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Where do I begin?

You’ve done a bit of property renovation before. How difficult can it be”?

~ My Mum

I should start with the truth so there is no confusion. I am not really a ‘Builder’ or a ‘Girl’. I am a marketer by trade and although I can handle a drill and a hammer (shelves are my specialty) I hardly fit the required job description of builder. I suppose I should say Apprentice Builder Girl …but it didn’t sound so good.

Secondly, my age really precludes me from being called a girl. I will admit to being older than 40 but that is all. However, given my apprentice status on this project I aim to continue with the ‘girl’ designation.

I have undertaken a little bit of renovation work in the past. When I say I…I actually mean I have engaged various trades to do the work. This is obviously not unusual. It is the norm for most. The hardest part of my historical work has been choosing tiles and room colours.

What I have never done though is take on a project of this size and duration and become part of the team whilst fulfilling the project management role.

I have never worked on a project that requires a six figure budget. I have never stripped a building from foundations to rood and have never turned a commercial property into a residential property.

So all good there then.

First the sad news. The project I am working on is a closed pub in South Somerset. The why and what happened is not for this blog. But it is sad that it had to close. Whilst the pub was open and when ‘well-supported’ it was a delightful little place and full of energy and conviviality. Alas being ‘well-supported’ was not a regular occurrence. We put in 10 years as did the previous owners who also struggled. Some villages care a lot about their amenities. Others don’t. C’est la vie.

The pub closed 10 July 2019 following a significant effort for planning permission that started in 2016. Planning was approved in October 2018 for Change of Use (COU) and on 3 September 2019 the work will commence to turn the old village pub into a good sized 4-bedroom house.

The carpark, sited opposite the pub, has also received outline planning permission. Nothing to report on this yet but there is hope for 1 or perhaps 2 houses to be built from scratch.

This blog is the story of the redevelopment journey through my eyes. The highs, the lows. The surprises and the lessons to be learnt.

I am anticipating learning a lot – not least the process required to turn a commercial property into a residential property.

I am committed to seeing this through. I have re-mortgaged to get the money for the development. Ceased my work as a marketing consultant….and de-camped Monday through Friday to the village so I can be there to manage and help with the project.

Wish me luck !

Trials and tribulations…

I am aware that in the time of a global pandemic my little project has little importance. But that does not stop it from being a source of anxiety and stress.

The week started sweetly with a significant delivery of plaster – multifinish used for skimming and hardwall for… hardwall(!) – after placing the order over 6 weeks ago. Pete and Morgan turned up cheery and ready to get on.

We agreed the order in which rooms need to be plastered first. I am desperate for a completed bedroom and ensuite so I can move out of Mr. Clooney, sleep more comfortably even if on an inflatable bed, and have a shower and a flushing toilet. I am such a diva !

The store room needs to be plastered and painted so we can install the boiler, cistern and pipework – also required for my diva-ish need to shower. A working boiler is also needed to test the underfloor heating system before we start tiling and fitting any flooring.

The main hallway, which is an open space from the floor to the roof needs to be plastered whilst the tower scaffold is in place. As soon as the plaster is dry, it will be painted and the tower scaffold can be removed giving us much better access to the property.

Those are the priorities. After which the plastering can be done as necessary.

Or so I thought.

The problem with ordering materials for this sort of build is it is really difficult to gauge how much might be needed. Upstairs most of the the ceilings are sloped – which takes significantly more product than a flat ceiling. After just one week we realise that the 40 bags of skim plaster delivered on Monday is not going to be anywhere near enough for this job.

We think we may need another 30 bags. I have been told by one supplier I can get 10 bags – in the 3rd week of August. Another supplier says I will have to wait until the end of August and there will also be a limit on quantity. You get the picture.

All the recent planning with the tiler, carpenter, electrician, plumber, floor fitter and so on now have to be re-worked and their diaries are already full.

1st September was my ‘socially-distanced working’ completion date. It would have been possible to do it quicker but I have to be responsible with the numbers working on site at any one time. September is now impossible. It’s likely I will have another two months plus of expense that was not accounted for in my budget. I returned to Bristol feeling…frankly, exhausted and utterly defeated.

But a good night’s sleep after lots of hugs, laughter, food and wine with my Bristol bubble and I am back on the positive path.

So I will be spending the weekend working out how to best carry on with the project on a room by room basis. The property will have to be partly plastered, partly painted, partly tiled, etc, until we can get the supplies we need.

