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.

Friday, September 23, 2011


The roofers have been working for a few days now. The result is a roof shape at the front and back of the house, which is giving me a much better idea of how it will look when it's finished. The brickies are still on site - brickwork to the gable ends still isn't quite complete - Tate's assessment of the situation is the same every day, when he always tells me 'there's two more days work for us.'

This morning I noticed the Royal Mail fitting a new post box outside the house. The post

box was knocked over by some unspecified truck yesterday - the builders are blaming Travis Perkins, but the man in the bathroom shop lives further down the road and he's heard it was Huws Gray. Whoever mowed the bloody thing down, I'm grateful not to have to deal with the wrath of the neighbours, most of whom make some sort of daily pilgrimage to post letters. I'm impressed anyone can mow a postbox down to be honest - a true 'Fawlty Towers' moment and I wish I'd been there to see it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Roll Up

This is a garage door. Our garage door needs to be almost 5 metres wide, which means it's apparently going to cost £2,300 to install something like this. It's German you see, and everyone knows that doubles the price, which is why we can't have that £17,000 aluminium canopy over the patio either (though I'm still hoping to sweet talk Ray at BAS to supplying it for a more managable price - like £24.99).

Yesterday I had an appointment at the garage door showroom during my lunch break. The salesman was a bit taken aback when I said I wanted a 'sectional' door. 'You know what you're talking about, don't you?' he said. 'I'm not spending two grand without doing my homework.' I replied. I can't help wondering what on earth other people are doing when they renovate a house - don't they go and have a play with the remote control doors before they buy them? Don't they have a fold of the bifold doors?

The Winchester Tile company have sent us another sample in their 'truffle' colour, which confims my suspicion that either there's been a massive fault on the production line, or else their 'truffle' tile doesn't have the same glaze as the other colours they make. The truffle has to go - and we have to go back to the showrooms.


There used to be a wall here. In fact, it used to be a cupboard which divided the bathroom from bedroom 3. The cupboard housed the hot water tank, which meant the bedroom and bathroom were always baking hot, especially since the bedrooms have south facing windows. I hadn't realised how ill this had made me feel until the gas was shut off and the water tank no longer heated up, at which point we no longer needed to put our toddler to bed with a fan trained on her cot.

You can still see the pipes feeding the water heater from the header tank in the attic, and the exposed brickwork on the back wall illustrates the depth of the cupboard and how much space we'll gain the bedroom 3 now the cupboard is removed.

I once saw a programme on the telly where they removed all the partition walls in a house. It was inspired by the Japanese, apparently. Since ours started to come down, I see you really can remodel the internal layout if you want to - it's not just a Sarah Beeny thing.

Bathroom, Be Gone!

I think Tate the brickie is quite proud of his handiwork. I hadn't realised he'd knocked the bathroom out until I went upstairs this morning, and this is despite the upturned bath sitting in the skip. You can see part of the banister doesn't match - that's because until yesterday, that was a solid wall with our bathroom sink on the other side. The window at the back will be removed to allow us to knock through into the new extension, which creates a galleried landing where the bathroom used to be. I love it looking open like this but the plans show an airing cupboard. I know the airing cupboard will be useful and practical (and I will be able to dry the kids' woolly tights there in the winter), but I think this landing is begging for a sofa.


Tate the brickie eyed me suspiciously as I walked up the drive this morning. 'Are you going to shout at me?' he asked.

'No - why, what have you done?'


You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, apparently - or in this case, you can't bring down a chimney stack without littering the old kitchen with the rubble, war-zone style. Yes - this is my kitchen. And that was my chimney.

Woody Nora!

Standing outside the house after work last night, I knew something was different. It's been a long few weeks, so it took me a moment to work out that the cedar cladding had been mostly removed, and so had one of the chimneys (the house had two - one serving a fireplace and one serving an old boiler). You can see where the chimney has been removed - it looks like a velux window.

Our project manager was convinced we'd find breezeblock underneath the wood. Such little faith - Mr Ashall built this house and he built it to last.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I was trying to work out what light this used to service this morning - it's difficut to tell with the old kitchen in such a mess but suffice to say the old electrics are hanging (quite literally) from the rafters and I don't fancy plugging the toaster in. Tate and Dan (the brickies) were on site again this morning and I'm pleased to confirm that the cement mixer was mixing cement rather than washing their undies as I'd suspected. Oddly for a builder, Dan is afraid of the electrics and having to curl this flex up into the ceiling sent him white. Can't say I blame him, but then I don't work on a building site, I work in a prison, where I'd be buggered if the jangling of keys had the same effect.

