Monday, June 30, 2008

E-Day + 41

The windows didn't arrive today. Not sure why. Apparently it was today or tomorrow. So, we'll be hopeful for tomorrow!

In the meantime, we got our scratch coat over the walls. And soffits (that's the white eaves from the roof) and guttering. Not sure why there are gouges through David's beautiful scratch coat!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lindis Pass

I've completed my Lindis Pass painting. I have to admit it was quite a struggle. After a successful foreground, I completely misjudged the background mountain, painting it too bright, with too many details vying for attention. It was awful. So, I wiped the background completely and started again (a soft brush with plenty of water to lift the colour, and some kitchen towel paper to blot out the paint). Some of the paint had absorbed into the paper already, and, as it turns out, the colours were just about right. All I had to do then was apply a light coat of neutral tint and some quinacridone gold.

A very pale sky (cerulean blue and a hint of yellow ochre), and it was done.

The only problem is that there are some dotted dark marks in the area I wiped. I can only assume it's greasy finger marks, though I'm always careful not to put my fingers on the paper. I'll just have to live with it.

It's my largest painting to date, 32x45 cm. Although it was scary at first (and the paper buckled a bit - disappointing for block paper, really), you do get to create nice big sweeps of colours. It's growing on me. I must go in search of my next painting now.

E-Day + 40

No work today. It's Sunday.

Nice quiet weekend - no concerts, no shopping trips to furniture stores, just a nice walk on the South Wall this morning, when we avoided a major shower by a thread! I never walked so fast in my life. Very dramatic skies.

And I baked cookies this afternoon. I have this wonderful chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Aine McAteer book. I've used it 4 or 5 times already, and they are delicious, and gluten-free, though not fat free. No wonder I'm putting on weight!

Friday, June 27, 2008

E-Day + 38

Computers can be so frustrating! I like to type my blog at a pc with a proper keyboard, rather than at my laptop, but sometimes it's just not worth the effort. I had to reboot the PC to plug in the PS2 keyboard, then my homepage (google) would not load up in Internet Explorer. It would load in Mozilla, but it would freeze whenever I tried to type in anything in the address bar. Anyways, 2 reboots later, here I am. It's working. No good explanation why!

Workwise, David and Stan were here this morning, doing some scudding for the walls (it involves throwing some sort of cement mix at the walls to ensure that the plastering holds well to the wall, or something to that effect) and putting in a window sill for the long window. According to David, all Nordan windows are now ready, and the Nordan fitters will be in on Monday, along with Kevin's team, and the electrician. So it will be a full house on Monday! And David is hopefull that they'll be breaking through towards the end of the week. I can't wait for that phase of the work to start! Dust everywhere!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lindis Pass

My current watercolour project is my most ambitious yet. It's the first time I'm painting bigger than A4. The paper is a Langton block 457x355 that I got about a year ago, but haven't dared go near since.

The inspiration is this picture of the Lindis Pass, between Lake Wanaka and Lake Tekapo in New Zealand, which we drove through on a grey day after it had snowed overnight in Lake Wanaka. Despite the dullness of the day, there was a vibrancy to the tussock-covered mountains, as we drove through them mile after broad twisting mile. For the mountain in the foreground, I've used Schimncke Ruby red, Winsor&Newton Quinacridone Gold and Holbein Aureolin (yellow), with a shaving of black and purple watercolour pencils. My big struggle right now is to find the right colour for the mountain in the background. The colours in the picture are pink and pale green to my eye, with some smokey purple haze, but I need to simplify it and maybe accentuate the haze, so that it is pushed back away from the foreground. I'm going to have to experiment with swatches of colour, as I don't want to ruin what I've done so far.

I've done my usual aboriginal snails samples, the best way for me to experiment with the colours without being intimidated by the empty page. And Willow had to get in on the action - the page was getting more attention than him, so he had to step forward. He hasn't quite yet walked over one of my watercolours (a few near misses, though), but it's more to do with me giving him the attention he demands (and dropping my brushes) rather than him leaving me to my art.

