Roof beams and scaffolding

It is now seven weeks since the builders arrived and we continue to be well impressed by progress. DSCN0629cw

During the course of the last couple of weeks the whole of the ground floor walls and roof timbers have been completed as can be seen from the photographs. We even have some UPVC put in, but you can’t see it properly from the front.

This week the guys are intent on putting the beams onto the extension to the upstairs room, and they hope to have us tiled, windowed and watertight by 1st October when they take a break for a 10 day holiday in Egypt with their Mum who is recovering from chemo.

DSCN0633wThe timing of their break is good, as it will leave us fairly clear of clutter for parking on the weekend of the 3rd (when something appears to be drawing a large group of friends and family to visit). Presumably at some point after that we will need to move the lad out of the front room so they can break through and start the work on dismantling and creating internal walls. It looks like the shed will be watertight to help with this!

Other news? Well our favourite tussocky field has been mowed but G found a Devil’s Coachman on today’s walk – unfortunately it moved too fast to photograph. Mind you the Greenwoodpeckers seem to be enjoying the easier access for ants and other insects! I also noted today there are still Housemartins flying to and from the eaves of some of the houses on the estate, presumably encouraged to remain here a little longer by the high pressure and good weather – long may it continue if there’s going to be a hole in the roof this week!!

Little things please…

DSCN0607cwThe little thing that pleased this week was a drain. We’ve had drainage issues down the side of our house since we moved here, but the advent of a path that slopes correctly downhill, with a properly constructed drain under the outside tap appears to have cured all that!

The chaps only managed a 3 day week this week, partly because of the Bank Holiday and partly because the RSJs failed to show up as expected. However the paving at the side of the house is complete except for what I call ‘grouting’ and they call… something else which I can’t remember.

They also made some very large but neat holes in the garage floor where the loo, shower and washing machine outlet are to be – they need to put the new fixings in before the insulation and final floor stuff goes down. The vibrations as they drilled the existing concrete were stupendous especially experienced while sat in the armchair trying to work.

This week is going to be frenetically busy partly in prep for the final residential study weekend, but we’re also looking forward to welcoming our friends Tony and Cath from AIM International. They are on furlough from Morogoro in Tanzania and their little stay with us (about 17 hours) will give us the chance to catch up having not seen them for nearly 10 years, and St. Peter’s the chance to hear about their work at our mid-month 2:42 meeting (think Acts 2:42-7). Tony leads a theological training programme, and Cath works with disabled children and is about to take up new work with those suffering HIV/AIDS.

I think I shall be using part of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-14) as our Biblical inspiration for the evening: it struck me whilst doing some reading for my Mission module, how much I need an upwelling of love for all people if I am to minister effectively. Love is such a little word, which we need such a big lot of – the sort of totally unconditional stuff that makes a real difference to peoples lives.

Then I thought this also has something to say to St.Ps if we are to fund-raise for and then use effectively our new community centre which recently gained planning permission (anyone with a cool £3m in the bank please contact me, as we could use it..!) Now my memories of Tony and Cath is that they understand and exhibit the reality of God’s ‘living water’ both by their characters and their chosen ministry. Hopefully, with almost no communication, God is control and the ideas will all tie up on the night – why not come and find out!

Small wildlife note: today’s dog walk produced a new butterfly in our favourite tussocky field – but we didn’t have the camera with us, so no photo of a Small Copper. There is still the odd dragonfly floating around too, despite the cool early September days.

Little things…

Forget Jericho – our walls go up!

Gone - the garage roof went Thursday
Gone - the garage roof went Thursday

Another week of huge accomplishments on the building front.

We now have all our ground floor external walls and window spaces, the utility boxes have been moved to their new positions without a hitch, the roof has been taken off the garage, the scaffolding went up this morning, and this afternoon the paving started to go down round the shed to the back door – all with the slope going in the correct directions!

DSCN0592wIn other aspects of life, the family work rate has definitely recovered from partial holiday mode and is back at almost full tilt, even though school doesn’t re-start till next week.

