Without the mixer

I write this shortly after twelve noon on Thursday 13 th having returned downstairs and dressed to dine out for lunch with E. She is presently doing the weekly shop and won’t return until one-thirty. It is a good arrangement we have as she likes shopping for groceries whereas I don’t. I only do it if I have to. Now as she doesn’t like doing many of the things I get up to, though she does like some of them, it makes sense. Anyway my aim this morning was to mix some cement render and begin applying it to the cellar storage room wall. Soon after breakfast therefore I went into the garage where the materials are stored and I began mixing two of the ingredients by hand in the wheelbarrow. I didn’t wish to use the cement mixer for this job as it will be done in stages, a little bit at a time. What I do is mix the two ingredients which are sand and granite dust (granno) and then add the cement only when it is needed. I then take a small quantity of the mixture and add the cement to it before adding the water. This way I only have to mix the amount I need each time without adding  the cement to the whole batch then having to use it all. This is as far as I got today

Each side of the wooden battens were cemented in. Once the whole spaces are filled and dry the battens can be removed and the spaces filled-in too. I applied a coat of oil to the wood before the cement was applied. This prevents the cement from adhering to the wood and should make them easier to take out. Yesterday I gave the ceiling a coat of emulsion though it will require another coat later and then I added a piece of architrave to the left side of the door as there wasn’t one there and it left a gaping hole along the door frame.Notice the door art has changed from the previous picture (ha ha). The door will get painted properly eventually of course. It is now getting near to E’s return and I am getting hungry.

Shirley Anne

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Preparation

The concrete had set by Saturday lunchtime and in a way I was grateful it was later rather than earlier in the morning for I had arisen quite late. I had been very tired the evening before after all the work I had done. I didn’t want the day to pass by without doing at least some more work on the project. I needed to erect some shuttering in preparation for pouring a finer concrete mix to form the sloping edge into the pit I was constructing.

A long length of timber was screwed to the pit floor against which I placed a length of plywood strengthened with timber and leaning toward the original floor edge. I fastened some timber to the original floor which acts to prevent the plywood from touching the floor at the top. This left an intended gap so that the concrete can be poured into the space and also to make a solid concrete edge along the complete top edge. It will be easier to understand when you see the completed work. After doing that work I began to tackle the removal of the concrete block at the end of the pit.

The yellow handle of the lump hammer rests upon the block. It was protruding out of the floor and we have no idea at the moment as to why it is there. Near to the end of the hammer shaft is a piece of steel tubing and another one a couple of centimetres further away (higher in the picture, click to magnify). They seem to be electrical conduits that have been set into the concrete block. Again we are not sure why they are there. The concrete block itself stands upon another block of concrete but it is of a different composition. The lower one looks like traditional concrete made using granite stones whereas the upper one, that which I am aiming to reduce in height, has been made using broken pieces of brick instead. It is as hard as nails and extremely difficult to chip away at. As I write this on Saturday evening I am almost there but it will take some time yet to lower it enough to be able to tile over it. Work will be resumed on Monday. Tomorrow, Sunday, I will be resting from work.

Shirley Anne

Walking through the day

We had been informed that warmer and drier weather was coming our way for a couple of days, an ideal time to be doing any outdoor work that was necessary. It was Saturday (14) and I had plans to do some patching up of the garage floor, completing the ramp I had put there many years ago and filling in a couple of holes with concrete after the recent work we had done. First though I wanted to go for a longish walk as I hadn’t been able to do any walking other than the two miles I had walked a couple of days earlier. I hadn’t been too well and had remained more or less indoors for a few days. I arose early and went out as soon as I was downstairs. I walked south along the coastal road to Ainsdale and onto the beach there turning northward to walk back home. I was surprised how many folk were out and on the beach so early on a Saturday morning. It was about eight forty-five when I arrived there. The round trip from home on that route is just over seven miles. I have to admit to feeling a little tired but that was probably due to my not eating breakfast and not having been out for a while. I did take a banana along with my bottle of water. Anyhow I ate breakfast on my return home and after a short time donned my overalls and got on with the concrete mixing. For this work I used 6 mm granite chippings in the mix rather than using grit which would result in a finer concrete as it would have to withstand a vehicle passing over it. These are the holes which required filling after the old wood frame was removed and the existing floor ramp which was never finished years ago…

