So, when I left you the other night, I was falling asleep at the computer and trying to fill you in on the saga of our dysfunctional family and their attempts at DIY.
Having done my bit, which consisted of hacking the solar matting off the roof with a palette knife for four hours and hefting it up the back stairs into the skip, I turned to clearing the dark pile near the soon to be concreted slab. Taking the first few layers of branches off the top, and using my patented method of filling an old bedsheet with cuttings before gathering the thing up by the four corners and slinging it over my shoulder......kind of......, and struggling up the back steps to the skip; I made reasonable progress to start with. Once the foliage was cleared, it became evident that the builders had, at some point, dumped a whole lot of clay soil on top of my original pile of ivy and rose bushes.
This (below) is a reminder of some of the things which had been dumped on top of it.
With a sense of resignation I fetched the shovel and steeled myself to the task. The shoulder repair was holding, the temperature was bearable, I should be OK. Surely?
I sank the shovel blade into the orange mass of clay and rock.
The shovel virtually bounced off! Lurking beneath the ghastly heavy clay was all my ivy and rose cuttings, foiling the slicing shovel at every turn!!!!
Did not the air turn blue? Did I not curse those builders from here to breakfast time (and I'm quite good at cursing. I learned it off Himself)? I mean, how much effort would it have taken to ask me to MOVE my pile of cuttings??????? After all, I was IN the house at the time!!!!!!!!
After an hour or so of scraping at the pile and sifting out the bits of greenery, I had transferred most of the dirt up onto the old paving, behind the new wall.
Neither was the lawn, but as that is going to be paved over eventually, I was relatively unconcerned.
The shoulder had proved itself well. There was pain, but I was able to do what needed to be done. And there was wine for afterwards so....it was all good.
But now the saga of the slab begins.
In the fourth picture above you can see the pile of bags of pre mix concrete our No 2 Son had purchased with his 'wealth' of experience in the building industry and the maths skills of his erstwhile brother.
Erstwhile brother relaxes and gathers strength for a new bout of 'younger brother tormenting'.
After a number of days had passed, with little more than a bit of formwork being erected, No2 Son approached me with his usual blend of sheepish belligerence (I was about to go to work in the lead up to the kids coming back).
"Well, I'm going to need some more concrete to do this slab."
"Ummmmm (not sure how this relates to me or why he is telling me)...."
"Well, noone told me it needed to be 150mm thick...and now you've extended it......!!!!!"
"Yes, well, absolutely (thinks* you were there when we realised it had to be 150mm thick...*). Oh well, how much to you think you'll need?"
"Probably another 15 bags or so...and I have no petrol in my car! I haven't even got enough to go to the petrol station!!!!!"
Putting aside the question of how he was going to get petrol into his car in the long run, I could immediately see that my day was about to be severely curtailed.
"OK, I'll take you to the hardware store...."
Now I have quite a little, girlie car.
And bags of pre-mix concrete are, like, 30kg each.
I have to admit to wondering how many I could get into my boot.......
Nevertheless off to the hardware store we went.
"Pull into the trade entrance," No2 commanded, assertively. I did. To find five cars and a couple of trucks in front of us. No 2 Son graciously carried the 5 bags of premix from the shop floor to our distant car. I was grateful. I paid out the $35.00
"Oh, that wasn't too bad,"I said,"Less than I thought it would be....."
Famous last words.
We chugged home cautiously, No 2 Son giving me the benefit of his 5 years of driving experience to tell me that my stopping distance would be longer with all that weight in the back. No S*** Sherlock. I'll not mention my 33 years of driving here....with heavy loads.
We got home and unloaded the bags. I picked up my first 30kg bag like a baby and grunted my way around the side of the house and up to the back garden. Did I mention our house is built on a hill??????? After that I conveniently checked the mail and found something really important to do, having lifted the bags out of the car for enthusiastic No2 Son. In the end, all 5 bags made their way around the back and I retired inside to recline in the cool, with my Keith Richards autobiography.
After about an hour, the sweaty face of No2 Son appeared at the wondow.
