Thursday 14 January 2016

Working, boss ...

Well, despite my best intentions, I am once again in full-time, if necessarily short-term, employment! Necessarily short-term because on May 19 we are flying to the UK for our next season on nb Waka Huia.

I am doing a project management assignment which is based on the West Coast of the South Island - a beautiful part of the country, but quite different from the probably better known Queenstown,  and Doubtful and Milford Sounds. In fact the West Coast is quite similar to the northern parts of Taranaki - same geological features, same flora - just a lot more isolated and travel in by air is more frequently affected by weather. It's the Southern Alps which stop the water-laden westerly wind and cause the rain to fall on the seaward side of them that in turn create a micro climate of high rainfall, lush bush growth, and quite changeable weather. But by heck, it is very beautiful in a rugged kind of way.

My new project is managing the remediation of a former gold mining site - it was state of the art in gold mining terms at the time it was active back in the 1930s to 50s, but not so clever on keeping the ecology of the site in good shape. The West Coast was a huge mining area - coal, gold - and a huge number of NZers can claim a forebear who was involved in gold mining - indeed David can, as his great great grandfather came out from Scotland as a 16 year old, walked down from Auckland, crossed Cook Strait and walked to the West Coast to mine for gold, and then walked (I am unsure by what route) to Dunedin and then up to Akaroa where he took on two 40 acre blocks at Wainui. The loveliest part of this story is that the young woman he'd been forcibly parted from at 16 (the catholic/protestant divide) had waited for him and he sent for her - she arrived with her now widowed father and they founded the family here in NZ.

So here I am in Hokitika, and will be here regularly until we head off to the UK. I will be working partly here and partly at home and my role is to keep the project on track time-wise and budget-wise. There is a whole range of extremely competent engineers, scientists and Dept of Conservation rangers who certainly don't need more expertise in their fields, but my job is to make sure the job gets done through them, using their expertise while taking the extraneous project management/reporting to governance stuff off their shoulders.

This morning I was picked up at 6am and driven up to the site of the goldmine. Health and safety is understandably a big deal here so I was equipped with all the PPE (personal protective equipment): helmet with ear-muffs, safety glasses, steel capped boots (I bought my own as I probably have the smallest pair of feet down here), full length trousers and long sleeved top, plus a little survival kit with water, food, wet wipes.

On site wearing the helmet and earmuffs, my new steel-capped boots (very Village People) and colleague Cameron's high-vis vest. I tried not to make dents in the front of it ...
The drive out to the mine was quite long and through beautiful countryside and on the way we passed the turn off to Reefton.
This one is for Gary.

On the way back I had to have a photo taken at Melita's former home town ...

The mine site was pretty interesting and the most amazing views can be seen from it. DOC already has a few information boards in place and seeing old photos of men having their lunch 800 metres underground and others going underground in the man-cage was just a bit spooky to me! There was some drilling going on today checking for groundwater and some water sampling from nearby streams was due to take place - it's all very carefully done with GPS readings at sample sites. All of the data that has been and is being collected is being plotted on a big map and will be used to inform decision making on how the site will be remediated.

It's exciting stuff!

This evening after a governance group meeting in the afternoon, a very late lunch, and a meeting with the very clever man who does the mapping, I flew home - over the Southern Alps in a small two engined plane to Christchurch (wish I had kept my phone turned on in airplane mode and taken photos of the peaks - next time!) and then a larger plane back to Wellington. Cab to the station, and caught the train to Waikanae by the skin of my teeth, and my friend Wendy picked me up and kindly drove me home. It's now 10.45pm and I am tired, in bed with a cup of chamomile tea.

This sign was outside a lovely wine bar in Hokitika that Kevin and I went to on Tuesday.

Monday 4 January 2016

Bathroom renovations - a work in progress

We now have two loos - just like the Lautrec class of Black Prince hire boats - named for obvious reasons by someone who liked puns ...

We'd decided earlier this year that the bathroom had to be re-done, and over the UK summer and when we got back in NZ in October/November we had thought, discussed, consulted others about how it should be. Decisions were made and we had pretty much all of the bathroom fitments ordered and delivered in the week or so before Xmas, and I had cleared the messy garage (painting gear that hadn't been sorted and put away after Joe had finished the hall, sunroom,  laundry and pantry back in November ...)  so we could have everything ready. There were two toilets, two basins, a shower unit, a shower mixer (it's the coolest looking thing ever!), taps, towel rails, loo roll holders, robe hooks, basin pop-up wastes ...

We were keen to get our favourite builder, Luke, to do the carpentry aspects of the bathroom changes so that meant him doing it during his holidays - the statutory holiday period between Xmas and New Year. We also found Mark, a young English/NZ plumber happy to work then, so it was all on to get a functioning shower, toilet and basin before the grandsons arrived on 30 December!

The provision of Ministry of Food cheese scones each morning,  an ample lunch with plenty of protein and salad as garnish only, cream doughnuts for afternoon tea, and beers at lunch and after work each day were critical factors in having happy workers. The cheese scones were Luke's request and he was keen to have them each day - they must be good then! I have got rather fast at making them ...

It's about to start so we have the boxes to decant stuff into

Shower still intact, but not for long!

So it all kicked off on 27 Dec. That first day, Luke was on his own and worked flat out stripping out the bathroom and our separate toilet - he removed the bath, the shower cubicle, the vanity unit and the toilet, as well as removing wall linings, skirting and scotia in the bathroom and the bottom half of the toilet walls.
Luke has started - the shower doors are off! the piece of glass still in place at the end of the bath is going to be part of Luke's glass house - wish I'd cleaned it more thoroughly before it came out ...

