DIY

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Medic!

Today, while installing a new kitchen sink, I suffered the most gruelling of injuries known to man. I was happily modifying an existing cupboard, whizzing away with my electric saw and drill and all that, when it happened:

A paper cut

OOOOH the pain! The suffering! Will there ever come an end to it? And where is that bloody medevac helicopter when you need it? Public health care standards are in rapid decline in this country, I tell you.

Well Done

in

I spent the day on the roof of the annex again. It wasn't raining - probably for the fifth time this summer - so I got my gear together, scrambled up and forced everything through the teeny-weeny window that gives access to the roof. Getting up there is like finding your way through the birth canal all over again.

I'm building a new roof over the old one, because the old one is not as much a flat roof as it is a landscape with lovely dales and rolling hills. Unfortunately, the babbling brooks that descend from these hills stream in the wrong direction, right towards the house instead of to the rain pipe, which is convienantly located at the highest hill of them all.

So I spent the day laying out the foundation for the new roof, which I'm happy to say will now be sloping down away from the house towards the point where the rain pipe will connect. The revolution starts here!

That revolution also started with a serious bit of forced labour, because I had to lower heavy bags with pebbles that were on the old roof to the garden. I used a rope and balanced on the edge on the roof in the only corner where I had free access to the ground, the rest being surrounded by the ground level roof of the 'veranda' and the terrace. Good thing the neighbours are used to this sight, or they might call the police and fire brigade. 'The man next door is going to jump!'

Once these two metric tonnes of pebbles were out of the way, things were easy peasy. Unfortunately, the sun was desperately trying to make up for its long absence during these past few weeks. So by mid-afternoon, my brain was steaming in its own juices - despite the fact that I wore a cap. The roofing was also becoming sticky from the heat. So all in all, much fun was had by yours truly. By the end of the afternoon, the headache that I'd woken up with was back with a vengeance.

Then I was summoned to come down for dinner by Mrs.B, who was clearly very cross because she had to spend all day in the garden playing with the kids and feeding them biscuits and fruit and cool drinks - you know how hard summer afternoons can be - while I was having fun on the roof. But you know me, I'm not the one to keep all this pleasure for myself. So next weekend, she can do the roof.

Moth

Although the baby and Mrs.B have been demanding much of my time lately - not to mention Wolf of course, I somehow managed to tinker on in the new bathroom. It's in the final stages, but then again it has been in the final stages for months now. Things tend to slow down when your wife is very pregnant and very immobile.

On the other hand, being on parental leave these last couple of days gave me the opportunity to do some paintwork on the doors. Painting itself doesn't take that much time, it's just that you have to wait for hours in between two coats of paint. But at this moment, I can't spend the whole day working on the bathroom anyway.

Yesterday, I'd finally finished painting the doors, which must be one of my least favourite jobs. It's just that you have to apply a base coat on one side, then on the other, then a coat of semi-gloss on one side, then on the other and finally a second coat on one side and then on the other side. So you can see why I was happy it was finished.

And may imagine the grinding of teeth that followed when I discovered the next morning that a moth had landed in the wet paint. Not only that, but in its struggle of death it had rolled over a couple of times, leaving black marks from its wings all over the door. Trying to rub it away with a sponge proved to be useless, the black marks were embedded in the paint.

This is why this DIY project will never ever finish...

I Don't Like Mondays

Monday mornings are a creation of the devil, everyone knows that. But last Monday really made the grade. It started with me having to organise a tow truck, because the car stubbornly refused to start. Not because I'd left on the lights, mind you. At first it played dead, then the warning lights did light up when I turned the contact key a notch, but when the engine was supposed to start it slammed everything shut. However, it insisted on making the windscreen wipers go, although they were not on.

So it took me all morning to call the garage, wait for the tow truck, drive to the place where I'd left the car and then get back home. Luckily, my boss was flexible and granted me half a day of leave, and by noon I was back behind my desk. The friendly people from the garage called in the afternoon to say it was repaired. They'd made an effort because I had explained to them I really, really needed that car in working order because my wife is disabled and ready to give birth at any moment (in the next five weeks or so). So after work I took a train and a bus and to get the car and drove it home.

You'd guess that would be enough misery for one Monday, but there was more in store. After dinner, when I'd rinsed all the plates, I went outside and discovered a small lake on our lawn and a small tributary river coming from the sewer pit in the middle of the terrace. The smell that greeted me when I lifted the lid was indescribable!

The problem was very obvious, the whole pit was clogged with a single mass of putrid muck. To be honest, I'd noticed that the water wasn't running away like it should lately, but things were so busy these last couple of weeks that I'd never got around to check out what was wrong. But now there was no other way around it: I had to get on my knees and scoop that goo out.

