved it here….
Now the floor where it stood was vacant and ready for the work to start.Those paving stones have been there since 1877 when the house was built. Beneath them is sand. They are quite thick and closely packed together and will be difficult to dig out. However some are broken which may make it a little easier. Behind the short piece of timber which is standing at the top centre in the picture is a large piece of concrete. We are not sure what it is, perhaps the remains of a demolished pillar? It needs taking down a little further to make it level with the floor. This room, now our gym also houses the boiler. It was once part of the servants work rooms and had a fireplace as did three of the other rooms down there. The chimney breast in this room stands behind the bench-press in the picture above but the fireplace has long since been bricked-in. At last I can get on with the project and then we can return the trainer to the spot.
Maybe it is that you are a cat person, a lover of cats and of course that is your choice but for me I prefer dogs. It isn’t that I don’t like cats for I do. It’s a bit like babies, I like babies as long as they belong to other people! Cats for me fall into the same category. Babies, adorable as they may be, cry a lot, crawl around a lot when very young and can make a nuisance of themselves sometimes but they can be taught. I was going to write ‘trained’ though that would be correct in a way I think taught is a better word in this case. Cats however simply cannot be trained. Cats do their own thing and no amount of ‘training’ will change that. Cats may be deterred but not trained in the normal sense of the word. In a house it is difficult to keep kitty from where she wishes to sleep, usually the best sofa in front of the fire for one, on top of the bed is another. They just like being warm and cozy much like we do but we don’t sleep on top of a car bonnet do we? We don’t climb trees and not be able to climb down from them often resulting in an expensive process for anyone wanting to help them. We don’t own cats as we might own a dog. Cats own us, they do as they please but will respond to anyone wishing to pamper them. In that respect they are not stupid. The problem with cats is they are allowed to roam freely. This is when they can be a nuisance, not to their ‘owners’, oh no, to others. They will roam about their marked territory digging here and there to bury their stools irrespective of where that might be with impunity. When dogs do the same thing action is possible for invariably the owner is known but for cats it is more often not the case. Their owners seemingly are oblivious to their little pets’ misdemeanours or don’t wish to think about it. Nothing can be done of course except to keep their pet indoors, not a practical idea. I seems therefore that everyone has to put up with it all. On a personal note, I am often chasing cats from our gardens in an attempt to dissuade them from being there. Clapping hands and shouting ‘Shoo’ works but they return days later having forgotten they are not welcome. I wish however owners wouldn’t let their cats out at night when no-one can see them getting up to mischief! You cannot blame the cat for being a cat but you can blame the owner for their lack of consideration. If cats were rats I’d shoot them. Now I have to add here that we have owned several cats in the past, dogs too but we were younger then and didn’t much care where kitty went during the day. Once or twice kitty never came back…..
It was so nice to be lying there in bed on Sunday morning knowing there was absolutely no reason not to! Usually I am up and about not long after I awake and that is more often than not early. I had nothing planned for the day so I took the opportunity to stay put under the warm duvet for just that little while longer before getting up. As it was I didn’t get downstairs until after ten-thirty and skipped my usual breakfast of oats or muesli and fruit having a slice of toast and a coffee instead. I made up the shortfall at lunch instead! Anyway, what was I going to do until then? I decided I wanted to do some baking and cakes would be my preference. I have to say I have a weakness for cakes and like to treat myself to one occasionally. E is also fond of cakes but she has her own preferences in what she likes and they often conflict with mine, though I will eat almost any cake variety. This time it would be cup cakes (fairy cakes, butterfly cakes etc.). Essentially Victoria Sponge mix but baked in small paper or metal cups. As I usually do I prepared twice the quantity for they will keep for a few days when wrapped-up properly. Having prepared the mixture I divided it into two halves and mixed desiccated coconut into one of the portions. I like coconut whereas E hates it! She is like that with many foodstuffs. The cakes took a mere thirty minutes to bake in the oven and soon we were able to eat one. Delicious! Just like mother used to bake……ahem. Actually my mom was a really good cook and baker of cakes of all kinds. I suppose my passion for cakes and for baking them stem from those days. One particular type of cake she excelled at baking was a Christmas cake, a really rich fruit cake with molasses and brandy in it. She wouldn’t let us anywhere the kitchen whilst it was baking in the oven, and that could take hours! Even some of the fruit cakes I have baked can take between one and two hours. It was such a lovely day on Sunday (4th) and very much like a Spring day, warm in the sunshine with almost totally blue skies. Why did I need to do anything if I had no need to?
