Wednesday, 23 January 2013

You wait ten years for a new kitchen....

... and then two come along at once!

The tale of my house renovations is one of stop, start, stop, start. I realise that it is nearly 3 years since I proudly unveiled the work that my brother-in-law had done for me in the granny flat. It was a cool, calm breath of fresh air in the otherwise cluttered chaos of my house.

Unfortunately I ran out of money and work downstairs came to a standstill. Then when I had the funds, Tim was busy working on other projects and never came back, as builders are wont to do. So the back kitchen has remained in this state ever since.

Enter Robert.

He does this sort of stuff standing on his head. But he managed to remain very quiet and tactful about the general state of dilapidation, and besides there were other projects to keep him busy. Of which more in another post.

Just before Christmas, however, he asked whether I would like him to put the washbasin back on the wall in the downstairs loo. (Doesn’t everyone keep a washbasin on the floor?). And it sort of snowballed from there.

We excavated the flat-pack kitchen units from my Room of Doom, I bought some new doors, he called his carpenter and plasterer, and work started.

The plan was simply to get the annexe finished, then regroup to plan what to do with the rest of the house.

Well that was the plan.

On the Friday morning two weeks ago, I asked Robert whether he would replace the nasty, stained sink in the main kitchen with the stainless steel one I had bought five years ago. (Sigh).

No problem.

Unfortunately it didn’t fit. The discrepancy was only a millimetre or so, but the hole in the worktop was simply too big. So we considered whether to buy new worktop to replace the old one, which was looking distinctly tatty in any case. But the old cabinets were falling apart too. Why not rip those out while we were at it. And take down the horrible 1970s archway that I have hated since the moment I first walked into the house and that makes the room so dark. And pull up the ugly parquet flooring that was laid so badly.

Heck. Why not just redo the entire kitchen?

Well, apart from the fact that I had nothing to replace it with, why not?

Not a problem either, apparently. Two hours searching on EBay later, Robert had found someone near Bristol who was having a new kitchen fitted and selling their (pristine, as far as I could see) old one.

Saturday lunchtime we set off with the car and trailer, and arrived at our destination about 4 pm. Only to find the homeowners sitting in their lovely old kitchen, surrounded by cardboard boxes, with all the kitchen units still firmly attached to their respective walls!

“When were you thinking of collecting it?”, asked the gentleman of the house, fondly imagining that we had just come to check it out.

“Now.” said Robert, taking out his toolkit.

And so we did. Three hours later, all the kitchen units plus large cooker were quite miraculously packed on our 7’ x 4’ trailer and off home we set. It was like the opening credits to The Beverly Hillbillies!

Sunday morning we unpacked it all into the lean-to for closer inspection: for £500 and a road trip to Bristol, we appear to have acquired a large solid beech kitchen and a beautiful racing green cooking range with the cleanest oven I have ever seen. It is difficult to believe it was ever used. Result!

OK, so there is a bit of work still to go, but compared to the previous rate of progress this is lightening speed. And as soon as the electrics for the back kitchen are signed off, we can move into there and start work on the main house. I really can’t wait to attack that archway with a crowbar!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Couch potato

That photograph was taken just over a year ago.

I had just run my first 10k (for the record in 57:58 – not bad for an old bird!) and was feeling rather pleased with myself.
Flushed with that success I planned to work up to a half marathon by the end of 2012.

Ah well.
Pride goeth before destruction and all that.
I ran two more 10ks during the summer, then the niggly cartilage in my left knee started to nag. And then to hurt after a couple of miles. So I stopped running and started cycling. Slightly different muscles, but good exercise and it was something Robert and I could do together.

