Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Tea at our house

Why is 5.30-6pm the busiest time in our house?

It starts with, "Mum, I'm hungry!"

No - I lie - it is never so polite. It's more like:

"Mu-um ... I'm staarrrving!" (with added whine and moan factor).

Although my favourite bit is when this is followed by my daughter saying, "My tummy's rumberling."

So, clearly, at this point I have to put my vague thoughts about what we are going to eat into practice. Yesterday I was running a little late, due to the electricians messing around with the power all afternoon, so went for quick-and-easy oven chips, veg and the leftover roast beef.

No sooner had I put the chips in the oven when there was a knock on the front door. To my surprise it was a friend from my writing group, wanting to know if I'd recommend my builders. She didn't know it was my house but had been watching its progress over the last few months. (She and half the village, I am picking up. Someone told me they thought it was being made into an old people's home. How disappointing my screaming children will seem!) Clearly she also hasn't read this blog post, or she'd never have asked. Anyway, she came in and we chatted and I learnt about her house with marble floors and meeting Saddam Hussain and other things that really stop you thinking about cooking dinner.

Until, of course, you hear the whine from the children again. "Mummy - my tummy's rumberling."

Hopefully not too rudely I encouraged my friend out of the front door and rushed back to put the food onto plates. Cold beef first ... then the phone rings. It is my husband checking when he's supposed to be home so I can go to a meeting. Seven o'clock. Yes, stop work now and get a move on!

I return to the table to dish up the vegetables - only for the mobile to ring. My friend is dropping something off before going to the aforementioned meeting - is that ok? Yes, yes... any time is fine. (Obviously apart from right now. There are tummies rumberling.)

With some manic screaming from me, the children drag themselves away from the television (even rumbly tums are less important than Pokemon) and we settle to eat the now somewhat cool food.

Then all I have to deal with is both children talking at the same time, to and across each other and me: a constant barrage of noise. There's no such thing as a quiet tea at our house.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Toilet number 5

Here is our family bathroom.

OK - so that was a few months ago. Things have progressed since then. Here it is now...

You will note that the toilet is - how can I put this? - incomplete. Here is the story.

Toilet #1
We bought a toilet in the sale. Turns out that, due the structure of the wall behind the toilet the design of the toilet was wrong: it needed to have a side turn, rather than straight back. Thankfully, company happy to take it back and change it for...

Toilet #2
The replacement toilet ticked all the boxes per the catalogue, but in reality the pipe at the back still went the wrong way. No decent alternatives sold by that company and so bought a new toilet elsewhere. We are most grateful that they were still happy to refund us for the toilet(s) bought.

Toilet #3
Fitted perfectly ... but a crack in the pan. Replaced by...

Toilet #4
Which is what you see above. No cracks, pipes heading the right way ... but holes for fixing the toilet seat have been manufactured incorrectly, so that it cannot be fitted. The company's specialist came to have a look at it last week (full of bluster that it can't possibly be wrong) and broke the fixing.

So we head towards Toilet #5 ...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A room with a view

At long last, we clear enough room to put the dining table with four legs on the ground. We still can't access the chairs all around it, but there is a row of three crammed between the table and the wall, more like a bench than a seating arrangement. The room is madness: filled with boxes and furniture that has not yet been taken to the right room. As the builders are still in and out of the house I have designated the utility as a space for them to leave boots and equipment and spare parts, so all the washing is hung on the other side of the table. Anywhere else and it would be filthy in seconds: here I feel I have some level of control.

There is a rare moment of wakefulness in the morning and my daughter lays the table for breakfast. She places three bowls in a row, and insists that Mummy sits next to her. My son sits on the other side, a cosy threesome in the chill morning air (we can't yet shut the window properly).

"Isn't this lovely," I say, "all three of us together."

My daughter giggles. She's delighted, cuddling up to me. There is more reluctance from my son.

"Yeah," he grunts, "and looking at Dad's underpants."

Must, must, must find alternative space for drying clothes...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Practical completion

We achieved Practical Completion last Monday ... only 3 weeks after moving in ...

