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…

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…

More of the same…

Neil returns for two days this week – at the beginning and again at the end – to take over the carpentry work. Lots of skills that fella! He will be here next week too, thankfully.

I am back on the tools…well, paintbrushes and rollers, scrapers, sandpaper and filler. Am crazily painting the door stops, architrave and skirting before it is put in place just to get a little ahead. It will still need painting again once it is installed, but hopefully only one more coat will be required. By doing the first coat now, it should save me from spending a week on my knees.

It’s not a problem for my knees, but it is for the rest of my body. The days are long gone when I was flexible and strong enough to kneel, stand, kneel, stand, etc, for 8 hours, day after day without a knock on effect to my physical being. I am currently having to roll onto my back and stretch my legs and back out before getting up with the help of anything near by, but I have to do it carefully so I don’t faint from the blood rush to the head.

Fit bird, me!!

I am also roaming around fixing stuff that has been damaged during the last few weeks – a sprinkle of filler here, a dash of caulk there and dollop of paint to finish it off nicely. Bake Off has nothing on me!

Then there is the tiling to finish.

Yea…and the window boards.

Oh, and I still need to finish painting the Snug, the hallway walls and ceiling.

And outside…

I have also started digging up a part of the carpark – by hand. According to Western Power there should be an electrical supply point on the corner of my carpark. It should be buried two feet deep (or thereabouts) and before they can quote for the onward supply I need to confirm it is there. They could do this of course but their charges are not too friendly !! So there’s me with a metal shovel digging to find electrical cables….

What can go wrong ?!?!?!?

If you see me sans eyebrows and a startled look on my cherubic face framed by curly hair, you will know I found it!

Onwards…

The final furlong…

When I say furlong…I mean miles!! And it’s uphill and I am on foot. And there’s a howling wind pushing me backward and some head-high jumps to navigate over. But I am trying to be positive and alert and focussed.

The good news is we got on really well with the tiling. The hallway floor is complete, the utility is complete, the cloakroom floor just needs grouting as do the splash-backs in the bathrooms. That leaves the boot-room floor and cloakroom walls which we will get to in a week or so.

We also have other flooring this week. Despite rumours to the contrary, I have only used local suppliers and trades to help me with this project. Another local company – SJH Carpets – was sourced to fit the carpets upstairs and LVT downstairs. Day one of flooring installation meant me being despatched to Mr. Clooney whilst a self-levelling compound was laid downstairs and underlay installed upstairs. No space for me to carry on with any of my jobs, including painting.

Oh no..I said aloud. Yay yippedy doo…I said in my head.

I spent the day trawling through an excel spreadsheet seeing if I have miscalculated my expenditure – hoping perhaps one of my columns has totalled with the wrong formula. Who am I kidding? Budget management has always been a speciality of mine – damn me!! So, no spare pennies to be found. Deep breath. Move on.

It’s taken 3 days to get the flooring done and it just adds that little extra oomph to the house now. Certainly, it is considerably warmer sleeping on a carpet than a wood floor though it’s upset my equilibrium again. I got up in the middle of the night for a wee visit and my feet told my head I was at home in Bristol. I wandered around my temporary bedroom trying to find my way out to the bathroom in a sleepy confused trance. Thankfully I awoke fully enough to make it to the ensuite but goodness me, it was a close call. I blame the carpet…

I spent much of the week on my hands and knees – either removing excess adhesive from tiles and cleaning them, or painting wood. I am trying to get ahead with painting some of the skirting, architrave and door stops. It’s not the ideal way to do it – and it will undoubtedly need touching up once installed but its definitely easier and quicker to paint this way.

I took time out to order the kitchen too. Not my original choice…colour or manufacturer…but that is for a different post another time. At least it is on order as is the range cooker and hood.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I was hoping this would all be done and dusted by 1st November – a month from now. That is not going to happen now…and to be honest, I am not sure when the finish time will be.

I am not going to set any more deadlines.

It is what it is!

Dream, dream, dream…

My dreams are going a bit weird here.

I wonder if it’s because of the luxurious accommodation or the fact that I go to bed pretty exhausted and my little brain wanders off into some hopeful land of merriment to keep me cheery.

In one of my dreams I have been asked by some unrecognised wealthy entrepreneur – not someone I know – to build houses wherever I want and give them away to those that need them most. The first build means me travelling to Scotland….with Mr. Clooney in tow. I don’t have a tow bar on my car so I made one out of a door knob and a hosepipe. Absolutely no idea what that all means.

I also had a dream about marrying a professional rugby player who also loves playing golf. But I’ve had that dream for years and to be fair I am normally awake when it occurs! I also know exactly what it means and who the rugby player is!!

