Tried to stop me

It was another dull Monday and I was a little disappointed because the forecast had indicated a sunnier day in prospect. Nevertheless I still got on with my schedule. The weather wasn’t going to stop me. I had not eaten for fifteen hours as I had to give some blood samples at the surgery which required I wasn’t to eat in advance. Fortunately the appointment was for eight-thirty but unfortunately I had gotten up around five o’clock because I couldn’t stay in bed once awake. That meant three hours of feeling hungry until the samples were taken. To my amazement I was seen ten minutes earlier than I expected so was back home before eight forty-five. After my breakfast of porridge I donned my overalls and went into the garden to do some concrete laying. I had prepared the area before leaving for the surgery by breaking up some of the clay floor tiles which we had left over from digging the pit in the gym/boiler room. They would act as a rubble to bind the concrete together at the same time lessen the amount of concrete needed. I do this with every concrete mix I prepare but it is usually used as a base on which the concrete is laid. As the ramp was being constructed on an already existing concrete base the rubble was only being used to take up some of the volume. It would all get covered with a finer concrete later anyway. Well just as I had finished it began to rain so I covered the area with boards and sheets to keep it dry whilst setting. I had it finished before ten o’clock. I couldn’t do any more work that day because after lunch I had a funeral to attend. My next-door neighbour had passed away in hospital the previous Monday and her funeral was at two o’clock.

We drove to the crematorium to meet with others there though not many had attended, about a dozen including E and myself. The service was fairly brief and soon we were all outside chatting together and paying our respects to her son who was putting on a brave face. There isn’t much one can say at funerals but simply being there lends much support. There was no wake as such but a small gathering at our neighbour’s house. Later in the evening I returned the flag to the top of the pole as it had been at half-mast for a few days. Now life was to carry on as usual for everyone.

Shirley Anne

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I wasn’t sure……

…..if the promised respite from the dull wet and windy weather was going to happen on Tuesday morning (5 th March) because when I arose nothing much had changed. No it wasn’t raining at that time, around six o’clock so there was some hope. The reason I wanted a break from the poor weather was because I wanted to add some more base concrete to the ramp behind the garage I am in the process of altering. I got dressed and ate breakfast and about a quarter after seven put on my overalls and boots and decided to give it a go. First I had to get the van out of the garage in order to remove the large panel of plywood I would use to cover the work once done. While unpacking the mixer and setting everything up there was a light falling of rain and I began to think it pointless to continue. Nevertheless I plodded on regardless and filled the mixer with sand and gravel followed by the cement. The rain began to disappear and the sky started to brighten up. I added the water to the mixer now that everything had mixed together and poured out the contents into the wheelbarrow. One full mixer load fills the barrow to the brim which under normal circumstances would spill out if it was moved too far. Fortunately the job was only two metres from the mixer and I soon had the concrete tipped onto the ramp. I have an old stiff plastic yard brush which comes in handy for tamping down thin layers of concrete and I spread and levelled the mix. Normally I would use a spade to tamp down and remove any trapped air but this was only a few centimetres deep. By the time I had finished the sun began to shine though not where I was working which was still in the shade that early in the morning and time of year. I had thought the first stage would be enough before applying the top screed but changed my mind after checking the contour once it had dried and the covering had been removed. When this second stage has set and dried I will be able to finish with the screed. That may not happen for a further few days until the weather has settled. I covered the work with the plywood in case it rained but it wasn’t necessary, it stayed dry all day.

I paid a visit to the builders depot to collect more sand (yes I finally ran out of the stuff) and ‘granno’ or granite dust. Later in the day I had an appointment with the dentist.

Shirley Anne

Whilst I could.

As I write this on March 2 nd the weather is turning a little unpredictable with rain threatening to fall every few hours. It is however dry at the moment but could rain at any time. It appears it is going to be the best day out of the next four or five in respect of the rainfall. I made it my business therefore to get some work done outdoors at the rear of garage one, or the one in which my van sits and now the new lawnmower too. Obviously there are many other things in there some of which have wheels and need to be pushed out through the rear door for use occasionally. When I purchased the new mower I wanted to see if I needed to alter the concrete ramp behind the door to make it easier to push those wheeled items into the garden and especially the new mower. When it arrived yesterday I was able to see how difficult the existing ramp might be unless it was altered but I always had the feeling the ramp needed altering anyway. Immediately after breakfast I brought out the cement mixer and its stand together with tools with which to begin the work. First I set up the mixer and then using a heavy lump hammer broke into pieces several of the old used bricks I had to make rubble. Doing that had two advantages, first I could at last dispose of them and second, I would need less concrete too! I was extending the existing ramp with a view to making it less difficult to manoeuvre when wheeling out the mower and the other things. It took two full mixer loads to establish a base with which to follow up with a finer screed covering a few days later or when the weather permitted. Because rain was set to fall I covered the finished concrete with some old pieces of plywood temporarily.