And here is the current status - not subtle, but I love the colours, and I want the background to match.

E-Day + 38

No work today - I'm not sure why. It's been bucketing down all day, but we were under the impression that they would be working today, as the roof is up.

Kevin dropped over a short while back, but didn't stop. It looks like he just brought over a gallon of fuel. Strange!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

E-Day + 37

The roof is nearly done - all Nordman tiling is in place, with the 4 veluxes, and most of the flashing (that's the lead bits against the wall). Phil found it tough enough to work with the Nordman tiling, as this was their first time using this material. I think it looks lovely. It reminds me of New Zealand, where they have a lot of corrugated iron roofs. And David and Stan have done the capping to the party wall - a very neat job. They will complete the work on Vanessa's side as soon as the weather is good, hopefully in the next few days. She's been very patient! Thankfully the weather was on our side today, with no major rain. It actually turned nice and sunny in the afternoon. The forecast is bad for tomorrow and into the weekend, so the roof's waterproof qualities will be put to the test.

Kevin McGrath's team, David, Stan and Phil, are doing a great job. David, the foreman, is very good at telling us what they're doing, what's coming up next, showing us all the detail of their work, which he clearly takes pride in. So far, so good! We're happy.

Tomorrow, we'll hopefully find out when the Nordan windows are coming in. David heard from Kevin that some of them would be ready this week, but not all. Hopefully it's the downstairs ones that will be ready!

PS: Rang Ikea, and they've confirmed they can't take my order over the phone, as they don't have the payment facilities to do this. So, we'll need to take a trip to Belfast again. Maybe next week.

This is a picture from inside our extension yesterday. It looks a lot tidier today. As you can see, we still have our old wall up. That will need to be knocked down, but not until the extension is secured with windows and doors.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

E-Day + 36

Didn't get a chance to write yesterday, but progress was slow anyway, and they had to leave in the afternoon to go to another job in Templeogue. We were worried this morning that they wouldn't turn up, but Phil and David were there at about 8 o'clock, working away until after 4 today, despite the showers. So we now have three quarters of the roof on, with 2 out of the 4 veluxes in place. Yes, it's Velux, not Roto. They're going to return the Roto windows to the supplier, as the handle doesn't suit us - just not practical at that height.

They've confirmed the angle of the roof to be 16 degrees, I believe, so no need for an upstand for the veluxes (they need 15 degrees minimum). And the insulation has been confirmed with Colman this morning, so we should be all set.

No sign of Kevin today, so we still don't know if the windows are on track for delivery.

The forecast for tomorrow is dry I think, so hopefully they'll finish the roof before the rain gets in (forecast really bad for Thursday and Friday).

And we're going to have to go back to Belfast to order my sofa. I had seen a lovely sofa on our trip there a couple of weeks back, but I wanted to check the colour against our kitchen. So, went up to Craftstone on Saturday. A perfect match. Very happy with it. And I rang Ikea Belfast yesterday to find out if I could order over the phone, and was told it was not possible, which is really silly, as that sofa is a special order anyway, it's not in the store. Actually, I must ring back and say that to the customer service person, as it might make a difference. I would hate to go back up there to find out that we could have ordered it on the phone. Unfortunately, we can't order through the website either, it's UK only. This is really frustrating, as they don't have a shop in the Republic of Ireland, despite talking about it for years.

And now, let me tell you the best thing about today. This evening, just before leaving for yoga, I went into our bedroom, and found Willow on the window sill - ON THE OUTSIDE! Somehow, he had managed to get onto our new roof. We suspect he jumped on the scaffolding, from there to the roof of the shed, from which point it's an easy jump onto the new party wall and onto the uncovered part of the roof. The little devil!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

E-Day + 34

No work today. It's Sunday.
Forgot to wish Lorna a happy birthday yesterday!

Happy Birthday, Lorna!

And forgot to wish Padraig and Mary a Happy Wedding Anniversary, on the 20th I think it was.

Happy Anniversary, Padraig and Mary!

