Alarmed…

Hmmm…the week started very well indeed. I packed the car on Monday morning to depart at 6am and sometime between unlocking the car and getting ready to leave I lost the car keys. Never mind I thought…get on the road. I have a ‘never-previously-used’ spare set and will resolve the lost key issue when I return to Bristol.

The car started without a problem, but the battery in the key fob was clearly dead. Not a problem I thought. Aha…little did I know!

Did you know that if you unlock a car just using a key and not the fob it doesn’t disable the alarm, even if it starts the car? No? Nor me.

Did you know that a car alarm goes on and on and on…and on and on and includes constant flashing indicators and when you think it has died and it all goes quiet and you breathe a sigh of relief, it starts up again? And goes on and on and…..

Did you know that lorry drivers flash their lights and gesticulate in dozens of different ways to let you know they think you are an idiot for driving with flashing indicators? (Presumably they couldn’t hear the alarm). I reverted to just one return gesticulation after the 30th kind reference.

A thumbs up! Yes.

The alarm was so loud I had to drive with the windows open to save my hearing. 70 miles and it was f….ff….fff…..freezing.

To say my journey here was disruptive is an understatement. I drove to the nearest dealership shortly after I arrived and they sorted it for me, but I arrived with a stonking headache and shattered nerves.

But back to work. I have had the drill out again this time to reposition some of the shelves in the kitchen and utility cupboards. My measuring skills are getting better and I am confident that the shelves will stay where they have been positioned.

The original stone wall in the living room has been treated with a little PVA – it helps with the dust and gives it a nice sheen – and I have had the caulking gun out again along with the eggshell paint for touching up skirting, architrave and around the windows.

The filthy dirty windows and frames have been lovingly scrubbed – jeez they were dirty. They were cleaned, then cleaned again and, yes, cleaned again. I suspect it will take one more clean to make them look normal.

I have been traipsing around the property with various tools and liquids to assist me with removing paint, plaster and spider poo and the whole house has had a jolly good scrubbing. Top to tail, so to speak, and it does look bright and shiny unlike its owner who has definitely seen better days!

Now I just have the 5 pages of my “To Do” list to get through – and have barely started on it.

However, I came up with a solution to get through it quickly.

Tear it up and put it in the bin and enjoy a glass of wine!

That There Builder Girl is a genius!

Outside in…

Things are now moving at pace. We are still snagging but I suspect that will be going on for a few months yet as we work our way around the property. The big clean up is underway – ish – and the odd dab of paint is still being applied. Now the house is warmed up we have to assess all the wood again to see where it may have moved and deal with it accordingly.

My to-do list is 5 pages of A4! It just never stops…and I have been at it for nearly 15 months with just 6 weeks down time due to Covid.

Neil and Andy returned to work on the garden. Is there no end to their talents!

It is a small courtyard garden and there is a limit to what we can do but I think the job so far is terrific. Looks clean and tidy. I can imagine a long cool drink being consumed soaking up the afternoon sun! Still needs finishing… still some painting to be done by me and the addition of plant pots, some fancy lighting, a few ornaments and furniture and all should be good.

With Christmas looming I hope to take some time out from renovations and get to thinking about pressies for the family and my besties, otherwise they will get …well, nothing! Not even a Xmas card this year as I have instead donated to Changes Bristol – a mental health charity, for which I used to be a Trustee. I miss working with them.

The previous tenants paid a visit this week. Also known as my sister and mother, who lived here for 10 years when it was a pub. First time they have seen it finished – ish. Neil and I stood to attention in the hallway whilst my mother looked around and – phew – we passed inspection.

Thanks be….

Still at it…

It’s been a week of go, stop, go, stop. Energy levels are low. Back hurts and my to-do list is ridiculously long.

I am a bit overwhelmed by how much cleaning there is to do. All the window frames are caked in….well, to be honest I am not sure what it is. The original frames seem to be encased with a mix of old plaster, glue, paint and…I don’t know what. Possibly spider poo?

