Just under two months ago we started to rip the guts out of the house. Doors have been moved, walls pushed down and out, even some of the old plaster gave up the ghost when we tried to drill into it for a new radiator. The plaster, placed on the wall around the time Herod was King, decided life was no longer worth it and showered all over the plumber who ran from the torrent of lime dust and stone in away that wouldn't have been out of place in a Carry On film. He then told us the radiator couldn't possibly go on that wall until it was plastered again. We could have sighed, cried or just given up but in true make do and mend attitude we stripped the wall back to stone, pointed it over night, pointed to it when the plumber came back in the morning and declared it a feature wall. A feature wall in this house is like a summer blockbuster at the cinema, it just goes on and on; more plaster fallen off? Feature wall. Wood worm in the joists? Character. Stone falls on Andrew when he's rebuilding a wall? Comedy sidekick. So after two weeks of stripping, ripping and gripping out thumbs in a drawn out four letter word dance we have arrived at the other end. The whole putting it back together again and seeing which pieces we have left over.
We've spent just over £400 to insulate the bathroom, the lounge and the kitchen. That's a full wrap around insulation. The kind of insulating that is fun to do on the walls as it squeaks into place, like a polystyrene elephant farting in a lift. The kind of insulation that you put in the ceiling for it to embrace you again forty minutes after you have had a bath, cleared the black dust out of your nose (even though you wore mask), picked some weird kind of sleep out of your eyes (even though you wore goggles) and got dressed to go out. There is a point while walking across the lounge you hear the sound of a polystyrene elephant leaving a lift only to land on your head.
We have had weeks of eating our meals on our knees (no kitchen table, that's the next make do and mend project involving an old door and swearing) with umbrellas up to combat the dust that has continued to settle giving us all coughs reminiscent of old men who smoke pipes, roll ups and cigars all at once. Treating the beams and joists for wood worm was particularly unpleasant as it whipped up the dust and meant we spent an entire evening downstairs making sounds like we where in a Blue Grass lung jazz band: hack - hack - cough - wheeze - fall over - cough. A friend of our's said, 'It must be fun, like a giant Meccano set'. The reason Meccano was fun as a child is that when you where a child you didn't pay for it, you didn't have to balance it between chasing after a four year old whose spent the last two weeks peering through a tiny hole in the corridor floor at various workmen and trades, his nose pressed to the floorboards, whispering, 'My Mummy's got knickers'. Then sitting up with a face like Al Jolson. Then there's work. Work = money = work to house. There are some things you can't barter for and insulation is one of them.
There is light! There is light at the end of our dusty tunnel. This week the boarding went up, the plastering will have to wait until 2015, and the rooms and corridors seem to take on a whole new dimension. It stopped Little D from whispering through floors and making our plasterers think our house was haunted.
Our neighbour today remarked on the sheer amount of space we now have compared to what we had before. Thankfully she didn't walk into any of the bedrooms and see the towering boxes.
We know over the coming weeks that more work is to be done. There are pieces of furniture to be sold, we don't need them and the money comes in handy. We even went heady with excitement this week because we had money and went to the chippy.
We have some screws left over and some insulation and there's an elephant in the room but we have a shoe box to put them in, somewhere in the house, maybe it's under the bed or among all those other boxes where Little D has camped out, singing, 'My Daddy has no knickers'.