There was a sense of jovial camaraderie on site today with two of the builders busy knocking walls about, K the plumber practicing the mystical dark art of plumbing and me stripping (wallpaper you understand). I say jovial but it was in a kind of “if I laugh I won’t cry” kind of way. Both K and the foreman were forced to listen to me recounting the directors cut version of the Story Of the Non Appearing Gas Man which included the outtake not included in yesterdays blog of me venting my frustration by standing on the doorstep hurling things into the skip hoping they would satisfactorily smash into smithereens. So there was, I think, an underlying tension in the knowledge that the lady of the house was nearing hysteria.
It’s not just that living in mess is stressful…although it is. It’s not just the fact that we lose EVERYTHING so jobs take three times as long as first we must look for a tool, then we must drive to B&Q to buy the missing tool and only then can we actually do said job. It’s not even because we are trying to live as a married couple and look after our baby in a house which is not conducive to either of those things. It’s also the huge job of project managing as this particular project is proving to be a bit like pinning down water.
We think we have a phased plan only to discover things in phase one affect phase two and so phase two needs to be done first. That in itself isn’t out if the ordinary and its my job to try and think as many of these things through as I can but sometimes it takes a leap of faith to change course. Take for example some conversations I had with the foreman today about paving the back of the house. Our intention was to leave that until last but the reality, now I properly think about it, is that if we postpone it what we end up with is builders digging up a concrete path, cutting back into a bank of land and shifting bucket loads of rubble and earth across a newly laid maple floor, knocking newly plastered and painted walls as they do so. On the other hand if we do it now it means very quickly figuring out what we want, mentally changing gear, gathering quotes and digging into a part of the budget we had reserved for phase 2. I’m kind of ok with that..my mantra right now is the overused slogan “keep calm and carry on” though admittedly I’m struggling with the calm bit. S is understandably more cautious.
In addition our green ambitions, far from helping us save money, have only succeeded thus far to add to the bottom line. One area which we feel particularly guilty about and ethically feel we need to put right is the removal of the original fireplace in our bedroom, replaced with much needed storage. For years we had squashed our clothes in one wardrobe together and most recently I had shared a wardrobe with O. Now each of us has a double wardrobe complete with three drawers plus a single wardrobe filled with drawers and a communal wardrobe for washing basket and shoes. I knew exactly how I would fill my side but S had a bit more space and therefore freedom to apply his own creativity…..
“How are you filling your side?” he asked me
“Underwear here, socks there, tights there, pjs there, scarves there, and swimming costumes there” I point
“Ah.” He said “you’ve made a fatal error”
“Where’s your ‘currently wearing’ drawer?”
I look quizzical.
“You know, for pyjamas or the comfy clothes you change into on an evening?”
“What previously has always been the floor?” I ask. The comment was ignored but I am, secretly, rather jealous as its turning out to be quite useful. I later discovered he also has a ‘coming up’ drawer for his and O’s swimming costumes and towels for their Sunday lesson.
We had thought the fireplace was a wooden repro ..it was glossy black and when we tapped it it had a dull thud of, we thought, wood. Our diagnosis was incorrect. The cast iron monster is now sitting heavily on the landing awaiting either to be reinstated somewhere or sold. Selling it would add to the ‘income’ column of our budget to the tune of several hundred pounds. Reinstating it, probably in the old dining room, will be a similar number but will sit in ‘expenditure’. There isn’t a column for ‘satisfaction’ which I think is a shame as there is an unquantifiable value in coaxing this house into a home for our family’s wellbeing and enjoyment. Try explaining that to an accountant. It’s a bit like telling your mum when you were little that you are full up but only on your dinner side…your pudding tummy is still empty.
S called an emergency finance meeting and we studied numbers whilst waiting for the oven/ring thingy to heat up a portion of readymade lasagne (my new discovery…a local Italian deli….dinners sorted from here on in). S is globally renowned for his skills with Excel and so columns busily added (frequently), multiplied (more often than not) and subtracted (rarely) until we pressed ‘summary’ and the heart-stopping reality was displayed in black and white. Or rather red as there’s some conditional formatting applied. We took a deep breath. We ate some lasagne. We concluded eventually that it wasn’t so bad taking into consideration that ‘satisfaction’ column……and I set myself a mental challenge of trying to trim down the deficit by sourcing cleverly and making more use of S’s negotiating skills. We settled down to watch The Killing III (a fabulous series but I realise it does little to calm my nerves). Midway through I started to remember costs we hadn’t included. A new fence as next doors was lashed up to start with and now is missing a section. A new window for the bathroom as the current one is rotten. Other little things that quickly accumulate like extra plug sockets and light points.
It may be a different kind of stripping altogether that’s needed.
view from outside…those pristine red bricks definitely need dirtying up but it’s starting to look impressive
progress on the wallpaper stripping…my suspicion is that is was the blade rather than the Fairy which helped, particularly as one of the builders informed me I had been previously using a filling knife