Monday, December 12, 2011


It's been a while since I posted any progress on the blog; I've been too busy stressing out about the fitting of the bathrooms and finishing the small bits of the job before the carpets arrived.

Terry the driveway has almost finished - a few days late since some terrible weather consisting of hailstones, thunder, rain and rainbows and not much else in between, and yet despite this he's soldiered on with his hood up and his flask of tea. The results are one wonderful patio and gorgeous driveway. A man who walks his dog stopped me on the pavement today and told me our house is 'the best renovation we've ever seen on the estate.' Another man touched me on the arm last week and complimented me on a 'beautiful job.' I'm so proud of what we've managed to achieve with this ugly old wreck that nobody wanted to buy.

I'm happy to report that the tiler finally 'finished the job', though as I remarked previously, he was spinning too many plates and made some mistakes around the shower area in our ensuite, which led to our beautiful Matki shower valve being fixed to the wall with white silicone when it ought not to be - the plumber was trying to cover for the tiler's mistake but my eyes don't miss much and unfortunately for him I spotted the mistake immediately (as well as several of his other mistakes like radiators that didn't actually warm up). Fortunately he returned to fix the radiators two hours before the carpet fitters arrived because his 'fixing' involved messing up our paint by spraying yellow and brown liquid over the walls and skirting boards and creating little puddles on the floor. It was purely by co-incidence that he came and that the carpet fitters were 3 hours late. Anyway, the mosaic tiles look lovely (see the picture) and I'm just waiting for somebody to fix the shower door he's botched and we've got yet more bathroom tiles on order from Spain.

By the time the plumber left I was ready to chuck everyone out of the house. Never mind that Matt the spark hadn't told us how the underfloor heating works (he'll be back...) or that the washing machine isn't plumbed in. By Saturday evening I'd reclaimed the keys and by Sunday I'd lifted all that cardboard and chipboard that was protecting the floors and seen how great the Amtico looked. We've a few more jobs to do. We're exhausted. The house is truly fantastic.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Go Slow

This is pretty much the face I've been seeing in the mirror since Friday. Having miscalculated the number of tiles we needed for both bathrooms, our tiler has been struck down with some little-known 'slowing down' disease which has left him unable to finish our job. I like him a lot, but he's spinning too many plates and it's beginning to stress me out. The extra tiles for the en-suite had to come from Spain and we'd been making frantic calls about them all week. On Friday morning they were on a ferry but still managed to arrive in Altrincham by tea time, which left Dr B scooting over there to retrieve them in time for the tiler to finish the job this weekend.

Except our tiler had other ideas because the uncertainty over our tiles arriving (which would have been here on time if he'd calculated them right) meant he'd been promised on another job for Saturday, though as our project manager told us, all was not lost because he was coming to finish the en-suite on Sunday and 'wouldn't be leaving until the job was finished.'

On Saturday night I found him at the said 'other job' where I handed him the keys and he confirmed he was due on site in the morning but that he'd only be staying until 6pm because he had to go and screed somebody's floor. The latter comment led to two large gins and a lie down because by now I'm just a teeny bit stressed about the carpets arriving on Friday next week and 'leaving when it's finished' was starting to sound like a bit of a fib designed to keep me sweet. He could tell I wasn't happy because he used the line he always uses when I don't look happy, the line that goes 'we'll have a good day at it tomorrow.' He's promised several 'good days at it' in the last few weeks but none of these 'good days' has finished any of the work off.

This morning I arrived on site to finish some bits of painting that have been hanging over - patches of walls where the plaster hadn't dried in time; a bedroom wall that needed a third coat. It was 10am when I arrived and the tiler had just started work, only he hadn't started work because he'd forgotten to bring any tile spacers to work, which is a bit like turning up at work without your actual head if you're a tiler, so he'd sent his son off to get some and he was having a brew and a fag instead, complaining that somebody had made off with the plywood he'd ordered to tile our mosaic splashback. I suggested he would have to get some more plywood if he was going to finish the mosiacs but I'm not sure he heard me because no plywood was sent for and in the time it took his son to get back with the tile spacers I'd managed to touch up two rooms and wash the brushes.

By 11.30 still no work had been done and his son got back with the tile spacers, at which point I heard him complain that he'd been on site for two hours without doing any work. And then it was time for a fag break.

As soon as work commenced, there was a problem with the spacing of the aluminium brackets holding up the quartz. I didn't understand the logistics (or the measurements) because this was a part of the project that Dr B had been involved in and Dr B was incommunicado because I'd despatched him to the local swimming pool with the children so I could get on with painting some walls.

So Dr B was duly bleeped and turned up with two wet-haired children at lunchtime, at which point we swapped cars and I drove the children home while he worked out what the problem with the brackets was (later reported as 'nothing') and went off to get some plywood so the tiler could get on with the mosaics. By two o'clock he was back home reporting that the room seemed mainly finished with just the floor and mosaics to do - the tiler would drop the keys off to us around 7pm and the job would be ready for the plumbers to finish tomorrow.

The keys were dropped at 7pm as arranged. Our tiler had that look on his face that said he hadn't finished the job (I have come to recognise this face because he's pulled the same one every time he's promised to 'have it finished by the end of the day' and he's been on the job for about 3 weeks now). 'We've not had a good day,' he said as he stood in the porch. I can't honestly tell you why they hadn't had a good day because I couldn't hear a word he was saying with all the shouting and swearing going on in my head, much of which ended with 'sake'. Suffice too say, they yet again haven't managed to get the job finished. He looks almost as stressed as I do. I'm not totally confident I don't need to look for somebody who can 'stay until it's finished.'

Friday, December 2, 2011


Today is the fifth day we've had the pavers on site and in that time, they've dug the site out, stoned it up and begun laying the patio. Looks remarkably like the patio we had in our last house only the Marshall's flags we had there were roughly twice the price of this stuff, which is actually granite - we couldn't believe this stuff was cheaper.

The builders have been back today, though I'm reluctant to give them the keys that John Lewis have handed in as I'm getting tired of the place being a building site and having the keys does give you some sort of control. I'll have to hand them back on Monday but until then it feels like our house again.

Yesterday they got some scaffolding up the side of the house to replace the barge boards and chimney cowl as well as repointing the chimney stack.

Carpets go in a week today. Two weeks today, we'll be home. To our lovely new home.


It's taken five days, but handing our keys over to John Lewis has produced this lovely Amtico floor and we're really chuffed with it. It's called 'Fresh Oak' and all I want to do is look at it. The flooring runs into the utility room and hallway and is now covered with layers and layers of cardboard, sponge and plywood to prevent it being damaged by the workies, who seem to breathe dust and rubble of the sort it's not designed to handle.

