Slip-sliding Away (Still)

30th March 2015

Having gotten over our recent holiday-induced jet-lag, it seemed somewhat perverse that the start of British Summer Time, and the hour less in bed that accompanies it, should impact us so greatly. It was with much yawning and rubbing of eyes however that we stumbled out of bed to face another day of inaction from our Men in Boots (MIBs).

Not that it’s their fault of course – they’re more than happy to pump a zillion tons of concrete into the ground just to ensure we don’t slide any further down the hill. The cause of this ongoing delay can still be laid squarely at the feet of our neighbourhood Farmer, or Plutus as we’re going to call him from now on.
Anyway, thanks to the delays caused by Plutus and his legal representative, the MIBs have packed up and gone home. The earliest, we’re told, that they’re likely to return is now after Easter. The knock-on effect of this, being the project completion date will now be around Xmas 2015, at the earliest.

Looking on the bright side, this at least gave me the opportunity to fly my new toy over the site, without incurring the wrath of the Site Manager for scaring his MIBs.
Here’s a photo taken from the drone, showing what the sinkhole area looks like now, after being grouted and levelled with a strange mixture of gravelly stuff and black plastic matting. We’ve also got a lot of shiny new drains connecting up all the water and waste emanating from the building, which is useful.
As always, you can click on the photos to see the larger version.

 Aerial Photo of The Laurels

You can also see how much our driveway, to the right of The Laurels, has been squeezed by the landslide. It’s now about 2ft narrower than it used to be. Unfortunately, that’s 2ft of land we’ll have to retrieve from Plutus in due course. We can hardly wait.
Just in case you’re not familiar with the location of the (ex)sinkhole, here’s a close-up.

Filled sinkhole

Apparently we can expect most of the area to the right of us to look like this at some time in the future, as they need to construct a level standing for the humongous machinery that’s going to arrive at an indeterminate point in the future. 
Looking at the current state of our drive however that’s probably going to be an improvement, as you can see below.
Driveway after landslide

One of the benefits of having a very expensive toy, with a camera attached, is that you can enjoy views from a very different perspective to the norm.
In the photo below I’ve marked the fault line, to the right of which, everything is on the move, thanks in no small part to both the Idiot Builders and Gravity. As an aside, until visiting Australia recently, we really weren’t fans of Gravity. Clearly, having spent a few weeks upside-down, we can now appreciate that it can have its benefits after all.

Landslide Direction

I’ve also added a very helpful red arrow which shows the direction in which the ground is moving. You can see the shear lines where large crevices have opened up in the field, as a result of the ground movement. These crevices are also apparent in the trees immediately to our right and in the woods above the field. 

Still, what’s the rush, they’re only going to get bigger whilst we wait around for work to restart!

A Far East Jaunt

25th March 2015

Apologies for being so tardy in posting any blog updates recently but, as you know we’ve been sunning ourselves in the Far East for the last three weeks.
Photographs of this trip can be enjoyed (or otherwise) on the Book of Faces by following this link.

You may well be struggling to feel sorry for us at this juncture, but do remember we had to suffer multiple flights in excess of 12 hours to complete our trip. All of which were completed in Cattle Class (aka Economy).
Bizarrely enough, not only did we have to suffer the noises emanating from our fellow passengers on the outbound flight, but we also had to suffer the same, or even worse, on the way back.
Whilst ensconced in our miniature world between two rows of similarly imprisoned travellers, we endured the continuous, non-stop coughing of a large, red-faced man who appeared to be on the verge of an imminent heart attack.

During the twelve endless hours, he tried to expel his lungs from his thorax, I imagined placing my hands around his neck to relive his, and our fellow travellers’ discomfort. Alas, his twenty-plus inch neck conspired to make this impossible – not to mention illegal.

Much to my surprise, our landing at Heathrow came before I was forced to take anyone’s life so, with great relief we patted ourselves on the back for having the foresight to arrange our car to be waiting for us outside the Arrivals Hall.
On turning the key of our freshly delivered car, it became obvious that the trust we’d placed in Purple Parking was somewhat misplaced. Despite dropping off a perfectly functioning vehicle – three weeks in PP’s care had rendered the engine completely incapable of running on all four of it’s allotted cylinders. 

It should have been obvious to anyone who’d ever driven a car before that something very major was up with our transport, but apparently not to the person who’d delivered ours to Heathrow. You’d have thought the fact that it coughed, spluttered and rattled on only three cylinders was something they’d thought worthy of mention, as they gleefully handed over our keys. But apparently not.
Still, according to our local garage, nothing that £1,000 and a new engine won’t fix …..

As a great believer in Karma, we’ve either benefited from a large amount of good fortune in the past, and not really noticed it, or we’re due a great big dollop of good luck sometime in the future. If it’s the latter, let’s hope it’s not too long in arriving.

