Friday, 30 May 2008

I am descending in to chaos

This housewife is dosed with the cold and  my house has descended into chaos. I down tools for one day and mayhem erupts. There is stuff everywhere, dishes piling up in the sink, laundry gathering into a mountain and the place is starting to look grotty. I am a  housewife who is none too keen on housework but I can't stand to live in dirt and mess so I do it. Unfortunately, I am the only one who does it. I'm thinking I should either exert the will of mind over matter and spring into cleaning action or I should just bail out for the day. Go somewhere peaceful with the children. It is warm and sunny. As I write I have decided to do housework this morning and go out this afternoon. I will take the children for ice-cream and visit the beach. 

My daughter is supposed to be going to nursery but I am not taking her because I cannot face the traffic. Can you believe that a half hour journey to nursery yesterday actually took one hour 15 minutes? We are not urban commuters but the traffic jam would rival city rush hour traffic. We snaked along and eventually made it to the town centre by which point I had lost the will to live and the girls were desperate for a pee. At least that's what they said to add to the stress of the journey but the minute we got there they didn't need. Then, nobody would let me turn right into the car park. The traffic blocked the access and they just kept coming. I told the nursery that we wouldn't be in today. 

I also have a bit of work to do on myself. I have honestly been too busy to bleach the hair on my upper lip. Looking at it in my magnifying mirror it is like a full-on moustache. I find myself talking to people with my hand over my mouth. The trouble is finding the right time to do it. I can't do it when baby is awake because he would stick his fingers in it. I can't do it during the day because someone would come to the door the moment I applied it and at night-time I am too knackered. I find myself glued to my nursing chair, feet up, glass of red wine in one hand, macbook on my lap and something, anything on the telly. Of course, it is not really that bad (at least that's what my husband tells me) but I did promise myself that I wouldn't let myself go after having children. Only, it's not that easy. I don't have the time or funds to groom myself like I used to. My hair hasn't been cut for ages, my legs are well overdue a wax, my feet are not yet summer sandal ready and it is at least a year since I applied a face mask. 

I think I will go and write a to do list.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Desperate housewives lunch

I spent the morning making phone calls about the house build and simultaneously pretending to be a girl while my daughter pretended to be my Mammy taking me on a day trip to see a Katie Morag show. I had a day off from the nursery run today so after dear daughter was despatched I took the baby for a walk to the site to talk to the joiners and check on progress. They weren't there today but it didn't matter as they will be there for the rest of the week and so I arranged for the forklift and driver to be on site to lift wall panels and roof trusses. With a rare couple of hours to kill and the sun blazing in the sky I called in on my good friend and future neighbour I for a yarn and to feed my baby and change his nappy. Our friend C called in and the three of us with our three buggies went to the hotel for lunch.  The last time I had been there we had all left well past closing time and rather the worse for wear. Today, we were on the diet cokes and making plans for our Sunday outing to see Sex and the City in Inverness followed by a meal. Chief among our concerns is of course what to wear. "Is a strapless dress too much? Just right", they assured me. Lunch arrived on a tray with a note from the chef saying, "I wish I was a desperate housewife!" On days like this the life of a housewife is not bad at all.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Happy Birthday to me

I am 32 today. I can hardly believe it and I think it is time to stop counting. My children gave me flowers and my husband gave me chocolates. I did tell him not to buy me anything as money is tight with the housebuilding and I had a bit of a spree in Inverness last week buying outfits to wear to weddings. It is obvious that yesterday with our daughter away for the day to a Katie Morag show with her Granny  that he drove 15 miles to the nearest shop to buy cards and gifts. As it is a small supermarket the choice is limited. So the flowers are a few carnations and a couple of gerberas. There are some small purple ones as well but I can't tell what they are because they are dead after spending all night and all sunny morning in the car without water. They all fitted comfortably into the small vase. As I write he is tucking in to the chocolates! 

We didn't get much sleep last night with the baby teething and the fact I stayed up late as my sister came to stay. So, it was a slow start to the day and then a mad rush to meet up with my family for a birthday lunch in a hotel. Afterwards we went to my Mum's for birthday cake. My daughter chose it for me when she was shopping with her Granny yesterday.  She helped me blow out the candles, that is, she blew out the candles. She was just in the nick of time as the baby's fingers hovered closer and closer to the flames. 

Turning 32 feels like an insignificant event. It is not a major milestone or anything. The best bit about my birthday is the joy my daughter gets from celebrating it with me. She said it was a great party and she was so delighted to bring me cards, presents and birthday cake. She also chose to wear her new party dress. My sister gave me a lovely top and other gifts of money were most welcome. Might help cover the cost of my shopping spree. So, it was a good birthday and a happy family day.