I will set another completion date. Initially March, then almost immediately May then realistically September…Let’s say Christmas now.

The good news this week? The plans went in for the new house build on the carpark.

Am I mad…?

No rest…

I thought my week would be very restful and cool.

In a hot, hot week I am back in Bristol and sleeping in a proper bed, in a cool flat. Joy!

But most of my plans went awry. It was always going to be a week of admin. Lots of bills due to be paid; quotes to assess and so on plus the car booked in for an MOT and service. But I anticipated long lazy walks, meeting with friends and relaxing in the sunshine with a good book.

In actual fact my week has consisted of lots of unexpected expense. I needed new brake pads, discs and tyres for the car so with a service and MOT I was quoted £700 in all! I spent a lot of time phoning around and managed to save a couple of hundred but …ouch.

Then, whilst working in the flat, a hiss and a bubble and drip, drip, drip…..and I had a radiator ‘moment’ in my flat. Disaster averted but time for action. I was warned last year when I put in a new boiler that the 30+ year old radiators looked less than good but you know what it’s like when you have budget constraints. Alas, my hope of them holding out for another year or two has been diminished. I have spent a couple of days sourcing new radiators – 7 in total – along with thermostatic valves. Delivered Friday for fitting by my friendly local plumber in a weeks time. Let’s hope the new ones last another 30 years.

Thank goodness I have trade accounts all over the place – that saved me a few pennies.

Back onto the project. I reviewed the new timeline and realised that I should get my tiles on order and a date set for delivery. I have literally spent hours and hours over the last few months choosing tiles through different suppliers, getting samples sent out, changing my mind, etc. before making my final decision. I returned to the various sites to make the purchases only to find that several of the chosen products are now out of stock and not likely to be re-stocked in readiness for my timeline.

Hurrumph…I said. Or words of a similar nature.

So I spent another day online to start the process again, ending with a final no turning back decision. 63m2 of tiles have been purchased through Victoria Plum and Total Tiles and a mid July delivery date booked. Next decision will be colour of grout…and working out how to get the tiling done!

In the meantime, I am still trying my hand at furniture renovation. A while ago I purchased an old dining table and chair set from Facebook Marketplace for £20 and have slowly been updating the upholstery and painting the furniture. This too has been part of my routine this week – in the carpark behind the flats. In the raging hot sunshine!

I don’t really know what I am doing and if it doesn’t work out, the cost is mostly labour. At the moment anyone who visits me in the flat has to take their meal on a tray so it’s got to be worth a go, don’t you think?

So, not the week I was planning but I am still happy that I did not have to spend my nights with Mr. Clooney. It’s been roasting hot in Bristol. I’d have been medium to well-done if I had been in Mr. Clooney.

Next week, things go up a notch – assuming the plaster arrives on Monday.

Fingers crossed…

Quick, quick, slow….

Stop.

That’s what it feels like. One moment nothing seems to be moving on. Then there are significant changes. Then we stop.

We had to order a further 22 sheets of plasterboard this week as the previously delivered 190 sheets were all used up. This seems an extraordinary amount of plasterboard needed for one property. They are now all but fitted…with just a couple of sheets set aside for finishing the boiler room and the cloakroom.

Neil and Andy have also been finishing off a few awkward areas. A dollop of cement here and there. A touch of timber for reinforcement. A jiggery pokery with a drainpipe or two. I think you can tell my builders terminology has improved over the last 9 months.

I had my last exciting foray into the loft. Neil kindly lent me his paper suit to protect me from the worst of it up there. I managed to rip the backside out on a nail – which went deep enough to also rip my shorts and puncture my ass! I also split the leg seam open as I straddled a joist and caught another nail. Neil just laughed when I apologised about the state of his paper suit. Bless! When I emerged having completed the job, I was again soaked through to my undies and filthy. I am so, so, so very happy that there is no more loft insulation needed. It is truly a horrid job.

I purchased some Danish Oil to bring some life back into the numerous beams dotted around the house. Initially 2 litres, then another 2 litres. 8 litres later and I still have one beam to oil. It’s probably taken about 3-4 (wo)man days to do all the beams but they do look better for it. Each evening I retire to Mr. Clooney and count the rings of oil splattered across my arms and legs – and sometimes my face. I am not sure that Danish Oil is considered a beauty treatment elsewhere but it’s been a daily dose during the last week. I now have a silky glow and I am creaking less than I was!

