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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Kitchen installation: 3rd time lucky?

The 3rd set of kitchen installers from Magnet started today. So far so good, they arrived promptly at 8am, worked solidly and there were about 3-4 on site at any one time. They were polite and just got on with it. Why wasn't it like this the first time?
I have ceased feeling anything about the kitchen now. Just want the job finished, and people out of my house. It has been the worst experience of the house so far, despite being one of the most expensive things we've done to date.
We are still in ongoing discussions with Magnet senior management with regard the problems we have had previously. It's clear to me the subcontractor they used to install the kitchen was a rogue trader and a complete villain, and we are now having a war of words about who said what/did what to ascertain who is liable to pick up the additional costs passed on by our builder for the works needed during the installation (round 1). Just a horrible, upsetting experience. Yet still we need to get the kitchen finished and agreed.
The guys this time seem fine, and I hope will do a good job. It just makes it painfully apparent that all of this aggravation could have been avoided if they'd sent out decent people in the first place. I am still looking to them to show me they can rectify this for us and deliver excellent customer service now to make up for the past problems. All I can do is wait and see and hope common sense prevails.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

3 to 1

Just when I think the house can't get any more horrible, it does. For a 3 bedroom 4 reception house, the four of us are now down to having access to only 1 reception room and 1 bedroom. And the rooms we are using are piled choca block with stuff: loft stuff, kitchen stuff, now kids stuff, and stuff stuff for areas of the house we can't use fully yet.  I try to put some organisation into the chaos but it's not easy with 2 under 5's chucking things around (not to mention a husband who likes to leave piles of everything everywhere! grrr).

The new window has been put into the kids bedroom (a huge sash which took 3 men to put in). They are plastering around etc. In preparation for this we have cleared the majority of things from their room into ours, but each morning and night we have to take down/set up their beds and linen as well as hoovering and dusting before the kids go to bed. Trust me, at 7.30 in the evening it's the last thing I feel like doing.
I am going to ban dust sheets after this.

Grandma Jones is coming tonight to pick up the kids. The entrenched habit of trying to convince them I'm domesticated finds me trying to dust round the piles of paperwork downstairs. One question springs to mind 'Why?'. Why indeed...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

No Doors

The internal wood doors have gone to be stripped today. It took 2 of us to try and get them off the hinges and we couldn't get the (smaller) bedroom doors down the stairs. They weigh an absolute ton. The guy that came to collect them today picked them up easily and got them up into his van. Clearly he's done this before. Or perhaps we are just unfit?

Anyway, it's blowing a gale through the house when the back doors are open right now.

Can't wait to see what the doors look like on their return. Am hopeful they will return soon (or just return, full-stop really): I didn't get a receipt, he looked at me as if I was a bit barmy when I asked for one.

The company restore fireplaces and front doors too. If this goes well I think we'll get those done too.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Strippers !

That's  'door'-Strippers to be precise. This is the rather coy name of the company that we're using to strip our internal wooden doors this week.

In preparation for this, today we have (ie my husband has) taken the huge, heavy original wooden doors off the downstairs reception rooms and the upstairs bedrooms. All the door furniture has had to be taken off as they are literally just dunked straight into a solution to strip away the paint.

It's feeling very open plan in the house at the moment!

For £97 we get four doors stripped and neutralised including collection and return. This seems like a relative bargain to me: anything has got to be better than the 6 layers of off-whitey-cream gloss paint not to mention the 100+ years of grime and grot, currently on the doors.

Will let you know how the door stripping goes.

Friday, 7 October 2011

blinds in a box

We bought some temporary blinds for the front sash windows from Blinds in a Box. These are in essence paper, folded blinds up to 6m in length. They come in White or Black and to fix them to the window they have a reusable sticky tape across the top which you can peel off and then just stick the blind to the window or frame. It comes off easily (not too easily) without any damage to the window afterwards.
The blinds look ok, our middle bay window pane is wider than one blind, so they recommend using two blinds and cutting them down. This looks ok, not perfect, but they are only temporary blinds. the side panes are narrower than the blinds and we have cut them down. These look fine.
They provide complete privacy, let light through (we have white ones). They can be pegged back up if you want to see out/in etc. The pegs aren't great in quality, one or two keep pinging off which is a bit annoying. However as we have sash windows we've only used the blinds on the bottom half and so don't bother trying to peg them up during the day as we have enough natural light coming in and at night no-one can see over the half blind anyway.
A good idea if like us, you have just moved in, are mid-decorating/building and need a quick fix for privacy. At c. £25 for 3 blinds, they are also economical, easy to use (cutting to size is a bit of a pain, but I am lazy), look quite cool for paper blinds, and do the job they are meant to do.
I picked mine up from the office in Totteridge, but for a delivery charge they will post to you direct. They operate on-line ''.
They also appeared on Dragons Den and got a Dragon to make an investment!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A day in the life...

