Sunday, 28 August 2011

Budget Busting and an interesting week - Late August 2011

Hi all!  Well, next week will be fun.  In terms of the house I will be well past the half way mark and I'm off to France on Thursday.  I've included some pics of my lounge and one of my kitchen in a pretty advanced state - just to tantalise you.  I've also ordered my new table.  It is small but I have chosen the plank of Olive Ash that it will be made from and I will be beautiful once the maker works his magic.  Having a hand made table to my requirements may sound extravagant but Roger is a mate who I work for from time to time and therefore the price will be affordable.  The chairs however.....

That brings me nicely on to my modernisation budget.  I allowed myself a generous 20% contingency fund for my rebuild and as these things tend to it disappeared pretty quickly.  In order to completely finish the house in the way I want therefore requires me to do some of the work.  I'm going to do all of the living room with some advice from my builder.  Like most DIYers I can lay bricks and work accurately with timber but the art of plastering and other finish work is something most prefer to leave to the pro's due to the high quality finish they give.  I'm going to tank, render and plaster my lounge and lay the new floor.  This work has to be done correctly and my builder will supervise whilst he finishes the kitchen and moves on to the bathroom.

This is an intriguing house.  Lifting the floor - probably the first time since the last fire in 1904 - revealed charred brick and tile and showed more evidence of the building phases going back some 200 years.  The last house I owned was built in 1720 and this one is more interesting and worthy of respect.  This is partly why my budget has grown.  Removing timber lintels and "over specing" the new lounge floor are examples.  The lads from (my old) work who read this know only too well that in any project you can usually trade time for money.  I am over spending therefore I need to reduce the time/money spent on paid labour to bring the project back and get all that I want for the money I have alotted.  So I have asked the builder to give me the last 10 days on my own.  4hrs a day, 4 days out of 7, I have worked on the house.  This together with keeping my old kitchen floor has saved me about £1000.  I'm getting entirely fresh kitchen, bathroom and lounge for £12k.  I think this is good value considering the quality and completeness of the work being performed.  No short cuts here and the electrics and heating are state of the art and have some innovation applied to them.  This will be an interesting home designed just for me and it should deliver exactly what I want my house to do.  Can't wait until it is complete - October?

My blog posts tend to centre on several recurring subjects:  travel, fitness (or lack of it), festivals and the plethora of minor shit that equate to building my new life.  There is one other subject I tend to write about and there has been some changes here.  Early days and caution is present but I'm smiling more.  Thank you.

Ive got that "Buckle up your seat belt Dorothy'coz Kansas is going bye bye" feeling.

My beautiful daughter returned from travelling this week so we went out and got shitfaced - as we do.  Some parents my be shocked at this but Lizzy and I are great friends and I would just like to ask what do you do with your friends when you haven't seen them for some time?  Anyway, Friday was a great night where travel stories were exchanged and I benefited from from hearing her insight.  Lizzy spent a month in Cambodia and a month in Thailand performing voluntary work with orphans.  She is 20 in September and off to Uni in October.  I would say this wouldn't I but my daughter is quite a gal.  Given all that has happened she is honest, straight and ambitious in the right way.  She is also a thinker, beautiful and funny.  I hope you can see why I'm so proud of her.  We had a great night and crashed at a close friends flat that is blissfully located not 30mtrs from the pub.  I slept on the freezing kitchen floor whilst Lizzy and her (quality) boyfriend had the lounge.  I woke up stiff as a board and shivering, clear signs of a successful, good ole fashioned alternative piss up.  Here's to you Lizzy, welcome back kid.  Love ya.

This was going to be a simple post but actually I really enjoyed writing this one!  Lots of things have happened and more to come next week when I leave for France and the lounge gets it's new floor.  The bike is ready for France and in touring trim (as opposed to "all out, fuck off, mad dog, turbo charged nutter bastard" trim) and I hope I am ready as well.

So it's music time.  I saw the Goddess that is Flo perform this twice at Glastonbury a year ago and it was emotional.  It was the only time I have seen the entire Pyramid Stage area crowd (full by the way), the Solidarity bar punters and all the fast food traders stop doing whatever they were doing and climb on tables, chairs, turned to each other and put their hands in the air.  Everyone, together, at once, sang the great lyrics and smiled.  A true "moment" and I was there.  Even if you have heard it a million times treat yourself one more time.  Grab the hair brush, plug your laptop into your hifi, volume to 11, think of someone past or present and let go.  I bet you can't play it just the once!  This is what I saw, listen to what I heard. This one is for you:


And this is the equally excellent official vid of the studio version without Dizzee


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Brief Update - Early August 2011.