We went to the Eric Clapton concert in Malahide Castle yesterday, with Niall and Rita. It had rained all day, but the weather cleared for the concert, after one final heavy shower as we were walking towards the concert grounds. We enjoyed the night, despite the concert itself, which was quite bland. Clapton played the guitar beautifully and sang well enough, but he didn't seem to care whether the audience was there or not. First, he started playing earlier than advertised. We had got a Ticketmaster event reminder earlier in the week, stating that Clapton would be on stage at 20:30. We arrived from the Dart (very handy, by the way) at about 20:10, and he was already playing. Then, about three quarters through the concert, the amplification and video link went - completely, no sound at all. And guess what? Not only did Clapton continue playing the song, he actually started playing another one, knowing that 90% of the audience could not hear him! The sound came back on, then, only to go again during the encore. At that stage, we left. Not impressed! Message to Mister Clapton: if you don't care about your audience, don't bother turning up for the concert. Next time he's in Ireland, I certainly won't be going again.
We had a very nice night out with Niall and Rita all the same, and didn't get home until late.

PS: I love my new wellies - which I bought especially for the concert. I have the heart of a 5-year-old and enjoyed jumping in the puddles!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

E-Day + 33

No work today. It's Saturday, and it's pouring out of the heavens! Not nice.

Here is a watercolour I completed last week. It's another view of Fanore in Co. Clare. Not as neat as my previous one. I think I overdid the shower effect. My mistake was to use a wet brush to lift the colour. I should have used an eraser - it would have produced a subtler effect.

I've had to manipulate the colours slightly in Photoshop, as the original photograph of it was a bit dull.

Friday, June 20, 2008

E-Day + 32

They were busy today, but there isn't that much to show for it, as there was a lot of toing and froing. We have one velux in place, but it's not what was specified (it's not a Velux, it's a Roto, I think). The problem is that the closing mechanism (a swinging handle, not a bar you can pull and push) cannot be operated with a pole. Given the height, the only option would be a remote control, which is an extra cost. So we'll talk about it on Monday morning with Colman and Kevin to figure out what's the best thing to do.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

E-Day + 31

The roof now has battons (that's the smaller pieces of wood that go across the joists I think) and some kind of waterproof sheeting (it's called Balaroid Breather, and it's a roof tile underlay - I'm enjoying the jargon. Builders love jargon just as much as software engineers!). Well, it's certainly waterproof, as tested by this afternoon's showers!
And the spacing for 2 of the veluxes (2 more to come!).

Our roof is coming in tomorrow, weather permitting. It probably won't be completely finished in a day, according to David, but hopefully the rain will hold off long enough.

Here is a detail picture of the extra bits of support under the joists. I'm sure they have a name! I'll have to check it out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

E-Day + 30

Good progress today. David, Stan and Phil worked on the roof - we now have joists (I think that's what they are called).

Unfortunately, the rain arrived in the afternoon and the lads went home after a few hours of working in the rain. Just as well as it started pouring after a while. I'm told that the wood is pressure-treated so won't be affected by the rain. Well, today is a good test of that!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

E-Day + 29

We got steels at last! It wasn't without a final long wait. The steel man didn't arrive until 2 o'clock, I think (he had said he would be here at 10). David, Stan and Phil were here waiting for it, afraid to leave for even 5 minutes in case the steel man arrived in the time they were gone. There is an awful lot of waiting around in this business.

Now Phil can proceed with work for the roof, so hopefully things will start moving again (we're watching the weather forecast with anxiety, as rain is spreading from the West)

Colman from Extend was over for the 3rd site visit and was happy with the overall progress and the quality of the work. Extend have been very good through this phase of the project, monitoring progress regularly and answering queries from Kevin promptly. I'm glad we decided to go with the "Design Pack C", as I feel we're getting very good support from Extend through this.

So overall, I feel very happy with the overall status. Still dreading the next phase, when Kevin's team will be knocking through our existing wall and start work on the inside. Right now, we still have our kitchen and sitting room, but it will be very cramped when we have to work upstairs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

E-Day + 28

Very little going on today. The steel man was supposed to be here at 12, and David and Stan waited for him until 1 o'clock, but no sign of him, so they left.

