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domestic archaeology

It's been a busy half-term week.

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.


( 4 worms — Feed the birds )
18th Feb, 2010 07:55 (UTC)
Alas for your Tuesday
We missed you at the pub o'course but on first seeing your photos (further upstream) I thought maybe you were off having exciting times in that there London or something... alas for the sickbed. Good work on the house archaeology though - this week in comparison we have been doing kitchen painting, which has also taken a while though is presumably less physically hard work.

I did a lot of walking yesterday and it was lovely to feel the coming spring in the air.
18th Feb, 2010 08:42 (UTC)
Re: Alas for your Tuesday
We were really quite ill with a MYSTERY AILMENT. Symptoms - extreme tiredness, lack of hunger, some nausea. It was anoying because I had a Nice Meal planned and also we were going down the pub to check out pancakes. Neither of these came to fruition.

On the plus side we did discover ANIMAL ARMAGEDDON on Eden, a breathless CGI runthrough of mass extinction events and prehistoric creatures eating each other, punctuated by inappropriate quotes from ancient philosophers, and narrated by a hireling who has clearly only just now seen the script.
18th Feb, 2010 08:50 (UTC)
There were no pancakes at the pub!
I was saddened and surprised, but Paul S reckoned there were never going to be pancakes at the pub because they're hard to do in catering stylee. I have seen (and indeed had, at work) pre-cooked pancakes in a folded little parcel kept hot on the heat tray so I reckon it can be done but alas alack 'twas not to be.

We have recently finished WALKING WITH BEASTS on charidee shop video, with Ken Branagh's portentous voice-over. And cuddly babies who almost never end up actually killed, despite menacing threats in the narration.
18th Feb, 2010 12:29 (UTC)
Re: Alas for your Tuesday
Those photos are all of Oxford-based fun! The gold spacesuits are at Modern Art Oxford, and the licorice allsorts wer spotted on George Street ;)
( 4 worms — Feed the birds )