The new windows have a lick of paint here and there on the frames from my inaccurate painting efforts. The glass too. Some of the many wooden beams have splashes of paint and new plaster! The newly installed LVT floors have spots of glue, paint, grit and dirt as do the tiled floors.

The bathrooms all need their first full clean following installation weeks ago.

Everywhere has a fine film of dust from the past few months effort with various saws, sanders and other destructive tools.

The fact that I have started the cleaning-up process means this project is almost done – inside at least. The snagging list needs attention – mainly painting and caulking again! Then undoubtedly I shall have to clean again.

Outside is another tale.

There is still painting to be done, but I have turned soft as a result of the house having heating. Every time I go outside with the intent of starting the job, I rush back in muttering to myself “not warm enough, not warm enough”. What happened to that girl that spent last December living in a caravan and working in a house full of holes and without a roof?

Neil and Andy are back for a few days whilst we aim to turn the courtyard garden into something worth looking at. I purchased sleepers, and paving quite some time ago. The recent acquisition of another bag of sharp sand and numerous bags of decorative aggregate and a little ‘turf’ means we should be able to get a fair bit done this week. It is a relatively small area considering the size of the house, but I am sure we can make it look lovely. It will be a pot garden and entertainment space rather than lawns and flowering borders!

The good news is….drum roll please….we have planning permission for the parking bays. No news at all on the new house planning application, but we are happy to at least get the parking finalised for the King William.

So we will may start work on that in January. Yay! I love working a building site in the winter!!

At least things are moving again. Almost 6 months from when the application was submitted ! Hmm.

It’s been a week of shopping too. A new fridge freezer and washing machine arrived.

I forgot my sleepwear so had to purchase a set of pyjamas. An absolute necessity as the house has no window coverings and it’s imperative that the neighbours aren’t further upset by my naked night time disco dancing!

Somehow I managed to puncture my inflatable mattress so a visit to The Range to purchase another one. Thank goodness they are only £9.99!! Honestly, the box states that it takes up to 300kg in weight. I know I am a little heavier than I should be but I think I would have noticed if I had reached 300kg. I can absolutely reassure you that I have not been using it as a trampoline, spring board or dance floor!

It does come with a puncture kit of sorts, but I have been wholly unsuccessful at finding the holes in this one or the previous two, for that matter! A job for my nieces and nephews when they come to visit or they too will be sleeping on the floor!

Am going to sneak home early today (Friday) and leave Neil and Andy in charge. I shall re-boot my enthusiasm in readiness for next week when I will be doing…

…the same again!

A house that is not a house…

The race to the finish has slowed. If there was a word that should be used just before everything stops I would use that.

Perhaps slopped. Maybe not.

I should state that it is not my doing. As you may know I am waiting on the Planning Dept at South Somerset District Council to approve moving some parking spaces on my land – or not. Parking spaces that have been approved by everyone else including Highways. But alas, Planning appear to have sunk into their own deep hole of remarkable ineptitude. Phone calls, emails and bumping up the complaints to a local Councillor has done nothing to persuade them to do their job. I should say that we have had some responses over the last 5 months. One of them even says that it was just a matter of signing things off but that was over a month ago and to be fair it wasn’t the first time they said it.

They are also now stating that a letter received from Natural England means they can no longer approve any developments whilst an assessment on the phosphate levels on the Moors is carried out. ie., there should be no increased herd as it increases waste water, etc. I get it. We need to look after our environment.

Weirdly the letter was received on the day my planning decision was due. Have you ever known a Council to action a letter so quickly? Me neither! So I am assuming they are just using it as an excuse to explain why my legal deadline was passed without any actionable response.

What do you mean – Me… Cynical? No!

Of course it doesn’t explain why they don’t reply to emails, telephone calls, etc.

I am waiting on parking spaces. Not a hotel, nor a house, a bungalow, a block of flats. This house is all but finished and funny enough was a 4 bed property and IS STILL a 4 bed property. And if anything, it will now dispense less water into the sewers (and thus onto the Moors) as it is no longer a pub. A reduction in the herd – so to speak!