Funny - the minute you install a floor, it all starts to come together.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rip it Up

We've reached the much-anticipated November 28th - I say 'anticipated' because it's now week 16 and we expected the house to be finished and ready for flooring. The house isn't finished but John Lewis are doing the flooring and the date couldn't be altered, so today we put the house on lock down for a week and gave them the site managers' keys. Last night I dreamt they sent three fitters who all lit cigarettes in my house and blew the smoke into my face. I'm clearly living on the edge.

We're laying Amtico flooring downstairs and because the foundations are new, most of the floor has to be damp-proofed and re-screeded with a self-levelling compound before they can lay the planks. New concrete dries at a rate of about an inch a month, which means we have only four inches of dry concrete under the kitchen (if you think that's bad, go visit the Hoover Dam - it's still not quite set in the middle after all these decades). The damp-proofing adds £1,000 to the cost of the work but the alternative is to wait for the concrete to dry and there's no way I can live without a floor for that length of time.

I sort of dreaded this happening before the house was finished because it means you can't walk on the floors - trades can't come in to do their jobs, and neither can we. More to the point, the floor costs an arm and a leg. It's not designed for muddy boots or scratchy equipment. The man from John Lewis says we have to cover it up, good style.

We are now fully painted, with the exception of one window reveal (which has been repeatedly overlooked) and the glossing in the master bedroom, which is also inexplicably missing. We have no internal doors (well, we do have internal doors, they are just lying on the floor in packets) and though the glass hob has been replaced, it's been fitted in such a way that we can no longer close the top pan drawer. Each solution seems to bring a new problem.

The family bathroom has now been plumbed in, in fact the bath has been full of water since last Friday, which we think is designed to make the bath heavier and hence the sealant set firmer but we don't really know since the plumbers didn't mention it before they left. The ensuite is incomplete after the tiler once again miscalculated the number of tiles required (we need 32 extra....). We're really hoping the tiles turn up this week, but as they're coming from Spain, it's not as though we can go and get them ourselves.

The Tyrolean render is complete and looks amazing. One of the broken windows for the porch has now been replaced but not the other. The bricks on the porch have come loose, the chimney needs pointing, the cowl replacing. The drains need connecting.

Today our patio and driveway people turned up to rip the ground apart, which is a joy to watch because the previous owner had a thin layer of tarmac poured over the top of her concrete drive and it broke up into grit which was then constantly trod into the house. The back of the property is causing a headache because it slopes upwards and westwards, which requires some sort of retaining wall to stop it all collapsing onto the new patio. Who will build the wall? What will it be made of? The house bricks aren't designed for that job. Terry the patio man doesn't know - he does patios and drives. I hope he does them well because I've been looking forward to this part of the job since we first bought the house. Watch this space.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The granite worktops were fitted last Friday. It's called 'Bianco Sardo' and the main thing about it is that it's not black. The man who fitted the granite said it's not a popular choice of colour because 'people are boring - they prefer black.' We had black granite in our last house and it drove me round the bend trying to get rid of the streaks. I'd like to bet that these people choosing black granite haven't tried to keep the bloody thing clean and do any actual cooking.

You'll see there's no cooking hob yet. We do have one, but it's sitting on the floor in a box because somewhere along the way it's been smashed and it's taped up and waiting to go back to the shop. We also have a huge breakfast bar, which is designed so I can seat the children without resorting to plastic table cloths for my nice table. I'm tired of sharing my dinner with seven shades of glitter and smears of mashed potato. Children are dirty little buggers. On reflection, I might just put a lock on the door.


Another week, another 'scratch coat' for the rendered elevation. The house must be itchy as hell judging by the amount of scratching that's gone on in the last two weeks. Just as I think it's getting it's tyrolean finish, the plasterers bugger off.

We were away at the weekend - friend's 40th birthday - an unavoidable absence but one which led to all manner of small disasters such as the tiler setting off the burglar alarm early in the morning (a 'man' disaster - 'man made,' in this case by the man who fitted the alarm and decided to drop by and randomly set it while we were away. Dr B knew he'd set it but didn't bat an eyelid when I warned him somebody would set it off. That's man disasters for you).

The oak frame was finally fitted into the porch, but not before two panes of glass had been shattered and some oak beading lost for good measure. Still, it looks lovely, or I think it will when it's finished.

Today I pitched up after the school run, armed and dangerous in my paint-spattered old jeans, a look I've come to enjoy, especially when I have to nip to the shop or the bank and wonder whether people think I'm a real workie (I'm brilliant at wiping my painty hands on these jeans but ought to learn to smoke fags if I want to be taken seriously). There had been more minor disasters over the last few days - the quartz for the 'open vanity' had to be taken back to the granite company because the drain holes were too small for the taps, and thank God we have Urban on the case because Jimmy the driver picked them up early this morning and returned them fixed shortly afterwards (our builders had nothing to do with the ordering or cutting of the quartz - some builders would have told us to sort the bloody thing out ourselves and it's heavy stuff).

The problem with the quartz had set the tiler back three days. The en-suite bathroom ought to have been tiled by Sunday evening but the plumber hadn't hung those steel brackets so the tiler couldn't tile around them (the plumber looks exactly like Stephen Merchant. I keep expecting Ricky Gervais to turn up with a spanner). When the plumber came to hang them yesterday the problem with the tap holes was noticed. Today there were more problems when the tiler pitched up to finish the job and decided to leave because the plumber was fitting the sinks. 'There are pipes in the wrong place' said the tiler as I arrived at the house. 'I was here until seven o'clock Sunday evening fitting that bathroom floor and now it's got to come up.' He wasn't happy - two tiles had to come off the bathroom - one from the wall and one from the floor. We only had one spare wall tile.

'Can it be done without knackering the other tiles?' I asked. He looked doubtful. 'You don't look confident,' I said. 'Can you do it?'

'The plumber will have to do it. He's the one who screwed up.'

I've come to the conclusion that trades don't always like each other - not on a personal basis, but a sort of 'plumbers don't like tilers' sort of thing. Electricians don't seem to like plasterers either, which is hardly surprising when you consider how often they must come back and find their cables have been plastered over - I'm amazed more actual fights don't break out.

The plumber had his own story - the pipes had been positioned before the sanitary ware had arrived on site - a 'best guess' was all he could make, which does make you wonder why the tiling gets done before the second fix plumbing but there's my female brain up to it's old tricks again. Now I know my Harris fencing from my architraves, I might offer myself as co-ordination facilitator to Carl the Builder, though I suspect my hair would fall out with the stress of it all.

Anyway, the plumber did remove the tiles and it was all fine. And then there was the matter of the wall-hung basin, which was hung for a person of about 7 foot tall (which the plumber happens to be). 'Can it be lowered? I asked him. 'We're not all as tall as you - my kids could never reach that sink.'

'If you'd wanted a childrens' bathroom, you should have said.'

'It's a family bathroom. That implies children. It doesn't mean a childrens' bathroom.' Actually I wanted to punch him on the arm for the last comment but managed to contain myself.

The unit was duly lowered by the plumber's mates. 'Is that better?' they asked.