The ramp exists because the garage floor is almost level with the concrete drive leading to it. When we had heavy downpours of rain it sometimes ended up inside the garage so I constructed a ramp to prevent that happening. It does the job but it needed the back edge finishing. Here are pictures of the finished work.

   The van wasn’t going anywhere for a couple of days! Rain water flows into the grid shown which is lower than the surrounding concrete drive. The drain pipe actually runs beneath the garage floor to connect with the main drains at the rear of the house. That work had been done when we built the garage back in 1988/9. Much has changed since then. After lunch I added an extra fixing to secure the new bird box I had fitted a week earlier then carried on with some gardening work. Who said retirement would be boring with nothing to do?

Shirley Anne

What’s going on?

Here in the UK we have been and are still being bombarded with advertisements concerning PPI (Payment Protection Insurance). Years ago people were offered the opportunity to protect their repayments on a loan should they become unemployed or lose part or all their income. However it was discovered in more recent years that the system was found to be illegal and consequently all contributions to such a scheme could be reclaimed. Of course there would be the need for legal representation to effect such reclaims and many solicitors (lawyers) companies offered such support and still do so through mainly television advertisements. One such company opens their current advertisement with a guy saying ‘What’s going on, I mean about your PPI? I could smack his face he is so annoying. In fact the whole PPI business advertisements bore me soft. I have never taken out PPI. Though I may have borrowed money in purchasing certain high-priced goods I have always had the cash in the bank to pay off the entire debt should it have been necessary. My attitude has always been if I cannot afford something I don’t buy it. That aside, I have digressed from the initial subject of this post but I used the point to show how annoyed I get with unsolicited and unnecessary attempts to put me under pressure when they don’t concern me. That applies to all forms of solicitation as far as I am concerned. If I didn’t ask for it then it should be obvious that I don’t want it! When I do ask for something however I expect it to happen and barring all minor mishaps along the way (for no-one is perfect) my requests should be delivered as requested. If that cannot happen when the right person is asked and takes on board my requests then what hope do I have? A few weeks ago now I asked E’s nephew, a builder, if he could elevate part of the garage roof in order that I could have a new roller-shutter door installed beneath it. The work was carried out quickly and it was sealed over with a fibreglass based compound rather than bitumen covered felt as the rest of the roof. He insisted and assured me that the new substance was superior and indeed it seemed to be, that is until I spotted a leak. I had asked him to carry over the covering to include the adjacent bricks but he failed to do so saying it wasn’t necessary. He was wrong. He returned and gave the surface an extra coat of what I thought was the same compound but it dried a different colour. He hadn’t placed some fibreglass sheet over the joint before painting it over with the compound as I think he should have but again it appeared fine and there were no leaks. I had the new door fitted on Friday (6th) and on Saturday E and I went into the garage to check out the door operation just prior to the fitters returning to add the alarm (see yesterday’s post). I noticed the roof was leaking where it had been elevated! I climbed the ladder to investigate and discovered the whole of the fibreglass covering was raised as if air had been trapped beneath it and indeed that was exactly right. It hadn’t adhered to the ceiling timbers and it appeared the gap between the bricks and the roof where it should have been covered was letting in some water. Two problems, why didn’t it adhere and why didn’t he do as I had requested? Needless to say the covering will have to be redone……at his expense. I mean, What’s going on?

