As in, you can see the sky through our roof.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Sure, now there are ironic remakes - Peter Kay / Comic Relief and all subsequent spin-offs, as far as I can tell from Wikipedia - but if you had middle-class Jewish parents in the 1970s, then you were totally up with all Neil Sedaka albums, and this was, practically our theme tune.
Seeing my little boy dancing it felt like it was only twenty minutes ago that my parents were putting all their 45s in their hired juke box, taking up the carpet, preparing ironic seventies food (OK, cocktail sticks with pineapple and cheese cubes didn't get ironic till afterwards) and throwing the most amazing parties.
Of course we were kids, and had to (rightly) go to bed, but the best thing about the parties was that for a few days or weeks later, we still had a jukebox (which was kinda like a 1970s precursor - except no-one had one - to an iPod), and we'd all dance and sing. I learned all my best dance moves, which I'm still using, then, and used to love jiving with my Dad and my brother, and watching my parents dance (pretty amazingly), as we swirled about the purple furniture (we had a purple, rather than brown seventies, which I think I've mentioned before). Now that I'm renovating our own house, I see how influenced I was by the purple seventies thing.
All this... nostalgia brought to you by kids' parties, YouTube and a sunny day.
Our house, since you ask, is doing fine. The structural engineer is back today to advise on (much reduced) additional underpinning of one internal wall. We are properly roofless. Things moving on apace. Meanwhile, I am seeking out retro lightfittings on eBay.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Seven years on, we've got a child and house and quite a lot of (collective) books and comics and a ... life together.
It's quite amazing.
So of course, we celebrated at the Hampstead Carluccios (who has time to go into town when you're paying a babysitter by the hour), where they were thoroughly charming to us - a complimentary glass of prosecco when we sat down, and limoncellos with desert (although one of us was driving). I had mentioned it was our anniversary when I booked.
D had even checked out an appropriate Hampstead-place to recreate our first kiss.
I don't get soppy that often (ok, I *do*), but I really thank the all the planetary doodars for helping me meet the loveliest bloke in the universe. Planetary doodars being the internet, bloggers, thedavegreen (organiser of xcom 2002 where we first met) and, in a strange way, a certain no-longer anonymous celebrity blogger. Happy Anniversary.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
a photo by sashinka-uk on Flickr.
So it's Purim - season's greetings. I've made semi-traditional hamentashen (triangular pastries in the shape of the Purim villain Haman's hat). Half are made with eingemachts (beetroot jam) and half with pear ginger and chilli jam. Not all have stayed triangular, but hey, that's homemade for you.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
One thing about this kind of project - that I struggle with - is that you can't pin everything down in advance. There are going to be things that happen as you go along.
D, the builder told me that the worst-case stuff happens in the first couple of weeks. So no suprise, then, that when we sat down yesterday, turns out that the middle (internal) walls of the house don't have deep foundations. The exterior of the house, on the otherhand, has apparently fabulous foundations for a house this age.
What this means is that to carry the weight of our loft conversion, we may have to dig deeper foundations. Possible alternative routes are redesigning the steels to spread the weight differently, which I'm hoping is do-able, otherwise we have to dig into our pockets quite a bit deeper than we planned.
Oh well. Nice house when we're finished. We hope.
Friday, March 04, 2011
Keeping the fireplace. Selling the radiators, if anyone wants apparently working probably 1930s radiators... I have five.
The knocking down, apparently, is much quicker than the building...
Thursday, March 03, 2011
We saw this house back in the spring of last year. It was a probate sale; a very old lady had died, and the executors had all the local agents round to value it. At the time, a well-known-national-chain were opening up in our area and offering a 0% fees promotion, to get properties on their books.
Now, this well-known-national-chain already have a reputation for over-valuing, and were pretty clueless about the area anyway, as they had no local knowledge, and this was actually buggering up our property search because (a) loads of people thought they would get 30% more for their house because well-known-national-chain had told them and (b) the 0% deal brought out of the woodwork dozens of not-serious sellers who were having a punt. I cannot tell you about the energy we wasted on a (not as nice house on a main road) because the guy kept saying he was moving to Scotland tomorrow but actually, still lives there and I suspect never intended to sell.
So no surprise that the well-known-national-chain got the property, and promptly put it on the market at 35% more than its true value. A local agent, K, who is honest and lovely, actually called me and told me this was "our house" - he wouldn't get it because of the 0% deal, but we should definitely go and have a look.
We ummed and ahhed, because it was a major project. Round plugs, no kitchen save for a fifties enamel sink, loads of period detail, sure, but way more work than we'd thought we might do. We were in a move-in-and-do-it-up-as-you-go-along mode - and this house you couldn't live in, and certainly not with a two year old, as the electrics sizzled when you turned them on.
But we needed to buy a house, and while it wasn't perfect it was in the totally right place - location, location, location, as they always say - so I talked to a couple of builders, found out quite how much it would cost to get it back to a family home, and we put in an offer reflecting that. Our plan was a sensitive renovation - keeping all the walls bar one (knocking the kitchen into the back kitchen to make one long narrow kitchen rather than two short narrow ones).
