Navvie, Hoddie, and Gaffer’s Best Boy

It has been a busy week, with 3 of the 5 sparkies turning up early on Monday morning. I also had my friend Ross turn up to help strip down some of my burnt bits and pieces, to see if we could salvage any of it. It was all put aside and wrapped up under a big plastic tarp to help preserve what was left of it.That kept me busy all day, running between the gaffers doing the electrics and Ross pulling gear boxes apart. Ross is a pretty impressive guy, he seems to know an awful lot about all sorts of things. He started out as a Telecom technician, but quickly moved into electronics and then heavy earth moving equipment. It was Ross who turned up just after the curfew was lifted here post fire, last December ‘19. He brought me his bob cat to borrow for a few weeks to help me in the cleaning up. That made me cry! It was invaluable to me and got me started well on my way to recovery. Being able to shift burnt trees and building materials around to clean up the huge mess gave me hope.
I would look at a blackened piece of twisted metal and see trouble and difficulty. Ross would look and see possibilities. “We can straighten that, get the oxy torch”. and “I have an old 3 phase motor about that size that will fit in there” etc. “I can take that bent shaft home and straighten it in the hydraulic press on ‘V’ blocks”. I started to feel a little confident that some things are recoverable and not just scrap.

I had to split my time between the two sets of action, being best boy to the Gaffer. A gaffer is an electrician, and the Best Boy is his main assistant. I was asked to make large metal brackets for the 40mm conduits going up the outside wall. Cutting, folding and spot welding sheet metal cable covers to protect the exposed conduits towards ground level. I was busy all day. 
On Tuesday Ross worked at home and only two sparkies turned up. I spent the day hoisting 3 phase cables through the upper portals and ‘tophats’ to get the power around the building. That involved geting up and down the tall 3 metre step ladders all day. A good work-out.
Wednesday I had my friend Len here to help me clean bricks. Janine finished all the full sized bricks on Monday with our friends Rai and Fran. I had to miss that last bit of brick cleaning, doing the last 80 bricks. Len and I started on the 1,000 broken bricks that I will use for the ‘fake’ headers and queen closers in the Sussex wall bond veneer. If I can use the broken bricks to cut up for all the small pieces needed to fill the bond pattern, then I will have enough full bricks to do the job.

As well as Len, I had one lone sparkie here, I was needed to help him pass the heavy copper cables through the wall cavity from room to room. When I wasn’t needed inside, I helped Len outside the verandah chipping the bricks. My main job in the afternoon was to fit 25mm conduit down the portals and pass the power cables down through it to where the power points will be. I had to try and stay one step ahead of Ian the sparkie, I’m saddled with the job of fitting the wiring in place in the conduits and securing it all with saddles, as Ian came behind screwing on the fittings and connecting all the wires up.

After lunch, a brickie turned up to see our job. He was recommended by a friend. Gordon is a semi-retired ‘heritage’ brick layer. Perfect!He looked at our bricks and at the job as I explained what we want. We looked at the old school classroom, then the 1980’s addition that we did. Gordon understood exactly what I was saying and offered pertinent comments as we went about the particular bond and the quality of the mortar. Do we want it pointed, raked, or struck flush? He agreed to come and do our job, and even said that he could start on Monday! We are happy about that. He even has a brother, also a brickie, who will come and help out on the 2nd week.
I now need to get 4 tonnes of off-white brickie’s loam, 6 bags of lime and 12 of off-white cement to make lime-compo mortar. I also have only 3 days to cut and shape the 7 sandstone window sills. particularly the two large ones that are needed under the big arch window for the first course. No pressure!I won’t have much time to do this while I’m being the brickies labourer or donkey. Every trade has a nick-name. Sparkie, Brickie and Donkey or Hoddie, even Navvie, But there are also Carpenters as Chippies and painters are apparently called Smudgers.
So starting next week, I’ll be a Navvie or Hoddie for two weeks as well as the Gaffers Best Boy!That is – if it all goes to plan. This is the 5th brickie to check out our job. We’ll see on Monday morning at 7.00 am!