You would be forgiven for not realising should you be a newcomer to this blog (or of having forgotten if you are a loyal old-timer) that we set out on this project attempting to be green. Certainly there’s been little said about it for a while. Instead I’ve been seemingly adding a fourth, less favourable ‘R’…’Retail (therapy)’…to the original three ethical ones of Reduce (hmmmmm), Reuse, Recycle. My perusal of the aisles of John Lewis on the hunt for antler lights, House of Fraser for a stag lamp stand (guttingly still out of stock….) and H&M Home for cushions is hardly earning me eco points.
Whilst I’ve admittedly not been doing ethically well of late, our attempt at a moral standing explains in some way our perseverance with the patchy claypaint and frequent visits to Fired Earth for their water based eggshell (which they occasionally have in stock). It explains the sourcing of a recycled glass worktop and the choice of natural marmoleum in the bathroom and Worlds Smallest WC. It explains the attempts to reuse existing old doors, adding a duo of hugely problematic Salvo-sourced specimens to the hotchpotch mix and the purchasing of a truckload of random-cut strips of maple sourced from the gym of a demolished Yorkshire school to serve as flooring in our new extension. It explains why we elected to plump for wool rather than its synthetic counterpart when choosing carpet in places of the house where we didn’t feel the sanding of existing boards was appropriate. And why we spent upteen man hours stripping back, with the environmentally friendly Home Strip, both the banisters and a salvaged cupboard door we installed on our larder. It explains the array of shiny new environmentally friendly triple A-rated appliances, the littering of battered old furniture about the place sourced from charity shops and my midnight Ebay trawls in search of chairs, benches, cabinets and dressing tables (more of that later).
It doesn’t explain the frequent trips to John Lewis and quirky independent retailers recommended by the authors of the many blogs I dovetail my Ebay searches with, hunting down niceties (a butterfly mirror for the bathroom. The Baa Baa Black Sheep book caddy for the snug). It doesn’t explain the huge amounts of landfill we’ve created and had removed (and some which we still haven’t) by multiple skips and Hippo Bags. Or the removal of an original fireplace to replace with a run of Ikea PAX wardrobes.
In all honesty being green has been far harder than we’d ever really imagined. Despite the issue of my wavering willpower ….unable to resist the temptation of gleaming arrays of homewares backlit by the iPad or down lit by those light fittings you can’t buy in John Lewis (see The Right Light ), it’s also meant more work….rigorous sourcing….repainting….repainting….repainting again……and far more expense than we’d bargained for. In fact bargains haven’t been many. Which is why finding fault with one of our ‘green purchases’ creates annoyance of a contrarily red hue.
A couple of months ago a crack appeared along the join of our two precious pieces of glass worktop. Bizarrely the crack disappeared the next day and reappeared a day or two after. Meanwhile an admittingly confusing flurry of emails were pinged to the manufacturer.
“Please come and fix this.”
“Oh, actually you don’t need to come and fix this…”
“Please can you come and fix this.”
The company at first claimed no responsibility, then offered reluctantly to come and refill the join before finally going silent. A second prompt from me switched the teeth-clenched courteousness they had at first displayed to downright nastiness and, having deposited full blame at our door for having ‘unstable carcasses’ (despite the company checking this before installation), they stated matter-of-a-factly that they would return and apply the teaspoonful of filler required for a disproportionately eye-watering cost. We contemplated, albeit only for seconds, attempting it ourselves but eventually decided on a different tack. Remember that primary school story about the competition between the wind and the sun to remove the mans coat? I figured my blowing hadn’t worked …..so I tried some shining instead. Ditching the oft-misconstrued and overused communication tool of email I opted instead for a telephone conversation where I embarked on a charm offensive. The new approach worked and after a lengthly discussion where I sang the praises of his green product until I turned blue in the face, the repair was finally booked for this week.
“They’ll come to you at the end of their day” I was informed.
Unbeknownst to me their day finished at 11am so as O and I were returning home from a mad dash around Sainsbury’s I heard my phone ringing. Pulling over I dialled voicemail.
“As promised I have booked my men to visit you…” Drawled the company director on my answer phone as he reverted back to his seeming default setting of snide unfriendliness. Deleting his message after the obligatory three seconds I rang back the unknown number.
“I’m on my way” I promised “I’m round the corner.”
“No problem” a kindly Polish sounding voice replied. “We’ll wait”
Pulling up outside the house there was a notable absence of their branded van. With shopping in one hand, O’s in the other and phone shouldered at my ear I called back.
“We’re here….” I said anxiously, fearing they had gone against their word and departed in exasperation.
“Ok” came the easy reply.
With shopping unpacked and still no sign of the men the penny dropped. Inexplicably the company have our previous address on file despite us only ever having considered their product for our current house. Despite the same mix-up happening on worktop delivery day the company still hadn’t updated their files. My phone buzzed.
“What address are you at again?”
“Not the one where you are.” And I gave him the postcode.
Despite the confusion they arrived in good humour…. albeit bemoaning their boss for what they said is becoming a regular occurrence…. and after first a coffee and then a heft of our units they confirmed they were not unstable. The crack was more than likely to have occurred due to a natural shifting in the foundations as the new extension settled.
“It happened to me…” confessed one of the men, “and I was told its always better to seal the joint after a little bit of time if its being fitted in a new build.”
The invoice, left hopefully on the island and still bearing the original eye-watering sum, therefore remains unpaid….the responsibility now of the Finance Director and Chief Negotiator who may or may not find a reasonable man willing to meet in the middle on the other end of the phone.
A second issue we’ve encountered this week is the unpleasant discovery of dripping water coming from somewhere in our bathroom and making its expensive way down through our island extractor fan rendering it useless. Cue a call to K who has since been round and re-siliconed any possible gaps. Meanwhile the extractor covering has been removed to reveal sloppy work by K’s electrician with incorrect fixings barely holding. Another job for S’s weekend….irritatingly not pushing us forward at all.
But what might is the delivery of yet another green purchase….a retro G Plan dressing table from EBay. Having sold the black version my friend insisted I rid myself of – neither its colour (her observation) nor shape (mine) being right for the room – its replacement has finally arrived meaning I can at last start to make the bedroom feel like home. With it being secondhand it complies with at least one of the ‘R’s’, though I’m not sure if its journey halfway across the country allows it to technically be added to our green achievement list.
But I love it.
Made of a light teak (I imagine….) it boasts a velvet lined drawer in addition to two rather cute curving drawers (see pic) and a vintage tilting mirror. Impatient to replace the current temporary measure, what will eventually after considerable TLC be a linen cupboard, I asked the courier to take it straight upstairs to the landing where I planned to give it a thorough clean before making the switch and allowing it to swallow up my makeup, hairpins, jewellery and other female grooming paraphernalia. As I entertained myself with thoughts of dotting its sillouhette with my previously upcycled charity shop frames along with some wall hooks for necklaces and the removed clothes I’m too lazy to hang up properly, I realised on closer inspection that a thorough sanding and oiling to remove the marks left by hair straighteners, hot drinks and time will be needed. So it’s been returned downstairs to what remains the snug-cum-workshop where I await a few hours in the day when O is being otherwise entertained to sand it back to its former glory. And with those moments less than frequent alas I don’t imagine its transformation will be speedy…..
Returning home that night S checked in with O.
“How are you, son? What have you been doing today?”
Between mouthfuls of spaghetti O replied.
“Man. Mummy. Upstairs.”
Another green issue?