The rubber gloves I was wearing helped a bit, until I had to reach deep into the sewer and sludge from the sides of the pit seeped in. When I got all of the vomit inducing muck out, I tried whether the drain was still blocked with the garden hose, but alas, the water did not recede. So now I had to scoop all that water, that had turned into foul smelling sewerage immediately, out again. Then, with my face perilously close to the entry, I had to reach inside to reach far into the sewer and feel where it was still blocked, and then pluck out the chunks of ewchchyechblarf. In total, I removed two whole buckets of it, together with four buckets of raw sewerage.

Despite the gloves and washing my hands several times and taking a long shower afterwards, the smell still lingered in my nose until I fell asleep.

And that is how I spend my Mondays.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO

When things go wrong, I have been known to swear, you know just a bit. Well not a bit, but you must understand that I only do this when the blame rests entirely on that stupid inanimate piece of junk that won't co-operate. In extreme cases, my verbal assault may lead to physical abuse of said item and, ultimately, defenestration. I only do this with things, you see, not with persons. Well, not often.

There is an exponential relation between the reluctance of the item in question to do what I want it to do and the exclamations that follow. When a wrapper or a can won't open, mothers in our part of the city cover the ears of their children. When one time a cup fell on my head when I opened an overhead cupboard, I threw it out the open door into the garden.

Last Sunday however, I opened up a whole new frontier to the time-old discipline of swearing. As you know, I've been working on the bath-room and its adjoining room for almost two years now. Finally, we're in the final stages, with just two more major items on the agenda: flooring and installing the bathroom furniture. My father came over to help, and we started with preparing the floor: sanding away any splinters and blobs of plaster and then cleaning. Oh, and some floor boards were creaking, so best to drive in some more screws.

I was a bit nervous for this job, because underneath those boards are about a thousand pipes: water pipes, heating pipes, drainage pipes... not to mention the odd gas pipe. If I were to drive a screw through one of these pipes, it would mean a world of trouble, because I'd have to tear the floor open again. But on the other hand, I had taken my precautions by marking the exact location of the pipes (bad) and the wooden support beams (good).

Well... 'exact' location may not be the right way to put it.

I drove in a screw with the electric screwdriver, but immediately felt there was no real resistance. So I drove it out again... and immediately got showered by a gushing fountain of water.

I can't reproduce what I shouted at that very moment. Suffice to say it registered a magnitude of 9.4 on the Richter scale. Milk turned sour, the electrical power grid fluctuated and birds started migrating, even the ones that normally stay here all winter. Satan worshippers saw there Evil Master duck under their pentagrams, whimpering for hours and refusing to come out. Armed forces worldwide went into DefCon 4, accusing each other of launching a full nuclear strike. The foam on pints of beer nationwide disappeared suddenly and mayonnaise would shift. It was really ugly.

Meanwhile I had closed all the vents of the central heating system. Luckily, not too much water had escaped, but that was not the real problem.

Breaking up the floor was not a real option, and luckily I'd thought of another option: by cutting a - relatively small - hole in the ground floor ceiling I could reach that damn pipe and repair it.

So now we have a decorative hole in our dining room ceiling. That was my way of putting it, but Mrs.B is having none of it. First thing to do next weeking: repair the pipe and the close the hole, leaving no trace whatsoever about what happened.

 

Slowly Going Insane

I've been very busy at work the last couple of weeks. And during the weekends, I spend every available minute tinkering in the new bathroom. Plaster, paint, cement and sawdust is flying everywhere, but despite my best efforts, the end is still not near - although it does start to look something like a bathroom instead of a Neanderthal cave in bad need of a refurbishment.

When I'm not working on the bathroom, I'm hauling old bricks and blocks of cement out of the garden. The mountain range of debris is gone now, but there are still stacks of pavement tiles against the back wall and Mrs.B is pestering me more and more because she wants them gone so she can plant her new ivy plants. She did forget however that there's still pavement where all the rubble was, so that's some more tiles for me to break out and evacuate.

And then of course there is shopping to do, and food to be prepared, and some cleaning. We also have new babies to see, friends to visit, family to see, etc. It seems like Mrs.B writes a new social appointment on the calender each night.

I know I'm stressed because when I do have a calm moment - somewhere between 9.30 and 10.30 in the evening - I can't get my mind to shut down. Thoughts keep whirling through my head and I have frequent panic attacks because I haven't done this or that yet (had one just now - must not forget to fill in an application for a visa for Congo). At night I dream of plastering walls, correcting project accountancy, installing baths, programming, removing debris, and so on, and so on.

And the most annoying thing is that this is all because of activities at work and at home that have been going on for months and that will continue for months to come.