Seven Deadly Sins

8th March 2015

As I’m no doubt you’re aware, Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Why do I mention this? Well, it’s as a result of the latest email we’ve had from our insurers. No sooner had work started on fixing all things slippy slidy, than it’s stopped again.
The cause of this sudden hiatus? Unfortunately, it would seem the aforementioned sin has reared it’s ugly head.

It’s always been known, by the Boffins anyway, that a large amount of work would need to take place in the farmer’s field adjacent to our property. This is because, although the piles themselves will reside on our property, the huge steel cables that hold them in place will be anchored in the field. None of this will be visible above ground of course, but from a legal standpoint, it has to be established who owns them. Equally importantly, access has to be granted to allow the MIBs to carry out the work in the field. 

This field, it should be noted, is the home for some cows and sheep for a few months of the year. The land directly adjacent to us though is rarely used, as it’s very steep and very boggy.
Somewhat irritatingly, the legal profession has been invited to get involved, which can mean only one thing. Delays, red tape and large sums of money changing hands. Rarely can a bunch of people have been so richly rewarded for wasting people’s time and making sure things take longer than they should.
I well remember being charged for a solicitors letter I received once. The letter was to inform me that my solicitor hadn’t done anything for the last month. Not withstanding that, he had the temerity to charge me £12 for sending me the letter!

Here’s the email we received the other day – with a little redaction, as the Spooks like to call it.  We like to call it crossing out.

I understand that solicitors for Aviva continue in discussion with The Farmer to secure access but at present, there has been no final agreement. The net result will be that the contractor will have to stand down pending agreement with The Farmer at which point the project will recommence.  Unless there can be an immediate solution to the discussions with The Farmer this is likely to lead to a delay in progress.

So there you have it. 
It’s useful to know that the punishment for greed is being boiled alive in oil.
It may well be the finest, most luxurious boiling oil that money can buy, but it’s still boiling.

Sinkhole or Swimming Pool?

4th March 2015
With the diligence that can only be expected from The Laurels, I’m taking time out from our Far East Jaunt just to update you on all things slippy slidy.

With the sink hole now properly grouted (that’s filled with grey gloop to you and me) the time came for our Men in Boots to prepare the capping slab which will seal it in place. If you imagine the sinkhole as a pin, albeit 42 metres long, the capping slab is essentially the pin head.
We were assuming it was going to be somewhat larger than the actual hole but didn’t imagine it was going to be quite this large. They’ve dug out an excavation that can only be described as large enough for a medium-sized swimming pool, as can be witnessed from the photo below.
As far as we’re aware, the slab will be 1 metre thick, reinforced concrete which should resist any temptation for it to move any time in the next few hundred years.

Sinkhole Cap

As we left things, the Men in Boots were up to their ankles in mud, trying to excavate the remainder of our main sewerage system in an effort to effect a repair of our fractured pipes. Strangely, they’d uncovered several extra pipes which didn’t appear to go anywhere, so I assisted them by flushing 11 different toilets, in the vain hope of finding out if they were connected to anything. With his manly boots covered in mud, one of our MIBs solemnly declared “I really wish I’d paid more attention at school, then I wouldn’t have to do this c**p!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t pay attention at school either.

Not 24hrs later we were driving down the motorway heading to Heathrow airport.
We were met by Airbus’s latest behemoth – the double-decker A380, which makes the Boeing 747 (Jumbo) look positively petite in comparison.
Still, at the end of the day, it’s still a tin tube, with even more seats packed into a tiny space. Despite being joined by 450 or more other souls, the space allocated to each of us was no more than that provided to the average battery hen, against which so many of us rail so loudly.
With the person in front of me deciding to fully recline their seat, I was left with approximately 18 inches front to back, in which to conduct my life for the next 11 hours and 50 minutes. I’m pretty sure if the government of the good old US of A decided to keep their ‘guests’ at Guantanamo Bay in such conditions, there’d be worldwide condemnation.
It’s also rumoured that the inhabitants of this facility were subject to other ‘techniques’, apart from water-boarding, which included subjecting them to white noise for long periods of time. I can tell you I’d much rather put up with that in preference to the torture that emanated from a nearby passenger.
This great bear of a man spent the whole flight sniffing, grunting, coughing and snorting at a volume loud enough to drown out the noise of four huge jet engines and the air whistling past at 585 mph. Sadly, try as I might, I couldn’t get his head to explode by mere thought power alone.
Clearly, the person sat right next to him was either a saint or stone deaf.

Having survived the worst British Airways’ economy seating could throw at us, we gleefully arrived in Singapore. OK, we arrived feeling like death, but what can you expect!
There can be few greater contrasts – having left a grey, cold and windy England to arriving in a hot, humid, but incredibly clean and beautiful city, Singapore certainly is an extraordinary place.
Stay tuned for further updates.