Day 61 – Finishing the Shed and Other Things

It’s been a pretty busy week, non-stop since Lucy’s birthday. I’ve only got to writing the blog posts this morning, following a review of the photos I’ve been taking last night. You may have noticed a flurry of catch-up posts, and there’s still a gap. I expect the rest will follow over the next couple of days.

This weekend has been one of finishing off things, largely as parts arrive. On Friday the new garden shed arrived and we started building it yesterday. Today we finished it off.

Lucy eating breakfast on the sofa while watching Lego Friends videos. (Photo: James Kemp)

We had a pretty slow start to the day. With no alarms and no pressure we all slept late. I spent the morning writing captions on the pictures and starting the backdated blog posts while Lucy sat on the sofa watching YouTube videos of Lego Friends builds.

Garden Shed pt.2

Lucy holding the electric screwdriver while she was helping fit the windows in our new garden shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Yesterday we left the shed with four walls attached to the floor. We still had the windows, door and roof to do today, as well as painting it.

Windows

The first thing we did today was to fix the covers over the gaps between the panels. Once we’d done that we fitted the windows.

Lucy gives the thumbs up to the newly installed windows from inside the new shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

The windows are moulded plastic, which only fitted one way, so we didn’t need to worry about putting them in the wrong way. They’re held in place with a three strips of wood.

Lucy screwing in the windows on the new shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Lucy helped by screwing in the bottom screws on each bar with the electric screwdriver. She also helped by passing the screws, until she got bored.

Door

We found the door a bit trickier, mostly because of the hinges. The instructions just had a single vague image, and it took a bit of experimenting and thinking about before we were sure enough to screw the hinges on.

Tracy peering through the window after we’d fitted the door to the shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Before that we had to put the slam strip and weather strips on the doorframe to fit it for the way we wanted the door to open.

Proving that the door actually opens! (Photo: James Kemp)

Once we’d done that it was time to start painting, and both kids spent some time painting the front of the shed and the door while Tracy and I worked out how to do the roof. I also had a small repair to do to the shed. One of the planks in the side of the roof got cracked in transit, and when I was inside the hut with Lucy after we put the door on we noticed that it was a really wide hole.

One of the shiplap boards in the side of the shed split in transit. (Photo: James Kemp)

It wasn’t the only hole we noticed though. Lucy also spotted that there was a knot on the other side that had fallen out, and we could see through it. She made me go out to the other side so that she could wiggle her finger through the hole and I could catch it. Once she’d done that we had to trade places so that she could do it from the other side. It was a shame to plug the hole with the knot again.

A spare board from one of the old fence panels was pressed into service to cover the gap. (Photo: James Kemp)

The cracked board wouldn’t sit together, so I got a long board from one of the fence panels we’d taken down and sawed it to fit either side of the join. I initially intended to nail it in, like the way the rest of the boards are attached. However without the roof on it bounced too much and the nails wouldn’t go in. So I gave up and screwed it in place with some of the spare screws.

Roof

This was by far the most time consuming part of the build, and I’m glad that we left it until after lunch. When we’d finished the leftovers from last night’s dinner we assembled the roof on the grass.

Three sheets of OSB, which I’m not sure what it is, and four 30x30mm strips of wood made a rather flexible roof. Tracy and I hoisted it onto the top of the hut with some difficulty. The individual boards flexed and caught on the supports as we tried to slide it across. It got there eventually, although I realised when we did that the supports weren’t quite in the right place as the overhang wasn’t equal on both sides. Alexander commented on this at some length, but then realised that his friend was running a D&D game shortly and asked to be allowed to go play. Which we did.

The OSB base for the roof on top of the hut, with some overhanging branches. (Photo: James Kemp)

That was just the start. What I realised when I was screwing the roof onto the shed was that I’d not cleared the tree branches enough. So I took some time to get the loppers and cut all the branches that I could reach that went over the shed.

Tracy and Lucy dividing labour while painting the hut, Tracy did the parts Lucy couldn’t reach. (Photo: James Kemp)

With the shed roof screwed on the whole shed was a lot less wobbly than it had been. Once I’d got most of the screws in it felt stable enough for me to crawl in top, which made the next stage much easier.

Lucy helped me measure the shed, and the overhang so that I knew how long the felt had to be. Then we unrolled the felt and measured it with the tape measure. Lucy was quite surprised by the small stones on the outside of the roofing material. We cut out a piece and then Tracy helped me drag it onto the roof. While I crawled on top of the shed Lucy helped Tracy fetch nails, hammers and anything else we needed to get it in the right place. She also played with the tape measure and measured several things while we were hammering in the felt.