Shirley Anne

Extra work

After E’s nephew and his crew had finished their work on the garage roof alterations I finally got the opportunity to finish the electrical work on Friday morning. The task was to wire-in the new power outlet from the existing circuit in the garage but before I could do that I had to remove some now unnecessary lighting cabling and tidy up what remained. In the picture below all that work took place at ceiling height on the left above the ladders and scaffolding stored there and toward the door out of sight on the left. It would have taken far too long to shift everything to gain better access but the ladders and scaffolding were actually a benefit as I could climb them to reach the ceiling!

Once that was done I set about fitting a little extra support beneath one of the timbers. In the next picture it is the piece on the left flat against the wall at ceiling height. Let me explain. When the garage was built not all of the joists had been inserted into the house wall (the wall in the picture). Some had been supported by another joist which had been secured between two that went into the wall. It sounds complicated but in essence some of the joists could not be inserted in the wall where there is chimney stacks, and there are two of those along the length of the house wall.  

In the picture above two of the three joists had been inserted into the wall whilst the middle was supported by the timber lying flat on the wall. The left-hand joist of the two which were inserted into the wall had to be cut and removed.  It ran alongside the steel beam you can see top left. Now that short piece of timber on the wall was only secured to the outer timbers. Although the nails are intact and still in place the timber had been moved and it left a gap as you can see. My task was to fit a short length of timber to the wall beneath it thus giving more support (not shown in the picture).  It probably would be fine without it but I never take chances when it comes to structural integrity. At the opposite end of the now removed joist the crew had kindly left the hole unfilled. In the picture below it is immediately adjacent to the steel beam (top right).

It was awkward to get at and it needed much filling. I used a fine concrete mix and a brick. When bricklayers build double-thickness garden walls, which in fact the wall in the picture above is, they never bother to fill the gaps fully between the two bricks. Saving mortar I guess. The wall we reckon is as old as the house (1877). Later in the day I went to the top of the house to see E who was busy in her workshop  and I looked again at the roof…

…and noticed something that needs attention. In the picture above on the far side of the roof the top of the wall can be seen and it was capped with a layer of mortar when the garage roof had been constructed. Some of that mortar needs to be replaced, about one-third of it toward the front at the right-hand-side. When the weather permits I will do that work myself but I won’t be using just mortar, I will use a fine concrete mix instead, it is much stronger and less prone to cracking in the heat of the sun.

Shirley Anne

The day after…

The Reluctant Dragon (film)
The Reluctant Dragon (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was Tuesday morning and I had just awoken. I felt a little reluctant to go for a walk but thought I would do anyway knowing full well that I would enjoy it. However before I was even dressed I received a call from a lady asking if I could check a power outlet for her. As it was reasonably close by and a simple job I agreed to do it, though after getting dressed and having my breakfast. An hour later I was at the house and soon had the job done. On my return home I left the van on the driveway for I had decided to take a trip to the timber and builder’s merchant to purchase timber for the gate I am constructing. I found that the timber I had at home was unsuitable and of insufficient quantity anyway. Starting from scratch with pre-treated (against the weather) timber was a better option though I intended to purchase some coloured wood preserver to give it an extra coat when the work is finished. First of all though I had to take measurements so went into the house and then into the garden to do so. Off I went to the depot a mile down the road and found a young man in the yard where the timber is stored. Having selected what I needed he cut some of the timber into two pieces so that I could transport it home on the roof rack of the van. The money I had just earned more than covered the cost of the materials and my purse was more or less left intact! I have noticed that happening quite often lately since my ‘official’ retirement. It was approaching lunchtime on my return home. I removed the timber from the van and stored it ready for use on another day. I wasn’t going to make a start so near lunch time and afterward I probably wouldn’t be in the mood anyway. E had been informed that her mom had been discharged from the hospital as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. E was telling me how reluctant she had been to go and how much of a struggle the paramedics had getting her in the ambulance the previous day as she had fought tooth and nail resisting their efforts. Obviously they had persuaded her to go and be checked out. She confesses to not liking hospitals for fear of the possibility of dying there one day. I suppose many old folk think that way because they would prefer to pass away quietly at home. E drove off to see her later in the afternoon but I stayed at home watching the rain pouring down as promised.

