Monday, 28 May 2012

Some gems of mine

By gems I mean friends, those who add much needed sparkle to my sometimes lacklustre life. To you, I say a long overdue thank you, for these reasons:
* When I've desperately needed extra time to work on the new house without small people around, thank you for taking them, even if only for a few hours, to give me the chance to work furiously and to give them a much more interesting afternoon than they would otherwise have had (i.e. trying not to cut their legs on something or, literally, watching paint dry).
* On that note, thank you to my children for your patience, and for showing me that you are indeed capable of amusing yourselves and each other amicably; this knowledge will hopefully keep me sane during those times when you don't.
* When I've had enough of paint fumes and drinking lukewarm flask tea, thank you to those who have either brought me something delicious to consume or who have taken me out - actually out of the house, yes, really - and reminded me what normal people do on a Friday night.
* To all of you who have oohed and aahed and texted and told other friends about the house - thank you thank you thank you; you have unwittingly lifted me out of a bad place, even with a simple "oh, I love this" and endorsed our slog and financial mire.
* And a special thank you this week to the friends who have given gifts - the cutest pot plant in the world and a raffia heart, a bottle of bubbly, and the most surprising gift of all from Lisa, who has given me a car; I know you think it has nothing to do with the house, but in fact it has because we used our car fund to buy drains (wouldn't you have?) and I was facing forcing small legs to cycle up to 10 miles a day before Lisa's incredibly generous and thoughtful offer came.

We're nearly there, everyone. We move this weekend into our brand spanking new house! Still lots to do outside so we'll throw that massive bash you're all waiting for once that's done, but please please do come and have a look. And feel free to ooh and aah as much as you like!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Drains and weeds

Is there anyone out there whose life is like a ride on the Orient Express, first class? Hop on, go straight to the dining car when you're handed a glass of chilled Chablis by a bow-tied waiter, sit back and let the train chug gently along the track? If there is, I'd love to hear from you; in particular I'd like to know if it all just comes naturally or if there is something you have to do to achieve this state of ease. Because for me, following the same metaphor, life is more like a ride on one of those little mini locomotives they use for the ghost train: too small for a grown up, lashes from side to side and up and down without warning, winds around and through sometimes hair-raising situations, and if you lean too much one way or the other you'll fall out.

Not that it's a general complaint; mostly, life is a good thing, and I'm more than happy to be living it. It's just that sometimes I wish I could throw a tantrum and have it all my way. Take the drainage. My poor husband, as if he doesn't have enough of a week, had to spend the entire weekend digging the trenches for and then laying drains. What I would have wished for him was lovely, soft loam to simply spade out and then allow gently to fall from his spade as backfill. What he spent the weekend doing was hacking out with a pick the typical MK clay soil, metres and metres of the stuff so that even he was tired (which doesn't happen often). I spent most of the weekend ripping up tangles of weeds and briars that appeared seemingly from nowhere and were in the process of choking our fledgling shrubs and hedging. Why is it that the plants we really want to grow vigorously actually grow at a fraction of the speed the unwanted ones grow at?

Is it the same reason our bodies sprout unwanted hair at a rate inversely proportionate to the amount we're losing from our barnets? Is it simply the universe's way of telling us life sucks sometimes, and just deal with it?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Out of the mouths of babes

One of the very many reasons I really like my son, and enjoy spending time with him, is that he is a wise soul. My greatest wish for my children is for them to truly understand the meaning of being unique, being their own people. There are few sights more horrific to me than that of a gang of clones (i.e. the popular girl leading a pack of wannabes, girls who are neither themselves nor the popular girl, almost as though they were living between two states of being) and no words I want to hear less than "But, Mummy, I have to wear this top/eyeshadow/nose ring because everyone is wearing it."