'Yes, that's great. Didn't you think it was too high?' I asked. They both nodded. 'We positioned it for the cabinet without realising the sink was so tall. We were sure it was in the wrong place so we thought we'd wait and see if you mentioned it before we fixed it properly to the wall.'

Childrens' bathroom indeed. It looks lovely by the way, or like everything else, 'it will when it's finished.'

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Slap of Paint

'If you had a trade, what would it be?'

Dr B and I have been painting rooms together for the last three days, which is the most quality time (and conversation) we've had since August. Our conversations usually centre around measuring things and ordering things and worrying that something might not have been done. You might notice from the picture that those white rainwater gutters are on a road to nowhere - they drain right onto the site of the new driveway rather than into an actual drain - that's the sort of thing that's been keeping me awake at night and it's the sort of thing I notice and then start conversations about. I'm a renovation bore.

'I'd be a painter and decorator' I replied. 'Except I can't hang wallpaper and I don't like ceilings or gloss paint, so I'd be quite niche - I'd just paint walls. It's a quiet job so you can hear the radio.'

Dr B tells me he'd be a joiner because you get to see the project at the beginning and end stages of a job. Personally I'm happy for him to stay working in hospitals, where he doesn't come home covered in sawdust or plaster or gloss paint. Given the shenanigans when he took the radiators off, I don't think he'll be giving up his day job anytime soon.

We've been working alongide a team of professional decorators this week; they're painting one half of the house and we're doing the other. One of them is a bit 'slapdash' with his brush, which has been annoying me for days but came to something of a head this afternoon as I noticed he'd daubed white paint on the new kitchen units whilst walking past them to wash his brushes, and not a little splash but a bloody great dollop of the stuff. 'He's got cataracts,' explained Dr B as I was scrubbing at the unit with a damp cloth. 'He's waiting for an operation.'

'I don't think he can see,' I replied. 'His white paint is all over the place.' I decided not to mention it to his boss - he's a nice old guy who brings a flask and a newspaper and I'm a sucker for these 'salt of the earth' types. 'Can't you get him fixed a bit sooner - like tomorrow?.' Dr B thought not. I'll have to watch him like a hawk.

The house has been transformed in the last few days - incredible what a splash (quite literally) of white paint can do. Every room has now had at least one coat and six rooms are totally finished. The plasterers arrived with their scaffolding to begin rendering part of the front elevation - the brown layer in the photograph is the 'scratch coat,' (more new terminology) and has to dry out before the proper render can be applied. Meanwhile the tilers have started work on the family bathroom, running short of tiles by the end of the first day and realising they'd miscalculated, which left us in a spin and saw Dr B hotfooting over to Altrincham, where the tile supplier happened to have some leftovers from a job tiling the science labs at Manchester University. Of course, this suggests that my bathroom has the air of a science laboratory. Not sure whether this is a compliment or not.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Beginning of week 15 and I finally have a few days off work. Will the joiner (who I am too polite to call 'Billy the Screw') has been chipping away at architraving (arcs) and skirting boards (skirts) and spent all of today constructing a new bannister for the staircase, which makes the place look more like a house than ever.

The curtain fabric arrived from John Lewis; it was such a heavy roll that I almost fell over trying to get it into my car but managed to get it to Linda the curtain lady in one piece, even remembering to rip open the wrapper on her doorstep and check they'd sent the right stuff. The old dresser has been collected by the french polisher, new bedstead delivered, cooker hood ventilated and the bifold doors have been replaced after the originals turned out to have been victims of an admin error (ie, not the right ones).

This morning I hit the painting after the school/nursery run, though it was 11am before I got around to opening the tin of 'Antique Cream' because there was the small matter of transporting one of the shower screens upstairs, which Will and our project manager managed by the skin of their teeth with about 10mm headspace to spare. And then there was the coving to paint and the industrial vacuum cleaner to receive, which needed a 'transformer' to reduce the power output and save me from frying myself quite by accident (I've tried it by the way - it makes a huge scary noise that leaves me shaking in the corner of the room but doesn't seem to have any more actual power than my own hoover at home).

Tonight we have one bedroom nearly painted and there's a man at the house fitting up a burglar alarm. Tomorrow more paint. And more paint after that.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Utility. For storing your crap.

The utility room is about twice the size of the first kitchen we ever owned. I jokingly said to Dr B that we'd be okay the next time we fitted a kitchen because we could use the utility as a temporary one, but I don't think he saw the funny side.

The best things about the utility room are the mop/brush/ironing board cupboard and the 'charging shelf', which is a shelf inside a cupboard and incorporates a double socket for the purposes of charging things up - you know, like your camera or your screwdriver. No more arguments about wires all over the place - those cupboards could save marriages in the modern, technological age.

The empty housing at the front of the first photo is supposed to house our washer and dryer. It looks narrow to me but the fitter assured me that all washing machines are the same width. You know me, I always need something to worry myself about.

Fitted Kitchen. Fitted.

It was with some trepidation that I watched the kitchen fitters unwrap the painted oak doors, since we had agonised for so long over the colour, as you know. It's only now the units are in I'm finally confident of that 'Elephant's Breath' and I'm pleased to say that it looks exactly like that 'putty' larder unit in Marks and Spencer.

The first photo shows the contrasting oak island unit which will house our hob, contrasting units being all the rage these days. You can also see the door to the utility room and the corner of the door to the playroom, partly obscured by that massive box containing a shower cubicle, which nobody seems to want to risk taking upstairs. Nothing works yet, of course and there are no worktops - the granite company are coming back with them next week.

The bottom picture shows the two ovens and the top of the dishwasher in it's cupboard. The oven on the right is also a microwave but as it's smaller than the single oven on the left, you have to buy a warming drawer to sit underneath it if you want them to look right sitting side by side. I have all sorts of fanciful ideas about warming plates and proving poppyseed bread but really I know it's just Seimens' way of makig a bit more money out of you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

End in Sight

End of another week; week 14 in fact, which was Carl the builder's initial estimate of the time it would take to finish the renovation, but that was before we started knocking off old plaster and putting up coving

Today we met Allan the decorator at the house to hammer out who's painting what. Eddie the joiner was already there replacing our 1961 obscure glass with 2011 clear glass, while Carl's joiner was cutting skirting boards, the plasterers were applying coving and the kitchen fitters were, well, fitting kitchens.

The house has been full of tradesmen all week, which has left us painting during our evenings when we're not under their feet. Still only one room is complete - it's hard to get going on evening painting because you're tripping over boxes of switches and skirting board and other unidentifiable fixtures. Last night it took Dr B and his dad over an hour to remove two radiators so we could paint the walls and then we were all thirsty, which required a trip to the shop since the only water was in the downstairs loo and the cold tap had sprung a leak and been capped off. New plaster is lovely, but it requires a 'mist coat' before you paint the colour you really want, which means at least three coats of paint per room.

