Saturday, 28 January 2012


Not the kind big corporations have, the game. Or, specifically, the piles of 'money' we use to play the game. It's what I've come to realise this week is my OPH fund. Here I am, spending hours trawling the shops and 'net to find bargains, save a tenner here and maybe £50 there (yay for me), when all of a sudden along comes a completely unexpected expense that blows the whole idea of budgeting out of the water. Whoever said, "save the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves" clearly hadn't ever built their own house. Put another way, whoever said that can bite me.

Let me explain the Monopoly money analogy. A few months ago we started digging out the foundations for the house, foundations which ought to have rendered a house at level X, resulting in us being able to connect to the public sewer very easily and for a cost of just a few hundred pounds. Dodgy engineer + inattentive architect + inexperienced me = foundations lower than necessary and the need to connect to the sewer at a different place, and at a significantly higher price. We're talking something like £10K, people. Yes, it stings. Yes, I'm shaken. No, not even glimpses of my beautiful door and oak feature frame can make me smile now. I've been told this week I'm too dramatic. Can you forgive me, considering?

And can you understand the reference to Monopoly money? What's the point of scrimping on worktops and flooring when the derriere's been blown out of our potential profit? I say bring on the prime walnut and the reclaimed oak, let's have the range cooker and the long-coveted Smeg retro fridge. Hell, bring on the bespoke kitchen while we're at it.

And if I'm going to be a drama queen - and I really, really am - then I demand the delivery and immediate installation of the Priscilla mirror ball to its rightful resting place: dangling sumptuously from the newly boarded ceiling above the oak staircase.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A week I'm glad is over

Mr Murphy has a lot to answer for. The man's infamous law has reigned over my life this week, and boy am I glad it's Saturday. It's one of those fabulous days - wet, windy and chilling - and yes that is me describing it as 'fabulous' because this kind of weather simply demands a quiet day indoors. We did venture down to the site this morning to take the menfolk their vittels, but since pm time the small ones have been snuggled up watching Harry Potter which has given me much needed time to catch up with letter writing, paperwork and the offloading of my heart, aka this blog.

So, here beginneth the offloading: It's been a tough week. Four out of 13 window openings incorrectly sized by our contractors. Our brickie made a hash of the front wall - it would be the front, wouldn't it, not an obscure spot round the back - and has been unable to finish the small gable end which has further delayed the roofer. The garage door delivery (paid for months ago, might I add) is delayed further. The builder's merchant van broke down en route to us with an urgent delivery, I've waited a week for parts for our MVHR system and been fobbed off daily by the earnest salesman who really needs to learn a lesson in customer service. I've spent HOURS on ebay buying bathroom components; finding bits that I can both afford and fit into three tiny spaces has been (marginally) harder than finding the will to live lately.

And then this morning I discovered that one of the doors has been made to open the wrong way. Not entirely the end of the world, but after five and a half days variously barking orders, smile-grimacing through clenched jaws in an attempt to keep my true feelings under control, juggling responsibilities and emotions, crisscrossing Milton Keynes and the nation's phone wires, I took the news rather badly: I uttered several choice words and shed more than a few tears of frustration on the way home. But then, something odd happened. My mojo, not known as the most stable influence in my life, upped and left, and my heart just shut down. House? What house? For the rest of today, at least, I couldn't care less about the house. As my mum would say: I've had it in chunks!

But just in case I find my mojo sometime soon, let me say these things: The wonderfully resourceful Dave has managed to solve most of the fenestration problems, the brickie's on site this weekend trying to regain ground (and, presumably, my trust), the weather's been mild enough to allay mortar freeze fears, the doors at least fit. And my new front door is absolutely STUNNING! I had another sneak peek this morning through the dust sheet and my heart sang. Just for a second.

The pics are of the door (sigh) and inside Matthew's bedroom, his ill-fitting window languishing as usefully as a chocolate teapot. Maybe I should stick it on ebay.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Not my favourite task. I know some who live for sparkling floors, gleaming kitchens and furniture beeswaxed to within an inch of its life. To be honest, I would love a home that looks like that; I'm just not prepared to spend half of my week making the dream come true. So far we all seem healthy enough sharing our home with a little dust, the odd cobweb and evidence of busy people scattered all over the place!