Our project manager turned up at 9.15 to discuss the splitting of the largest bedroom, which is a great room but can't really accommodate an en-suite bathroom due to it's location, which is just about as far away from the plumbing as it could get. The room will be split in a 2/3 arrangement to provide guest bedrooms but the builders need to know where to put the dividing wall.

Next up we met with 'Gary the Window' (I think all people ought to be known by their trade, which is why we've dubbed Ella's swimming teacher 'Sue the Fish'. Of course, this makes Dr B 'Will the Gas', though in the circumstances I'd be surprised if he had grounds for protest). Gary asks me where I want the window openings and which bits need obscure glass. Does the garage need an opener? Probably not. What about obscure glass in the utility room? Erm I'm not sure.

After Gary leaves, it's onto the central heating, which I suppose involves 'Graham the Pipe'. Carl has given us a quote of £5,000 to replace the boiler and heating, but £5,000 is a 'PC sum', which means 'provisional cost' and could go up or down according to exactly what's required. At this late stage, a 'PC sum' needs ironing out, especially with the possibility of paying for a new roof, which is why we've asked to talk to Graham. Carl assures us it won't go up, but Graham has the look of a man who knows the cost of a Worcester boiler and I'm prepared to believe that could change.

The older part of the house needs new central heating since the radiators are 50 years old and no longer effecient (or attractive). Graham calls them 'rads', which is builder-speak - a whole language of it's own which I'm sure they no longer realise they use. Dr B uses similar doctor-speak for his green tubing and anaesthetic gases and I just nod enthusiastically and look like it's making sense (if you look confused, a lengthy explanation ensues and I've learnt to cut my losses).

Graham measures each room and calculates the cubic area and the number of external walls, which gives him the 'BTUs' required to heat it. This allows him to choose the right sized radiator, something I'd never given any thought to until we began this project. Some new radiators will be in new positions, some walls will be left free of radiators where vertical ones are used to save space. The porch will finally get some heating, which means we'll no longer have to suffer freezing cold boots and tossing coins to see who's turn it is to open the front door in the winter.

And then there's the new boiler, talk of which leaves me totally confused because try as I might, I can't get my head round 'unvented' systems and combi boilers and condensers. I try to look knowledgable but all I really know is that condensers have run-off pipes and they're prone to freezing in the winter, which means you ought to have wider pipes and lag them if they're in a cold place. Everything else I know has been gleaned from 'Which' magazine, who seem to change their mind about everything every other week - I'm trusting that Dr B and Graham's muttering about the heating system will keep us warm and keep the pipes from freezing. After that I really can't get excited about it.

With Graham measuring the rooms, Carl turns his attention to the issue of venting our cooker hood. Our hob will be on the central island, but unfortunately this is situated directly beneath those steel beams and we've been wondering for quite some time whether we'll be able to run the venting system to an outside wall or whether we'll have to buy a 'recirculating' extractor hood, which I've heard don't work very well despite being more expensive. My understanding is that the vent can run to any outside wall but can only have one or two turns (or 'elbows') otherwise it won't work properly. Of course, Carl sees the solution immediately - we'll vent it to the nearest wall and the vent will run alongside the steel. Despite scratching our heads for several months, we were totally unable to see this solution, which is why Carl builds houses and we don't.

The final point to discuss was the new roof, which has become more important since I saw the lovely new grey one that's on a house round the corner. Once you've seen something you could do, it becomes increasingly important that you do it. I think Carl thinks the same - he wants to replace the roof because it will provide a better finish to the job. Eventually we agree a price we can afford and we're officially going grey - hurrah!

By eleven o'clock we'd installed ourselves in a cafe with bacon butties and a plan for the rest of the day. First off, a visit to the kitchen designer to tell him about the 'Elephant's Breath' and the 'Bianco Sardo' granite and our decision against the Quooker, which is one of those instant hot water taps that look fantasic but cost a minimum of £500. He also needs to cost up our appliances and the units for the utility room, another 'PC sum' that's floating about on our spreadsheet.

Afterwards we headed to bathroom shops, by which point I'd started to flag and found the only place to sit was on an actual toilet, which drew quizzical stares from passers-by. The assistant in the first shop showed us an oval basin that looked lovely but we concluded would be 'too splashy' and a tap that swiveled from side to side but looked 'too shonky.' And then she asked me whether I wanted a 'click' waste or a 'push' waste and I had to admit that by this point I'd struggle to choose between 'bacon' and 'eggs' and would quite like a 'plug' and a 'plug hole', which have apparently gone out of fashion since I last looked.