"We're gonna need MORE cement!!!!!!"
Now, I don't know if you're familiar with the concept of pre-mixed bags of concrete. They include a perfectly measured combination of sand, aggregate and cement ...all you do is add water. They cost $5.99 (approx) each. Let's look at what we'd spent so far: 15 x 5.99 = $89.85
I came back with 6 bags of cement. Three of which I had had to carry and place in the boot on my own, before the otherwise occupied attendant rushed to my (grunting) aid. $36.00 all up.
I brought the car round to the back gate where we have dual enterence to the property. I could hear the industrious sound of the manual mixing of concrete in the wheelbarrow. I looked at the bags of cement; I looked at the gate and the back stairs....I hefted up the first bag.
totter, totter, grunt groan, stagger stagger stagger.......
down a step
down another step....
As I reached the last step No2 Son looked up.
"You ok there?"
Now, if you have any idea about the social use of language you will recognize that this statement does not mean "hold on til I get there" or "I see you need my help"....
Nope it's a pretty genuine question. Because after all, you couldn't figure out that an overweight 52 year old with a recently reconstructed shoulder might be struggling there... no, you could not.
As I flung the first bag of cement on the ground, with a grunt, he started to rant at me about something the glass/decking/retaining wall people were doing to annoy him. Feigning interest I proceeded back up the stairs for bag number two. I gotta tell you. 30kg is 30kg! These suckers were HEAVY.
This time I struggled to keep the slippery bag in my arms as I reached level ground. I dropped it wih a grunt and a curse and No2 Son looked up from his wheelbarrow again.
"Are you ok there?"
"Well, not really.."
"Only it would be better if you could bring them down while I keep on mixing, cos the sun is getting hot now...."
Now most ladies at this point would have said "Bugger you, get your own bags down from the car", but some weird twist of pride in me determined I keep going.
By the fourth bag I was starting to shake and dropped that sucker pretty hard when I hit ground level. No2 was unconcerned as I turned around and tripped over the garden hose.
"*^%$!!!!!" I spluttered, stumbling across the patio.
Foruntately, my bellowing curses woke No1 Son. By the time I got half way down the back stairs with the next bag of concrete he was up, awake, and halfway up the back stairs to greet me.
With a trickle of sweat coursing down my back and a profound sense of gratitude, I transferred passage of the 30kg bag from my arms to his.
I'm not sure No2 Son even noticed that his source of supply had changed...or if he did, it was in a perfunctory:
"Well lookee that.....someone else brought me the c-ment."
No 2 Son washes his dainty feet while No 1 Son takes over mixing.
In his defence I will have to say that it has long been my belief that No2 Son is on the Autistic Spectrum.....or at least has a Pragmatic Use of Language disorder. And after all, I could have just stopped!
So I staggered inside again, to recover from my trauma. About half an hour later, two sweaty faces appeared again at the wondow.
"We're going to need more bags of premix!!!!!"
Here is our little slab, half laid.
I piled back into my girlie car and zoomed off to the hardware store. This time the yard was clear and a nice young man took pity on me after one bag and loaded the other 5 bags for me. I chugged back to the garden and stood at the top of the back stairs calling for someone/anyone to help me get these bags out of the car. I gave up and reached in for the first bag. This time, the 30kg felt like 60! I cradled it like a baby and staggered on trembling legs towards the back gate. No 1 Son saw me and cemented his place in the will by leaping gazelle like up the steps to relieve me of the load.....
I repeated these actions at least once more that afternoon.
Total number of bags used = 33. Total cost @ $5.99 per bag?
I wonder, would it have been cheaper (or at least simpler) to have got a truck to dump x tonnes of sand, cement and aggregate near the back fence???.... never mind....
Here is the inspection point which was uncovered in the excavation of said slab site.
And here, finally,
Is the finished article. Reckon they'll clean that fence??????
Doubtful, given that this
is how they left the brand, new wheelbarrow for three days, until I declared it must be otherwise, in stern terms......
And finally, here is the slab in situ with the first joists of the decking going in last week...
And here it is starting to come together.
More photos later!