Sitting here now typing this, feeling knackered, on the sofa it struck me that my day today has involved the following:
Put washing on & did kids breakfast before school 7.00
Dropped alice at nursery at 8.30 am
Dropped william at school at 9.00 am
Picked up car with broken boot (due to the bifold doors truck reversing into it last week) and took it to Kilburn for an insurance estimate 10.00 am
Dropped damaged car off and picked up hire car to get back to house by 11.00
Spent an hour with Magnet Area Manager & Store Manager going through the issues with last weeks unfinished kitchen installation 11.30
Put washing out 12.00
Collected Alice from Nursery 1.00 pm
Did shopping at Sainsburys for packed lunches for William.
Attended Williams school for a parent/children session involving telling a funny story about when William was a baby and bringing a photo along 2.45
Collected William from School 3.25
Took Willliam and Alice swimming 4.30
Came home, cooked tea 5.30
Kids in bath 6.30
Kids in bed 7.15
Typing this on sofa, knackered! 8.00

Is it really only Wednesday today?

Kitchen installation round 2

Having had to call a halt to the recent kitchen installation due to a hatchet job last week and appalling service, I had the Magnet Area Manager and Store Manager visit the site today to view the problems of the recent, still unfinished, kitchen installation and talk through a resolution.

A new installer is due to start next Thursday and some new design solutions have been put forward on how to address the space.

I am hopeful that they will demonstrate in the next couple of weeks that they can resolve this fiasco fully. If they can turn it around, propose a sensible solution and an appropriate financial resolution then I will shout their praises going forward. For now, the jury is out.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

It's all going Pete Tong

The kitchen has stalled to a halt. New fitters came into day, and their opening gambit was that we'd need to move 2 pipes a GCH and a water pipe for the washing machine to fit. which means that every single space has been measured incorrectly and 'nothing fits where it should'. They told me the best thing to do would be to rip everything out and start again. To be fair they were voicing everything I have been thinking the last few days.

They seemed pretty sound, but I told them I wasn't prepared for them to continue until I'd raised this with the store. The thought of hacking through more pipes or compromising on more units has got to me. The fact that we are spending a small fortune on the kitchen, yet have been treated appallingly, had our kitchen chopped and drilled apart in the space of 3 days, and to top it all we still don't have a kitchen is finally getting to me.

Enough is enough. I need to get this fiasco sorted out. What a fricking mess. It's time to get tough Maccy. Watch this space...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cowboys (& it's not 'yee harhh')

Bad week last week. I decided after 3 days of hell with the kitchen fitters, that I wouldn't have them back on site. The fitter was subcontracted by Magnet to fit our new kitchen and from day 1 it has been a fiasco. Every (and I mean 'every') space had been mis-measured (by him) at the survey stage, and as a result our builder had to drill into every newly plastered and painted wall to try and squeeze in the various units. Some doors / plinths were missing and when I told him theywere available for pick up at the store, the fitter told me that '(he's) not a driver' and that it was for me to source them and ring him when they were delivered.
Having turned up at 3pm on Thursday, he told me at 5pm as he was packing to go home that he wouldn't be back on Friday, and 'would only do 1 more day', once I'd sourced the missing bits from Magnet. Seeing him leaving, I asked him to ensure he had moved all the packaging (piled high across the width of my garden) out to the front, to which he refused, despite my pleas that I had 2 children & the weekend was looming. Given he wasn't coming back to finish on Friday I would need to use the garden over the coming days. Still telling me he wasn't moving it to the front, he only relented when I said if he didn't move it out, I would have no option but to sue Magnet in the event of any harm coming to my small children in the event of accident.
He left me with a messy, unfinished kitchen, holes gauged out of walls, a cooker hood that bowed in the middle where it had been badly fitted, a back-to-front wall unit light, missing units, and doors that wouldn't open due to being poorly fitted. And more than that he left me feeling sick to my guts that someone could be so rude, surly, and downright maverick, while in my own home, providing a service I had paid for, and which was ultimately paying their wage.
I decided this couldn't go on, and on Friday, I rang the store, cataloguing the issues and said I wasn't prepared to have him back on site again. To their absolute credit the manager from Magnet took it all on board, he visited the site today, apologised profusely and appears to be taking steps to rectify all the issues including getting us another fitter that he has worked with previously. He told us that all the staff have changed, and he as the manager is new to this store, that he has no relationship with this fitter and did not know he had been allocated to us. And that this fitter has made mistakes previously and they were not using him anymore. Hopefully he will now rectify the problems, deal with it swiftly and get our kitchen finished, perhaps better than ever before.
I really appreciated his honesty today at any rate. It was a big decision for me to make the call not to have the fitter back again, I'd found myself thinking that perhaps the chaos and the rudeness was normal, and it was me being a difficult client. So, I hope to put the experience of the last few days down to a maverick fitter, not the store. If they can remedy it quickly and correctly with no further issues, then it will undo all the pain of the last week and I will feel positive about this kitchen again rather than ground down by the whole thing.
The fitter we had was 'Jopar's kitchens', a rogue trader if ever there was, in my book (blog!) at least.

