Keeping busy…

It can be frustrating with all the waiting.

The new house in Somerset is still on hold. It looks like nothing will happen until at least Spring 2022 and no guarantees that the phosphate issues will be resolved by then.

No idea what the authorities are doing about it…except it was extremely surprising to hear that our local MP, along with hundreds of others throughout the country, just voted to allow water companies to continue to dump sewage into our rivers and seas. I wonder how much phosphate that amounts to?

Words fail me.

No they don’t. But if I used them here my Mum would tell me off.

Some Somerset builders are getting planning permission. If you are loaded you can literally buy your permission. They call it mitigation. Buy some land, plant some trees and permission is yours. A builder I know did just this. Cost him £1million.

I broke open my piggy bank but alas I will have to wait along with other mortals whilst the various authorities finish their naval gazing and develop some sort of solution to warrant them being called ‘experts’.

Thankfully the Devon property is moving forward albeit slowly. We have delivered our pre-application and have a scoping meeting in the diary. It’s a fairly traditional build so it shouldn’t upset the planners but then again….

So the waiting game continues.

Fortunately for me, my family do their best to ensure that I am not just sitting around. My sister kindly allowed me to renovate the ladies toilets in her pub. Having been (Covid) closed for much of the previous 18 months, there was no way her budget would cover a professional to undertake the work.

And family is family. (There are times I wish I was an orphan).

We agreed on part demolition, part cover up. I completed the demolition without chopping off any of my limbs or beheading any of the customers despite the constant use of an angle grinder and SDS drill. During the demolition, doubts started to creep in as to the size of the job. I do have most of the skills to do the work but not all…the plumbing in particular was a worry….and despite previous work experience I was not hugely confident in my skills. (You may understand imposter syndrome!).

So friends to the rescue. I asked John / Jenny D. to pop down and help and they obliged without question. Their 3 day trip turned into 5 days as we encountered more work than was imagined and the plumbing of the new toilets and sink took more time and effort than any of us anticipated.

By the end of week, most of the studwork was up. The walls were battened, pipes boxed in, the plasterboard was fitted and the toilets and sink were plumbed in. We purchased a cupboard from FaceBook marketplace and a tap from eBay and Jenny D sanded and painted the cabinet (and some of the tables in the pub) to give it a fresh new look. John and Jenny departed with toilets flushing and taps working, and we all remain hugely grateful to them for their help.

The following week involved finishing the batten and plasterboard and moving onto the plastering and tiling.

Mixing tiling adhesive, grout and plaster is sometimes compared with baking. However, cake batter does not go off if you leave it for 20-30 minutes. You don’t need to clean out the mixing bowl immediately to stop the remaining mixtures from hardening. I had to do the mixing where the water supply was (down two flights of stairs) and carry the heavy buckets of mix up stairs to only have to return downstairs for cleaning out the buckets prior to returning upstairs and using the mix before it went off.

I huffed and puffed.

And swore and grunted.

And thought about running away.

But I did it. Tiling first, but only because I was dreading the plastering. The windows were difficult. The first wall of tiles looks a tad dodgy (to me) because I didn’t clear the wet grout lines quick enough so they look a little rough to this trained eye. But it’s a pub. Hopefully most of those customers that use the loos will have focus issues so won’t notice !! The tiles could be straighter. They could lie flatter to the wall. They could be more aligned. But they couldn’t be installed cheaper!!

Plastering was a joy.

No, it wasn’t.

I completely forgot what to do and had a mild panic attack when mixing the muck. My first bucket resulted in diarrhoea! The mix, not me!!

I slapped it onto my trowel and it slid down my arm, my body, my leg and onto the floor with a lovely plop!!! The last time I experienced anything like it was on a trip to Cambodia…but that is another story.

A quick YouTube visit to remind me what to do and the second bucket calmed my nerves, and my tummy!

Then I forgot how to plaster into the corners, and finish the edges.

But I did it. I got over my doubting self. And finished the job.

And every time I finished the work-day my sister loaded me with G&T’s and praise.

What more could That There Builder Girl hope for?

On your marks, get set….

Do not go !

Not in Somerset anyway.

Still nothing happening with South Somerset District Council and their planning department. Seems that they are bereft of ideas on how to tackle the phosphate issues on the Somerset Moors. Next week they are 12 months over their approval date on a planning application that already had outline planning and that we know was approved.

Frustrating to say the least. What’s a builder girl to do?

The first thing is to stop pulling my hair out! A bald builder girl will only frighten future trades….and husbands!

I have had to look elsewhere for my renovating and building entertainment and am delighted to announce that Devon is my interim stop before returning to the new build in Somerset.

I have appointed an architect and will be building a new house on a plot of land in Salcombe and then renovating an existing property, also in Salcombe, which requires a touch of loving and tender care. The process should keep me occupied for 12 months by which time Somerset DC should have moved forward with the phosphate issues.

This means packing my bag of tools and work clothes and making another temporary move. Mr. Clooney will be staying in Somerset for the time being as he will still be needed here (and it’s doubtful if his transportation on the M5 would result in success).

My future accommodation will be more comfortable than my adored caravan and will include running water, electricity and other such mod cons. I am unsure as to when the move will take place but watch this space.

It’s likely to be weekday only too. Weekends will be back in Somerset, or Bristol. Salcombe is a beautiful part of the world (I grew up there pre-teenage years) and am looking forward to getting started.

Whilst this project has been in development I decided to further enrich my builder girl knowledge and signed up to a 4-week certified building course.

Three hours into Week One I was regretting it. We started with bricklaying – the sort of skill every girl about town should have in her portfolio. The learning was great but it was so physically demanding and the temperature for the whole week never dropped below 26degs. I became covered in cement dust and perspired so much I could wring my knickers out every couple of hours!!

I didn’t though.

I am one of 8 on the course. The other 7 are military men – the oldest of whom is 15 years younger than me! Clearly, there are certain delights working hand in hand with 7 men from the military – my love of uniform is not unknown – but the work itself has even exhausted some of them. They thought I might be in the military too – a Colonel or Wing Commander was the suggestion.

Hence the reason I did not wring my knickers out every couple of hours. We have standards.

My made up rank would put me in charge of them all. This builder girl had some funny dreams that first night!!

But I digress. I am now proficient at bricklaying.

Week Two was equally sweaty but different skills. In just a week I had to build a one window, one door room from 2×4 timber and plasterboard. If you ever try to fit plasterboard to a ceiling you will learn how difficult it is. Try doing it when you are 5ft 4in (1.6m). I had to ask for a bigger ladder and hold the plasterboard up with my head and still get the military to help me!

Then we learnt how to plaster. My first effort was a D- but by the end of the week I got an A. Plastering a ceiling should be left to the professionals, and I have no intention of plastering a whole house but I do feel capable of plastering a small room that no-one will want to go in.

As I write this draft I am learning more. It is electrics and plumbing week. A little bit of multimeter reading and lots of wiring followed by soldering (rather than soldiering which is another story), compression joints and fitting taps, sinks, etc.

There is plenty more to learn, then there is an exam. It might be the first one I ever pass but only if the military men follow my orders !!

And I should be able to get a job as a building site labourer!!

You Go girl…

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…