He arrived at about 4:30, as I was leaving the house, with some story about having to be in Kilmacanogue for 2 o'clock. I gave him David's phone number and got him to ring him. I was back about 10 minutes later to find him nearly done unloading the steels and a post. He told me he agreed with David that he would be here at 10 tomorrow, but also said he had to be in Castleknock for another job at 7:30 and wasn't sure he'd be here on time.

It sounds like he's got scheduling issues! Somehow I doubt these steels will be up tomorrow morning, which is a pity as rain is approaching from the West. We were hoping to have our roof up before then, but it's not going to be up by tomorrow lunchtime!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Neil Diamond

As you know, I'm a big Neil Diamond fan, going back years. I'm from the Beautiful Noise generation, but I quickly discovered all the old songs. Amongst my favourites are Kentucky Woman, Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon, Do You Know What I Mean?, Soolaimon, Lady Magdalen, I'm a Believer, Dear Father. OK, I'd better stop here, the list could go on. I quite like the 12 Songs album, and I think I will love his new album Home Before Dark (I don't know yet, as I'm eagerly awaiting my birthday to find out, but the few songs I've heard from it are good. I particularly like Pretty Amazing Grace).

All this to say that we went to his concert in Croke Park last night, with Padraig and Mary, and had a great night. A pity we got soaked in the only shower of the day, just as we arrived. I warmed up pretty quickly, once I started dancing and jumping, but Mary couldn't shake the cold through the whole show. We got pretty good seats, in block B, not close enough to see faces, but at least the band and himself didn't look like stick insects in the distance. Croke Park is such a big place (my first time there, by the way).

He played all the old goodies (except Kentucky Woman, much to my disappointment) and 3 songs from the new album and a couple from 12 Songs. A good mix of slow and fast, old and new. As usual, Sweet Caroline got the crowd going (apart from a grumpy woman behind me who wasn't happy when I started dancing at the first song, Cherry Cherry! Apparently, she left soon after telling me to sit down! Ah well. She didn't spoil my night. I got dancing again soon after, as other people ahead of me got on their feet.)

A great night. I'll go again next time he's in Ireland. As he's 67, you never know when he'll decide to retire! I think his voice is better than it was a few years ago, by the way. A pity about the sparkly shirts, though. I thought he had given up on those. He was just keeping it hidden under a sober (and warm) jacket!

I can't get onto the site right now, but have a look at the videos on the neildiamondhomepage (a fan site). And if you want to hear the new songs, check out MySpace, where you'll also find a link to the concert at The Bitter End in New York. (note that there are some popups on MySpace, and plenty of advertising).

PS: I think the picture above has been air-brushed! He didn't look that young in reality.

E-Day + 27

No work today - It's Sunday. But David left a message on the answering machine to say that they would be here at 8 on Monday morning to start the work with the steels.

PS: in answer to Padraig's question, RSJ stands for Rolled Steel Joist. You will find a full explanation in Wikipedia. I have to admit I didn't read the full article. I'm not that interested in every technical detail of the construction!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

E-Day + 26

No steels today. Hopefully on Monday.
Went looking at radiators today. Hard to decide between shiny and matt.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Went to see Sex and the City: the Movie with Lucinda this evening. Had a great time. It's exactly as it should be. The clothes are fabulous (sometimes outrageous), the girls meet for Saturday lunch and for late night cocktails, the men are the cause of pain and anxiety, New York is looking its best, and the shoes are vertiginous!

E-Day + 25

Not much work today. The subcontractor who was supposed to supply the steels didn't show up, so there wasn't much to do for David, Stan and Phil (Phil is the chippy - that's the word for carpenter, I'm told. And my translator for builder speak (Brendan!) has also told me that the electrician is called "the sparks". I'm not sure what the plumber is called).

The steel man has promised David he'll come tomorrow, Saturday, to make up for it.
Fingers crossed...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

E-Day + 24

No work today - the walls are settling.

