Monday, December 03, 2007


My father was having some slabbing done on Saturday morning and asked for some help, talking to him Friday night I checked the time with him to start - 8am. "No 8:30" Okay just for the morning, I've heard that before.

8:15 ready and willing. A big bag of sand out front with the cement mixer; the work is being done out the back.

"Shouldn't we put the cement mixer out the back?" I ask,
"How will we get the sand there? No we'll wheelbarrow the cement out to the back", replied my father
"Um why can't we move the sand in the wheelbarrow? I'd much prefer to have an accident moving the sand then the cement"
"No it'll be better out front"
and that was that.

8:35 and all is quiet
"Is there anything we can do in the meantime, get something ready?", I ask
"Nope 'cos if he doesn't show we'd have to put it all back"
"Can't you ring him?"
"Haven't got his number"
"Well if there's a problem he'll ring us"
"He hasn't got our number either"
Yee ha.

Nevertheless my father manages to contact him, he's just running a touch late; so we can start moving stuff like the temporary slabs that are currently in position. So my father and I move a slab, then my father hurries out to the front to see if he's arrived, then back for another slab.
"He knows where we are doesn't he?"
"Yep he's been down before"
So big bag of sand on the front, a cement mixer, garage door wide open I think we're pretty unmissable, still popping back and forth.
"He's here"
moves slab, heads to front
"Hey" I call "We've still got two slabs to go, I don't think he needs an escort in"

"We want it sloping away from the house if possible" says my father
"Well that'll involve a lot of digging as the ground slopes the other way" replies the slabber
"How about level then"
"Yep take some soil from there and move it there"
Soil is a euphemistic word, sandstone country mixed with water and then frozen equals solidness. Out came the forks and a tri-pronged back-hoe. Up went the hoe, down went the hoe penetrating at least half a centimetre, the fork was better managing almost a full centimetre. Combine that with the fact that the original builders of the house used the gardens as refuse tips and you're hitting all sorts of goodness. If you think I'm exaggerating when part of the garden was taken out several years ago we found an old tin bath filled with rubbish buried there this time though it was just cracked bricks.

One level area later
"Okay now you know that you won't be able to step on the slabs when they're down..."
well that puts paid to the wheelbarrow idea
"... or for three days afterwards."
"Um does Mum know this as she wanted to do some laundry this morning?" I asked.
"No" replied my father and went off to tell her

Their conversation concluded that wasn't a problem, but the bins would be.
"Why?" asked my father "It'll be fine by Wednesday [when the bins are collected]"
"But I won't be able to get to them" said my mother
"Is that a problem?"
"Well yes I won't be able to empty any of the bins in the house"
penny dropped and bins moved.

Setting up the cement mixer and I'm out back still levelling the 'clay' when my father appears wanting one of the old slabs out front. It turns out that the stand for the mixer is made up of three parts, two of which don't belong to the same set and so one set of legs is higher then the other. Two moved slabs later and we find the mixer doesn't fit on anyway, two slabs put back.

All the other sand is in smaller bags out the back and so needs moving too, back and forth. I'm wondering where the cement is when I spot another bag in the laundry room
"Do you want that other bag of sand from the laundry room?" I ask
"It's cement" answers my father
"No it's sand"
"Is it?" replies my father in a 'you're wrong' tone
"Well it's got the word sand written across the front in big letters"
"... oh yeah I thought we were one missing"
yeah right.

Ratios sorted we load up the mixer. Without the stand and using the tools here it feels like I'm a giant, all the tools are just the wrong length or height. Anyway I'm checking with the slabber as to consistency 'Too wet, too dry' then we get a right mix
"Ah so we want a homogeneous non-glistening mass" I say and turn to see two glazed expressions
No seriously that's what I thought and said. Looking back I can see the reason for glazing, but I was comparing the previous dry non-clumping particulate, with the latter wet homogeneous very shiny mass. Say what you see, so I did.

Mixing, loading buckets, moving buckets. The odd respite when cutting. My father disappearing off at odd times in the middle of a load to do gods know what. Fun with a new hosepipe connector that got me soaked, standing at the front of the garage with both doors open so it acted like a wind-tunnel, and a low bright sun in the sky right in my sightline. All good fun anyway.

Nearing the finish line "How are we going to do this path" asked my father, "we could have one row of slabs starting from the middle of those and heading up"
"Sure" I said, "If you want it to look shite. Do it properly with two rows extending off the other two rows"

I worked it out in the end 32 slabs, 1 and a half buckets of cement per slab, 3 buckets in a load 15 shovels in, 15 shovels out for a load (ish). 480 shovels all together, most of which was me. I had no feeling left in my fingers, my back is still a tad sore and I've still got a bit of a headache from the sun and chill. My fingers have just finished peeling off a new layer.

Oh and the 'morning' thing - we finished around half two, not counting cleaning up.


Don B said...

I know the feeling. I arrived at the Severn Valley Railway at 7.30am on Saturday, when its a Santa day with trains running every 15 minutes to be told could I go and change a sleeper. Detail a gang to go and find a suitable one - drag it back to Kidderminster station.

Guard - "You are not putting that on my clean train."

Wait for next train, put it in the van with all the push chairs and buggies. Get to Bewdley and negotiate for train to drop off said sleeper at the right location. Wait for all the push chairs and buggies to be unloaded with mums and dads. Move train to selected point and push sleeper off train on to trackside.

Walk back to store to get 2 shovels, 2 pick axes and 2 jacks to lift the track up. Walk back to tell signalman what we are doing. Walk back to site and then wait for next two trains to pass. Dig out old sleeper - time for next two trains. Insert new sleeper and re-pack it before next two trains arrive. Complete the packing. Watch the next two trains go over new sleeper. Report task completed to signal box. Take tools back to store. Then in true British workman style brew up and down mug of tea. Then catch the next train back and climb over all the push chairs and buggies and return to Kidderminster and sign off at about the same as you are finishing

FlipC said...

Heh I don't know if you caught this link from DK.

On a separate note do you know anything about the talk of opening a line from Stourport to Hartlebury? I'm presuming it'd be the old Leapgate line with a station at the end of Millfields Road. Someone said it'd be nice if the SVR was extended from Kiddy to us as well.

Don B said...

Thanks for the link. I will circulate it round my gang.

Wearing another hat now - that of Liaison Officer for the Stoubridge Line User Group, or SLUG, yes I was aware of this ideal. I read recently that WFDC have commissioned a feasability study to reopen the line to Hartlebury but I fear that at £2-5m per mile the business case will show this to be a none starter even using the Parry People Mover that has just been ordered for the Stourbridge Junction to Stourbridge Town line.

The other comment on extending the SVR from Bewdley to Burlish is technically possible but unlikely although extensions at the Bridgnorth end keep resurfacing. But lets get the line open again from Bewdley to Bridgnorth - with luck and a stong tail-wind Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade by February half-term and full line Good Friday.

FlipC said...

Yet again it seems we have delays in Blogger so I'll re-type my comment and hope it appears.

The price is annoying to say the least I'm sure it would be more if the Leapgate foundations weren't already in place.

It would be nice to get the three towns linked via the SVR I'm sure it would be a boost, but of course I realise the priority is getting the existing line running again after the floods.

No doubt we'll get a line just after we get a by-pass.