When It rains, it pours… Murphy’s law… If I wasn’t laughing, I’d be crying… My cup – half full or half empty?… Life always throws us a curve now and again… Shit happens… Life’s a bitch, and then you die…
Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks.
My friends Jim, Betty and their daughter Jamie from Arizona spent two days with me. We had a wonderful time….a few drinks….some great craic……a wonderful meal at the Pepper Mill restaurant in Nenagh. The day before they left, I was telling them about the diggerman coming the next day. I was sooooo excited…finally some landscaping.
I joked with them and wondered if the diggerman was actually going to show up. Over the years, I’ve had a fair number of tradesmen not arrive as planned… only to respond with excuses “Ah, I meant I’d be there Thursday after next,” (true story!) and “Well, with the bank holiday weekend,” and “The part I needed didn’t arrive.” All of these alibis came in AFTER they were MIA.
Anyway, this summer I set a goal to complete ONE project before returning home… just one… not two… not three. Just one, a big one, but still just one.
After my encouraging chat with Michael the diggerman, the earth-moving in the yard was going to be that project… I hoped. Michael seemed reliable, but memories of tradesmen gone by kept popping in my head.
Friday morning, with fond memories of Jim, Betty and Jamie’s visit still in my head, I was sipping my cuppa when I heard a truck rumbling outside. The diggerman was here! Hallelujah!
I set down my tea, and there at the end of my driveway was Michael the diggerman and his brother dumpertruckman Pat. They needed me to move my car. I walked up to the car, and my heart sunk when I saw a flat tire. Dear Lord, why at this very moment?
Do you have any idea how hard it is to fix a flat when you have two guys sitting high above you in earth-moving equipment looking down at you? Where’s AAA when you need them?
I pulled out the jack and hoisted up the car, and that was the moment I remembered that it’s nearly impossible to loosen the lug nuts when the wheels are off the ground. So back down the car went with Michael and Pat looking on as if they were watching Fair City on the tellie (and yes, I have found that the soap opera Fair City is a secret pleasure of many Irish men).
I looked up at the more-interested-in-what-I-was-doing-than-I-would-like-them-to-be guys and made that face we all make when we do something foolish. You know the one… the one that makes you look even dumber. Fifteen minutes later, the little donut tire was on, and I was moving the car to make way for the monster trucks.
My tradesmen Dan arrived just after the diggerman and dumpertruckman were overtaking the yard. Dan was putting up the fascia and soffit on the new extension today. A moment later, my American friend Tony landed to help me get rid of the two twin beds in the back bedroom. The day was already overbooked.
Monsters Under the Bed
Dan was off to the addition, and Tony and I were on task to remove the beds. I had already stripped the beds the night before, so hauling out the frames and mattresses was going to be a five-minute job… or so I thought.
As I went to pull the first bed away from the wall, it did not seem to be rolling very well. It seemed a bit stuck in position. Strange. I moved to the end of the bed and gave it a big jerk to get it to budge, I heard a slight creak… or crack… or groan… some unnatural noise that clearly did not sound right.
When the bed was finally away from the wall, it was revealed that the front legs had sunk into the floor about three inches. “What the %$@#$?” This was not good. I called for Dan, the best tradesmen in Tipperary.
He surveyed the situation and pulled up the carpeting where the bed had sunk. “Oh… It doesn’t look good,” Dan said looking up from the holes in the floor. I stepped in for a closer look… a little too close to the holes. SNAP! Down went my foot, swallowed up by the floor. My initial reaction was to quickly yank myself free, but somehow the hole had tightened around my ankle.
As I pulled up, the edge of the floorboards dug into my leg. I dropped my foot back into the hole and grabbed the doorframe with one hand and the wall with the other. Suddenly, my mind was filled with visions of blood-thirsty demons living under the floorboards… and my foot was the first bit of “meat” to enter their lair in decades.
Getting my foot out was tricky. The rotten boards had sprung back into position like a crude bear trap. Dan helped twist my foot into position while pushing down the rotten boards. One wrong move, and I’d be leaving a layer of skin behind. In ten seconds that felt like 20 minutes, I was freed from the demon’s hole.
Dan inspected. The floor was in especially bad condition along the walls. I heard him say, “If we prop it up from underneath, we can cover the holes with tin…”
TIN? He wanted to cover the gateway to the devil’s den with TIN! The same hole that swallowed my foot in one gulp. It was by shear luck that I was only left with a small, bleeding gash on the back of my leg?
Within a moment, Dan realized there would be no tin and no propping. This was going to be a major repair. We talked about covering the existing floor, installing a new timber floor, but ultimately, this floor had to be removed.
The floor trumped installing the fascia and soffit, and Dan immediately went about removing the floor. That’s when Tony mentioned, “Hmmmm, the sitting room is timber as well, right?”
Thanks, Tony, for bringing that dreaded detail to my attention. But he was right, if this floor was bad, the others couldn’t be far behind. Into the sitting room we went. Yup, spongy along the wall, so Tony and I began moving all the furniture into the kitchen and the front bedroom.
It was now 11am and I was exhausted… mentally exhausted.
By late afternoon, Dan had the bedroom floor removed and was able to tell me more about the problem. When the house was built, there was a two foot airspace between the foundation slab and the floor. At some point, the previous owners, Jim and Madge, closed the air vents under the house… probably to keep the house warmer in the winter. This caused the timber to sweat and rot and eventually swallow my foot.
Dan assessed the best course of action… the entire cavity underneath would need to be filled with gravel (that’s A LOT of gravel), covered with airboard and concrete poured over that. Oh, and since that was being done, he suggested we install the new heating pipes that were in the plans for 2011.
After Dan and Tony left, I was very lucky because my neighbor caretakerman Tom offered to help me rip out the sitting room floor. We worked from 6:30pm until nearly 11pm. Exhausted.
A Better Tomorrow?
The next day… a better day? No, not quite. While I was inspecting the work Tom and I had done the night before, I noticed water in the giant pit where my sittingroom floor used to be. Ends up, my copper cylinder (hot water tank) rusted out.
Oh, and before he left a day earlier, Michael the diggerman said, “Liam, your phone line got knocked down by my digger. You don’t have a phone now. You’ll have to call Eirecom and have them send a PHONEMAN up here to reconnect your line.”
Oh dear… and I haven’t even started telling you the story of the gravel!