Monday, 13 August 2007

The Black Hole of Renovation


It sometimes feels as if we have fallen into a black hole. Hellloooooo, we wail plaintively, looking for people to help us repair the bonkers house. We cup our ears but hear nothing but the echo of our sad little voices (and the distant sound of cheering from the cricket pitch). Before we went away I had finally – after much dithering – decided on the Architect of Choice (wooed by a website with House & Garden type pictures of drop-dead gorgeous houses that had been lovingly restored and remodelled by AoC). He specialises in old houses and has green leanings – what could be better? Merrily emailed him. Email bounced back. Tried again. Boing. And again and again. No joy. Walked by his office – shut. Tried phoning – no reply, just a jaunty ansaphone that doesn’t permit messages (er, why?).

So we put him on the back burner and renewed our efforts to track down our ex-Aga man (who has been happily sorting our heating and Aga needs for the last fifteen years). He too has gone AWOL – calls not returned over the last six weeks. Once again the ansaphone clicks on, another message (even more mournful than the last).
‘Hi Paul. It’s us again [yes we say who it was!]. Er, not sure if you are getting our messages or if you’re away on holiday [longest holiday ever] or if you’re just really busy [how busy can a heating engineer BE in summer?]. Or maybe you hate us and want us to be cold and smelly. Whatever, it’s cool - just please just phone and let us know eh?’
OK, so we didn’t say the last bit verbatim but you get the drift.
At this point Adrian was so depressed he phoned the fish man – just to get the joy of a reply.

It really is a bit grim. We need the Rayburn. We really do. The day we moved in we went to wash up and found freezing cold water coming out of the taps. I went to run a bath (sorely needed) – and an inch of luke-warm water sort of juddered out. We phoned up our vendor rather sheepishly and she laughed in a sort of ‘he he he, not my problem any more!’ way and explained the situation.
‘Ah well. If you want hot water you have to turn the heating ON and turn all the radiators OFF.

What???
‘Oh, and you can’t have all the radiators on anyway – it overloads the boiler.’
Great. I am pretty stoic but I do like a nice hot bath and I thought I’d grown out of boiling kettles to do the washing up.
We really must get a nice clear Order of Works to follow before winter kicks in. I can see fresh air through the windows of my study and James is nervous at how the slant of the hall seems to be getting more acute as the weeks go by.

I wonder though if, hand on heart, I’m trying to delay the inevitable. Maybe there is such a thing as negative cosmic ordering – perhaps I am somehow making these people vanish into thin air because in my heart of hearts I am dreading the start of the renovation? Truly I feel a bit sick at the thought of finding out the extent of what needs doing. The phrase Money Pit comes frequently to mind. Then there is the upheaval, the mess, the haemorrhaging of cash, the sauntering and careless whistling of workmen, the endless mugs of tea, the mountains of sugar (I think of Milla and wince). Not AT Milla of course, but at her accounts of life ruled by builders. Sometimes I think I’d rather just stay as we are – living with the inch of water in the cellar, the damp stains up the walls, the wobbling staircase and the slanting floors. I think I could get used to vinyl wallpaper and curtains that looks as if armies of cats had been having ripping contests. A seventies kitchen? So nearly back in fashion (just a shame half the doors are missing and the others lurch when you open them). Maybe we should treasure the bathroom with the tiles that clash with the wallpaper that clashes with the carpet that clashes with the curtains (not to mention the little hat of a lampshade that, yup, clashes with everything)……oh, forgot the Bath Knight thingy that lowers you into the bath and the plug that has to be held in the entire time the bath fills (to a giddy four inches - oh the excitement).

No, it’s no good. It must be faced. So I pour myself another glass of the red stuff and flick through a few copies of Period Living or Country Homes & Interiors and dream…..



20 comments:

ska said...

Oh how I remember this feeling from when we moved in here! It was the only thing we could afford post both divorces and didn't even have heating. We spent the first two years (including the year Rosie was born) with a kitchen the size of a toilet and the gas fire on the stairs (yes really) on day and night.
BUT for you it will turn out alright. You will make it your home and add your own little idiosyncratic touches...........good luck

toady said...

Sounds like France in August - can't get hold of anybody. It'll all come right, and the more you get to know the house the more you'll know what you want. Toady

Faith said...

Oh dear, poor you but I feel sure it will all work out - August is a cr*p month for getting people to actually DO anything! Come crisp September they will all be beating a path to your door!!!

Elizabethd said...

Jane, dont worry. The longer you live with it the more you will avoid making too hasty mistakes. You will finish up with a lovely home, I'm sure....but I do understand the frustration.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Could lend you the T shirt...been there done that got the ....etc...trouble is 10 years on I am still wearing it....I sincerely hope your renovation project is over quicker than ours...BUT if yours is over first I shall be very envious...and I did see a sign for Dulverton not too long ago..take care putting the milk bottles out.....

sally's chateau said...

It's all sounding terribly familiar, I've pushed that little (huge) period of my life into the compartment labelled 'best not remembered' it will be fabulous, it will be amazing, write it in large letters somewhere ! The builders used to arrive every morning and ask with genuine concern if I was okey BEFORE they sat me down and made coffee.

