Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Bloggers Block and the W8 on my shoulders.

While you were busy slapping on the sun block this summer, I was suffering the frustrations of 'bloggers block'.

I must have started and abandoned at least six different blog pieces. And with my last effort published way back in July, friends and followers have begun pushing for an update.

It's not easy, however, to explain the combination of excitement and extreme apprehension I feel as we near completion of our W8 project.

What will be the next disaster to delay us?

Have I spent too much? Or not enough?

By how much have I blown the budget? Will it ever get finished?

Will it sell? And what's it worth, in today's less than bubbly central London market?


When we finally started work on the house earlier this year, the tiny kitchen was so old the look was a retro fashion trend. 

The semi-basement was a damp, dark, inhospitable space fit for little more than rats. 

The flank wall was a 40ft x 30ft maze of frighteningly wide cracks. 

The bathroom (well, it had a bath in it) was a lethal little cubby hole with an electric heater circa 1955. 

The roof leaked like a watering-can rose. The beam holding up the 'V' roof was so rotten you could have pulled it down by hand.

The place was a disgrace. And Lady or not, I think the wealthy owner should never have been allowed to let such a pretty little house in one of Kensington's best streets fall into such disrepair - dangerous disrepair.

Seven months later, it's basically a new house.

New roof. New floors. New electrics. New Plumbing. New flank wall render. New steel cage supporting the whole house. 

What it doesn't have yet, though, is a new kitchen or mains gas or a basement floor. Yet we moved in three weeks ago. 

To say I'm a little stressed is the understatement of the decade. For weeks now I've only had about four hours sleep a night. 


The builders have been magnificent. I can usually find fault with anyone and anything (as my wife will enthusiastically testify) but Victor Build has been almost faultless.

Even as I sit here with a half finished kitchen, a ply-boarded floor and mice running rampant round the feet of my daft dog, I can't really blame Vic and Tomas for the problems.

There is however a product I do hold responsible for causing me to age ten years in that many weeks, and I'm embarrassed to say that it's a product I chose, that I championed here in my blog and that I desperately wanted - Dinesen Douglas Fir floor boards.

These solid, extra thick boards look indestructible. But within minutes of being laid on to our underfloor heating system they curled up like cabbage leaves. 

We thought it was damp in the sub-floor causing the problem, so ordered more of these expensive lumps of timber from Messrs Dinesen. Two weeks later they finally arrived and a small army of fitters worked over a weekend to rectify the problem. Only to find exactly the same thing happened.

I don't want to get into a libellous rant about Dinesen but I would urge extreme caution to anyone thinking of choosing this currently fashionable wood. Read and then re-read the fitting instructions. We've had to throw out almost £7000 worth of planks and pay several thousand pounds for a, hopefully, more stable Douglas Fir floor from a different supplier. It's not just the money that's galling, it's the waste of time and wood.

The finish?
A pretty London cottage rises from the rubble.

Normally, of course, these problems with the floor would just be irritating delays to the project. For us, however, they've been far more disruptive.

In the middle of the 'crisis' we moved in. And have now been camping in the house for about three weeks.

The kitchen has a working oven, a cold water tap, a fridge....and little else.

We have three knives and forks, six plates, a few cups and glasses....and little else (the rest went into store for what we supposed would be a few days).

From the outside, our neighbours think we're living in bijou luxury. From inside it feels like a builders yard we've been forced to live in.

Perhaps even more unsettling is the fact that we aren't the only ones who've moved in.

A colony of mice have taken up residence too.

For a few days my son and I were able to hide this fact from my wife. But when the scrabbling sounds and movement from the waste sack became louder than the TV we had to come clean.

Not surprisingly, Julia freaked. So we abandoned London and went to Somerset for some respite and some proper meals.

This went well until I discovered a bat flying around our bedroom. Even I freaked at that.

So, short of decamping to Fleet Services on the M3 and sitting out the works to both houses, we have nowhere to go that doesn't mean living with builders, delays, problems and payouts.


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