Tuesday, 22 May 2012

But humans had fought a long battle with nature. In London victory was almost complete. Acres of bricks and concrete and steel with only the tamest sprouts of green. In London a man could really feel he was master of all creation." ("Grace" Maggie Gee)

Our "house in the making" has been progressing apace.  The "ripostiglio" (utility room) has walls and a roof.  The walls of the kitchen are going up: new walls all around, including a double wall around the original building, necessary to hold up the roof and to establish the kitchen as a separate entity should the earth move.  This wall between the living room and kitchen will be over half a metre deep, almost a corridor!  On the side of the master bedroom there will be a "loggia": a little gallery or walkway.  The cement for its floor has been laid and already a cat, perhaps wild, or perhaps a fox, has left its prints.  Our neighbour had four of his sheep killed by a wolf the previous night.  Our paw prints may be those of a wolf, he suggests.  I think he was joking.

But the most impressive piece of construction, a tribute to Paolo's strategic planning, took place last Friday.  At present the annexe is a rectangular stretch of land with four little poles marking out the four corners of its area.  The main house is far from ready, but Paolo is thinking ahead.  The foundations of the annexe have to be prepared well in advance.  Early Friday morning a digger with a hydraulic boring screw arrives and begins to dig out the first of fifteen holes - each more than 5 metres deep.  Every strata of the clay soil comes out darker and heavier the deeper the bore goes.  The final layer is almost black.  It looks heavy, but it is deceptive, it is light and and slightly moist and crumbles as you clench your fist around it. (It has not the slightest smell petroleum.)

A host of rusty, tubular weld mesh wire cages have been lying around on the site, weeds have twined themselves around them.  I hadn't really noticed them, thinking them part of the flotsam of a building site.  Once the holes are drilled, Paolo and his helpers carefully lower the cages into them.  This manoeuvre requires strength and precision, it is feat of... heroic proportion (?)

As if by magic a cement lorry, its revolving drum turning like a barber shop sign, arrives as the last cage is in place.  The cement is carefully channeled into the holes..  The cement lorry, with the ability to turn on a penny (like a London taxi), positions itself precisely before pouring its load.  Not a drop spills.  That is, not until the job is done , when the driver tips out the remains of his load on a bare patch of ground nearby.  Paolo studies this dollop of cement incredulously, he hasn't yet worked out his strategy for disposing of it.  He's got a month 'til it hardens completely.  He's knows this, it is why he has filled the holes well in advance.  The buried cement pillars will form the foundations of the annexe.

There were two earthquakes in neighbouring regions of Italy over the weekend.  Major quakes - quite devastating in their effect.  Thinking of them brings home the fact, like nothing else so far, that I am truly in a foreign land.

Drilling the 5 metre holes for the concrete posts

Carrying the wire rod for the concrete posts

Heroically raising the reinforcing rods

Filling the post holes with concrete


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