When I got up this morning, I had no idea that there would be a semblance of a patio in the garden by this evening, and yet, here I sit picking bits of sand out of my hair and with a big journal to write, and the slabs laid out roughly in place. So here goes.
Realising that I had foolishly made a deadline for myself, and even more foolishly made that deadline public, and with less than a week to go, I found myself searching high and low for the builder friend who had promised me some sand. I could not find him, and decided to try another builder’s merchant.
Frustratingly, it is not possible to buy half tonne loads of sand. You have to get a one tonne bag or lots of little ones. I had the choice of getting a tonne and ending up with lots of spare sand, or paying more to get half a tonne in little bags which may not be quite enough. Knowing how the foundations seem to be bottomless, I plumped for the tonne.
Amazingly I was able to persuade the merchants to put my delivery on one of their lorries for today. It may have been the sob story I told them, or possibly the very low cut top I was wearing (it was very hot and humid), that swung it.
The sand duly came, and I shovelled over half of it in to the hole, stomped on it and rolled about in it and generally distributed it in to every nook and cranny of my being that one could conceive of. Some of it even stayed in the footings, but no matter how I tried, I could not make it in to a lovely level flat plane. In the end I resorted to an old floorboard that was lying about, and I smoothed it around like a bulldozer blade in ever decreasing circles. That sort of did the trick, but it now showed up where my circumference levels had sunk down too low. It was particularly bad over the step end of the patio. The only thing to do was to dig down to the bottom of the wooden pilings, and underpin them with bits of tile, brick rubble and pottery. Amazingly, that seemed to do the trick. Mental note – in future if I ever am foolish enough to do this again, make a concrete footing for such structures.
Now I am left with the biggest ever cat loo on Earth. Seriously, the local moggies will be drawn here like moths to a light. Time to lay out the slabs and see if the platform still fits. To make things harder for myself, I decided right from the start that it would be nice if the main cracks between the slabs were aligned to the main points of the compass. So not only did I have to find the centre of the circle to lay the centre stone first, but I also had to mark out the compass points from the centre outwards.
Basic geometry skills and a bit of string meant I could mark out arcs for the centre stone to fit in to. Arcs again found the centre of the stone itself, and the place to put my compass. String and scratching in to the sand marked out the rest.
The slabs fit in beautifully, though the patio surface is not yet even. It is a bit warped, like an over fried popadum, but then I know I have to lift the stones again and pad out the uneven areas. At least I won’t have to poop scoop too much when I do it.
Here is an animated picture journal of the day’s work – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jibbled/2632585296/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Here is an animated sequence of just the slabs being laid – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jibbled/2631465979/sizes/o/
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