Friday, 30 September 2011

kitchen catastrophe

I woke at 5 this morning feeling sick with progress on the kitchen fitting and the experience of dealing with a maverick, rude kitchen installer. (Jopar's Kitchens - subcontracted to Magnet). Following the experiences of the last few days, I have come to the decision the relationship has broken down irrevocably.
Walls have been hacked, cupboards botched, I've been left to source missing unit doors, the list goes on: I rang the kitchen company Magnet, catalogued the issues we've had, told them that the fitter has been horrendous to work with on site, and concluded we aren't prepared to let him come back on site.
I can't see any way round it. We've had builders working here without any issue for the last 4 months, and in 3 days, one man has made what should be an exciting experience, almost unbearable.
I am hopeful that I can write this off as a bad experience with one installer, not the company itself. We'll see. I rang Magnet today to outline the stage we were at, and stated that I now wanted to hand the situation over to them to resolve, so that I could try and get back the dream of the new kitchen and not the reality of this nightmare installation. They have 5 days to sort it out. The worktop goes on next Thursday.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Kitchen continued

The templaters came in to measure up for the worktop today. Can't wait. It is almost palpable that we'll actually have a clean, new kitchen one day soon. True to current form, their plan only shows a template needed for one side of the kitchen, not both.

Our kitchen supplier is rubbish from what I can see, as at design stage we agreed the kitchen would be templated both sides. What would we do otherwise?The price we paid assumed it was all accounted for.

My husband gets fed up with me sometimes because I'm usually really anal about the level of control I exert over things, yet when I don't get everything written down, i's dotted and t's crossed, double and triple checked, I can guarantee I wish I had. Damned if you do, damned if you don't?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Kitchen fitter fiasco

Sadly, this blog seems to be turning into a lament on all things construction. Today is no exception.

The kitchen fitters are in. They guy who runs the fitting (and who surveyed the site 6 weeks ago) didn't turn up day 1 (he was in court (!), apparently). Instead, his proxy crew flagged a number of issues with the measurements: Somehow we lost 150ml between a wall and chimney so a cupboard we've ordered is too now too big for space. And so it went on ...

The main man turned up last night at 5.30, while I was doing tea time for the kids and looking after a friend of williams from school. On anyday this time is a busy time in our house. Yesterday, it was mayhem. My 2 year old kept pinching my son's friend, my son shouting and telling her off, all of them screaming in between telling me they needed a 'wee wee'. In the midst of this, the fitter man was trying to tell me all the survey shortcomings was the builders fault. Apparently the plaster the builder put on must have expanded to make the 150ml difference on one wall. Or maybe the guys ruler wasn't working... I got cross, not like me, and had to tell him we should call it a day. I'd had enough by then.

Today, more problems. The bay window has hit the same problem. Its 200ml too small (now) so the cupboards don't fit: the plug for the tumble dryer has had to moved: the pipe plumbed for the dishwasher has to be taken outside the wall, not behind the units. We've had to re-site a spur for the dishwasher. The latest problem is the free-standing w/machine which is to be housed behind a unit door. I specifically discussed this issue with the fitter myself when he surveyed, but the fitter feigned complete ignorance and says he doesn't remember it, and so hasn't planned for, and essentially, it's not on his 'notes'.

What can you do, record every conversation? get him to write down what we've agreed? well, yes, seems to be the answer. Except when you are face to face with someone who you think knows their job, it doesn't cross your mind that they are incompetent and dodgy. I think we have a rogue trader on our hands and I feel stuck between a rock and a hardplace.

As a result, our builder spent the morning carving up the work he's spent 3 months doing. All the while the kitchen guy saying it's everyone else's fault not his. Absolutely farcical. I have been fuming today. To boot, he's rude, patronising and I don't trust a word he says. I never realised how emotional a kitchen could be. I used to close down companies without batting an eyelid, much, yet this makes my heart pound, and I can't seem to hold a rational conversation with this man without getting cross.

2 more days of this to go. Joy.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Kitchen capers

The kitchen fitters are in today. This is quite exciting.

We have hit some problems already as it appears the survey didn't take into account the walls would be plastered(!) and so one cupboard is already too big for the size available between the wall and the chimney breast. I have spent the morning liaising with the fitters, our builder, and the supplier trying to agree a solution. We have one finally. Though I'm trying not to dwell on the comment made by the manager as he left that it may be a further 3 week wait for the alternative door needed now. Surely that won't be the case for me..

In any event, having done the school run, then spent 2 hours arguing the toss over whose fault it is /not, what cupboard widths and doors will fit the remaining space, and what 'compo!' I can get back for the problem along with trying to sort out a replacement hire vehicle while my car is repaired (having been reversed into by our bi-fold company's van last week) I couldn't help ponder my husbands glib comment last night that, 4 months in, 'this project has run itself'.

Friday, 23 September 2011

blind-ing discovery

We have no curtains in the front room. I took down the existing salmon-grey coloured ones to wash them, originally intending to put them back as a temporary measure but I haven't put them back yet. Don't want to either.. we have big Edwardian sash windows, in need of some tlc and the curtains ran on a track under a nasty looking 80's pelmet. Not really me.

The problem however, is that as the nights draw in, the lights are on earlier and earlier which means that anyone walking past can see in: unpacked boxes, piles of interiors mags, bric-a-brack... our lovely dismantled table from Heals propped behind the sofa.. and so on.

The other day I made eye-contact with one of the parents from my sons school, obviously a local, from behind the glass divide of our windows. Not good. The situation will surely only get worse as we head into winter and a 4 o'clock sunset.

