Nearly An Electrifying Day
So, I’m working with my Dad again. Which means great fatigue and aching after each 10 hour day. I’ve declined many an offer to help him on decorating jobs because they bore me. I’m the most impatient man on the planet so spending an entire day solely with a paint brush is equal to working at the Co-Op. And I don’t work there anymore.
When I was asked to go and smash some things up with a sledge hammer however, there was little hesitation. In-fact, there was none. Like I’ve mentioned previously, hard manual labour, breaking things apart, hammering, chiselling, using power tools is enjoyable.
Despite all of those positives, there are downsides. Short term ones, but downsides none the less. Fingers, hands, wrists that all hurt after the first day, during the second and so on. Constant shockwaves and the tight grip associated with sledge hammers, club hammers, drills, wrecking bars, spades, pick axes means your hands take a total beating. I’m probably not used to it.
The job at hand is actually at my Nan and Grandad’s, which is a nice change from others we’ve done. These ‘clients’ make me lunch (well, Nan does!), water me and let me come inside with muddy trousers on. They also let me cower indoors when there’s a torrential rain storm happening.
They’re having an extension built, so after digging a 6ft x 3 1/2ft hole down to the foundations (no it’s not a grave) for the surveyor to look at, plus smashing up a solid concrete slope on day one, Dad joined me. Day two consisted of removing the 16+ year stone and concrete wall along the front edge of the pond. The pond is 6ft or so deep, shelving off to the front at around 4ft where it slopes up to the top of the wall. It’s about four metres or so wide and has a waterfall coming down into the centre of it.
Building new steps was job two and digging a trench along the line of the wall, three. The wall, which was previously sloped away, was now vertically ‘sliced’ and precariously the only thing keeping 500+ gallons of water from spilling out. Grandad’s engineering calculations suggested this to be “perfectly solid” and something to “not lose sleep over”. We didn’t, but should have. Dad had said from day one that he wasn’t convinced.
The wall at this stage was tightly compacted mud with a 12 inch concrete top that had previously held the capping stones. We left one of the 90cmx60cm solid concrete slabs leaning on the corner overnight. It had cracked when we removed the face earlier in the day. Those are the same slabs that the council have now banned because they’re too heavy (68kg) – they only work with 60x60cm slabs nowadays.
We finished digging the trench, so I decided to move the slab off the corner. As I pulled it back, the earth gave way and fell out from beneath the concrete top. I shouted Dad but he was using the disc cutter, so I continued to shout. He heard me and ran to the shed to fetch a spare pump so we could drop the level of water. While he was in the shed, The concrete corner fell off, leaving the liner exposed. No problem I thought.
Nan then came out, Grandad too. Nan looked at the exposed liner and then the entire front edge of concrete started falling. She tried to stop it, Grandad shouted to get her out of the way and then boom. Water gushed out like a tsunami, a huge wall of water. Immediately filling the slabbed area all around. My Grandad had a knee replacement operation just over a week ago and I have never seen him move as fast as he did in that short time…backwards. I tried to stop him falling over and then Dad shouts “sh*t electrics”. There was an extension reel, an expensive Bosch SDS Hammer drill, a disc cutter and a circular saw all in the flood of water. Dad ran to the plug to switch it off, I ran to grab the extension reel and put it higher up. I dragged the power tools out at the same time. Nobody got hit, which would have been a shock. Excuse the pun.
At this point, (no longer than 20 seconds after the wall fell) we were watching for fish that should have inevitably been washed out. Bearing in mind quite a few of the fish are of near Orca sized proportions, that was something I was seriously not looking forward to. The floor was now 6 inches deep in water, the grave an un-compacted area of mud that had the same effect as quicksand if you stepped in it (yes, both me and Nan fell in it) and the trench was a foot deep abyss, hidden by water.
We grabbed the pump to extract the water on the ground, opened the manhole cover to drain it away and brushed like madmen to clear it. Luckily and somewhat miraculously, no fish escaped but 300 gallons of water did. It’s a good job their door is high off the ground, otherwise the house would now be flooded too.
The pond liner is currently propped up with 25KG bags of ballast. The only things worthy of the job. We have constructed a wall that was intended to back onto the now fallen concrete and tomorrow, hopefully, we will re-construct behind it to re-attach the liner. I’m slightly gutted I wasn’t at the front of the pond when it started to collapse. I have little doubt that had I seen it begin to fall, being in the right place at that moment, I could have stopped it falling. What we would have done then, I have no idea. Maybe I could have stood there overnight while concrete set around it. Or possibly not.
We have another hard day of work to do tomorrow, on boggy ground. Lets hope we don’t have any more disasters!