Sunday, 25 December 2011
I've just been reading the absolutely gorgeous blog of the very talented and superlatively imaginative ric rac (http://ric-rac-uk.blogspot.com) and boy does the OPH one pale in comparison. Thanks, ric rac, for brightening up my day and giving me the pretty I need to get through the long, dark days of ickystickymud, coldretainingconcretewhichfreezestoes (tip: don't wear wellies on a building site in winter) and swathesofdirteverywhere.
Not that I'm complaining (much). To be honest, I couldn't be happier, considering I'm almost literally a pig in the mud at the moment: the weather's mild enough for us to be able to get on with the job with not one delay so far, and the progress has been brilliant thanks to a team of hardworking tradespeople and the best client in the world (aka my husband), who might be a slave driver but is as dedicated to the task - and skilled - as the professionals. Our suppliers have been incredibly helpful and accommodating of our budgetary restraints and finicky amends (lots of both) and my children have been admirably accommodating of my neglect of them over the past number of weeks. So thanks, everyone.
And thanks to my fabulous supporters. As always, keep up with the progress, feel free to write comments and offer advice (some creative ideas for space saving storage and colours would be great right now) and keep sending us good vibes. To date, the roof is more than half on, our wonderful brickie has built us a retaining wall and started on the lowest levels of outer leaf bricks, first fix electrics are in and plumbing started, and the most wonderful accidental find of a chippie has installed the fascias, bargeboards and soffits as well as all the internal noggins and door linings.
Next week we continue with the brickwork and plumbing so I'll post again then. Meanwhile enjoy your few days off. I know I will!
Friday, 2 December 2011
For those of you wanting more, come and see for yourselves (go on, you know you want to). Meanwhile, feast your eyes on MY NEW HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just three days of building and this is what it looks like already. We have another couple of days to go, and then next week begins the roofing, and the following week is dedicated to the plumbing and electrics. Today I walked through the ground level and plotted the light switches and plug points. I looked through the kitchen window on to the deck, through the living room window to gauge the evening light, imagined the flow and the placement of furniture and the parties we are going to be having there.
And for all the excitement over having walls up and a roof skeleton in place, it's the thought of a home filled with my people that is the most thrilling to me. So come. Now, next week, next year even. Just come.
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
I arrived back from South Africa yesterday morning (did you notice I'd gone?) to a steroid-charged wind and icy rain. My first thought was this: "Oh my goodness, why did I leave SA?" (It's summertime there; need I elaborate?) The second thought was this: "My house! My house!" We're running on a schedule tighter than Madge's abs and have literally not a day to spare if the weather turns nasty. Which is hilarious considering the time of year, but I'm notorious for living on the edge. So little wonder I was panicking about the progress of the timber frame erection.
But do you know what? Despite yesterday's tempest, the lovely people at Lowfield not only delivered the frame parts - and they are, I can assure you, many - but by the end of today a large portion of the frame is already up. Which serves to remind me that "wev" happens, my house is being built. It is! How frabjous is that? Great decision to go for timber frame over labour-intensive and weather-dependent traditional blocks: in just days the skeleton of the house will be installed. The roofer's organised, as is the brickie and everything else.
So, lovely Bri'ish weather (not to mention - although I shall - cash flow headaches), I say to you: Bring it on. Because, "wev", it's happening.
Check these out:
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Building our first house,
A sharp look at reality
Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
Scaffolding, cranes and towers of concrete blocks,
Because they're needed to erect the frame,
Bricks up high, footings low,
Any way the wind blows doesn't matter as long as there's
The roof is on,
Put the fascias on the eaves, added soffits
with some ease
Mama, work has just begun,
On cladding with some mortar and the bricks
Don't know how long it takes,
We're hoping we can start the screed tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on, before it freezes over
It's late, winter time has come,
Wind whistling through my spine,
body's aching all the time
Goodbye, ev'rybody, I've got to go,
Ignore my social life while I work all day and night
Time to fit the doors,
And the windows too to make us watertight
I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Electrician! Electrician! Will you do the first fix please?
