From sensible suburban living to "The Good Life" stopping at various places including Rising Damp and Escape to the Country. Hopefully avoiding DIY SOS and Cowboy Builders

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Getting on with it (with big boys toys)

With any new house, there is usually a "to do" list about as long as your arm, and Sunnyside is no exception. Except that the list is as long as several arms.

I had taken almost three weeks off work to kick start the process, with the one real target to have the greenhouse up and finished before returning to work. Not a big job, you might think, but true to form it's not quite that simple.

Firstly, there was an aged and infirm Willow Tree close enough to threaten the greenhouse if not removed, secondly the ground was not prepared, and thirdly Greenhouses Direct had informed us that the construction of a 8ft x 20ft greenhouse is at least a 6 day job.

Thankfully, the plan had worked in that the greenhouse was not due to arrive until the Friday following Easter, so I had 4 days to remove the tree. Clearly a little biddy hand saw was not going to be up to the job, so I got to go and buy Big Boys Toy Number 1.

Amazingly, Screwfix sold me a Chain Saw. Anyone who knows me, and my history of Stanley Knives, panes of glass etc, would know that "nothing could possibly go wrong".
In the event, nothing did and the tree, significantly more rotten than even we had suspected, gave up and fell over before I had cut through half of the trunk. At no point was it more than 6 or 7 inches thick, so bad was the rot in the middle. In retrospect, I think that the wind and rain we have had since may probably have brought it down anyway (no doubt into the greenhouse).

Of course, no DIY job in which I am involved can run completely smoothly, so I did manage to:
1. Cut the ground thus blunting the blade.
2. Throw the chain and mess it up completely.

This would normally be a show-stopper, but we live close enough to Handy Senior for me to be able to ask for assistance. I duly chipped up at his asking "do you have a vice, file etc so that I can fix this?"

His response was "hang on a minute" and to go rootling around in a drawer.

I have long suspected that my father is some sort of cross between magpie and squirrel, because he keeps everything. On this occasion, he outdid even himself, coming up not with tools, but a spare chainsaw blade of the exact correct size and make!

Thus I was able to continue, and after two days of hacking, sawing, carrying (and just a little bit of swearing under my breath) the tree was gone. Job Done. We even got rid of the line of shrubs in the background.
Now I'm looking forward to November 5th.

Getting used to it

The first order of the day, whenever moving house, should be to remove the Estate Agents Board to declare "we have arrived". Miraculously, I managed to find the "emergency box of tools" specially packed for such a purpose.

I was almost thwarted by the Estate Agents use of at least a 100mm screw to attach it to the gatepost.
Q. Why did it need screws that big?
A. As we would later discover, living here is significantly more exposed than being hidden in the middle of a housing estate.

As the picture shows, the snow was very slow to clear and in the end hung around for the best part of the Easter Weekend after we had moved. It also gave us the chance to move boxes around and to get used to the significantly smaller space we had moved into.

Even better, the cold snap focussed our minds on getting to grips with the Central Heating, which is currently centred upon an Anthracite Boiler. With our limited experience of such things, we made sure that it was fully stocked each night before bed but its a lot different beast to having Gas Central Heating.

This was further evidenced by the fact that our decision to have both heat and hot water turn off for 6 hours at night meant that the fire went out. Cue waking up at 3 a.m. thinking "its a bit cold" and then getting up to find the chimney stone cold. As the self-appointed "Lord of the Flame" I hadn't exactly considered when I would get 'lighting practice' but my choice would not have been 3 a.m. in temperatures of minus stupid. To make it worse, the first two attempts at relighting were a dismal failure, and the slow return to having a properly functioning fire in the bottom of the boiler was not accomplished until 5:30. Not worth going back to bed then. Best to just get up and get on with it.

A moving experience

Moving house, they say, is one of the most stressful things you can do in life. Apparently it's right up there with death and divorce.

I think that this is nearly true in that getting ready to move house is the stressful bit, once you're moving, you're busy and have less time to be stressed. At least that's what we found. After weeks (seemingly) of struggling to get mortgages in place, funds ready for release, chains ready to move on the same day, 28th of March got settled upon and then it rushed to arrive.

Even at this point, things still weren't straightforward. Our chosen removal firm (NEVER move home without one!) were not fully available due to our late confirmation, and we were faced with having to do part of the move ourselves. In the event, the other party cancelled, and we had the undivided attention of Lessers Removals for two days. And they did a fantastic job!

Having a relatively short chain, at least everyone was in contact with everyone else, and keys were exchanged the day before. One less thing to worry about on moving day.

I would like to say that 'moving day' dawned bright and clear. But it didn't. The day before, we started to load the lorry amid snowflakes.
This was not in the plan! The late Spring had still not arrived, though we had thought all the snow was over. But this was Tamworth, and over our years in Tamworth we had always wondered why everyone else "got more snow than us".
The morning after, lorry number 2 arrived, and was left under the eye of Linda whilst I drove the rest of the family over to Sunnyside with the first lorry in lukewarm pursuit. It takes some doing to get 15 tons of lorry and belongings going. On arrival at Sunnyside it quickly became apparent that "everyone else gets more snow than Tamworth", this being our garden on arrival.
In truth, the rest of the day passed in a blur. We carried virtually nothing (have I already mentioned that Lessers were fantastic?) and everything arrived neatly and undamaged in the rooms intended. Removal men (and we) destroyed many bacon sandwiches in an effort to ward off the cold, and keep the furniture moving. Linda left our old house without a rearward glance....not what I expected at all.
By quarter past four, the movers had done their job, and were on their way. 30 minutes later the solicitor phoned to say that "funds had cleared and we could move". I think our way was far more sensible and civilised.
We had arrived, and somewhere out there, in the cold and beneath the snow, was a garden.......