CAMILLA said...

Darling Jane,
What!! No hot water, that is just awful, the vendor should have said about that. By the way Jane, hub has put the Cottage on the market, I am feeling pretty anxious at the moment, eek! packing boxes and all that. We have had a very nice man come to view today, he is a brilliant ARCHITECT, and wants to buy for his Artist son. We have found an early 17th Century Cottage, but I think I will have to barter for it.

Hope the problems in your new home get sorted for you soon, can understand your frustration though.

Camilla.xxx

Pondside said...

Wow, Jane - when you pick a project you obviously adhere to the motto 'Go big or go home!'
I agree with Elizabethd, that the delays will mean that you will think thing through and end up with a fabulous reno. (yes, I am a glass-full kind of gal)
Spend lots of time visualizing what you want and remember 'time spent in recce is never wasted' (Gawd I'm full of platitudes tonight!)

ChrisH said...

Jane, don't panic! You sound a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the project but it will work out - just remember one step at a time! I know it's horribly cliched but all of those jobs are 'do-able' viewed separately so don't think about the big picture just yet - as Rose said to me this week when I was tearing my hair out about the rewrite, 'Worry is like a rocking horse - you can spend a lot of time on it but it won't get you anywhere!'

Having said that I do sympathise with the hot water - how horrid, if you were closer I'd invite you round for a bath.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh yes been there too and it is indeed one bit at a time - break it down into small chunks - small enough so that you gibber when you think about them and not scream.

Priority list is your top priority . . . but I do emapthise - builders etc are a nightmare when they just don't phone back . . . still waiting to hear from our plumber - been eight weeks now . . .

Tattie Weasle said...

Totally with you on this: had builders now for five years but had hot water for 18 months now and forgotten all about the compromise I used to have to make.
Wish I could send my lovely hippy gang down to you: they are so relaxing and soothing despite the fact that half my house is wrapped in blue tarpaulin and you no longer have to open the doors to enter: either pop through a window hole or just walk through the nonexistent walls!
Sending positive thoughts re Rayburns - expect a call from you heating engineer any day soon!

Suffolkmum said...

All too familiar for me too. I so agree with whoever (Faith?) said that come September, everything will seem 'back to normal'. I also agree that it's best to proceed slowly - far less chance of big mistakes, and you will come to know the house much better as time goes on.

Milla said...

Oh Janey, woe is you. And here I come fresh from "it took us 9 offers to sell" to "it took phoning about 15 plumbers / bathroom people to come and look at our bathrooms and only 3 quoted." The others either, yes, ignored us from the off or, worse, came along, chatted for an hour, made notes, measured, did drawings, discussed preferences, and then ... *uggered off never to be heard of again. Now they are finally done (a year on ...!) and we have as an unexpected side order, 4 holes in our sitting room, ranging from large coffee table book size up to coffee table size itself, but are sadly getting used to it. And more irritating wise words: it honestly will cost 2x what you most heart-sinkingly fear it will cost. Standards slip, expectations disappear, oh puck it, you know it all. GOOD LUCK!! And, yes, it's August so enviably long holidays for all the tradespeople is part of the deal - they can afford it, see, think what they charge. Jaded? Moi?

bodran... said...

I'd send colon down! brilliant at everything but sooooooooooo sllloooowwwww!!!! i'd never see him again and my house would never get finished...we completely gave up with builders they talk such a load of .rap and expect to get paid for shoddy wokmanship...uuurrgghh you've got me started now...........xxoooo

@themill said...

A lovely lady gave me a book that explained how to sort out a house. Now, what was her name again?

onceinabluemoon said...

Before you know it, it will be all over and not a bit of rubble in sight. I'm sure it will be all worthwhile, I suppose it is just looking at it everyday ,no further on!!!That must be a right bum..
Occhhh you'll be all tucked up by Xmas ,just you wait and see..good luck Exmjane

LittleBrownDog said...

Poor you - I do sympathise. Especially about the hot water. Still, at least it's summer. And by the time the architects/builders/boiler man have all got back to you, you'll have crystallised some great ideas about how best to go about everything.

annakarenin said...

I do hope we are going to get lots of before and after photos of these renovations because your house sounds wonderfully intriguing apart from the kitchen unless that is a particularly bad angle you have taken the photo from.

Holiday sounded good you might have blown it a bit there you write too well sometimes there will be bus loads heading up there as I write.

The Country Craft Angel said...

I do agree with Elizabethd. I know myself from our (only)renovation that it does help if poss to live with thigns for as long as you can and then you know EXACTLY what you need!

However I appreciate there are just some things that can't wait and for those, I have the greatest synpathy. Been there, done that, and ...never again...

warmest wishes
xx

elizabethm said...

you are so right about mystery disappearing builders but i think elizabethd has it when she says it is good to take things slowly (aside from absent hot water of course). i hate these magazine articles where Sandrina project managed (i.e. bullied and harangued) an entire renovation in three months - bollocks. can't know what you want until you know how you and the house go together. takes years to get it right. your house does sounds great despite all.