And then skirting boards were chosen (lamb's tongue design if you're interested) and we arrived home to find tile samples from the Winchester Tile Company, which we've decided are probably worth the expense, especially if they really were knitted on board the Al Fayed yacht.

Nine more weeks to go.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Propped Up

When I say the first floor is propped up by table legs, I'm not joking. I can't tell you how many times I've mentally pictured this whole thing collapsing. I'm sure these builders know what they are doing but it's always a little disconcerting to see your house looking so...vulnerable.

Dropped in to see what progress had been made today. The answer was 'none' since yesterday, though the concrete mixer was turning round as usual, which I suspect these brickies do on purpose whenever they see me coming up the road. I've never thought to check whether there's anything in it - for all I know it's doing their washing. It's frustrating when nothing happens on a 'good weather' day at this stage, especially when the forecast tomorrow says 'rain.'

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


We've arrived at the stage of discussing 'fine details.' Not that we've ever stopped thinking about the finer details of this renovation, agonising over doors and kitchen appliances has become part of our daily routine, like brushing teeth and picking up the children's dirty socks.

Our kitchen designer is waiting for decisions from us, not least a decision about what colour the kitchen will be. See, if you buy from Wickes or John Lewis then you don't get much choice; they'll lay out some cabinet doors and you choose from 'linen' or 'buttermilk' or else you'll go for a high gloss aubergine in some moment of hormonal madness and probably regret it a fortnight later. But a kitchen maker peson will give you free reign, or as Emile said to us, 'you can have any colour in the world you like.'

Now that's my idea of a nightmare; 'option paralysis' being a real threat to the progress of any extension where you're given an actual choice. Initially I wanted the kitchen painted in Farrow and Ball's 'Elephant's Breath' because I'd seen one in a magazine, but painting sample pots onto lining paper revealed 'Elephant's Breath' to be more reminiscent of the horrible grey tiles adorning the existing bathroom and pretty soon we'd settled for 'Cornforth White' and chosen the granite to match.

But then I saw this larder cupboard in Marks and Spencer, which hit me in the face as I glided up the escalator towards the bedding department and had me waxing lyrical to the sales assistant about the colour, which the label described as 'putty.'

Of course, Dr B. had to be consulted about this 'putty', so I took him along to visit the larder cupboard and he agreed it was all very suitable and advised we needed to go to B&Q to pick up some paint charts in an effort to match the colour. And not just B&Q but also Homebase (who stock Farrow and Ball) and then John Lewis too, because you can't discount that lovely understated Sanderson paint, can you?

John Lewis had whole walls of Sanderson paint charts, but none of them looked putty-ish to me, though some were out of stock. Typically, the paint charts that were out of stock turned out to be the ones we wanted, so we had to order them from head office and wait for them to come in the post. And when we laid them all out, we found some of them were obviously too brown or too pink or too grey, which left me with a handful of samples to take back to compare with the larder in Marks and Spencer.

I managed to narrow it down to four colours and bought the sample pots, though none seemed exactly right from the charts. Relaying the story of the elusive 'putty' to our friends Claire and James, James suggested I paint the samples onto wood rather than lining paper, explaining the wood might take up the colour more accurately than the paper and disappearing into his shed to saw off some old bits of knotted pine as the best match he could find for the oak doors that we'll have painted. 'And you'll need primer too', he shouted from the garage as I left, emerging with a half-empty tin of the stuff.

So I primed the wood and waited overight for that to dry before painting two to four coats of the four samples, depending on how much the wood showed through. Finally, I took the wood sample to Marks and Spencer to compare it to the larder cupboard, which lo and behold was an exact match to the colour you can see on the right hand side.

The colour is by Farrow and Ball. It's called Elephant's Breath.

Knock Out

Halfway through week six and I visited the house after the school run this morning. The decorators are due to arrive today, not because there's anything cosmetic to be done at this stage, but because they might as well get on with stripping the nasty old wallpaper from the rest of the house. Experience of stripping walls tells me this could add further expense to the job - they'll probably blow plaster and find mouldy bits and we'll end up pleading with the plasterer to help us out.

Yesterday the builders removed the back wall of the old kitchen, which has enabled them to place all that steel into the brickwork. The red joists you see in the bottom picture are the steel, and though they look like one piece, it's actually one piece over the bifold door opening (to support the pitched roof) and another one about 3.3 metres behind it, holding up the brickwork of the first floor since the back wall was removed. I'm sure it's all perfectly stable, but the fact remains that our first floor is being propped up with what look like a load of old table legs and it hardly inspires me to go jiggling about Alex's bedroom.