Second on our list today was visiting the steel fabricators who have made the brackets to hang the quartz for our washbasins. As soon as I saw them I could tell they were too tall, but we had to wait until the quartz was delivered this afternoon in order to mock up the basins, at which point it was clear that you'd have to be six foot ten in order to comfortably wash your face. Dr B was supposed to be painting but by 3pm he was hoofing back to the fabricators to have them shortened in time for the joiner to hang them on Monday next week.

The big news this week is that the kitchen and utility room have been fitted, which took three days in total. The granite firm came to template for worktops this afternoon, with more decisions to make about shapes and sizes. The kitchen is absolutely gorgeous, but sadly I forgot to take a photo of it so you're getting this one instead. The sparks were fitting the external lights today and we stood back on the grass to admire them. If you think they're good, wait until you clap eyes on the kitchen.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


You could be forgiven for thinking that we'd downed tools and cranked up the barbeque for the hell of it this afternoon - everyone knows we're closet Australians and today's Sydney blue sky was reason enough to chuck on some lovely yabbies.

In fact, the barbeque was going all afternoon in our new utility room in a desperate attempt to warm the house and persuade the plaster to dry before the kitchen is fitted next week, which isn't quite the lifestyle I had mind when we bought it. The fitters arrive on Thursday and we were no closer to getting the utility painted this morning than we were when it was plastered earlier in the week. As if that wasn't comical enough, we had the patio heater running in the living room and a hastily-purchased fan heater iin the playroom (which also stubbornly refuses to dry; the entire house is laughing in the face of our flooring deadlines).

It's been a busy week, punctuated by a nasty bout of vertigo, which I get whenever I have even the slightest of colds and makes me feel as though I'm permanently off balance. Vertigo knocks your vestibular system, but it also tends to alter some of your other senses, in my case leaving me freaked out by noises and busy environments and feeling as though I can't make decisions, which is exactly what I don't need at the moment.

There have been no photographs of the house this week because plastering makes for rubbish photographs and there's not much to say about it except that I feel sorry for anyone who works with plaster or anyone else who washes their dirty overalls because it's bloody awful stuff and it's now found its way into every nook and cranny you can imagine in the house. By Thursday the whole house was replastered, the effect of which was masses of condensation building up with no escape route other than to drip menacingly down the windows and their handles. The inside of the house is so humid that wooden furniture has swollen and the front door can now only be slammed shut via the letter box and only provided there's a big bloke on site to do it. The radiators are hanging on the walls but there's no boiler.

On Thursday we received a call from our site manager to say that our oak frame had arrived for the porch and that a person had also arrived to varnish it if we could simply decide on a colour, which was impossible because (a) we hadn't seen the frame and (b) we hadn't seen the choice of varnish. I suspect we now have a reputation for being 'fussy' but since the frame cost over £2000 there was no way I was choosing a varnish at random because it would almost certainly have turned out in 'vile orange' like the front door did when I treated that. In fact, the frame is really beautiful and we're absolutely thrilled with it (it's in two parts; you can see the top half of it sitting on the floor in the second photograph). All it needed was a clear varnish, which is exactly what the front door will now need to ensure it matches.

On Friday we took delivery of our sanitary ware, which includes a 'comfort height' toilet, which is much taller than your common-or-garden loo and lends itself to a more enjoyable toiletting experience, or at least, that's what Alan the Pan told me in the bathroom shop and who am I to argue? I shall be reporting back with toilet comparisons before the end of the month. We also took delivery of a lovely new slate house sign to replace the one that read 'The Croft', which was carted off on a skip last week.

Later in the morning we met with the kitchen designers again to look at the final details - things like what colour you want the insides of your cupboards and what sort of distance you want between the worktops (I think the standard is 120cm but you'd need another 20cm to allow for my hips alone). We ordered a stainless steel bracket to hang the quartz worktop in the en-suite bathroom (£275 for goodness sake!) and visited Steve the Gripper, who's carpet shop is so disorganised that I wonder how he manages to sell any actual carpet. Steve the gripper has a retired fitter who's quoting for our flooring. We had gone to the local carpet shop, where we've also bought our bathroom fittings, but their idea of 'looking after us' was to throw in a few free gripper rods for the stairs so we've gone looking for creative alternatives.

By Friday afternoon I was dizzy and sick, which wasn't helped by a trip up the M6 to look at the colour palette for tyrolean render - the plasterer is due to render the house and he swore blind that tyrolean render came in two colours, 'white' and 'cream.' Futher investigation revealed it came in about 15 colours and we eventually chose 'ivory' which you might think is unecessary detail but if you don't get the detail right, why bother renovating houses? Anyway, we've sourced cheap bags of the stuff and the man in the shop has told us it needs to be laid at least 5mm in thickness to avoid the plaster showing through. so now we're tyrolean experts extraordinare and I'll be out in the mud with my flaming ruler making sure it's the right thickness.

After the visit to the tyrolean there was a brief interlude in which Dr B met the electricians to discuss siting of the cooker hood in relation to floor joists and I got on with more important things like hoofing round John Lewis, where I made a total arse of myself by having mis-read the price of my curtain fabric and dissolving into a puddle when the lady totted up the bill and told me the living room curtain fabric would cost £950 and not the £600 I had accounted for. I even made her ring it through the till twice and check on ther website, but of course she was right and I was wrong, which meant I had to put it back and spend money on brushed chrome toilet roll holders instead, just so I didn't leave looking any worse. By Saturday afternoon I was trogging round Simon Boyd's fabric shop in Knutsford, which only confirmed my suspicion that there is not another fabric in this whole world that will match Crown Paint's 'Corset' beside the £950 stuff in John Lewis and with Linda the curtain lady on speed dial, I now have to find that money in the budget by hook or by crook.

Today we asked my in-laws to watch the children so we could paint the kitchen. My in-laws only babysit in 5 hour time slots and they wanted us home by 5pm so it was a good thing we'd bought one of those paint pod things (using the money we got for weighing in the copper pipes). I have a feeling I'm never going to want to paint another wall as long as I live. One room down, 14 to go.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rewired for Sound

There are many side effects of building renovation that you don't consider until you're already commited. Our two children have suffered no end of upheaval, not to mention having most of their toys placed into storage and (more recently) being unable to have friends round to play or stay for tea - which means they doesn't get invited to other kids' houses either. People are not necessarily as understanding as you might think and a year of your life is a long time when you're a kid.

One of the biggest things for me has been the electrics and especially the lack of music in the house. Initially this was because we'd packed away our CDs when we sold the last house, never bothering to unpack them because of the imminent building work (no, I don't have an i-Pod. Dr B has an i-Pod but he takes it to work with him to play in the operating theatre; Stairway to Heaven being an interesting choice). When we moved in, there were only two sockets in the living room, one of which was occupied by the television and associated gadgettry and the other of which was located awkwardly behind a cabinet and had to serve a variety of random cables such as laptops and docking stations, hardly ever getting itself connected to the music system, as you can see in the top picture.

