Monday, 27 September 2010

And then chaos reigned

On the morning of the move I prayed that there would be no rain. God answered this prayer, providing an unexpectedly warm, sunny day - except for one hour of magnificent thunderstorm whilst we were at a school meeting about our daughter's progress (Doesn't everyone squeeze in important educational meetings on the same day they move house? Really? It's another post altogether, I'm afraid.)

Yet God must have been laughing. "OK, I'll keep the rain off the move, but the payback is (a) no running water in the house by morning and (b) rain, rain, rain all night."

The running water meant we couldn't flush the loo. Again, this might have been all right if it weren't that our en suite bathroom has no door between it and our bedroom. A gentle aroma wafted through ... It also meant the children were unable to wash before the morning, so the next day started with a dash to school to use their toilets and washbasins to rinse off the previous evening's dirt.

The storms through the night would also have been fun if the builders had completed the guttering and downpipes. I was woken about 3am to the sound of dripping water and couldn't sleep for hours until it stopped. I now have an understanding of the terrors of water torture: I would have sworn to anything in order to make it cease.

Exhausted, I started the working day with a meeting about parts for the heat recovery system. In its wisdom our suppliers had decided (between our ordering and installation) not to issue certain switches any more, resulting in a bunch of useless electrical wires hanging out around the house and a cross client. Whilst the representative was explaining the alternative options to me and the architect, my architect got a phone call. The building company had decided to sack my site manager.

The day was a bit of a whirl after that. The site manager had gone off sick the day before, but came back to collect his things and say goodbye. I'd always had a good relationship with him, although I cannot deny that I was cross that the house was not completed on time. Was that his fault? I don't know. Some blame must also lie with his supervisors, who should have been monitoring and pushing in a more timely fashion. Was that a sackable offence? Perhaps. But during the day all sorts of other stories come out of the woodwork. I still don't know the truth. All I know is that I was left in the lurch.

What doesn't magically appear is a completed house. Around 3pm I asked the joiners who was in charge on site. They looked at each other and around themselves, then looked at me. "You," seemed to be the reply. No managers from the building company showed their faces all day. My architect was excellent and stayed until lunchtime, but after that I was on my own, trying to encourage the joiners, electricians, plumbers, decorators and external diggers to complete everything in some sort of logical fashion.

The kids and I ended up going for fish and chips for tea. It was a lovely, warm evening so we sat outside the shop to eat them. I dreaded going back to the chaos inside our home. At least the water problem was solved: the electrician put the pump back on. But all I could foresee was me organising the rest of the build, and I wasn't sure I'd paid all that money to a supposedly reputable building company for that to be my job.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The move - Part 2

Tuesday dawned.

I'd heard the weather report. Storms. Rain sweeping up from the south-west. The North-West was going to be wet all day. I prayed that it would be dry for my move: I didn't want mud inside my beautiful new house.

It was the standard morning routine: husband left for work at the crack of dawn; I battled to get the children up and dressed, fed and out of the house before 8.15. My friend (very tolerant of an early start) had offered to take them to school, so I could meet with the architect at the house at 8.30. In the melee of getting the kids ready I missed a call from my site manager on my mobile. I listened to it as we walked down the road.

He said that the floor was still wet: the varnish was tacky. We couldn't move in.

My home is in boxes. My children are sorted. My removal men are due. My friends are organised into helping. But my house - hallway, living room, landing and spare bedroom - are all inaccessible.

The rooms aren't the problem. The problem is the hallway and landing. Getting to site the architect and I make an assessment. Upstairs was done first, so is drier. Putting down some rolls of cardboard there it is okay. However, the plank of wood from porch to first stair, set at a jaunty angle, is no comfortable route for removal men to carry heavy beds, boxes and furniture.

The architect and I have a quiet word. If we put all the downstairs furniture into the family room (it has a French window we can bring everything through) first, perhaps the varnish will have dried. If I can delay the removal men by a couple of hours, better still. The kitchen is filthy. In a typical male fashion, the site manager has arranged for a top-to-toe clean on the Wednesday - the following day! There are piles of dust covering the kitchen. "It's clean underneath," says the site manager, helpfully whipping off some of the card that covers my precious kitchen surfaces.

The kitchen, shortly before we moved in.

Finally I glimpse what it should look like. (But he was wrong about the cleanliness.)

The site manager is deputed to find a cleaner to come and clean the kitchen, whilst I go home to finish packing. I have two friends there already, so we grab brush, mop and cleaning materials and head back to tackle the kitchen. Who needs to pack when there is little to move in to?

