Friday, December 5, 2014

Oh Say It Isn't So

"Oh say it isn't so" is an old Irving Berlin song that went to number1 way back in 1932. As a young girl I grew up with this song being sung and whistled by my dear old daddy, and I can still hear him sing it, mostly that one line, slipping those bits of lyrics into a sentence in his clear tenor, holding the note on the word 'sayyy-' and sliding down the scale through the 'it isn't so" bit. I had no idea the lyrics were so sad! - the way he sang it I didn't even pick up on the song's meaning. I have just always associated it with my dad's cheerful singing.
But surprise, surprise, it's quite a mournful old ditty.
I've thought of this one line, heard his voice and remembered my daddy's good natured approach to, well, everything, so many times in the past months as an issue in our back yard has come to light, and demanded our attention and a 'whole lotta' resources! "Oh say it isn't so!"
Months and months of liaising with an engineering firm, seeking legal advice, considering options, trying to understand the engineering issues, deciphering PDFs of building codes and laws, jumping hoops and hurdles, the unfortunate presence of sewer lines, significant setbacks, contractor's quotes, trying to discern who best to work with, hemming and hawing, applying for approvals, waiting, worrying, waiting...AND FINALLY...
...we emptied our pool and were ready to begin. 
Our home sits high to a view of the hill country and there is a 2.5 meters drop to our rear neighbour. Not a problem unless your retaining walls fail. And ours have, critically.  With 225 cubic meters of earth to remove from our backyard (and store in great tall mounds on our front yard), and no access for heavy digging machinery, this became a job for...
...the good old shovel and spade, big guns, and a strong back and work ethic!
Yes, discouraging for our back pockets and for our contractor, was the realisation that this huge earthworks project would, by necessity, be carried out by hand, the old fashioned way.
We gathered the necessary bits and pieces...
Like portable facilities and construction fences, 
...and the earth began to move and shift with the aid of huge mine site conveyor belts which hauled our back yard to the front just as fast as the men shovelled.
Follow the conveyor trail with me...

Shovel load after shovel load later, the first of the 3 offending walls was unearthed.

You can see the brick wall beginning to show its ugly face!

And WELCOME to "Cole Ridge" (now I get to share some of Robert's clever names for different parts of this project. This first, is a play on words of our street name, Coleridge Place).
So much rock and rubble tipped us over into the category of a "hard dig", naturally, not part of our original quotation. "Oh say it isn't so".

These skip bins were delivered and then carted off at full capacity many times over.

There came the end of one particular work day, when the "Wailing Wall" (thank you Robert), now relieved of its' load, had one last evening to stand, albeit at a shocking 9degrees off vertical, before demolition. Although I have caught myself so many times feeling sorry for myself for being in this predicament, I am truly thankful that this wall did its job of bearing so much for so long. An avalanche of house, yard and pool onto the neighbour below, would not have been cool. "We'll bring the pool!" Umm, maybe not.

Down to bare bones we are here, thus a good time for a smoko. 
Here's a great shot of "The Money Pit" in all its' glory!

One day this was sitting at my front door...
...which was great because it meant the arrival of these enormous 200UB18 galvanised steel posts and their transfer, all 22 of them, from truck to yard.
I made myself scarce while these lengths were negotiated through our alley then over the brink and down into the pit.

Twenty two post holes were hand augered to a depth of 3.5 meters - down down down - 2 per day. Painstaking precision work, but I can't tell you much about those kinds of engineering specs- back slopes, levels, moment of inertia, surcharge loads, compaction density - but I believe it all leans inwards at 1.5 degrees off 90 and that this is quite purposeful. And I know that this job and scope of work is an unprecedented residential project. We are very special.

was not game to negotiate the pool edge and ladder down into the pit to photograph those holes, but I wish I had asked the men to take a pic for me.

Eventually things began to look like this...
Today's progress looks like so...
Quite a fair way to go still, but coming along, and timed for a Christmas finish!??!
 It's a genuine tip all around our place. But without fail as I drive up the hill and approach our property, in its current state of chaos, or look out at that money pit, I am grateful- 
-for progress
-for a solution that although complicated is effective
-for the conservative caution of engineers because I know we are doing all the correct things
-for our contractor who has talked me down when upset, assured me and tried so hard not to disrupt our family during his work, and for his willingness to do the hard yards
-for the men working by the sweat of their brow in the Aussie sun. They turn up each day smiling and respectful and they take pride in their work
-for the encouragement and help of friends as I wade through this
-for my family's patience
-for Robert's logical advice and calm approach to life's setbacks 
-for my dad in my ear and my head
And last but not least, for God's provision and help!


  1. After hearing all about the fence, it's great to see what's actually happening in pictures. Well done Mary

  2. My my!! What a pile of work! One of my mum's favourite sayings ... Say it isn't so!! Now I know where she gets it from! :)