Maybe I should try hard drugs. Or give alcoholism a go. That's a solution, right?

Snow White

The land of Belgium is white with snow. It's the first real winter in years, so we're teaching Wolf everything he needs to know about playing in the snow. I thought him how to make a snowball and throw it at his mother. Then his mother taught him how to make a bigger snowball and throw it at his father.

It escalated from there on.

Granddad brought my old sleigh, so we put Wolf on it and sleighed to the ice-skating rink. It took him a while to get used to the idea, but after a while he made good progress - pushing around a kind of support sled. The lady at the entrance let us take our sled inside, so when Wolf was tired I put hm on the sled and pulled him around. At the end, he even succeeded in making a whole tour on his own two feet, while I kept him upright under his armpits.

In any case, he was making much more progress than his mother. She clung on to the sideboard for dear life. In the end, she tried to 'skate' to the other side, but then the bell rung and we had to come off.

This weekend, the inside of our house was snow white too. Not because we had left all the windows open during the night while a snow storm was blowing over. No, I'm afraid it was all my own doing. After putting plasterboard on the ceiling and on the new wall in the bathroom, I had to fill in the gaps with plaster. This is an annoying job on its own, but then you have to sand everything and refill the gaps that remain and sand it again and... You get the idea.

After an afternoon of sanding I stopped and went downstairs, only to find my wife ironing in a living room filled with white mist. A couple of hours, the mist had settled, so now the whole house is covered in plaster dust.

And the worst part is that I haven't finished yet, so next weekend we'll have some more 'snow' inside.

No More Work

No more work, well at least not this year. Thirteen whole days of peace and tranquillity. By that I mean of course that I won't have to do the daily commute to Brussels. Because there will be other work. There are ceilings to be installed in the bathroom and the room adjacent to it. And then there's the Christmas shopping, I still have to buy most of my gifts. Of course we also have to visit my parents and Mrs.B's mother and her godmother and then there's the New Year's party for which some friends of ours invited us.

All in all, I'll barely have time for myself.

Colander

This weekend I discovered a large puddle of water on the first floor. On my brand new floor that is, which I laid only three weeks ago. Water was dripping from the ceiling; at least it dripped until I touched the rock wool insulation with a finger. It went right through and the very next moment I had a whole waterfall streaming down.

I couldn’t believe it, ANOTHER bloody hole in the roof! Last summer, I got so fed up with plastering the roof with repair kit, that I re-roofed one side of the roof with a new roll of bitumen. Needless to say, the leak is in that part of the roof that I thought was still pretty fine.

Luckily, the new bathroom ceiling isn’t up yet, that’s for next month. But I can tell you I’m getting pretty fed up with this colander we’re having for a roof.

My Preciousssss

Finally! Summer holidays, fourteen days peace and calm. Well, I don't know about that, but at least I don't have to go to work each day. I'm trying to stay away from my DIY tools, but this Tuesday was marked on the calendar: I'd promised my parents to re-plaster the kitchen wall after they'd had a new giant window installed.

It was a difficult job, with lots of fiddling behind central heating pipes, scores of corners, combining existing plasterwork with new patches and so on. I started around eleven in the morning and I'd finally finished by ten in the evening. But I must say, I was proud on the quality of my work. I feel I can say I'm starting to master the difficult discipline of plastering walls.

We stayed over at my parents', because the next day we were going to the Efteling, a theme park in Holland. But when we drove off, I noticed I wasn't wearing my wedding ring. So we turned back as I tried to remember if and where I'd taken it off. I remembered that I was wearing it while working, something I normally don't do and that I shouldn't do. I ran up and down the house trying to find it, but it wasn't in the bedroom or the bathroom or the kitchen or the living room...

Rivulets of cold sweat were streaming down my back as I contemplated the only other option: it must have slipped off in a bucket of water – or worse – in a bucket of plaster. So my father and I toppled over the bags of surplus plaster that were still in the garden and prodded the stuff apart to look for the ring.

We couldn't find it, and because we were supposed to meet my sister and sister in law with their children at the amusement park, we drove off. Meanwhile dad started to sift trough the half hardened muck in the hope of finding it.

We had a blast at the Efteling – although it took us ages to find the others – but the lost ring kept bothering me. In the afternoon, I got a text message that my father's archaeological methods had failed to bring the ring to the surface.

At this point I can tell you that Mrs.B was very much NOT amused by my loss. Sis-in-law poured some gasoline on the fire by saying that this was a bad omen for our marriage. There was tension in the air.

The next day I got a phone call from my mum. She'd found the ring! In the washing machine – how it had gotten there is beyond me, really. But it doesn't matter, I've got it back! I'm saved!!!

My Preciousssss...

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