Plumbing, flooring, plaster, all add to exciting
Kitchen choosing, then the bathrooms
Lay the heating, add the floorboards
Build the wardrobes, paint the walls - magnifico
We've never been so poor, our bank thinks it's a crime
We're mortgaged to the hilt, our assets on the line
Bur in the end we will have a house so fine!
Hard work yes, easy no, now please with me go
To take a look! Yes, we will with you go
(With you go!) Come with me! We will, yes, with you go
(With you go!) Come with me! We will, yes, with you go
(With you go!)) We will, yes, with you go
(With you go!)(Now we) Now we with you go
(With you go!) Now we with you go
(With you go!) Ahhh
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, we will go
Because it's done, the house is done, it's time for us to see, to see,
So you think I have chosen a fab, funky kitchen?
So you think we will love all the colours and lights?
Oh, baby, ain't this shower the business?
Windows are high class, door to the garage is just fine!
Nothing really matters,
Except that we love it,
Nothing really matters,
Except that we will love living here.
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Sorry ... a bit off the subject. The point is, I've spent a fortune on what goes into the ground but that's the important bit, right? An Alessi kettle would more than make up for the lack of kitchen or, indeed, paint, and with a splash of creativity we can still finish the house beautifully.
Now if only I could wave my magic wand over the large garage aperture and fill it with a timber, mechanised, insulated door that costs just £20. Well, a girl can dream, eh?
Here are some pics of the latest developments. Not as pretty as the kettles, I know, but I can't actually live inside a kettle. Pity.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Anyway, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Day one, tick. Problem one, tick. Sigh. The lovely foreman was philosophical about it while I jittered at the edge of the hole (and, it must be said, sanity by this stage) but we've hit our first problem. Problems, actually. Not only do they have to move the neighbour's water pipe, thereby having to cut the supply for a time which is short but not sweet for the neighbours, but the same neighbours' waste pipes are gushing into our property (rather than into a proper drain - how did that happen?) and we have to reroute them. I don't know the upshot yet but I can see my kitchen budget being swallowed into pvc piping.
Then there seems to be a discrepancy about the ffl (finished floor levels for those readers who haven't been through this already), my groundworker working to one a whole 75mm lower than the plans show and asking me to install that additional amount of insulation. Ummm, I don't think so, not at £28 per sheet of the stuff!
THEN he tells me he wouldn't ever touch liquid screed again after a disastrous first attempt with it. Do I listen? Do I spend four MORE hours online finding reviews? Yes, in fact I do.
But let's not panic. No, really, let's not. For what's the worst that can happen? As my yogi said the other day: There are only three things in life which are real - God, the universe and me; everything else, because it changes and is transient, is not real. So rather than panic, I'm going to stick with reality, for the first time in my life, and have another cup of tea.
Monday, 7 November 2011
In negotiation, there's a thing called BATNA - best alternative to negotiated agreement. In other words, if I don't get something out of the negotiation, where does that leave me? In your case: if I don't get this kitchen, where does that leave me? If I choose this wallpaper, where does that leave me?
Bearing in mind that 'nothing is so good it lasts eternally', you should probably just go with your gut. In your case, a well-informed and therefore very trustworthy one. Also: how happy does a kitchen counter make you if it's not filled with kids' lunches, birthday cupcakes and my mince pies? Get good, solid basics (they don't have to be the best as long as they are durable) and sort the rest out with accessories. Or something.
It ends where YOU decide it ends. Not necessarily because you are certain that there is something better (yet), but because you know that what you have chosen is good enough.
Now pour yourself a glass, willya, and relax! You'll make good decisions - not always great, perfect, fantabulous or perfect, but since when was good not good enough?
Okay, I'm done. Cheers!
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Well, for one thing they mean endless surfing (not of the marine variety, more's the pity), store visits, trade show attendances and talking. Talking about quality and warranties. Talking about prices and availability. Talking about suitability and discounts. Oh my goodness, if I had a penny for every hour I've spent doing my research for OPH, I could have paid off my mortgage already.
