When A Hole Doesn't Lead To Wonderland

This hole doesn't lead to Wonderland. There is no rabbit muttering about bloody time and not being able to fit in the pointing around gardening -- not unless it's six foot four has a beard and has fiercely donned long shorts this week because it's June and I want my legs to breathe. It's raining outdoors, this rabbit goes out in sandals and shorts still muttering. This wonderful wall is part of our dilapidated kitchen. For those of you have not followed our kitchen story from the start, let's rewind and start: kitchen three damp rooms knocked into one, new solid fuel heating system fitted, solid fuel system problems, more solid fuel problems, flue not high enough, system not big enough, company that fits it goes bust, company that stocks it runs away down a rabbit hole, sell system to nice hippies who have a smaller house down south who it works for! All plaster is taken off walls (or falls off), find old doors, old stairs, signs of a cellar long gone (well, long gone after we fit new slate floor in kitchen), house full of horse hair plaster for months, and months, and months (still counting), go broke, save, block up new flue hole, clear around lintels, mullions and dead mummified mice, fit new windows, go broke, save, start to rake out every joint in the kitchen and take off the remains of all black concrete, long, laborious, house full of dust again, yeah! Do one wall at a time, celebrate, go broke, save. Have ceiling plastered, have a partial industrial look rewire because why fake it? (Also, sneaking suspicion that people think we're hipsters and we like to screw with them). Final wall to be done looks like the remains of a house built by two idiots on too much whiskey. Start on it last week.

When A Hole Doesn't Lead To Wonderland, Alice in Wonderland, DIY, restoration, how point stone work

As we start to clear wall the stones fall out, fall in and clatter ominously away. We await a splash because that'll just be our luck to find a well slap bang in the centre of the house. Instead, nothing. So, we do what most people will do without thinking, we stick our mobile phones in the hole and take photos. Hell, screw the mice or rats waiting to take our pennies and give us scabies, let's just stick an expensive phone into a hole in the wall. We suspected there was a flue here. There was a giveaway. We're not daft and we don't stick our hands in strange holes everyday. The giveaway was the coal dust. This is old coal dust. Coal dust to add to the horse hair floating around the house and coating everything. It looks like the remains of an old stove, long gone.


The flue, with cobwebs, stretches up and away to the right. It's in that moment you wish you had some kind of snaking camera gadget that would well...snake it's way up the chimney to where ever this goes. We suspect it runs through the wall to a dead end, a remnant of when the house was single story.

life on pig row

It's a moment of, ooh that's interesting, what shall we do with it? Open it up? No. We have learnt not to open up old gaps in this house, we nearly ended up in next door the last time we found a doorway and thought we could turn it into a cupboard only to find next door had got their first. Oh, look the stonework has turned to wood, how fascinating. Oh, look the stonework has turned into someone's knick knacks. 

life on pig row, DIY

The hole and several other holes across the wall...we'd like to point out that if Donald Trump has been born three hundred years ago and declared the need for a wall between Lancashire and Yorkshire that this would have been the standard of wall he would have got. Honestly, you could drive a flock of sheep, cows and carts through these holes. The wall certainly looks like it has had this happen in parts. Anyway, the hole and several other shape sized holes across the wall have to be filled in. That means going to the stone pile in the garden and finding stone that will fit. This sounds easier than you think but weeds have colonised the pile with things that go squeak in the night. You become a dab hand at this after awhile without even needing to take measurements because you grab whatever is not moving in the pile. We suspect that most of the stone in the garden was tossed out the back window of this house during past improvements to allow sheep in.

renovations, DIY, mortar

The problem then arises of how dry this stone is. You may think that's an odd thing to say but from the viewpoint of mortar it means anything raked out has to be refilled with a wet mix. For the DIYers among you that's 3-1-1 (that's not a DIY helpline where people whisper about fillers and tongue and groove), that's 3 parts sand to 1 part lime and 1 part cement. You then mix it in the tried and true Andrew manner by mixing it dry in a bucket and then looking around for something to pour water into so you can add a little at a time. To press, Andrew has been caught using an antique milk jug, a bottle of pop that he drank so he could use it (cheers for that, it wasn't hot out or anything), a shallow and useless bowl, a ladle, a baby bottle, a measuring jug that he dropped in the mix and milk bottles waiting to go back to the milkman. You want to get a thick but loose mixture, think plasticine but more sloppy. Now we've put you off plasticine for life it's time to get it into those gaps. We don't want to leave all these joints just raked out because frankly in this house we could go to bed doing this and come down in the morning to have breakfast with our neighbours in their kitchen.


We point as we go, along the lines of have you seen this? What a mess. Which idiot did this? So on and so on. You can use a pointing trowel for this, which is long and thin and bloody useful. In the tightest of corners Andrew teaches me a new trick, which is...use your fingers. That's it. Now, we could go for that raised mortar look but the whole of this wall is raised in bumps, lumps and annoying Trump sized holes.


So, after we have finished half of the wall, left it for fifteen minutes, Andrew comes in with a bucket and some paint brushes. Oh, the romance and excitement, just as you settle down for a cup of tea. At last we get to paint instead of hanging around in DIY stores on our mobiles discovering reviews that state much of kitchen paint out there is rubbish, as in peeling off walls rubbish, can't believe I spent £40 on a can rubbish. No, we're not painting, we're watering the mortar. This basically means: damp paint brush over the mortar taking off excess and stopping it from cracking. Mortar cracks when the mix is too dry but it also cracks when the bricks, and in our case, stone, sucks all the moisture out of the mortar before it sets. We'll do this twice at around an hour to ninety minutes apart. By then the surface will have started to harden and there will be no cracks. There's something rather organic about the finish.


We're not trying to hide the texture of this stone, some of it juts out, some it moves in and we have to work with what we've got. Thankfully, we only have to do the windowsills now and bit more pointing. Oh, and there's around the back door and new back door and new back door step, and a new drain cover outside the back door, and so on and so on. 


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