I don't want to invest in curtains (yet) until we have decorated this room. But I have found an answer to the problem with 'blinds in a box'. These are paper blinds that can be 'stuck' to the window frame, cut to size and provide privacy, yet light. I saw these while walking past a local street today and was struck by how nice they looked even though they were clearly made of paper. It's only a temporary measure, but temporary chic is better than temporary goldfish bowl as far as I'm concerned. I'll let you know how I get on with them.

And then there was light!

The bay windows are here!! yes, it's true, who would have thought something so boring could be so amazingly fantastically wonderful? ... Me!!

To say I am happy at this development has to be the understatement of the year. I am absolutely chuffed to bits.

The bifolds went in yesterday (absolutely lovely), and the bay windows have been put in today. Frame to follow. The back of the house is bathed in light. It has truly transformed the (newly white) box into something that really nearly almost resembles a room.

The kitchen fitting starts Tuesday and the worktop is being templated on Thursday. I think i know what heaven might be like. I can hear singing in my ears and a sense of inner peace I lost the day we moved in to this rambling old wreck.

Having had a night of raging rows (me) and gesticulations (him) with my husband last night, courtesy of the continued, agonising delays and let-downs of the last 8 weeks, calm has descended: I love my husband, i love my children and i even love my 2 burner gas stove (with grill). All is well in the Jones household today.

Tra la! :)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

bifolds and a bump

The sliding doors arrived today - something at last seems to be happening on time. They are going in as I type. I think they'll look great. There will be day light in the back of the house at long last!

Unfortunately the van that delivered them reversed into the back of my car on arrival this morning.

I know because I was looking out of my bedroom window at the time and saw it unfold. The driver (not knowing it was my car) didn't mention it when he knocked.

When i took the kids to school i discovered my boot is dented and the lock doesn't work. Buggies and scooters are locked inside.

We've swapped insurance details.

I honestly couldn't make it up if I tried.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

It's beta-blocker Tuesday.

The deadline for the bay window has come (and, at 12.30, is going fast).
So far, no windows & no builder.

...Can you get valium over the counter?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ha ha ha

Some jokes my 4 year old has brought back after 3 days in school:

Q. Why did the cow cross the road?
A. Because it wanted to go to the MOO-OO-vies.

Q. Why did the cow get in the rocket?
A. Because it wanted to go to the MOO-OO-n.

Q. Why did the bread loaf go to the doctors?
A. Because it was feeling crumby.

Q. What do you get if you put a rabbit in the oven?
A. A hot cross bunny.

These made me laugh. A lot.
(I don't get out much)

Woman HSNW (Has Shed No Windows)

The title of this post says it all.

The good news is we have a shed.
...And our builder turned up today.

The bad news is we don't have the bay windows (still).
...And our builder is starting to look a bit stressed.

Kitchen arrives Wednesday (though I won't count my chickens) and the bay is supposed to be in, finished around, and decorated up to before the kitchen units go under it.
A lot can happen in 24 hours, but can this much happen in that time, given they've taken 8 weeks already.

The shed looks more appealing than my home at present. At least it's got windows...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

To be or not to be...?

Far from me to be cynical, but I can't help wondering as the new week approaches, whether :
a) the builders will turn up tomorrow (they haven't been here since last wednesday); and,
b) if they do, whether they will actually have the much-anticipated, long-awaited bay window for the kitchen with them.
Quite a bit is riding on it (mainly my sanity), having delayed the kitchen installation a further month because they weren't ready when they should have been.

I have a sense of trepidation about all this. In a way, it's like when you're  a child, waiting desperately for Christmas to come every day from November onwards, and every morning you wake up, and it's still not Christmas day. You hope it's going to happen, you know it's got to happen (hasn't it?), but it hasn't happened, yet.

Can't say I'm enjoying this feeling in all honesty... let's see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Door Knockers

A kind neighbour knocked at the door today to introduce himself and to deliver a bag of figs from their fig tree, 2 halloumi cheeses, a huge watermelon (for the children) and a bottle of brandy he'd just brought back with him from a recent trip to Cyprus. So kind.
Yet, so ashamed am I of our wreck of a home that I find myself saying thanks from the doorstep with my head wedged between the smallest possible opening of the door I can create in order to hide the dirty battered, woodchip walls which cover the extent of the hallway, the bare gap-ridden floorboards and the tatty stair well where we've ripped up carpets beyond. I know I shouldn't care, it is a building site after all, but I do.
After profusely thanking him I said we would invite them over for a coffee once things were a little further forward (understatement being my strong point). As I closed the door I found myself pondering just when that might be.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

builders block

No builders today, we're at that limbo stage of almost being finished, but not quite there yet. there are still a range of itty bitty jobs to do here, but nothing substantial. I know that they have a new job with another client starting next week and I think they are being pulled off here to put a good show on for the next job. I don't mind this in principle, just keen to make sure they don't let the last bits of our project drag on and on interminably. We have half the loft boxes from our old house piled up in our grotty old bedroom still, and can't unpack this until they move their tools from the spare room. Bit like a Rubics Cube, before one bit can move into place, 3 others need to have moved (in the right order) first.
They are usually here at 8 am and leave at 5pm everyday except sunday. So I found myself checking the clock once 8am came and went with no sign of them. At 8.30 I took william to school (first day, a proud moment, and a bit of a sad one too), came back at 10am to find the house still locked up and no sign of builders still. I did discover 2 used mugs, empty, in the sink, and a warm kettle. The only sign that (presumably) they had been here today, within the hour. A radiator they are replacing from the back bedroom has also disappeared. I presume the 2 factors are linked.
Don't mind that they aren't here today, don't mind they helped themselves to a cup of tea in the half hour or so they were here.. but they could have washed their flipping cups up!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Open House