I remember the micro-estate-agent who was honestly about seventeen who showed me round the first time. He screeched up in his faux-cool-car and walked up the steps in his shiny shoes, and opened the front door, stood in the hall, expansively waved his hands around and said "I'd just knock down all the walls, and make it into one big room. Very modern, very now. And the light." The house is north facing.
But I humoured him, and we agreed a price after a bit of toing and froing, and we were kinda excited but not totally sure, and then the agent started pushing up the price because a developer was interested, and eventually we had to walk away.
Some months later, it's back on the market. The day before exchange, the develop apparently tried to chip the price by £50k and the whole thing fell apart.
We looked at it again, and this time were slightly more desparate to find a house after nearly three years of looking, and agreed a new (slightly lower) price. We actually had our offer accepted, ironically, the day we moved into our rented house (or as Zaphod calls it, our current house) and somehow, already moving to a rental made it easier to make the decision to take on a mammoth renovation. We were happy. We might even exchange before we got married.
In the end, we exchanged the week after the wedding, with completion scheduled for three weeks later. Exchange was delayed because I was totally anal about the insurance, and carrying on with the same insurer. The agent had mentioned that the water was off (the house had been empty for a year by then, so it should be), but I booked my plumber to come and check and drain the water tank the day we were completing. I mean, it wasn't ours at exchange, so we couldn't do that. Oh, how I wish I'd asked my lawyer to double-check the water was off, but hey, you always know more in hindsight.
AND IF THERE'S ANY LESSON TO THIS - if you're buying an empty house, make sure the water tank is drained before contract exchange.
A week after exchange I got a call from a neighbour who told me she'd heard there'd been a flood in our house. Except, it wasn't quite ours, and it wasn't quite theirs.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
When I say render, I (sadly) mean pebble-dash.
It was always my dream to live in a red-brick house, but hey, dreams are then to change / mutate. Our pebbledash is a dirty hundred-year-old brown, with, er, pebbles. It's just the top storey, the bottom storey - thank the gods - is red brick, but the question is, when we re-render the side (which we have to, as it needs serious maintenance) and the back extension, do we do it the same dirty-brown or an off-white colour?
Apparently render nowadays can have colour, so once it's done it's relatively maintenance free, but then I feel we should do the front to match.
I briefly thought about having pebble-less dash, if you see what I mean (lengthy conversation with the builder about the various English / Polish ways to dash pebble and texture render, which was quite enlightening), as I'd like to stay true to the original house, as much as I can.
As long as it doesn't look, y'know, crappy. Or - to most people - like we haven't done a renovation.
I dunno, what do you think?
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
A proper, rather detailed dream with kitchen brands and model numbers and a rather annoying (Dream) saleswoman in the (dream) kitchen shop (Bulthaup, where I would never shop).
We (that's the Royal We - D is delightedly happy for me to do my house thing as long as (a) he gets a decent shower and (b) he gets a good office (including affoementioned comics storage)) are going for a painted old-fashioned kitchen, and since November I have visited about six kitchen shops, sat down with three kitchen designers, bored many of my friends stupid (to which I'm sure they will atest) about my kitchen plan, and I'm currently on version 9.
My thinking, however, has progressed.
We have a narrow kitchen (galley, as my Mum keeps reminding me, and I always get an image of slaves rowing boats), so the planning is pretty crucial to maximise the storage space.
Kitchens are more complicated than bathrooms. That's what my project manager told me, and that's what I keep reminding myself when I spend even more time measuring cupboards and gaps in other people's kitchens. Let's face it, I'm only going to do one kitchen, and in the future my kid'll laugh and say "oh, so 2011, that kitchen, with it's painted grey cupboards and honed marble worktops" just as I smiled wryly at 70s orange Hygena kitchens.
So in the dream, the dream kitchen I wanted, which I would never want, it was all stainless steel and angled and dark wood, although Very Now, was £2,500 over our budget, but two salespeople had to get comission and they couldn't do anything on the price.
What I've realised is, buying a kitchen is kinda a little like buying clothes, but way more expensive and permanent. You say something about yourself. And I guess I want to say "I have a period sensibility and a serious storage habit, and I like plain things (John Book)." So I'm hoping to be all worktop kitchen appliances in cupboards with plugs, and just shelves showing off my (plain) white china and lemon drizzle cakes. Like I'm only a homemaker.
That's it. I'd like my kitchen to say: we have a simple life. I stay home and cook (in cupboards) and have a freshly-made-cake-would-you-like-a-cup-of-tea. And I make fresh food for my kid. And I like the simple things.
And the reality is I'm running this house renovation like a work project, because I'm juggling it with client-work, a new project I'm rather stupidly starting now because the time is right, looking after my two year old (his comment on the New House: mummy, there are no toys), and running a home (which covers the whole gamut of cooking / shopping / washing) where I feel that I have to offer all the Cheadle-in-the-70s services that my Mum offered.
But I like the "idea" that my life is simple.
I feel like I've been waist deep in house plans / engineer's drawings / dust / damp (we had a flood, long story) faded edwardian architectural details for six months, and that I've become slightly less interesting. So, if you know me personally, apologies, I am briefly one-dimensional, but I'm sure I'll come out a better person the other side (and one with all her storage needs met, too).