Hi all!!  Been a while because the house looks like a victim of a World War 2 blitz attack and it's been a busy time.  Dust is everywhere but I have a kitchen and it is looking lovely.  Trick lighting, all new white goods and damp proof.  On the advice of the builder I am letting the place thoroughly dry before decorating it.  As you can imagine that is driving mad!  3 days work and it would be finished...ho hum.

I'm stripping the plaster off the walls of the living room presently and the builder is going to teach me to plaster so I will probably do the vast majority of the work in that room.  This should allow the builder to concentrate on the bathroom.  I'm not going to post any pics until the whole place is complete.  I think it will look good; and so it bloody well better be considering the money this is costing me!

I've been buying some art.  I have several watercolours already but I have just bought 2 nudes from an artist called Rob Saunders and very nice they are 2.  They are very light effected and look different at different times of the day.  Need to work out where to put them now.  Think I'm a couple short though but buying art is about patience.  Wait until you see something that you really like and view it a long time before you buy is my advice.

I'm now fully injury free - finally.  Start back working out and boy have I weakened.  What was a breeze now hurts, but that is the way of it.  After I trained today I will get a little stronger.  After tomorrows session the same will also be true.  I'm also chipping off plaster and doing stuff that the builder doesn't want to do and all these things help to stretch and work my poor ole body.  Got to be good before the 1st Sept - I'm off to France on the bike for 5 days then.

I won't say I have a girl friend BUT it may be close.  Luckily she doesn't read my blog so between you and I....she is a cracker!  Classy, intelligent, a thinker, physically beautiful, tactile, independent, funny, festival goer and dresses well.  I also love her approach to life and I could look at her walking all day.  Hummmm, interesting....we will see....

More to follow.

Todays music link is an absolute classic acid/rock/folk number from The Levellers.  I have had the privildge to party long and hard with them and followed them to numerious festivals and even seen them play in Amsterdam (not that I remember much about that gig...).  This song is their favorite: 


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Dust, Sweat, Builders and the 1000th Visit to my Blog!

As the long grim British Summer continues we have yet more rain, rioters on the streets and my kitchen is still a mess.  On the plus side my shoulder, finally, no longer needs pain killers to make it work and although it is still sensitive when I exercise and ride my bike it is not the sleep (and sense of humour) remover it was for over 2 months.

Just as well as the photos show the kitchen is moving on.  That means my thoughts are turning to the next room, my lounge.  This will begin with the same treatment as the kitchen.  All the plaster and render off the walls.  Massive dust and many Zoolander like opportunities for the lads and myself to appear from the house into the bright sunlight (yeah right!) glistening with sweat and covered in grey dust.  Not for the feint hearted.

A quick recap on the kitchen build:  The vast majority of the plaster and render has been removed.  The kitchen has been "Tanked" - this is a waterproof, anti damp slurry that is applied to the walls and floor.  It has then been rendered with a waterproof cement and sand mixture and finally plastered with a conventional plaster finish that I can paint.  The kitchen should now be damp free (another "yeah, right" moment!).  I have painted the ceiling and walls and fitted the new lights.  I have opted for 8 down lighters controlled by 2 dimmer switches.  The coving is being put up as I write - you see it half done in the photos above.  I will have a 4 seater table in my kitchen therefore the lighting has been installed to emphasise this dual role - Laurence Liewellyn-Bowen , eat your heart out.  The lights over the table can be dimmed with the lights over the work surfaces can be turned off.  It hides the washing up when eating (forgot for a moment that I have a dishwasher now!!).  The new lighting shows up well on the photos above.  Probably because it is on :-/.

The new kitchen brings with it new white goods including a dishwasher!  As it appears I will be very single for the next 100 years or so I thought it would be a good move (Ladies, now you see why I will be single for at least the next hundred years!!!).  Another reason for me being single is that the rework on my house is the final stage in my retirement adjustment.  Until now I have been enjoying myself and investing my money.  That phase is virtually complete so it is time to scale back my spending and live within my means.  It will be comfortable but limited therefore I need to start to think how to make some money on a regular basis for the luxuries of life.  I have already started and since I have returned I have secured several thousands of pounds of taxed income but have not yet seen the bulk of the money.  Not bad for 2 months effort and a cold start - September should see my current account swell again.  This will pay for my furniture and that will be quite a bill.  I want a comfy, warm home I can retreat to.  I'm a month and some difficult work away from accomplishing that and having a nice home is a major plank in what I want from my future, free and independant existence.  I also retain the option - if i do stay single - is I can flog it for loads of money in 3 years time and piss off to France or buy my boat and truly disappear!  Me against the world - what a way to go.  Man, what a dream.

