It is half past five and I have just lost a whole day of hard work.
John over on ‘Going Gently’ posted a few days ago complaining of rain. As I read it I wondered if it was a bad omen.
I am busy rendering the pool walls and floor. I and my trusty foreman, Samuel, had managed three of the four walls and today we finished the fourth so we were game on to do the base tomorrow when suddenly, the heavens opened.
Are they as patient as vultures or did the geese know it was about to be filled with water?
I don’t think it was John who jinxed me, he seems far too nice a guy. I suspect I was hoisted by my own petard.
We were only recently connected to a very irregular town supply of electricity and are still waiting for the water main the council are laying to reach us so until then, this most necessary element has to be tankered in at great expense. When I drained the pool of the rainwater that had accumulated during the time work on it had been suspended, I pumped as much as I could into the plastic tank I had borrowed from a neighbour. The rest, mainly sludge, I pumped and then scraped into buckets and dumped onto my new herb beds.
Having used the tank of water to render the walls we had managed so far, I was just remarking to Samuel where we could get more, after all, ordering a 30 tonne tanker for a mere cubic metre of water would hardly be economic, when Nature provided the answer.
Apart from the wasted effort, there is something depressing about watching an amalgam of sacks of the imported special cement required for rendering swimming pools and the requisite ratio of the finest sand slough off the face of a reinforced concrete wall like flesh from a vampire exposed to sunlight. I couldn’t even send the truck out for more as the roads, compacted dirt around here, quickly turn to slurry under such an onslaught and are impassable to anything other than slithering amphibians and water buffalo within minutes. To be honest, it was my driver who pointed this out to me and none too politely either, muttering something along the lines of if I were to insist, I had better go with him armed with a shovel as he wasn’t going to effing well dig the truck out when it inevitably bogged in. Loyal to a fault my crew.
This is actually the Mark II version of the swimming pool, the first having failed spectacularly while unsuccessfully weathering its first rainy season. I underestimated the sheer quantity of water that could be collected by the roof of the house and dumped overboard into my garden during an Angolan El Niño so the ground works were overwhelmed, the pool flooded with the dust, quickly transformed to mud, and other accumulated rubbish the erosive power of which left the structure of the pool so fatally compromised even the house foundations were threatened. I was left with no alternative but to dig the whole lot out and start again and quickly too lest the master bedroom changed its address in favour of the sink hole that was once the deep end of the pool.
The Mark II version is miles better. All the hard and expensive lessons learned from the Mark I disaster were incorporated into its design. The walls and base are RPG proof solid reinforced concrete. The ground around it was left to settle through an entire rainy season and back filled and compacted as required. The ground was then covered in more reinforced concrete, its surface gently sloping away from the house and on to a new drain. Unlike the first one, the walls of this pool are now slightly higher than ground level and the wooden decking, once installed, will float over the ground allowing easy drainage.
The massive downpour today may have trashed a day’s hard graft but at least it proved that the design works and little Ju and I were also able to scoop up enough water in buckets to refill the water container, solving that problem as well.
It isn't Bloody Rain, it's Free Water...
Faced with little else to do, the day was now a write off, I went dripping inside and made a huge pot of tea while the family and crew dried off.
Not so long ago, a calamity like this, and I would have considered it as such, would really have stressed me out. I would probably have vented my frustration on anyone within range and become thoroughly unpopular, consigning myself to a self imposed and miserably lonely evening, selfishly ignoring the fact that this is only a swimming pool. I intend to float around in a hundred cubic metres of sparklingly clear water drinking ice cold Caipirinhas when the only running water many in this country will see is the seasonal deluge we had just experienced, a stinking diseased river of trash depositing its detritus over the few remaining belongings they have that weren't swept away along with their collapsed shacks.
In Europe, divorced as one could be from the harsh reality of life in a developing country, I suppose it is excusable to be more concerned with how one might pay for the latest plasma TV or which restaurant to visit that night while giving passing thought to the increased burden of taxes required to prosecute incomprehensible war but for me, right in the middle of a humanity struggling in a cruel sea like so many passengers left bewildered as their stricken vessel founders beneath their feet leaving little prospect of salvation in this world, such self centeredness is inexcusable.
So instead of bartering recriminations, we all sat around my dining table and while the rain did its damnable work outside, talked about our families, our hopes and aspirations. And drank tea.
Tomorrow the sun will shine and we will all pitch in to help those of the community who suffered. If I am still impatient to bob about drinking cocktails, there's always the bathtub.
Rather than lose a day, I became part of a reinforced community spirit.
Now that’s got to be worth a few lost sacks of cement.