Site meeting with the builder and the architect. There is suspiciously less house than there was. I was reconciled to the loss of the kitchen wall but there are walls missing all over now. It is as if someone is rubbing out bits of my life. The meeting went quite well apart from the fact one of the cottages needs to be entirely replastered because of the state of the existing plaster work. "Is it in the spec?" I asked hopefully. No, it's not in the spec so that is an add-on cost. I spotted some cracks in the plaster work upstairs. It looked as though the wall was thinking about leaning backwards to get a better view of the sea. The builder reassured me that it would not be just gaily replastered. He slapped a hard-skinned, dusty hand against its fragile plaster skin. "We'll get a rubber mallet and we'll make sure it's all quite sound before we do the replastering." He slapped it again - brutish and professional. I did not find that as reassuring as he expected; I could tell the wall felt the same way.
It is the unpredictability of it all that I find mildly disconcerting; as if you had clambered on to a big red bus and said to the conductor: "A single to...well, wherever we end up." The downstairs concrete floor is uneven and I would like it to be warmer. There is a solution; polystyrene, chipboard and oak flooring. "Is it in the spec?" Funny you should ask - No. The last time I was up, I asked about stripping back the peeling painted beams in the living room. Today I was told the decorator had thought about it and said it would be very expensive (I already knew that was not in the spec); the builder suggested we might be better painting them in blackboard paint. Why would I want to paint them in blackboard paint of all things I wondered. Also, we have knocked down so many walls, there is an unsupported staircase which hangs in the middle of the living room. It looked OK on paper but in reality it is reminiscent of being on board a ship. I keep expecting a cabin boy to skip down it with a tankard of ale for the captain. I wondered whether it could be moved. It can't.
We were presented with a bill for the first four weeks of work: £7,500. I am sure it could have been worse. I still like my builder and the envelope could have had my name on it rather than my husband's. Why would they put his name on and not mine I wondered? The architect handed it to me; I looked at it and thought: "What the hell, it's not addressed to me." I smiled cheerfully at my husband and passed it along.
Never mind, if you do decide to return to 'that London', you'll be able to rent your cottage out to tourists for vast weekly sums. And imagine the extra kudos - and cash it'll be worth - when your books comes out!
Just thank your lucky stars you don't have to deal with listed building consent on top of all the other stuff. Believe me, it adds endless weeks to the schedule and countless amounts of dosh. You are lucky to have an old building to knock around without the council's conservation department breathing down your neck.
Builders, don't you just love them!
But having had a lot of work done to our house once, I have to admit that part of the problem was me changing my mind about 'little' details as the job progressed...
I suggest you invest £ 1.40 in a copy of the current Private Eye [the one with Prince Harry on the cover].
Reading about how the NHS IT project will end up pi$$!ng £12.4 billion of our earth pounds up against the wall will make you feel better, as it is not just building projects that go a bit awry with budget overshoots and delayed delivery. You can console yourself that no matter how bad things get, it will never be as badly run as a Government IT Project.
Or if it is, you could always hire Patricia 'If you'd just let me finish' Hewitt's PR Firm to tell the world, via your blog, about how it is an 'outstanding sucess'. BG
£7,500 for 4 weeks work is not bad - that should give you 4 to 5 competent people. But get the architect to check the work done and CERTIFY that they have done what they say they have.
Have just discovered your blog via cartoon in Sunday Times-brilliant!I was born in the north but have lived all over UK; my northeast time was quite urban whereas my Suffolk time sounds more like where you are now.Don't you think Newcastle could substitute for London on a smaller scale?
Btter get bacak to your scribbling wifey those bills just keep coming
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