This is our bathroom, please do not judge us, our bathroom has not always been this way. For awhile it was incredibly narrow and cramped, even the whisper of a hot water tap turned the room into a sauna and that was worrying as we had a very old coil heater on the ceiling and polystyrene tiling above it. Fire trap came to mind. We pushed the wall out, stole a little off the corridor and last week started to strip, not because it was hot in there. This is not a Nelly song. You could actually watch our panic unfold, minute by minute on the Monday, 24 hours before the plasterers were due in.
The hard board, which was a mock mash up of wet rot, woodworm and supposed tiles, came off the wall and so did all the plaster. The cupboard came out and so did all the plaster. You can see a pattern forming here. Andrew scratched his arse and all the plaster fell off. In fact the ceiling we panicked about clearing the polystyrene tiles off and the old wall between the bathroom and the library were the only two things still standing after the room was cleared.
We knew the plaster was crumbly around the windows, it all fell off on the Sunday before the plasterers were due in and we took it in our stride, after all, exposed mullions are all the rage in those magazines telling you what the next hot interior design thing is. However, in those magazines, you never see them devoting pages to crumbly cheese plaster, still matted with horse hair or cupboards packed straight with a television listings page from 1957. They're not that cutting edge.
These magazines don't tell you what to do when you find the remains of an old, old door cutting through to your neighbour's house and then having to cope with reading a creepy bedtime Biff and Chip book that night to your son about them moving house and finding an old boarded up door, behind it a room, in the room a doll's house....getting creeped out yet? We slept with a cricket bat and an egg whisk that night. If anyone came through that door they would have been literally battered.
No magazine, no interior guru and no builder can prepare you for when you find that the last feet or so of your stone cottage interior skim wall seemed to have been a course too far for the original builders. Who ran out of mortar, will power and any semblance of building skill as they literally piled the stone in and in some parts just left interesting gaps that gaped like a toothless witch up to the roof.
But you know the horrors of old cottages, fire lighter tiles that leave a bizarre pattern of dots on your ceiling that would give the Nazca lines a run for their money can all be managed if you take a deep breath and deep swig of something that brings tears to your eyes. You have also seen that bloke on Channel 4 ask people building their own home in a windswept bog in Scotland whether they had a 10% contingency fund, well we did but 10% really now is the 'oh god, we're broke and no chance of us ever going to Nando's again in this lifetime'. No cheeky Nando's for anyone doing a house up because you always need more than 10% when tackling an old house, old houses crumble and behind the crumb there are hidden fears and bills.
There was a swift renegotiation with our plasterer who looked over the crumbling plaster that had held together through all our meticulous scraping away of wallpaper and then sarcastically swore at us, sulked and collapsed in a toddler paddy by the rotten skirting board (which was by then in our garden with strange writing on the back of it that we spent over an hour deciphering. It said, 'Skirting, upstairs bathroom'. We are not kidding, over an hour, time we won't get back). Our plasterer looked at us, we looked at him, we all looked at the holes above the windows and we all knew the answer. The whole lot came off and it was boarded.
Can you hear our wrists weep at the hours, days and lifetimes we spent stripping that bloody wallpaper off? That bloody vile thick cardboard wallpaper that revealed layer after layer of wallpaper and paint! Can you, can you hear us Laurence Llewelyn Bowen? Can you? Never had that bloody happen to you on Changing Rooms! 48 hours after the crumbling plaster and we have freshly plastered walls, the holes are gone and the bathroom can start to go back in. No more Nando's for us. Just kidding. We just think that's were all the hip kids go that don't have a house to renovate or a garden to dig.
Makes you wonder why we do it not the Nando's but the renovations. DIY is on the decline in the UK and we certainly didn't tackle the plastering or boarding, we bowed to those that can do it well and fast. If we did it then we'd be drawing our pension before we could sit down in a bath again. However, after all that you suddenly spot the beams you have uncovered and you fling open all the windows, climb up a ladder with sandpaper and a wire brush and you take out all that anger at crumbling walls and you clean away all the layers of flaky blue and white paint, take a claw hammer to every driven in nail that has no point being there.
You take a wet sponge to it to clear away the final layers of dust and you get this shining through.
For a brief second you forget that you had a crumbling bathroom, you climb down your ladders, breathe in the country air spilling in through the open windows looking out on a glorious cottage garden and you turn around and catch sight of your crumbing bedroom and think, 'bugger'.