And that's the paradox of modern life, isn't it? On one hand, we have so much choice we are undoubtedly able to find exactly what we want for the price we can afford. Economics the only way I understand it. On the other hand, we spend so much time looking for a more suitable/cost effective alternative to the zillions we've already found, surely our stress levels reach combustible proportions? It's exciting, to say the least, to find the front door that makes your heart beat faster or a deal on wooden flooring to put a smile on your mortgage lender's face .
But where does it all end? Do I simply choose the nth one and draw a line under it? Do I toss a coin? Do I literally exhaust all options before making that all important decision or simply make one and stop looking (for fear of self recrimination)?
Seriously, I want to know.
Friday, 28 October 2011
Handles and splashbacks and taps with spray hosesWindows of wood and a front door so stylish
Candles with scent to delight all our noses
Showers and kettles and colour that zings
These are a few of my favourite things
Tiles, carpets, floorboards in textures delicious
Underfloor heating, the staircase's strings
These are a few of my favourite things
When the rain pours
And the snow falls
When they cause delays
I'll simply remember my favourite things
Wardrobes that fit under eaves between trusses
Dormers and roof lights and blinds without fusses
Pricey but gorgeous, the slate worktop sings
These are a few of my favourite things
Friends who help out with a paintbrush or hammer
Tradespeople working sans problem or murmur
Guests coming over, we're celebrating
That surely is my most favourite thing!
Nothing's been proved yet, but at the back of my mind since Tuesday when the lovely salesman/designer left (after two hours, which doesn't seem like a great ROI for his time, but anyway) has been the niggling thought that it's too good to be true. The spiel was right and I agreed to see him only after doing my research on the company, which turned up nothing negative. His design is spot on - and if nothing else I can apply it anywhere - and my philosophy was that if the units cost just a fraction of the cost of those elsewhere (and by 'elsewhere' I mean high street, not bespoke) then we could happily fork out for the fantabulous Welsh slate worktops we covet.
Anyway, Himself's just turned up a string of reviews about the company, which post evidence of them being less than savoury. Nothing suggests per se that we won't get the kitchen, but there are enough negative words written than make me wonder if it will ever turn up, and if it does if it will be worthy of being fitted in my lovely new home. I don't think I can spend the next couple of months worrying about it, particularly when I have a few other (probably more pressing) worries, such as the actual foundations and house.
So it's time to notch that one up to experience, and back to Ikea I go. Ho ho.
So! Weeks and weeks of being buried under paperwork and inside my Mac have resulted in a highly flammable project manager (moi), three children deprived of attention and a husband whose new favourite meal is pizza (concession: I buy them from Asda and add lots of fab toppings AND serve with a homemade salad, so don't shoot me). I have, in this time, revised part of the plans; approved the underfloor heating design; spent at least 17 gazillion hours online poring over kitchens, bathrooms, tiles and other flooring, fenestration and doors; found trades; had the water connected and arranged for the electricity and gas to be; and more.
I have discovered that not only is there an endless supply of absolutely everything, but also that I am unable to resist a bargain. For the former, the solution will be (when I have exhausted my patience, which surprisingly is yet to come) to draw a line under the work and choose - kitchen, bathroom bits (quelle surprise, I can't find a complete set at any one store), floors, doors, the works. This is going to be the toughest part of the job, I think, as at the back of my mind is a little person trying furiously to convince me that there's a better deal to be had just around the corner/on the next site down the google list. I'm determined to ignore him.
For the second problem, the one about being unable to resist a bargain, see my next post. Hey, gotta keep you keen, innit?
Saturday, 17 September 2011
Oh my goodness, it's hard to put into words (I know - you don't hear that often from me, do you?) the joy, relief and enthusiasm I feel, after so many months and so much anxiety and so many negative thoughts that have had to be forcibly banished. To say I'm thrilled would be like saying South Africa won the rugby this morning. To say I'm a little nervous would be like claiming that England's a little wet this autumn.
Sorry, clearly my emotions are wrecking my ability to hold down an intelligent diatribe.
Suffice, for the time being, to say that the work really starts now. The fence is up (tick), the water connection's planned for next week (large tick) and this weekend's going to be filled with ordering plants and getting my suppliers lined up, in theory anyway.
