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Recycled Beach

1/11/21

Today the weather is bright but cold and nothing goes according to plan. Patrick was hoping to spend some time outside but was called away to various appointments and then his car broke down. This left Aideen and I outside feeling somewhat directionless, as we thought we would be working outside with Patrick but he never returned.

We busied ourselves with odds and ends. Aideen painted a jetty post with bitumen paint and then we started gathering pebbles to finish the beach. Our intention is to cover any visible liner, with smooth, rounded pebbles in the beach area. Although much of our creation will eventually be under water, we want it to look as natural as possible. It consists of a descending path of stepping stones (we don’t want to tread on the pebbles) leading to the slab where the ladder will be fixed to climb down into the deeper water. There are stepping stones leading off to the left and right to give an entry point into the planting shelves for any plant maintenance. The beach is made up entirely of recycled materials, the York stone slab and stepping stones we salvaged some years ago. In between and around the York stone we have introduced what I refer to as our ancient sea pebbles, these have been dug out of our basement hole at a depth of 2.5-3m below ground. These pebbles are then surrounded by much larger rounded cobbles which were donated to us by a visitor, salvaged from a redundant water feature in their own garden. Finally, we finished off with some smaller pebbles that we have collected when we have dug out the large flints at Church Gardens.




Having finished this job, with still no sign of Patrick, Aideen decided we should continue with the stream. Aideen dug turf away at the sides of the existing channel and I barrowed away the turves.

In order to ensure that the stream keeps flowing and the water doesn’t soak away, we are installing a liner and the edges of the stream will have large flints to hold it in place with pebbles/shingle on the stream bed. I started to stack the turf at the end of the forest garden bed where it will rot down into beautiful loam.

When Patrick finally returns, it is clear he is feeling anxious about the cost of the building project. It is very unfortunate that certain aspects are conspiring against us, rather like a stressful story line in ‘Grand Designs’. When we embarked on this project we were not recommended by the engineer to use any propping or additional supports to excavate the basement hole. Had everything gone according to plan the project would have cost considerably less. We have now had to hire multiple props and have a professional groundworks team take over this stage of the building work. The other major issue is the present spiralling cost of building materials. Any quotes that we obtained at the beginning of the job are now increasing rapidly by as much as 35%! We are now digging deep into our savings and I can understand why Patrick is concerned. However, I still believe we are doing the right thing and it’s a bit late to change our minds! Aideen and I talked at length about the situation and it makes us even more determined to work very hard next year to make our new facilities pay their way. We still believe it is a good investment for the future of Church Gardens and us as a family.


 

First Frost


2/11/21

I woke up to frosty grass and I have to de-ice the car, this was a bit of a surprise as the forecast only mentioned the possibility of frost up North. I resolve to spend the day moving sensitive plants to Winter accommodation. It is a beautiful sunny day, as is often the case after a frosty night, and soon I am working in a T shirt, not bad for November!



I clear the shelving in the corner of the polytunnel in preparation for bringing in the succulents and I clear part of the side bed and cut back the climbers to make room for the orange and lemon trees. I then start rounding up the numerous succulents from their various display spots and lodging them on the shelves.

When this is done, I decide to bring in the old bottles. We have dug up hundreds of old bottles over the years, many of which we have cleaned and displayed in our bathroom. Their different shapes and muted colours look lovely against the tiles. However, we continue to dig them up and many more are sitting outside in an apple storage tray. The problem with this is that the bottles will fill up with rain water and freeze in the winter, which could potentially break the bottle. This happened to quite a few last year which is why I am carefully collecting them up and stashing them away in the basement. I also gather up all the rusty metal items and put them under the display tables.

Whilst I am busy putting things and plants under cover, Aideen is digging out the terrace by the pond and ironically, unearthing more bottles and broken glass. She does very well with her digging and the effect of the terrace is brilliant. It is definitely the right thing to do with that side of the pond.

