I left the car safely where it was this morning as our road still looked like an ice rink and instead O and I took the bus to nursery. To get some exercise I left his buggy there and walked the two miles back home, iPod plugged in, mind clear.
I was greeted at the front of the house by two of the building team, mixing concrete.
“It’s cold” I said, “I feel for you guys working out here”
“It’s ok” said one
“Do you know how long it took me to get here today?” said the lanky other, “25 minutes!”
I paused thinking 25 minutes good? Or 25 minutes bad?
“Where were you coming from?” I asked eventually
“Harlow!” They both chorused.
I smiled back. I still wasn’t quite sure where they were going with this one though that sounded like quite good time to me. I hastened a guess.
“Were the roads clear then?”
The lanky one bounced about, elbows and knees all over, cockney contortions rippling from his limbs to the muscles in his neck and face. “Yes but our other guv’ner has to go two hours to his job! We like this one… plus,” he indicates the company van “that thing goes like a sports car.”
“Coffee?” I ask. They both made appreciative sounds and I ran upstairs to make the first round of the day.
I shut myself in the kitchen to keep warm and decided to try and achieve a couple of things today. The first is to make dinner …. and I mean make as opposed to heat up last nights takeaway curry and serve it atop a jacket spud (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) So I roast a few tomatoes and garlic in the oven/ring thingy and get a pasta sauce of sorts going. I say of sorts as we have lost/packed away/house has eaten the hand blender so the vegetables had to be mashed which made the sauce look a bit like one of O’s old weaning concoctions and less of the ‘food made with love’ idea I was going for.
The second objective of the day was to sort once and for all this bathroom waste issue and our plumber, K, arrived just as I was finishing up in the kitchen. It turns out I had not made the issue better by my weekend redesign, but worse. We now needed to drill outside exactly where an existing wall stands, one which we are planning to move eventually in order to make the bathroom bigger. At the moment though its coming in handy just where it is, keeping our bathroom separate from our kitchen and enabling our temporary sink unit to rest against it. I fear the unit would not stand without the support – these cupboards really are on their last legs.
We contemplated taking it down for all of five minutes before common sense prevailed and I looked at the design again. If I scooted everything 20cm over we would avoid the problem, S would be happier as the spare room wouldn’t suffer quite as much by our bathroom greed, we would avoid needing to mess about with the bathroom window which we had considered making smaller to free up wall space below it and there would be ample space between the bath and toilet which previously had looked a bit tight. K measured it up and came back looking pleased. “M, I think it will work!”
The feeling to have finally found a solution was so good a high five almost seemed appropriate but I resisted.
With the layout decided K talked through all the pipe work needed for the shower, bath and sink and I listened dutifully before admitting the truth.
“You do know I don’t understand a word you are saying, don’t you?”
K looked back at me. I continued.
“But if you are happy with all you’ve said then Ill call the foreman and stand next to you as you repeat it all to him.”
So that’s what we did. Both seem happy enough and K will return next week to do all the pipe work needed though it does mean losing use of the bathroom sink and proceeding with the bathroom refurb as soon as possible, both of which are fine with me. S’s response to the news on his arrival home was “where will I shave?” but a mirror above the temporary kitchen sink will have to suffice. Who knows, it may even catch on.
My final objective for the day was to do something with these doors I made such a hash of two weeks ago. I have decided that leaving them in their current state for much longer will be bad for the soul. Wallpaper stripping is probably more pressing but we seem to be a very long way off plastering so I figure I have some time. I sanded off the paint tatters left from the rushed stripping job, filled some gaps and holes and gave the bathroom door another coat of the stripper to try and get an even finish ready for painting. The plan is to prep them this week, get the glazier in to replace the glass as soon as possible then give them a cost of primer which will make them look presentable until we come to decorating the landing properly and they get their final and beautifying coat of eggshell.
My banister project is far more promising however. I’d like to take the banister and the turned wooden posts back to wood and leave the spindles painted. By the time I got to my second coat of stripper for the day I was enjoying the satisfaction of progress and the knowledge – unlike with the doors – that the hard work will pay dividends.
So whilst my objectives were being ticked off gradually, the builders objective for the day – to knock down the wall between the new build and the existing kitchen – was scuppered. Delivering their third cuppa of the day I remarked on how intriguing the kitchen chimney breast is as it doesn’t correspond upstairs. “I wonder where the flue goes” I said.
“It finishes here” replied one of the builders, indicating the ceiling “as you don’t have a chimney breast upstairs.”
“We do” I replied. “It’s in the spare room, but its on the other wall”
The foreman looked surprised, “Have you?”
I took him upstairs to see. He emitted his frustration at the discovery with a stream of obscenities targeted mainly at the salesman of the extension company.
“He’s a fool” ( or words to that effect)
“How can you just assume that’s supported? I would have checked of course…”
I breathe again
“…but that will require a steel they haven’t drawn and it will be expensive.” He continued on for a while in a similar vein, telling me all about bits and pieces the salesman in question hadn’t costed correctly on this job, how he is new and making mistakes and the financial hit our builder is consequently taking. I felt for him but at the same time alarm bells were ringing.
“Don’t worry” he says to me. “It’s between me and him. You’ll get what you need” and he apologised for letting off steam.
I can’t imagine this one will stay between them though and feel sure we will be brought in to this with a request for more money. We have an agreement with the company and the issue of the chimney breast has already been raised and dismissed. I think they’ll discover S’s stubborn streak if they push that one too hard.
The builders left about three and I spent the last hour of their time here looking forward to the peace and quiet of a house with only me in it. As the door closed behind them I unplugged my earphones and connected my iPod to the speaker, ramping up the volume and sang away with wild abandon. After all, I thought, no-one would ever know.