Yay! Or maybe, just this once, I'll allow myself a little stylistic licence and say: YAAAYY!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Whaaaaat? When does THAT ever happen? I couldn't believe it - not that it's worth more than a couple of quid but that someone had been so, well, NICE! After beaming all the way home, I burst through the door intending to tell my visiting Mum about my little experience, but before I did I tore open an envelope that had just arrived through the letterbox, to find a beautiful handmade card (see below). Inside it reads: "Welcome to Shenley. Hope everything goes well with your building and you enjoy living here." and is signed by the family members from a few doors down, whom we met a few weeks ago when they nipped over to say a cheery hello.
Do I feel welcome? NOW I do! Was my day made? You bet it was.
Wednesday, 31 August 2011
Forgive me if I offend anyone, but is human need not more important than that of animals'? Is it, in plain English, not more important that I provide a place to rest the heads of my loved ones than retain a very small piece of wildlife sanctuary. I'd argue no if this sanctuary were mid-urbanity and it was the only place for our feathered and furry friends to live and play. But this is Milton Keynes, where 26 parks and woodlands provide space for the city's 22 million trees, swathes of hedgerow and sprawling shrubbery. Zero point zero zero three (yes, it really is that small) hectares of bramble being removed is not going to flummox the local creatures.
Well, perhaps two: the objectors. Nimbyism at its worst. I mean, seriously, did they consider before they bought their house the cats, birds and hedgehogs that might have lived on that plot prior to the bulldozers moving in? Probably not, otherwise they'd be living in a 'van on the site rather than in their watertight, heated little enclave.
Which is exactly the sort of choice I've made for my family. So nyaahhhhhhh.
Sunday, 28 August 2011
Or so I thought. For yesterday - a mere 12 days, all be they rainy ones - later, I was there again, pulling up new growth. Granted, my initial attempt had been rather frenzied and I, obviously, didn't manage to remove the roots. Still. Who woulda thunk it? Pristine, fresh-faced little shoots popping up from below the surface, grinning maniacally at me. I have to admit, I was torn. The half that won (on the grounds of practicability) was the bit that knew that they had to go, to make way for the new planting. The half that was subverted was that which wondered at the tenacity of life. Isn't it incredible that, a JCB and my vicious hands wielding - variously - a fork, trowel and shears (and more than a little enthusiasm) were not enough to quell the spontaneous combustion of life? And even after yesterday marathon effort, for which my back and wrists will no doubt suffer for weeks to come, I can assure you that the next time I visit I'll see new shoots peeking through.
Isn't life astounding? It really does pain me to kill the blighters, but the reasonable nemesis of my tree-hugging self, thankfully, prevails in this case. Nevertheless, I'm awed by their ability to thrive in the most extreme conditions. And isn't this true of human life too? Think most of Africa - how on earth do women with a body fat percentage of 2 manage to reproduce, when the Western world struggles to fall pregnant at optimum health levels? How does someone with, apparently and medically, no hope manage to claw themselves back from death's door? Or step away from it suddenly, at the last minute, when all seemed lost and it seemed the only option? Is our life force, and that of our fellow living beings, so strong?
And if so, why are we not following the call of this strength and living life to its absolute max? In my case, that means shunning the reasonable and reaching for another glass of Merlot, booking another holiday we can't afford, spending Sunday afternoon playing Monopoly with the midgets. C'est la vie. Thank God.
Friday, 26 August 2011
But am I alone in thinking that there are moments for silence, moments that really do not need to to filled unless it's by something interesting, profound, funny or uplifting? I'm talking about people who feel the need to say something - anything, in fact. "Oh" is my personal nemesis: it brings me out in a cold sweat. What, exactly, does "oh" add to the conversation or my own enlightenment? As far as I can see, if you have nothing interesting to add, don't say anything. Don't be afraid of not commenting - surely it's not expected? For example, I say "It's raining." Do you really have to say "Yes, it is" or (worse) launch into a diatribe on the local climate? If I'm washing a pot, do you need to say "Oh, you're washing the pot"? Why say anything at all (unless it's "I'll do that for you")?
What do you say to that?