I found myself sitting in John Lewis cafe (topping up the caffeine levels) with my son (starts school tomorrow, can't wait!) talking on the phone to a man I didn't know, from a company I've never used, (and who was at that precise moment already in my house), about sanding our floors.
It appears the appointment I'd booked with the floor-sanding company and thought was due to take place tomorrow was in fact today. The chap rang me slightly angst-ridden to find I was not in fact at home. I of course apologised profusely for not being there (though I really don't think the fault was at my end), and suggested he ask the builder to let him in. It was at this point he told me he was already in the house and in my front room.
Now, the house may well be a building site, but it is still my home. Despite this, and the vague sense of unease that all our personal correspondance, valuables, not to mention passports, keys and so on were there for the taking, it seemed a bit unreasonable to suggest this man vacate my house and wait until we could rearrange the appointment. And so, in a  situation I wouldn't have countenanced 5 months ago pre-house move we proceeded to discuss the various options &  logistics of sanding the floors, the man in my house and me 5 miles away in a shop restaurant.
I'm sure it will be fine.
I just haven't actually received the quote as yet.

Dre-e-e-e-eams.. dreams, dreams, dre-eams....

Next week is a busy week for the house:
On Monday the shed arrives (I feel disproportionately excited by this) and... the bay windows (aka bane of my life) for the back bay/kitchen arrive.
Tuesday the bay sash windows will be fitted;
On Wednesday the kitchen installation starts; and,
On Thursday the Bi-fold doors and single leaf door will be fitted;
On Friday, we might have something resembling a room by then.
What can possibly go wrong?!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Just call me Dorian Grey

Almost through the summer holiday and the majority of big build phase 1. My 4 year old starts school on Thursday, a big day for us all. I can't wait, yet at the same time don't want to let go of him and join the treadmill. Feel old as I think about his starting out on school life. Perhaps it's  the mid-life crisis. I feel like the picture in the attic, growing visibly older, greyer and more knackered looking while they grow stronger and more gorgeous, bounding through life with more energy andoptimism each day. The quid-pro-quo of being a mum I guess. i wouldn't change it (but a spot of Botox and a brace may be in order before I hit 50).

Sunday, 11 September 2011

cooking for kids on a camping stove

My kitchen during the build has been a 2 burner camping stove with small grill. Getting through the summer holidays using this for all family meals has tested my mettle. I find myself in Asda (we're budgeting!) frozen food aisle scrutinizing the back of food packets to see not whether there are E numbers but whether you can either a) microwave it, b) grill it or c) boil it. If I can, it's straight in the basket.
I've found microwavable pancakes (IKEA) - actually taste much better than you'd think, and grillable chips though I wouldn't actually recommend doing these on a camping grill. The chips took 40 minutes after which time I'd had enough, and decided that the translucent, glistening, hard-in-the-middle things lying flacid in the grill pan were ready, and surfed up the same to the kids for tea. They didn't eat them. Fish-fingers are a good option, but on my grill they take 20 minutes (each side). bit painful. Due to the limitation of the equipment, some meals I've served up to my children have taken on a  colour theme: orange (fishfingers & beans) : yellow (chicken goujons & sweetcorn). Wraps are increasingly popular for lunch with whatever filling i can find in the fridge. I put the picnic blanket down on the floor (too dusty otherwise), stick some crisps and apple on the plate, call it a picnic and the kids love it.
My kitchen is due to be installed in a weeks time. Not sure how i'll cope with a range cooker after the last 3 months bending over my stove.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

I say potato, you say pota(r)to

ok, so the title of this post bears no direct relevance to the subject matter. I think the point I want to make is that  any time i  liaise with a 3rd party provider (gas, electric, builders, flooring co's, bath co's, door co's.. you get the jist) i feel like i am speaking a different language. Yesterday is a point in case. I arranged for the floor co to come and survey at 11 -12noon and the bifold door man to come and survey at 11. I dropped my youngest at nursery, popped to the shop on the way back and headed back home with william (him protesting as usual at having to do anything that involves going in a straight line direction) thinking i'd be in good time for my booked appointments. On arrival home, my builder told me the guy to survey the floor had been (and gone), having surveyed in my absence. Feeling a bit irritated, not least because I had some specific questions I wanted answered about our flooring depths etc, I waited for the door man to come at 11. At 11.10 I glanced at my email and found a message sent at 10.50 saying he wan't coming, along with apologies. so that was that. a totally flipping wasted morning waiting in for 2 people who didn't come (or came when I didn't want them to). What is the point of booking an appointment in the first place. I feel like  anything that can go wrong or add to the irritation of this project, generally does. to top it all I got a £60 parking ticket for parking my car one street away. nothing to do with the no-shows but it sort of summed up my day. bah humbug.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

boxy kitchen!