We took the opportunity to go to Ikea Belfast for a look at furniture. There was so much to see there, I suffered from input overload, but I saw a lovely sofa, and a good latex mattress, and plenty of lovely lighting, practical shelves and accessories. Tables and desks were not so hot.

A great day out, and we enjoyed the food in their restaurant, particularly the Swedish meat balls.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

E-Day + 23

No pictures today. David, Stan and Phil spent the day today adding more hardcore (or 804, as it's called, I believe) to bring the ground level up in the extension, and preparing and pouring concrete for pads on which the steel beams will rest.

They told us they won't be coming tomorrow, as the steel will only be delivered on Friday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

E-Day + 22

We have walls!

You can now see where we'll have our long window on the side of the house, and the sliding doors, and the door to the shed!

And, at long last, we have a wall between us and the neighbours. The only 2 people disappointed are Willow (who can no longer stroll in the neighbours's garden at his leisure) and the neighbours' son (who has enjoyed watching every minute of it)

Kevin McGrath's team have been doing a great job so far. David, his foreman, is explaining everything they do, so we feel very much part of it. And even Willow is getting used to his garden changing every day.

Monday, June 09, 2008

REO Speedwagon

Mary's brother won tickets for REO Speedwagon at the Olympia, but couldn't make it to Dublin for the concert. As Mary and Padraig were not interested, they asked me if we wanted to go. I didn't know what REO Speedwagon was (I thought it was spelt Oreo Speedwagon and was something to do with biscuits!), but I asked Brendan, and he was happy to go. I now know that they are an American band, who play stadium rock and power balads.

And we went to the concert last night, and had a great time. It's not exactly my kind of music, and the sound was not great (the bass was too strong and overpowering), but they gave it loads, and they played some good songs.

It turns out I knew 2 of their songs - Can't Fight this Feeling, and Keep on Loving You! The power balads obviously made it to Belgium!

For more details about the band's history, check out Wikipedia.

E-Day + 21

No picture today.
David and Stan spent most of the day spreading hardcore over the area, and digging a trench to bring out the radon tube out the back behind the shed.
They also collected blocks, which are now ready for the brick layers to work tomorrow or Wednesday (they haven't confirmed yet what day they would be here).
Let's hope it's tomorrow, as I want the party wall to be built - it's a bit awkward seeing into the neighbours' garden and conservatory!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Seafarer

Lisa and I went to the Abbey theatre on Wednesday. The play was The Seafarer, by Conor McPherson. A very Irish play in many ways, stories of lives ruined by alcohol, gambling, and uncontrolled tempers, an Irish world where men are not good at relationships. But with a modern twist - influenced by American movies and series, such as Reaper, where the Devil walks amongst us, and uses his supernatural powers and nobody bats an eyelid.

If you want some learned opinions on the play, have a look at The View on RTE.

It certainly worked for me. By the end of the play, I was rooting for Sharky, hoping that his cards would be better than the Devil's!

E-Day + 19 - What Lies Beneath

No work today - it's Saturday?


Stan and David were there at 8 this morning. They had told us they would come around 9, but traffic must have been a lot lighter than during the week. They didn't make too much noise until after 9, so hopefully, no neighbour got woken up by the sound of the drill!

They've done some more pipework and they've also brought in hardcore to fill the moat! This is a picture of one of the main pipe junctions. You can see the AJs clearly. The pipe that goes over the AJ at the front will be redirected to the side of the shed on Monday.

Here are some before and after pictures that you'll find interesting!
Before filling

And after filling:

Friday, June 06, 2008

E-Day + 18

No pictures today - I just didn't get around to it, busy as I've been all evening catching up on my laundry - I wasn't able to reach the shed last weekend (remember, there was a moat between us and the shed) and therefore didn't get to the washing machine and dryer.

Most of the day was spent replacing damaged bits of pipes and rerouting existing pipes so that the AJs (or access junctions to you and me - that's the square trap doors on top of the pipes) are in convenient locations, all the while making sure that waste water flows smoothly, without blockages!