G has completed a third of the upper-sixth scheme of work for next academic, and I received the pack for my last Reader Training module: ‘The Mission of the Church in Contemporary Society’. So I’ve been finishing off some of the summer’s to-do list including Mothers’ Union website updates, to make space for a period of frantic work – what you might call a wall of work going up. I have the module reading, half an assignment and ‘Archway’ to fit in round the start of term and friends on furlough from Tanzania visiting to share the duties at an evening service. All that in the space of 2 weeks before our last residential – a pleasant surprise though to find it is to be at Park Place Pastoral Centre so I can stock up on the nuns lovely Aubergine Chutney!

Standing on firm ground

Our dinky shed emerges
Our dinky shed emerges

Week three of the building work is complete and with it our hard surfaces, and half the shed walls. It’s been a tad noisy at times, but the holiday season has meant we’ve been able to escape by spending time with our family at various points.

The shed isn’t as big as I’d hoped on the inside, but as big as we could have and still keep the greenhouse. How I’m going to fit everything back in at the end of the build I have no idea, but I suppose some shed is better than no shed.

The first layer of the floor for the new hall is down and solid as a rock, which at least means we’re walking on firm ground as we go in and out. In the fullness of time, Cs room will come out 2/3 of the way out over that surface.

Bison beams and blocks in our new hall!
Bison beams and blocks in our new hall!

It’s been good to spend time with folk, and we conclude with a trip to Bournemouth tomorrow – it will be good to have all four generations together, as it doesn’t happen often. C has continued sailing this week, coming 2nd in the youth race at training night on Wednesday. The only wildlife highlight has been a Common Darter at the inlaws on Tuesday, my photo of which has had several compliments on the Flickr site: Common Darter

Calm before the storm?

Shed foundations - and a gap in the fence
Shed foundations - and a gap in the fence

Well it’s the end of the second week of building work and today has been total calm as the lads have had to attend a funeral today: their old boxing coach has sadly died.

However there’s been plenty of progress through the week: we’ve lost the doorstep, outside cupboard and the roof over the doorstep; the foundations for the shed are dug and concreted, and the first stages of aligning the front wall seemed to happen yesterday, with a dramatic pair of holes into the front of the house, we think to allow air to circulate beneath a raised floor.

I “preached” last Sunday at our Summer Sunday 10am congregation – in the end it was 3 linked talk/activity slots on God’s Promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:1-13 which involved a beach tent and lots of cardboard boxes! We started by talking about the importance and problems of tents; then we talked about a temple, why David thought it was a good idea, and built one round our ”sacred chest” using empty cardboard boxes; lastly we discovered why God wasn’t so keen on the idea and who the ultimate ‘temple’ would be, concluding with using the same boxes to build a large cross. Although I found it really tough to deliver (such ‘think spots’ demand the memory I don’t have and interaction with the kids) it was reasonably well received.

What's left around the front door
What's left around the front door

Since then there has been a bit of a lull in my normally frenetic life. I’ve read at least two girly novels this week, lounged in the bath for at least one morning (with a book), and watched my son sail… a lot! He had a day with Grandad on Tuesday at Littleton SC (where I found a pair of Holly Blue butterflies on some ivy), did race training with A in a Topaz Omega on Wednesday, and we’ve just returned from Hawley Lake where he came 11th out of 13 in his first pursuit race, sailing a Pico (so he beat the other Pico and one other boat). Somehow I ended up keeping tabs on the race placings, holding an instructors dog, and finally got invited to crew sometime soon! Something to be avoided methinks.

Also purchased and “pay and go” 3G dongle from Vodaphone to enable me to blog away from home. Unfortunately it doesn’t work well at Hawley, and I don’t think it will work from Lyndhurst (which appears to be an internet poor village both by cable and otherwise). It does work at church though, and I’m hoping it will work at Swanwick in the autumn!