Friday, 23 May 2008

we have walls

Yesterday morning the second load of our timber-frame kit arrived. My husband stayed in bed with man-flu so I dropped the kids off at my friend's (she is also my soon-to-be next door neighbour).  When it was all off-loaded there looked to be enough for two houses. I left the joiners having a well-deserved cup of tea at 11am. After the nursery run I went up to the site to see if there were a few walls up. I couldn't believe it when I saw a house. All the main downstairs walls were up. I could walk through doorways, stand in rooms, look out windows. It was so exciting. I have dreamt of living in this house for years and now I can really walk inside it. It feels light and spacious and it is just as I imagined.
After our weekly art class I went out with two friends for a drink to celebrate the walls. There was only the three of us in the bar but we had a great laugh. 7 G&Ts later I arrived home at 2am. My head was bad in the morning but not bad enough to regret it.
All the joiners were on site today and put up partition walls and first floor joists. I was doing the nursery run again today and the weekly shop so my husband, let's call him H, said he would go to the site to talk to the joiners about schedules and bring them some plans. Only, he didn't. Aaargh! I hit the roof. Why does he have to be so unreliable? 
With all my focus on the new house the house we live in is descending into chaos. Never mind, there's always tomorrow. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Our house arrived - eventually!

Today was the day. At 9am I arrived on site with 2 kids in tow, the camcorder and camera to record the momentous occasion when the kit arrived. Already on site was a lorry with the roof trusses and  A was busy on the forklift removing our trusses from the lorry. My wee girl hopped on and helped him safely take the trusses up on site. The joiners appeared - 4 of them- all set for a day's work. But still no house. At half nine I phoned Skye Homes and they said the lorry should be on its way and that they would check and phone back. For an hour and a half me and the two kids wandered around and got eaten alive with midges. I was in a constant state of excited anticipation with the camcorder round my neck waiting to capture the moment our house arrived. It turned out that the haulage company had forgot. Forgotten our house! I mean for fuck's sake how can you forget a house! The owner of the company had even driven past it loaded on the trailer at the weekend and thought to himself that it was loaded too high to go under the railway bridge! Anyway, a driver was dispatched and we were told the house would be on site at 3pm. More like 4pm we thought. So the joiners started the genny and boiled the kettle for a cup of tea. Thankfully, they had other jobs to go to and went away for the afternoon. I despatched one child to nursery and at 3.05pm as the baby was draining a bottle of milk my brother (who is one of the joiners) rang to say the house was there. I had missed filming the arrival! The lorry had not been packed that well and as large pieces were removed small pieces below crumbled of the side on to the ground. Even I could see they weren't packed properly. It also turned out that they had simply removed panels from the top  that are the first to be assembled so now there is no work for the joiners to do on site tomorrow. What a balls up! Everything was going so smoothly until now. It is so annoying but there is nothing to do but wait and moan and complain. I feel bad for the joiners who had cleared their schedules for us and now there is little for them to do. What a waste of time. I am totally exhausted now and this momentous day has been something of an anticlimax.

Friday, 16 May 2008

buiding gathers apace and some unusual shopping

You need to get a conical adapter. That is very important. The best place to get one is Bonk & Co. So said the brickie. Instantly suspicious I asked if he was joking. What kind of a place is Bonk & Co and just what is a conical adapter? It turned out to be perfectly innocent. Bonk & Co is a woodburning stove company and the conical adapter is just a part we need. We are so lucky with our brickie. He is polite, friendly and always returns our calls. He is also very accommodating and is going to build our chimney before the kit comes. So Sunday, Monday he will build the chimney  to 1st floor level with my husband labouring for him. Then on Tuesday the kit arrives. As soon as he phoned to say he could do it we had a rush on. First of all we had to get new chimney plans as my husband had finally agreed to go for a wood burning stove and not a dirty, inefficient open-fire. We got the new plans emailed to us very quickly by Skye Homes (excellent house company!) and talked to the brickie about materials. We were too late to get our materials delivered on time by the builders merchants so I had to organise getting our pick-up MOT'd for husband to collect the materials. At the builders merchants I felt a little out of my depth when they started asking questions about the materials. Thankfully I had brought the plans. I explained that I don't know what any of these things look like and that I am more used to shopping at Debenhams. They couldn't have been nicer, or more helpful. Don't worry, they said. Shopping in Debenhams is no fun for us. I said it is difficult at times because we are self-builders and we don't really know what we are doing. We rely on other people to keep us right. Don't worry, he said, half the builders in town don't know what they are doing either!
I phoned Bonk & Co and they arranged to send down the part the next day. Next I organised to borrow my brothers scaffolding tower. That night we phoned the joiners who are erecting the timber-frame kit and they are all set to go on Tuesday. And I contacted a delivery company to arrange collecting extension forks that have been made especially for the fork-lift.

