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!


Every girl needs some personal protection…

Building sites are dangerous. Already knew that but for an apprentice like me, they are doubly dangerous. Thankfully, Neil and Andy have been very good at directing my work effort ensuring I do things right and don’t put myself in harm.

And of course, I am covered from head to toe in PPE (personal protective equipment). It’s never going to be glamorous but it’s a definite must.

Goggles. The first set I purchased were not so useful. Building work is sweaty and dirty and the goggles regularly steamed up. Not very practical particularly when working up a ladder. So I upgraded to a different set and they are considerably better, and more comfortable. Purchased from Screwfix.

Face mask. The choice is enormous and complicated. Initially, I took advice from Travis Perkins – my local builders merchant. Purchased a twin pick of respirator moulded masks with valves . How naive of me. The work is so filthy I need a fresh mask every day. I then purchased a 10-pack out of necessity when in Screwfix (buying a first aid kit and eye wash kit). They didn’t feel as comfortable nor as effective as the first pack. Now I am using another pack of 10 purchased when back at Travis Perkins. The key thing is to make sure you have a valve on them (round plastic bit) and it can mould around your nose/cheeks. It filters out the gunk in the air so that you don’t breathe it in. I do sound like an extra in Star Wars but its worth it.

Gloves. Apprentice girl has small hands. Builders are (generally) men so the glove size option was limited to Large, X-Large, etc, but again Travis Perkins came to the rescue – and I cannot fault the gloves. Mine are called MaxiFlex Ultimate. Hands stay cool, no piercings despite dealing with tons of nails, shards of wood etc. Although they are still slightly too large, they are elasticated so they don’t feel loose. What is clear, is that they have saved considerable damage to my hands. The only cut on my hands to date is when I didn’t put the gloves on (and it hurt!).

However, the gloves do not stop the growth of calluses. Yes that is how hard I am working. My hands are no longer the pampered tools of my past. My next hand-holding romantic moment is going to be interesting!

As a side note on hands, they dry out incredibly fast in this environment and standard hand cream barely makes a difference. Andy recommended Teisen Skin Care from Mole Valley Farmers. It works…but be warned, its use is also recommended for cows and goats udders and horses legs. I am ONLY using it on my hands!

Boots. Oh my, how important are they. I bought my steel capped boots from an online store called Footloose Shoe Shop for £31. Not only are the seriously comfortable, I have felt nothing untoward happening to my feet despite the dropping of tools, bricks and a hammer drill on my tootsies – as well as standing on hundreds of nails. I love these boots. They are off the scale brilliant and worth every penny.

Ear defenders. Have you got any idea how loud a Breaker is. I didn’t. You can’t stay in the same vicinity if you aren’t wearing ear defenders. Travis Perkins had an end of line bin. I got mine from the bin . They seem to be the perfect fit bearing in mind I have a little head and tiddly ears! Am not sure they would fit a bigger head! Not sure Travis Perkins still sell them either but Amazon do if you need a pair to match mine!

I also have a hard hat and a yellow vest. Useful for my next French holiday after the building project finishes.

So there it is I am protected – mostly. Other than both my legs, arms and my entire torso which is smothered in bruises, mini cuts and tiny little holes made by terribly sharp objects.

Off to the Doctors now to get my tetanus shot!