It would only take a few hours to set enough to prevent any rain from affecting it. The old bricks I had used occupied the space on the raised concrete platform on the right in the picture. This base layer of concrete was left deliberately rough to enable the next layer to adhere better. I covered the mixer to allow it to remain outdoors for a few days.

So that was my Saturday morning taken care of. I wouldn’t be doing any more work until Monday.

Shirley Anne

A new mower….

….but first…..it is now March 1 st as I write. The day started off dull, cool and misty with rain threatening to fall and according to the forecast will do before nightfall. It is now the afternoon and a little warmer but still dull. I went for my walk before six o’clock so that I could return early and eat breakfast before the delivery of the new mower I had purchased on Monday. I wanted to get on with finishing the job of removing the moss from the roof which I had started yesterday but had to wait for the delivery. The guy delivering it arrived later than I had expected but still within the time slot between nine and ten o’clock as arranged. When he arrived he reversed onto the drive and proceeded to unload the mower. I had removed my van from the garage so that he could wheel it straight in. He instructed me on how to use it and then we pushed it through the rear door mostly to see if it would pass through. I have to say there was little spare space each side. I am thinking of ways to widen the doorway and also to lay more concrete outside to make the existing slope more gentle. Here is the picture of the mower standing inside the garage…

Here is the picture of the slope outside showing the doorway also…

We are not disposing the other mower which is in the shop being serviced but will keep it as a standby.

Once the guy had gone I plugged the mower into the power supply to charge its battery as he instructed I should do. Then I put on my overalls and set about finishing the moss removal before then dismantling the tower and storing it away in the garage. It was approaching one o’clock when I had finished and time for lunch. If the weather allows I will begin work on the concrete slope but first I will need to buy more materials though it will only be granite chippings for I already have enough sand and cement. Looks like the concrete mixer will be in use again. That must be one of the best things I have purchased in the last ten years for helping me do all my construction work and there has been plenty of that!

Shirley Anne

Them Thar Hills

I took to the road for the first time in a while on Saturday morning. By road I mean on foot. I haven’t been at my best lately and was in need of rest. It was such a beautiful day though quite cold in the gentle breeze or out of the sunshine where frost and frozen rain still clung to the ground. Down to the sea front only a half-mile from my door is usually my preferred route and about half-way to the shore I came across a guy locking up the building site there. I add that the picture shown is not of that site.

There is another building site a mere hundred metres or so further along but that hasn’t progressed as far as yet. The first site houses a new apartment block aimed at the older retired generation. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the tall crane that had stood there for more than twelve months. I asked the guy when it was that they took it down and he told me two weeks ago. Well I hadn’t been that way for two weeks so hadn’t noticed. We chatted a minute or two and he told me he would show me around inside when the internal work had finished. I thanked him and we parted. If I get the chance I will take him up on that invitation. I continued my walk passing the other building site which had closed for the weekend. This building is much larger and spread out. It will be a new ‘village’ for the elderly and retired though the apartments will be rented rather than owned. It will house shops, hair salons, medical access and all the things a small village would have but all under the one roof. The complex will be managed by employees of the organisation who will own it. I carried along and walked to the shore. Looking across the bay to the town of Blackpool and beyond to its left the mountains of The Lake District could easily be seen covered as they were with snow. Further to the right of Blackpool some of the hills along the Pennine Chain could also be seen covered with snow. Fortunately around Southport there wasn’t any snow. As I had arisen rather later than usual I had missed breakfast so on my return I sat and ate lunch instead. It was twelve-thirty.