It was time for a break about then, and while we had a cheeky ice-cream, Tracy ordered in pizza for 1830. We didn’t stop for long, just enough to eat the ice-cream.

While I finished off getting the felt  Tracy resumed painting the outside of the hut. She managed to get most of it painted while I sorted out the rest of the felt with Lucy, and then dragged it onto the top of the hut. We had another spell of working together to get it in the right place, and then Tracy did more painting while I hammered in tacks.

The roof with the felt in place and the last fascia screwed in place. (Photo: James Kemp)

Once the felt was secured to our satisfaction I did the fascias while Tracy did even more painting. Lucy went off to play, and Alexander re-appeared briefly, but only to collect his music box before returning to playing games with his friends. At this point the build was more or less complete.

Build complete, and Tracy is almost done painting the shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Tracy finished painting it while I collected up the spare screws, instructions and tools we’d been using. I also tidied away all the power and other tools into the shed, because it isn’t complete as a shed until you are using it.

This isn’t really the end of the shed build, just phase 1. We’ve got to add in some shelves to put things on. Brackets for the spades and forks etc to hang from. Maybe a work surface on the side of the base for when we need to do things. There also needs to be a better tidy up and a small ramp built to make it easy to get the wheelbarrow and lawnmower in and out of the shed.

Dinner

As a reward for getting the shed built Tracy had promised us a delivery from pizza hut. We shared two large pizzas between three of us. Lucy had almost half of one which had Margherita on one side and American Hot on the other. Alexander had the American Hot half and also 3/8 of the Texas BBQ that I finished off.

As if a load of pizza wasn’t enough the deal also came with a tub of Caramel Chew Chew. One of my favourite ice creams. I interrupted Alexander’s attempt to serve it up by cutting the tub in half with a knife. He was aggrieved that he felt he was getting less than Lucy and I, but accepted in the end that we all had an equal portion.

After dinner Tracy and I put some of Lucy’s toys in the garage. We had her barbie dolls, including the house, and her baby dolls with their pram and cradle.¬† Lucy had suggested putting them away yesterday when she was tidying her room. They’d been blocking the hallway since then. It took a bit of tetris like stacking to get them neatly into the garage in a way that didn’t stop us getting to the other things we might need.

After that it was back out into the garden to get the kids to jump on the trampoline to burn off some of the ice-cream and pizza before bed. While they were jumping I finished the tidy up and also found a large bag of rubble hiding in a bush at the back of the garden. I offered this to my neighbour over the hedge for the ballast he’s looking for to fill the base of the chicken enclosure he’s building.

Working shed. All the tools at the back end of the garden got put in the shed overnight. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

Day 55 – Thank You Monday

A fairly standard Monday, even though it followed my five day weekend and everyone else’s four day weekend. Tracy was back at the hospital and I was working from home with the kids doing their school work.

For her writing challenge Lucy decided to write thank you notes for her friends that had dropped off presents in her birthday or shortly afterwards. So she found some paper and envelopes and wrote them out.

In the afternoon when I took some time off from work to help her with school we went for a walk to deliver the cards. We started with Amalie-Grace who lives a few doors down, and then walked through Furzefield Woods to deliver Kirsten & Ella’s card. We weren’t able to deliver Isabel’s because I didn’t know her address, but we did a circular walk back to the house, clocking up a mile.

Day 54 – Baby Yoda and a Sunday Walk

Even though it was Sunday we still got a delivery this morning. A plush toy Baby Yoda arrived for Alexander. He ordered this using the CBG reward money he’s been earning by helping out.

baby Yoda

We lived watching season 1 of the Mandalorian on Disney+. One of the cutest things in the Star Wars universe is the baby Yoda, no-one who’s telling know his real name, so everyone just calls him baby Yoda.

We all love baby Yoda, and there was a bit of a fight over him when he was unpacked. When Alexander went off to do something Lucy appropriated baby Yoda to have some fun.

Sunday Walk

For our daily exercise, and combining with some shopping, Alexander and I walked into Redhill. Tracy and Lucy drove the car and went round the park while waiting for us.

We took the national cycle route 21 for some of the way. It goes through a little bit of a nature reserve. Some of the low lying land has been allowed to flood, creating a pond that has some wild birds in it, including some nesting swans and some mallard ducks.

Day 53 – Clearing the Back of the Garden

After two days of celebrations we needed to get working to burn off the birthday cake!

