There are few tasks in life greater than that of building a house, yet few more desirable. One reaches a stage in life when the lure of owning your own house on your own piece of paradise becomes irresistible. Our particular piece of paradise is a four acre block of land in the countryside of southern Tasmania, which is the island state of Australia. Tasmania is a beautiful part of the world anyway, but this little bit of land was something else again, and when I first saw it about 20 years ago I knew it had to be mine: or should I say ours? My wife and two children were equally enthusiastic when they saw it so the deal was done.
We spent the next three years paying off our land, which consisted of 4 acres of gently sloping pasture overlooking the Huon River and the mountains beyond. That was the easy part. What use is land without a house? So the next step was to go to our friendly local bank manager to talk about finance. We were able to come to an amicable arrangement with him so the next step was to find a builder who would inspire our confidence and who would consider the prospect of allowing a totally inexperienced builder’s labourer (me) to help with construction.
We advertised initially for someone to quote a price for laying our slab, and a number of prospects emerged. I found that I related to one of these prospects better than the others so I showed him the plans that I had drawn up with the help of a friend. He looked at the plans and said the magic words, “I reckon we could have this built to lockup in 6 weeks”. The job was his! I am sure that anyone with experience of house building is now laughing uncontrollably as they ponder the naivety of this author.
It was with great excitement (on my behalf anyway) that we commenced work digging the footings for the slab. It’s not that I enjoy digging holes, mind you, but digging the first sod for our home was a pretty important moment. After a few days it started to occur to me that this slab was looking like taking a fair chunk of our valuable 6 weeks, but it had to be done, so onward we marched. When all the preparations were finally completed it was time to get the concrete truck in. First problem: the truck couldn’t get close enough to the site of the slab to pour the concrete directly so we had to do the wheelbarrow shuttle service, and anyone who has ever pushed a wheelbarrow full of wet cement knows how heavy it is. After countless wheelbarrow loads I was dripping with sweat, and this was in the middle of winter. staircase supplier
Then occurred an incident that put me out of action for a few days. The builder and I were both about to pour a wheelbarrow load of cement into the slab area but we came together and my hand got caught between the two barrows and felt the full weight of colliding barrow loads of heavy cement. If anyone had witnessed this they would have wondered at the sight of me running away yelling and performing something akin to a rain dance with the builder in hot pursuit probably wondering if my finger had been severed. It was extremely painful but not terminal, and after a few days off I was back into it.
Unfortunately my rain dance proved to be effective and we had heavy rain after laying the slab which affected the viability of it and required more work to be done when the weather improved, but the slab has never been quite what we needed and we have been left with the occasional rise in the concrete which is not quite in the class of the Himalayas, but is nonetheless a nuisance.