Luke loves this aspect of the job for some reason - destruction is a lot of fun, I gather.

The old toilet is a goner

Prepping the portable toilet for use in the shed for a couple of days - how very familiar to us boaters! We keep it as an earthquake preparedness measure and it came in handy for those two days.

Shower walls are gone and the bath and vanity have done a runner ...
... to the garage

Wall stripping underway - plenty of insulation in the exterior wall cavities

Householders are not allowed to touch.

He prepped one wall so an in-wall toilet cistern could be fitted in the bathroom, and moved the wiring that would be in the wrong place for the new fit out. He started the relining of the bottom half of the walls in our separate toilet - I cannot remember the name of the wall material he used, but it is a Hardies' product with a tongue and groove look, and is actually an exterior wall cladding but fine for inside as well. No point in spending big money on real wood if the t&g is going to be painted, eh? And being an exterior product it will be excellent at withstanding water in the bathroom.

So early on the morning of 28 Dec, Mark the plumber and Luke were both on deck getting the fit-out started - poor b*ggers worked all day in extreme heat as it was one of this summer's hottest days so far, and there were two hard working chaps in a small room! David set up a fan for them in the hallway, but it was of limited use given it couldn't be pointing right at them as they wouldn't have been able to come and go with ease.
Mark on the job of making the chase for the shower - naturally the waste was in a different place from the old shower

The sledge hammer came into play
Did Luke have the right tool to chip at the concrete more effectively? Of course he did!

Mark doesn't need Protective earmuffs or knee-pads - he's 29 and bullet proof!

Mark had also dug down to and exposed the sewer pipe so the outlet for the second toilet could be ducted into it.

Because it was David's mum's 92nd birthday on 29th, we were taking her for afternoon tea in Masterton.
before going to Masterton, we had morning tea with the workers - Mark on the left, Luke on the right, David in the background.

So after making and eating morning tea (more cheese scones ...) with the guys, David and I left them in the tender care of Lynne, our friend who was staying with us - she's a brave woman as with the bathroom and toilet out of action, we were using the portable toilet out in the garden shed  and showering had to take place down at Bruce and Gary's place ...

Lynne's job was to sort out their lunch and make sure there was a cold beer to accompany it. When we came home it was great to see how much progress had been made - one functioning toilet and basin in the separate toilet, the shower base,  walls and mixer were installed, pretty much all of the wall linings in the bathroom were up - that involved gib above the 1 metre line, the T&G stuff below it and a dado rail over the join, plus skirtings at the bottom.
New toilet and handbasin, plus t&g and dado fitted

And most importantly, there was a new doorway between the bathroom and our bedroom - we now have a family/ensuite bathroom; ie no traipsing down the hallway to get to the toilet in the middle of the night!

The following day, Luke did a fair bit of finishing off work and re-concreted the path that Mark had dug up the previous day. Mark had only the shower doors to fit and the second toilet in the bathroom to install and he was planning to be away home at about 1pm.
Preparing the shower doors for installation. You can see the new doorway through to our bedroom by the shower base.

Tim, Marta, Olek and Karol were due to arrive from Scotland, and it was all go getting ready for them - we were on target for having a functioning set of bathroom equipment. Then disaster struck while I was at the supermarket making sure there was enough food for the family's arrival. David phoned to tell me that the toilet Mark was about to fit didn't match the in-wall tank that had already been installed - they had been bought as a set but weren't. Oh botheration and other bad words! When I got home and Mark explained the problem, I quickly decided that the best thing was to buy a new toilet with an external cistern, leave the in-wall tank in the wall  (to remove it, Luke said, would take a fair amount of time and some new materials). As I was still preparing for TMOK's arrival, Mark headed off to buy the new toilet - fortunately, Lynne and I had been to Mitre 10 and photographed a toilet she liked that I also thought was pretty cool. So the choice was easy to make. Mark was back in 30 minutes and the new toilet was rapidly installed.
The shower has a halo head and is just fabulous

Lynne and I liked this toilet as the seat fitted well over the pan's exterior and interior shape - you'd be surprised how many don't! We reckon it's because they are designed by chaps, dare I say it, and the aspect that isn't considered in terms of form is the cleaning requirements - function over form any day, we say! It's squared off but surprisingly comfortable!

The new door - it's where the bath used to be
This is where the new vanity will be - it and the door to our bedroom are in the place where the bath was.

From the bathroom to our bedroom, via the wardrobe

Luke's temporary solution to the wardrobe deconstruction before we get a new system fitted. First talk to the wardrobe consultant, methinks!
Mark finished off as much as he could with warnings not to use the toilet or the shower till the next day to give the glue and silicon a chance to go off properly. And then Luke did a heap of finishing and cleaning - concrete dust and sawdust go everywhere - even if doors are closed, dammit!

So having a functioning set of bathroom equipment was achieved in the nick of time, but it is still very definitely a work in progress - no vanity unit in the bathroom, walls and ceiling unpainted, no vinyl on the floor and no tiling above the small basin for the separate loo. Those tasks have to wait for the exodus of the family. And I still have to order the vanity unit - I struggled before Xmas with choosing one that didn't look like every other vanity in the catalogues. But a conversation with Luke brought the realisation that unless I was keen to spend a couple of thousand dollars on one, I was going to have to choose something that was acceptable, if not sublime!Landmark strikes again!

There is a fair bit of work remaining, and Mark and Luke will complete their bits, the flooring will be fitted by the same people who will fit the carpet. But I am unsure how the painting is going to get done - I found out today that I am going to be starting a project management assignment that will keep me fully occupied till we depart for the boat in May - yikes!! How did that happen?