I did, however, spend yesterday afternoon sweeping dirt, mud, nails, offcuts of wood, unidentifiable pieces of metals, snots (that's dried bits of mortar for those of you not yet au fait with the fabulously descriptive lexicon of builders) and sawdust out of the frame and off the floor of our new house. No doubt by the end of today, when Greg and Dave (our lovely builder friend who's come over to the frozen north from sunny Naples to help us out and who is worth his weight in diamond-encrusted lutetium) have finished installing the mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system there will be a huge mess to clear but for now, at least, the inside is clean, which seems to make all the impending work all the easier to manage.

Work on site isn't terribly easy at the moment. (For my non-UK readers: the mornings start at around -4 and max temps are 4 or 5 in the sun, probably zero or less inside the house.) A mere three hours there yesterday left me with hands so cold it took a full five minutes in the shower to be able to feel them. The menfolk are clearly much hardier than I, the proverbial summer child. It's been a long time since I felt truly warm. In November I escaped the breaking winter for a week when I popped over (as one does) to South Africa to enjoy the wedding of my little brother, Julian, to his love Theresa. I spent the weeks before I left looking forward not only to meeting my new sister in law, her daughter Willow and her family, but also to a week of sunshine and strappy tops.What I got was a week of the most unseasonable chilliness ever felt on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal (the week before it was 25, the weeks that followed have been in the 30s; harumph) and borrowed cardies. It is, however, entirely possible that the sun was overshadowed that week by the radiance of the bride and the brilliance of the whole occasion. I enjoyed three days of relaxed, happy, getting-to-know-you time and now the Farrows are part of the delightful Dennis/Herd clan, complete with three new cousins for my brood.

But I still haven't had my warmth quotient, which is why I'm counting the days till 1 March, when winter is officially over. Also, I'm determined to move us all into our new house that month, so the hard graft really starts now. Tick tock. Meanwhile, check out the awesome roof and oak feature frame:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Yes, yes, I do realise it's a little late but time hath flown.

Frabjous start to 2012 in the form of a delightful party thrown by my friends Sarah and Nick - the ultimate hosts - and shared with me by my twin sister (who surprised me in a rather frabjous way by popping over the continental divide for a Christmas treat and a lot of Australian wine), small people sneaking in and out to join in enthusiastically and superbly with the karaoke and dancing (a la X Box), and rather a lot of wine. No resolutions made, no regrets but many lessons learned in 2011 on which I hope to rely in order to make 2012 a good one.

I also discovered the following last year:
- I have the best husband ever known to mankind (hold the comments - it's my blog and I'll brag if I want to) who is not only a constant rock on which I tend to lean very heavily (and that's even pre-Christmas pig-outs) but is a talented and very welcome contributor to both the project management of our build and the practical bits; he sees things I would never see, is a willing and able chippie - he installed our flat roof, people! - and took over the entire shindig (and that includes endless, seemingly insurmountable problems) for most of the season, during which I was distracted by (see below), school plays, Christmas prep yada yada
- glee! - thanks to my twin sister (afore-mentioned) who made the "unreality" introduction that has spanned two years and made my entertainment world (and yes, I know I sound culturally deprived - I am ... any takers to be my concert-going partner?)
- second guess even the most experienced bricklayers, architects and structural engineers
- you can get discounts by asking nicely
- you can make serious mistakes project managing a new build with absolutely no experience whatsoever
- you can't ignore any offers of help, particularly child minding and cooking
- my children - despite being ignored in favour of bargain-hunting, site visits and long telephone calls and being fed a steady diet of fishcakes and pasta, not necessarily simultaneously - are forgiving and (apparently) still love me
- Milton Keynes Council's Planning Department people are very slow but not out to get you
- wine is a temporary but incredibly welcome relief from the constant pressure
- my followers have boosted my self confidence more than I can say

Okay, I'll stop now. Have a frabjous year!