My final job was to move the citrus trees into the tunnel, so I go off to find my special ‘pot moving’ trolly which is supposed to be able to bear 100kg. With Aideen’s help, we slide it under the large terracotta pot that houses one of the orange trees. We push the tree towards the tunnel and by the time we reach the door, all of the wheels have exploded off the trolley! Either the orange tree weighs more than 100kg or my trolley was a waste of £12.99!



Today the basement team are finishing the steel reinforcement and tomorrow they will return very early because the concrete is being pumped into the floor! This is a very important stage to have reached!


 

The Slab is Poured


3/11/21

Today is a very early start. The concrete is due to arrive at 8am but a massive ‘crane like’ pumping lorry arrives long before. The special pumping lorry has a long extending arm which can be directed accurately where it is required. Previously, we have used a normal pumping lorry with a shoot, but this floor slab is so huge it requires a more sophisticated machine.



Luckily, the weather is fine during the lengthy operation and over a period of several hours, concrete lorries empty their contents into the floor of our basement. Four men work in the hole, two directing the pipe as the concrete is pumped out and two mechanically vibrate the concrete in the slab to remove air bubbles. When the concrete sets, the lower props can be removed and the walls can start to go up. This is a momentous day for us and I can feel that our lives are changing as the garden becomes our main focus. I feel we should raise a celebratory glass this evening to the future.



Quite a lot of time was spent standing watching the operation from above but eventually, we tore ourselves away from the mesmerising spectacle of concrete pouring into a hole and I went back to my garden. I was delighted to discover that Patrick and Diane had succeeded in moving both orange trees and both lemon trees into the tunnel last night, two at each end. This does make it a bit cramped, I will have to take care not to knock off any baby oranges and lemons as I squeeze past, but the trees have good light in these positions.



I plan to start planting my Autumn, onions, shallots and garlic today but first, I need to clear a bed so I head off to retrieve the big green barrow. The big green barrow is full of leaves which should really go on a new leaf mould pile, but the bay where that will be situated still has some unused leaf mould inside. I dig out the old leaf mould and put it into a 1 tonne sand bag which I completely fill. One job always leads to another!

I then clear my large raised bed and add two barrows of compost which I dig out of the bay in the compost yard. This bay will have to be emptied to give us space for a new compost heap for next year.

Finally, I plant out my elephant garlic and then it starts to rain! I check a few blogs with Aideen and then it’s time to collect Diane from work. A friend from choir pops in to see if she can use anything from the garden for church floral displays and we send her off with blue chicory flowers. The weather is cold, wet and miserable, it is also dark so soon, it really feels like Winter.


 

Fly Tipping


4/11/21

This morning, Patrick made a very unwelcome discovery on his early morning dog walk. A massive pile of fly tipping has been dumped in the entrance to the public footpath at the bottom of our drive. How can anyone be so disgusting as to drive past the beautiful, historic parish church, to continue past the village’s main graveyard where all local people are buried or have their ashes buried, past the ANZAC war graves and then dump a horrendous pile of rubbish at the end of someone’s drive!!!!! Not to mention, during COP26! When I return from dropping Diane off at work, I take a closer look. It consists of furniture, electrical appliances and children’s bikes, someone has obviously had a good clear out! Even in this short time, I have been approached by numerous concerned dog walkers, everyone is ringing the council and presumably a council truck will then have to come out to pick it all up and take it away. Just think of all the energy and expense wasted dealing with other people’s criminal selfishness! Very often, with smaller episodes of fly tipping, we take it to the dump ourselves, but how is this fair? It is not as if we don’t have enough to do! I remove a dented plastic basket and a plastic bowl from the rubbish and take them home. At least they can be recycled for storing dahlia tubers and pond plants over Winter.

When I get home I decide to undertake the delicate operation of extricating Colin the Cactus form the polytunnel and move him inside. First, I have to cut him free from entwining tendrils of thunbergia, then carefully carry him to the house. This is not easy, Colin is very heavy and tall, he now reaches my chin. Luckily, we make the journey safely without injuring Colin or myself and I place him in the corner of the lobby.



