Sunday 29 November 2015

Fear the Deere

Storm 'Clodagh' sets the trees rocking and a-rolling.
Our latest named storm, 'Clodagh' blusters through but she is a lady characterised by plenty of wind and not so much rain. We all get nicely frazzled by the chilly blast but the puddles and gravel-shovelling of last week ease up and things are, in general, starting to dry out a bit.

The big black spruces in the 'Secret Garden'
take some punishment.
Over at the Sligo house rebuild, excellent progress is being made and, with the concrete floor/base now in, walls are now starting to grow from the new bit. These are no ordinary brick or block walls. The front of the house is built from proper Sligo stone laid flat (like brickwork) with proper 'bond' (overlap) and genuine 'coin' stones at the corners. The new back is going to dovetail into this and stay in keeping with the overall effect with the same stone work up to window sill height. The new walls are to be a 4" concrete block inner 'skin', with a stone wall (up to 8" thick) laid outside of this up to that height, after which there will be a fancy pantile water-drip shedding layer and the wall will continue up to roof height as modern cavity blocks rendered with smooth cement. Should look superb.

Not bad for beginners - the inner bottom of the wall.
The most recent 'games', then have been to build the block wall up to the window sill height and then more recently to start building the outer stone 'skin'. The main man freely admits to knowing a lot about brick and blockwork without ever having done much and knowing a bit about stone masonry without having done any! "I can talk a good game" he said to neighbour Jimmy (owner and driver of HUGE excavators). The wall you can see in this picture is the most block our man had ever laid and I am merely the 'help' - lifting and carrying blocks, mixing cement (in our mixer left over from our own house build), but both of us are delighted to find that "we" can actually do this, and do it pretty well.

The very first 'coin' stone goes in. (bottom centre)
It has been a fascinating experience for me and so, so different from my 'proper job', which was desk-based, keyboard tapping 'Systems/Planning Manager' in a big food warehouse; my hands permanently soft and smooth. I have been especially taken with the process of building the corners, re-using (or finding new) the huge 'coin' stones which have to sit flat either aligned with the back wall or the side wall, their neat 90ยบ corner outwards and their length having to be bound in with the smaller wall-stones. On a very cold, wet Saturday "we" (mainly the boss!) laid the new back side to the west gable end including it's 'step' in to the new wall-line and the corner at the other end of the extension, both up to the required 3' height. We rock, if you'll pardon the expression.

The first bit of masonry 'we' had ever laid. The old original gable
is on the right and the white breathable membrane covers
the new blockwork against which the stone is laid.
I must admit that in the cold and wet I was getting so perished that I was considering calling it a day and my thoughts turned to those hated 'Games' afternoons at school where I was forced to play football. None of we 3 brothers ever had the football gene in our DNA and the school was really well set up for sport. Many schools had huge grounds in those days and ours had room for many pitches. Pitch 1 was inside the grit running track of the school's grass-banked stadium. On that and the nearby Pitch 2, the first-teams did their practise. Both my brothers will remember that we were always sent right out to Pitch 8 for our begrudging, risible, pathetic football, where we froze to death in our shorts and gloveless hands, praying for it to all be over.

My office.
No such torture though on Saturday for we stone masons. Riding to the rescue came the ladies and our little 3-year-old helper, the 'catering department' armed with extremely welcome and deliciously meaty warm pasties, sandwiches, apple turn overs and hot drinks. We FELL on the goods and wolfed them down. We were quickly back to feeling human again, restored to a second wind, though we did not have that much more to do. We finished off, cleaned the gear and tidied up - we have to bring the mixer, genny etc out with us in the van as there is nowhere secure to leave it on site. It was a good day. We were both delighted to retreat to our separate homes and get out of the wet coats and clothing. I even had a fire going by the time Liz returned from her own morning's work, volunteering in the pop-up craft shop.

My English readers may not be aware of one particular Irish institution and 'national treasure', the most popular chat show on Irish TV, known as the Late Late Show. This airs every Friday evening but on the last showing of November gives itself over to the children, Christmas and a million TOYS and becomes for one week only the "Late Late Toy Show". It attracts the biggest viewing figures ever (around 1.9 million which may not seem much compared to a 'Fools and Horses' Christmas Special in the UK but is almost one third of the whole population here). The children are chosen from all round the country and they come to sing and dance, demonstrate the toys and generally make mayhem in the big studio. It's a hoot and we always try to watch it.

Another nice artisan beer I have found, Kevin Dundon's.
I love particularly the section they do on farm toys, which this year gave space to two superbly farmer's son types. One was showing off the toy tractors and farm machines and professed to be a fan of John Deere though he did say that his best friend would not agree with him and the two regularly had ding dong arguments about whether Massey Ferguson were better. This JD/MF rivalry is as fierce in farming circles as when the petrol heads set to discussing Porsches vs. Ferraris or Jeeps vs. Land Rovers and our lad here coined the expression "Fear the Deere".

The geese are still pumping out a few eggs.
These shows are always followed by the Social Media crowd, especially Twitter, with everybody 'tweeting' comments in real time as they watched the show, and the 'Fear the Deere' was quickly taken up by the delighted followers. Even show presenter, Ryan Tubridy said there ought to be a tee-shirt with that on. John Deere would be fools not to exploit it! The 2nd 'farmer's son' was a superbly chubby, rosy cheeked, be-hatted lad who ended up doing a brilliant, 2 minute rap around a tractor stopping but the funniest aspect for me was that I couldn't understand more than about 3 words of it. Excellent TV.

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