Well the blocky did come eventually, of course. Matthew Bent, master of the straight line and his guys whipped up the walls of the basement in pretty good time. A bit of vertical height also meant I could see the building taking shape as I rode up the hill on the way home. We pushed things on a bit here and there to try to get the pour (to fill up the blockwork) done on the Saturday. Alex the engineer came round to inspect on the Thursday and admired the straight lines and sharp corners. He measured the window opening and looked at the rebar detail in the lintels approvingly.
“But where,” he asked, “are the steel support members that hold up the steel beams for the cantilevered windows?” “Bugger,” said Tam. “We forgot about those.”
Tam and I took to the north and south walls with hammers and chisels. Down came the blocks. Meanwhile the steelworkers (Steelworx, no less) were asked to push our two TV aerial-shaped structures up the queue. A separate lot of concrete was ordered to pour into the post holes to get them filled before all the mud caved in and, I suspect, to make me feel as if something was happening. Finally the steel was fabricated and fitted into its place in the walls. Today the blockies returned to rebuild the walls around the steel. So now we’re back to where we thought we were over a week ago. Tomorrow the engineer comes back to re-inspect, then the concrete will be pumped in place as soon as we get the thumbs up (notwithstanding any major new discoveries).
The trouble with this phase of the project is that everything’s on the critical path. That is to say, each task has to be completed before the next can begin. We have to finish the lower level block wall before we can prepare for the first floor slab which needs to be in place before we build the next level retaining wall and so on. It won’t be until we’re into the framing that we will be able to push ahead on more than one front at the same time. Then I’ll look for opportunities to throw a bit more resource at it and see if we can make up for some of this lost time. Until then, we just have to breathe through our noses and keep busy with the various peripheral bits that we can do instead of leaving it all up to the builders.
Peripheral they may be, but that doesn’t mean we’re only engaged in light work. Getting the 20 something poles into place gave me a welcome opportunity to stretch out my dodgy elbow (which generally hasn’t wanted to fully extend since I broke it earlier in the year). For this we needed help, so once again we turned to the strongest man we know. Not that Heather’s a man exactly. Oh, and we also had Jonathan and PK to take the light end of things. Jonathan proved that somewhere in that mix of Norwegian and Bahamian blood there’s a dash of Scottish by caber-tossing each of the poles deftly into place. Sid sighted them to check for true and plumb.
This set us up to spend a merry weekend slipping about on the muddy slope lining up the retaining wall poles (mostly holding up lawn; it’s only the block retaining walls that support the house) and digging holes to take yet more posts. Concrete poured, we have moved on to slapping up retaining timber and boxing up for garden paths and the like.
It has also meant Betty and Pearl lugging buckets of tools and concrete “biscuits” about the building site, holding the ends of string lines and levels and being sent out after dark to bring in forgotten tools.
But it hasn’t all been digging and hammering and falling over. We took advantage of an invitation to Mike Yule’s 50th up at Rangataua to head up to Ruapehu for a day’s skiing on Saturday. A beautiful day meant that we all got ridiculously sunburned, but the snow was nice and the view stupendous. It’s hard to say which is the most punishing actually: a day of high speed falling over or a weekend of manual labour. What I do know is that we can look forward to a whole lot more of the one than the other.