I had just got to the stage of thinking about looking for a “proper” bike to replace my old jalopy when the next disaster struck.
In early October, I spent an afternoon digging over the veg garden to get it ready for the winter. A short bout of mortal combat with a particularly well dug-in cabbage stalk resulted in a torn rotator cuff; an injury I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Not a stabby sort of pain, but what I would describe as impossibly severe discomfort. It got to the stage where I could not stand, sit, lie or walk in any position for more than a few minutes at a time. For a couple of weeks, all I could do was half-lie, half-sit in bed, propped up with pillows like some crotchety dowager duchess. I am not a good patient!

But I am fortunate in having a wonderful chiropractor.
He pulled and prodded, wiggled and jiggled until he was pretty certain where the problem lay.
Then the solution amounted to rest, ice and massage. Robert could provide the last two. The first was down to me.

So essentially I spent from the end of October until Christmas sitting by the woodburner, slumped on the sofa and doped up with ibuprofen, either typing or obsessively knitting – the only two activities that didn’t hurt. Most of my family received scarves as gifts!

It took until the first few days of this new year to realise that the pain had largely dissipated.
In the meantime, all my muscle appears to have turned to blancmange. I don’t appear to have put on any weight, so it must be true what they say about muscle weighing more than fat, but there is a definite squidginess about the mid-section that really has to go.

As last year’s hubris appears to have courted disaster, I am reluctant to put forward any sort of plan. But my walking boots are by the door and the constant rain of the last two months seems to have metamorphosed into light snow and frost, so there is every possibility that the next few days might result in some sort of exercise.
At last.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Living in the Real World

It is perhaps an exaggeration to say that the Internet saved my life. But back in the darkest days of my grief, I’m not so sure that it didn’t save my sanity.

Through the Internet I have made some wonderful friends. Some live just a few miles away, others I probably will never meet in person. And all stops in-between. The common feature is that they have all given totally non-judgmental support when I needed it.

It is also where Robert and I found one another. I think it came as a surprise to both of us that we did, or at least so quickly, but it would be rather churlish to complain about that!

And it is a constant feature in my work. For research, for moving files around, for working on servers half a country away. I fondly remember the days when assignments turned up in brown envelopes through the door and research necessitated a bus trip to Manchester Central Library. When deadlines were measured in weeks, not days. That sort of timescale would be unimaginable now.

Lately I have found myself drawing away from it though. My life seems more and more to be firmly rooted in the Real World. I am doing less paid work, and we are working more on house renovations. Not having animals in the field means we can lock the doors and simply leave home behind for a few days without having to organise people to dole out feed and water and put the poultry to bed at night.

Over Christmas I went on a complete Internet fast. Simply turned it off. Pulled the plug and hid my laptop out of sight for nearly a fortnight.

It was an unexpected pleasure. More time for reading, hand-sewing and knitting. More time to sit in front of the woodburner with a garden plan and seed catalogues in hand. More time to simply chat and laugh and plan and eat and share a bottle of wine. What could be better?

In all this cutting down, however, one thing I have really missed has been this blog, and having a place to record the passing of the days.

2012 was an incredible year for me.
Not just getting married. But relearning how to be truly happy. How to share my life again.

There were difficult parts too. Robert had to go into hospital for a small surgery under general anaesthetic. I was almost paralysed with terror. Hospital for me was still a place where people go to die, not to get better. It is an irrational fear, I know, and on this occasion was unfounded, I am happy to report.

There has also been some bad, bad stuff with his ex. It is still ongoing, but there is an end in sight now, and working through it all has been very good for us as a couple.

And I lost my precious friend Moose in the Autumn.
His back legs had become very wobbly, but he was happy pottering around at home. He still enjoyed his food and barking at the postman. Then one day he had a sort-of-stroke. It left him with severe vertigo and he was unable to stand up. All he could do was look at me with such confusion in his eyes. It was heart-breaking to see, and the time had come to say goodbye.
I still miss him every day that passes.

But mostly the year has been fast-moving and fun, full of passion and movement and change. I regret not having recorded it all on these pages. So the beginning of a new year seems like a good time to kick-start this blog again. I seem to remember writing something very similar at this time last year, but perhaps I may be able to make more time for it in 2013.