The electrics were in such poor shape that you had to be careful not to overload the system, which meant the cooker, dishwasher, washer and dryer had to take turns to use the electricity. You could wash your clothes and cook your dinner but you couldn't wash any dirty pots at the same time. The result was wet clothes waiting to be dried and dirty pots stacking up beside the sink. Never have I needed some loud music more.

Now we have no electricity at all, but we have socket boxes all over the place. I never thought I'd be so pleased to spend money on a rewire - I'll be plugging in with gay abandon; music and washing and cooking all at the same time. Party Time.


Over to the house to meet another carpet fitter this morning. His eyebrows were raised so high when I said the house will be ready for carpeting in six weeks time that they practically left his face - he has no faith.

The new kitchen is completely plastered, the playroom and utility are boarded and the rest of the house is about 40% plastered too. Plasterer reckons it will be finished by Friday and Matt the Spark is due back then to complete the second fix electrics, which is handy as we've no light whatsover and the clocks have just gone back.

As the plaster dries without any heating, the house is damp and there's condensation all over the windows, dripping down from the Velux windows in the kitchen. We now have to prove it's unlivable to the local council in order to claim a 90% council tax rebate, which means sending them photogrpahs and a letter from the builder. As an alternative, they might have considered asking their own building control inspector, who we have paid £700 to carry out periodic checks. The building inspector could easily confirm the condition of the house, but this is the council we're talking about, and there's no such thing as joined-up thinking.

Tonight's task is to plan the new bannister. Newel posts, caps and spindles all need to be ordered to replace the 1960's deathtrap which would effectively serve as a ladder for small children. One of the first jobs we did on moving into the house was to cover it with perspex (the other was to sit in the corner rocking and worrying about the dodgy electrics). Now it's being ripped out and replaced with something more suitable for a family house. I think the bricks are the only things left that we haven't actually replaced.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Week End

School holidays this week and we've been juggling childcare with trying to keep an eye on progress. Dr B impressed me no end by cutting out the old copper pipes from the central heating and taking them to a scrapyard with the old water cylinder, where he exchanged them for about £360 in cash. Ella helped carry the pipes, continuing her (self appointed) role as 'project manager.'

The plastering in the new extension was completed today, which means over half the total house is boarded and plastered and this time next week we'll probably have lights. Today we took one of our en-suite basins to the granite people who are cutting us a 1.5 metre piece of quartz offcut to sit them on, after which we went looking for carpets and staircase spindles. On Tuesday I had a minor heart attack in John Lewis when the nice man did a calculation of how much fabric I needed to make curtains for the living room, followed by a blue-light situation when the local carpet man calculated the square footage and told me I was looking at the best part of £3,500 to fit two 80/20 wool carpets and kit the remaining rooms with that nasty polypropelene stuff. I now realise this to be the down-side of enlarging your house - not only will it cost more to heat but you'll face enormous bills if you want new carpets, or anything else for that matter. And we don't even have curtain rails.

Alan the decorator came by for a part-payment this evening weilding the most enormous tub of paint I've ever seen in my life. Professional decorators must get through bloody vats of white emulsion, and though he's waiting for us to order colours for the rest of the house, I find myself option paralysed again. Determined not to mouth the words 'magnolia', not even in my sleep.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


As if my brain hasn't been hammered enough this week, arrived home to find paint and grout samples for us to choose. The 14 paint pots were supplied by the decorator and cost £40, which made me yelp because the children need new shoes. The grouts came from the tile shop in Altrincham. This is the sort of minute detail we continue to be involved with.

Today I'm off to the house to check where I will plug in lamps on the landing. Suspect we've forgotten a socket. Matt the Spark will be so chuffed when we ring him.


Photos illustrate the main bathrrom and ensuite, followed by the landing, half plasterboarded.

They've made us an airing cupboard on the landing, which you can probably just about make out. The ensuite in the second shot shows the space for the double shower held in place by the stud wall to the left.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow...

Returned from a week in Newcastle with some trepidation, not least because the nursery photographer has been in my absence and I'm still not sure whether Dr B put Alex's clothes on the right way round. He sent me a text on Thursday saying that the plaster in the old part of the house was knackered and needing to be completely removed, which made me feel slightly sick and provided quite a distraction from the neuroscience lecture I was supposed to be listening to.

I suppose it's a good thing that we've rumbled the dodgy plaster now - better than finding out when you try to hang a picture and the whole wall comes off at once. The house had thick plaster with no lining and had central heating for 50 years so it's no real surprise to find it had all dried out. At least we'll have nice smooth walls to play with.

Since learning about the plaster I've been dreaming about the house going 'back to brick' and imagining the dust and dirt entailed so that instead of taking notes in lectures I found myself plotting out schedules of work to enable us to get home for Christmas. I was expecting the house to look even worse than when I left but Dr B said I ought to go and have a look because Dr B knew that Carl the Builder had been on site at 6am yesterday morning with a brush in his hand (and that was a Saturday). In fact it didn't look too bad.

In the week I've been away, the gallows for the porch have been hung and primed and the stud walls upstairs in the extension have been plasterboarded. All of the plumbing is now in the right place after a brief moment when I spotted a rogue set of water pipes and couldn't figure out what they were supposed to supply (turned out the plumber was following the architect's plans rather than those drawn by the kitchen designer - the architect hadn't a clue how the inside of the house would look and drew a kitchen for illustrative purposes, which is very nearly what we'd have ended up with if I hadn't had my glasses on).

Yesterday they screeded the kitchen floor to bring it to the same level as the original house, so we can't walk on it for the rest of the weekend. I have the distinct impression it's all going to come together after all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I'm reluctant to mention to Carl the builder that our house has been turned into a mudbath because he'll probably sense a business opportunity and start handing out fluffy towels and charging membership. You don't get ahead in business without seizing your moment.

(Don't ask me why the writing on this blog is all 'spaced out' - I don't know - perhaps the man who hosts 'blogger' has been smoking weed).

Vinnie turned up on the job this morning. Vinnie is Carl's second-in-charge and I suspect the pair of them were bunking off school together this time 25 years ago, a crime I'm guilty of myself, which is probably why I can't add up.

'Carl's on his way' he said. 'He's got a plan, something to make you happy.'

What Vinnie and Carl don't realise is that I'm reasonably happy to begin with, though if Carl's plan involves sending us to the Bahamas until this thing's finished then I'll gladly pack my bags.

There's not been much progress over the last few days. The team are spinning several plates and one of the plumbers has taken time off work with a new baby - a situation we understand because we've been there ourselves, but the problem is we've both booked annual leave in a few weeks time - we need to get the house painted so it needs to be ready if we aren't going to waste our time off.

