Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Concrete evidence

Listening to: Beauty of Uncertainty (KT Tunstall)
Weather: cold north wind
Birds: pair of Great Northern Divers at Rapness Cemetery beach

I'm getting older. Obvious I know, but I'm really feeling it today. Every joint is creaking, every sinew twanging, every muscle throbbing. I think my right knee is going to explode.

I needed half-an-hour in a hot bath this morning just to get myself moving again. Mrs TPF and I nearly had a disagreement (exceptionally rare) as I snapped at a perfectly reasonable question. (I apologised).

Yesterday afternoon was a wake-up call to the world of hard, honest work. Not the working under pressure to meet a deadline in a nice, warm office - been there, done that - but the physical challenge that millions of manual workers face most days of their life.

Two new pigs are due to arrive at the end of next month, so we have to get the other half of the pig shed kitted out and ready for their arrival. I've already lifted and moved the giant flagstones that made up the floor and levelled the sandy base that was left. Next step was to lay the concrete floor.

Now was the time to play with my new toy. The Boy and I hoisted the cement mixer onto its stand and Mr D came to supervise. The Boy did most of the mixing while we shared the barrowing duties and I did the laying and spreading (nowhere near as exciting as it sounds).

I've spent all my working life as a journalist which, hanging around football grounds and training pitches waiting to be ignored by managers and players apart, was (obviously) sedentary.

Yes, I used to play cricket and hockey (reasonably well, but a long time ago), I occasionally played rugby (spectacularly badly) and I swam competitively until I was nearly 40, but it's not the same.

Since I got here, I've cleared a lot of vegetation, put in the odd bit of fencing, moved some stone, smashed up an old concrete water tank, chased pigs, fallen over a few times, got wet a lot, but there's been no real constant physical challenge.

Which is probably why my body, on being asked to do a second consecutive day's strenuous activity, has protested loudly - the grinding noises from my right knee suggest something is definitely amiss.

Anyhoo. . . putting the pain to one side, I've decided that, once the body catches up with the rest of me, I'm going to love this building lark.

I grew up in a very bookish family. My mum taught French and the old man was an historian (a historian? he liked history, all right?). If anything more complex than a fuse went, we 'got a man in'. Up to a few years ago I always believed that I didn't expect people to write their own newspapers, so why should I build my own walls/replace roof tiles/perform complex, life-saving heart surgery?

But few things have given me such a sense of satisfaction as seeing the pig shed floor gradually take shape. So, if you need any concrete work doing, Trainee Pig Farmer and Son are available at the usual place.

We'll bring our own tea bags. . . and ibuprofen.


Ginni Dee said...

What a great post Malc!

Believe it or not, I love that kind of work (the physical kind) and always have. I'm much more comfortable in levi's and tennies than in a skirt and heels. I can swing a hammer with the best of them and drive nails at lightening speed. I know the pain your talking about up close and in person, but there's nothing that gives you more satisfaction.

Congrats on doing the work yourself and especially for enjoying it!


smart said...

Hi Malc, when you are unfit and no longer young, the secret, as I'm sure you know, is to do just a bit at a time. Decide what you are going to do for the day then do only half of it. You will then be fit to do the other half the next day. I should know, I have to carry around heavy computing manuals around all day ;-)

Dave said...

Having had a fairly sedentary jobs most of my life, I've always enjoyed the opportunity to do manual work. Apart from anything, there is the satisfaction of seeing something concrete (deliberate pun) that you have made with your own hands.

My sermons vanish into the ether, but my brick wall may still be standing in 12 months time.

Malc said...


We're about three-quarters of the way there now. The pain is easing.


Your sister has told me off several times for going at things like a bull at a barn door. We've eased the pace today. It will take an extra day, but at least I won't cripple myself.


Yep, that's how you get satisfaction. If only the Stones had realised.

Anonymous said...

Malc, I loved this post. Got to peek a little bit into your past life, your daily life, and things ahead. Best wishes for a terrific pig shed. By the way, I read recently that it's "a historian" (

Puffincentral said...

Don't overdo it! Knees are tricky. Besides, you have a young man with you. Learn from experienced Council workmen: stand and watch him do it! I'm with you on 'an historian' ditto 'an hotel' - maybe it's a Midlands thing.

FirstNations said...

yeah, nothing like it, is there? i built up and framed my own raised beds and dug in all the borders using a pickaxe and a wheelbarrow. i have the biceps-and the lovely flowers and vegetables-to prove it! all me, baby! thats right!
sometimes it just feels good to work hard doesnt it?

be careful with the knee!

homo escapeons said...

During tha last five years or so (I hit the big 5-0 in Dec) I find that I need a 20 minute power-nap everyday ..WTH?

I use to laugh at my Father when he had his Siestas but man are they suh-weet!

When you consider that throughout Human History the vast majority of our ancestors lived for about 35 hardscrabbled years, so I don't think that we were designed to last as long as Box Turtles.

Either way I don't intend to super-freeze my noggin and get stored next to Walt Disney and hope that in the future some guy in a white frock with a pocket protector figures out how to revive me.

fiwa said...

You are miles ahead of me then - I hate doing that kind of work. I'm sure MY boy would have liked to hire you this last summer when we were putting up our shed together. I did nothing but whine and moan the whole time about having to climb up the ladder. He finally fired me for taking breaks every 15 minutes. *I* thought that was fair.

Good luck with the building and the knee! I'm glad you finally got the hens whipped into shape. I like mine scrambled, please.

Anonymous said...

I'm 19 and I feel 90 the day after I go to the gym. It's probably a sign that I should go to the gym more often.

Our house wobbles when buses drive past - think you can fix it?

Malc said...


On reflection, I bet you can't believe you just wished someone 'happy pig shed'! Thanks.


I'm a martyr to my knees. The troublesome one was operated on a few years ago and I reckon we're heading that way again.


Power naps? Love 'em! I try to have at least four a day.


Every 15 minutes is not unreasonable. I trust coffee and biscuits were served at each break.


No, it's a sign you should go to the gym less.
Wobbly house. Err. . . you could move, I suppose.

Cherrypie said...

I bloody love concreting.
I've still got my little blue barrow, caked in crusty cement from when I used to follow my Dad ( a builder) around like a shadow.

Let me know if you get any vacancies.

elizabethm said...

Yep, it is good. Mind you, having been chief assistant to Ian being chainsaw man today it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Take care with the knee,knees are tricky.