Hacking away at a house
This one's from coming up to Christmas 2019, just as we're finishing a bungalow renovation.
Two and a half years on, bits are just beginning to drop off, so we'll be off on a refurb any time.
OK, here’s what we've been up to..... a bit of a saga from Working Lavatory Productions.
Been a bit tied up for a while so communication has been rather lacking.
Basically I enjoy writing this stuff that nobody reads. So here’s a bit more.
It is a communal communiqué.
(I decided not to use the term round robin in deference to my brother-in-law, who is called Robin. He is not particularly round but can be sensitive.)
The only people with whom I am prepared to communicate on an ad hoc basis are the butcher and the cheese man so if anyone wants personal communication they must either contact me direct or respond to this lot........
A festive ditty:
Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat
the turkey’s watching what he eats so not to look like that
but neither will a quarry be, the turkey nor the goose
'cause the vegan lot from down the road have set the buggers loose.
We decided we’d had enough of stairs so bought a knackered bungalow. When we started renovations last April the aim was to have some of the family round for Christmas dinner.
Fortunately we didn’t specify which year.
The man in the moon has peered through his monocle many times. Sometime bright when things went well, sometimes with slit-eyed malevolence when they didn’t. Like when we discovered some rotten floor joists..... sigh. He witnessed the ups and downs of an old git dealing with a dysfunctional skill-set and a creaking body.
But lo, against the odds, the last pile of rubble sits on the drive in a skip, the heating is working (temporarily?) and water flows pretty much where it’s supposed to. Yes, we have the odd dribble ….. but this is not the time to explore personal issues.
So, coming towards Christmas 2019 just the snagging list remains. It’s quite a long one and we don't have long to tick them off. If I lump them together and tackle them a dozen at a time we may, just may, be able to sit down with a nut roast and box of Merlot come 25/12. If we can afford chairs and a table that is. Although I have a plan in that context. A makeshift table will be formed from a load of tool boxes and a wallpaper pasting table with a cloth over it. If we can afford a cloth.
Along the way, during our amble down Restoration Avenue, Jan I have have grown as a couple. Mostly apart. (Not really, it’s great to share a dream. We both work hard at it. It’s not easy at times but then if the best things came easy they wouldn’t be half as sweet).
One relationship has suffered though....
I fell out with my westerly (and elderly) neighbour because one of my delivery lorries knackered her drive. It think it had previously been resurfaced by a group of ‘roving travellers’ because the quality of finish is poor and the substrate non-existent. We discovered the driveway’s shortcomings when my lorry reversed over a corner of it and created something approaching a sink-hole. It was almost large enough to swallow my neighbour in her entirety as she put her bins out, bin and all. I suppose she was entitled to a grumble. We made up again when I repaired a door for her, then a wall light, then her gate, then her shed door........ as long as I work my fingers to the bone we shall remain the best of neighbours.
To the east is a lady with whom I have never had a disagreement. Because we are yet to meet. I jest, she is a very pleasant lady who is both tolerant and encouraging of our endeavours. It may conjure up an image of the type of person she is when I tell you she is wheelchair-bound (due to a long-standing condition), works daily at her daughter’s nursery and not long ago flew over the Grand Canyon in a small plane. She is forthright, gets on with stuff and I like her.
We’ve had some superb tradesmen in doing the jobs I am unable or unwilling (or too knackered) to tackle. The extension from ground up for example. Multi-trades and all good. Then a new roof (3000 tiles) and rendering round the back. There are some seriously skilled people out there. (There have also been one or two who won’t be invited back). There are also some very genuine people. The roofers for example were a happy crew who set up their own catering facilities in our garage including a microwave, kettle and mini gas cooker. Each day they brought ingredients for a proper lunch, such as steak, sausage and various veggies in cool boxes. They were proud of the work they did and went the extra yard as a consequence. I saw first hand the joinery skills that go into a new trussed roof. I learned a bit about valleys, dry ridges and verges. A very good job.
I’ve got a good crew of sparkies, a good tiler and an experienced plumber I can call on in times of strife.
Me, I’ve done some stuff too. There are some photos if you want to look....
We’re at the point of testing things out. Both the roof and new windows are weather-tight, the English autumn tested them. The things I’ve done are the nerve-wracking bits, like plumbing, heating etc. It’s a good job I’ve got octopus-like capabilities so I could tackle all the dribbly leaks. Just two nagging ones remain at crucial points too, right where the new feed joins the underfloor heating manifold. The problem is I have nobody to blame but myself. Today may see them cured (fingers crossed there is nothing untoward happening below the floorboards). I’ve bought a tub of leak-prevention stuff that ‘never fails’ so tomorrow should be time to ditch the waterproof slippers (or flippers??)
