Still waiting

It was May 1 st, a dull and damp morning but there was hardly any wind at all, say 1 or 2mph. A fine rain was falling as I left the house five minutes before five o’clock to go for my walk. I had walked two miles before I could lower the hood on my jacket. It stayed pretty much dry after that and as the morning progressed it even brightened up for a spell. It didn’t last though and the rest of the day remained dull but at least it was warm. It didn’t matter to me for I was going to spend a few hours inside the room on my project. I had phoned my eldest son yesterday to ask if he could help me instal the concrete lintel as I couldn’t do it by myself. Unfortunately he couldn’t at that time but said he would call me later. However he forgot due to his work commitments (he is a police officer). I couldn’t call on his brother to help as he lives in another town, actually the city of Manchester over forty miles away. My eldest lives just less than three miles away. Anyhow I called him again this morning and asked if he was available on Thursday at any time. He would send me a message giving me the time he would be able to come which would probably be in the afternoon. So the work of installing the lintel was left on hold again. I wanted to do some work however and decided to fill in the ends of the cavity walls where the old wooden door frame had been installed. To do that I had to mix some mortar by hand in a large bucket and fill in the gaps with pieces of cut brick. A few years ago we had the cavity walls filled with insulation which was blown in through numerous holes that had to be drilled in the seams. However in this part of the walls the insulation hadn’t completely filled the cavity so I filled the cavity using polystyrene which we had stored up in the loft area in a bag. The polystyrene was in small pieces which had been used to cushion articles sent through the post and would be ideal for the job. Years ago polystyrene was used in cavity walls as insulation but new fire regulations prevented it from being used thereafter. As it is extremely unlikely to catch fire in this instance (at the bottom of a wall which is isolated and remote from any heat source) it would be alright to use it. Once I had filled in the gaps and relaced a couple of bricks on one side I rendered both sides with fine concrete. That is why I didn’t ask my son to call today as the repairs had to remain undisturbed whilst they dried out. The concrete is the dark section in each picture.

E had been busy doing other things so I decided to eat out for a change and then purchase some fibreglass insulation to go inside the ceiling spaces between the joists when I instal a new plasterboard ceiling. Whilst out I forgot to purchase the wood preserver to use on the ceiling timbers when I strip off the old ceiling. I will have to purchase it next time I am out. The guy came yesterday afternoon to measure up for a new plastic door and frame. He told me someone else would call next week to make a more detailed measurement by which time the lintels should hopefully be in place. The door would cost me £600 fitted.

Shirley Anne



Missed the walk

I must have been so tired on Sunday evening I ended up sleeping in a further hour and a half after I had switched off the alarm! Usually I get out of bed immediately because I know I am likely to nod off again if I don’t. The consequence was I missed my early morning walk as I didn’t then wish to take it because I had work to do which I would have to start later in the morning. I didn’t want to do that. The walk would have to wait a day. The work I wanted to do was all in the utility room. First job was to fix some wall tiles around the sink top. The second job was to move the drain pipe coming from the upstairs dishwasher and to re position the cold water supply pipe to the washing machine in the utility room.

The black pipe is that drain from the dishwasher which used to run at high level and come down the wall to where it is still connected. The cold water pipe to the washing machine now runs down alongside the window on its left. It used to come down the wall to the left of the drain pipe. I wanted them moving so they didn’t go through the worktop I would be fitting there and it would allow any joints to remain accessible. Once those jobs were done I blanked off the hole near the ceiling (top centre in lower picture) then took a break and sat with E having her breakfast. When she was ready we went to the hardware store and purchased two more cabinets, four doors with their furniture and some more plywood for the worktops. One of the cabinets would go alongside the washing machine between it and one of the smaller chest freezers which will stand on the far left (lower picture above). The other cabinet will be fitted on the opposite wall together with the larger and older chest freezer. The other small chest freezer will be fitted where the older one now stands. All this is intended to make better use of the room space. On our return from the store E got ready to go to a funeral and I took the goods into the room. After a quick lunch she went out and I got on with more work, filling in some holes in the floor and wall and later giving the wall its first coat of paint. 

However I then noticed the drains for the washing machine and dishwasher drain needed attention as there appeared to be a small leak. This leak must have developed over the years and I needed to repair it. Whoever had installed it hadn’t left enough pipe sticking out of the wall so I had to dig it out before doing the repairs.

The main leak was on the white pipe connections. The dark patches on the wall is cement which couldn’t be over-painted until it was dry. You can see the dark patch on the floor where I had filled it in. The best thing about this project is the different disciplines involved, electrical, carpentry, brickwork and cementing, plumbing and painting and decorating. That’s why I like doing projects.

