Thursday, 19 January 2012

Plan of action...

The trouble with moving from a perfectly ‘nice’ home, that we were comfortable in – although nothing in it was done by us and none of it was to our taste or specification, it was perfectly neutral and easy to live with – to a dump, is knowing where to start.

That’s where having a toddler in your project house really helps. It has helped to focus our minds on which tasks are top priority and in which order things need to be done.

Ultimately, two big jobs had to be done straight away. No messing.  

1. The bathroom was shudderingly hideous – there was black mould on the walls where the previous owner had installed a shower but only tiled halfway up the wall. The tiles were miraculously still stuck to the wall, but the grout was filthy and the tiles were mismatched and generally disgusting. The bath was the original tub from 1966. No matter how much I cleaned it (even after some professional cleaners, as requested by our solicitor as part of the purchase, allegedly already had) it was still black and revolting. There was no way H would bathe in that, and us grown-ups could only just about bear to stand and shower in it. Eurgh. The sanitaryware – also original from the look of it – was cracked and not pretty, unhygienic and smelly. The blue carpet (yes, that’s right – carpet in the bathroom!) was damp and mould-ridden and, to top it all off, our predecessors had decided it would be a nice touch to carpet all the way up the side of the bath! What on earth goes through a person’s mind to make that a sound decision? Excuse me while I vomit.

2. The central heating, hot water system and boiler – including removal of the old asbestos flue. A major, major job, but one that really needed doing. The boiler replacement was not up for debate. For peace of mind, safety and also the cost implications of running an ancient appliance meant that it had to go.
While British Gas were quoting for the boiler replacement we asked them to quote for a full system replacement including new radiators throughout. When the numbers came back it was clear that we would have been foolish to opt for just the boiler and then try to do radiators room by room, as and when. So we went for the whole shebang.

After those immediate essentials, the most important target was the softwood front door. It blew open in the wind if the dead bolt wasn’t on and its side panel came complete with flaking painted glass. Nearby there was also a rotten wooden window in the downstairs toilet.

Next on the agenda comes flooring (that beautiful bathroom carpet extended through the entire first floor), interior doors, electrics, lighting, fireplace, decoration in every room, fences/gates/garden.

A new kitchen is on the longer-term plan. For now it is liveable, so we will work and save hard for something wonderful, rather than putting in something quickly that will not stand the test of time.

We have to-do lists coming out of our ears. Lists for lists for lists. Which is heaven to the organiser in me. At times it does feel a bit daunting, but I can see the big picture, and it looks good J

After all of that, if we have enough energy in the tank and funds in the bank we will build a side extension. But that is a LONG way off, a view into the future when our toddler is at school and has possibly got a brother or sister.

On the plus side, we have not got to touch the windows (save for the afore-mentioned one), fascias or guttering – they were all installed fairly recently – which is a bit perplexing when you consider the state of everything else. Yet, in all honesty, if those things had been required, it may have been one bridge too far for the three of us.

Full steam ahead!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Moving day...

After what seemed like the longest conveyancing period in history (certainly in our house-buying history it was!) we finally made it to Moving Day.

A couple of hiccups along the way, like not exchanging contracts the first time we had all agreed to do so, the bottom of the chain not having their mortgage offer in place, then getting to 4pm on completion day and limping across the finish line. Oh my, we lived on the very edge of our nerves that day.

Grandma was brilliant at keeping H occupied throughout the day and making us all lunch and dinner and generally being on hand. It’s lovely to have family around – we are very lucky!

Our removal men arrived late, which at 8am in the morning meant I was already off on the wrong foot – but in all honesty, those fellas waited, waited and waited some more at the end of a long day, so if they had arrived on time who knows what their tempers would have been like at 4.45 when we finally arrived with the keys. There they were, camped out on our lawn, sitting on our deck chairs surrounded by boxes and sofas. If things hadn’t been so rushed I would have taken a snapshot. They had found that the garage was unlocked – a small bit of luck that their patience needed. They were able to offload lots of items into the garage, which did save a lot of time.
The sun was shining, but all my methodical planning (complete with labelled boxes and a fully typed inventory of everything we owned) went flying out of the window – never to return.

Another thing that went out the window: the intention of taking a thousand ‘before’ photographs of the empty house. Sadly there just wasn’t time. The movers had been waiting hours for us to arrive with keys, I don’t think they would have taken too kindly to me asking if they could wait 10 further minutes while I pootled around with my camera.

Previous moves – of which there have been a fair few over the years – raced through my mind, tranquil and organised for the most part. Memories of directing removal men to deposit labelled boxes into specific areas of the house while making cups of tea and peacefully unpacking were now consigned to history. Instead, this time it was frantic removal men depositing anywhere there was space – kitchen boxes in bedrooms, bathroom boxes in the garage, H’s cot being built in the living room by my husband. Grandma and H were cheerfully playing in the back garden, trying to avoid the two dead pigeons. I was searching for the carefully planned ‘day box’ with kettle and tea bags and spoons and milk. It was essentially a free for all and for someone like me, it is a wonder I didn’t have a nervous breakdown.

Tuffy arrived to wire in the cooker and offered to plumb in the washing machine. He is a legend. You will hear more about him on our journey.

The removal lorry was finally unloaded at 5.45 and we were able to lock up and head over to Grandma’s for dinner and a sit down – before heading back to put H to bed in her new home and start building our bed and cleaning the kitchen.

It’s a shame it was all so chaotic (I think I will come to use that word a lot) but they do say ‘start as you mean to go on’, and it has certainly been chaotic. But crucially, it has also been, and continues to be, a tremendous amount of fun.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The pressure of a name...

I can’t have a blog without a name.

After a few days of musing, I came up with The Barton Miller’s Tale and here is why…Our project is situated in Barton Mills, and apparently the villagers are affectionately known as ‘Barton Millers’ – that would work – but I wanted to make it personal to us and not just a generic nod to the locality.
Ping. Lightbulb moment.
My husband and I met during A-Level English, studying Geoffrey Chaucer’s – The Miller’s Tale. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Monday, 2 January 2012

And so it begins...

How on earth do you go about starting a blog? I have wanted to blog for such a long time, but never really felt I had a reason to take the plunge. Well, now that we (my husband, me and our 2-year-old daughter) have purchased a project house, it feels like the right thing to do. It will help with my New Year’s Resolution to take more progress photographs. Frustratingly, we have been forgetting to take as many ‘before’ snaps as we should – kicking ourselves when we stand back to admire the hard work on completion.

This blog really is just to serve as a record for us and our progress over the years, and as motivation to take on the projects that are sometimes easy to push to one side for another day. I am more than happy for people to read, add comments or advice and, perhaps, be inspired – but that isn’t really the intention. I can’t imagine anyone would be all that interested in us doing up our 1960s house, but anyone is welcome to come along for the ride.

Back in August 2011, we were very happy in our old home and had no intention of moving (mainly because we have a 2 year old and I am currently on a career-break to stay at home and have fun with her every day). Then we saw a house in the village of Barton Mills, a place in which we had always said we would like to live, one day. We walked, drove and cycled past the house at least 10 times before we even approached the agent. The location is exactly what we wanted for H, our daughter, to grow up in. ‘Have a look and get it out of our system’ is what we told ourselves, but the minute we walked in, both of us could immediately see past all the negatives – of which there were (and still are) many – and we had a vision. We got in the car after that initial viewing and just grinned at each other. We had always liked the idea of a project, and this would certainly be that. Could we do it with a 2 year old in tow? A second viewing cemented it. We wanted it. We got it. And so it begins…