You'll see from the top photograph that we're close to the first floor brickwork being complete, in fact it ought to be finished before the end of this week. Next week we're due to get a roof, which throws up problems because we can't source roof tiles to match the originals in colour. We've trawled the builders' merchants and brought back samples and I've even been in touch with a salvage yard in West Sussex who are sending a sample tile via courier but the more time goes on, the more it looks like we can't match it up.

There are a few options - we can have a roof that doesn't match the original (is that really an option?) or we can can remove the tiles from the back of the existing house and place them on the front of the extension so at least it looks the same across the width of the house. This will cost us an additional £1750 in purchasing new tiles to replace the old ones on the existing house, though I'm still trying to compute that because if we provide the tiles for the extension and also pay for the tiles for the new roof, I'm pretty sure that means we've paid twice.

The alternative is to have new tiles on the existing roof. I'd love a new roof, a grey one - but finding that sort of money in our budget is tricky, especially since the bathrooms and kitchen have worked out more expensive than we thought and we've spent £2,500 on extra steelwork. I'm going over the budget with a fine toothcomb, but at this rate we'll be looking down the back of the sofa for twenty pences.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Utility Room week 5

And this will be the utility room with the backdoor/window frame visible straight ahead (this actually opens to the side of the house so I suppose not strictly a 'back' door). The door opening you can see on the right hand side will be a fire door connecting the house with the garage and allowing us to vacate the car and come straight into the house without getting wet/cold (or messing up our hair) in the winter. After the last two winters, I'm quite giddy at the prospect of a remote control garage door and driving right into the house.

Already I'm seeing a belfast sink with one of those stretchy hose-type taps for washing muddy wellington boots. I'm seeing labelled boxes stacked neatly into cupboards. Stain removers, light bulbs, batteries. If you're reading, Philippa McFarlane, this is all your fault.

Playroom week 5

This will be the little playroom - I say 'little' because it's smaller that I thought it would be, though until the roof's on, it's hard to tell. The back wall and return have been constructed from block and brick because that wall will support quite a bit of steelwork which holds up our new bedroom.

We've been wrangling over window frames with the window fitter, who tells us not only do we have to have those ugly trickle vents (building regulations for all newly built property) but the window is too tall for conventional openers and will require top lights (those small windows at the top which open to vent the room). Eventually he conceeds we could have tilt and turn instead. The battle of the top lights is won!

Kitchen No More

Our kitchen has now been removed by the builders, which was a teeny bit of a mistake, since we need more money from the bank in about three weeks time and the bank won't lend money on a house without a kitchen because a house without a kitchen is 'unmortgagable.' Note the attractive boarding up of that sixties serving hatch (I'll miss it in a funny 'Crossroads' sort of way).

So now we have to knock this kitchen down and install some sort of drains and a sink/draining board and cupboard, which apparently constitutes the minimum 'kitchen' which will allow us to obtain an advance on the mortgage. Our brickie's still got the sink, he says - so all's not lost. It's hard to picture how all of this is going to look except to say that the new kitchen is about four times bigger. And it doesn't have a serving hatch.

Progress - week five

Photographs taken at the weekend show the progress to the end of week five. Steelwork lies on the driveway waiting to be lifted, all ground floor brick work is complete and some first floor joists are in place. Lawn hasn't been mowed for weeks and is beginning to take on shagpile carpets proportions. Hardly a priority, I know, but having spent all spring/summer scarifying the bugger of moss, I have a vested interest in it's continued upkeep.

Back Online

Since the disaster with the drains and the plumbing and the rapid house move (or should that be 'bungalow move'?) we've been without internet connection for over three weeks, during which time the renovation has moved on considerably and I've driven myself to distraction trying to look for bathroom taps on Dr B's i-Phone (no, I don't have an i-Phone, I have an old fashioned version that only rings 2.5 times before cutting off and not even the shop can figure out why).

We're now at the beginning of week 6 and the ground floor brick and blockwork was finished about a week ago, though things were then held up due to the late delivery of the steelwork (which cost us an extra £2,500 since the structural engineer has apparently over-engineered the building such that it can now take the weight of a multi-storey car park - reassuring I suppose, but I'd already mentally spent that money on a Multi-York sofa).

And then they waited for the scaffolding and as of last Friday, we were waiting for 'more scaffolding' to help them reach the highest brickwork and to provide access for the roofer. You'll see from the photograph that the front of the build now proudly displays two new window openings (bathroom to the left, en-suite to the right) as well as new windows to the existing building, which completes the replacement of all windows on the front elevation and marks the beginning of that horrible cedarwood cladding being ripped off (hurrah!).