Carl's new plan involves sending a crack team of plumbers to 'batter' the house (as Vinnie put it) - it's a good thing I'm away in Newcastle all next week because the sight of the house being battered by plumbers would probably make me feel a bit ill, though I am slightly concerned about leaving Dr B in charge of the house and the children and wonder whether I ought to warn nursery that the little one might turn up dressed back to front with her knickers on her head.

You'll see from the picture that the house now has windows and the canopy roof at the front has been tiled in the last few days. The concrete slab has been laid on the garage floor, which means it can be measured for a door. The 'first fix' electrics are finished, which means there are cables hanging all over the place but still no electricity. There's still no plumbing, which I discovered when I used the downstairs toilet and had to return the next day with our mop bucket before I could flush the bloody thing.

This morning I had the man from the local Amtico supplier measuring up for flooring in the kitchen. I'd brought a sample door from the kitchen shop and typically, the matching floor was from the more expensive range (made in the UK) and not the Spacia stuff (made in China). And then the plumber pitched up and asked technical questions about the height of waste pipes and shower trays and I said I'd ask Keith the Click Clack, which entailed a trip into the shop and physically measuring the back of the toilets. For the record, the back of the toilet is 18.5cm off the ground. I haven't the foggiest what's going on in the real world these days but I know my waste pipes.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Empty kitchen

...and this will be the kitchen. At the moment it's all woodwork and breezeblock but once the 'first fix' electrics and plumbing are in, it'll be plastered. Carl the builder gave us the keys for the bifold doors so the workmen can't open them and stand their muddy boots on the margins.

Really, really thrilled to get to this stage so quickly. Well done, Urban!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bifold Doors

Very productive day on Friday, due largely to the fact that I sent Dr B to London on a 'field trip' to Pudding Lane. Ella's learning about the great fire of London, though the trip was just a smokescreen to get the spreadsheet to myself and do some simple choosing and 'boxing off' which takes much longer when Dr B's around (you should see him in a restaurant, by the time he makes his choice, I've eaten the napkin).

Arrived at the house early to wait for a spray painter who didn't show up - I suspect he thought I was actually living in the house and I'd have my feet up watching Jeremy Kyle, when I was actually loitering around in the mud and the dust, looking as though I was keeping my eye on what the lads were doing, which seemed to be feeding a lot of electricity cables under the floorboards. A welder was installing some steel joists to support the porch roof - the place was a hive of activity again.

Round the back, the bifold doors had arrived and were being assembled on the lawn. The installer didn't like the colour, describing it as 'girly' and 'sparkly' and for a moment I worried we'd chosen the wrong ones before realising he just hadn't a clue about renovating houses, especially when he eyed up the old sliding doors and wondered whether he could make himself a shower enclosure out of the (untoughened) glass.

Anyway, after a hastily scribbled note directing the spray painter to look at a wardrobe and a drawer (back of an envelope job), I hobbled off to see the kitchen designer to discuss knobs and other small details; 'hobbled' because I've sprained my ankle and I'm wearing a tubigrip and wondering whether it's grounds for time off work, you know, to 'project manage.'

I've finally arrived at some sort of speed decision making because the utility room doors and knobs and sinks and taps were chosen in record time (I'm virtually pointing and grunting at this stage in the project) and then it was off to the bathroom shop where I was sad to find Keith the click clack going out on a delivery because I've mentally adopted Keith and am on the verge of asking what it would cost to have him delivered to the house, you know, minus the discount but plus the VAT.

So two basins were purchased and a shower cubicle was ordered and then I was off to look at sectional garage doors and quartz bathroom worktops and patio flags, where the man delivering the concrete told me to watch out for cowboy builders before promptly passing me a tatty business card with three spelling mistakes that left me doubtful he'd be much cop with a spirit level.

Anyway, this is the rear view of the house this weekend - loads of progress this week, not least the roof and bifold doors. The patio sliders in the living room have also been installed. Do you like the bifolds? - gorgeous colour, beautifully made and well installed. Our architect left them off the plans after we asked him to draw them. He reckons we don't get the weather for them - we'll be the judge of that. And anyway, given the price of them, we'll have them open on Christmas day

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I was so tired coming home from work this evening, I thought I'd fall asleep at the wheel. We were up until gone midnight last night pouring over plans and marking on electric sockets, switches and aerials, for which I devised a nice little key in four shades of Ella's best coloured pens. The pens turned out to be sparkly pens but to be honest, I was so tired that I couldn't physically get up from the chair to swap them, and anyway, it's not every day you're presented with a nice glittery diagram, is it? Matt the Spark probably thinks I've lost it.

This morning we met with the kitchen designer, plumber and electrician, all of whom pitched up simultaneously at 8am and all wanting to discuss 'what goes where', so it was fortunate we were both able to get to the house. The window fitter, roofer and joiners were all working away by 8.15 - the house looked exactly like that programme '60 Minute Makeover', though unlike said programme, nobody was painting over my woodchip to give me a 'nice surprise.' (For the record, I'm not a fan of 60 minute renovations, which is why I'm making sure there's nothing left to renovate in this whole house. No nice surprises for me, ever).

We'd given plenty of thought to the electrics, though completely failed to notice that there was no wall space for light switches in the bedroom and ensuite, which meant a quick redraw of the stud walls and word with the joiner. And there's the issue of whether you'd have your outside lights all on at the same time - single switch or double? How many downlighters does one kitchen need? Where will we plug in the toaster? The hairdryer? My fingers when I've had enough?

To be honest, it was a relief to arrive at work, where I immediately telephoned the man who quoted for the driveway (Frank the Slab). He's been out to quote for the patio too, but nothing has appeared in the post. Frank's wife answered the phone, a voice betraying a 20-a-day habit and two grandchildren called 'Lambert' and 'Butler.' Frank wasn't home, she said - he'd popped to the co-op. By the time he called me back, I was in a meeting, so he left a Norman Collier message telling me he was coming back this evening with his lad, Terry - or at least I think that's what he said - the Norman Collier impression really was excellent and I heard only every third word.

'And this Quote our Terry gave you for the drive, it's wrong. I've got it £3,000 more expensive.'

'That's a shame' I replied. 'Cause I haven't got another £3,000.'

This week, I'm buying a lottery ticket.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Mike the groundworker was on site when I arrived at 8.15 this morning, an impromptu meeting organised last night in order for me to talk through the positions of the stud walls upstairs. I don't know whether he owns the digger but he certainly looks at home in the seat and I can't help wondering why I chose a desk career rather than something where I could mess about with spades all day.

I was excited to see Mike because it was Mike who's misunderstanding led to the drains being removed, which means he's here to rectify his handiwork and install some drainage to the house, thus allowing us the luxury of using the toilet when we're on site rather than avoiding the blue cabin on the drive. The blue cabin has started to smell - there's no way I'm parking my bum in there - I'll keep carrying my membership card for the local gym and go there if nature calls.

As you can see, Mike has exposed some drains which lead away from our downstairs loo - as we suspected, the drains were accidentally smashed during the initial groundwork, so they need sorting out.