My new kitchen arrived on Monday. It's sitting, boxed up, in the new white box which was once 2 poky old rooms in our Edwardian home. Installation delayed (again, sob) until end of the month, pending the windows going into the bay at the back.
I'm supposed to have checked within 7 days if anything is missing or damaged apparently. I signed my life away to this effect when the delivery man thrust a sheaf of papers at me, listing the 100 or so items delivered. After a cursory look over I signed, knowing I wouldn't have a clue what was or wasn't in the boxes, whether it's damaged or not, and that we won't be looking in the boxes for at least 3 weeks. I presume everyone has to do this, but seems crazy that I sign the paperwork off confirming receipt of undamaged dishwasher, taps, sink etc when it could be anything (or nothing!) in the boxes stacked 8ft high in front of me. hopefully it will all be fine, just have that nagging feeling that something will be wrong and we won't have a leg to stand on if it does.
feel a bit overwhelmed by the scale of work ahead and our dwindling funds. I watch tv programs where people seem to refurbish their entire home for £60k. we've spent that on just 2 rooms. hardly scratches the surface here. I must get a job soon!!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Skip skirmish

We've had a skip outside the house since the beginning of the build. When i say outside the house, I should really say outside our next door neighbours house. This was not our doing directly. We were out when the first skip arrived and our builders directed the depositing of the skip. It appears the space they chose was on the spot of (public) road outside our neighbours house, rather than directly in front of ours. We didn't really give this too much thought. I remember noting it at the time, then remembering that our neighbours don't have a car, don't own the property (they rent) and are relatively young free and single, I figured they wouldn't really care or notice a skip. I was wrong. 
the doorbell rang at 9.30 the other evening, and our previously reasonably pleasant neighbour stood there with our recycling box in hand. this had been left on the street for collection that morning. He handed this to my husband, then said when we moved in the removals company had put a load of recycling boxes out the front to reserve spaces for the van on the road and once completed they then put all the boxes into his garden by mistake. His point being that he wanted to return them. Paul said this was fine, and we found 6 recycling boxes put into the front garden within seconds. Far be it from me to be cynical, but given the previous owner of this property was over 100 when he moved (into a retirement home) I find it surprising that he was such an avid recycler.. but to get back to the skip... it seems all this rather erratic behaviour by our neighbour was a precurser to asking us 'why the skip was outside (his) house rather than ours', 'could we move it', 'why was it still noisy at times with the builders in the back?', and 'had we put the skip their on purpose (?)'... all a bit bizarre. So, we've got the skip moved, I can understand his point. I probably wouldn't want it outside mine if it wasn't my rubbish, but given this was the first reference he'd made to it to ius, he could have omitted the paranoia. We are not bad neighbours, so give us a chance to rectify problems please.. 

Friday, 2 September 2011

what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. right?

aJust been told that the windows for the back of the house, which will go in the bay over the kitchen, which were due to go in last week (but didn't), then this week (but haven't), are delayed and won't be ready until 20th September. i am not happy about this.
The kitchen fitting which was due to take place on monday, has now had to be put back a second time, to the  22nd of September, which means the worktops can't be templated until the week after. Which basically means i won't have a kitchen until mid October. To rub salt into the wound, it's too late for me to cancel the actual delivery of goods, so they will arrive on monday and i will just have to sit and look at them in their boxes throughout the next month.
In real terms this means that another month beckons with me and my camping stove, 2 children under 5, living in our building site, in the summer holidays. This is not good. In fact this is pretty bad.
I had to eat a whole box of pringles after speaking with the builder.
the Polish connection seems to mean that if his supplier lets him down we are all buggered basically.

oh god they've painted my bath!

the builders have scratched our lovely roll top bath. I may have mentioned this before. i told them not to do anything to it, and specifically, not to paint it or try to repair until we'd had a chance to check with the supplier how to repair it. I don't think i could have been clearer.
Went away for the bank holiday August, came back, and made the mistake of looking at the newly installed bath to find not only had they painted in the scratches, but also half attempted to wash it. the dirty tide mark sweeping the side of the bath is one thing. the fact it's a water based paint that it's covered in, has meant the washed bit is now a different texture from the non-washed bit. there are lumpy bits where they've painted it.

felt sick.

asked the builder who painted the bath the next day. he sort of feigned innocence initially (not a good move) but conceded they might have painted 'a few bits'.

can't understand how me saying 'don't pain the bath' made him think it was ok to paint the bath, in our absence, without checking first. is it me?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

bathroom taps

Can't decide on what bath filler to have. How can buying a flipping tap be such a show stopper? And how can a tap cost £2000? Is it just me? Ok, so our budget is limited, this might be why it irks so much, but honestly, it's a tap!

anyway, the tap we did buy, online, looked great on the net - it also looks nice in the box. but take it out, put it in our bathroom and stand it near our bath and it looks like something off a steam train. it's huge! like a fountain of chrome and levers. that's what £200 gets you.