My new found beauty regime is going well. The dust and dirt application was the chosen method for a while but I have moved on. I shower at least once a day now and then cover myself in a mix of emulsion, vinyl, silk and eggshell paint. This requires a great deal of expertise. Sometimes I do it delicately by splashing a little drip here and there from a roller or brush – a method that is particularly useful for face splatter. Other times I am more carefree and simply drop a paint pot from height to encourage a more artistic coverage. Either way is effective.

Anyway, back to business. Although much of the painting is complete (thanks again, Stuart) there are still a number of rooms to finish. Ceilings are particularly difficult. My height does not lend itself to this job and I am mostly balancing on the top rung of a very high ladder to do the work. My reach is also limited so I am up and down the ladder several hundred times a day at the moment. My calves are sore. My wrists are sore. My thumbs are sore. And I think I have painters elbow – if that exists.

That’s all I have done all week. Paint.

I have been on my own. No trades. No visitors. So I have formed a very deep relationship with a number of spiders that share my bedroom. There is Mr. Speedy – a large long legged fella that can cross the room in less than a couple of seconds. On first sight he scared me silly…but I am used to him now. There there is Mr. Acrobat who hangs around most of the day, dangling at varying heights from his ceiling-based web. He can reach down to my coffee mug but I have warned him against a possible overdose of caffeine. He appears to have taken it on board. Our Mr. Lethargic has positioned himself on my ceiling and cannot be bothered to move at all. There’s always one! And finally, Mr. Jacuzzi who lives in the shower and appears to get quite excited when the hot water sprays about. He runs around wildly avoiding the spray (I imagine shouting out loud) but always returns in readiness for the next shower.

I would get rid of them (humanely of course) but I suspect they would only be replaced by other family members. I see them as my guardians – but I do have a little concern about their goings-on at night when the lights are out and I am sleeping. I have not yet felt a tickle on my face – or worst still in my throat – but I would be worried if one of them went missing overnight and I woke up feeling full!

The house has broadband now – only took 3 months from order – so my entertainment is a little more interesting. I have access to Netflix and other such delights but I still spend most of my evenings checking on prices and ordering materials whilst listening to podcasts. There is a growing shortage of manufactured materials and delivery times are getting longer for everything so I will be finalising a lot of orders over the next week or so as a precaution to the longer lead times or (hopefully not) another lockdown.

Next week will be much more engaging. For me…still more painting but the carpenter returns. That’s Jonathan, not the old fella from 2000+ years ago.

Until then…

Turning a corner…

Do I speak too soon? I hope not.

It does feel like I am turning a corner and I can now see the end – albeit through myopic, dust crusted, paint splattered old eyes!

My brother Stuart, who stayed another week to help with the painting, would tell me off for saying this because saying it out loud might put the spanner in the works. But there have been so many ‘spanners‘ that I figure it’s worth saying it just to make me feel better.

Throw whatever you want at me. That There Builder Girl is made of strong stuff – she weeps.

So – plastering and painting. That was still the order of the day. Upstairs has been painted. All ceilings, all walls, all window boards have been sanded, filled, misted, primed and painted. They look pretty good too for a couple of amateurs! The door frames have been primed in readiness for the door stops, doors and architrave; the walls are ready for the skirting.

We have taken delivery of 15 doors, 200m+ of skirting and 130m+ of architrave. Stuart and I carried the doors upstairs so they can be laid flat and away from the moisture caused by the plastering. The doors weigh between 25kg and 35kg each. There was a moment when Stuart, sweat soaked and lungs bursting, looked at me just as he did when he was 10 years old and I pinched the chips off his plate. I was expecting him to call our Mum and tell her I was being a meanie…! I think he called his wife instead!!

I will need more skirting for sure but this will get us started. The carpenter arrives in a week when he will get on with fixing everything. Then I will have the joy of more painting.

Downstairs received a lot of hardwall and sand & cement treatment before the final skim of plaster this week. Some of the walls were plastered last week so it was deja vu for me and big Bro. Mist coat again…more ceilings…more neck ache, back ache and thumb ache. Lots of masking so we don’t inadvertently paint the beautiful wooden beams. It takes some doing. My language skills have progressed. Lots of quiet abuse as concentration slips and I accidentally paint my face, the floor, a window, a coffee cup, the kettle…anything that is in the way.

Stuart finished painting the kitchen including the ceiling – it’s 9.4m long! More quiet abuse bouncing off the walls. The mist coat, which is watered down paint and therefore tends to splash about a bit, left him an interesting colour at the end of the day. I don’t think he knew how funny he looked – and I sent him to the shops for some milk just to humour me and scare the shopkeeper!