In the meantime, I have given up on chasing approval on the new house build – the approval deadline of which was also 18 August. The stress isn’t worth it. The new house is (fortunately for me) less affected by time anyway as I will either sell the land or won’t start the build until the Spring thus avoiding the ridiculous conditions we encountered last Winter.

So emails, telephone calls, councillor activity and more and nothing. I have therefore submitted a formal complaint to the Planning Inspectorate. Great…that should at least get things moving.

But alas No…….The email response received after submission this week states the complaint will be looked at in 60 working days. What the… Three months! And that is when they start the process.

In the meantime, the house will not be signed off by Building Regulations. Which means I cannot call it a house so cannot (a) insure it as a residence (b) live in it (c) extract money via a mortgage (d) rent it out (e) sell it.

The Council have been making me pay residential council tax though.

Ha ha ha ! So funny that they think it’s a house!

I just cannot stop laughing.

Happy at work…

In August 2019 I nipped to the shops and purchased some ‘work’ clothes for this project. Five t-shirts (short sleeved), 5 t-shirts (long sleeved), 2 hoodies, 2 pr jeans and a pair of steel capped work boots. Very inexpensive, (eventually) throw-away clobber, and not at all (a) fashionable, (b) colour co-ordinated or (c) flattering. Very much like my normal wardrobe…some would say!!

I knew I would be wearing these items week in, week out for 6 to 9 months (26 to 39 weeks) in some unsavoury conditions and I did not want to worry about rips, spillages and stains. They had to be easy to wear and easier still to wash on a weekly basis without falling apart.

In what is week 64 of this project I wanted to throw the clothes off and set fire to them! But alas I was in the OneStop Shop buying a pint of milk and my nudity would have caused a tremulous moment with the youth who was serving me so I remained attired!

I am not a clothes horse by any imagination but neither am I a degenerate, rum-soaked, addled. bag lady. But I look like one and this week, I feel like one – and without the benefit of alcohol. No offence to any bag ladies out there. Or bag men for that matter!

That is testament to my state of mind. I am so pleased to be at the stage we have reached but utterly fed up with the fact that we are neither finished, nor able to finish whilst I await for South Somerset planning department to pull its finger out of …..well, you know the saying.

But I still have work to do…so have to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with it.

I have been caulking again – window boards mainly, along with the occasional architrave. Painting again – architrave and skirting, but I have also finished the final coat for the Snug and the main hallway. Hurrah!

The painting (inside) will definitely be finished next week – even the snagging painting. We started painting 19 weeks ago. Honestly! My brother was here for the first couple of weeks but since then the painting has been just me – in between the tiling and other jobs. It’s a big frigging property to paint – and it takes time to do it properly.

19 weeks! If any visitor says I missed a bit, they will be wearing the paint!

So, mostly odd jobs now. Fitting some skirting in the main bathroom; some corner trim in the cloakroom, pva on the brick wall in the lounge, then oiling the staircase, etc.

Then I will have a massive clean up job.

If that takes me 19 weeks I am going to give myself the sack!

Psssst….a sound much loved.

I am writing this sitting upstairs in one of the bedrooms as the electrician and plumber forge ahead to get the second fix complete.

I can already hear the slow hiss of radiators being bled… if it’s not them, then Courtney the plumber has some serious wind issues.

Then the underfloor heating system downstairs will be filled and balanced in readiness for a fully operational whizz bang wallop of an oil boiler.

By the way, I do know if the boiler does whizz bang wallop then we will be in the deepest of trouble.

Steve the electrician is working on outdoor lights, bathroom sockets, thermostats, dishwasher, wine fridge (yes!), cooker hood and wiring up the underfloor heating system and boiler.

Apparently electricians don’t find it at all funny if you sneak up behind him and make a loud bang.

Just saying…but still giggling!

My jobs have stopped for a while as I seem to constantly be in the way. Also, there is still dust and detritus flying around and any wet paint would simply suck it up, requiring me to start that patch of painting all over again.