We had rainbow cake for Lucy’s birthday, and now Tracy has made an awesome harlequin cake! (Photo: James Kemp)
Gloves and tools ready on the bench for the family to get involved in clearing the back before the new shed arrives. (Photo: James Kemp)
The ‘before’ photo. The back of the garden is rather unruly, and we need to put a shed in there on the right. (Photo: James Kemp)
Two and a half hours of effort from us all and it’s looking a lot more under control! (Photo: James Kemp)
The shed base is clearer than it was, bit it still needs some work to liberate it fully. (Photo: James Kemp)
There was a spot of drama up the street, with police, fire and multiple ambulances at an incident in the woods. (Photo: James Kemp)
The evening ‘after’ photo. We’ve collected more things to burn, swept the shed base and stacked a lot of spare bricks. (Photo: James Kemp)
The raised beds aren’t quite ready for planting, although Tracy spent time trying to clear them. (Photo: James Kemp)
A slightly clearer view of the back of the garden, after the lawnmower and hedge trimmers have worked their magic. (Photo: James Kemp)
We could put a shed here. The base after the bricks were moved and the debris swept off it. (Photo: James Kemp)
We found some concrete slabs behind some of the bushes! (Photo: James Kemp)
After lots of hard work a plate of ribs! (Photo: James Kemp)

Day 52 – VE Day 75 Celebrations

We had another full on day with prepping for the afternoon socially distant VE Day 75th anniversary celebration, although the start was a bit later than yesterday, and we had a slightly more relaxed evening as there was nothing else to prepare for tomorrow!

In a moment of boredom and anticipating the VE Day street party I got some chalk and a tape measure to make safe 2 metre squares on my drive. (Photo: James Kemp)

The first step I took in getting ready was to chalk out some squares in our driveway. I wasn’t sure how distant we’d be with our neighbours, so I got the kids pavement chalk and a tape measure out. The first line was the yellow one just over two metres from the pavement edge of the drive (I measured two metres, and then drew the line in the middle of the next whole block along). As it turns out our drive is a bit more than 8 metres from front door to the public pavement.

1925: We put some bunting up round the house for the VE Day celebration, as well as improvising a flagpole. (Photo: James Kemp)

I did the chalk outlines yesterday, but thought I’d keep the description clear from Lucy’s birthday celebrations. We also put up the bunting and improvised a flagpole with some old gazebo poles last night.

Alexander getting a short back and sides for VE Day, a lockdown haircut! (Photo: James Kemp)

We decided to dress for the VE Day 76 celebrations, and Tracy has some 1940s style dresses. Alexander thought he could pull off a typical 1940s schoolboy look, but he needed a haircut for that. So we got my clippers out and Tracy obliged his desire for a lockdown haircut, a short back and sides 1940s style!

Alexander as a 1940s schoolboy, with Tracy. (Photo: James Kemp)

Here they are dressed in their 1940s outfits.

Tracy looking fabulous 1940s style! (Photo: Jame Kemp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I got the table and chairs out of the garage and put them on the drive, Tracy was very busy in the kitchen making a sumptuous buffet that our forebears in 1945 would have been jealous of. We also had a slow conversation with our next door neighbours over the fence. Dan told us that he had re-joined the Army Reservc, and showed off some of his new kit (he’s a year younger than me and spent five years as a regular infantry soldier in his teens).

It was a beautiful summer day, so we baked on the drive while eating in the late afternoon.

A laden table our forebears in 1945 would have dreamt of, no rationing here! (Photo: James Kemp)
Lucy and Alexander enjoying the buffet on the front drive as part of the socially distant VE Day celebrations. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

 

While we were eating a few of the neighbours stopped by on their daily exercise walks and said hello from the end of the drive. When the light faded we went indoors.

Dusk on VE Day, and the lights came on as I was tidying everything away from the drive. (Photo: James Kemp)

Day 51 – Dawn until Dusk

It’s Lucy’s birthday and she was so excited that she woke us all up at 0530, not quite dawn because it was fully daylight. We had a pretty full on day, and there were an awful lot of pictures.