'if it looks too good to be true, it probably is'.
Hmmm. not sure what to do, but it's taken 2 weeks of indecision, and still can't decide. Peter, our very patient builder has been very tolerant, but now needs to be able to close up the ceiling downstairs (for the kitchen) and to do that he needs to know which tap he's plumbing in.

this whole project is fast deteriorating into chaos. We've seen a tap 'the' tap we love. but even that is a grand. ie a grand over our budget which is already over budget..

i'm starting to think, sod it, let's do it. i could just see that approach leading to bankruptcy..

anyone got a gorgeous tap going free we could have (please?).

next up - bifold doors. agh!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Quick, tidy the house, the cleaner's coming!

I had a fantastic lady who helped me with the house work once a week, in my old house, my lovely shiny white box of a minimalist home. The one I no longer live in. The one I've swapped for an old wreck and a  ridiculous mortgage we can't afford, which is costing us a fortune to try and fix, and which still looks like a derelict squat. 

In moving to my new home it was immediately apparent I would not be able to use her services for the forseeable future because, frankly, where would she start? 

I hope at a future point (when, I have no idea) that I can offer her employment once again. But pending that happy day, and wanting to assuage some guilt I'm harbouring, I've invited her over for a cup of tea tomorrow. 

This has led to a spate of extra zealous dust swiping on my part. The fact there are no carpets, dirty old creaky floor boards and grime filled skirting, holes in walls and lightbulbs hanging bare from the ceilings is secondary to the first impression that i am trying to create upon her ie. that the house is fundamentally 'clean'. Clean meaning 'I'm coping' (I'm not).

So for a fair portion of this evening, I left my preschoolers to their own devices (thank goodness for FreeSat and TinyPops) in order to wipe down the dust (again), clean the builders bog, and straighten up the boxes we're still unable to unpack following the house move. 

It's struck me that I've always been like this: felt a need to clean before the cleaner comes. Even when it's just a social visit. 

Surveying the house, I'm not sure whether she'll notice first the gleaming side board, or the handle - less interior doors. 

She probably won't notice either. She's far too nice. And she is just coming for a cup of tea after all. I've bought some nice biscuits.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

scratched bath

Came home today to find that the builders have put skirting board around the width of the bathroom (despite specifying this to be tiled from wall to floor). They've cut the existing tiles to make room for the skirting. And we don't have any more tiles left. This is not good. 
Worse still, the £2300 bath we bought (a blow the budget whim; after a bottle of wine) has nicks and scratches around it. Having told the builders to protect it while working around it, even saying it again this morning, I sat on the newly plumbed in loo to stare directly at a new lot of white lines glaring back at me from the bath. It's starting to feel a bit depressing: the experience of spending a fortune on a bathroom that is looking cheaper by the day and having what should be a beautiful bath, looking 2nd hand before it's even had water poured in it. What can you do?
Don't know, is the answer. Feel a bit fed up. after a long day trying to entertain the kids, with husband out tonight Alice is still upstairs (8.30pm) crying out for 'a huggle'. 
Think I need a holiday. Can't be bothered to do my daily dust swipe tonight. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Don't do it my way

I would not recommend taking on and living in a complete refurbishment project with 2 small children. Actually I would not recommend taking on and living in a complete refurbishment project, full stop. But, if you are going to do it, I would definitely say to you, don't do it with children. Particularly small children. I have 2, alice and william, 2 and 4 years respectively. They are pretty average children, in that they are both quite bonkers, over-energetic, & inimitably cheeky pre-schoolers.
Trying to do anything that requires a modicum of concentration is impossible. An example: we went to choose bathroom tiles at ' topps tiles ' a one stop shop. How difficult could it be? Except while my husband engaged in meaningful conversation with the sales assistant, completely detatched from any parental responsibilities I was left running round after the 2 said children. Both of whom felt it necessary to run at full speed down each aisle, william occasionally getting alice in a neck-lock to halt her progress; both thought it funny to try and get out into the loading bay complete with moving heavy goods vehicles, every time my attention was drawn to a tile or two. My reaction to these antics, resentful of my full time childcare role the other 5 days of the week, was to follow my husbands example and check out the tile ranges without regard to the kids. Of course, I  secretly wondered at what point he'd notice the children were with us. So off I went. The result? William racing over to me shouting 'mummy, mummy! Alice has banged her head and fallen over'. Me rushing to find my little toddler, sprawled on the floor and groggy. She was suffering concussion, having run and bumped her head on the floor. I felt terrible. It was very frightening. And served me right I know. I can only say from my own experience that guilt seems to be a huge part of what being a mother is about. After a shaky few moments and screeching at my husband for help (or just some moral support please), Alice was fine.
I nonetheless felt awful. Awful for wanting to have freedom for one moment to look at the tiles (sounds ridiculous even as I type that sentence). Awful that one of my motivations was resentment at my husband's ability to relegate all responsibility to me, wherever we are, when it comes to the kids. Awful that Alice got concussion (it only happens to us!).
Once we established Alice was fine, the car journey home was that bickering blaming exercise of who should have done what and who didn't do such and such. Not a particularly noble response to the fear that our gorgeous daughter might have done serious damage to herself because, for one reason and another we both wanted 5 minutes 'off' to select a bathroom tile. Silly isn't it.
Through the chaos we somehow managed to choose the tiles. But it's not the way to do it really. Is it.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

What are the chances of me getting an allotment?

