A funny story…

It’s been family week in downtown Somerset. Firstly my brother, Stuart, arrived to help me with painting the newly plastered walls and ceilings, whilst we await the second plaster delivery. Not the whole house – a bedroom, 2 en-suites, a bathroom, a boiler room and the enormously high hallway. We will just about get it done but not without considerable time and effort.

For his gratis service, I booked luxury accommodation which arrived Monday morning. It’s like a ‘nicer’ version of Mr. Clooney. How can that be, I hear you ask. Indeed, good question. From the outside his caravan looks similar to mine….but it has a shower cubicle. Little Miss Envy had to be curtailed from not claiming the new accommodation..but I couldn’t leave Mr. Clooney after all this time.

However, I can hear Stuart whistling happy tunes when he showers. He’s lucky I haven’t released the caravan handbrake – with him in it.

Once set up, and after the delivery fellas left, we both stepped inside his temporary abode and our collective lockdown weight broke the rear stabiliser. Just snapped off. Ha…I thought. Mr. Clooney would never be so insensitive to a little bit of chubbiness!

Anyway, my brother now recognises that the daily grind of That There Builder Girl is not quite as exciting as it should be. The painting has gone well but the effort has been intense. Long hours, a couple of tea breaks and a lunch break but other than that a proper work effort. He is not laughing much. He is not sleeping well in his luxury accommodation either. Aw!

Then I received a visit from my sister and mother. Released from Wales, they turned up laden with food and gifts. It’s my birthday this week so a pleasant birthday treat.

I asked my mother if she read these blogs. Not really she said. They are just not funny.

That’s the thing about Mothers. Straight to the heart of the matter. All this time, I have been telling a story about my builder girl journey and have failed to denote how hysterically funny the whole journey has been. My bad!

Mind you it was ‘funny’ today. Andy turned up with a huge tractor towing a massive grain trailer. The wood I seem to have collected as a jolly memento of this journey has taken over the carpark and we have been thinking what to do with it. With Andy’s help it has now been donated to a local village bonfire (yes, for November). I asked Stuart to help Andy and myself load the trailer. That was funny as it took 3 of us 2 hours to fill the trailer and there is still more left in the carpark. Stuart stood on a few nails, punctured his thigh, pierced his hands with splinters and mentioned something about just coming to help with the painting – several times.

We broke him.

He didn’t go back to painting afterwards. He just let out a sigh and lay down.

I locked the gates to the carpark and hid the keys. I was sure he was considered doing a midnight flit back to Basildon and there was still painting to finish.

He was still here this morning. And I did and do thank him for his help.

In the meantime, I am going online to learn how to tell a funny story…

Fifteen and counting…

So there we have it. Fifteen weeks of gruelling effort and the property looks like a neglected squat. But to be fair I look similar!

But all is not as it seems. The big steel move last week proved successful and the property is still standing. Before I sleep at night I have that song going around in my head…you know the one about the bones but mine is about the property.

“The steel’s connected to the studwork.
The studwork’s connected to the wall plate
The wall plate’s connnected to the purlins…”

It lulls me to sleep. Surely this is what its like for every apprentice builder?

This week has seen the final wall demolished, even more floor joists installed along with chipboard flooring, and studwork built to shore up the leaning wall and start to define the rooms.

I have become a nogging champion! That is a real word – and no I have not missed an ‘s’ off the beginning! Those days are behind me !

All of this work means that apart from the roof, that the demolition stage has been completed – ish! A corner of the lounge, with curtains still intact, is as it was but this is more for security than necessity.

So what has been learnt and what is to come?

I have a load more words in my vocabulary and I know what they mean. I can’t wait for the challenges I will get playing Xmas scrabble with my family with all this new found knowledge.

I have muscles in my arms where before their girth was more aligned to comfort. Not suggesting the chicken wings have gone. Perhaps a little more like chicken thighs! I also have teeny, tiny little muscles in my fingers!

I was hoping this enormous effort would lead to weight loss but it seems there is nothing in this work (or any work for that matter) that assists my lack of personal willpower where chocolate bars are concerned. Pah!

I have three new body piercings. Not through choice but because I have occasionally, inadvertently, nailed myself to the property. This is a very real blood, sweat and tears effort.

The blood and sweat is obvious. Andy and Neil reassure me they will try better to control the tears when we re-start the project in 2020.

We are taking a Xmas break. Rob the roofer starts in January and then we start putting the property back together properly. The external render will be started. I am meeting the electrician and heating engineer during the first week of the new year to book them in for first fix. I have confirmed the underfloor heating and will be reviewing production of the stairs, windows and installation of the flue for the log-burner. The list of things not confirmed is still very long. Insulation, venting, kitchen, bathrooms, flooring, lighting, doors and more.

It will take as long as it takes…but my caravan dwelling days are going to be limited in 2020 – not least because I have to return it to its owners!

Merry Xmas to all That There Builder Girl blog followers. See you in 2020 !

The 12 weeks of renovation…

I am undecided if I have just endured the hardest 12 weeks of my life…or the most interesting. At moments time has flown…but not at 4am in the caravan when it’s wet and windy or when I have to empty the pee pot!