Shirley Anne


Again on Wednesday I was busy during the morning and up until one-thirty working on the Plot taking advantage of the warm, even hot weather. The only drawback was the humidity which was rather high and it made working in overalls pretty uncomfortable. Now and then a breeze would blow but it made little difference. The plan for the day was to lay the top of the three steps having laid the hard-core and concrete on Tuesday and also to decide what I would be doing about the surrounding walls. Before I did anything else I sorted out what old bricks I had with which to work. The twelve new bricks left over from building the flowerbed wouldn’t be suitable as they didn’t match the bricks in the old walls. Part of the old buried wall would have to be demolished anyway and the bricks removed would just about give me enough with what I had already to rebuild the walls. I mixed enough mortar with which to lay the final step and spread it out over the prepared concrete. I then had to manoeuvre the paving slab up onto the second step and on to the two bricks I had placed there to make it easier to ease the slab down into position, Did I say ease? You can only lower such a weight so far before gravity takes hold and it slops down onto the wet mortar. Not having anyone to assist me I have to devise alternative ways to move heavy objects around. Once the slab was on the mortar it was exceedingly easy to slide it about and tamp it down until it was in the desired position. It was then that I noticed that the rear edge of the slab was not exactly parallel with the end wall of the flowerbed but I knew that would be the case. The reason being the wall at the pathway had not been built parallel to the main garden wall which separates us from our neighbours property. So although by build was parallel to the wall it could never be parallel to the wall at the pathway. The only solution would be to rebuild that small wall but it simply doesn’t justify doing it. I plan to fill in the space at the rear of the top step with a fine concrete anyway so the discrepancy, small as it is, won’t be noticeable. That was the first problem. I will insert the picture here so you can see.plot-24     The right-hand-side small wall alongside the lower two steps gave me the most challenging problem because the pathway wall at right angles to it is the one which isn’t parallel to everything else and consequently the right angle abutment wasn’t parallel with the steps. I had to knock most of it down and rebuild it but in doing so I had to make the front edge slightly wider in order to get it aligned with the steps. I call it an unavoidable manipulation of an original cock-up. I mention here again that I didn’t build the original wall. The opposite small wall on the left of the steps presented me with a different problem as I had to demolish part of the double-brick buried structure to make use of the extra bricks but someone had topped that wall with a very strong concrete and it looked as though they had used concrete instead of mortar in places. I managed to do both walls as you can see. The next problems are rearing their heads as I move along with the project. One is how to align the paving slabs in a reasonable way to make it presentable but I can see I will need to fill in a lot of spaces with fine concrete to make that possible. The other smaller problem is being able to fill in behind that pathway wall on the right which adjoins the patio wall. I have decided to use mainly concrete to do it. My next task will be to level the ground in preparation for laying the other paving slabs. I have nine left but I think I may have to purchase a few more.

Shirley Anne

Back on the job

I had not worked on the Plot for some days but was determined to get something done on Tuesday when the weather made a change for the better. The forecast for the following few days looked promising too so I hoped to make the most of them. I had to take my van in on Tuesday morning to have a fault on the lighting circuits repaired but the repair shop didn’t open until nine o’clock and I had to wait a while. It was almost ten o’clock before I returned home. I walked the distance as it wasn’t too far away. It meant a late start for my project work but soon I was in my overalls and getting organized. I had put everything away after I had last worked on the job which was just as well because of the heavy rain we had in the interim. I spent about three hours mixing mortar and laying bricks. Not having a helping hand made the work tiring for I had to do everything myself. I laid about nine bricks to finish the outer walls and then began to build the inner wall on one side. This is how far I got..Plot 11

I have almost completed the right-hand-side now and have also started building the inner wall at the front (out of sight in this picture). Part of the left hand inner side wall was built last week but hopefully I will get to finish it tomorrow, Wednesday as I write. I may have to find some more bricks to be able to complete the inner walls though I haven’t done a brick count yet to verify that. Hopefully I will be able to use some of the old second-hand bricks we have lying around if it comes to their need. I did no more work in the afternoon having finished tidying up at one-thirty to have lunch. I was also waiting for a call from the repair shop letting me know the repair had been done.

