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This is the third post in a series about the building of my tiny house. To read from the start, go here.
After Andrew's departure, I launched into long, and mostly solitary days of brick-laying. When I was a child, my brother had roped me into helping him build a brick cubby, and I was very grateful now for that experience. If we could lay bricks before we turned ten, then surely I could do this now. I had borrowed my father's cement mixer, which he warned me was very much on its last legs. In retrospect, I should have shelled out for something better, as I spent half my time on the building site trying to restart the damned thing. My dad dropped in a few times to show me the basics in cement-mixer-repairs, and I swear I became far more proficient at that than I did at any aspect of actual building.
Friends dropped in from time to time to give me a hand, and I was always grateful to see them. I put them to work moving bricks, and mixing mortar when the cement mixer would co-operate. I found it was best to lay all the bricks myself, as teaching a visitor who was only onsite for a day or so seemed to be more hassle than it was worth. Mortar invariably ended up smeared over the brickfaces and it was difficult to get them to sit straight.
I was still battling with debilitating grief, and would often cry into the mortar while I worked. And when the world became so bleary that I couldn't see at all, I'd stop, lie down in the weeds, and cry until I felt cleansed. Then I'd get up and lay some more bricks. The house was literally built with the salt from my tears.
I often worked through drizzle, and while I never enjoyed that, I did discover that I had come to enjoy being outside. I no longer minded the wind on my face; I enjoyed the crispness of the air and the tactile experience of working with my hands all day every day.
I did have a problem with string-lines, though. When you build with bricks, you are supposed to set up a string line to guide the bricks and ensure they are straight and level. However, the posts were hardwood and I simply couldn't get the nails to go in. It seemed more hassle than it was worth. I accepted that my bricks weren't perfectly straight, and called it "character". Check out the wavy rows beside where I'm standing in the photo. They look very charming here. But one day I was building the inside kitchen wall, and just as I'd finished the cleanup and was about to go home, I realised that the wall curved inwards. Badly. I shrugged. I'd just curve it outwards again with the next row, tomorrow. But as I lay in bed that night, I couldn't stop fretting about the wall. I knew it was wrong. It would be really hard to build kitchen shelves on a wall with that much curve. What the other discrepancies were charming, I knew this was not. I also knew that if I waited until morning, the mortar would be set so hard that I wouldn't be able to take down the bricks. Sighing, I got out of bed at midnight, pulled on my building clothes, grabbed a torch, and went back to my house. I worked in the dark, pulling down my entire day's work and scraping off all that hard-mixed mortar. But I'm glad I did it. And while it didn't renew my commitment to stringlines, I was more careful after that.
Read the next post about my house.