Lucy at 0542, happy and super excited because it is her birthday!
0545, we’re downstairs and Lucy is playing with her first present. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

 

 

 

0630: We had to wait until Nanna and Grandad woke up to video call so that they could see Lucy open their present. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

 

 

 

 

0654: Lucy sits amidst her presents and plays with them.
0702: Alexander made waffles for breakfast, Lucy got a malteser waffle! (Photo: James Kemp)

 

 

 

 

0710: A happy birthday girl! (Photo: James Kemp)

 

 

 

 

0906: Decadence personified, an extra long straw to save her having to pick up the glass of cherryade while she builds lego. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

0928: Thumbs up for Nanna and Grandad who gave Lucy the lego friends lighthouse. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

 

1007: Concentrating on the build, Lucy working through bag three of the Lego Friends Lighthouse. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1016: The Lego Friends Lighthouse build is complete, including a working light! (Photo: James Kemp)

 

1323: Birthday cake being dropped off as an essential supply! (Photo: James Kemp)

 

1322: Lucy blowing out the candle on her birthday cake (Photo: Geoff Low

 

The sparkler 8 candle on the cake (Photo: James Kemp)
1323: Lucy slices the cake and pulls out the first rainbow coloured slice! (Photos: James Kemp)
rainbow cake slice
1325: A slice of the rainbow birthday cake so that you can see the full glory. (Photo: Geoff Low)
1425: Cheers! Lucy with a glass of fizzy (cherryade) on her birthday. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

1925: We put some bunting up round the house for the VE Day celebration, as well as improvising a flagpole. (Photo: James Kemp)
2037: Lucy’s LOL Surprise house with the lights on at bedtime. (Photo: James Kemp)

Day 50 – Birthday Eve

It’s the day before, and after Lucy went to bed we got prepping to make tomorrow as special as we can. Three hours of blowing up balloons, hanging bunting, wrapping presents and tidying up afterwards and I’m hoping she’ll squeal when she sees it!

The day involved Alexander clearing all his homework before making dinner. I spent about two hours on the phone to Virgin Media and running broadband tests, and putting stuff back in the garage so that we had room for tomorrow.

Lucy has been doing VE Day themed school work, and she read the horrible histories book woeful second world war. We also did a WW2 theme for the alphabet game when we went on a walk this afternoon.

After the walk Lucy did a martial arts session via zoom. This worked really well, although I think she’d like a mat for the floor when she was lying on it trying to do sit-ups.

Broadband Bother

I’ve noticed that the zoom meetings I’ve been on have had unstable connections and are pretty wobbly. So I found the time to do a speed test. It registered my broadband speed as about 7Mbps down. This isn’t bad, but I’m paying Virgin Media for 200Mbps. So it’s a bit short.

I first did the test about a week ago. I was in WiFi then, and also thought it might be split several ways with other devices. I found a couple of Ethernet cables and got the powerline going. On Monday I joined a work call while wired in and it was noticeably better. So I ordered a few new cables.

This morning I tested the broadband speed again. It was still around 7Mbps, even when wired directly to the router. After poking around the Virgin Media website I gave in and called them. There was no way to contact them via web form or email. The woman was pretty patronising, clearly following a script and told me that I’d need to do a hard reset of the router every 10-15 days. When I did do the reset and got the same speed she said it would settle in an hour or so.

I called back an hour and a half later when the speed was still the same. The second lady was much more helpful and seemed to know what she was about. None of the tests showed anything wrong, but she decided that the router was a bit long in the tooth and ordered a new one to see if it will make a difference.

Decorations

Tracy pushed the boat out for Lucy’s birthday, given that we’ve cancelled the birthday party with her friends we want to make the day special. So Tracy bought a helium canister and a load of balloons. We’ve also got extra banners and bunting. All three of us spent the evening decorating the living room.

Day 49 – Evening Gardening

It being Tuesday I spent most of the day at the desk in out bedroom while Tracy did things downstairs with Lucy. Alexander mostly just did his schoolwork without input.

Probably the most interesting thing that happened all day was that when Tracy got up there was a police officer speaking to two young women on the green outside. They wandered off down the side of the street about half eight. The police care stayed there for about another two hours or so. No idea what was going on.

Work

Work was lot of reading about international comparisons on coming out of lockdown and analysing the UK stats to work out how long it might last given the tests announced. It took almost all day, and a handful of meetings and a tidy up of my inbox before my five day weekend kept me busy until six.

Evening Gardening

Today’s exercise was working in the garden after dinner. Alexander came out with me and between us we planted half a dozen plants in the front garden. Alexander dug the holes and I put the plants in.

When we finished that we went round the back garden. Alexander used the loppers and a rather blunt handsaw to make some stakes from a tree we cut down a couple of months ago.

While he did that I moved some bricks and some very clay heavy soil. I also walked a couple of concrete slabs to the very back corner of the garden.

Once I got them up there I put the slabs against the fence to protect it from the composting vegetation. I used some of the lumps of clay to make a level line for the bricks. There was a noticeable slope over the couple of metres from the fence to the front of the area selected.

The old shed door was repurposed as the side wall for the new compost heap. I used the two slabs to determine the width, and the door for the depth. The door rested on a line of bricks just to make it a bit taller and relatively horizontal.