Shirley Anne

Squeezing it all in

English: Bricks in a .
Bricks in a wall

I was kind of hoping that I wouldn’t have to work away from home on Tuesday because I wanted to do some more brick-laying in the cellar. It takes time when I have to mix the mortar by hand but as I said before it wouldn’t be worthwhile using the cement mixer unless I was going to do a lot of work all in one go. By the time I’ve sorted out and cut some of the bricks with the special hammer that bricklayers use, then mixed the mortar and lay the bricks there is little time for anything else, except to do it all over again. I am not sure by what name that hammer is known but it looks somewhat like a pick-axe with a slightly curved chisel-shape end and a square-headed hammer for the other end. The brick is held in one hand whilst the chisel is used to knock out a line around the brick. After a few sharp taps the brick usually breaks along the line, sometimes neatly, sometimes less so but by tapping away at the edges the brick is cut to size. I have to do this because the opening in which the door hung isn’t a standard width to allow an even number of bricks to sit in line, one of the bricks needs to be cut down a little. Then of course the next row of bricks have to be offset which leaves two smaller spaces, one at either end of the row to be filled with half-sets (half-sized bricks or smaller). So there are a lot of bricks to cut down to size which all takes time. Fortunately the bricks I am laying do not have to be neat as the existing walls are not neat. Once the bricks have been painted they will hopefully blend in with the rest of the wall. If I were to make them any neater they would stand out like a sore thumb. As I am not a professional bricklayer that helps a lot! The side of the wall which faces into the isolated room need not be neat either and it isn’t being painted. I plan to line it with plasterboard then tile it. The side facing into the laundry room does have to look reasonably presentable as it is only going to be painted. At the moment I am concentrating on the wall that faces the laundry (it is a double-brick wall) and so far have only laid a couple of courses of the wall facing the other room. I calculated the total number of bricks to build the double-brick opening to be 168 or 84 per side but I can only lay a maximum of four rows at a time, which is 16 bricks. That is one of the reasons it is taking me so long, the others being my other duties. I am getting there slowly. It has been raining here on and off for a number of days and I hadn’t the opportunity to mow the lawn until Tuesday which turned out to be warm and sunny so after lunch I decided to get it done. I had spent most of the morning laying bricks but wanted to mow the lawn whilst the weather remained fair. I have to fit things in whenever I can because of my electrical work and because of the weather too. Using the petrol-driven mower makes it far easier than when I used the electric one and it doesn’t seem to mind the grass being a little damp either which is just as well. Although the weather was fine on Tuesday it had been raining overnight and in the early hours of the morning. I had it mowed in twenty minutes. I spent some time out on the patio with my guitar before returning indoors. Once I’d put the guitar on its stand I returned downstairs into the cellar to look at other work I most probably will do in the laundry room, things like re-arranging some of the electrical wiring now supplying the power outlets in there. I will also have to disconnect and remove one of the light switches which has become redundant now that the door is no longer there. The light in the room was wired as a two-way circuit enabling it to be switched from either of the two doorways to the room. That is a simple thing to change. I was also thinking about replacing all of the central heating pipe insulation which has seen better times and which is missing in one or two places. That needs to be done before the cooler weather returns. That too is a simple job to do as all the pipes are on show and within easy reach. Another job I would like to do is to replace that old sink unit and I had a quick look to see what would be involved. Did I mention that I would always have something to do if ever I retire? As I write this late on Tuesday afternoon I am not sure if I will be able to resume my bricklaying work on Wednesday as yet but if so I might be able to finish the wall that I am concentrating on thus sealing off the room. I’ll know before it is bedtime.

Shirley Anne

Wondering when

Stormy Weather!
Stormy Weather! (Photo credit: khalid almasoud)

It has been a couple of weeks since any work to speak of has been done on our ‘mound’ project in the rear garden. That has been due to the weather either being too hot or too wet! I have also not had the time because of my electrical work and this past week we have had engineers flitting in and out of the house as they worked to replace our old gas pipes in the street. When we had some spare time E and I purchased some plants that will inhabit the border that has been created to one side of the new pathway and in the central portion which I have come to call the ‘mini-mound’, though it isn’t that small. We have decided to ease back from finishing the project until the weather is more favourable and for another couple of reasons. Firstly we want to take things easy for a while and enjoy the warm weather and secondly we have other things that need attention. I am just wondering when we will actually get back to the mound. We had a builder come round to assess some brickwork we need doing but he hasn’t bothered thus far to give us the quote. At this rate I’ll probably do the work myself and save myself a small fortune in the process. At the very least I will have something to keep me occupied when other duties become scarce. I know I can do the work and if I say so myself, probably just as good as any bricklayer. I am more fussy. I am also wondering when I will get around to doing the second of my ‘mini’ projects in the front of our house, the other one, now done, was installing the flagpole a few weeks ago. Before I can do the smaller project I have to order the part but I will continue to keep my readers in suspense until it is done.