So I thought I would give myself a manicure and facial and take a well earned rest lounging in my bedroom listening to the mellow sounds of my playlist whilst I am being served cups of coffee and sweet treats by…..

Sorry…drifted off then.

So I am in my bedroom, on the computer trying to make columns and columns and columns of numbers add up to what I want – and not what they actually add up to. I am also piling through the bank statements and invoices for the owner-managed flats in which I normally live in Bristol as it is time to submit our annual return. A job I do because I have loads of spare time!!

My hope is at the end of this day, I will have full blown proper job heating upstairs, downstairs; in the bedrooms, bathrooms, lounge, kitchen and so on. Warm, cuddly heat, run off an abundance of thermostats giving control room by room. Heat which has been much missed this last month in particular.

Tonight, after a hot soak in a candlit, music soaked bathroom I shall wander barefoot, wine in hand and….

Sorry, drifted again…

When tomorrow arrives, I will be back on the sanding and painting tools and Neil will return on Friday with his toolbox of tricks and we will continue with the long snagging list.

But until then, my warmed up heart will be happy.

Sweet dreams…

Let there be…

Light!

Yes…and power sockets.

Steve the electrician arrived mid-week, with a workmate, to sort out the main consumer board sited in the Utility Room, and to fit the light and power sockets.

This electric stuff is a wondrous thing! The timing is perfect as the dark mornings and dark afternoons are now lit up by the flick of a switch.

I know! I know! I can sense your excitement for me.

Every time I needed light in the project during the last year I had to follow a trail of extension cables, unplug and then physically pick up and move a site light. Upstairs, downstairs. Into and out of different rooms. Sometimes it wasn’t worth the effort – so I have spent most of my time undertaking my ablutions in the dark or by torchlight. Now all I have to do is flick a switch.

Oh, glory, glory. Crazy times for this modern girl.

There wasn’t time this week to sort out the remaining electrics. Boiler electrics, underfloor heating, thermostats and numerous items in the kitchen will get done next week.

And that will mean heating. I am super excited at the prospect as it is now getting particularly wintry and the house has had no heating at all since August 2019. It’s not really a problem during the day. I am so busy that I am still working in a double layer of t-shirts but it does get chilly at night and although I have lots of blankets and duvets and unbelievably sexy pyjamas and socks, it would be a nice thing not to have to climb into bed at 6pm just because it’s so cold.

It’s also very cold when I get up around 630am. I can now get up and dressed in record time. In my head I look a dream, but there are no mirrors in the house so I cannot see what I look like. I did open the door to an early delivery on Tuesday morning and the driver looked startled. I am not sure whether it was because I still had paint in my hair and face and hands and clothes and boots or because the early morning sun was reflecting my luminescent skin and startling blue eyes!

Earlier in the week, Neil returned to finish off some of the carpentry work and more caulking. I spent the week tiling and painting, but I am pleased to say that all of the tiling is now complete. Well, I say that but I have yet to decide whether the backsplash in Kitchen and Utility is going to be tiles. But the complex tiling is all done.

I am so relieved and pleased.

I still have a fair bit of painting to do. Neil will be returning to finalise fitting the kitchen cabinets to the walls once the electrics are done, and then we need to try and sort out the courtyard garden which has been used as a dump during this project. Then the parking, which also means pulling down a stone shed. There are also a few things to fix and some decisions to be made about steps into the house but it’s all coming together now.

I think I have said that before.

I do mean it this time…

I mean it this time…

All good and well…

My renovation life is full of ups and downs. Now a lot more ups than downs as we near to the conclusion of this project.

Neil was back for another day at the beginning of the week as both he and I raced to get things in place for Courtney the plumber to return for second fix. Neil finished all his target jobs. You may be surprised to hear that I did not.

Tiling the downstairs loo – the cloakroom / dog cleaning / child washing / sort of ‘wet room’ has been a challenge. Had I known how long it was going to take me tile and grout floor to ceiling across three walls I may have just invested in a bucket and made the room into a bog standard loo. Pun intended.