Dr B was stirring a curry when I got home from work. He explained that he'd met with Carl the builder and the issue of the drains had been discussed. 'We have two choices' he began. 'They can put a new drain in that trench or they can put one in the garage and feed it into the downstairs loo through the wall.' He continued to stir the curry while I turned white at the idea of the builders even setting foot in said downstairs loo, let alone breaking into it. As you probably know, the downstairs loo is sacred. It's the only room that's been done - God only knows how I'll let the electrician in there to sort out the wiring, but I suspect gin will be involved.

'Don't worry. I told them to put it into the trench.'

Knocked Through

We appear to have reached the dreaded knock through, though to be fair, when you aren't living in the house there's not much to dread. This is the entrance to the first floor extension - the windows represent two bathrooms with stud walls yet to divide them.

You see that chink of light? That's us getting our life back, and it's almost within touching distance. I want to go home.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Monday - Beginning of week 9. I don't much like Mondays at the moment because on Mondays I'm at home with our 2 year old and I'm doing 'Mummy things' like taking her to a music group and making Yorkshire puddings and waiting for that hour she goes to sleep at lunchtime so I can make phone calls about matters more pressing than Postman Pat and/or his flipping black and white cat. I've got showers to order, garage doors to consider, quotes to chase. I realise this makes me a bad mother, but the situation is temporary and in any case, it really is very difficult because I can't even go into the build because I can't risk the stress of taking her in there with me. Keep. Calm. Carry. On.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather last week - 24-27 degrees at the end of September and the roof went on with barely a hitch. I say 'barely' because the porch roof was removed and couldn't be replaced because the joiner and structural engineer realised it needed some sort of metal thingy to stop the new roof from collapsing - and that's got to be fabricated.

So the porch was left exposed all weekend, which was fine until yesterday when it rained all afternoon and evening and our recently-delivered letters sat exposed to the elements. A woman would never have made this mistake - she'd have thought through every possible thing that could go wrong and top of her list would have been a porch without a roof. I rang the builder's wife today ask her to talk to him about the porch roof before my new textbooks arrive from Amazon and suffer a similar fate. It's good to have at least one woman on the job.

Anyway - progress on the house today - The scaffolding was supposed to come down but didn't - I think it's taken root and we'll have to put up with it. The joiners were busy hammering down the flooring upstairs, which means you can now actually walk around the new first floor. I discovered this by chance when I called by to collect the post - Mike the project manager invited me to go and have a look, which left him 'babysitting' my younger child while she sat in the back of the car (she's not allowed in the house since, as you know, she's always looking for new and interesting ways to kill herself and the house currently offers several options).

As I walked upstairs I could see that the main bedroom had now been split into two by a stud wall partition to create bedrooms 4/5. 'You're not going to put the other stud walls up today, are you?' I asked the joiner. ''because they're not in the same position as they are on the plans.'

The looks on their faces told me they were about to do exactly that.

'So where do you want them?'

'I haven't got the exact measurements. Dr B has been plotting the rooms out - I'll ask him when he gets home.'

'And the airing cupboard?' they asked

'Not in the same place,' I replied.

Bloody good job I popped in. Good job Mike told me to look upstairs, good job he was on hand to 'babysit' the car so I could go into the house. Living away from the build has obvious advantages, but not being on site every day is potentially much more hazardous.

Friday, September 30, 2011


This is the Matki Essence concealed valve - it's on the front of the Matki brochure, which is probably because it's so damned good looking. Gorgeous isn't it? And a snip at £1,100, though admittedly you get a shower head to match it and a hand held rinser thing that allows you to reach..ahem...other parts (you know, like the corners of the shower tray).

Anyway, the reason I'm showing you this is because I've been to the bathroom shop this afternoon, where Roger the tap and Keith the click clack have been looking at our plans and weighing up my amateur bathroom designing skills, which are only marginally better than your average orang-utan might achieve with the same pencil.

The Matki Essence valve is non-negotiable, you see. Despite the price, this is not a corner that can be cut or a saving that can be made and the reason for this is because the Matki Essence has been winking at me since 2004 and would have been fitted in our last project around that time if our budget hadn't then run away with itself, much as it's doing at the moment. In fact, the Matki Essence is beginning to feel a bit like Warner Brothers' Road Runner - always just out of reach of Wile. E. Cayote, only this time the Cayote is me and I'm going to catch it.

'You can't fit it on a wall' says Roger the tap. 'Well, not on an external wall - it has to go on a stud wall.' I hadn't a clue about this, so it's a good job I went to the bathroom shop because the other option is to buy all of this stuff online where nobody is going to advise you about what goes where.

'And your stud partition is blocking your light' he points out, quite rightly - just in time to save the said partition wall from being built and rendering the corner of the en-suite our very own black hole of Calcutta.

I like this bathroom shop. Keith the Click Clack lives round the corner from me. He noticed the postbox had been knocked down, but he's willing to forgive me because he likes my new roof. You don't get that online either. Long live the local business.


I think Dr B had a bit of a moan at Carl the builder last night about the rubble inside the house because Carl and one of the lads were on site at 7am this morning cleaning up. Carl's business empire seems to be expanding quickly - I see his signs and vans all over town, though I can't say I'm surprised because from the minute he walked up the drive, his customer service has been fantastic and he's really taken the time to think the job through.

'The thing is with Carl,' says our kitchen designer, 'he's bothered.'

It's a small thing - being 'bothered' - but when a builder isn't 'bothered' about your job then you might as well forget it. You'd think they would all be 'bothered' but they're not, and this is why we chose Carl. He deserves to do well.

This morning I visited a furniture restoration workshop armed with a drawer from our old welsh dresser, which I am hoping they can transform by painting it in Farrow and Ball. I have a theory that you can transform anything by painting it in Farrow and Ball because the colours are so complex.

We've had the dresser for 16 years, though it's been sitting in various garages for the last six of those, or rather the top of the dresser has been in garages - Dr B couldn't accept that pine was unfashionable and insisted that it stayed in the house, so removing the top was some sort of unhappy compromise which came to it's natural conclusion when we had our second child and had to remove the rest of it to the garage in order to make room for some displaced bookshelves.

(Dr B often has difficulty with fashion, which is why I sometimes have to dispose of his clothes to passing rag and bone men - it's for his own good).

Anyway, despite being deeply unfashionable, the dresser has sentimental value, which Dr B would tell you lies in the fact he worked a 48 hour locum shift to pay for it and I would put down to it being one of the first pieces of furniture we bought for our first property, an old Victorian flat in Reading.

The flat was our first 'proper' home and it was located on Alexandra Road, which is how our second daughter acquired her name. It was also the first 'proper' home I'd had since my mother decided I was leaving home at 18. Being kicked out of home is a thoroughly unpleasant and horribly scary experience, particularly the part where you register with a GP and have to describe yourself as 'homeless' - I suspect this is responsible for my obsession with houses and properties and with having a 'roof over my head' ever since (and what a lovely roof we have).

