On Monday, I cleared the gravel out of our "french drain". I put this in inverted commas because the people who did it cut just enough out of the top of the concrete to rest some gravel in. Caveat Emptor and check everyone's work, I guess.
Then I dug out the front. We have about three inches of topsoil over thick, wet clay. The damp course (which "could not be verified" according to the survey) turned up about four inches down, a thin layer of degraded bitumen, resting just under the ventilation brick. We got that excavated as part of the original "french drain", so it wasn't entirely wasted work.
I was dissatisfied by the drain at the end of the day. The water had no clear route, the slope away from the wall was not sufficiently defined. But it was better than it had been before, undeniably.
Tuesday I staggered into work, feeling sicker with every step. Inbewteen doing the twenty-nine things that had piled up in one day off, I googled a series of things I might have caught from careless digging in contaminated earth. Catscratch, Wiel's, etc. Nothing seemed to have a suitable incubation time except for a few things that would leave me in obvious need of an emergency hospital visit, so I stayed at work. At five I went home and found timscience in bed, in a similarly piteous state, and we crashed, occasionally waking to gulp water, whinge and nibble at half an oatcake. So much for Tuesday.
Today we woke and regretfully concluded that we were not quite ill enough to call off Handy Andy the indie builder and his Angle Grinder of doom. He cut, timscience drilled, they took it in turns to break. I adjusted my drain with a rubble-packed gully, graded the spoil, cleared broken concrete, and then started on the side drain.
Digging down from the concrete (alarmingly variable in consistency, depth and friability) there was a thin yet annoyingly hard-to-dig crust of topsoil, dust and gravel, then three inches of clay, and then a nice bed of concrete. It was like excavating a domestic fossil, and required much trowel-work. Yet somehow satisfying; hacking my house free from silt, muck and adulteration. The damp course was there; it had been under the concrete all along.
From out front, I heard the sound of a dilemma. Andy and timscience had found a somewhat dinged doorstep (they were doing the difficult bit, around the drains and the door) under the concrete. Should it be preserved? I picked up a chunk. "This is concrete, painted red. It goes."
We have the same red paint on our kitchen floor, under the tattered linoleum. Except for the bit around the gas fire, where the concrete is stained with, well. I think it's blacking.
Tomorrow I'm back at work, trying to slap a lid on a few more crises. Hoping to a be a bit more on-the-ball than I was on Tuesday. Off again on Friday; that'll finish the drain. See if I can get the topsoil (carefully preserved) into some containers. Although it's still too early to plant anything, really.
Although today really felt like the first day of spring.