Are you the type of person who in the face of adversity stands down and gives in to the pressure relinquishing all that you stood for? Do you on the other hand stand firm and not let all that you know to be good just buckle but remain strong? It is often said that we really don’t know what we would do in the face of adversity until it happens to us. Would we be weak or would we be strong? There may come a time in our lives when we have to decide what our priorities are, to be truthful to ourselves and what we believe or to weaken at the last-minute…….
Standing Tall (Esther 10:3)
His family had come to Persia as slaves, captives of Jerusalem’s last stand against the Babylonians. Yet even in enemy territory, Mordecai succeeded in business. His relative Esther found more success; she was selected from all the beautiful women in the land as King Xerxes’ queen.
With his connections inside the palace, Mordecai probably had high ambitions. He would have to hide his background, though, and he strongly advised Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret as well.
Yet when a crisis came, Mordecai stood tall, showing extraordinary courage. The king had named the evil Haman his second-in-command, and everyone bowed before him—everyone except Mordecai, who stayed on his feet. His motive? Perhaps he knew of Haman’s character and of his hatred for Jews.
When Haman set out to annihilate all Jews in the empire, Mordecai urged Esther to “come out” completely, revealing her race even at the risk of her life. Clearly, loyalty to their people came before success or safety.
Mordecai’s stand and Esther’s courage led to a dramatic turnaround for the whole community of Jewish exiles. King Xerxes rewarded Mordecai with a high position in his court. More importantly, Mordecai’s own community honored him “because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews” (Est 10:3).
The feast of Purim, still celebrated by Jews today, commemorates these amazing events. Against history’s dark background of anti-Semitism, Mordecai’s triumph shines.
Whom do you speak up for? For what group would you willingly risk your life or your reputation?
Taken from NIV Essentials Study Bible
It doesn’t take long for me to complete a project once I get started. It is getting started which is often the problem but that is usually because I have either not enough time or I haven’t all the materials at hand. I have just returned from the pub after spending an hour there for my lunch. It is Friday (2nd Feb) and this morning I spent some time on the treadmill before breakfast. After breakfast I set about the tasks which would see the completion of the second part of the garage door project. The first part was to install the floodlight and the automatic circuit to control it (see previous posts). Whilst doing that work I discovered the safety edge equipment required a more robust installation from that which had been carried out by the installer. Sometimes things are best done by one’s self! This second part was what I set about doing earlier today. The first thing to do was to fit the two lengths of now painted timber, one at each side of the door frame on which to refit the edging strips themselves. They are coloured black in the pictures. The strips house the infra-red beams which when interrupted stop the downward movement of the closing door. The job took only a few minutes to do…..
Click on pictures to see detail.
Finally I had to replace the metal cover over the length of the door which hides the door when it is rolled up (part of it can be seen in the first picture). I had removed it some time ago when repairing the guide strip (see older posts). That was it, the end of another little project. E had come to the garage to show me something and I took the opportunity to ask her about a plant we have in one of the flowerbeds. Whilst we were looking at the bed we saw some more bluebells beginning to show themselves so rather than going indoors for lunch I spent some time digging them out, about fifteen of them. It as almost two o’clock when I returned indoors and E had almost finished her lunch. She needed to go with her mom for the weekly shopping. I decided at that point I would eat out, hence the pub visit.