I've started playing the drums again.  Back permitting this could be a nice way to earn my beer money.  I left my last band just before I went off travelling and the itch to play live again has returned.  So it's time to practise.  My neighbours will hate me for it but such is life.  An hour a day should get my "touch" back in a month.  Got to swat up on music notation and learn some new songs then I think I will be good enough again to play semi-professionally again.

To Gary and Lizzy - both in far off places around the world.  Guys!  Hope you are reading this and I hope you are safe.  Call me if you need anything.

More to follow - and today's music hyperlink (below) is a cracker and sums my mood up perfectly!  Turn off the advert that plays immediately and stick with it.  Maybe I will find my way home - one day.


Friday, 5 August 2011

House Renovation and the Great British Summer

It's been a while since I have posted to my blog and I have been busy - in a lazy, retired sort of way!  So whats happened?  Well, at last it appears I have recovered from my spring European trip.  The shoulder injury (torn mid deltoid) has now all but healed and my kitchen has been stripped back to the plaster in my house.

First the injury.  I have had to be patient with my bod since returning from Europe.  Although my weight has remained steady despite my enforced rest from training I have lost much of my strength and fitness.  My diet has taken a turn for the worse too.  No kitchen means I can't cook and that means bought sandwiches and take aways.  Yesterday light emerged at the end of the tunnel however.  For the first time in nearly 3 months I trained correctly and today I start to paint my new kitchen ceiling.  Both my body and my house are now on the up and it feels like bumping into an old friend that hasn't changed.

Regarding my kitchen, I have had the builder here now for 2 weeks and starting from bear brick the walls have been waterproofed and replastered.  The ceiling was shot due to water damage from the bathroom above so it has been replaced.  All the electrical wiring has also been replaced.  The old chimney breast has been opened upwards and this is where my new 5 ring gas hob and electric oven will be sited with the extractor fan blowing directly up the chimney.  Regarding lighting I have opted for DC lighting as this produces a very pure white light that will show off of the thousands of pounds of fresh plaster, new white goods and stunning new kitchen units at their best.  I have also played around (widened the door) with my pantry allowing my freestanding fridge freezer to be hidden within it which means I will be able to have table and chairs in my large kitchen.  At last the ripping out and repair has ended and the beautification can start in ernest.

One thing that has came out of this work is that I have uncovered some secrets about my old (in fact very old) cottage.  There is a plaque outside my house that suggests my house was built in 1904.  When we ripped apart my kitchen we discovered that the outter skin of bricks was much later than the inner skin of bricks - strange we thought.  I dug around for some old photographs and found a photo of my house the day after a fire had gutted the old place therefore requiring the re-build of 1904 but the walls remained intact so what you presently now see is older than 1904 - but there is more.  As the layers of plaster and sometimes brick have been pulled away as part of my kitchen referbishment the story of my house's age becomes even more interesting.  My walls are very thick.  They are 3 courses thick and we now know that the outter skin is pre 1904.  The inner 2 courses are considerably older however.  The inner skin of bricks, which were the outter skin at some time, show that rather than square windows the house originally had arched windows.  The arches remain but have been covered by the outer skin.  The builder has suggested that he thinks the inner fabric of the house is at least a 100 years earlier in date.  So now we are back to about 1800.  No wonder the place is damp!

I have had always owned old houses.  They have charachter and space that new builds cannot match.  They are also traditionally build so when you put a shelf up, it stays up!  They all also have a story.  Through more luck than design it appears I have another interesting property with it's own story and I'm only just beginning to understand its history.  In effect I am now the custodian of this history and that is pushing up my modernisation costs.  The use of timber lintles means they have been replaced for concrete.  The window arches were not removed.  I have had them repaired and made safe so another owner can return the house to its original late Georgian appearence if they choose.  Like my previous house I have the photos and these will pass to the next owner if and when I sell.

Older houses are like older people.  They are an aquired taste. Few have the guts to take them on and when you do you never know what is underneath.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  My house has depth and has secret charms that are hidden.  Some are hiding again now.  Sometimes the cost of ownership is high but the character is always strong and interesting.  My house has its integrity and is improving with age.  That's important to me.

As the house moderisation get's into its stride my thoughts are also turning to France.  Im off to Normandy again in a month.  It's all booked up and I'm really starting to look forward to it.  Haven't toured on a motorcycle for several years and getting the bike ready has been fun.  New tyres, hard top box (very passenger friendly), higher handlebars and new break lines make the Kawasaki a real mile eater and I can't wait to see how fast I can go on the beautifully clear and well maintained French roads.  Never done 160mph.....  Bike will do 175 mph.....(300 km/hr).  So far I have got her over 140mph on several occasions but due to my nagging shoulder (massive pain due to the fierce windblast at these speeds) injury I have not pushed her any further....  Any "coppers" reading?  See you in France, catch me if you can.

More to follow.