house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Behind the Wall

On July the 15th, my Facebook status says:
'Monica is: home alone, and what timing: immediately had to decide the exact position (width and height and building material) of a wall... how often does that happen? Oh and guess what? Changed a few little things, namely the position, width, height and building material...'

Here's the whole story.

I am home alone. Everyone's gone to the beach, and this includes the dog but not the chickens. So I go to the land to feed the chickens. Not a lot of brainpower required, so I'm feeling confident: I'm on it, even if a brief tour of the building site(s) may be required.
Eh-oh. João the stonemason is wandering mildly about, scratching his head.
- Where is Magnus?
- Away, today. Back tomorrow.
- Where's your dog?
- Ehm, away with Magnus, why?
- She warns me when you arrive. Then I can quickly get back to work and you can find me working...
- Oh...
- You must get a dog for here if he wants to take that one on trips.
- Sure João, sorry João..
- I need to talk to Magnus about the back wall. I can't start until he tells me where it goes, how thick, how high and all that.
- Talk to me. I'm here.
So talk we do, perched on the vast granite rock where the wall will be built. If you stand inside the finished house (one day, one day...) this rock base will reach your waist, so we're talking only a small wall made of stone, with a final layer of straw bales. João is in charge of the stone part. Manuel will produce a wooden frame. Paulo will continue, with the straw. Does it remind you of something? Hint: from your childhood?.. Hint: bedtime?.. Hint: huff and puff!.. Final hint: you've always wanted to be the stone one...
But, pay attention. First question today:
João: Where do I put the wall?
He means, how close to the back terrace? In other words, how wide is your house? We have drawings, and a plan, but it's clearly not set in stone. João would like the pun.
Me: As far back as possible. Grab any space available for the indoors...
Paulo: … while making sure you protect the straw bales... minimum distance to the terrace should be 1 meter..
We push it as far back as we can, which takes it close to a raised granite lip, which gives me another idea:
Me: Can you build it on top of the granite ledge?
João hums and measures, measures and hums, finally pronounces: SIM.
Change number one. We push the wall back to the granite ledge. This gives João only a ribbon of a wall to build before the straw level, and leaves room for only one course of straw before reaching roof level. One very sensitive straw bale line, that must be protected from rain and any other aspiring moisture. Rainy nights will take on a whole new meaning, I shudder to imagine.
Me: How thick is the wall going to be?
J: Sixty centimeters.
Me: But if you build against the granite lip can you not make it thinner?
More huffing and chin scratching. The ledge waves in and out, the whole length of the terrace. Eureka:
J: YES. We start thinner, then compensate and build a thicker wall where the lip goes in.
Change number two. The width of the wall has gone technicolor.
Me: How high do we make it?
The three of us point to imaginary levels in the air. Three different imaginary levels.
J: This high!
P: Need to leave room for one straw bale course below the roof level.
Me: What about splash back from the rain?
J: What about Amancio? Amancio is his assistant.
Me: What about Amancio?
J: He cries if he doesn't have a lot of hard work. A LOT.
The thought of Amancio crying is the final straw(!!).. I can't bear to hear about any more sources of moisture. Pressure mounts, creative thinking is required. There is one thing...
Me: Why don't we build the whole wall in stone? This way we don't have to worry about moisture of any kind...
P: ..and we gain space...
J: ..and we can do the drainage like this (complicated drainage discussion follows. You are spared.) The main point is prudence. We all nod gravely and spend considerable time translating wise and sensible pronouncements such as 'belt and braces' and 'prevention is better than cure'.
Changes number three and four. Stone replaces straw and thus the height of the stone wall doubles.
And everyone's happy. João rejoices because he now has an easier wall to build and more of it. Paulo – like me – doesn't have to worry about rain drops and watertight plasters, and knows that the straw ideal lives on, in the East and South walls anyhow.
And I go home glowing. An hour perched on a granite ledge and a pleasant enough discussion got us more space and less worry. The wall is more straightforward and weatherproof. It uses the features of the land and materials already available.
I walk back to the car with a swagger and a smile, having of course forgotten to feed the chickens.
… and get that dog back, will you?... how are we supposed to work like this?.. João's last word.


At 16 July 2010 at 11:55 , Blogger Magnus said...

I should go to the beach more often - clearly decisions are made with more zing and style:)

At 17 July 2010 at 04:31 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow :)


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