So the dresser has been biding it's time in the garage (and so have the ceramic knobs we bought for it during the last 5 minutes it was fashionable, knobs which have been living in my knicker drawer ever since), but Andy the lathe is going to restore this dresser and paint it up and change the knobs until it's unrecognisable and back in fashion, or at least that's what I'm hoping until Andy picks up the sample drawer and tells me it's actually a 'waxed' dresser and he'll have to get the wax off first - at which point the whites of his eyes display actual pound signs and I feel the coins physically draining from my purse and onto the sawdusty floor.

I'm waiting for a price, though I'm wise to it now. If you want to know what something will cost, think of a number. Then double it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rock Bottom

Fed up today. End of week 8 - we have a roof (well, the front of the house has a roof, the back is waiting for velux windows) - I ought to be really pleased. I'm just fed up.

The house has degenerated into an absolute hole. Wherever I walk there's crunchy rubble under my feet - whatever I touch leaves me covered in dirt and dust. I realise this is a building site, but it's also my home, my house. There's no way it could be left in this state if we were haivng to live in it - surely.

Our lovely new front door has been scratched across the front in two places. The front lawn isn't recovering from having the roof joists delivered there by mistake. I never want to renovate a house again.

Met with a guy from a garage door company today. His price is even higher than the first, and £1,100 more that the 'provisonal cost' our builder has worked into the budget. The plumbing has come back £6,000 over budget, the kitchen £2,000 over budget. And these budgets were carefully worked out - we couldn't have been more meticulous if we'd tried. We didn't want to be in this position.

We could make some compromises - kitchen appliances for a start - we could have a smaller hob, a cheaper brand of oven, we could ditch the larder. Problem is, this is our 'forever home' as Kirsty Allsop is so fond of saying - we haven't done all this work and put our family through such hideous upheaval so we can fit crappy appliances that'll need replacing when they blow up this time next year. It's a higher-end house - you can't fit it with crappy fixtures.

I think I'v hit rock bottom with this project. I don't want to think about it for another minute longer than I have to.

New Bedrooms

More progress inside the house this week. The master bedroom is about to be split into two smaller rooms, which has involved blocking up the original door and beginning to create an alcove which will give access to both rooms. The mess and filth has to be seen to be believed - to think I shout at the kids for leaving their toys hanging about the house - I think I've developed a new tolerance after all of this.

Bedroom 3 has also been enlarged by the removal of the airing cupboard. That's the old cylinder in the picture. For some reason half the plaster's missing in this room. The word bombsite springs to mind.


Met Linda the curtain lady at the house this morning. The house has had a new roof this week so it's looking good and the porch roof is also taking shape.

Linda is quite glamorous by my standards - she carries an actual handbag on her arm, so I don't think she was terribly impressed at having to wade through the dust and rubble in her nice shoes, and she was even less impressed when there was nowhere clean to rest her handbag. I offered my shoulder (not to cry on - to put the bag on) and used my arm as a table for her clipboard.

Apparently our curtain rails are excellent, so it's a shame they are filthy and covered with little wooden pelmets. The pull cords have gone too, so quite why she thinks they're so good is a mystery. except to say you can't buy them anymore.

Our neighbour came out to chat - she's been here for more than 30 years and knows Linda because Linda has made her curtains.

'It's great, isn't it?' says Linda nodding towards the house.

'It's a mansion' replies our neighbour. 'I'll have to curtsey'.

I'm not sure whether our neighbour likes the new house - or rather, I think it's bigger than she had imagined. I agree with her - it's bigger in real life than it looked on the plans, but it's a huge improvement to the street scene, or at least it will be when the scaffolding comes down.

The other residents are also starting to get a bit shirty about the number of vans parked along the road. To be fair, there are four or five vans at any one time and it looks messy but it's also perfectly possible to drive past them and on the odd occasion they might be taking a delivery then it's possible to drive out of the road in the other direction.

Others are stopping me on the street telling me they're enjoying watching the progress. Mothers on the school run have noticed the house changing, they know it's ours and they think it's fantastic. Can't please everyone, eh?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bricking it

Our brickies have finished up today, which seems quite a milestone. We need no more bricks - this house is built. One of their last jobs was bricking up an internal wall that had previously been a 'decorative' glass partition between the hall and the dining room. 'Decorative' it might have been (and that depends on your point of view), but the dining room will become our study and there's no way I'm allowing a window into Dr B's study, as this will only reveal a mass of unfathomable wires, torn up envelopes and half-arsed attempts to invoice BUPA for somebody's clicky hip.

They've also bricked up the serving hatch, presumably because I don't look like a lady who needs one (and they'd be right - I have a melamine tray for that sort of thing). I'm pleased with the overall effect as I thought the new wall would make the hall too dark, which it doesn't seem to.

Dr B's been acting a bit cagey for the last couple of days. He's been speaking to the plumber about our replacement central heating and new boiler. The builder says it's going to cost no more than £5,000 - he's quite certain about this, which is reassuring. The plumber has other ideas - he says it's actually £10,000. Dr B didn't know how to tell me.

The problem is, we don't have that sort of flexibility in our budget anymore - not since the extra steel and the new roof tiles. I'm wondering whether Carl the builder needs any more staff. Somebody to brew up, stroke their chin and chew pencils. I'm good at that.

Anyone want to buy a kidney?


I've probably never mentioned that our house is officially called 'The Croft'. It was given this title in 1961 by the previous owners, who I believe moved here from the Home Counties and bought the plot of land from the builder. They rented a house nearby while this one was being built - we have the original architect's drawings and alternative designs they didn't choose, one of which I wish they had.

For some reason, the drawings were hand painted in watercolours and featured an abundance of blue skies, which no doubt foxed the original owners into making the move north. We all know the architect was being economical with the truth because the skies here are grey. Perhaps he also told them it was enclosed by pastures and roaming with sheep, which is the only explanation I can think of for them calling it 'The Croft.' We even inherited a cast iron address stamp for our letterheads.

Anyway, it isn't a bloody 'croft', it's a sixties palace. I've toyed with the idea of officially renaming the house but it seems slightly pretentious in the circumstances - my nan would be turning in her grave at the idea of me living on the posh side of town in the first place (advising throughout my childhood that folk in this neighbourhood were 'all fur coat and no knickers'), I think she'd send a thunderbolt if I gave our house a name.

I think the house will remain nameless. It'll be number 2.

Felting, Batoning

We're very lucky with the weather forecast this week - almost October and a forecast of 25 degrees for Wednesday, which surely makes the roofers' jobs easier. They worked through the weekend to get this far - the top photo was taken on Friday, the bottom one this evening.

Beginning of week 8 - our project manager swears it's week 7 but he's done his sums wrong. They started on August 8th - seven full weeks have been completed.