Following on from my zealous garden efforts, I've just applied to join the waiting list for local garden allotments. I have a latent memory that 'no one ever gets an allotment', that ' the list for an allotment is 10 years long', that 'you get evicted from your allotment plot if you don't maintain it'..  but despite these putting-off gems of received wisdom donated by friends in recent years I've gone ahead and put my name down. So will it be 1 year or 10 years. Either way I'll be under 50. Still plenty of gardening time left in me. And how cool to have a garden allotment. Where I can make my mistakes, grow some interesting things, take the kids. Recall the Arfurr of Eastenders fame. Hopefully a better ending awaits me.

Just thought I'd mention it. It's an exciting phase. Any tips on how to get up the list quicker, from anyone who's got an allotment already much appreciated!. ta ever so.

Dans le Jardin, or, 'mud, mud, glorious mud'

Spent the day in the garden. My efforts comprise hoeing all the weeds into infinity. It's a boring job yet strangely satisfying to reveal what's underneath all the weeds, ivy and various bits of debris which has been tossed into the garden since 1901. Soil. that's what all my efforts result in revealing. The sciatica I've developed in the last few months due to the 75degree posture I adopt is well worth it. it's a rectangular garden 70 by 45 ft. grass in the middle and 2 wide borders running down the length. due to the width of the borders (about 6ft) the amount of soil I'm uncovering is disproportionate to the amount of grass or any other form of vegetation in the garden. to any one else, the garden still looks a delapidated messy project. To me, it's becoming a very satisfying piece of therapy. I can block out anything else in my mind, all other distractions become secondary, and away I go. The hoe, the rake and the shears are my only friends. And I love it. the range of things i can do to this blank canvass in time (and budget permitting) stretch before me. Paving, grassing, a shed!, some plants, some veggies, and maybe a chicken or 3 (I've spotted one of those eggloos while out recently and I can visualise it already going into the space currently occupied by the garden waste and original fireplace from the front room (how could they rip it out?! ).  the garden is my oyster. can't wait to get to grips with it.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A woman's work...: the big build

A woman's work...: the big build: "So, we moved into our 'new' house 8 weeks ago. Except it's not new in any sense of the word. It's an Edwardian wreck. a project, with potent..."

A woman's work...: la salle du bain (bathroom)

A woman's work...: la salle du bain (bathroom): "8 weeks on, & still the bathroom is not yet finished. But it's soo close I can almost feel myself indulging in a big huge enveloping bath, a..."

la salle du bain (bathroom)

8 weeks on, & still the bathroom is not yet finished. But it's soo close I can almost feel myself indulging in a big huge enveloping bath, a hug of bubbles wafting skyward, big glass of wine & most of all no children in sight. 

As of today, the sash windows are in; the new loo is in; the sink is in; the shower is in; and the bath (a lovely 'tubby tub' roll top!) has feet on and is standing proudly on the tiles. 

The tiles are on the wall, most are grouted, and the same goes for the floor. we've gone for a grey and white theme. white tiles on walls (bit sanitarium, but ok) and cool grey tiles for the floor. having a bit of a problem with the floor standing tap for the bath. it's like a fountain, huge. but budget just doesn't permit replacing it yet. So this huge chrome jet is going to be in place at some point. trying not to let it spoil the image, but will see.

no door to the bathroom as yet, but it's a small consideration all things considered. 

will be wonderful to close off the downstairs 'bog' experience altogether. it's so grim. i cillet bang every surface daily (it really does work). 

I must admit, since moving to this house my ocd tendencies have become increasingly pronounced. the builders look at me like i'm mad, with my marigolds on trying to clean, wipe down and dust each day, only to do exactly the same every day. it is a pointless task. I do know that. I just can't bear the grubbiness and seeing my poor kids playing on the floor only to emerge grey and dusty every time. 

So, roll on that bath. any week now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

the big build

So, we moved into our 'new' house 8 weeks ago. Except it's not new in any sense of the word. It's an Edwardian wreck. a project, with potential... and a building site, in which I am living with my husband and 2 children under 5. I wouldn't recommend it.

I think it's best to surmise the last few weeks for context. And then bring the story up to the current time so that I can down load my experience as it unfolds in real time.

we moved, boxes, chaos. No kitchen, no bathroom. A downstairs 'bog' which me, the kids and hubby share with the builders. Interesting, grim. not least because my newly toilet trained 2 year old, keen to test out her new skills, proclaims 'wee wee mummy!' 15 times daily. And off we go, to the bog, a thin partition wall between me and the builders and said child. It's just not nice. And then, if i use the opportunity to use the loo at the same time, my daughter provides a running commentary on my activities, ' wee wee mummy? no? yes? poo poo?' (No!) ' no? wee wee? ... yayyy mummy wee wee, yayyy' (clapping) ' better mummy?'. God alone knows what the polish builders make of it.

we have a temporary kitchen set up in the back reception. rickety table, padlocked back door, and the life and grime of the previous 100 years firmly ingrained in every nook, cranny and broken tile or floorboard. my 4 year old son proclaimed happily that he ' loves the outside of the house, the red brick, but (he) doesn't  like the dirty inside of the house'. I know how he feels.

more tomorrow.