Posts Tagged ‘House’

So: after almost twenty months, more Estate Agents than I ever hope to encounter again in the rest of my life, an architect, a team of builders and a deep immersion in the auction houses of London, I am moving into my new house this weekend.

The children have already seen it and given it their unconditional approval, which is heartening, as I chose it largely with them in mind – as you would, of course. When I saw it, I wasn’t completely convinced – in fact, I was quite anti: but the endorsements of Sister, Parents, Old Friend at Work and Best Friend all brought me round and now I am enamoured with it. This is probably due, in no small part, to the fact that it no longer has mahogany floorboards, a black quartz kitchen floor and blue and white tiles in the bathrooms (one of the reasons I have spent so long not living in a house that I have owned for six months is that I decided to bite the bullet, do ALL the work – and spend ALL the money, rather than do it in drips and drabs, which would be disruptive – and I think everyone’s had enough disruption to be getting on with…), and is now exactly as I would want it.

It’s also the first time that I’ve lived in a house of this style: very modern and open-plan, rather than old and self-contained rooms. Again, I am now delighted with this way of living, and it’s also quite therapeutic to be living a new life in a new kind of space, rather than in a version of the houses that I shared with Ex Wife.

So: good times ahead. The children are excited, and I’m excited. If I can put up with the navy blue front door until the Spring, when I shall re-paint it (and there’s more than enough woodwork to be painting in the meantime), then all shall be rosy in the garden. Assuming some cunt hasn’t planted bamboo in there…

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Ah, the horror, the horror!

How well I remember the feeling from the first house that we bought (sight unseen by me, as it happens, with Ex-Wife and my mother making the decision together – and doing a fine job of it), when the builders have started to knock the living shit out of the structure that you have just paid a fortune for, and you’re left with the sort of environment that one would more readily associate either with heavy shelling or installation art –  the former being only just marginally worse than the latter…

And so it proved again, when I went over to look at my new house on Sunday: much of it has gone (fortunately, the bits that the architect and I had decided SHOULD go) and there was rubble everywhere. The drawing room was home to four lavatories, the dining room was piled high with smashed tiles, and the kitchen appeared to be nothing but concrete slabs. Everywhere, windows had been leaned against walls, in readiness to be re-inserted into the new, extended structure (maybe it’s true what David Hare says in “The Breath of Life” that my generation’s legacy shall be “We came, we saw, we knocked through”…) and I was left with the panicky feeling of “This will never be done” – but then I get that feeling when painting a cupboard, so maybe I don’t need to worry too much.

In fact, if Gigantic Builder (seven feet tall, hands like coal shovels, tattoos on his arms that could contain the entire text of “King Lear”) is to be believed, it will all be done in mid November – which feels incredibly unlikely at the moment, but if they’re as quick as putting stuff in as they are at ripping shit out, then it’s probably feasible. It’s been like having two jobs, doing all this – and I have had a hell of a lot of help from a hell of a lot of people – and I can’t wait until my bit of it is done. The only thing I haven’t done is chosen tiles for the kitchen walls: this was always Ex-Wife’s area, and so I’m slightly nervous of bollocksing it up. UAG put in a bid for duck egg blue, but that’s so ridiculous, that she might get a punch in the tits. My sister has good ideas, but a VERY unrealistic idea of “budget”: so my conversations with her often involve the sourcing of high-end glass and marble compounds from individual suppliers, and then my concern over whether or not they could (instead) be found at Fired Earth.

Ah well, it is a “luxury problem” to have – and if I do fuck it up and end up with a wall full of turquoise tiles that I thought would be very pale grey, I suppose I can always rip them off and start again…

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I Wonder About Glasses

As I walked home yesterday, I saw an Estate Agent’s board displayed in the front garden of one of the houses ahead of me, very near to our own.

As I drew nearer, my heart started thumping: the board was in OUR front garden – and the sign on it said “Auction of Premises”. Dear God, I thought – things are worse than I thought: Wife has put the house up for auction without telling me!

It was only when I drew very close that I was able to read that on this Estate Agent’s sign, there was an advertisement for an event at our children’s school (and for every sign advertising said agent that parents consent to being displayed, the school gets fifty shiny new English pounds), the event being an “Auction of Promises”. This is the same event which (a couple of years ago now) resulted in my bidding for someone to do my tax return (and he did it beautifully, I must say), so maybe I should have remembered the event a little more clearly. I got quite a scare, but the relief at discovering that Wife hadn’t decided to sell the house without consultation was an equivalent delight, reminding me to be grateful for what I have.