By close of play yesterday only one leak remained. I’ll find out later this morning if I’ve sorted it.
…....no I haven’t, damn it!
But I have another plan.... I’ll find out later this morning if that’s worked.... and ….
Yes it has!!
So, how’s the health? Doin' fine.
‘You might feel a slight prick,’ says Smaug, my dragon, er... diabetic nurse, when I went for my annual blood test.
Actually I feel a big prick. I’ve all but wrecked my own health. I could use more forthright language than ‘wrecked’ but, well anyway.......
I’m doing OK overall but I’ve ended up with upside-down legs! I’ll explain that later.
Our grandchildren are blossoming, now five and three. Actually it’s six and nearly four – see how fast they grow! We helped a friend celebrate three-score and ten and another friend died. In addition Jan has begun to draw her pension. A mixed bag I think you’ll agree (that’s our year, not my wife) but overall encouraging.
Don’t take what I say about my health as looking for sympathy or nagging, it isn’t. I relate it merely in the hope that it sits in the back of your mind somewhere and helps you stay well. Even if you just scan through perhaps it will plant a seed.
I have a much simplified diet which so shopping is quicker nowadays. I can scoot past at least half the aisles in the supermarket. Of course, some aisles I’d already ignored, like the ladies clothing aisle (usually) or the baby food one, but others, like crisps and snacks and the frozen food section, I now steer straight past. After you’ve avoided the cheese and onion crisp aisle once.......... it’s even more difficult next time. Sigh again.
Most of you, those who like a bargain anyway, wait for Black Friday to pick up a cheap TV or vacuum cleaner. I keep an eye on the price of vegetables and eagerly await the moment to pitch in and buy a bargain sack of sprouts.
In addition to the physical work I do, I take three one-mile walks a day with the dog. That’s three separate miles, morning, noon and eve. If I try and do three all in one go my legs get sore and my backside goes numb. Having said that, I think I’m walking better now, two and a half years on. I can do a mile at a brisk pace without too much discomfort, part of it uphill. I certainly couldn’t do that a couple of years ago.
Boringly I take the same route at similar times. The early morning potter starts at 06:00 (very military) so for much of the year it’s still dark. I don my head torch and for twenty minutes my world is restricted to a four-foot pool of light. I walk through the park, past a school, past a gloomy manor house before going down a tree-arched lane. I hear night owls and the very earliest morning birds and sometimes see a roe deer. When I turn right onto the final third-of-a-mile stretch across the playing fields I see the eyes of three or four foxes reflecting in my headlight. The dog goes potty chasing scent-trails. Without a shadow of doubt this is the best time of day because there is nobody there to spoil it. Just ask the foxes, who frolic till I ruin it.
Though every step is inevitably a step nearer my demise, it’s also paradoxically a step towards avoiding it. When first diagnosed I was frightened. I could imagine the reaper, in the gloom of the pre-dawn, peering down from the trees on the hill to my left. Today I march past determined to deny him another soul.
I’ve worked out that three miles a day is roughly a thousand a year. So in the two and a half years since I saw the surgeon I’ve walked from Lancashire to Barcelona and back then headed north and have just turned round at John O Groats for the return trip. I bought some walking boots at the start and the have just started letting water in so they’ve done OK. Bad timing though, the finances are in tatters because of the house renovation. I may have to have wet feet for a while. When I get back from the far north I think I’ll head virtually west and visit Galway, a place I vaguely remember my dad singing about fifty years ago. Perhaps I can find his trickling trout stream and see the sun go down over the bay.
Thinking about my route, I could divert to Stranraer and go straight to the Emerald Isle, thereby avoiding the trudge over Shap summit on the M6. I’m not trying for short cuts, more fulfilling a dream quicker so I can begin another walking adventure. I’d quite like to reach St. Petersburg, the ‘city of white nights’. See, I’m looking forward.
OK, this is where the upside down legs come in. I used to have chunky thighs through cycling. Since I’ve started ‘power walking’ (ahem) my thighs have toned and slimmed. Quite feminine really, I’ll soon be able to wear Jan’s tights. However, the effort of propelling my body up a couple of hills has meant my calves have ballooned to the point where their circumference is now greater than my thighs. I can do some modelling. The top half of my legs for fishnets, the lower for steroidal muscle supplements.
The reason for the punishing schedule is for me to develop new blood vessels in my legs. ‘If it hurts, just carry on for a bit,’ said the doc. ‘It’ll help.’ So I do.