After getting grandad up, I go outside to see what is happening with the basement. The floor slab has now set, although, concrete takes a lot longer than 24 hours to cure completely. The basement team are now removing the lower props and tidying up, prior to setting out the blocks for the walls. The floor slab, which is 30cm thick, will now support the lower part of the trench sheets.



I then go into the kitchen garden to continue planting out garlic, although, I’m not there for long before I am called away on a mission with Meave to find an outfit for a wedding. The garlic will have to wait!


 

Bulb Sorting


5/11/21

The cold weather continues and we had a heavy frost last night. I am relieved the orange and lemon trees are in the tunnel along with the succulents. Looking around, I can see the foliage on the dahlias, nasturtiums and heliotropes has been zapped by the low temperatures and I will need to add ‘removing soggy dead foliage’ and ‘digging up dahlia and canna tubers’ to my list of jobs. Speaking of jobs, yesterday, 12 large boxes of bulbs arrived from Parkers and they are presently stacked in the lobby awaiting my attention. When I look at the bed where I had started to plant garlic, I can see the soil is frozen and will not thaw sufficiently to continue planting until later in the day, so I decide to start sorting through the bulbs.

When the bulbs arrive, the boxes are completely anonymous. It is necessary to check each box, partly to check the order is correct and then to gather species and varieties together and label the boxes. This makes the massive forthcoming task of planting much easier because I know where to find the bulbs that I have earmarked for certain places. I know that many of the boxes will contain mixed bags of daffodil and narcissi because I have ordered 5000 of these bulbs. Soon I have labelled eight boxes that contain these bulbs which will be heading for different areas of the orchard. I often order multiple collections of different varieties, so it is necessary to gather the bags of varieties together into a carrier bag and label them. I then number the boxes and write the contents on the side and make a separate list of the contents of each box. These include 1350 small tulips for container planting, 300 purple/white Flag tulips for the organ pipe bed, 1200 mixed Triumph tulips for the four display beds near the fountain, 200 white tulips and 75 white daffodils for the new courtyard drainage pipe bed, 300 Grape Hyacinth for the fruit cage borders, 1000 Anenome Blanda for the orchard, 150 Alliums for the mount, 3250 Iris to run alongside the stream, 100 special tulips for the four small display beds. Finally, I ordered 200 Scilia Siberica, 150 Ipheion and 100 Leucojum because I’ve not planted them before! This does not include 500 crocus for the miniature orchard and 1350 English bluebells for the orchard that came from Farmer Gracey, or the 1200 tulips from last year’s display beds that will be replanted in the side borders. This is a lot of bulbs, about 15,210 and it will certainly keep me busy planting them out! Whilst I am on my mammoth cataloguing task, Diane and Aideen help the basement team to move the blocks to build the basement walls. They then help their dad with the jetty. This job is made a little more exciting when Pip caught a mouse and lost it in the pond, so Diane had to catch it with a fishing net. I finish the day by planting out all of the garlic and some Golden Gourmet Shallots


 

Autumn Onions


6/11/21

Today, I went for my flu jab and after getting grandad up and fed, I intend to plant the Autumn onion sets. The basement team put in a half day on a Saturday and they continued to painstakingly lay out the first line of blocks. This is a slow job as the reinforcing steel rods need to come up inside the central cavity in the blocks and everything has to be straight and level. These builders usually make shuttered concrete walls which are much more straightforward. We are using blocks because we have used them before and the original intention had been for us to build the walls ourselves. Luckily, Patrick is on hand with his tape measure to keep them on track. Laying the first course is slow but hopefully successive courses will be faster. Today, Diane is helping her dad with the jetty and as with everything else, this is not simple. Alongside cementing in steel girders that will provide the fixing point for retaining sleepers, they are digging trenches to lay a drainage pipe to take rain overflow from the workshop to the pond. We are hoping that this will help to keep the pond topped up during the Summer. The flexible water pipe that will attach to the pump also runs under the jetty, so this also needs to be put into position. The pump will sit on the foundation slab of the jetty which will give it a protected, level position. The pump circulates the water from the large pond up to the top of the stream where it will cascade down into the small pool at the top of the stream and then create a flowing, 60m long, stream back down into the pond. Finally, an armoured cable needs to be run from Mayflower to the jetty to power the pump and jetty lights.


