I have been away for a while because I have been away for a while – both metaphorically and literally speaking.
We have been having a lot of work done to the house. When each bit is complete, we compare it to the bits that have not been done, and which we had no intention of having done, and realise we have to have those bits done as well. It started with our 1920s wooden porch, which leaked from everywhere and which was in danger of collapsing. It was replaced with a new and larger uPVC porch with a good energy rating, double glazing and a heat-retaining, self-cleaning blue glass roof. We decided that while they were there they might as well install new windows in the kitchen, where one was being held in place with a bit of wood nailed to the frame. Then we thought we should do all the windows at the back of the house – so that involved another two new windows.
We got a result when the company offered to install four windows at the front of the house free of charge for missing their start date by more than a month. We have six windows at the front, so we got them to put the other two in as well. In total, what began as a replacement porch ended up as a replacement porch, 12 windows and cladding to the outside of the kitchen bay.
We then decided we ought to get the bathroom done. We were sick of its 1980s blue pattern tiled walls, pine-clad tongue and groove ceiling with old spotlights (for which it is increasingly difficult to get bulbs), tiled-in blue corner bath that was unusable because of its size and the leaking waste pipe, and the horrific dark unventilated shower that let gentle drops of often lukewarm water trickle down. We agreed to have it all ripped out and replaced with nice clean white units and an electric power shower, and to have the tiles and ceiling ripped out, new lighting put in and wet wall installed. We also decided to have a bidet, because we had space and you can never be too clean down there. It also involved two new windows, a new ventilation system to expel steam from the shower and a new loft hatch.
We had scheduled a six-week break between porch and bathroom. In the meantime, on Christmas Day, the ceiling of my study came crashing down, and over the next few days, more of it fell. The cause was the toilet cistern upstairs, which the emergency plumber said must have been leaking for years. Inevitably, this meant taking the ceiling down completely and putting a new one up. Which got us thinking: if they’re going to be working in here, we might as well get the three windows in the bay done too… and a new radiator… and replace the tongue and groove panelling in the bay with plaster… and run new electrical sockets and install new lighting. While they were outside measuring the windows they noticed that a part of the concrete facing on the bay was being held up by a downpipe and that it could fall on top of our neighbours. So we decided to have it removed and the bay clad in the same material as the kitchen bay.
With our new porch in place, we decided it needed a new floor and floorcovering and that the stone walls should be framed and plastered to hide the wires and new lighting and power sockets installed. We also decided that the entrance vestibule needed to be modernised and that we needed a new door and facings on the downstairs toilet and a new door and architrave between the vestibule and the dining room. We also wanted the ceiling lowered, new energy-efficient lighting installed and the door between the vestibule and the porch cut vertically in two and made into French doors.
To get to the electrics and in order to install the new toilet door and frame, they had to rip off the panelling in the downstairs toilet. Now with half the panelling off, we are looking at the next project, which is to turn it into a toilet/utility room for our washing machine and tumble dryer. Of course, this will mean taking the existing sink and toilet out, ripping off the rest of the panelling, installing a new smaller toilet and basin, drilling a hole through the wall for the tumble dryer vent, replastering, installing new lighting, building a storage cupboard above the washing machine and dryer, putting down a new floor and putting in a new window.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Now that the new door connecting the dining room with the vestibule is in place, we realise that the dining room itself needs renovating. The plan is to install a Parador ceiling, new energy efficient lighting, new sockets, replaster the walls, install a new door between the dining room and the hall, remove the gas fire, rip out the existing fireplace, and knock it back to the external wall, box it all in then plaster it and extend the kitchen out by removing the connecting door and architrave, then installing a breakfast bar and get an American fridge-freezer with chilled filtered water installed. Then new radiators and new flooring.
I am now looking at getting the driveway and garden path done. Then new external stairs and railings.
On the plus side, we did get to spend the week we had no bathroom in a stately home just a couple of miles along the road and our antiquated heating system has been reinvigorated after the plumber flushed it out (for the first time ever) and installed a new pump. On the negative side, there is dust everywhere and the house is like an obstacle course.
After all this, who knows. Perhaps we’ll move to Portugal.