It’s good news the plasterboard is finished because it means the plastering can start….but of course it can’t because there is still a shortage. My order is on its way and all things being well it should be with us on 29th June. Pete and Morgan are booked in to get started and should be with us for a few weeks. In the meantime, Neil and Andy depart for a while and get to work with other people. I’ve asked them not to enjoy that experience.

For me, this delay means time to obtain further quotes for tiling, painting and decorating, floor coverings, doors and more. I thought I had a tiler lined up but it seems inflation has hit hard in South Somerset as he wants a further £500+ to do the job. Sure I said. That makes sense, I said. Let me sign the cheque, I said.

OK I didn’t.

That is not going to happen. I gave him the go-ahead on his original quote pre-lockdown and presumed that was it. So now I need to reassess the tiling requirement. Neil tells me I can do it so I might just have a go. What can possibly go wrong?

Painting and decorating is a necessity too. I can do some but not all if I want the house finished before the end of the year (and if I am busy tiling!). So I have been meeting up with individuals to get quotes on the job. One fella told me 6 weeks minimum for the work – 30 days at his not insignificant day rate. I am not sure what is going on in South Somerset? Has the lockdown affected their common sense or do I have a sign on my forehead that says “this girl can be mugged”?

The other two quotes suggest 18-20 days max. I will do a couple of the rooms myself so hopefully save on that time too.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Plaster arrives a week this Monday which allows me a week to rest, recuperate, play golf, go shopping (for lights and stuff), get the car MOT’d, pay the bills (and boy are they big now) and go out to play.

Onwards…for the end is in sight!

What’s the definition of a house..?

I don’t mean the word. I mean the feeling. I think I know.

It’s a collection of rooms with walls that you cannot walk through – all courtesy of sheet after sheet of plasterboard. With a huge amount of effort we almost have a house – apart from the fact there are no bathrooms, kitchen, etc. But you get the gist!

Upstairs has 4 bedrooms, 2 ensuites and a bathroom, a hallway and even an airing cupboard. Proper rooms defined. Of course, no doors or architrave or skirting or anything else for that matter. But they are actual rooms.

And so to downstairs. A slightly easier plasterboard job as no sloped ceilings, but still much to do. You’ve heard this story before. Insulation, plasterboard, clean up. Insulation, plasterboard, repeat….

Courtney the plumber has been back to fit the shower trays. Steve came back to fit the electrical back boxes – all in readiness for plastering.

Adam from Mec-Serve (our fab underfloor heating company) has been back in to assess the final area that needs screed. We couldn’t do it first time around as I hadn’t purchased some of the plumbing materials which were supposed to be fitted before the screed was laid! My bad!

The 8 yard skip filled by me slowly but surely last week has been exchanged with another empty one. It seems the shovel will never leave my hands, although there is a rumour that Andy has access to a digger this weekend and may be able to clear some of it by machine. Either way, hopefully this will be the last skip…until the next one!

I have worn out yet another pair of gloves.

I have been trying to get a telephone line and broadband put into the house. At the moment I use the data on my phone to run my computer. It’s incredibly unreliable and deeply frustrating. The O2 mobile signal in this area is weak and erratic even on 3G, so even normal telephone usage is impossible on some days – and not just O2 apparently. Ridiculous. Someone complain. Oh that’s a job for me!

This week saw the arrival of a router from Vodafone and an engineer from OpenReach. A simple job….but no. The engineer couldn’t reach the telephone cables on the telegraph pole immediately outside the house so we had to wait for a platform vehicle. The platform vehicle arrived, which was used sparingly as it was ‘the wrong one’ (something to do with the passing traffic and danger !). In the 3 minutes it was used, the engineer couldn’t find the necessary lines (pairs I think he called them) on the pole needed to input a telephone line into my property. Difficult to understand really as only last July there was a telephone line, broadband and a card machine data-line. But for this week, no phone; no broadband. So they have to come back.

It’s not the engineer’s fault. I know that. They will be back with a bigger platform vehicle, which means putting in a traffic control system as they will close off one side of the road. They will run cables to another telegraph pole and onwards to a big box. Gosh, I will be popular with the neighbours….again!

So..back to the renovation thing. I still need to do research on tiles, lighting, doors, architrave, skirting and other stuff online. I am so pleased the shops are starting to open. I will, at least, be able to view some of the needed items and get out of the caravan now and again.

And…drum roll. I have plaster. I don’t have it yet, but it’s coming at the end of June.

So another week of frustration with with a ridiculously poor mobile data signal and no broadband. This has lead me to (a) drink (b) profuse swearing (c) writing letters to the authorities (d) all of the above.

