Southerly by David Haywood


Bricks and Mortar

The trouble with writing about a large(-ish) building project is that after doing hard physical labour all day, and then paperwork all evening -- you somehow don't much feel like doing anything else. It turns out that there is nothing quite so impossible for me as dealing with building consents until 2.30 am, and then making light of my bureaucratic travails in 2,000 amusing words before bed.

But happily the document shown below has afforded me a spare hour before midnight today.

Above: The seldom-seen completed To-Do list.

Yes, the preparations for the house relocation are complete. Although somehow this list doesn't do justice to the 550 hours (exactly) of suffering that it represents.

Above: The double chimney (before & after) as seen from the sitting room.

A definite high tidemark of suffering was the removal of the remains of our chimneys, in which -- very fortunately -- I had the able assistance of the lovely Ian Dalziel from Apple Pie Design. Actually 'assistance' perhaps undersells his contribution. Saint Dalziel lifted a mind-boggling 75 tonnes of bricks (7.5 tonnes, 10 times). The fact that he hasn't ended up in a spinal unit is nothing short of a miracle; indeed I plan to use this as evidence in my campaign for official papal recognition of his saintliness.

Above: The same pair of chimneys (before & after) as seen from the study.

The removal of the first pair of chimneys opened up an interesting architectural space between the study and the sitting room. "Open plan living," quipped Saint Dalziel.

Above: Another double-chimney as seen from the master bedroom.

The commencement of work on the second pair of chimneys revealed three hitherto unknown cupboards hidden behind the wallpaper.

Me: Damn it, Dalziel, a find like this is the reason we got into this crazy archaeology business in the first place!

Dalziel: Damn it, Haywood, this changes everything we thought we knew about chimneys! They'll have to rewrite the textbooks!

I have since reflected that it is slightly embarrassing to discover three cupboards in your bedroom that you had never suspected of existing. Surely it's the sort of thing we should have noticed if we'd been genuinely thorough in our cleaning.

Above: This container is larger than it appears.

An enduring memory of the house relocation preparations is the packing of the container. I had somehow managed to underestimate the time that it would take to fill, and ended up making a late-night plea for help to Saint Dalziel. We spent numerous hours of darkness stumbling around the property while burdened with heavy objects; I have seldom felt so exhausted at the end of a day (and I'm sure the Saintly Dalziel must have been cursing his promptness in answering the phone).

Above: Six burly chaps form a paving stone chain-gang -- while the shapely authoress in the background does the actual hard work of stacking.

The job I'd been most dreading -- the lifting of the paving stones -- wasn't nearly as bad as I'd anticipated. This was mainly thanks to Jennifer's brainwave in holding a 'Pizza, Beer, and Paving Party'. The concept of such a party is simplicity itself: you invite your friends around for pizza and beer, but when they arrive you don't allow them to eat or drink until they have lifted a tonne of paving stones.

Above: Paving party heroes, starring (in alphabetical order): Ian Dalziel, Karl Dearden, Donald Derrick , Emma Hart, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Beth Hume, Jeanette King , Pat LaShell , Matthew Littlewood , Andrew MacFarlane , Roger Nokes , Jacqui Nokes , Jon Ohaire , Viktoria "the Vegan" Papp , Pauliina Saarinen , Mari Sanchez , Keyi Sun, Andrew the "Don't-Fuck-with-Me" Canadian , Creon Upton , and Kevin Watson.

Jennifer's colleague, Viktoria the Vegan, was an early arrival at the paving party. I had expected that -- given her no-frills diet -- it would take all her energy reserves simply to stand upright and watch other people lift bricks. To my surprise, however, she lifted more than anybody else: three tonnes entirely by herself. Vegans are stronger than they look; I hereby vow never to pick a fight with one (no matter how frail they appear to be).

Above: The paving party labourers enjoy a well-earned meal of pizza and beer.

A fortnight or so back, with most of my To-Do list completed, I called in the people who will actually transport the house: King House Removals.

So far, I must say, I've been extremely impressed. They have highly impressive technology, and they are outstandingly efficient workers. In next to no time my workshop looked like this:

Above: Levitating workshop.

And hardly any time later the house was ready to be moved.

Above: Levitating house.

The big day is tomorrow (Thursday 26 April). Watch this space for breaking news.

David Haywood is the author of the children's book 'The Hidden Talent of Albert Otter'.

(Click here to find out more)

His previous books 'My First Stabbing' and 'The New Zealand Reserve Bank Annual 2010' are available here.

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