EEC 26, 23rd October 2005

Now that the garage was ready for the concrete floor I remade the shuttering extension of the concrete path to the workshop. That's in front of the door on the left.

As before I wanted to make sure I had ordered enough to complete the floor of the garage so planned to order a little on the high side, but then needed somewhere to put the excess concrete if I had ordered too much.

I contacted a young man from the village who had done some work for Jean-Paul, to see if he could give me a hand with the levelling. He was very willing, and I offered him a high rate, since it was for such a short time. Michel, my next door neighbour, also offered to give a hand so I ordered the concrete, 5 cubic metres, which is 13 tons. Of course Michel is helping as a neighbour, which is nice.

I'd brought my desk top computer into the house a little while back to see if I could get it going again. Even before I left for my 2003 trip to the US it had been proving hard to get it to kick into action, the screen would not come on when I started it up. While back in the UK before I left for Mexico I'd taken it to a repair shop, they'd checked it out, and told me either the processor or the motherboard were faulty. I'd thought it was the graphics card. They advised buying another computer since they were so inexpensive, but I left it as it was.

So, I tried my desk top again. It was dead, totally dead, nothing at all happened when I switched on. I asked Thomas Monge, son of a local balloonist, and a pilot himself, if he could suggest a supplier of computer bits, since I knew he was very expert in computers. He suggested a firm based in Toulouse. I checked their web site, they had superb prices, so I ordered a replacement processor and motherboard.

Next day a yeeow! event happened. Over the years I've made various investments mostly insurance based. But there's one I have been getting valuations for and I didn't have any policy documents so didn't know if it really existed. I rang them, and asked to cash in the policy, expecting a fight since, like I said, I didn't know if it really existed. They asked for proof of identity etc which I supplied. I got a letter saying they were paying the funds into my bank. Then I checked on the internet and the cash had reached my bank. Always nice to receive money you did not realise you had......................

The concrete came on Wednesday, an hour late. But the driver got here eventually, after phone calls to his portable phone to give directions.

Nearly finished.

As it turned out, we needed almost all the concrete for the floor, there was only a small wheel barrow load too much, not nearly enough for the path. Although I found out a few days later, when I ran water from the hosepipe over the floor, and later when it rained, we could safely have dumped the extra concrete in the middle of the floor. The floor sinks a little in the centre. About 5 mm ("). The plan was that there would be a gentle slope down towards to doors. Oh well. I'm planning to finish up with a roof on the garage so I'm not expecting too much water inside. The floor is of course higher than the surrounding ground.

Next day I made concrete in my mixer, using sand and gravel that I had around, and laid part of the extension to my path. The day after I bought a quarter ton of sand and gravel mixture, and finished the path.

Meanwhile my computer bits had arrived and I started removing bits and pieces from the computer, carefully marking everything so I could get it back. I'd got most things stripped, and on the way discovered that my AGP graphics card would not fit the new motherboard - no big deal, I'll buy another - then I started looking for the power source for the old board. I couldn't find it! I looked everywhere. There was no apparent source of power for the board!

I finally located the plug, tangled behind the mess of power wires that seem to be always around in a computer. Well, in mine anyway. Apart from all the power connectors I have 6 disk drives with all their ribbon cables etc. I plugged in the motherboard, put all the bits back that I had removed, and fired up the computer. At least it wasn't dead now. Lights came on, the processor fan whirred away, but still the screen did not light up. I'm back to the original fault. Obviously the repair shop who had checked it out had just not bothered to replace the power plug.

I located an inexpensive graphics card on the Toulouse company's web site, http://www.european.fr/, and while there checked out modems, in case there might be a problem with my old modem card. There was a modem for 8 Euros. 8 Euros! That's about $9. Wow! For that price I'll buy one, just in case. At least I know (think) that I don't need to buy another box for the computer, the old one seems to supply power without problem.

Now I had the concrete mixer running I found a few minutes to make the place more like home, climbed on the roof and installed my weather vane.

I started the garage wall and realised that I would lose the view from my kitchen window. Just about all the windows face the south, except 2 small windows, one in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen. This kitchen window is just behind the sink. I spend far too much time standing at this sink washing stuff so I'll miss the view! I didn't think of that when I positioned the garage but wherever I put it, it would block some view. The view from the bathroom window is not much affected.

See how the garage will cut out this nice country view of the barn. Oh well, nothing to be done about it now. Things you do so that you can have a second bedroom so that friends and family can visit. Course I have balloons and other stuff to store in the garage too.

The new graphics card arrived and I fitted all the parts in the computer and switched on. Nothing. Well, the processor fan whizzed around, and all the lights came on, but the monitor did not kick into life. Exactly the same problem that I had had with the old motherboard, processor, and graphics card. I'm thinking about it. Meanwhile there's bits of computer, old and new, all over my living room floor.

It's one of the advantages of living on your own. The floor is strewn with computer bits. There's no-one to complain. I do get a bit fed up picking my way through the piles of bits but I know they'll go and I'll have a clear carpet again so I don't go on about it as some people might. Hey there's another advantage. You can wear the same clothes all the time. You have to wash them of course but things like sweaters, no need to decide, shall I wear this one or that one? You just pull on the same as yesterday. Helps the people you don't know too well. They can say David Barker? Oh you mean the guy with the cement stained baggy grey sweater and torn jeans? They don't need to go into other details such as beard and long grey hair and that he flies balloons.

Here I am cutting some of the blocks.

There's actually not a lot of block cutting to do. The garage has been cunningly designed so that only one block needs to be cut at each layer. Further, since less than half a block is used on this layer the other end of the same block can be used on the next layer.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, the wall is growing.

When I got he new bit for the computer I connected them all in, and the computer didn't work. It was just as before. Lights came on and off, lights blinked, but the screen did not kick into action. I wondered if it could be the power supply. Maybe I needed a new box?

As chance would be, my sister Helen (in the UK) is just buying a new computer from a local whizz. I rang him, he suggested maybe the memory was faulty. I ordered some memory (wish I could get some for myself) and while I was about it ordered another hard disk.

The memory came, I fitted it, and the computer started. I rang Dean to say thank you, and to tell him that he was right! That means I did not need to have replaced the motherboard etc. When the "new" computer settled down I found that lots of devices such as drive controllers would not run correctly, I presume the new board etc with Windows 98 does not support such old equipment, so I have to install XP instead of continuing with W98 as I had hoped. Well, latest news on this front is that it now mostly seems to be running correctly under XP, I'll await the next things I need to fix, then I just need to get all my programs installed, and to tweak all the options so that it runs in the way I prefer.

The bulb blew in my desk top lamp. It's a screw in, but didn't want to screw out. Instead the whole assembly turned, there was a flash, and some lights went out. I took a look at the trip switches in the main fuse box, all were still showing "on". I took my circuit tester and checked across the trip switches. On one, the relevant one, it was still showing closed circuit even in the open position. I drove to the local hardware shop, they found me a replacement trip switch. 9 Euros, no big deal. The shop man (he lives in my village) looked at the old interrupter, said there seems to be a funny click when you switch it. The man next to me, obviously a builder, shook it, said there seems to be something loose inside.

When I got home I pulled it apart. Duh! It's not a circuit breaker, it just looks like one. It's a fuse holder! It beat us all!

The garage wall is getting higher. Here's a view of the back wall.

Just look at those nice straight lines!

Best regards

David Barker
Mirande, France

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