Sorry, Grandad

When my lovely Grandad left school, he learned the trade of stonemason. Later, he was a fireman (featuring on an episode of Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game as one of the experts teaching the contestants what to do with a fire hose). It’s the stonemason bit which concerns me today.

I had my second lesson of bricklaying. I’m no good at it.

In between bewailing the fact that we had to take the class at all, my little group of three Ornamentalists (as opposed to the thick-necked ruffians chaps on the sport fishing course) tried very hard to build a 4 course half-brick wall with a stopped return and a pier. For those who don’t speak brickie, that’s a wall which has a large column-y bit at one end, a small column-y bit at the other, and a single line of end-to-end bricks in between.

We found a line on the floor to cheat with by lining the bricks up alongside it, then as soon as we started laying, managed to go wonky and lay the bricks at an interesting angle instead. We also got our sand/lime mix everywhere, and when I crouched down to rest a pile of bricks down, my trousers ripped in a place I hadn’t realised the material had gotten thin (then spent the rest of the lesson, legs clamped, not able to do very much to help).

In the end, our effort was so bad that the teacher kept coming back to look at our work and giggle about it. He couldn’t quite believe that we’d somehow, in spite of laying out all our bricks in an orderly fashion prior to starting, managed to leave a gap smaller than a whole brick but larger than a half. In the end we used one whole brick and two small halves in a different configuration to plug the gap.

The end with the pier (my end) was level with the wall (which one friend, Shoes, constructed) but the wall and the pier were out of alignment and the stopped return at the other end (Wingman’s section) was significantly lower at the top than either the wall or the pier. This was rectified by a 2″ layer of mortar.

The teacher’s comment when he saw our wall?

“That thing’s got more joints than a young Bob Marley!”

So we improvised and added more water and plasticiser to our sand/lime mixture and did what turned out to be rather a nice job of rendering the outside of the wall so that it looked orderly and upright and no-one could see our peculiar brick joints.

To no avail – our group came last of four in points scoring.

My Grandad, now dearly departed, impressed me one summer as a little girl by casually laying our new patio and path and making it all seem very easy. He’s rumoured to have worked on some of the big London architechturally lovely buildings. He would be less than impressed by our wall.

The bright side is, if I can’t get a job bricklaying, perhaps I could be a plasterer – I thought I did a damn good job.

This is not our wall. It is less wonky though.

4 thoughts on “Sorry, Grandad

  1. I couldn't agree more. Makes sense only if we're going to be constructing above-ground fancy ponds at some point, which I suspect most of us aren't.

    It's very difficult. You may do well to re-think, especially if you'd need to invest in all the tools to do the job, too! My advice would definitely be to hire a professional – they'll have the job done in a fraction of the time and FAR less stress.


  2. Well, I'm glad you told me. I have been contemplating a brick construction of some sort with all of this old brick lying about the property. I was thinking, “How hard can it be?” Are you saying I need to rethink that? 🙂
    It's silly to make fish people learn to build a brick wall anyway.


  3. My advice, to anyone who ever wondered “Shall I try to build that brick thing myself instead of calling in the professionals?” Call them. They are much, much better at it than you will likely be without a huge amount of training. Our wonky wall was well deserving of last place, that's forsure.


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