……during the morning that is. It was Thursday and this Thursday E had made arrangements to visit Manchester with a couple of the members from her hobbyist club. It meant she had to arise early but although she was eating breakfast after taking her shower she hadn’t dressed. I entered the room fully dressed as I normally do before eating and she was surprised to see me, thinking I was going to have a lie-in. Well I had thought about doing that but soon after waking I remembered I hadn’t put the wheelie bin out for collection so I had to arise early enough to do that before the they came to empty it. I was however intending to go for a walk too so it was just as well I arose earlier rather than later. I don’t eat breakfast when going for a walk but might have some honey before I go and also take a banana with me just in case I get hungry. I was out of the house long before E went out and in fact she passed me by as I was walking along the coastal road about a mile from home. I waived as she went by. She was off to Chorley on her way to meet with a friend there before they went on to Manchester. Had she been going directly to Manchester she wouldn’t have been on the coastal road going north. It was a very cold and a very windy morning and I struggled at times just to stand up! Not quite as bad as in the picture below as it was a dry day but it certainly was windy….I didn’t go far along the beach this time, it was too cold, so I turned away and made my way toward the lake behind the dunes where it was slightly better out of the wind. By the time I arrived back home I was feeling the effects of that cold wind. I had work to do, cleaning my bedroom being one, moving a couple of items of gym equipment around to make easier access for the washing lines which hang in the same room in the cellar and then apply a top coat of paint to the lengths of wood I shall be using to space out the safety edge strips on the garage door frame. Then a few other small things too. Ah but breakfast before all of that though it was only a small bowl of muesli with fruit. The afternoon? That’s another story.
Around about, inside out, upside down….take your pick, that’s the way of the weather just now on the last day of January. I’ve not been for a walk recently, nothing to do with the weather, just that I have been busy and also taking more exercise on the gym equipment. Things will change as they normally do, it just means my usual schedule or regime has altered a little. It is an awkward time of year for being outdoors gardening though some things need doing despite the weather. It is the rain and sleet showers coupled with blustery winds which keep me out of the garden but I have been digging out a few bluebells before they develop too much. I have to dig out the bulbs to ensure they won’t return and there shouldn’t be many of them this year, nothing like those I had to remove last year by a long way. I have kept myself busy with little projects inside the house while I wait for the weather to improve. The sun is beginning to shine on more of the (rear) garden with each passing day as it gets progressively higher in the sky. Spring isn’t that far away and I am looking forward to it. The rhubarb I had relocated a few weeks ago is already beginning to sprout leaves and in a day or two hence I hope to be planting some seeding potatoes in the same bed. It has been quite some time since we grew potatoes but we did get a good crop at that time. We have deliberately chosen a variety better suited for boiling rather than one more suitable for making chips (fries). I prefer the former anyway. There is something special about small new potatoes covered in melting butter with a pinch of salt I think. As I sit inside writing this with the wind blowing showers of sleet and rain onto the window and the low temperature outside my thoughts are set to the warmer times ahead. Maybe I’ll be eating those newly grown potatoes.
It was me who was garaged, spent quite a few hours in there working on the floodlight project. I was up and about very early on Tuesday so I could get on the treadmill for a time. I had been using the cross trainer on Sunday and had spent almost an hour exercising on it. Finally my muscles have gotten used to the machine and this time I had no problems. If you remember I had problems using it initially as I wasn’t used to it. Anyway as E and I had spent Monday doing other things I did no exercising that day. So on Tuesday I spent three-quarters of an hour on the treadmill before breakfast. After breakfast it was time to put on my overalls and get the electrical work done in the garage. I have to say at this point this project has fought me all the way for as I worked through it I was beset with one problem after another. Usually most jobs have a problem or two but this one was challenging to say the least. The electrical circuit is simplicity itself but the execution of it at times was frustrating. Anyway I worked through from late morning until three o’clock except for a lunch break in order to finish the work.
The top picture shows the reverse of the reed switch bracket screwed in position and the wiring installed and connected. It is operating on a 12 volt AC supply so there is no danger it being easy to access. It operates a relay inside the grey box on the far right in the next picture. The external photo cell unit is wired into the same box (the cable is that entering the box at top right). Another cable leaves the box to supply the floodlight shown in the bottom picture. There you have it, when it goes dark outside and the garage door is opened, on comes the floodlight……
All I need to do now is to replace the door cover which I removed several weeks ago before any of this work was started. Hopefully I will get the safety edge gear refitted on the timber I purchased to make a better job than that originally done by the installer.