Everything has been going so smoothly so it is no surprise that we have one problem. Our site agent. A person we pay to help us. But, he doesn't! We don't have a building warrant for the superstructure (house!) yet. The reason being that 6 1/2 weeks ago when building control contacted him with some queries regarding our application he left their letter lying on his desk and did nothing about it. I only discovered this by chance when I happened to be on the phone to Skye Homes at the same time as they received a fax from him containing the letter from building control. Funny that, As I had emailed him only an hour earlier asking if there was any news on our warrant.  I was so pissed off but I waited until the evening before composing an email. I got a very apologetic reply but I am still pissed off. We are going to carry-on regardless!
I am so excited. It is now only 4 days until the kit arrives! 

underfloor heating and floor screeding

We have the underfloor heating installed! It happened so fast. We realised we had a bit of time left before the kit arrives so we contacted our neighbour who we had lined up to do our underfloor heating and a few days later it was down. My brother ordered underfloor insulation and perimeter insulation for us and my husband laid it in an evening. Next day he worked with our neighbour to put down the underfloor heating. It was so quick. That night my brother worked hard putting in floor battens then the next morning all the men gathered on site again to screed the floor. Earlier in the week we had joiners in to put on the wall plate and locating plate so the men screeded off that and across the floor battens. It looks really great. So we now have foundations complete, underfloor heating in, floor battens laid ready for the floorboards to be nailed in to and our floor finished. So the house is at ground floor level now. Just need to get the chimney up!
The night before we did the floor screed we had a bit of a panic that we wouldn't have enough men on site. People that should help (my uncle and cousins!) wouldn't and one friend who wanted to help might not be able to because his wife was going to visit her ill father in hospital. So, a deal was struck that I would mind his 2 kids so he could help. I also had to feed the troops and look after my own two. Thank God, my Mum came out to help. I think we possibly worked harder than the men on site. I was disappointed not to be able to visit the site while work was going on. Mum and my two went down with bacon rolls and I made a meal for the end of the working day. It turned out that the wife (my friend) didn't visit  her dad; she went away on a haircut and shopping trip! It is mad because they are planning to build a house and will need help like we have had from people.  Anyway, it all worked out fine for us and the job was done and done well. A local man with a lifetime of experience came along and made a big difference. There was a fair bit of craic on site and I heard about it afterwards over dinner. 
It feels like a home already because good will and the work of good people is embedded into the very foundations.  It is supposed to be a very stressful time but so far it hasn't been. It is so exciting.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

we dug down and now we're going up

I have stood in the foundation trenches and watched them being filled with concrete. Within a couple of days the foundation  block work was complete and we could see the size and shape of the house. A giant footprint on our patch of this earth.  It looked big but when I stepped in to the lounge it seemed so small. "I'll never fit a three-piece suite in here!" I said. I knew the room measured up to a big space but in the wide open without walls to limit the eye it was impossible to guage. I'm a typical woman when it comes to visual-spatial exercises. 

The next stage was to fill it with hardcore which the digger man dug out from our site and created a great back yard space in the process! We had to compact the base with  a vibrating whacker plate. When that was done we dug up some of it to drill holes through the foundation walls for drainage pipes. The brickies should have left the holes in the first place and we should never have filled it in without making sure there were holes there! It was all our fault really as we are the project managers. Anyway, it is all sorted out. I hadn't planned on getting my hands dirty at the foundation stage but the night before we did the concrete floor I was out working at the site filling in holes with a spade and helping to place drainage pipes. My hands were wrecked. Cracked skin, raggy, broken nails and dirt so ingrained it wouldn't wash out. It wouldn't have been so bad but the week before I had spent £20 on a manicure!

Concrete floor day was exciting. There I was in my yellow steel-toe cap Lidl wellies my father-in-law had bought me years ago laying DPM (damp proof membrane) and expansion boards and pressure-testing the drainage pipes. I really enjoyed getting involved and it fuelled my enthusiasm for the whole project. The best thing about the day was the atmosphere of all these people helping us. Friends and neighbours working out of the goodness of their hearts. It is heartening that there still exists a code of helpfulness in our highland village. Neighbours help one another and know they can call on each other for help. Of course, not everyone is willing to lend a hand. We had people on our site pushing 60 and working hard. Yet, our old friend a fit single man kept his distance and took his dog for a walk instead. He doesn't like to help anyone. Resents giving his time away. Although he is like that the people here are so good that when he needs it they will help him too.