Answers on a postcard…!

The never-ending story…

When you start on a project like this it’s nigh on impossible to set an accurate timetable. Ripping a building apart opens up all sorts of surprises (understatement!), and these inevitably affect the timetable and the budget.

When I met with a number of builders prior to starting work with Neil, they all said it might be done in 6 months but best allow for a little longer to allow for anomalies. In my head I thought (hoped) it would all be done by May – allowing 8 months in total.

Unsurprisingly, the lockdown hasn’t helped. It’s not just the 7 weeks in which the property was closed. Many manufacturers closed their factories so it’s now difficult to obtain materials, particularly plaster. The knock-on effect in terms of timing and money is unhelpful. Another understatement.

I will be pleasantly surprised if I can get all the finishing touches completed by 1st September 2020. We started the work on 2nd September 2019. 8 months to 12 months. More than 30% more time needed.

Imagine, if you will, what that has done to the budget never mind my sense of humour!!

But continue we must. Plasterboard on the walls and insulation in the loft, the walls and the floors. We are not far off finishing upstairs. It takes so much longer when there are sloping ceilings, and much of upstairs is just that, but it’s almost done.

First fix plumbing is more or less complete. Just the shower trays to be positioned. First fix electrical will be completed once the plasterboard has been installed.

Carpentry continues. All the door linings are now positioned. Window boards are all but fixed. There is the formation of an under-stairs cupboard, and the start of an airing cupboard.

My tasks this week include once again covering myself head to toe in protection and masking up before rolling out more insulation throughout the loft space, whilst simultaneously batting away spiders and trying not to knock myself out. It is physically arduous!

A-rolling I do go.

I have a large shovel, an 8 yd skip and an enormous pile of rubble in the carpark. I have developed a rhythmic technique for filling the skip but can only put so much effort into it at one time. It is physically taxing!

A-labouring I do go.

Me, my skip and my shovel. What has my life become?

And of course, I am still the broom witch and cutting plasterboard and carpentry is dusty and dirty work. It is…what it is.!

A-sweeping I do go.

My evenings are still centred around paperwork and researching materials and suppliers. I also spend time listening to podcasts (this week Louis Theroux – Grounded) and reading (this week Norman Mailer – An American Dream) interspersed with phone calls. Thank you callers!

And every evening I have to make a bed up out of seat cushions. Caravan living may sound ‘romantic’ to some but if I can give one tip, make sure you have a separate sleeping compartment. Assembling a bed every night gets a little tedious.

It’s the end of a tough week but the sun is shining and everyone I know and love is safe. Today I will be heading back to my home and friends in Bristol.

A-drinking and eating I do go. Yay!

One step at a time…

Actually, more than one step. We have the outline of a staircase. The original staircase was removed on 4 October last year. Since then we have been hauling materials and ourselves up and down a very long ladder, many times a day. At times it has been precarious.

The joy of having a useable staircase is immense. There is much to finish with it but not until after the plastering is complete as the handrail, newels, etc are all solid oak and we need to protect them from the inevitable mess to come. Jonathan, the carpenter, has also been fitting door linings and window boards.

Courtney, the plumber, has all but finished first fix. A day or two next week and then that will be it until the plastering is finished. A grand old job he has done too.

We have no idea when the plastering is due to take place. There is a shortage of materials, as a result of factory lockdowns – unless one fancies a little bidding war on Ebay. I have no intention of paying £30/bag when it is normally less than £6. Some people – pah!

The delivery of plasterboard was timely and Neil and Andy are getting on with it. The rooms are looking like rooms. Once the boards are in place, it means the final layer of insulation can be installed. This is a less complex job which means it’s perfect for me. Much of the insulation is positioned between the walls and floor/ceiling joists.

But….there is of course the loft insulation and by golly, that is a dreadful job. Covered from head to toe, wearing a mask etc I hauled myself up a ladder along with roll after roll of 150mm insulation. First layer rolled one direction between the joists. Second layer across the joists. 300mm of warmth. Building regs satisfied.

Easy job. Except of course this property is ancient so the roof space is a mini assault course. My ducking and diving technique has improved. Professional boxers would be impressed, although I did manage to get a few sharp cracks on the head – one of which could / should have been a technical knock out!

Easy job. Except for the requirement to balance precariously on the ceiling joists whilst squatting underneath the beams in order to roll out the insulation. Another option is to kneel along the joists and shuffle along. Painful and bruised knees follow. A missed footing and the newly installed plasterboard would be ruined. A quick stretch to release the muscle tension generally means a thump on the head, back etc. Refer to previous paragraph.

