Hacking away at a house
This one's from coming up to Christmas 2019, just as we're finishing a bungalow renovation.
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. I 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.
Doing plenty of physical work is helping me keep fit.. I also 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.
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.
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.
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.
Before he succumbed Ian, my brother-in-law, struggled terribly 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......