I had been very busy almost every day during the week but come Thursday I felt so tired and weary and struggled to do anything. However I did work but at a more leisurely pace. I started a little later too but only a half-hour or so. The filling in between the paving slabs, the ones I had laid so far, had been done the day before but there remained a small area next to the new steps that I had left because I wanted to plan what I was going to do there. I had decided to add another course of bricks to those already there first so that I could maintain the thickness of the screed to match the paving slabs. It meant that on the paving slab side half of the height of the bricks would be covered leaving a few centimetres showing to enable me to fit some natural stone capping on top. On the other side of the steps I needed to build up the groundwork to enable a couple of extra bricks to be laid there for the same reason. First though I had to see if I could dig out some usable bricks, sixteen to be precise, from the heap of second-hand bricks we have lying about by the small greenhouse. Most of them were still covered with mortar or cement so I had to chisel that off. After some time I managed to get the sixteen bricks I needed. I broke up a few more and used them as rubble where I had to lay some concrete to allow the extra bricks on the right-hand side of the steps to be laid later. I chose to mix all the concrete I needed in the wheelbarrow because that much would be enough. I didn’t want to use the mixer and then have to clean it out just for the one mix. So I fixed some shuttering where it was needed and then laid the concrete, covering it up to protect it from the rain which was forecast overnight. I would be able to lay all the bricks and perhaps finish the laying of concrete that had been left undone. The following day, Friday, I had the time to continues with the work. Friday was a much welcomed cooler day. It had been raining in the early hours of the day but at nine o’clock when I started the work it was fine and sunny. I wanted to lay the extra course of bricks on both sides of the steps and then finish laying the concrete on the left of the steps. I managed to do that but just as I was smoothing out the concrete it began to rain. It was a light shower but it got heavier after a few minutes so I had to scramble and look for something to cover the area while I finished the work. I got drenched in the process but I was able to finish the work as best I could. Considering the situation I think I did well. Later and after lunch I returned outside and re-arranged the covering that I had hastened to set up as it was and as you see in this picture. I would leave it that way until Saturday morning just in case it rained again. So now the two walls alongside the steps are one brick higher and apart from a couple of small finishing off cementing jobs on the left of the flowerbed that side is complete. The next phase will be to level the ground on the right-hand side of the flowerbed and lay the four paving slabs which remain. It was around noon on Thursday by the time I had finished what I had to do on that day and to be honest I was glad I could rest for a while from the work at least. Before lunch I drove off to the place where I had purchased the natural stone slabs for capping the flowerbed. Some of my readers may remember that I had purchased three more than I had needed for that job although it was the guy at the depot who had made the wrong calculation but I intended to use them elsewhere and kept them. I will be using them to cap the bricks around the new steps and also on top of the small wall behind which I recently poured concrete to strengthen it. However I needed one extra slab at 600 mm in length and three others at 300 mm in length. I would then have four long slabs and three half the length to do the work. I bought an extra bag of cement at the same time to save another visit to the builders merchant. I needed fuel for the van so I made the detour to the filling station before driving home but on the way to the filling station I received a call for my electrical services from an old couple living in the next town. I got the fuel then dropped the materials off home before driving to the job. I was there less than an hour but it covered the cost of the fuel and the building materials I had just purchased with a little over too.
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. 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.
As I had no other work to do on Wednesday E and I started to break the stones, bricks and odd bits of concrete slabs we had stored for such a day as this. Actually we had quite a lot of ‘hardcore’ material but much of it was used when we constructed the new steps behind the garage and the ramp behind the other garage so we had very little left over. I had dug out the area behind the garage to clear the way for the steps we are constructing to the vegetable plot and we placed all we had left of the hardcore rubble and the bits we had broken into it for a foundation. Before we could go any further I emptied my van of my electrical goods and we drove to the builders depot to purchase more materials. We had to make two journeys because of the weight, not wanting to overload the vehicle. By this time it was lunch, around 1.30 and we went indoors. Again it was another lovely day and we had to make the most of it for the forecast for the next couple of days was rain. After lunch we set about mixing more concrete and laid it over the hardcore. On Thursday it was raining heavily but the concrete fortunately had set and wasn’t affected. We could do no more work outside because of the rain but as it happened I had a little electrical work to keep me busy. The next time we get the opportunity I shall be laying bricks and paving slabs but it all depends upon the weather! Later in the afternoon E and I were busy in the garden and greenhouses. The work is making good progress and hopefully most of the heavy work will be completed soon. There are plenty of other small jobs to do yet though like relaying some of the bricks on top of a couple of small garden walls that we’d employed someone to build a couple of years ago. I don’t know why they chose to use a softer mortar because that is the problem and why the bricks have become loose. I shall be using a slightly harder mix. Some of the paving slabs laid around the same time have also become loose and some of the mortar between them is missing. I should have done the job myself but I simply hadn’t the time then to do it. I will have to see what I can do to correct the problem. There’s plenty for the mixer to do yet when these jobs are done and you can be sure we’ll be getting our money’s worth out of its purchase.