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Not fashionable, I know – but here’s something positive to say about the Police:-

This morning, they rang our doorbell to see if anyone answered, because our bedroom window on the first floor was wide open and the burglar alarm was tilted at an angle. The police, seeing this, were concerned that someone had used the burglar alarm as a foothold (a certain raffish irony to this…) and used it to gain entrance through a window which they had left flapping in the wind, tilting the alarm off its moorings as they moved their weight off it.

In fact, the burglar alarm was ripped from its moorings when I (in a fit of over-enthusiastic pruning) yanked the leggy climbing rose and vigorous, grout-displacing climbing hydrangea off the front of the house; and I ALWAYS throw our bedroom window wide open (though won’t be doing so again). But I was very impressed at their vigilance – and at their imagination…

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Digging for Victory

In the torrential floods that afflicted London (and a huge number of other areas) last year, our cellar was flooded. The most severe losses (aren’t they always?) were our photographs: all the baby photographs of the children and most of the surviving ones of late Mother in Law.

The insurance covered us well, fortunately and so in a couple of weeks, we are having people round to install a proper, water-resistant seal around the cellar: and at the same time, we’re going to have the floor dug down by another foot. This should make the cellar a more workable space (at the moment, I can’t stand up in it, and so it houses Wife’s darkroom) and may even enable us to move the utility room downstairs. What I’m not looking forward to is taking everything out of the cellar, wrestling it up the narrow stairway, and trying to find alternative storage for it. I feel a purge coming on…

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Wife is on a purging mission. If I didn’t know better, I would assume that she was eight months pregnant and the famous “nesting instinct” had kicked in in reverse. I came upon her (not like that, it’s not that kind of blog…) sweating and carting around bagfuls of toys and books for the charity shop, having just purged Eldest Son’s bedroom. Established readers will remember that Youngest Son has – fairly recently – been subjected to a monastic style of living, imposed on him for kicking my father, so there was no need to go through that exercise again for him.

Spurred on, I decided to follow her example and set up about re-arranging the furniture in our bedroom, in advance of the builders turning up to install an en suite bathroom in there (amongst other things). Thus were unearthed ancient piles of dust, letters from British Airways, and (as ever) about £300 worth of taxi receipts. Things are now re-arranged, so that the bedhead is no longer surmounted by the Masaccio book jacket poster, but by an engraving of St. John’s College, Oxford – which means that my suspicions that I will one day be killed by a falling picture in the night will have an excitingly ironic “Jude The Obscure” build to them.

The ottoman is in the bay window (where it can absorb what little heat emanates from the radiator there, and the wall that used to house the bed now enjoys (in Estate Agent Speak) a chest of drawers, an armchair and a butler’s table with Wife’s Grandmother’s Russian correspondence box upon it. So, now you know what our bedroom looks like – apart from the fucking great hole in the ceiling, from when the bathroom above flooded and STILL hasn’t been repaired. Anyway, the renovation of the whole house is starting reasonably soon – so it makes sense to get the same builders to everything (or so I keep pretending to myself, every time I look at the ceiling which lends our rather beautiful bedroom an unwelcome Dostoyevskyan air).

Wife was pleased by the transformation. I know this because her comment on my three hours of puffing and sweating was: “The ottoman looks better there.”

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Saturday, 16th February 2008

The building work is bubbling away on the horizon…

The attics are going to be converted, the kitchen is going to be re-born and the bathrooms are going to be pulled, kicking and screaming into the new century (they currently look like the sort of thing that you’d find in an old people’s home…).

As part of this fandago, Wife invited a friend’s husband (who is an architect) to look at the house, and was enjoying a good conversation about where the airing cupboard might be moved to, until he gently pointed out that, given that his last commissions had included The British Museum, St. Pancras Eurostar Terminus, and Portcullis House, that he may be a trifle expensive an asset to engage on our Chiswick semi…

Anyway: the plans are afoot, bar the arguing. So now we are in the process of pulling faces at each other, as each one suggests a plan, a design scheme, a certain tile etc., and enjoying saying things like “I suppose we COULD do that…” in a tone that suggests that we could also paint the whole house to resemble an enormous vagina.

Ah well. It looks like by late Summer we will be living in the house pretty much as we want it, curtains, lighting and furniture notwithstanding. So, the first job is to find a walnut linen press. Simple…

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