Easy job. Unless you are terrified of spiders, webs and other scuttling insects who were suddenly unnerved by my presence. There is an itchy-ness working with insulation but that does not compare to face planting a lived-in spiders web in the near-dark, overheated conditions of a loft.

Easy job. Except we are having a mini heatwave. I went in pale and resurfaced pillar box red, soaked through and absolutely filthy. Even my socks had to be rung out.

There are spiders making their nests as I take this photo!

When I returned to Mr. Clooney and stripped naked (I’ve always wanted to say that!), a couple of errant spiders ran out of my hair! (I’ve never wanted to say that!).

The good news is that I have insulated half the loft.

Half.

Guess what I am going to be doing next week.

Mercy, mercy me…

And the mess returns…

My inner Little Miss Tidy has had a few moments this week as the work progresses. There is a continuous routine of make mess, clean up and repeat.

Things are moving along. Courtney has continued to install the plumbing and I have pipes of all sizes and shape everywhere! Steve popped back in to re-position a few more electrical cables and Jonathan the carpenter started fixing the door linings but then departed for the arrival of his first born. Lovely.

Neil and Andy have been creating a masterpiece with what was the Gents toilets in the old pub.

This room is to become the boiler room and store room. Internally its a relatively easy job to manage. Knock down one wall, insulate, batten, etc. Externally, the existing roof was an embarrassment to the tradesman that fitted it. No point in us leaving a crappy job (note the word links to the former use of the room. Ha!!) when everything else in the house is done to first class standards. So another batch of timber delivered, breather membrane, a little code 4 lead, batten, soffit and tiles, drainpipe and heyho – we have a working, waterproof, useable room.

Except…before we can finish it off we have to move a soil pipe, and wouldn’t you know – it is cracked and needs to be replaced. What the…? So the big guns have been out again as Andy has been digging more rubble out to access the pipe. Make mess, clean up. See what I mean.

In the meantime, we have been taking delivery of various materials required for the next stage. There has to be some thought process into where the materials are stored so that the minimal amount of handling is involved.

We took in 160 plus sheets (2400mmx1200mm) of plasterboard. The standard board weighs 23kg but the specialist board weighs 34kg and had to go upstairs – remembering of course I don’t yet have stairs. So it took 4 of us to pass the boards up. To say we were all muscle weary after moving it all is an understatement. This work starts next week.

In addition, we had hundreds of metres of insulation delivered. Rolls for the floors and attic, slab for the walls. I can just about carry a roll by myself but it’s a little comical to watch. I am just a little taller than a roll and I can only just get my arms around it. But at least I try!

It’s been a tough week for me personally. I have struggled with sleeping, washing, eating in the caravan after having a few months off and the luxury of a normal bed and flushing toilet! The budget – already pushed to the limit because of the roof – is again being tested daily as many of the prices for materials have increased.

I know I will get used to it again, but my energy levels dissipated as the week progressed. There are jobs for me to do but I didn’t really get on to them.

Am back home and I’ve had a word with myself. We probably have no more than 3 months to finish, and possibly less if we can get the materials. That time will fly – and at least we are busy and occupied – and healthy.

I will get back on it next week.

Enthused, energised and eager…

Pushing on and on…

I need to dispel the myth that I have an inside track with 10 Downing Street. I closed the site in the morning (March 23) and then the lockdown was announced that night. I started the process to re-open the when I visited 5/6/7 May prior to the PM’s announcement on Sunday 9th. This meant we would have deliveries arriving at 8am on Monday morning and could start work immediately.

For future reference, I have made a diary note to visit my sister’s fully operational and re-opened pub for the second week of August. Let’s see if my timing is right for then? If it is, I am going to stand for election as a political soothsayer !!

In the meantime, my little project is pushing on. The plumber is here this week for first fix. Courtney has the place to himself inside the property and is very helpful at explaining what he is doing. A lot of new terminology for me to grasp. The forced time off has done little to help my memory or learning capabilities but he is being very relaxed with my odd and sometimes daft questions.

Externally, the final render and painting has (almost) been finished by Pete and Morgan. Pete on one side of the building. Morgan on the other. It’s looking quite lovely – apart from the front and back doors which are still being knocked about with deliveries, etc. They will not be replaced until they can be safely entered without causing damage.