Even Neil quipped about the amount of time it is taking me. Most tilers get paid £ / m² so need to get a move on to get a decent days wages. I calculated I would be living on £4.55 a day at the rate I do the tiling!! Room for improvement me thinks.

I thought it would be easy. White metro tiles with black grouting. Lovely design idea.

What a….ugh…plonker. Black grout is so difficult to deal with. It stains too. My monkey hands now have black grout deep-rooted in the nails.

I did manage to finish two walls completely and Courtney has fitted the shower, basin, etc, but we can’t test the shower as the third wall and floor are as yet without grout.

Guess what I am doing next week?

But we are moving forward. The kitchen and utility are plumbed. The bathrooms are all fitted, plumbed and working (cold water only) and the boiler is ready to be fired up.

BUT not yet. I was hoping that Steve the electrician would be here too, but not this week. Maybe next. Downstairs needs a full second fix. Lights, sockets, thermostats, consumer board and fitting of the range cooker, hood, dishwasher, wine fridge (yes!!) and whatever else requires a power supply – but especially the boiler.

Only when he has done his work can we finish fitting the kitchen.

I had the delight of a visit from family members. Four little cherubs who came to help me with the renovation. They didn’t seem fazed by my paint splattered, ripped attire nor the fact my hands, arms and face were covered in black grout and white paint. I still received dozens of cuddles. Ahhh😍

Neil returned again at the end of the week to finish the skirting (requires painting), the architrave (requires painting), caulking these and the window boards (require painting) and a load of other odd jobs whilst I took a day off in Bristol to deposit my much-needed blood for the NHS. The least I can do.

I am hopeful that most of this (internal) work will be done within a month or so. But that doesn’t mean I get sign off. South Somerset planning authorities have been failing in their duties and we are currently more than 10 weeks past decision day on moving our parking spaces from the right side of a carpark to the left side of a carpark. No contact from them…at all. None.

I have had to resort to write to my local councillor. The council have already started charging me council tax for a residential property but I am not allowed to live in it because building regs cannot sign off the work until the parking is sorted. I cannot sort the parking because planning have gone AWOL up until yesterday. I am not going to go on about it – believe me I could – but I will say they are absolutely, totally, incredibly (swear, swear, swear) incompetent.

So…got that off my chest.

Next week?

We shall have light.

Unless of course Boris tells me I am not allowed to go to work.

And another ‘thing’…

Sometimes this project feels like Bake Off. Except every round of the competition is a Technical – with scant written instruction – and I never win Star Builder. That normally goes to Neil or Andy or …

Mind you, I never lose either so I can’t complain.

During the past few months its been tiling week, painting week, skirting week, architrave week and so on. This week has been….kitchen and utility week. Yay! One to look forward to.

Exciting and terrifying at the same time. Exciting because for me a kitchen makes a home. Terrifying because there is a reason we rarely hear of people fitting their own kitchens. It can be complex. It requires precision and careful thought. Not my go-to attributes. I am obviously not ‘fitting it myself’ – Neil is here and as always I am his Aged Apprentice.

I decided on the kitchen layout months ago. Took the measurements. Sorted the design, chose the supplier, etc. Then the chosen supplier told me the kitchen I provisionally booked was no longer available. I reluctantly chose another one. They put the price up expecting me to sign the cheque. Not going to do that. I went to another supplier so I was a little apprehensive when the truck arrived on Monday afternoon with piles and piles of boxes.

Not my first choice but it’s looking good and I am pleased. There is a lot of measuring. Measure, measure and measure again. A lot of cutting (routing in this case) and that’s for Neil. A lot of putting things together. Hinges, doors, corner units, larders and more. The instruction manual has over 120 pages, lots of illustrations that don’t make sense to me, many with words I don’t understand. There is a large box just containing packets of …well, stuff. I recognise some things like screws and hinges but I honestly have no idea what some of the other things are.

Where does this ‘thing’ go; what does this ‘thing’ do ..can be heard bouncing off the walls. Along with “oh Alison you numpty” “what an idiot” and other such statements as I chat merrily to myself whilst working out how to put things together.