The long days proved worthwhile. We got a lot done. Stuart has returned to his wife and children bearing the scars of working this project. I am so grateful.

He will no longer get woken by me at 0630hrs but I suspect his kids will do a good job of ensuring he doesn’t sleep in. Hee hee!

I only have the hallway, snug, utility, boot room and cloakroom to paint. Oh, then the stairs, wainscoting, window boards, skirting, architrave, fireplace….

Oh flipping heck!!!

Groundhog day…

It’s plaster and painting time again! We have been here before.

Upstairs is plastered. That means out with the paintbrushes again. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it. Painting ceilings and walls. There is no skirting or door frames at the moment.

It is not easy. It is back-bending, neck extending, exhausting and messy work. However, I am not alone in my end of day pain. My big brother, Stuart, has returned to assist once more. Bless!

This time he gets to sleep inside the property amongst the dust, paint brushes, plaster and general chaos that is our building site. He had the pleasure of enduring the fast-puncture airbed for his first night here whilst sleeping in the bedroom with a curtain free window next to a street light! The airbed went down even faster with him sleeping on it…something to do with the weight ratio! Apparently he didn’t sleep too well that night!

I felt so guilty I went shopping and purchased a nicer puncture free airbed for him so the rest of the week has been far more comfortable. When I say comfortable…it’s still a blow up plastic bed on a rock solid floor covered in dust. He will undoubtedly get me back for this one day…but in the meantime, I will continue to utilise his labour.

We are breaking the back of the painting whilst it is breaking us. Both of us are suffering from Painters Thumb (does that even exist as a condition?). Imagine 8 hours a day gripping a roller and paintbrush and you might understand why it could be a thing. There are also blisters. Really proper sore ones across the palm of the hand.

For Stuart that is. Not me. I have the hands of a hardened builder – gritty leather paws with mini muscles bulging from each finger.

I have chosen colours for the bedrooms and each time we open a tin of paint, Stuart asks me if I intend to paint all the walls with said colour. I get the feeling that my colour choice may not match his!

To be fair, I do seem to have chosen a specific colour selection. There may be a throwback to my “dating men in uniform” days. There is grey (RAF – Mike – my first true love ), Olive Green (Army – John – no…he was my first true love) and I do have a dark blue yet to be used (Navy – the entire US Fleet who used to visit Hong Kong when I lived there and yes definitely my first true love!).

Those were the days!!!!!

Back to the project. I have done my research. The colours are popular and I believe they will help me sell the house this year, next year or whenever that time comes.

As you know it has been one step forward…and then…!

Nathan the tiler is unable to come back to the project for family reasons. His 6th child is on the way. Poor fella is probably exhausted.

We did get some way with Nathan on site. The en-suites and the bathroom is almost complete. Just the splashback to finish.

But downstairs we are tiling both entrances, the utility and the cloakroom. That is still a lot of work to be finished and some of it is a little more than straightforward. The tiling needs to be completed before the skirting, architrave and doors can be fitted so Neil is coming back in to finish the job. He is the man of many talents.

It seems my tiling course will come in handy after all as we shift from Master and Apprentice builder to Master and Apprentice tiler!

In the meantime, Pete and Morgan are skimming and hardwalling downstairs! Sounds like a rave – but it means the plasterwork is getting done. Another 25 bags of Multifinish was delivered this week (that is 95 bags in total) along with some plastering sand and cement so we know the job will be completed by the end of next week and without any further delays.

Hip hip…

Moving on…

It’s a week of happenings.

The plaster arrived earlier than expected so Pete is back in. We still don’t have all that we need but it’s enough to get started again and at least upstairs will be completed in due course and some of downstairs will be started. I think we need another 25-30 bags to finish the job but at least we are moving again.

After ordering them several months ago, the external doors arrived and have been fitted by Matt from Door Central. There is a little more work just to finish off some of the brickwork which disintegrated when the old doors were removed but otherwise we are good and secure. They are pretty simple in terms of design and colour but they do look good and, importantly, they meet all the Document Q requirements for Building Regs. Now we all have to remember not to bash the door open with the wheelbarrow or other work-related equipment each time we enter the property.

Now the doors are fitted, it means that the external render can be finished. Pete will get onto it once the plastering is done…or when we run out of plaster again.

The internal doors have been chosen and will be delivered once the plastering is complete. It’s not a good idea to store them on site whilst the plastering is underway because of the moisture in the air. They could warp. Who knew!

