I started removing the bathroom tiles from the walls and then got stuck on account of the fact that some of them appeared to have been concreted into position. I suppose I could have used brute force and a jiggerpick but I prefer a much more precision item – HWIOO.
The tiles were duly removed in a neat and orderly way to reveal…a doorframe. We’d begun to suspect that our cottage was once part of a larger establishment because of the layout of the courtyard but this confirms it. The door is bricked up but it does present an intriguing idea. Could we opt for a secret house? Next door is a holiday cottage – perhaps we could use it when no one is about? HWIOO said probably not, which is a shame as I fancied a whole new wing. Anyway, plans for illicit extensions aside, it’s another step forward. I’ve just got to do my heavy duty Mrs Mop impersonation and that’s another room ready to put back together and we’ve already got the new bathroom light and very glamorous Art Deco mirror courtesy of the January sales.
It’s also our first interlude with unexpected concrete. There was a large concrete pond in the last house we renovated. Ultimately, it took five very large skips to remove it and rather a lot of hard labour as there were many different layers including one layer which had been painted blue in an unsuccessful attempt to waterproof it. This was afterall, the same DIY enthusiast who used old car numberplates to level and waterproof the chimney stack. Unsurprisingly everyone who has been to visit us at the cottage has enquired whether there’s a pond in the back garden and is generally very disappointed when there’s not, although I noticed from the Number One Daughter’s raised eyebrow on her first visit that she clearly thinks we have gone and proved our insanity once again (I wish I could raise a quizzical eyebrow. I can just manage vaguely startled).
Other concrete encounters at our last foray into renovation included the pile of concrete upon which the bath rested (the joists beneath were completely rotten as it happened) – and the heap of concrete in the utility room that someone had never got around to clearing away. Of course Jack, as we lovingly christened the previous occupier, didn’t always plump for concrete. He often preferred newspaper – newspaper shoved down pipes to keep them fitted together (hence the rotten joists); newspaper to plug holes in the ceiling; newspaper around the waste outlet for the toilet – actually if water was involved he did like to explore the paper option first. He was also prone to replastering rooms at the drop of a hat. Sadly he never removed the wallpaper before replastering . Or else he just replastered part of the wall, so wallpaper stripping became a challenge all of its own. I did once remove a strip of wall paper on the staircase and succeeded in bringing down a false ceiling which was underpinned by old chair legs and string. I should also add that when we had the house rewired the electrician found five fuse boxes, one of which was hidden beneath one of the bedroom floors. It was directly beneath a rotten floorboard.
Ultimately the whole floor had to be replaced but there were only two really dangerous boards which we covered over and issued warnings about. Inevitably, one of the Number One Daughter’s friends helped matters on their way by putting his foot through it and the ceiling beneath. It was the only ceiling that didn’t need work. You’d have thought that the Number One Daughter would have been concerned about her friend sinking in slow motion into the floor but all she and our now, Number One Son-in-Law could do was to run down stairs to watch a disembodied foot and leg appearing in the living room. It took a while to rescue Pete not because he was trapped between floors but because the other two had an extended attack of the giggles. Every time one of them gathered breath they dashed up stairs or down to check on how the upstairs half or downstairs half of Pete was doing and started giggling all over again.
Pete, who is wonderful and lovely, is currently banned from visiting the new project until everything has been done – because although our ceiling was the first one that he maliciously attacked simply by standing on the floor above, he followed it up by putting his foot through his own ceiling when he went up the loft….a man with feet which are not to be trusted. In fairness it should be added that our dog did wee over Pete’s twin on one occasion. Even so, if he visits in the short term we feel that half a mile’s proximity is more than close enough.
Back to more recent times. The other good news of the week is that we qualify for free insulation which means that we will soon be able to stop heating the sky above the house which is good news for us but bad news for the assorted birds who appear to be warming their tootsies on the roof which is the only one in the street without a scenic covering of snow.