As I mentioned in last week’s blog, this week has seen some significant progress with the garage and we are definitely now committed to at least the shape!
You may recall that I chose to dig all of the foundations manually (we had the time and it seemed like the sensible option at that point) and so when our artisan visited late last week to add the levelling pins it was as depressing as it was surprising to find out that the ground sloped rather more than we had anticipated and just how deceptive it could be over the 15 metre total length of the building.
Despite me digging a 50 cm deep trench at the higher end it turned out that this only got the base of that foundation to the same level as the top of where we needed the concrete to get on the lower end. After a little recalculation and consideration of our options we decided to add a step into the foundation and that I would need to dig another 20 cms or so out of 4 of the trenches, so that is what I did all day on Monday.
As if I didn’t enjoy digging enough, we have always had the idea to increase the size of my ‘man cave’ (you know how it is that you never have enough storage for ‘stuff’ and I keep (hoard as David would say) a lot of stuff) and, knowing that we were going to have a delivery of concrete in the week I took Tuesday to clear in front of the current shed. Up to now we had used the space to store a number of things that wouldn’t fit inside but I was always conscious that it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing of places, even when the brambles and grass had naturalised the space and covered most of the flower pots and compost bags we had there. However, when it was cleared it looked a lot better and would be the perfect place for any surplus concrete to be laid.
Our first major delivery of the week was the breeze blocks and reinforcing cages which were delivered on a massive articulated lorry that amazing managed to drive all the way along Hent Gorreker before the driver used his on-truck forklift to drop the things in our drive. This led to a day’s work to put the cages into, the now deeper, trenches in preparation for the concrete.
‘Concrete Day’ was the most tense of the week by far. Our builder had used the concrete supplier recently on another, more easily accessible, job and had hoped that we may get the same driver as access to Kergudon isn’t easy with large lorries. We didn’t.
Despite having 3 separate options to leave the main road none of them were ideal as either the trees all had branches which were considered too low or the track was just too narrow or it was considered too difficult to manoeuvre and turn.
Having looked at, and practically dismissed, all 3 options we managed to persuade the driver to try and manoeuvre around the trickiest corner as it had the fewest branches to affect. On his 3rd attempt he was within 30 seconds of completing the manoeuvre to get to us (I hadn’t really considered and wasn’t so worried about how he would have got out having delivered the concrete) our neighbour arrived and asked him to try another of the routes as she said it would be easier for him, they having had a large lorry deliver lots of bricks 3 years earlier.
The driver moved and parked his lorry at the end of the other access and walked the route again to reassess the challenge. Evidently, in the 3 years since the last large lorry, the branches had, not surprisingly, got lower and thinker and the driver was adamant he couldn’t get through and wasn’t prepared to try.
As we were getting near the end of his ‘waiting’ window and, as he had reminded us he had other customers to deliver to that day, he had to call his boss to see what options he had and if he could stay longer, come back or just leave. I was very nervous that he would just drive off not having delivered the concrete (which we would still be liable to pay for) and the whole day would have been an expensive waste. Much discussion took place between our neighbour and the driver (some of it friendly and some of which I managed to follow) the upshot of which was that our neighbour suggested that it would be quicker for us to chop the branches down as he revered along the track than it would to wait for his boss to make a decision.
So that is what happened. Our neighbour grabbed my chainsaw and climbed up on the back of the cement mixer cutting branches down on the left hand side while I used a ladder and loppers to hack back the right hand side as the lorry drove slowly down the lane. Thankfully there was no more than 100 metres between the road and our gate and it didn’t take very long to clear a path for the mixer to get to our gate. Stage 1 complete with huge thanks to our neighbour.
When on our drive it took some further persuasion to get the driver to allow us to use the extendable arm to fill the trenches (despite us having ordered it with the concrete and accepted that we would pay a little more to do so) as the driver expected us to barrow the 6 cubic metres of concrete to the trenches, I think because it meant he wouldn’t have to clean the arm.
Once it was agreed that we could use the arm, there were only a couple of incidents when the concrete was released at the wrong point as, despite the driver having a remote operating box to control the arm, he insisted on sitting in his cab throughout where he couldn’t see the work possibly because now we had encroached beyond noon which to the French is sacrosanct lunch time!
While my description may sound like the driver was particularly unhelpful it wasn’t all bad and we managed to get the concrete laid, even filling half of the new man shed pad with the excess (apparently you pay for it anyway if you don’t use it) which will make the space more useable now and more so when I fill the remainder.
Most importantly, despite a damp start, the weather dried up when the concrete was laid and remained ideal for drying in the first 48 hours so it will have gone off sufficiently for when our builder returns tomorrow morning to start laying the blockwork. Exciting stuff.
This weekend we have been more leisurely but did decide to take the dogs for a walk somewhere new and drove to the next village, Saint Rivoal. We found another fabulous circular route, not too long as Brandon is still quite young, that followed part of the Grand Randonee route and a meandering stream. The autumn colours are really starting to look fabulous and as it was a lovely clear, crisp, day, it reminded us what a fabulous part of the world it is to relax and walk, especially if you have dogs, because of that we have put a couple of packages together if you would like to come and enjoy Finistère in all its autumnal glory.
Today has been equally calm and we have sat in front of the fire all day planning ahead for the next 2, 6 and 12 months. Without too much thought our ‘to do’ list we have generated has 103 separate tasks to complete – thankfully some should be no more than a few hours others though, such as completing the garage, may take a little longer. More of that in the week!