During those three weeks I have had builders, of one description or another, in the house every day of the week (except Sunday: ah, the day of rest...) Practical Completion is a technical - possibly legal - term for the end of the first phase of our contract with the builders. Now the building is complete and habitable, all the jobs done and simply a minor snagging list left to do.

Logically (of course) since reaching it I have continued to have builders in every day of the week...

Outside, diggers and dumper trucks were hired to level the front garden and bring some sort of normality to the side path. In the process they have ruined the back garden, but it is hard to get too cross about it as it was always muddy and squelchy. It would be better if I didn't need wellies to hang out the washing but I guess you can't have everything!

Inside the plumbers have been busy. Or, more often, the handyman has been busy fixing the plumber's problems. The boiler/solar panel suppliers managed to flood the airing cupboard with glycol, which leaked into the toilet below. Despite everything, the relevant pipe has leaked in two places ever since: I think it got fixed a couple of days ago, but I must check! Two leaks were found under the sink in the utility, a leak behind the downstairs toilet, a leak in our en suite basin and (best of all) a leak behind our en suite toilet. That leaked down into the family room below ... another brown smudge on the pristine white walls. It was fixed late on a Thursday with 24 hours for the seal to dry. Of course, no builders are prepared to work after 4pm on a Friday so an entire weekend without the en suite (and without the kids bathroom, as that drained into the same place) followed.  Oh ... and then they didn't actually send anyone to fix it back properly until the following Wednesday: nearly a week on.

Don't think I'd recommend the plumbers.

Joiners were around for the first couple of weeks, dodging the decorator who didn't want sawdust flying around near his newly glossed doors and floors. We are still waiting on the door handles (that we could have ordered and got within 2-3 weeks but the builders said they would get ... now we are 5 weeks and counting!) The electrician finally got around to putting light bulbs in the fixings last week. He still refuses to put up the lights we bought for our en suite as he claims they are not suitable for Zone 1. That is very irritating: he does have the final say, but all the regulations are ambiguous, and as we have to have our electrics signed off it means another £150 or more to replace lights we've already bought. Grrrr...

Don't think I'd recommend the electricians either.

Yesterday the guttering was finally completed. The entire render on one wall had to be re-done, it was so poor, which delayed fixing the gutters on top. I believe we are still waiting on a dry day or two for the other two rendered walls to be repainted. Looking at the weather today, I imagine we are in for a long wait! All the rendering and re-rendering has ruined the outside paintwork, so I am going to have some upset decorators back on a subsequent dry day to redo all their hard work.

Wouldn't recommend the renderers.

To be fair, I'm not sure which, if any, of the workers we've had on site that I would recommend. They are all lovely people, but each and every item has foolish errors in it. Door handles in the wrong place, threshold strips that are cock-eyed and 10cm from the door itself. Paint all over the light switches. Gaping holes in the plasterwork between sockets. Mucky fingerprints left in wet paintwork. Erroneous nails sticking out all over the place.

I seem to have had disasters with everything. The broadband didn't work when reconnected and after a couple of hour-long phone-calls it had to be switched off and on again at their end, and miraculously things began to communicate properly. The Aga lid has a chip in the enamel. The heat recovery system is now using small grills not large ones, and there is anxiety about the false ceiling, and the hugely expensive box that makes it work was left outside in the rain by the builders. The freezer wouldn't freeze: after a week of being on it had reached about -3 degrees. (This is after I had spent a day cleaning it. It had spent the previous 6 months in the builders' container. Unfortunately, in their wisdom, they had left a half-empty pint of milk inside it back in March. It reeked! On the positive side, it shows the seals on the freezer are in good condition; on the negative ... oh, the smell, the brown dripping gunge and the general feeling of queasiness whenever the door was opened. Bleuch.)

We have reached Practical Completion, and we are practically complete. The list of 131 items that need fixing is alive and active ... but we are getting there.

(And it is gorgeous. Really. Deep down, somewhere beyond the dust and dirt.)
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