Our elder daughter had been away travelling for nearly a year and had decided to pop back from Thailand, Vietnam, South Africa and all places exoti, and take time for a visit to mum.
She and her partner had more or less settled in Cape Town and we had enjoyed a wonderful safari together. They had bought a flat and a car over there. As Nic’s family lived there, he felt it only fair to spend some time with them after 7 years in London.
We were so excited to see them again and began to show them the progress on the house and take them around our local country towns and villages.
It was not long before we all realised that something was afoot! Our new baby grandson was born in June. All thoughts of living abroad abandoned, at least for now, as they settled back to London life.
Tristan is gorgeous! He has the most expressive face ever!
I’m now busy traveling two hours one way to see my elder grandson, who is now 5 years old and taking the train 2 and half hours the other way to see our loavely baby.
Our builders were amazing. When I started this project, a fellow blogger suggested dispensing with the architect and simply getting the trades people in together to discuss the project. In a way, that is exactly what happened.
The crazy notion of buying the bath, before even the floorboards were down proved to be brilliant!
The bath was hefted around the beams with a scratch doorway, a toilet pan and a man moving a door, to simulate just how much room we would have in the newly fashioned bathroom.
Our brickie discovered the 18th century outside wall hidden behind built-in cupboards which we were pulling out and he spent ages, lovingly restoring the wall as a feature to the bathroom.
Our plumber arranged the floor joists to suit the plughole for the bath and worked alongside the chippy to ensure the linen cupboard was large enough to be practical, but small enough to maximise room in the bathroom.
The house became a maze of shiny copper water pipes and plastic waste pipes, all of which were placed to be discretely concealed in ingenious guises, such as a false beam in the kitchen.
The resulting changes in our two bathrooms were beyond my imagination and yet had grown out of my dreams.
Here we were in full swing with the demolition and re-model! There was not a room in the house unaffected! Storage of tools, window panels, odd scraps of carpet covered every surface – not to mention the dust and dirt!
But, the sense of progress, the energy of the project, the feeling of organising exactly what we wanted was amazing!
By this time, every window had either been replaced, or had been taken out for renovation. All the sash windows were taken to be stripped to the bare wood and then repainted. The joints in the original Georgian windows proved they were made before 1790!
The kitchen ceiling was re-plastered and we could begin painting. The sense of achievement was awesome!
We began to realise what an enormous space we had now created for our new kitchen. I was now making small paper 3D models of kitchen interiors, to scale, in order to test all the designs we could come up with. Which way should the doors open? Where was the best place for the dishwasher? How many storage jars could we get into the space?
Then we were contemplating which light fittings would give us the best illumination? Where was the best placement for the radiators? Which radiators?
Every day brought us a new question and a new challenge.
By the middle of October 2013 the house was uninhabitable. Destruction had well and truely begun and there was no going back! There was an urgency about completing elements so they ran smoothly between trades. For example the kitchen had to be knocked through and the patio door openings had to be widened to liaise with the new aluminium patio doors arriving to be fitted. There were several things that caused us some anxiety. Not the least of which had been one of our comforts before we started the work! The Aga!
“How will you move the Aga?” people kept asking us. But we didn’t want to move the Aga! We needed to get rid of it! Although it had given us a great sense of warmth and been our only way to cook, it had also cost us a fortune to run. We calculated it cost around £50 in oil each week to run the Aga and the inefficient central heating system, at a time when oil prices were sky high.
“But you can’t get rid of your Aga!!!” they said! “Don’t you love it?” Well, yes, I was really pleased to have enjoyed cooking with it but it ran out of energy, if you were cooking a big meal.
So it had to go! But getting rid of it proved to be a huge problem. No-one wanted it! Not an oil Aga! Not of that age! Not that model! In the end one of our builders managed to find a client who would pay a small amount and they took it away from us. Hooray!
The work gutted the house. Whilst doing the kitchen, the bathrooms above were also cleared. Floors and ceilings disappeared and old plumbing and electrics were ripped out. Hardly a room was left in tact. it would have been impossible to continue living there and work at this speed.
Each day, John and I came in to project manage the work. Questions ranged from what bathroom fittings, which lighting, to how big did we want the new skirting boards? Sometimes we were asked to source and purchase things, like the bath and shower tray, immediately so the builders could check the distance for plumbing pipes between floorboards. It seemed mildly absurd to be doing this when the floor looked straight down to the kitchen below!
Of all the rooms in our house, it is the kitchen that has made most impact on its improvement!
The cluttered original version, we saw when viewing the house for the first time, gave a shabby chic impression. Storage was clearly an issue. Although it was big enough to have a kitchen table for eating around, the limited work surface was impossible to cook with.
Adjacent to the kitchen was an office, which also opened onto the garden. This gave us scoop to enlarge the kitchen considerably.
We retired down to Dorset just about 3 years ago. We took our time deciding if we liked the area, and where exactly we wanted to live. So we rented a house for 6 months while we drove the county in seek of perfection. We looked from farmhouses to town houses until we found this lovely Georgian house in a near perfect village.
Despite excellent room proportions, the house needed lots of modernisation and we began to work with an architect to re-design the rear of the house which had been built on in 1960. It took 6 months to get the plans through listed building requirements, but it has been worth the wait.
Having found the right building team, we began to tear the house apart. The work involved renewing the central heating, all plumbing and electrical wiring as well as some re-modelling of rooms. The extent of the work was such that we needed to move out for 6 months so the house could be gutted.
Then, at last we had a shell of a house to move back to. Although all the major work was finished, every room needed decorating. Most of the decorating included serious work to smooth walls, or sanding off layers of existing paint. About half the house now consisted of bare new plaster or replaced wood, so this meant knotting and sealing, prior to any painting. We chose to do it ourselves. It seemed sensible to pay skilled tradespeople to complete the things we had no experience in but, we felt, we could manage the decorating.With a four bedroomed house, we had our work cut out. It took us a further 9 months…and we still hadn’t finished completely.
Throughout this time, people asked the same question…”How’s the house?”
I thought I’d try to record that story in the next few posts.
Traveling round South Africa was simply amazing. The original word, “safari” meant simply an overland trip, now, of course we usually mean to see wild animals in their natural surroundings.
That’s just how we ended our trip!
There is nothing as amazing as driving your own car through a reserve and coming face to face with these brilliant animals!
I’ve been on safari before, in an organised trip where you drive with a ranger in a high up jeep, but to be in a little Kia! Elephants look enormous and you feel very vulnerable, as they stride silently by within touching distance.
How anyone can poach or harm such magnificent beasts, I simply cannot understand.