Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Goodness, I'm fed up today. With our planning decision due next Tuesday we phoned our architect-type, who thought the due date was a whole week later that it is. The planning officer still hasn't been out to inspect the site and with the decision only a week away, we're off on holiday this Friday so bang goes his chance of gaining access to the rear of the property to take a look.

'I've emailed the planning officer but he hasn't replied' says architect-type. 'And I've e-mailed his wife to see if he's actually in work this week.'

We rang the planning department ourselves, who confirmed that the decision is indeed June 7th and that our planning officer is indeed on annual leave. Perhaps it's a good sign - perhaps he's not bothered about taking a look - though it would be useful if he did because our complaining neighbour's house is hidden entirely by the newly-blossomed trees and can no longer be seen at all - so much for invading his privacy.

One of the quoting builders made an appointment to see us last night, which was a bank holiday. It was his thrid visit and he came armed with a quote for which he'd consulted a professional estimating service at a personal cost of £150. We really like this builder and he comes on personal recommendation, but his professional estimate puts him £60,000 above the cost of other builders tendering for the work and we simply can't afford to use him. Now Dr B feels guilty about him spending £150 on the estimate and thinks we ought to pay him or at least offer to meet him halfway, which I'm sure he'd accept but I'm not sure is the right thing to do in the circumstances. £150 is £150 - we never said he had the job and he never said we had to pay for the quote.

Anyway, in my frustration at all this waiting, I've started peeling at the manky wallpaper in the downstairs loo - it's full of disgusting spores as you can see. This time next week, it'll be gone. At least something is moving.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Four months after we arrived, spring's almost finished and we're beginning to see the garden unfold. The lawn's looking a bit greener since we had it scarified, though it's still patchy and I've spent hours removing the weeds by hand.

Last Friday we had Peter the gardener around for a chat. Peter's been looking after this garden for some time, so he knows its history. Apparently that path led to a bird table which eventually became unsafe and had to be removed. To the left of the path was a huge flower bed filled with roses but completely over-run with weeds and grasses which was eventually filled in with turf. The trees at the back are a laburnham and a crab apple tree, though you can hardly make the apple tree out for that massive gum tree behind it. The apple has just finished blossoming. You can't eat crab apples, only make chutneys and sauces with them, which is a shame (why plant a crab apple tree? plant an apple tree!).

We've got to wait for the hedges to finish flowering then he'll come back and shape them all for us (we tried it ourselves but couldn't reach the top - no idea how Peter will reach and he's not giving anything away when we ask - extending trousers perhaps). The grass to the right of the path will be removed and turned into a barked children's play area for the dreaded trampoline/swing/slide combination. It's hardly what I'd choose for the garden but there's enough garden left so that it won't have too huge an impact and after all, the kids were the reason we wanted this garden. Still in denial about the trampoline though....

Brew Count

I wonder how many more of these I'll be making over the next 12 months? Our last project involved five builders, who were furnished with several cups of hot tea every day for eight months (not to mention their favourite 'Happy Faces' biscuits, teacakes, baked potatoes, soup, calor gas heater in the winter and cold beer in the summer).

Unfortunately for us they fell out quite spectacularly with our neighbours (who's house they were extending simulataneously) so all the brewing up and provision of toilet facilities fell to us - as did the plugging in of power tools to work on nextdoor's house, such was their reluctance to knock on the door and speak to them. Anyway, it worked in our favour in the end because our hospitality earned us several 'free' jobs including the laying of a patio and the laying of a quarry tiled floor in our hall. There's a lesson in that.


After weeks of NOTHING happening to the house and garden, two developments this week, though neither of them particularly rewarding in terms of the finished product.

Today we have Mole Engineering burrowing a hole under the front garden to replace the water pipe that connects us to mains up on the street (if you click on the photographs, they come up bigger). Their work is supposed to be 'trenchless' so I was surprised to see them unloading a spade this morning and that looks suspiciously like two trenches they'd dug. Still, I'm not bothered about the lawn and it's half the price quoted by the (distinctly trenchy) utility company, who still want £60 to come out and inspect that the relocated water meter has been finished to their standards.

Tomorrow my brother-in-law arrives with some tools to start laying hard standing at the top of the garden. The kids are having a playhouse and it's already got a name. I'm secretly plotting gingham curtains.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Water Pipes

So! The window's been installed - we're ready to confine this aqua bathroom suite to history, right? I mean, how hard can this be?

Another weekend, another builder - though this time it's a builder who's been here before and seems a little un-nerved about the size of the project so he's chosen to return with his electrician and plumber for the purposes of giving a more accurate quote. These hours spent explaining the job to builders is beginning to wear me down. They all need full-scale plans, which have to be ordered from the local printer at additional cost - they all need specification, pencils to chew.

John the Builder's plumber shakes his head when he hears we're replacing the downstairs loo. The water pipe from the street enters the house behind the loo, the pipe's too thin to support the sort of water usage modern families enjoy - it needs to be replaced and it needs doing before we tile the room, especially if we'd like it relocated to the garage.

We phoned the local water company - they'll replace the pipe but they dig up your garden and they charge by the meter, which, given that we've about a squillion metres between our house and the main road - well it's going to cost (about £1500 to be exact). The alternative is Mr Mole. Mr Mole bores a hole under your garden for about £600 and gets the water company to connect him up to the mains. Bingo. Hes coming out tomorrow to inspect the site, though I'm not sure he'll have much luck because moles are blind, as everyone knows.

I'm beginning to think we're saddled with the aqua toilet forever.