Before planting the onions, my badger radar is alerted and I discover another gap under the fence which I attend to first. My job with the onions is simple by comparison, but time consuming. First, I need to weed the large bed and add compost to the surface. This is hard work but I love adding this nutritious, humus rich material to the soil. I feel as if I’m inoculating it with all sorts of helpful soil bacteria and symbiotic fungi. To quote Michael Phillips in ‘Mycorrhizal Planet’; “Spreading compost should really be seen as spreading life across the land”. I know I am also adding dormant weed seeds, but I will deal with those later, they will be the compost of the future! I rescue a few self-seeded perennials (a verbena bonariensis and a few Lambs Ears) which I pot-up for future use. Finally, it is time to start planting. These little onion sets are basically bulbs and there are hundreds of them, perhaps I should add them to my bulb planting tally! I plant Senshyu Yellow, Shakespeare, Radar, Red Cross and Red Winter.

When I come in, I receive a call to book in a booster Covid jab for Grandad and I which is brilliant. Hopefully my arm will still be up to bulb planting after receiving two jabs in one weekend!


 

A Sad Day


7/11/21

Whilst we were in church this morning, we received a message telling us that Patrick’s Aunt had passed away in Ireland. She had only recently become ill. We knew the prognosis wasn’t good, but it was still very sad news to receive. Funerals come very quickly in Ireland and the day was spent discussing whether we could both leave Church Gardens to attend the prayers at her home on Tuesday and the funeral on Wednesday. Obviously, Patrick would be going, but could I leave my various responsibilities and accompany him? It was a difficult decision because it is not easy for me to leave my dad. I have not left him to be cared for overnight by anyone else since he became ill two years ago. Even before this, the family haven’t been away on holiday since 2016. Eventually, I arrange with my sister for her to come over in the mornings and evenings to carry out his personal care and the girls will look after everything else. Luckily, the garden is straight forward at this time of year, just opening and shutting the polytunnel and barricading against badgers! Normal gardening duties such as planting thousands of bulbs will have to wait until I return. I reorganise my teaching to allow for exam pupils to have lessons before I go and try not to worry about potential delays preventing me from not getting home on Thursday in time for our final rehearsal for our Remembrance concert on Saturday.

Although I want to go with Patrick to support him and I was very fond of his Aunt, I am quite anxious about the impending journey, especially as we will be flying rather than catching the ferry. The ferry would be our normal way of going to Ireland but it would take too long on this occasion.

On returning from church, grandad and I receive our booster vaccination, probably a good thing under the circumstances. I then go outside to plant bluebell bulbs to distract myself from fretting about leaving home. Neither of us is that happy about leaving the girls to cope with the basement team either, but hopefully there is nothing too complicated about their work for the moment and the girls can always phone us.

Patrick makes good progress with his jetty and between us we lift it into position. For tonight’s dinner, I use two smaller butternuts squash and lots of basil before it fades for the Winter.


 

Leaving Preparations


8/11/21

Last night at 2am, grandad buzzed his buzzer to ask if I was going to the funeral. I was impressed that he had remembered but it was a shame he had woken me up to ask me.


I spend all day trying to organise things for our trip, I cannot believe the level of online paperwork required to be allowed to travel anywhere. This process is not helped by me not possessing a phone. However, I do not think it is OK to have a society where if you choose not to have a phone or computer that you should be excluded from travel, making doctors appointments or banking. I am very lucky that I have computer literate daughters to help me, but it was still a lengthy struggle for them to wade through the stuff online. It was confusing and some things like facial recognition just didn’t work. Patrick and his sister both use phones and computers but they could not sort out what was required without the girls’ assistance either. Personally, I think things are far too complicated and it makes me even less enthusiastic (if that is possible) about phones and computers. I will simply just have to stay at home in my garden where it is not necessary to download an app before you dig up potatoes! it was a very busy day, apart from running around collecting prescriptions, buying euros, delivering letters and draft concert programmes, I also wrote what felt like an essay of instructions on what needs to happen with Grandad morning and night to help my sister with his routine. Before I knew it, it was time to start teaching. I had added my exam pupils to my normal Monday pupils which had extended my timetable from 4:30-9pm. When my teaching was finished, I had to pack and help Patrick to find something suitable to wear to a funeral. I put grandad to bed and prayed he wouldn’t buzz tonight and that he would be ok for a couple of nights with his new care team.