Shirley Anne

The waiting game

Builder at work
Builder at work (Photo credit: Tymtoi)

I’ve never been a patient person when waiting for things to happen though I have the patience to resolve problems that I am often confronted with. I just don’t like waiting, especially for others to take action. At the time of writing I am awaiting a quotation for the building work I am employing someone else to do for me rather than doing it myself and botching it up. Not that I can’t lay bricks myself for I have laid many of the in the past, rebuilding and extending the newest of the two garages we have at home and more recently a couple of minor bricklaying jobs. In this particular instance I have invited E’s nephew, a builder/bricklayer, to give me a quote. If his quotation is reasonable I will get him to do the work but if not I will try elsewhere. This means I have to play the waiting game as there is very little meaningful work I can do on the project until the brickwork is completed. As my electrical work is thin on the ground at this moment I am finding it difficult to cope with the idleness. I am not an idle person, not by a long shot so it is getting to me that I have nothing to do. The rest will benefit me physically but psychologically it is driving me crazy. I know things will suddenly change, they always do but I will be ready for the change when it happens. It is at times like these I should go to the pub, go for a bicycle ride, a walk, a drive, the cinema, the theatre, the shops, anything to relieve the boredom! However I know I will do few of those things if any, besides, I have to be reasonably available to do any electrical work that comes my way don’t I? There is that bedroom to clear out of rubbish but alas at the moment E is using the room to paint that yellow chair in a new colour to make it suitable for use in the bathroom. Thwarted in every direction! Oh well I’ll just have to remain bored for the time being!

Shirley Anne

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Lots going on

Dining out, shopping for plants, shopping for building materials, getting a couple of windows adjusted, a little gardening,  discussing the Knotweed problem with a neighbour (who promises to get something done about it), doing more work behind the garage – concrete – bricklaying and such, eating out on the patio, relaxing in the afternoon in the lovely sunshine and the many other things one gets up to in a house are all more than enough to fill our days. I like it that way, I even get to go and work for others occasionally but that seems to have dried up somewhat over the last few weeks. I guess that is because of the season. Although I get work it isn’t as much as it has been of late. The barbecue is out of mothballs again and we hope to put it to good use soon. One thing I hate is being idle for too long. Much as I like to relax and need to, I much prefer to be actively doing something. When I take time from working I like to exercise on the treadmill and bicycle but I’ve not had much chance to do a lot on them these past two weeks. The main problem I have is with the temperature when I am working, I don’t like it to be too warm and I don’t really like it to be too warm at any other time either, unless I am swimming! Sad thing is I haven’t been for a swim for a number of years. I used to be able to swim long distances in the sea, less so in the swimming baths or in rivers and lakes. That of course is due to the difference in buoyancy between salt water and non-salty water. The urge to go swimming has all but disappeared as with many of my former interests but one never forgets how to swim, especially if one’s life depends upon it! Four of the five plants we bought for the patio are in this photo below..74 So what’s next? Well it changes from day-to-day, just the way I like it…….

Shirley Anne

Not exactly planned

Dry-stone wall in Chalford Hill, Gloucestershire
Image via Wikipedia

I went to do my job yesterday morning and to my surprise I was back home by 11.30. There was no sign of anyone having been to do the paving but it appears that E’s nephew was having staff problems. The guy he works with doesn’t work on Wednesdays for reasons best known to himself and a sub-contractor E’s nephew uses occasionally didn’t turn up to carry out work he had given him elsewhere. This meant E’s nephew was hard pressed to fulfill his own commitments including our job. He did call and he did some levelling of the ground, removing soil in the process but he was unable to start laying the paving slabs. Hopefully he and his friend will turn up today to continue with the work. After they have completed the work in the rear garden they will start laying the paving slabs in the front garden. This meant that E and I had to rebuild part of the dry-stone walling we had demolished when clearing the area for a brick wall to be built a few weeks ago. So before lunch, E and I set about doing that and also laying a completely new top layer of stones along the length of the 6 metre long wall. We then began to level out the soil above. As it was almost 2 o’clock we left off working and returned an hour later when we transported many bags of soil from the rear garden and placed that on the raised ground contained by the dry-stone wall and levelled that soil out too. We also did some filtering of the soil in the lower bed in front of the wall. Much more needs to be done in this bed but it is slowly taking shape having been neglected because of the volume of work we have been doing elsewhere. After our evening meal both E and I were in the rear garden and I happened to glance over the garden wall whilst standing on the patio. Our neighbour was riding around her garden testing out her bicycle. I waved to her and she came closer and asked how we were getting along with the patio. I invited her to call around and see for herself. We hadn’t met socially before and we didn’t even know her name even though her garden adjoins ours. Her house is on the main road which is about 100 metres away so although we are neighbours we are not exactly close! To my surprise she took up my offer and called around five minutes later. She was very impressed by what we had done in the garden as we showed her around. It turns out that her house was built in the year 1872, fives years before ours and that the ground on which our house is built actually belonged to the owner of her house at that time and was used for the stabling of horses. The land was sold off to pay a debt and our house was built there in 1877. Her house, which is now split into two homes, used to be just one very large house before it became a semi-detached property in 1920. I often wonder what it must have been like in the area when these houses were built. Local history is fascinating to me. So many changes have been made over the years to the various properties around about, including ours!

Shirley Anne