Shirley Anne

Getting further

English: Bricks in a wall.
: Bricks in a wall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was up and out reasonably early on Tuesday (1st) for my walk. The previous day saw me taking a backward route before continuing in my usual direction. It has the effect of adding an extra half-mile to any distance I might travel on my walk. Southport is an easy place to plan a long walk especially if you like walking along the coastal roads. However, Southport can be a windy place too and for that reason. For myself it is ideal as I like the refreshing and invigorating breeze when out walking. When I am not out walking I detest the wind! Is that strange do you think? Maybe not. Sitting on the patio is spoiled when the wind is too high. Anyway my walk ended up longer than I had imagined it would and it gets easier each time I go out but I know this from my experiences when running. Any exercise gets easier the more it is done. When I arrived back home it was almost noon and as I had little to eat before the walk I was hungry. After lunch E had to take her mom into town to do some shopping and I took the opportunity to lay a few bricks. ‘Few’ being the operative word as I didn’t wish to rush into it. I am building the column for the gate I plan to fit later. I decided to mix the mortar by hand in a large plastic bucket rather than use the mixer as getting out the mixer for such a small amount wasn’t worth the effort. In fact I have decided not to use the mixer at all as I build. The mixer has been a boon during the time we have had it because the projects I had undertaken required a lot of mortar. This column will use far less each time I add a course of bricks and will serve to slow the process down. There is no urgency to get the work done quickly as I have all the time in the world and can take things slowly. Normally a job like this would take me two days, not because I couldn’t lay the amount of bricks in a day to complete the column but because only a few courses can be laid each time. Too many courses being laid will result in the mortar being squeezed out between the lower courses and the structure may not hold its shape whilst the mortar sets. Sounds like a good excuse but in fact is true.

Shirley Anne

The Party’s over

As I write this on a dull Sunday afternoon the party is over and I for one could not be happier. What party you may well ask? The Open golf championship event here at Royal Birkdale. Don’t misunderstand me here, many people love the game of golf but I am just not one of them.

The picture above was taken through the window in a lounge at home at around five o’clock on the last day of the golf event. Up until then the day had been mostly sunny. On Saturday there had been much rain but the previous days had been fine and sunny. I am not sure how that affected the play though I have a feeling it made little difference. For the last few days the whole town of Southport but especially Birkdale had been geared up for the event with many local restrictions having been imposed upon us all. It is something we all have had to put up with whether we like the sport or not. I can live with that. I steered well clear of the course which is very close to where I live and spent my time away from the house in the opposite direction! However during the time I was at home we had to put up with a light aircraft circling above every two to three minutes for hours on end which really was annoying. When I say circling it was doing just that, flying in a circle around the course and our house was under the flight path. On Sunday morning I went for a walk and on my return I emptied out most of the things in my van. E and I were to go and collect some bricks from her nephew which were stored at a place less than a mile from home. He had graciously allowed us to take what we wanted which was around fifty bricks. They had been dumped with other rubbish and needed to be separated but it didn’t take long to do that and we were soon back home for lunch. I stored them behind one of the garages and under cover to keep them dry until I wanted to use them.

Later E received a text message from her nephew who was asking where we were and why we hadn’t called to collect the bricks! E had thought he meant for us to collect the ones we had but it appeared he meant those stored at his own house a few hundred metres away. Those bricks had already been sorted and separated whereas the ones we took we had to glean from a general pile of other material. Although the ones we took were not stored at his house they still belonged to him. The reason he has so many bricks is that he is a builder. He asked if we wanted more as he was  trying to rid himself of some of them. We accepted his offer and he said he would drop them off later. Now I won’t have to worry about buying bricks for the projects I have in mind to do. The first one is to put a gate at the end of this passage where it meets the main part of the garden.