E has never been one to rush things, always taking a long time to get something done. That is just her way but sometimes it infuriates me whenever we have planned to go anywhere she takes an inordinately long time getting ready. By that I don’t mean getting dressed or applying make-up but rather she finds things to do that should have been done say the day before. She hardly ever wears make-up anyway and getting dressed doesn’t take much time either, she simply drags her heels and wastes time. I am the complete opposite, always dressed well in time and always ahead of time for any event we have planned. E had suggested we go out on Monday morning in order to purchase a few things and to perhaps visit the garden centre for a coffee too. We actually left the house at twelve forty-five! We could have been there and back long before noon. We drove off in the van and our first call was to the electrical supplier to purchase some cable, a LED floodlight and a battery. I was greeted with a ‘Hello, long time no see’ quip from the guy behind the counter who hadn’t realised I had retired. Our next port of call was supposed to be to the timber yard to purchase the timber I would need to pack-out the safety edge equipment on the garage door (see yesterday’s post). However just a short distance before reaching the yard we had to pass by the pub/restaurant we sometimes visit when dining out and I suggested we make the detour and dine there. http://www.thatchandthistle.co.uk By now it was around one forty-five and lunch time anyway. I had a garlic mushroom starter and E had some garlic bread. I had a simple dish of plaice and E chose barbecued pork ribs for the main course. However the ribs she found rather tough and overdone to the point of being burnt. She complained to the waitress who promptly removed her plate and brought the replacement which according to E was perfect. Although it had only been the ribs at fault she was given a full plate of chips (fries) and a salad too even though she had told them not to. She had already eaten much of those on the first plate and didn’t want more. I thought what a waste serving up food that was not going to be eaten. Usually the fayre is spot-on and we have had no complaints in the past. After our meal we drove to the timber yard where I purchased the wood. The rear of the van had been filled with waste cardboard for several weeks because there was no point in making a special journey to dispose of it. The waste depot isn’t far away from the timber yard so we took the opportunity to dispose of the cardboard. It was time to make the return journey home and on the way call in to the garden centre for our free coffee. I can take advantage of the two free coffees offered once every month because I am a member. Sometimes we would have something to eat with the coffee but this time we had already eaten. Whilst there we bought some potatoes for planting as we wish to grow them in the raised bed between the two greenhouses. Finally we arrived back home around four-thirty and E pointed out that there were some bluebells growing in the two flowerbeds at the front of the house. I had spotted some of them already as I have been looking out for any that might still be there after digging most of them out last year just as I have been doing in the rear garden also. I wasted no time and dug them all out. I am not one for dragging my heels when something needs doing.
Whenever I see or use the phrase ‘hot and cold’ I am reminded of these verses in Revelations 3:15-16 where it reads ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Jesus is speaking to the church at Laodicea but in fact to all those who profess to follow him but not fully. He is saying he would rather we were totally for him or totally against him than to be lukewarm and half-hearted. This post however isn’t about the faith but just to show how I feel about many things in my life. Another phrase is ‘Decisions, decisions’, spoken by those who cannot make up their mind about something one way or the other. I am a bit like that toward the weather but not about the weather itself for it cannot be anything else than the way it is can it? We have enjoyed some really mild weather in January and some would say very ‘unseasonal’ though it hasn’t all been that way. One day it would rain and the next day it would be dry, one day it would be mild and the next cool or even cold. One thing which I hate most though has been the frequently windy days. I would say ‘I wish the weather would make up its mind what it is doing, either be warm or cold, wet or dry, windy or calm but please….not all of them’. It is useless of course to wish for such things as we well know. If anything the weather has been less harsh in January than in many former years and one wonders if this is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Only time will reveal the answer to that question. It does mean my garden plants, those more used to milder climates, have not had to endure severe cold spells for we have accumulated quite a number of such plants in recent times. Fan palms, Phoenix Canariensis, Yucca and Cordyline all feature in our gardens now and one or two of them it is said can bear low temperatures, even down to minus 8 deg C for a time though I would always endeavour to shield them if ever it gets below zero. It would be nice to be able to guarantee what the weather will be like at any time in the year and for any length of time but unfortunately this is the UK and the weather can be very unpredictable at times.