The stairs have been ordered, not from the original company as they are still closed and have no idea when (if) they are going to re-open. So a single flight of stairs has been ordered from Howdens along with numerous parts – oak rails, spindles, newels, caps, etc. Then some more timber and sheets of various board so that Jonathan the carpenter can work his magic. Jonathan will be with us for a couple of weeks (on and off) as he tackles numerous jobs from door linings, window boards, airing cupboards, door hanging, skirting, architrave and more.

But first we start fixing plasterboard – required on almost every wall and every ceiling. Foil backed for bathrooms along with soundboard and fireboard and, of course, the standard plasterboard. So Monday and Tuesday will see the delivery of 180 sheets of plasterboard and over 300m2 of insulation material for the loft, walls and floor.

This also means the return of my favourite duo, Neil and Andy.

Is this the new normal…?

Ready, steady…

On the morning of March 23rd I closed down my project. The PM announced the lockdown that evening.

After much planning, and confirming with numerous people what I am allowed to do, I am about to get the project re-started.

I am sitting in Mr. Clooney writing this and arranging the opening of the site from next Monday – 11th May. I have popped down for a couple of days to sort the site out and get Mr. Clooney ready for accommodating me for the next 2 months or so. He has survived my absence rather well. Just a little sprucing up inside and a wash-down outside – no more than what I have had to do for myself following weeks of being locked away!!

The builders merchants are open and are re-stocking although there appears to be some material shortages. Time will tell if this will affect the project timeline. Deliveries only for us. No popping to the shop for me so I can drool over the tools!

My plumber is ready to start first fix on Monday morning.

The carpenter is popping around to measure up for the stairs, door linings, window boards, skirting, cupboards and more so that he can start once we have the materials and it is safe to do so.

The plasterer is waiting for the plasterboard to be delivered and fitted but should be ready to go by the end of the month.

The electrician has already completed the first fix.

The tiler will pop in as and when required to ensure the plumber can complete his first fix, and will then finish the tiling as the job dictates.

Neil and Andy have been keeping themselves busy working elsewhere but will be back on site once the plumbing first fix is (almost) completed. We can apply social distancing without too much trouble and have plans in place to ensure we are all appropriately protected.

To be fair, Mr. Clooney and I have been socially distant since this project started so it’s not a new experience for me!!

First job for Neil: we need to put a new roof on the boiler room and he can do that from outside whilst the plumber is inside.

In the meantime, I will be clearing out the garden and sorting through the materials in the carpark – which is currently covered in rubble and discarded wood.

There is still much to be done. The original deadline for completing this project was the end of May. I suspect we won’t be finished till end July now – or even into August – particularly as I can’t have all the trades working on site together.

It is what it is.

We will be sensible.

We will be safe.

Who stole my ooomph…?

I, like the rest of the country, am struggling with all the time I have on my hands. As I heard about this lockdown I thought of all things I could do whilst incarcerated. The list is as long as it was two plus weeks ago. Nothing ticked off.

Until this morning.

A friend of mine tells me that routine is really important at times like this so I am getting back into some sort of routine. I have spent the last few days sorting out my finances. This delay will make some impression on my budget and I need to plan for it in some way or another. Anyone know where I can find a money growing tree !!

Frankly, the new budget is likely to be as accurate as licking my finger and sticking it in the air…but I have to think about it.

I have agreed that the first fix electrical work will continue in my absence from site, with the proviso that anything wrongly positioned will not incur a huge cost for me once we are starting again. This allows the electrician to earn during the lockdown, and work on his own thus reducing any risk to his health whilst working on my project. It’s not ideal, but we all need to be as flexible as possible.

I am also looking at the items that my be required as soon as the lockdown is lifted. Plasterboard, insulation (even more of the stuff), tiles, etc. The stairs may take a little while to build so will be talking to the man about these too. Also the front and back door.

In the meantime, I have a flat that requires a little redecoration and a load of auction-purchased furniture that is going to be sanded, painted and waxed.

I have a guitar (given by my parents at age 16) and I have always wanted to see if I have any musical capability. It’s doubtful but I have found an excellent online resource so will give it a go. I have pulled out a few more books, and have started my podcast listening journey again.

Who knows how this will all end. I watch the news and am distraught for those that have lost their loved ones and regularly burst into tears for them and the bravery and selflessness of our incredible key workers. Never have I felt so useless.

Neil and Andy are keeping themselves busy. Neil tells me he has counted all the nuts, bolts and screws in his van. Funny that – I have counted all the nails and screws we have put into my property.

I bet I win…

Keep safe everyone.