5 Sep 2016

5th September 2016 Confessions of an untidy 'doer.'


Monday 5th. 58-69F, 14-21C, misty start soon burnt off when the sun rose. Walked a pleasant loop via lanes and a rare public footpath. Spent the rest of the day dragging junk off the old shelves and setting up new. There still seems to be an awful lot of junk to store. Though I found quite a lot of useful stuff I had mislaid over the years. I tried setting up the shelves closer together [vertically] but the considerably greater depth makes access much more difficult. So I went back to the standard spacing.

After reading the instructions properly I realised that they suggest two people are supposed to erect the shelving units. What doesn't kill you can still hurt! In fact I managed to stab my forearm on a sharp corner of the old shelving. But survived relatively unscathed as the Head Gardner applied tea-tree oil and a plaster. Along with the usual admonishments against semi-deliberate, self harm in the name of vanity and attention seeking.

As a morbidly untidy "junk" collector my lifelong trick was to endlessly search for things. This was [and still is] how I refreshed my limited memory banks of all the crap which fills every single corner of my life. I can identify the source of almost everything I own going back to my teens. Including several tubs full to the brim with small parts from terminal dismantling spread over decades. Only tunnel vision on the next project helps to keep me [fairly] sane. 

You would not believe how often I have struggled to fit the trike into my relatively huge [entirely home made] shed. 8'6" x 22' x 12'6 = 2.6m wide x 6.6m long x 3.8m high in new money. Bolted together almost entirely of 2x4s with star lock washers and clad in grooved plywood as a stressed skin reinforcement. 

I was going to have a half height bench with the new shelving until I discovered a top shelf and frame would fit over the top of my rarely used band saw. It was only rarely used because it was trapped against the original shelving on top of the useless chest of drawers. Now I have plenty of open bench space for the band saw and dirt cheap, decades old, Chinese pillar drill. The drawers are now on open shelves below. So now I finally have access to my [minimum of] 100+ different screwdrivers and 50 plus different pairs of pliers and a hundred different spanners not including several sockets sets.

When any job needed doing I could have paid somebody else to do it but could never afford it. Instead of which I bought the correct tools and did the job myself. So I needed to become plumber, car mechanic, carpenter, telescope maker and optician, electrician, audio equipment builder, furniture and kitchen maker, cycle mechanic, antique clock restorer, satellite dish erector, machinist, gardener, white goods repairer, etc.etc.etc.

The trike shed framing nears completion. The huge concrete pipe was used as a roller to compress the foundation gravel. The Head Gardener laid the foundations from found stones, boulders and gravel from the garden and then practiced her remarkable skills at dry stone walling on the retaining banks at left and rear.

I needed the correct tools and enough information not to be dangerous. This usually involved libraries and secondhand bookshops. Which meant that hundreds of text books were accumulated over the long years.

I highly tuned and rebuilt the engine and fitted a close ratio gearbox and new differential and flywheel on my first, rusty old car. That needed a piston ring compressor and valve spring lifter tools and huge sockets which I still have. I sold the car for the engine alone s a MOT failure. My second car was a complete rebuild of a small, GRP Mini-based sports kit car.  I did everything except body welding and my own MOTs over decades. Always on a tight budget I collected tools and spent literally man-years searching scrap yards and reading. I have never needed a bicycle shop's expensive skills for well over fifty years and counting. Much the same with cars until I grew too old and tired to crawl under them any more. Though I still have the several jacks and ramps of course.

Rebuilding our last two houses and repairing others required yet more tools.  I have wood planes from a few inches to nearly a yard long. Plough planes which helped to triple glaze a former home via secondary glazing window units made from bare wood. Two new roofs, lots of new floors, ceilings, windows, doors, plumbing, heating, heavy insulation, landscaping and building several sheds all required their own kit and ladders so I could always work alone. Often with the aid of the diminutive Head Gardener.

Landscaping involved literally digging our rural cottage out of a steep hillside to provide a large flat, outdoor area.  Before that sheep could walk straight onto the roof. The "opencast quarrying" took me several years of backbreaking work with two picks, several shovels and several wheelbarrows. All of them died a slow and horrible death from being completely worn out. Not one single teaspoon full of highly compressed gravel was removed without a fight. The same went for the parking area at the end of the house.

I moved literally hundreds of boulders up to the size of a mini. Many of which could only be persuaded with a ten foot scaffolding pole as a lever. With myself dangling from the far end like monkey on a stick. I used lengths of narrow gauge railway line as shorter levers in cramped spaces. These days I'd struggle to lift the shortest. The materials won from this colossal endeavour became a large, flat lawn area and firm and level standing for the car. I landscaped a wet marsh with several large ponds all dug by hand with hundreds of trees planted on the resulting banks of spoil. I added a long bank of recycled stones and gravel to keep the stream from flooding our land every winter.

I cleared the surface stones and boulders from a 20 acre field in exchange for the farmer's plot of unusable marsh next to the house. I modified wheelbarrows to carry eight huge tipper lorry loads of 8' long tree trunks from a closed timber yard. The wheelbarrows were needed to bring it all down our steeply sloping, 1-in-6, rough, gravel drive from the road one hundred yards away in another world. It was all sawn up with a hand bow saw and split with a splitting maul like an axe on a sledge hammer. It all kept our woodburning stove going for several winters.

The trike shed provides support for the superhero to pose. Or was it a poser pretending to be a superhero? Central vertical struts were added to the roof before covering.  I wore glasses back then before my chronic OCD tricycling cured my shortsightedness.

The tools and memories of my life's work all reared their ugly heads as I steadily excavated my way through disintegrating cardboard boxes on the former, crap shelving units. I had quite forgotten how I had screwed it all together and to the shed itself, just to keep it all upright as the shelves sagged and crumpled from day one. The new stuff will easily outlast me. I now have only three longer, wider and higher units instead of the previous four. I just need more boxes or shallow tubs to reduce the amount of fresh air by stacking. Not an easy task to fetch boxes from the supermarket on a trike. Nor tubs from the DIY superstore ten miles away. My 20-year old car may yet enjoy a second journey inside one calendar month.


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