 

Ireland


9/11/21

I was up very early this morning worried that I might oversleep as we had to leave at 6:30am. I am so anxious that we might have overlooked some vital document and I have a large envelope containing boarding passes, passenger location forms, Covid vaccination certificates, car parking 'meet and greet' info and car hire details, not to mention passports. Neither Patrick or I are fans of airports, I’ve always admired planes in the same way as I love boats, but I have only rarely flown. I flew a couple of times in my early twenties and then didn’t go on a plane for about 25 years until I start to go on the Venice tours with our music school. My misgivings about airports were not dispelled by todays experience. First, we had great fun and games trying to locate the car parking ‘meet and greet’ people. The worst bit was the luggage/security checking section, my Converse trainers (decorated with metal studs) set off the alarm and I was told they were not the ideal footwear for airport travel! Then, whilst I was trying to put my trainers back on, I looked up to discover Patrick and Mary had vanished! I walked up and down and they were nowhere to be seen, had they gone up the escalator to the next stage without me? This did seem strange as they know I do not have a clue as to what I’m doing.

I walked back again, feeling quite alarmed, not helped by having to wear a face mask. Finally, I spot them back in the baggage security area which they had previously left. Both of them were having to have liquids checked and bags searched. Finally, we were cleared and able to depart. On reaching our departure gate Patrick seemed completely mystified by the number of people on the flight….did he expect it to just be ourselves? He kept saying, why are all these people going to Knock on a Tuesday morning? Knock airport is my sort of airport, the runway seemed to appear out of nowhere, surrounded by bog. There was just one terminal building in the middle of open country and hills, simple enough even for me. We picked up our automatic hybrid Hyandi and headed off for Strokestown. We touched base with Patrick’s brother, Dennis, and said hello to his latest dog, an adorable collie called Sheila, a multitude of cats and his rescued horse called Tonto! We checked into the B&B, organised wreathes, picked up Dennis, grabbed lunch and then headed for Patrick’s Aunts house in Ballyhaunas. Everyone in the town came to her house to pay their respects to the family and his Aunt who was laid out in an open coffin in the front room.

It is like being in another world coming to Ireland, beautiful but strange. Everywhere is so empty, almost no traffic on the roads and still numerous, empty ruined old houses and cottages which would be snapped up quickly in the UK. Despite this, when we go to bed that night, the sound of passing traffic on the road outside the window is incredibly loud and I know I will find it hard to sleep. Despite England being far more populous than Ireland, we are incredibly fortunate to live somewhere that is sublimely peaceful where we cannot hear any traffic.


 

The Funeral


10/11/21

Today we are up early. Patrick is used to getting up after only 5 hours sleep, therefore, having gone to bed comparatively early (11:30pm) he then woke up at 4:30am. I have had my normal menopausal night time disturbances accompanied by passing juggerhauts so we are both wide awake by 6am. After a splendid breakfast, we collected the wreaths and mass cards and headed off for the funeral. Patrick’s Aunt lives opposite the church so at the appointed time, we lined up outside the front door which opens straight out onto the pavement and the coffin is bourne by her son, grandson and nephews across the road to the church. The funeral was beautiful, everything she could have wished for and we then processed behind the hearse down the high street to the graveyard. This was quite a long way but Patrick, despite his bad foot, was keen to follow his Aunt on foot. I’m sure she would have been very appreciative of his efforts. We then walked back to have lunch at his Aunts favourite bar/restaurant which was a few doors down from her house.