Sunday, 21 August 2011
In them ol' days, as my nan used to say, people were naturally fit and strong from good, honest physical work - usually housework and laundry for the lasses, leaving the men to tackle the building, gardening and so on. Now, of course, we have an abundance of cash so we can pay other people to do those things AND still afford exorbitant gym memberships in order to keep heart-healthy. Since I'm plumbing every last penny into this new build, perhaps it's a good thing, then, that I enjoy the labour!
Speaking of which - I need to go and finish the job of eradicating the brambles. Taraa!
Thursday, 18 August 2011
Let me explain. I'm sure that erecting a fence in the middle of a farm field would take a morning. Dig a hole, stick in a fence post, fill the hole up with concrete and then screw a fence panel on to the post. Repeat till the fence is complete. We, however, were not in the middle of a farm field - this fence had to be erected along the same line a long-dead fence had once stood AND where a line of trees had been last week.
Yes, I know, ridiculous! Anyway, hours (literally, and mostly in the rain) of chiselling away great big globs of cement (three), axing into oblivion roots and stumps (seven) and using every muscle in our bodies (too many to mention); abandoning the earth auger which I'd hired to simplify the job because it simply didn't work in the clay soil; hand digging 45cm deep holes then doing the post-concrete-fence panel process described above - and we have a fence. Yay!
Except that, although it's precisely plumb in every direction, it doesn't follow a perfectly straight horizontal line because of having to avoid obstacles, and the client (aka Himself) is unhappy.
So back we go this weekend to make slight adjustments. Just the job for a body which feels as though it's been put through a mangler. At least it's sunny.
Friday, 12 August 2011
Gasp! you say. Libel! you smirk. Probably. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. They're all the same, but like other halves you can't live with them can't live without them. Mortgage lenders won't deal with you directly - probably because they've all formed strong friendships with the legal eagles as they all went to the same don't-have-a-clue-about-time-management-and-become-an-expert-in-stretching-out-the-conveyancing-process school. And have you ever tried to do your own local searches on a property? No one will give you the time of day unless you have LLB written after your name.
I say it's all part of the global plot to discredit the person in the street. No one's allowed to do anything anymore unless they're a 'specialist'. Seriously. I'm waiting for someone to come along and fire me from motherhood because I don't have a degree in it. I've hired the one builder who didn't laugh when I told him I wanted to do much of the physical work and all of the project management myself.
I also wanted to do my own conveyancing. But that, sigh, is another story.
Anyway, a day later and the small gang had ripped, cut, sawn, chipped and dug this small patch of panoramic mayhem into a relatively level, completely bare piece of earth. And can I picture my future home on this spot? NOW I can! Tomorrow I'm taking my tape measure, tent pegs and spool of string and I'm gonna stake me out a dwelling.
Of course, all this thrill doesn't come without its downside. We were treated to several askance looks and a few choice comments once the hedgerow had been removed. Hopefully, a perky newsletter informing the neighbours of our plans with the promise of the imminent planting of a healthy, attractive, native, wildlife-encouraging hedgerow will be enough to get them on side. Once I'd explained that we're not, in fact, rich developers of the last wedge of land in Shenley Brook End and that we plan to build a family home, they seemed placated.
Never easy, is it?
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Okay, back to my favourite subject: My House. Isn't it just FABulous? I'm building a HOUSE! Now I want to stress here that my excitement's generated by just two things. Firstly, I'm in the minority. I mean, really, how many people do YOU know who've built their own house? Secondly, I'm just the excitable type! Yes! Really!
Sorry, that's far too many exclamation marks for one post. It's just that I'm, well, I think you know: excited. (Did you pick up on that?) This won't be the home I die in (at least, that's not my intention, but it does depend on how long the council take to approve my plans and how much the electricity department charges me) but it is my first attempt, it is the culmination of years and months and weeks and hours and minutes of dreaming and it is, essentially, the fruit of my labour. Not quite akin to the production of my three children but ... well, let's face it ... probably a lot more rewarding, at least for the first 18 years.
Did I say that out loud?
And the realisation of a very, very old dream. Eek! Am I a house builder? Yes! I am!