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Construction Day

June 6, 2009

liam says…

On Tuesday, Dan arrived! A big day indeed. Dan has been my tradesman for the last twenty years and has helped with every step of the restoration of my cottage. Now, we’re resuming work on the extension being built. I will see progress on the “new part” this year! Hurray!

In the morning as I was outside waiting for Dan’s blue work van to pull in the driveway, it felt like Father Christmas was on his way… with presents. I knew Dan would accomplish a lot today, so I looked around the yard and took a mental picture…it wouldn’t look like this tonight.

As I looked over the pallet of concrete blocks we’d be working with, it hit me, “No cement.” Sheehan’s Hardware didn’t deliver it with the blocks because it was raining that day. Dan is arriving in five minutes, it’s a beautiful day, and I have no cement.

Just as my pacing along the front of the cottage was wearing a trail, Dan landed. “Dan, they didn’t deliver the cement.”

Dan, being the pro, said, “No worries, Liam. I have two bags in my van…enough to get started.” With that, he sent me to Sheehan’s to get more, but instructed me not to put more than six bags in my car… too much weight.

I was relieved this wouldn’t interfere with production. I was even more pleased when the neighbor lad Mark arrived. I asked him to come down to Nenagh to help haul the cement back up the mountain. “Not a bother, Liam.”

We drove to Sheehan’s straightaway. I explained that I could haul six bags in my car and that I needed the other four bags delivered as soon as possible. One of the three brothers who run the store nodded and said, “Sure thing. Not a bother. Should have them up to you in the next couple of days.”

Loaded with the concrete, Mark and I made our way up the mountain, pulled into the drive and unloaded the six bags of cement. Just as Mark set down the last bag, the Sheehan’s truck pulled in behind us with the four other bags. I sure wish they had thought about telling us that “the next couple of days” would be exactly ten minutes behind me. I could have had the entire load delivered.

Oh well, it was all there. I suspected this speedy service might be a sign of the extreme slowdown in the building trade in Ireland. The thought reminded me how am blessed I am to be working with Dan. While other tradesmen are cursing the government for the economic downturn and signing up for the dole, Dan has as much work as he can handle. During the boom, many of these other tradesmen tarnished their reputations with us “little guys” when they turned down or overcharged for for small jobs like mine. They favored working on the big housing estate projects.

Dan, meanwhile, stuck with his base… people in the area who were making improvements to their homes and farms. He stayed busy during the Celtic Tiger years, and now, with housing estate projects abandoned and a recession sweeping the land, Dan is as busy as ever. It pleases me to see that in the end, good, honest people can come out on top.

The Beer Garden

Dan worked hard and fast. Mark and I assisted the best we could…mostly trudging wheel barrel loads of cement from the mixer to Dan or keeping a fresh supply of blocks at his side. We were building a block foundation around the addition and will later stack rocks on them to complete a stone facade. I think it’ll be beautiful when it’s done.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the temperatures were in the 70s (20s C) as we worked. By late afternoon noticeable progress was made, and we stopped for a moment. Dan and Mark took up positions leaning on the septic tank. I ran into the cottage and pulled some beers from the fridge. As the three of sipped the ice cold brews in the sun, Dan christened the area around the septic tank “The Beer Garden.”

“The Beer Garden,” Mark and I repeated. Beer had never tasted so good.


The sun was hanging low in the sky when Dan left. However, with it being summer in Ireland, there was still plenty of daylight left. I was exhausted, yet a bit euphoric. This hard days work brought back memories of the times when I was restoring the old cottage. Long days, tired nights, and everyday a little bit of progress made. There’s an entirely different type of satisfaction from manual labor like this than any other type of work.

I went inside the cottage and as I poured myself a big glass of water, I noticed my cheeks were a bit tingly. I stepped up to the mirror and my face was bright red. A day in the sun had painted my face the color of a lobster.

There was no aloe in my box of supplies… sunburn isn’t a common affliction in Ireland. The best I could do was Sudocrem. I read the label and determined that if it was safe to treat nappy rash, it couldn’t hurt my face tonight. I covered all the redness with the thick, white cream like a mask, and it immediately began to cool down my skin.

I slept well that night.

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