I spent a day trying to work out how much architrave and skirting is needed. Then looked online and fainted at the price. Then I looked up how to work it out and found I had mis-calculated by hundreds and hundreds of metres. Still learning.

Oh…and I have an operational en-suite bathroom.

Flushing toilet. Yay.

Sink with hot/cold water. Yay.

And…drum roll please ….a fully functioning shower. Hippeddy doo dah yay!

No lights, no fan, no mirror. Nowhere to hang a towel or a toilet roll. But I don’t care. I step out of the shower onto a tiled but dusty floor which just cannot be kept clean. But I don’t care.

The water is being run off the cistern rather than the boiler so the electric bill may be a bit high. But I don’t care. I am sure that had Courtney been here on Tuesday morning when it was working, he would have received a standing ovation from the other onsite trades who have had to put up with my sweetness during their working on site.

As there are no internal doors using the en-suite has to be at specific times of the morning and night for me. I don’t want a tools down moment because the guys glanced into the room as they passed by. No-one should have to see that! When the guys need the facilities they just whistle to warn me!

It’s another week of tiling for Nathan. For me, it’s a little bit of priming and painting including sealing knotted wood.

The slithering creature has returned (see last blog!)

My new inflatable mattress has already got a puncture. It’s pretty difficult on a site like this to have a clean floor – or clean anything for that matter. There are sharp bits and pieces everywhere as I have found to my discomfort. Fortunately, the puncture must be tiny as the mattress does not completely deflate overnight so my sleep is still better than before.

It just hisses gently in the silence of a dark night.

Still sounds like a Disney snake…a bit like the snake in Jungle Book. Hissssssss!

Oh no. Now I have an ear-worm. I have Baloo and Mowgli singing Bare Necessity going round in my head.

I bet you do too now!

The pipes, the pipes are calling…

Progress is a little slow at the moment due (still) to the ongoing plaster shortage. Nevertheless we are still moving it on.

The first 3 days this week saw Courtney the plumber fitting in the boiler and loads of pipes. His work is very methodical and organised. I like things tidy and ordered and his pipework is just that. Yes, I did write that!

This in turn will allow us to test the underfloor heating. As I understand it, we will need to set the temperature at 20degs and then move it up 5degs each day till we hit 40degs. Maybe I should put up a poster and invite the neighbours in to what will be the largest, most expensive sauna in the village.

We won’t be doing much work whilst the UFH is tested although it would help with my ongoing but failing quest for weight loss.

The test is to assess the strength of the screed (and how dry it is) in case it cracks. This is best done before final flooring – tiles, LVT, wood etc goes down. We don’t anticipate a problem as the screed was laid in February, but if there are any cracks it’ll be a quick fix.

I did a final cleanup of the paintwork in the hallway and Steve the electrician fitted the smoke alarm and a gorgeous, modern chandelier – all before the tower scaffold was removed. Now there is no chance of doing anything up there without hiring in a human pyramid for me to stand on – or an extra long ladder.

Another friend – Susanne – arrived for a day this week following end of term closure. We spent the day painting the bathroom and one more bedroom. Great company. It all helps. Thanks lass.

With the scaffolding down it was time to move the boxes of tiles stored in the lounge downstairs to their appropriate rooms upstairs. The combined weight of the tiles shows 919kg amounting to 1260 tiles in total – so it’s a proper muscle job. I couldn’t carry the full boxes so I had to decant them. The tile sizes are varied and the really big ones meant me carrying only 3 tiles at a time.

Up and down the stairs I went – around 20 times. That is a lot of exercise and no Fitbit to record the massive effort. I was tempted to measure around my butt and thighs before and after but I only have a metal tape measure. I have already sliced several fingers on the sharp metal edges of the tape and had to suck them to stop the bleeding (First Aid not my go-to skill). Imagine the problem if I sliced my butt in a similar fashion….!

I have spent the last few days struggling to stand, sit, walk or even move as the tile transfer took its toll on my old muscles.

Apparently, there has been local comment about the mess I have made in the carpark. Fancy that …a mess on a building site? We now have a tidy(ish) carpark. All of the wood has gone to its future life as a village bonfire. Now I need to consider what to do with my pile of pallets. I’ve been online and think a potting table could be good or a collection of garden furniture – or maybe just another pile of wood for another bonfire! Watch this space.

In the meantime, I got 2 days off this week and headed to Wales for rest and relaxation.

Sorry…what am I saying.

I spent a full day with a drill, hammer and screwdrivers as I helped my sister, Shona, get her pub ready for re-opening in August.

Don’t feel sorry for me. I was still in a pub and I didn’t have to pay for a drink!!

Hic, hic, hooray…!