By the way, remember how I was wondering how the pipes from the main junction were going to get through the wall - well, they had to drill a hole through it. As simple as that!

And Peter from McNally joinery measured our doors.

And we had a special site inspection from Padraig! I hope we passed!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

E-Day + 17

In answer to P's question, yes, some of the pipes are being rerouted - there is a pipe leading from the roof gutter, which will need to be rerouted completely, as it was clashing with our wall. Currently, it's going nowhere, but it will be rerouted on the outside. Other pipes are staying more or less where they were.

The big junction and manhole which is currently beside our party wall will be moved to just outside the extension, in front of our shed door - though how it will get through the wall, I'm not quite sure. No doubt they've got it all figured out and it will become clear in due course!

We discussed the foul pipe coming down from the main bathroom upstairs with Kevin today. The original plan was to reroute this between the ceiling and roof in the extension, to come out the side of the house on the other side. But as we have now decided to go for a vaulted ceiling, there is no room for this, so we're going to keep this pipe where it is, and box it in(and insulate it well so no unpleasant sounds are heard when we flush the loo in the main upstairs bathroom)

The main sewage pipes going across our garden have now been covered over and will never be heard of again, hopefully!

This morning, Kevin had to do a bit more digging to confirm that the damp patch we found on Friday night at the back of the house was not a leaking pipe, but just a harmless bit of ground water.

There was plenty of calculations and discussions today, about pipes, walls, radiators. The engineer was called on site to discuss pillars, steels, beams and RJs (jargon jargon). It's all clear now, and everybody is happy. I think!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

E-Day + 15 - The Wall

Our garden was a hive of activity when we came back from the gym this morning. Three brick layers were there, Kevin was taking measurements and levels, David was organising things and Stan was busy working hard as always. There were cars and vans everywhere in front of our house. Given that it was bin day, we had to get some of these moved (to make sure that the Panda truck could get by and collect everybody's bins!)

The blocks were delivered around 1:30 (they had been ordered for 8 am), and work started on the wall. We're now at the floor level, so we have a better idea of the extra space we're going to have. And the hole in the block work at the top is for the underfloor ventilation. All fascinating stuff!

And here is the answer to Padraig's question about what happens to the pipes: they get little lintels over them, and then blocks go right over, just like a window!

Monday, June 02, 2008

E-Day + 14

No work today - Bank Holiday Monday.

We've had 3 glorious days over the weekend - and since we don't have a garden at present, we had to leave the house to make the most of the weather. Killiney beach on Saturday, Marley Park on Sunday and Greystones today. We had never been to the beach in Greystones, so it was a bit of an adventure. It's not as scenic a spot as Killiney, no doubt about that, but the beach itself was sandy, which beats the Killiney pebbles any day. As we had arrived early, it wasn't too madly busy. We managed to park just at the top of the steps.

I brought one of the Hello Kitty picnic mats I got from Véronique, and it was very handy - to use in between our 2 towels, to keep our food and suntan lotion sandfree. I guess I'll have to keep this one, so. I can't give an open present to one of my nieces, surely?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

E-Day + 13 - Fanore Beach - Life on Mars

No work today. It's Sunday.

Here is my latest watercolour, completed over just a few days. It's inspired by a photo of Fanore beach, in County Clare.

I worked on watercolour paper dampened with a sponge. I started with the sky, dropping ultramarine, burnt sienna, yellow ochre and alizarin crimson to achieve the dramatic thundery effect.

The stones were done by layering turquoise and ultramarine until I got the tone I wanted. They were done on dry paper to achieve a sharp effect.

On the other hand, the sand was painted on damp paper again, with yellow ochre and alizarin crimson. When that was dry, I used the sieve and toothbrush to spray paint the same colours over the background, adding a mix of turquoise and ultramarine for the darker spots. It's a bit redder than I would have liked, hence the title "Life on Mars"

The waves were painted last, with white gouache over a turquoise and Payne's grey sea.
I like the surreal effect of the whole thing. I might have another go, and try another, more realistic, version.