Shirley Anne

Just in time

It had been quite a few weeks since I last mowed the lawn, well it seemed that long anyway. I don’t keep tabs on such things. I had watered the garden soon after breakfast on Friday instead of doing it the other way around. I wanted to go for a walk but needed some space after eating. It was just after four o’clock when I’d finished the watering and still very much dark. It wouldn’t get light until after six o’clock at this time of year. No, I didn’t water the garden in darkness as we have switchable lighting at one end which pretty much illuminates the whole garden though the floodlights illuminate automatically because of their motion detectors. The lights over the patio can be switched on too but there is little point if all the others are switched on, suffice to say it was light enough without them. Anyway I digress. So I went for my walk just after four o’clock and it was dry and windy but a little cool, especially in the wind. Soon I would have to think about wearing warmer clothing on these outings though I had on this occasion been well wrapped up too. I took the walk through the back streets to town and beyond and was well-sheltered from the wind. When I reached the seafront however it was a different story, bracing but enjoyable nevertheless. It stayed dry until I reached home when I could see the odd spatter of rain by the front door entrance. When I went indoors I prepared what I would be having for lunch later, another chilli. It was around ten-thirty when I decided to mow the lawn as it had remained dry until then. The odd spattering earlier must have been just a passing cloud which had decided to hold on to its load. I mowed the lawn, which took about twenty minutes and just as I had put the mower back in storage it began to rain.

Even so that didn’t last long either but we had been promised more persistent rain later in the day and into the night. On Thursday, the day before, our next-door neighbour was having the scaffolding around his house dismantled, well almost all of it. Evidently the work of re-pointing the brickwork and carrying out roof repairs had ended. The guys had been fortunate for it not to have been raining whilst doing that job. How do they manage to work safely if it is pouring down with rain? Anyway on looking at the work that has been done the front aspect of the house looks really nice but when I looked at the side and rear all that has happened has been a little patching up here and there. I would have though it better to have the whole house done while the scaffolding was there. I know how much it costs to have scaffolding erected having had it around my house and it isn’t cheap! I even asked the guys why they were dismantling it as I didn’t think the work was finished. It didn’t look finished to me.

Shirley Anne

Something going on

I was sitting out on the patio on Thursday morning after I had returned from doing the shopping and just relaxing in the warm sunshine. All was peaceful, for a short while anyway, then the noise started. Nothing drastic or continuous but certainly annoying. Our next-door neighbour, the single guy who runs his business from home (he is a solicitor or lawyer) was having work done on his house. For a couple of weeks now there has been scaffolding erected around the property and the major part of the work concerns having the brickwork re-pointed. That in itself isn’t a noisy procedure aside from the noise the grinding tool excavating the old mortar makes. Even so it isn’t that bad. The main culprits are the guys throwing their tools down onto the wooden planks every minute. It doesn’t sound annoying from reading the written word but I can assure you it is. Why can’t they hang them on their belts or place them down quietly? Fat chance of that I suppose. The thing is it isn’t necessary to make such noise. Building workers are a law unto themselves I guess. There is always something going on around here though. For most of last year we had the builders renovating  his next-door neighbour’s house, that is the next but one to ours. The noise was relentless, if it wasn’t the work itself it was the comings and goings of the vehicles. The year before that (2016) we had the neighbour living opposite having their home renovated on the exterior and some other work inside too. Our other next-door neighbour had her house painted and some large trees cut down. Obviously the painting wasn’t noisy but the machinery involved with cutting down the trees and mincing the timber was! It was eight years ago we had scaffolding erected around the house when we too had exterior work done as well as new double-glazing installed. It was last year we had more scaffolding erected for roof repairs. This is only five houses, there were others in our street having work done during the same period too. It seems no matter where you go in my neighbourhood there is work of one sort or another being carried out! I could argue that some of the work wouldn’t be necessary had it been done to last in the first place! 

Imagine the noise involved renovating the house above!