We are both very glad that we managed to come for the funeral and I am so glad that I was persuaded (despite the complications) to join Patrick. I had really felt that it would be too difficult for me to go but Diane nagged me to reconsider and she was right, thank you Diane. I have already said it, but it really does feel like you have stepped into an alternative universe when you come to this part of Ireland. Home feels like a million miles away, and it still feels like a different century here. The landscape, style of buildings and the culture is so different. The whole way people behave towards each other is quite alien to me, or at least, I must appear very alien to them. It has always been this way since I first travelled to Ireland before we were married about 34 years ago. Everyone always treats me very kindly and politely but it is clear that I am unfamiliar with their social customs! I think I’m probably too open and direct!

By the end of the day the sky has become overcast and it is drizzling, much more typical Irish weather. I am thankful that the weather had been so beautiful for the last two days to make Kathleen’s last journey bright and sunlit.


 

Home Again


11/11/21

Another early start after a very late night. Last night we met up for drinks with Patrick’s best friend Pauric and Patrick's brother Dennis. We completely lost track of time and when I glanced at my watch it was 1:30am! We didn’t get to bed until about 2:30am and we had to be up early to eat another wonderful breakfast and catch a plane home.

We head off into the misty rain at 9am and this time I know to remove my trainers and the security lady this time said she loved my shoes! A bit different from the reaction I received at Luton airport! Despite the mist, we return to England on time which is good as I have the final rehearsal for the Remembrance Concert at 6pm.

Whilst we have been away, work has continued apace in the basement. Aideen has been acting as site manager in our absence which has been quite challenging because Patrick's phone could not receive or send emails or texts while we were away, so communication was limited. However, she has managed brilliantly co-ordinating ordering materials, accepting deliveries and trying to direct technical queries from Frank to Patrick. The floor slab drain chamber for the outside steps is now in place and six courses of block work are erected and we are on track to pour concrete into the blocks on Saturday morning. The walls are constructed of stepoc blocks which are incredibly strong but hollow. The steel reinforcing rods go up inside them and then concrete is poured into the middle to create a solid reinforced wall.



There have been a few issues whilst we were away, a delivery of steel was delayed until Thursday and inevitably the lorry driver refused to bring his lorry down to us (this has happened before with this company). This time he unloaded the steel at the top of the church drive beside the main road! This is about 1/4mile from the house, so it has to be collected with the dumper truck ( thank God for dumper trucks). Another issue is power cuts. Patrick had organised a temporary supply to the workshop because the proper connection had to be cut when we dug the basement. Unfortunately, since then, the power supply to the main house is tripped on a fairly regular basis. Just another little thing to keep us on our toes!

When we arrive home I still have things to prepare for that night’s rehearsal and soon it is time to head off for church. Despite the omnipresence of Covid-19 still affecting normal life, (several singers from the adult and youth choirs have tested positive and have had to withdraw) we have a very successful rehearsal. I am always so impressed with the acoustic of the church and the choirs sound beautiful. We finish with a band rehearsal starting work on music for Christmas, incredibly that time will soon be upon us. Tired but satisfied, I lock up the church and head home for dinner and some much needed rest.


 

Death of an Orange


12/11/21

This morning I am looking forward to being in the garden but the weather is wet and miserable. I think I might be in the polytunnel sowing broad beans, peas and sweet peas for the day. As I make my way down the tunnel path watering seedlings I notice what looks like a green tomato on the floor. On closer inspection, I realise to my horror that it is THE orange! One of my orange trees had produced two reasonably good sized oranges having lost lots of tiny fruit earlier in the year. I have been trying to avoid knocking or bumping into this orange for months and now I find it on the floor! I am very upset, maybe it fell off naturally or did someone knock it off…we’ll never know! Fortunately, the other tree has quite a few oranges but they are rather small, I think it is unlikely that I will produce a full size, ripened specimen this year. The lemon trees seem to be doing better, so maybe I will produce a lemon.