Female Holly Blue
Female Holly Blue

Now we’ve got a week of family dominated trips out, plus I need to remember I’m leading and preaching at 8am Morning Prayer on 23rd before have a “4 generations lunch” in Bournemouth. That might sound busy, but it shouldn’t be too bad; definitely calmer than normal. After that it will be back to life in the really fast lane, as it’s all downhill to the stormy waves of life at the start of the academic year in a school orientated household, plus I’ve got Mothers’ Union meetings, the last Reader Residential of training, MU conference and … well I guess you know already!

History of a hole

End of Week 1 of the building works and we have footings… though at present I wouldn’t like to stand on them – if I did, I’d end up encased in concrete!

On Wednesday we thought that we had a pretty deep hole in the garage doorway, though by morning the spade at the end of it was a bit buried by landslip after a little rain.

A good spades depth outside the garage on Wednesday
A good spades depth outside the garage on Wednesday

Then yesterday, we had three guys digging like their lives depended on it, and between them they had produced truly awesome holes. 140cm deep apparently as they had to dig to the depth of the existing foundations, and discovered that we had been built very high with the ground level raised around us!

However, we had torrents of rain for hours last night. About 11pm reading in bed, we heard a loud squelching sound followed
by a grating noise! A trip to the doorstep with the torch revealed a large landslip had actually shifted the 8′ ladder left in the hole for them to get in and out. By this morning, more had fallen in, so there was a lot more to dig before the building inspector arrived about 11am.

140cm deep - before the rain it looked good!
140cm deep - before the rain it looked good!
Concrete delivery becomes a spectator sport!

The building inspector was followed by swiftly by a rather big boys toy… the concrete delivery lorry – mixed and instantaneously delivered down a shoot, with C and his friend D sat in the window above watching! So now we are surrounded with a moat of fast drying concrete and a very large pile of subsoil. We’re well pleased with the week, and look forward to next.

We took C down to Hawley Lake tonight and the older lads convinced him to enter the evening race in a Topper – a hilarious affair undertaken with great good will in a flat calm. Out of the eight boats, C had the advantage of his Toppers’ handicap and his junior status – coming third in this his first race!

No going back now!

Side garden - before work started
Side garden - before work started

As I write, the builders radio in the garage next to me is “sitting on the dock of the bay” which would be a more peaceful place that where we are. So far this morning we’ve had a disc saw and pneumatic drill going as well as much banging as they continue to take the front off the garage, work which started at a rapid pace yesterday.

Monday was simply a day of transferring bits of kit, but good to their word, they arrived yesterday at 8am and worked through till 4.30pm setting up the temporary fencing in the back garden to stop Honey dog getting through. They then started work taking off the front of our garage to discover what footings exist (or don’t) under what was the garage door.

We took Honey with us to Alton for Cs orthodontic appointment (apparently he may be a record breaker, as his lower jaw has moved 4mm in 6 weeks and will be ready for the next brace at the end of the summer) and wandered round the market. Had to laugh, we ended up buying pies from the Pondhead stall – Pondhead being the nearest bit of open New Forest to my Dad’s house! Thoroughly recommended as the the mushrooms had been cooked in wine!

Side of house - end of Day 1
Side of house - end of Day 1

We walked the dog at Bushy Leaze Plantation on Medstead Hill at Beech – well protected from the drizzle by the dense mixed woodland, of which the beech trees are by my favourite, especially the shapes they make along the old field banks. At one point we could here raptors calling, but couldn’t get into the dense bit of conifer to locate what I suspect was fledglings. We also saw a lovely green an black stripped dragonfly, and C glimpsed the steam train on the Watercress line below us.

Anyway, when we returned home about 3.30pm we quickly realised there was now no going back on the extension project – as significant bits of the garage front were missing. The lads had also disturbed a colony of now very bewildered snails… who spent the rest of the evening climbing the remaining wall, covered in brick dust!

Front of house - end of Day 1
Front of house - end of Day 1

Now all we’ve got to do is stop the Honey dog going banana’s at every new or loud noise and movement!