That is at the end of the side wall of the house on the right. Now I am not planning to begin that work during the summer though anything is possible with me.

Shirley Anne

Got to clean it yet

I arose very early on Wednesday morning and after breakfast I was outside just before eight o’clock fully dressed in my overalls and ready to work. There was a bit of a chill in the air and everywhere was damp because of the high humidity. About an hour or two after I began to work I had to return indoors to remove some of the clothing I was wearing beneath the overalls as I became uncomfortable in the high humidity. Late in the afternoon on Tuesday I had decided to dig out the remaining soil behind the small wall where I had earlier begun to fill in behind with concrete. I found some spare wood sheets in the cellar that I could use for shuttering and set them in place ready for filling behind with concrete on Wednesday. I had not been able to do any other work in the Plot on Tuesday as you will have read in yesterday’s post. So the first thing I did on Wednesday morning was to mix some heavy duty concrete. Two mixer loads would just about do it and I had very little left over. Even so, that didn’t go to waste as I used it elsewhere. I poured it in behind the shuttering (see middle right in picture). I switched from mixing the heavy duty concrete to one using granite dust or granno for I was using it to fill in between the paving slabs. Even though I had mixed two full mixer loads there wasn’t enough to do all of the work but by that time I was beginning to get very tired. I would need to clean up the area later when the concrete had hardened. plot-29 I stopped working at just a little after one o’clock but then had to tidy everything away. It was just as well that I couldn’t finish all the work I had intended to do because I needed to plan what I was going to do in the area around the new steps. I made those plans a little later in the afternoon but to do it I would need some more old bricks. Now there are some old bricks in the area behind the other garage but many of them are covered in either concrete or hard mortar. I would have to see if there was enough of them that I could reclaim to do the work, though I could manage with fewer if I had to. At this stage I wasn’t sure what I would concentrate on doing the following day but I wanted to do as much as I could while the weather was good. I have yet to start work on the right-hand-side of the flowerbed but that work is mainly laying paving slabs and filling in with concrete.

Shirley Anne

Calculations

I must have used tons or even tonnes if you prefer metric measurements of sand, gravel and cement over the years. I have often thought about keeping a record of purchases, not as a whole but for each job I undertake. Somehow I never seem to get around to doing it. It would be interesting to calculate the cost for each job simply as an exercise. I don’t count the cost but allow an approximate amount of funds to carry a job out, in other words I make a rough estimate.

Cement mixers
Cement mixers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would never tackle a project if I didn’t think I had the funds to carry it out. On my latest project, that is the building work in the Plot, I have purchased as much materials as I think necessary for each stage only but I either end up with a little over or a deficit. For instance I might end up with a surplus bag of cement but with a shortage of sand. I never seem to get it that accurate. With my electrical work though I am very accurate but I suppose that is because I have done far more of it. It’s all a matter of experience isn’t it? If I am baking I seem always to need to refer to the recipe for things like quantities, temperatures and length of cooking time. Again it is due to the fact that I am not baking often. As I am writing this I am thinking about the quantities of materials I require to make the concrete I will need to fill in the spaces between the paving slabs out on the Plot and whether I should collect it myself or have it delivered. I may decide on the latter because I want an extra paving slab too and they are rather heavy. The other materials I could collect myself but would have to make a couple of journeys. I may decide to collect some and have the rest delivered instead. The problem with deliveries is that they never seem to happen when you want them and even then you need to be at home to receive them. As far as the project is concerned it is going well. As for the other project, the lamp-post installation, all I have done so far is to lay a bed of concrete but more may be needed. I won’t know that until they deliver the post which at the time of writing hasn’t yet arrived. It has been just over a week since I placed the order so hopefully it will arrive this week or will have done by the time you read this. There are a few more projects I would like to do yet if I have the time and if I have the inclination or if I live long enough!

Shirley Anne