Neil chats to himself too but he says things like “13.5mm from the right edge!”

Every now and again I ask Neil to re-interpret the instruction manual and explain what I need to do in a simpler language for me to follow. He is a patient man. I think I have said that before.

It took me almost half a day to assemble the 1000mm drawer unit whilst Neil practically fitted out the Utility Room. Once finished, and with vocalised glee, I picked up one of the drawers and the front fell off!

I sorted that minor glitch and slid the drawer into the base unit. “Hurrah” I said and stepped back. ‘Perhaps not” I said as the drawer sat at a wonderfully creative lopsided angle. Another minor glitch which I also sorted. It now looks and works fine!!

Every kitchen comes with hundreds of little plastic covers to fill in the pre-drilled holes that are not needed. Just as well because this kitchen now has a couple of extra holes as my measuring skills are not as accurate as they need to be. It is literally a case of millimetre accuracy. I started borrowing Neil’s glasses – that helped.

So mostly I have done OK. I did have to order another cabinet when we realised my original design measurements failed to allow for 40mm of end panels….but hey, I am a beginner at this. A costly mistake and I won’t make it again.

Neil has done the heavy work. Cutting down the cupboards in the utility room to ensure they fit; allowing for the plumbing pipes in the back of the cupboards and of course cutting the worktops including the huge holes for the sinks. I couldn’t look when the sink hole was being cut.

Four solid days done and it’s looking good. We think another couple of days at the same pace and I should have a proper kitchen. Of course, it won’t work because it needs to be plumbed in, and the electrics need to be finished.

But the drawers will open and close

…once I work out how to put the handles on.

On my knees…

Flipping heck! If someone had told me I would spend days on end on my knees I would have laughed heartily and ridiculed their statement. But that is exactly what I am doing.

Still tiling, still painting, still trying ever so hard to get this project finished.

I have spent almost the whole week on my knees. The knees are just about surviving the workload. My back less so. My hands – covered in tiling adhesive, paint, silicone and white spirit – are like gnarly, leatherette guerilla mitts (the monkey, not the freedom fighter!). My nails…oh don’t even go there. I can tell you that my hand modelling days are well and truly over and if I was entered into a blind test of whose hands are these, no-one would guess they are mine. I am not even sure the participants would guess that they were human.

So onto work.

All the doors are fitted, as are the handles and locks, all courtesy of Neil the returner. I think the doors look great. It took me such a long time to make the decision but I am very pleased…particularly with the glass doors that lead into the kitchen. Door stops are also in as is most of the architrave and a lot of the skirting. Hence the painting…more filling, then painting, then more painting, then more painting, then more painting. Then caulking….then, go on guess….Yes, more painting.

And in between all that I still need to finish the tiling. Back on the knees.

Just the cloakroom walls to finish tiling, then the final grouting and bish, bash, bosh. Tis done!

Am I repeating myself?

We have new glazing in all of our windows after a visit from Langport Glazing – another local company. The new glass is a requirement for building regulations – because its…….because I……..because they said so. No choice. The new glazing lets in a lot more light as we removed the ‘georgian bars’. Looked good for the pub, but not for this home. The new glazing also makes the windows look like they are all new. Weird that!

And now it’s getting proper cold. We are not connected to the boiler or mains electric yet so no central heating, but I do have a gas bottle fire in my temporary bedroom. Bed time here is rather different to my norm. Occasionally I find myself in my pyjamas and tucked up in my lovely inflatable bed by 630pm. I have no furniture to sit on. I have no fancy clothes to get changed into once I wash. So bed it is, with my phone and laptop, a book and a flask of coffee. It keeps me warm but I do hope it doesn’t become a habit.

It’s cold in the morning when I wake up – normally around 630am – but the house is incredibly well insulated and is warmer than I expected. And to be fair, this time last year I was sleeping in Mr. Clooney and that WAS so cold I could cut my breath with a knife…so I must count my blessings.

Next week for me is ….tiling and painting.

What a shock…