Altar – ations?!

The following is a short talk/sermon I will be giving at our mid-week service on Wednesday morning. Based on Genesis 12:1-9 it uses as it’s illustration the current activities in our household as we prepare for 5 months of building work! I have therefore illustrated it appropriately:

With imagination, you can see a utility area and dowstairs loo in this picture!
With imagination, you can see a utility area and dowstairs loo in this picture!

I’ve been packing up our belongings in boxes this week.
Asking myself tough questions like “do we really need it?”… “When did we last use that?” Worse still, I’ve had to ask G and C the same questions! Car loads have gone to the tip. There’s things on sale in Discoveries that are very familiar! [Discoveries is our church charity shop.]

I’m just glad we’re not actually moving, we’ve just got builders starting work next Monday! We believe God wants us to stay put in Yateley, so rather than move house, we’re extending the one we’ve got. We’re trusting what we believe God has said to us,
that he continues to have work for us here.

But my heart goes out to Abram and Sarai, and at this precise moment, to Sarai especially!! They were told to go! They’d already travelled as a family a huge distance,
all the way round the desert from Ur as far as Haran, but then they’d settled down for a bit,  and Terah, Abram’s father, who had originally received God’s call to travel to Canaan, had died.

But now they were back on the move. Packing up, keeping moving on.
Because God had told them to “go”. This time the call was to Abram himself.

“So Abram went.”
Apparently that little phrase is just one word in Hebrew. But when you’ve got flocks and herds, and camels and servants, not to mention a nephew called Lot with his own grumbling servants,that one word probably covers an awful … lot! (Sorry!)

But they did have their tents, and tents were important, they gave you safe place to sleep at night;an image of their safety, under God’s blessing. God’s big blessing;a blessing that would give them a home, a land,a family, and a future, with God.
Those tents represented Abram’s utter reliance on God. It’s an image that I could do well to remember in the next few weeks, even though I don’t possess one! I guess for us, our extension is a bit like us pitching a family tent.

Our lives as Christians are a pilgrimage, based on our trust in God, our faith,our obedience (whatever our doubts and worries) that God is guiding our journey through life, that he will show us when we get to where he wants us to be, show us where we can pitch our tent to do his work. Because for Abram, God stopped him on his journey and said “This is where I want you, as a people, to be.” And for us, God does the same.

Now, God isn’t in the habit of getting people to do things for no reason at all. My past experiences have shown me that when I’ve got where God wants me, he tends to confirm that I’ve done the right thing, that I’ve listened with obedience to his voice. Usually, I admit, he does this by getting me to do something once I’ve got where he wants me! That was certainly true when G and I moved to Yateley. I’m praying that God will give us the same reassurance over my families sense that we’re meant to stay here! That the extension will help us be where he wants us to do.

Here you can of course see our new front hall, front room and a little bit extra on the top!
Here you can of course see our new front hall, front room and a little bit extra on the top!

Now when Abram got where God wanted him to be, where God let him rest in the places to which, despite his traditional nomadic lifestyle,he would keep returning,
Abram builds an altar to God. A place that represents his fellowship with God,his relationship with the Lord who blesses him and whom he has obeyed.

You see it’s quite interesting;if you read right through the stories about Abram and Sarai,the places of their obedience to God, are marked by altars. When they have moral lapses, like in Egypt, Abram doesn’t build altars to God. But he does build them at Shechem, and between Bethel and Ai, and later at Hebron. Places where God speaks to him, where God shows him something important,where he is in tune with God’s will.

It’s like part of the act of obedience to God, that Abram does something that will last, makes something that will show people that God blesses those who follow his commands. He makes a place where he can pray, where he calls on the presence of the Lord, and acknowledges God’s importance in his life.

So, if we have a place where we’ve pitched our tent in obedience to God, what are we going to do, or make,that will be a symbol of our relationship with God that others’ can see? Where do we make our prayers, acknowledge God’s importance in our lives?

What and where, if you like, is our altar to God?