I miss some of my home comforts. Not being able to cook multi pan meals and bake. Not having a bed made up and ready for me to climb into. I also miss a flushing toilet and the constancy of never ending running water.

Surprisingly, I am pretty OK with not having a shower every day or only washing my hair or wearing makeup at weekends. I live in numerous layers of t-shirts and fleeces, jeans and thick socks. I am no longer embarrassed by my dressed state when I walk to the local shop for a pint of milk. I suspect I look like a hard-up bag lady, but I don’t care.

I don’t miss TV. I do miss my friends, book club and the golf club. Oh and my family.

What is good is the knowledge I am gaining and the excitement (yes) of seeing an empty space turn into a useable space. For instance I made a floor – a proper stand on it, jump up and down even dance on it floor and it may be there for hundreds of years! Obviously not on my own – Neil did the hard stuff – but even so who else can say that.

The Building Control man seems verily happy with our efforts and we communicate very well indeed. He is also very helpful and has a few pointers here and there but we are getting the relevant approvals as we meander along. It probably helps that his name is Stuart – also the name of my favourite (only) brother just returned from Australia.

Neil and Andy are coping admirably with their aged apprentice. Neil is now a puppy papa so he realises how easy it is to manage me now that he has an 8 week old pup in his household. Although to be fair, he’s never had to drop what he’s doing to run me outside! Nevertheless their patience is admirable.

We are doing some big stuff next week. The roof has seen better days. Imagine an old fella with a big beer belly but he needs to have a 6 pack to survive. That’s the job we’ve got with the roof. I have just ordered a load of timber – much of which has been specified by the structural engineer, Aurimas (one for all and all for one!. I know its the wrong spelling but I couldn’t resist it). Anyway, we have some seriously big pieces of timber to slip into the roof to boost its strength and make that 6 pack miracle happen.

My suppliers – mostly Travis Perkins and MKM – are really delightful and very helpful with my numerous questions. They also play golf so that helps!!

So that is it. 12 weeks done in a blink. Week 13 will soon arrive and I am so looking forward to carrying the 4.8m lengths of timber aloft my shoulder whilst climbing a ladder to the second floor whistling to the tune of “Hi Ho, Hi Ho…”

In the meantime I head back to Bristol for a weekend of wood-working (yes really) and a party to attend. If there is not yet a dance called The Woodchop or Renovation Wriggle – there will be by the early hours of Sunday morning!

Cheers.

Taking it all out…

Then putting it all back in again. That’s the builders life.

As an apprentice I obviously have limited experience. It makes me question my sanity at night when I am ensconced in my luxurious accommodation and I realise the process of renovation..

We have taken out more than 70 tons of flooring and have now put back the same sort of materials we took out up to the concrete level. To finish the floor we will be adding insulation and then screed. We have removed enough timber to build an enormous bonfire for local celebrations (yes…that is where the wood has gone), and we are now putting timber back in. I have not heard of which effigy will be sitting at the top of the bonfire but I have a few thoughts on that.

I have removed hundreds…nope, thousands of nails and in the last two days I have hammered a thousand clout nails into some joists. (Impressive use of proper terms there!)

But Neil assures me it’s all for the good of the job.

So what’s happening in Week 9?

We are building one of the dividing walls for the entranceway and to define the utility room and snug. When I say we I mean Neil and Andy. A couple of wall starter sets get the process going. The 4 inch concrete blocks look like what this girl knows as breeze blocks. But each one is super dense and incredibly heavy. Bringing them inside was about my limit. The concrete mixer in the carpark is a little bigger than my cake mixer at home…but same theory. To be honest the mix sometimes looks better than my home bakes too.

I have been dallying with another shorter end hammer drill. Removing the last of the stubborn plasterwork around the fireplace, etc. The corner bits come off in huge chunks as they are held together with metal mesh. As a result they are heavy. My left shoulder and arm now bear the scars of how heavy. Also removing even more nails….Did you know that it is possible to pull a nail with such strength that the hammer could fly back and may hit you on the head. Makes your eyes water and swear like you’re on the golf course!

One of the master bedrooms is having the ceiling raised to show off some of the old beams. This is where I have been a little more active. Go on…ask me a question. Go on. Go on. I know words now that I had never heard of before this project. Jiffy hanger. Threaded rod. M16 nuts. Could be the start of a racy novel. Watch this space.

And its been another week of meeting other trades for the ongoing need for quotations. All good people with varying skills. My knowledge of soil pipes is increasing substantially. I await their responses with hope.

Now I shall head home only to have to replace the boiler in my flat. Its pitying that they don’t make these things last like they used to (Do I sound like my mother?). This boiler can only be 25 years old. There is little rest for That There Builder Girl.

Rugby at the weekend. Watching, not playing just in case you were wondering. England vs All Blacks. (Hello my friends in New Zealand). Wales vs France (Hello my family in Wales).

England v Wales. Now that would be a good final now that Scotland aren’t playing.

ps…I know. I know. Its Wales vs South Africa. Can’t blame me for mistakes..I am a little worn out!