But this morning, we were listening to the honeyed Warbler rendition of Pink's 'Raise Your Glass' and my boy asked me what it was all about. I told him: "In short, it's an encouragement to celebrate being you, no matter how different you might feel from everyone else or how much others might call you a 'freak'." His answer? "But, Mum, I thought everyone in the world was unique so does that mean that everyone gets to celebrate?"

Nine years old and got it in one. Now let's just hope that it sticks, and even rubs off on the grown-ups of this crazy, mixed up world.

Thursday, 10 May 2012


Well. I'll bet you all thought I'd got buried under a slab on concrete. In fact, I know that's what you're thinking because some of you have actually expressed surprise on seeing me every now and then. Sorry to burst the proverbial but yes, I am still alive, albeit mainly in the flesh. My mind and soul are most definitely buried under a multi-dimensional tsunami.

To start with, there's the knowledge that we absolutely have to be sleeping in our new house in under three weeks' time. Either that or on the street, and in the current climate (literally) - even bearing in mind my Scouting spirit - I'd prefer the former. Thanks to a few very special friends (see later) this is entirely possible, as long as the drainage is completed this week and I can get in there and clean properly. Again. Oh my goodness, where does the dust come from? I finally understand the gravity of the words: "let's wait till the dust settles" (which, come to think of it, could well be a procrastinator's theme song ...).

But we've come a very long way. It's been just under six months since we broke ground, and we now have - ta daaaa - a house complete with running water, underfloor heating, a heat recovery and ventilation system, a central vacuum system (Rosi, stop hyperventilating!), a much-aligned but rather attractive cooker hood, spectacular worktops, flooring and staircase, built in cupboards, a fridge that arrived shortly before midnight half inside Dave's van from Ramsay and coats and coats and coats of fresh paint. Its chrome ceiling lights complement the chrome handles, switches and sockets; its large windows and glass doors encourage what little light we have at the moment to flood through the lower floor. Upstairs are two gleaming bathrooms and three cosy bedrooms waiting patiently for five Farrows to occupy them. Downstairs is currently a fabulously minimalist dancefloor which I'm tempted to leave that way (thousands of students and Bedouins sit on cushions so why not us; and who needs desks in a study anyway?).

I'm excited, if a little stressed ("little" only because I've just spent a fortnight studiously ignoring the progress of the build while sunning myself in SA), but at the moment more than anything I'm incredibly thankful for all the help we've had. I've already thanked the wonderful Greg Hardie for our beautiful slate roof, Jim Dixon the best electrician ever and James of Central Heating Services for working plumbing, but thanks again to you, to Lowfield and Selfbuild Floors, to Jewson and Build Center and to all the people who've had any hand in the build.

Mostly, though, I want to thank three men. The first is my lovely husband, who has been - mostly - my rock, sane and calm, and who has spent every spare moment pouring concrete, laying cables and slate tiles, painting, fixing, nailing and doing a million other jobs - where did he learn all that stuff? He seems able to turn his hand to anything practical, and I am very thankful not only for his skill but especially for his stamina and commitment to the task.

Secondly, to Marc, a very good friend who also happens to be a skilled handyman. Working alongside you has been an absolute pleasure and I'm very thankful for your ability to just do whatever's needed. I know that many, many times that has not been easy for you but throughout you've been the one I can always rely on to provide a smile and a sage word. Your workmanship is unfaultable and our little house is, therefore, neat and pretty and so so clean.

Thirdly, to Dave, who put his southern Italian life on hold for months to help us out. Dave, your skills are a wonder and we would never ever have been able to get this far without you. It was fascinating watching you work and it was an honour to have you complete task after task with fortitude - especially over those very long and bitter winter months. Hope you can come soon and see your workmanship in its glory!

Lastly, thanks to my handful of readers and all of our family and friends who have been interested and so supportive of us. There have been times when I wanted to crawl in between two joists, wrap myself in insulation and just forget it; those are the times when your kind words - or even the cups of tea so readily offered - have got me through to now. So come, see, enjoy. Cheers!

Pics to follow.