Once I got it all in place the stakes that Alexander made were driven in using a 3lb hammer. They’re all about a foot into the ground. I doubt they’ll last a long time, being green wood. But all I need is a couple of years.

Last step was to put the remaining clay on the floor of the compost heap and flatten it down.

Day 48 – May the Fourth…

We live Star Wars in this house, and both the kids got very into it. Alexander wore his sith costume, and Lucy did her best. I had a star wars t-shirt on, but Tracy had to wear her uniform for work.

School was Star Wars themed for Lucy. She wrote a review of why Rey was her favourite Star Wars character, and when reading time came she read a page of a Star Wars roleplaying game sourcebook before swapping to a Lego Star Wars book, because she said the print was too small. Being fair it was about 9 point font on a page a bit bigger than A4.

After dinner the kids staged a lightsaber fight on the drive. Although Lucy had a stick rather than an actual lightsaber.


We also watched the Phineas and Ferb Star Wars special, which was really good and well worth watching. After dinner Disney+ served us up Episode III Revenge of the Sith, which unsurprisingly is Alexander’s favourite.

Days 46 & 47 – Weekend

I didn’t write yesterday evening because I was trying to write a short story for the Merstham Write Club. The . challenge was to write a short story of up to 2,000 words based on a picture. I wrote 3,128 words last night and didn’t quite finish the story.

We’ve had a fairly relaxed weekend. Lots of TV and a movie and also a trip out for essential items, including posting some things.

A very empty Belfry shopping centre on Saturday 2/5/20 (Photo: James Kemp)

I also spent most of Saturday in the front garden, weeding the border, planting some plants and cutting the grass.

My front garden on one of my breaks from tidying it up on Saturday 2 May. (Photo: James Kemp)

On Saturday afternoon we had a zoom session with our friends, the Lows, and played a picture quiz of our joint family photos in Kahoots. It was a lot of fun and we’re planning to repeat it next week.

We also tidied up bedrooms, took down the blanket fort, washed all the sheets, and put clothes away. In short getting the laundry done and tidying up. It was all done in short bursts and between episodes of Doctor Who. We started with the Impossible Astronaut and we’re working through that season.

Lego House

Lucy built an awesome Lego house, which is her best one yet. So I took a series of photos.

It has a tall front door because it is supposed to be in a desert, and according to Lucy it needs to let the wind through to cool it down.

The kitchen was one of the most awesome parts. It had drawers with utensils in. The cupboard had a cup and teapot inside, and the oven a cupcake.

There was also a coffee machine on the counter, a smoothy maker and a box of food. Best of all was the large picture window above the sink, so you could see out when doing the dishes!

Downstairs also had a living room area with a TV, sofa and a hamster cage.

In between the kitchen and the living room was a waterfall, which doubled as the shower.

Upstairs was the bedroom, complete with bed, dressing table and storage for accessories.

Along the corridor was the toilet.

Experimental Food

On Sunday morning we encouraged Lucy to microwave some marshmallows so she could see what happened.

Two microwaved marshmallows on a pancake (Photo: James Kemp)

Repairing my bergen

Part of the tidying up included a repair to my Berghaus Roc. It was moved out of the way for the blanket fort into the hallway. During the night I stood on one of the quick release buckles and there was an ominous crunching sound. To be fair the bergen is over thirty years old, I bought it in 1989 when I joined the TA. It’s seen a lot of action over the years.

Given its age it was impossible to acquire replacement buckles of the same style. They haven’t made them for over a decade. However there were a couple of helpful suggestions on the web. It seems that the Berghaus Roc is a very durable bergen and many people are still using them 30 years on. A few have even had the same issue as me.

So there was a no sewing solution. I took a spare 25mm quick release buckle from a repair kit I had in the cupboard. I then used a hacksaw to cut a slot in the middle of the bar that went onto the lid. It needed two cuts to get a wide enough slot. The plastic was easy to cut. I then filed the edges to make sure they weren’t sharp.

I then prized off the old clip, which was already cracked. It took some brute force, but it came off clean. I then pushed the loop of webbing through the slot I’d cut and worked it all through. This was the trickiest bit of the repair. I ended up folding it by rolling it after it was through the slot. Once I’d got it in I just straightened it out.

The other end was much easier, although I needed to remove the stitching on the very end of the webbing that stopped it rolling off. It was triple folded, and I left it double folded, so there’s still some protection from the webbing sliding through accidentally.

The broken buckle (green) on my venerable Berghaus Roc that I stood on, and the replacement (black) buckle fitted without sewing. (photo: James Kemp)