All this walking is all well and good but....... two days ago I had a glimpse of what the future may hold. It was the morning following an evening when Jan had served me up a delicious curry. I was in the latter stages of my walk, just passing fox territory, when I realized I needed the loo. I was experiencing a touch of intestinal uncertainty. I shouted at the dog to keep up and put on a spurt of speed. I was walking (at some pace I might say) past a row of bungalows when I developed a huge cramp in the back of my thigh. So needing the loo but unable to proceed I was bent double effing and blinding by torch-light in the middle of a field. My hope is that none of the elderly inhabitants was having an early morning cigarette on their patio, the shock of my raving could well have been life-threatening.
There was little sympathy from the bloke fitting our new blinds when I related the story later in the day, quite the opposite in fact, he’ll probably be dining out in my misfortune for months.
One other thing we did this year is visit Whitby. If they build the threatened school in front of our new house we’ll sell up and bugger off, even after all the months of toil. I’ve always fancied living on the coast so we headed east to have a look. I liked it, despite the steep hills. Jan decided she couldn’t live there though, ‘smells of fish,’ she said.
Have a lovely Christmas etc. etc.
Medical stuff and other bits if you’re bothered.......
My blood tests incorporate a battery of tests. Luckily this year they came back AA (see that?! Battery of tests! AA! ‘Is there no beginning to your wit’, asked my brother the other day as he was painting my lavatory ceiling).
What reasonable results mean is that there are limited areas where Smaug can take me to task.
My bloods this time were OK despite consuming a ‘hearty’ quantity of red wine accompanied by a regular mound of peanuts. In addition I eat meat, of all colours, from white to black, depending on who’s cooking. Plus masses of veg. Perhaps the blood results are OK because of my intake of wine. After all they’re always saying how good for you it is. Perhaps I’ve found a diet that is the very elixir of life, Nuts and Merlot.
After all nutrition begins with ‘nut’ doesn’t it?
Having said that, diet begins with ‘die’, which is less encouraging.
Here, up north, ‘T’ usually refers to evening meal, often involving chips or pizza. So whoever stuck ‘T’ at the end of ‘Die’ really was having a larf! Northern humour at it’s best.
Smaug couldn’t help but notice that I was slimmer than she, perhaps that’s why she was so haughty when she couldn’t find a pulse in my feet. ‘Perhaps the machine’s faulty,’ she haughted, haughtily, with an evil look in her eye and fire in her breath.
Flounce she went. ‘See you in six months,’ she said.
So, narrower, I returned to the big wide world.
My tests are diabetes based but they also encompass all sorts of other minor bits, like liver and kidneys. In most people internal organs beaver away battling to process all the stuff we ingest, often crap. Type 2 diabetes is possibly an indication that, over the years, I’ve overdone the less good stuff. It’s not necessarily just my pancreas that’s overstretched, hence all the tests.
Look out, here’s a technical bit.......
The main test is called the HbA1c. The results indicate that above 49 your are diabetic, between 42 and 49 you are pre-diabetic and below 42 you are non diabetic. Mine is 43, so I’m not quite normal and only a bit pre-diabetic, which is better than when I first got tested thirty months ago when I was well over 50 and a full blown Type 2 diabetic. I was also fat, pissed and being measured for a (large) funeral suit.
In fact I was on the bus on the way to get fitted for my suit when I was told by a vascular specialist that my arteries were buggered. A taxi screeched up and waved down the bus. I was bundled into the taxi and whisked away to the tailors in case I died before I’d paid the deposit.
I’m actually on a low very carb diet, just about keto in fact. I made changes when diagnosed because I was frightened. I had a fear of losing things, like feet or sight or life. To date nobody will persuade me that I should return to the ‘healthy plate’ suggested by the NHS which contains too much sugar (for me). To make it worse these ‘healthy’ concoctions are compiled by some naggy Australian dietician who’s inflection rises at the end of each phrase to REALLY get on your tits.
I still can’t persuade my diabetic nurse that vin rouge is medicinal and lifting a 3-litre box four times an evening is good for the heart, they are about 3 kilos after all (when full, which is usually only for a short while).
My diet basically means I don’t eat sugar. More accurately I avoid anything that is turned into sugar in my body (carbs) between mouth and exit portals further south.
Before he succumbed I watched my brother-in-law struggle in a legless, ruined body. That is my incentive to keep going. It’s all in the back of my mind, and frankly it’s not nice. To keep it at the back I try really hard to move forward.
It took nearly a year for Jan to decide where but we finally scattered his ashes and said cheerio for the final time last month.
We renovated Ian’s house after he died (it was Jan’s family home too) – which was largely untouched for sixty years so it was back to bare walls in many places. While working on that (which was necessity rather than choice) we bought the bungalow on which we’ve worked for 9 months.
Time for a break.......