Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Paving: I'm no expert, should have used one.

Because it was a long weekend I intended to have a well deserved, long lie-in followed by a leisurely listing of the relaxing, cool activities in which I'd indulge myself for the next three days.

I had little movies playing, as they so often do in my head, where I the Star, would be attending some sexy food market somewhere, purchasing the makings of a rather elegant (but casual) dinner. Another movie had me entertaining good friends with wine, and a braai (that's a 'barbecue' to those who are unfortunate enough not to be southern African).

Well what actually happened was this: I gave up trying to sleep at about 6.30am (thirst, backache, headaches, heartburn - all the usual stuff) and blurted out to the lovely Anna (my supervisor-cum-girlfriend) that I would like to build a patio for the braai.

Please read this story carefully because it will reveal an important moral.

Yes, we'd been humming and hawing about this project and I considered myself equal to the task. Just dig out a hole, make it level, toss in some sand and lay the paving stones on top. Doddle. I'd be done and dusted by lunchtime.

So after a "discussion" revolving around the layout of tiles, the repositioning of the composter, my alleged lack of spatial awareness, the fact that Anna is always right, the fact that she isn't etc. we headed off to Homebase, our chosen source of blue slate paving stones. After looking at all the things we don't need, we went out to where the paving stones were and proceeded to discuss (rather too bloody thoroughly) the merits of each individual stone and to pile them onto the trolley. Ow! They pinched my delicate, baby-smooth office-worker's fingers.

We loaded the car and headed home with our precious cargo of stones. I then proceeded to move the quarter of a tonne of paving stones through the house into the garden, noting how with each load my body ached a little more. Once the car was unloaded we headed off to B&Q to buy building sand. 6 bags, 25 Kg each. And then home again. for another 6 trips to and from the car...

I was feeling the burn.

Using pegs and string, just like real builders, we laid out the outline of the patio and I started to dig. We don't have a pick so I had to make use of a fork and a small spade or "spadette". I never expected there to be so much "spoil" (Get me, with the technical jargon!!!) which I had to lug across the garden in a rubble bucket. I was busting a big old sweat and my back was in agony. Four years later, I'd dug the hole, leveled it and had stood, swaying, sweating and wheezing gazing at the very disappointingly small, shallow indentation I'd created.

Ah well, onwards and upwards! All I had to do now was toss in the sand and lay the paving stones. It was very satisfying to slit open the bellies of the sand bags, spilling their contents into the hole. By bag number six it was obvious that I needed more sand. And we'd decided to just use all 300 x 300mm stones meaning I had to replace the three 600 x 600 stones with 12 new 300 x 300mm ones. Back to Homebase.

Once again I pinched my delicate designer's fingers and felt my back crunch alarmingly as I loaded another four bags of sand and 12 paving stones onto the trolley...

Once back home I repeated the car unloading pantomime lugging the dripping wet bags of sand through the house. And the paving stones...

Again I slit the bellies of the bags. Again I realised I needed more sand...

Day Two: Aluta continua...

Barely able to stand we made our way back to Homebase to buy more sand. And a rubber mallet. Again I lugged the sand through the house. Again I nearly passed out with exhaustion. "This is supposed to be simple!" I thought to myself and to make myself feel better I blamed Anna for all the woes in the world. She said, "Yes dear." and carried on supervising the trailing lobelia and geraniums.

And so it came to pass that I began to lay the paving stones. The first one took 20 minutes. I could NOT get it to sit level and at the correct height. I was almost tweezering in individual grains of sand in an attempt to get the bloody stone to sit properly, at the right height and to not rock. Stone number two was a bit easier. It took just 10 minutes. Now please bear in mind that I have what orthopedic surgeons call sore knees. I hate kneeling. I hate even more, standing up after kneeling as this hurts my knees and my (what spinal surgeons call) achy back. Added to this I have either a beer belly or a "food baby", I'm not sure which, weighing me down. I am not built for crawling on the ground. So I moaned, groaned and cursed and swore and blamed the ever patient Anna.

After paving stone number eight was laid it became apparent that there was an issue with the levels. Yes, they were all laid in a beautifully straight line, but paving stone number 8 was aiming skywards; the Ying was correct, the Yang not so. Buggeration. I tried to re-lay stone number 8, but this then showed up the problems with stone number seven. Stone six was influencing the angle of stone seven but was also being led astray by stone five. Stone four was... Sod it! I started all over again.

To cut a long and extremely tedious story short, I eventually did finish laying my patio. It has a few moments where it comes close to being level. If I squint my eyes It almost does look level. Almost. The tiles are all pretty close to the same height as each other and only some of the rock a little. I have assured Anna that "they will settle". Now all I need to do is assure myself of the same thing.

So here I am. Mr Braai Patio. Am I proud of it? Perhaps a little - I mean it is all my own work. Am I pleased that I did it? Perhaps a little - but it is not perfect and that irritates me (although not as much as doing it again would). I have to live with it. With second best. Anna stands on individual paving stones rocking... inspecting...considering. She reminds me a of a female weaver bird inspecting the nest her mate has just built...does she like it or will she rip it to bits??? So far so good, but I think she's being kind...

But the real lesson is this: An expert paver will have created a much better patio. It would be level. The tiles wouldn't rock. He would have had enough sand and the correct tools. He would not have broken a sweat digging the hole. He would have built the whole damn thing in a morning. It took me two long days and I'm now crippled. My back's killing me and every muscle in my body aches. My knees have handed in their notice. By contrast, my patio looks amateurish. It is amateurish and I thank God I don't have to use it to attract customers to my business, because it would reflect badly on me.

So, for the few small businessmen that read this blog, next time you want to create a brochure or build your own website, think of using an expert. Think of using an expert like me - and if it just so happens you want a brochure or a website for your paving company, I have some paving that needs sorting out. We can can do a little quid pro quo...

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

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