Shirley Anne

At last

At last the weather has begun to cool down a tad. Today (5 th) it is 21 deg C, down 8 to 9 deg from what it has been lately. With the humidity down too at 43% relative, it feels much fresher. It still has yet to rain but at least the ground is staying wetter for longer after I have hosed the gardens. As is stands today the forecast is for rain later next week! Still a long time to wait and even then they say it only has a 60% chance of raining on one day with lesser possibilities for the following days. Ah well, we have to endure it all for now. I am now in a better position for doing a little more work around here but not too much! Today, this morning, I did the weekly shopping again and it looks like it is going to be my responsibility from now on if things don’t change. E hasn’t done the shopping for almost three months now. It’s just another chore for poor old Shirley Anne to add to her pile. One of our next-door neighbours is currently having the whole exterior of his house re-pointing which means scaffolding being erected. For the past two weeks it has been covering the front of the house and the work has progressed well. Yesterday the scaffolding crew returned to erect more scaffolding to the side of his property adjacent to ours. They asked for access to fit a couple of bracing poles onto our rear pathway. As his section of the space between the two properties is far smaller than our own it would be dangerous not to have bracing poles in place. Had they needed to use the garage roof  I would have had to erect a couple of supporting columns beneath. Fortunately I do possess three of those and have had to use them when we had scaffolding on our garage roof. The only problem with that is the vehicle can’t be housed in the garage when they are in use. It isn’t before time that our neighbour is getting the work done for his house’s brickwork has been in a very poor state for quite some time. He has been getting bits done here and there but it wasn’t enough by far. It isn’t that he couldn’t afford the work being done, we think he has just been reluctant to fork out the cash. It will of course improve the house’s appearance and sale ability. Perhaps he is thinking of selling it on. While the scaffolding guys were here I had some good banter with them and discovered that one of the crew had actually been part of the team that had erected scaffolding around our house way back in 2010. He must have remembered all the cups of tea and coffee that came his way.

Shirley Anne

Darned thing

So Saturday (24) came along and I was up early once again. During the last few days we had discovered that the dampness in the bottom of the cupboard in the gym we have been decorating wasn’t drying up. It had to be caused by an ingress of water from outside the building. I had given it a few days to dry but it stayed wet. Two things are at work here. Firstly, the house walls were not constructed with a damp-proof course or membrane and secondly, the boiler room floor is below the ground level outside. I have no real idea why when it was laid the builders made it so. The house was built in 1877 but a quarter of the boiler room being part of an extension built we think at the turn of the century, that is 1900, was added to the already low floor. It is the only room below ground level at the rear of the house though at the front the rooms there are below ground only because earth was piled-up in front of the house…

There are vestiges of former windows below the soil level which have been bricked in. I suppose the thinking was because the ground the house stands upon is sandy there was enough drainage as not to become a problem. Anyhow on Friday I got to thinking about what I could do about the ingress of water and from where it was coming. When I took measurements I discovered that the floor inside the cupboard was nine bricks down from the window in the room but outside only seven courses are visible above the path and eight just where the wall ends at the grid. Now the grid is below the path so it puts it at the same level as where the dampness appears inside. On checking the brickwork I found gaps in the mortar at ground level and especially around the grid. I decided to mix some fine cement and use it to seal off the gaps both along the base of the wall and around the grid earthenware.

I used a small amount of what was left to patch up the plinth beneath the boiler

and then I set about painting the shelves and insides of the doors of the cupboard which now will only need touching up here and there,

Saturday and Sunday were forecast as dry and sunny and as I write this on Saturday lunchtime it is indeed sunny. It needed to be dry at least so the cement can set.

Shirley Anne

Invention

The time spent on the pit project was limited to an hour and a half on Saturday morning as I had reached as far as I could go. The main task was to skim the internal end wall I had roughly worked on the day before and then put some spots of the same mixture on the floor of the pit. These spots of concrete were to be level with each other and would act as guides when I laid the screed concrete.It was time for lunch after which E went out to her monthly meeting and I thought I would sit a while out on the patio as by then it was warm and sunny. However I didn’t stay sitting long for I noticed a chrysanthemum which needed pruning of its old growth. I had missed it when I pruned the others a couple of weeks ago. I decided to prune it but on the way to collect the tools I noticed a couple more bluebells in the long bed which needed digging out. I ended up checking each of the flowerbeds and dug out around thirty or so. They just don’t give up do they? (See last years posts around this time). Finally I gave up on the idea of sitting outside and returned indoors and setting ‘Robbie’ to vacuum the hallway I went into the kitchen to do some baking. I wanted to bake two sponge cakes, one with some coconut in it and the other with coffee. I was following a recipe for a rich butter cake as opposed to a Victoria Sponge but along the way I made a little mistake and I ended up preparing a fusion mixture of the two! Talk about invention! Surprisingly though the cakes turned out very well and quite tasty. I guess many recipes started off this way.

Shirley Anne