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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Unfinished Symphony

After fourteen months, I expected perhaps a fanfare of trumpets or the clang of triumphant cymbals when we walked over the threshold of our newly renovated house. A feeling of euphoria.  But in the end, it wasn’t quite like that. 

The project had continued to overrun it’s ten month schedule. When we eventually reached thirteen months we delivered an ultimatum to the builder; even if the house wasn’t finished, we would be moving back on the 4th April.  In the end, it was still a stretch for him and his team. The painter worked a 24 hour shift, the house was overrun with tradespeople competing in the same space to finish their designated tasks and as a consequence, constantly tripping over one another.  Husband and I craved the opportunity pre-move to walk around in peace and quiet, to try and discuss where furniture or pictures might go, but it seemed there was always someone there; at 9.30pm the night before we moved and even at 9.30am on move day.

The removal men scuffed remarkably little of the new paintwork -  much to my relief, and coped admirably with the many stairs that our house presented them with.  And finally, when they were all finished, as we gave them the customary tip and closed the front door,  I was able to breathe.  To take it all in. For the first time, in fourteen months to take a walk through our home, with Husband and the boys, alone, to marvel at how much we’d achieved and how far we’d come.  As we walked from room to room, the continual palette of grey and white (or off white) worked harmoniously with the features of the house and there was the joyous sensation of everything coming together. Oh how I love the big glass doors that frame the garden like a massive picture frame; adore the restored stained glass with it’s individual panes that glisten like boiled sweets as the sun shines through the windows.  I love the light open aspect downstairs that we’ve created from what was once a dark, dingy space. And upstairs, the luxurious en suite created from an unloved spare bedroom.  Overall, I love, love, love my new house. Yet, there have been a few things that have jarred within the overall tune, like the nagging squeak of a violin in the wrong key.  Dismay at the utility room floor with cracked tiles - how did that happen?  Disappointment at the touch of crazy paving that crept into the traditional Victorian hall floor design. 

Snagging comes with the territory on a project like ours, I know that, yet, in the days following the move, as I forensically examined every inch of our renovate home, it was hard not to feel slightly deflated. To not feel despondent when armed with six pages of A4 documenting builders ‘snags’. Resuming conversations with the builder almost immediately was not something I had envisaged - all I wanted was to say goodbye - for a few months at least.

Then there was the outside, a builder’s junk yard.  At the front; a new step, front wall and fence that needed to be built.  The back garden; with no grass, a pile of bricks and bags of sand.  A week after we moved in, work on the garden started, endless cups of coffee and trays of biscuits proffered in the hope that happy workers will deliver a good job.  A pizza oven to build. Husband away. ‘How should we build the roof? they asked. ‘I don’t know’ I wailed. The Albanian bricklayers simply downed tools, ate more biscuits and stared at me awaiting further instruction. ‘A roof like a hat?'  they suggested after drinking the umpteenth cup of coffee that morning. ‘No, he won’t like that.' 'Can you wait till it’s morning in New York?'  ‘No’. Deep breaths.  More decisions required, the only problem being, I was (I am) decisioned out.

We’ve been back four weeks and slowly the realisation has dawned that this project has a far longer tail then I thought.  That actually, it will probably be another nine months, maybe even longer, before it feels properly like the home I envisaged. That I’ll be living with bare bulbs hanging from the pendants for a while whilst I try to find the ‘perfect’ light. That it’s still another three months before the carpet runner for the stairs will arrive, and heaven knows what sort of sofa configuration will sit best in our new open plan living area. It's a good job I'm so good at procrastinating.  I have faith though, that time is what it needs, that it can’t be rushed, that like all great symphonies - everything will come together eventually.

Without doubt, the most memorable part of the past few weeks has been seeing Pip and EB revel in discovering their new home. Pip absolutely loves it. I have noticed a change in my oldest son in just one month, he’ll now happily take himself to the toilet on his own ( no need for mummy to come and ‘talk’ now). There has also been the surprise announcement; ‘I’m not scared of the dark anymore’; EB has been gifted his old nightlight. High up in his new bunk bed, Pip is king of the world, and has the confidence of one too.  EB’s favourite thing is to dance on the glass floor in the kitchen, round and round in concentric circles, or lie face down, pressing his face up against the glass and looking into the basement below shouting Pip’s name.  It’s a joy to see.

Last week as I bade a tradesman goodbye, he turned to me at the front door and said; ‘You’re going to have such a happy life in this house’.  So kind, but silently I prayed hearing that wouldn't jinx us.  In many ways, it does feel like a dream to live here. I can barely remember now what a grime pit it was before we started this project.

Despite the snags, Faulty Towers it is no more.  Fortunate Towers; maybe. I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity. I hope our new home brings us happy times, good health, good luck and good fortune.

(Good) Fortune Towers. I think it’s got rather a nice ring to it.  
*And for my regular readers who'd like to see some photos - they're coming. I'm just trying to retrieve the 'before' shots from an old hard drive first. Not proving as easy as I hoped...*