Friday, 20 December 2013

The new kitchen - a Christmas miracle!

Did I tell you we were having the kitchen done? Ha! Ha! That's just my little joke there. It's finished! Completed! For the first time in four and a half months there are no builders in the house at all. They have gone away. Vanished. Disappeared. Hooray! It's a Christmas miracle. 

Just as soon as I finish writing this I'm off to find the It's A Wonderful Life DVD (because it is) and start wrapping presents in front of it, with the fire on, before the children get home. But hang on a minute... I just have to nip down to the kitchen again and check it's all still there and pinch myself and open a few drawers and cupboards and pinch myself again and go in the pantry (yes! I have a real life pantry!)...

Okay I'm back. I still can't believe it. The first morning we were due to move in (Sunday) I was awake at 5.30 trembling with excitement. Really. I was. Okay so you might think that's a bit sad but I make no apologies, as I said to Husband the other night, we started in a studio flat in Streatham in 1988, which immediately went into negative equity so we had to live in it for 8 years pulling the sofa bed out every night and dragging all our washing off to the launderette each week, and somehow we have arrived here… in heaven. And it's only taken 25 years.

It's been hell getting to this point, mind, I will not be recommending my builder anytime soon that's for sure. Okay, so I did get quite fond of the guy at times and on the plus side he didn't walk away even after all the cock ups and problems, and he went along with all my crazy schemes - "So I want a fireplace with a woodburning stove and a wood store in the middle of two windows with triangles at the top, and recesses in the walls that I can use to sit the cupboards back in, and a walk-in pantry taken off the back off the loo area here, and these reclaimed ships lights I found on eBay to hang there in the pitch roof, and long suspended wooden shelves made from cheap wood that we will sand down and stain to make look old and put above a dresser area, like this, and a retro style sink run with metro tiles and these wall lights I got…" and all without an architect or anyone to project manage it, except me. 

Actually, now that I write all that it sounds mad. No wonder it took four and a half months! Well anyway, we did it, we survived, and it's all done in time for Christmas and we have a beautiful kitchen and I really could not be happier. I know we're very lucky. I owe it all to a hard-working husband, a crappy endowment I took out when I was 21 and just cashed in, and a whacking great mortgage. 

And because you have borne with me for so long, dear reader, and suffered all the trials and tribulations here by my side, here it is just for you. I hope you like it…

And the best bit till last… the walk in pantry!

Merry Christmas!

Love E x Twitter @DOESNOTDOIT


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Smoke and mirrors.

"Alright Liz?" says the workman standing in our back garden with one of my best Sanderson mugs in his hand. I've just got back from an outing with friends. "We just made ourselves a cuppa, hope that's ok." 

No, it's not okay, I think to myself. That means you went into the living room, which was firmly shut, and rooted around in my temporary kitchen and found my best mugs and helped yourself. 

If I count them all up there have probably been more than 40 different workmen in and out of our house in the last few months: window installers, fire installers, roofers, plasterers, a team of electricians (I think there were 7 on that day), tilers, granite worktop installers, and most of them Polish. These guys, the ones installing the wood burning stove and the chimney pot, are British, or to be more precise, Londoners, and I think I like them the least. They come with a bunch of one-liners and a whole lot of cheek and they are the only ones to help themselves to tea. 

"Where's the frame for the fire?" I ask. There is a gaping gap between in the new inset stove and the opening for it.

"Oh there ain't no frame," says the one holding my best Sanderson mug. "That's what it's meant to be like. Didn't you order a frame? If you want a frame you have to get it separate, love. Didn't you know?"

I can feel my heart start to race. I'm sure you don't have to order a separate frame. I've been looking at inset stoves for months and I've never come across one that required a separate frame. 

They can see that I'm panicking. They look at each other. One turns away and whispers something to the other under his breath. There's a hint of smile. 

They are in my house, being paid by me and they are holding my best mugs.

I go upstairs and ring the fireplace company. They are very apologetic. There should be a frame, they say, they will ring the company in Sweden.

I come downstairs. The builder appears from the back garden with a large cardboard box, "Is this the frame?" he says. It was there all the time.

By the time they finish it's dark and the  chimney pot is on the roof but I can't see it,  and they want paying, in cash, all of it. I pay them most of it but hold back £100.

"What's this?" says the one in charge, let's call him King Cheeky. 

"I'll pay you the last hundred when my husband has seen it," I say.

"But we've done the job," says King Cheeky, clearly outraged, "It's all finished."

"Yes, I say, but it's dark and I can't see and my husband hasn't seen it. (He doesn't need to know that my husband couldn't care less). 

He leaves in a huff, slamming the door behind him and the next day I awake, look out the back office window, and see a nasty splodgy mess of mortar all over the cowl (top of chimney pot) and the roof. 

So, when King Cheeky sends a text a few days later asking when can he call round for the rest of his money, "Liz"? I reply saying anytime, thanks, so long as he clears up the cowl first.

"Why?" comes back a text, quick as lightening, "What's wrong with it?" 

"Bit splodgy," I text back.

"Send a picture," he returns.

So I do. (At the top of the blog.)

"Saturday am okay?" comes back his reply.

"Fine," I say.

Touche to you Mr Cheeky pants-I'm-going-to-use-your-best-mug-and-buggar-off-without-doing-the-job-properly.

So he comes on Saturday and puts it right and I pay him and I won't be recommending him to anyone anytime soon.

But God it's exhausting.

Love E x




Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The milkman, Georges Simenon, and Sex

The milkman says he really likes Simenon. He is looking at our book shelves. "So you did French at university?" he says. 

"Not me," I reply, "Husband. I did English."

"He's a fascinating writer," says the milkman, examining our row of Simenon titles. "Do you know he could write a whole novel in eleven days? He was prolific."

"Really," I say, thinking about my two unfinished novels and this week's blog not yet written, "I bet he didn't have three boys and six builders in his house."

"He had children" says the milkman.

"Yes," I say, "but I bet he had a wife too."

I would quite like the milkman to leave now. He has called round for his money and I have invited him in while I scrabble around looking for a tatty old cheque book. I have managed to find one with an empty cheque in it (not an easy task in our house) and pay him his outstanding £52.00 (daylight milk float robbery), as the builder hovers in the hall outside the living room waiting to continue the argument we were just having about where the pendent lights should go (I say centre over the kitchen island, he says centre over the hob, I wish he could just bloody well do what I ask). 

I have just got back from taking the boys to school - AGAIN - because Middle one needs his guitar and amp for his GCSE music assessment. I have also just seen Eldest out of the door to a University of London workshop for English A' Level, (Me: do you know where you are going? Him: yeah, kind of. Me: don't you think it would be a good idea to take that map Daddy printed off for you last night? Him: yeah but I can't find it. Me: it's on the desk upstairs. Him: I haven't got time to get that. Me, running up the stairs to get it, like a twit). Now I'm trying to guide the milkman towards the door. 

"He wasn't just prolific with writing, you know," says the milkman, "he slept with 10,000 women."

Now I remember, our milkman is obsessed with sex. He manages to crowbar the topic into all sorts of random doorstep encounters, which is rather worrying, and inappropriate, especially when one is standing in one's dressing gown looking for change.

"Really." I say. We are nearly at the door now. He is being forced to walk backwards towards it, as I stride forwards towards him. 

"So," I say, stupidly continuing the conversation rather than curtailing it, "Georges Simenon is your favourite author then?"

"Oh no," says the milkman, "my favourite author is Turgenev."