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.
So it was I was up and about at two-fifteen on Saturday morning and looking out of the window into the garden shrouded in darkness. Despite it still being dark it wasn’t so dark that I couldn’t make out the lawn and the path around it. I could even see most of the plants in the borders but I could also see that everywhere was still dry. The overnight rain and stormy weather hadn’t materialized and I was wondering if it would. The lightning storms which apparently would pass over us must have passed by unless the forecast was wrong. I am writing this at eight-thirty and still there is no rain though the sky is filled with rain clouds. It is also partly blue in places too. I decided to water the rear garden in case it didn’t rain so that was my first job at two-fifty when I arrived downstairs. About forty-five minutes later I was back indoors to eat breakfast. What next would I do? I put on my overalls and went into the garage to mix a bucket of cement mortar and began filling in the next area in the gym floor
I had to be careful to leave a corridor to the door above the steps which leads out to the garden so the area at the bottom in the picture was left. It actually doesn’t need much filling-in there anyway but it will get done in turn. It is this next area which will be more of a problem because the furniture has to be moved but it will be done.
When that was done I left it to dry and then used the remaining mortar to fill a gap in the patio capping stone, something I had been meaning to do for ages. I covered it just in case it did rain. Well now it was time to take a very early walk. It was now five-fifteen and I left the house, posting some of E’s letters on the way. I hadn’t put on my rain-proof coat but had it tied around my waist. It was so lovely in the cool of the morning but I hadn’t gone far when the rain began to fall so I put on my coat. However it stopped raining after a couple of minutes and didn’t rain after that. The rain had been very light, hardly rain at all but I wasn’t going to take a chance and get soaked before my walk had started properly. I was back home a couple of hours later and went into the cellar to sweep the excess mortar off the gym floor. It would be ready for painting over the next day but seeing as the next day was Sunday it wouldn’t get done until Monday (30 th) at least.
Wednesday was much the same as it was on Tuesday but this day I arose even earlier. I was attempting to make the most of the coolest part of the day in order to make progress on the Plot. I started the work a little after eight and ceased work at two, that is six hours, enough for anyone my age. I had run out of materials having used all that I had purchased a few days ago. I was left with less than a half a bag of cement which was plenty enough to continue with except that I had almost no sand left. Mixing mortar requires both of course. I am using a harder mortar mix than others might use. I am using three and a half measures of sand to one of cement which results in a harder mortar. others might use a ratio of four to one and four and a half to one but that is too soft for my liking. Of course if the mix is too hard problems arise because of its resulting brittleness. So far then the work looks like this….
I planned to have seven courses and so far almost six have been done with a little of the inside walls started. It is to be a double-brick construction to withstand the pressure of the soil that will fill it. There are no drainage slots because water will be able to drain through the base into the general mass of ground surrounding the construction. So it was another late lunch and then a little relaxation out on the patio while the weather allowed it. I could have spent the remainder of the afternoon purchasing more sand and cement but I decided against it however I had a call from an old lady asking if I would connect her new cooker to the supply. I had been on the patio a half-hour. I did the job and called into the electrical store before returning home. It was time to water the gardens again. In this weather they need watering each day especially the new plants I have planted recently. Until they are well established they need that extra watering. Depending on my electrical work I am not sure when I will be able to next work in the Plot but I have to purchase the materials beforehand.
I was surprised that my electrical work picked up this past week and gave me little time to spare to carry on with the work we have left to do around the now diminished mound in the rear garden. What time I had I used to erect our new flagpole. As I write the first few lines of this post on Friday evening the only time I now have left this week will be tomorrow but even then I cannot dedicate all day to do it. I have to make the most of the time whilst the weather remains fine if I want to see the work done. Fortunately there is no deadline to meet! I am enjoying my life at the moment and am just happy that I have plenty to do to fill my time. Because the weather has been so fine and warm I gave up the idea of working around the mound unless I could put in a couple of hours early in the morning whilst it was still cool but as I didn’t wish to get up too early on Saturday it was a non-starter. I did have plans to re-bed one of the natural stone slabs that were laid over the old broken steps approaching the front door a few years ago as it had become loose. So that is what I did first on Saturday morning. The slab measures something like 800mm by 190mm and 20mm deep so was easy to handle. I lifted it effortlessly down to the step below as the mortar beneath it hadn’t gripped it properly. I removed the old mortar which offered little resistance and cleaned the area. I mixed some new mortar, relaid the slab and filled in the joints before covering that side of the steps with a sheet of plywood to keep the heat of the sun from drying it out too quickly. I left it there all day until the sun had moved low enough to have little effect. After I had laid the step I mixed more mortar and laid some of the large natural stones we had dug out of the mound in the rear garden around the base of the flagpole to cover the exposed concrete base to blend in with the surrounding stones. Once that was finished I set about filling in some of the holes that had appeared between the concrete paving stones which make up the drive to one of the garages. The guy who laid the driveway some years ago hadn’t set the slabs properly and some of them have become loose. There is an excellent foundation beneath that driveway, hardcore covered with paving slabs then covered again with more paving slabs. However I think the top layer of slabs were not laid on a complete bed of mortar so that there is much unfilled space beneath them. I think at some point some of those slabs will need lifting and re-bedded in the future. I don’t know why some people cut corners when doing a job, especially as I was paying him by the hour and supplying all the materials at the time. Anyhow by the time I had done all that work it was fast approaching lunchtime and I stopped for a break. E went out around 1 o’clock for her monthly meeting and didn’t return home until 5 o’clock when we decided to have a barbecue. Whilst she was out I spent a couple of hours transferring tools and materials out of my old toolbox which had become crammed with all sorts of stuff and into the four new toolboxes I had bought on Friday. Whilst E and I were at the electrical supplier’s store I saw this set of toolboxes on sale for a mere £15 plus vat. The largest was about the same size as my old box, the next size down fitted neatly inside that box whilst a third box fitted inside the second. The fourth box was small enough to fit inside the third. Buying them meant that I could split my equipment into different boxes so that I didn’t have to carry everything in the one box as quite often I don’t need all of my tools at once or even at all! There was little time left in the afternoon after I had done that so I sat and played the guitar for a while before E returned home and we had that barbecue.