The weather improves so I go off into the orchard to plant bluebells. The trip to Ireland, despite the circumstances, was lovely but I am still delighted to be back home. I spend ages telling the girls about Ireland and catching up on their news. In the afternoon, we are joined by a dear friend from the choir who has come to look at Aideen’s pressed flower pictures for potential Christmas gifts and then we spent a most enjoyable afternoon all chatting. It is a shame that we don’t get to do this more often but sadly our friends often think we are too busy to stop and chat.

Lets hope when the new building is up and in operation we will be able to spend more time seeing people whilst serving them tea and cake!


 

Remembrance Concert


13/11/21

Today is the day of the Remembrance Concert but first we have some concrete to pour. The basement building team have built the walls up to a height of six courses. They have built a temporary platform around the building at wall height level and first thing this morning we are visited by the big ‘crane-like’ pumping lorry and the concrete lorry. This is to pump the concrete into the cavity in the centre of the blocks. I had wondered how we would have managed this job with a conventional concrete pumping lorry but the extending arm/tube arrangement makes the job much easier, although you still have to take care to direct the tube to avoid spillage and too much splashing.



By late morning the job is done and Patrick decides to risk taking out the tractor (with it’s dodgy wheel) to collect leaves. I had hoped to get outside at some point in the morning but it wasn’t to be and soon it was time for the rehearsal.

Everything went well in the rehearsal and my plan for the concert was to ask people to read stories involving personal war time memories from their own family members. Hearing them for the first time in the rehearsal was incredibly moving and some tears were shed.

The concert went very well, lovely singing, lovely harp, wonderful readings and a beautiful Last Post from Diane. We all left the church in a reflective but happy mood set up for Remembrance Sunday tomorrow.




 

Remembrance Sunday


14/11/21

Remembrance in Harefield is quite a major thing. There has already been an act of Remembrance by the village war memorial on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we had our remembrance concert yesterday and today, we have an act of remembrance in the ANZAC cemetery at 11am as part of the morning service and then we have a procession through the village to the war memorial for a service of Remembrance 3pm which involves the leaders of all the village churches, uniformed youth groups, the mayor and various local important people. This service is attend by several hundred local people standing on the green.

When we are at home in-between the two services, I help Patrick with his tractor. The tractor has yet to receive it’s proper repair and Patrick had made a temporary repair with a screw bolt between the wheel and the axil. Unfortunately, the bolt sheared off and the wheel had fallen off again! After Patrick had fixed it back on and we had grabbed a quick lunch I expressed a desire to get into the basement hole. This is quite a precarious manoeuvre, involving stepping across a deep ravine between the edge of the hole and block work wall, squeezing between some steel reinforcing bars (not easy for me with my ample proportions!) and then climbing down some very steep makeshift steps made of pallets. I was assisted on this descent by Aideen and then, even more amazingly, Patrick joined us. It was very exciting to be in the basement hole which now really feels like a basement and we were able to discuss how things will be arranged, do some measurements and check levels. Our basement building team are doing a good job but as they are with us Monday-Saturday, it is hard for us to have an opportunity to access the site ourselves in daylight hours.

After the afternoon service, we come back outside to find Patrick struggling with the tractor, the wheel has fallen off again! We help him again and gather up some leaves by hand, the new leaf mould pile is already looking high and full.

When we come in, Aideen decides to create a schedule of work for the building up to our next proposed opening day which is Mother’s Day. This is a daunting exercise, there is so much to do, organise and pay for! Also, the task of backfilling and then trying to restore the surrounding area of the building and where the soil has been temporarily dumped is a massive undertaking. It is particularly daunting if not overwhelming when you consider we are all working and also our building team consists of Patrick (who knows what he is doing but is disabled), myself (who does not know what she is doing and needs to keep the garden going), Aideen (who has to practise the harp so cannot use her hands for building jobs some time prior to playing), Diane (who is very useful and energetic but only available Friday-Sunday), Meave (occasionally because she works very long hours) and James and Billy (if we are very lucky).

After a long discussion with our resident architect, Patrick, the conclusion was that the building was unlikely to be ready in time. However, we decided, philosophically, that we will just continue slogging away and make the best of what we have when we reach Mother’s Day!


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