Cutting a long day short, I have wonderful friends and rubbish builders. The removal men finally finished putting up our bed about 8pm, as the light faded completely. The builders hadn't put light-bulbs in the sockets, so it was getting most gloomy. The only lights that worked were the ceiling spots (well, most were in the ceiling: a few hung down from wires and many were at odd angles).

As I went to get the children I delighted that we were actually in ... but knew that this was just the beginning of a long haul to get the house finished. Everywhere I looked there were errors or tweaks or simple disasters to be resolved. The electrician had left us with a few circuits working. We had no door handles and, in many cases, no locks on the doors. We were tiptoeing over cardboard runways, hoping not to damage the floor underneath. Half the house still needed to be painted and glossed. And I haven't even started on the chaos that is outside: mounds of earth and rubble, no portaloo for the workers, mud squelching a path around the building.

Still, we're in. And that's good. Right?

Yes. But discovering before we went to bed that we had no water was not so good.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The move: part 1

There's a gap in the building works - I have electricity and am (at long last) updating my blog.

Not that I've been without electricity entirely this last two weeks, though at times it has felt that way. To reassure anyone who worried when the man on the Today programme yesterday spoke about the risk of solar flares, and how one big one could destroy the world's electronic system entirely (apparently we'll have about 20 minutes warning - barely enough time to back-up!), it is possible to survive without most of what we consider 'normal'.

It's just not necessarily pleasant.

My last blog post was a gripe about deadlines. Or their ability to be missed. Our builders are still missing them, into their eighth week of overrun. Since I last wrote we have actually moved in (given the rental contract was up there was little choice!) but our belongings remain, for the most part, in boxes. Today I just had decorators; yesterday joiners and electricians; but someone to fix the mess following the plumbing leak would be useful (I'd like to use the toilet!)

All this industry for a house that was, supposedly, perfect and ready for us to move into two weeks ago. Having moved a few bits and pieces in that previous Friday we were optimistic. We popped in over the weekend a couple of times, being assured that the stained and varnished floor would be dry before we move in. I only got a little irate about finding a man kneeling on the floor with an electric saw, slicing lengths of wood, scattering sawdust everywhere, just next to my sofa. My request for a dustsheet to cover it had fallen on deaf ears.

It is never fun, moving house. I should know: we calculated that in 13 years of marriage we have moved 11 times. Too often, I say. But this is our 'forever house' - I hope - so the weekend of packing boxes, trying to keep out only the most important things, labelling everything: yes, it will all be worth it, I kept telling myself. I organised an army of girls to help me with the move, given that the builders' delay meant my husband was back at work and unable to contribute during the day. They were great, helping to finish packing at one end and unpack at the other.

At least, that was the plan. Then Tuesday happened.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The value of deadlines

My children have successfully completed their 'Space Hop' Summer Reading Challenge at the Library. They've each read at least 6 books within the two months the challenge lasted. My own reading challenge has been less successful: only completing three library books, although I am halfway through another two at the moment.

The bigger deadline (the completion of our house refurbishment) has also come and gone. Contractually due to complete 30 July, revised to 20 August (bearable), re-revised to 31 August (unsatisfactory), changed on 30 August to be 1 September... until yesterday we were due to move in. That deadline has also come and gone. The final revised and largely immovable deadline for moving is this Tuesday (our rental agreement expires!) If you looked at the house today you would wonder how on earth that would be feasible. All in all it is making for a depressing weekend.

The depression is compounded by the workers downing tools on Friday lunchtime as (allegedly) they hadn't been paid. That crisis appears to have been dealt with by the building company, since they were all back on site this morning, but it made for a very uncomfortable afternoon and doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. The boss assures us it will be ready on Tuesday, but I fear all the workers are worn out. This means they are not working at optimum speed and the final push to complete is being done without any fuel in their tanks.

The deadline to be in before term began has passed. The house is packed and we are living surrounded by boxes. Now I am just hopeful that we will be in before we have friends for dinner on Saturday! 

The failure of this deadline has a knock-on effect. I had set a personal deadline of September to being resending my book to agents and publishers. The chaos at home means I simply can't get my head around it. I had also planned to revamp the blog: I shall be lucky if I have internet access after Tuesday, so another delay there. We have so many activities and visits planned for September and October that we will be lucky to draw breath - yet we need a secure home base to work from!

So, we plod on, step by step, day by day. When all is resolved, we will be living in a stunning house and all these trials and tribulations will be something to laugh about over dinner. Perhaps with friends on Saturday ... definitely by Christmas (do I speak too soon?)!

In the meantime, I might get back to my books: at least they take me away from my worries in this world and transport me to someplace else!

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