Monday, 1 September 2014

September. New Things on the Horizon.

It is strange how the first day of September always feels as if it is the beginning of a new year, more so that New Year's Day does. There are no new year resolutions as such, but a slow return to the routine of the colder months and a need for an extra layer of clothing to remind us all that summer is indeed nearly over.

We have returned from our Italian holiday on Saturday to what we stupidly thought was going to be a finished home. The decorators were here in our absence to fix the previous builders' mess. Of course, just when we thought that we were going to unpack our boxes for the last time and be done with it all...the electrics packed up!

As of Saturday night not a single plug worked in our home. Yes, we had light, but no fridge, washing machine, phone chargers, nothing, nada, niente. After forking out more money and waiting until 1am for the emergency electrician to turn up, by 2am we were finally back in business. For now, that is. We still need to find a few hundred pound to replace the electric switchboard or spend less but knock down a kitchen cupboard and wall to get to the faulty cable. It is literally never ending!

Despite the house woes, we are all in good spirit. It is nice to be finally home and go back to our routine. It would help if Little G's school started earlier than September 30th (Yes, really!! What am I supposed to do until then?), but all in all, we are well.

There are big news coming up for the last part of the year and the beginning of next for our family and extended family. I will reveal it all very soon, but for the time being, how are you all? Did you have a nice summer? We had a stressful one, but luckily spending a week basking in the sunshine and soaking in the sea has made us all much more relaxed. Here is to a new year, so to speak.

Water Family Selfie 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fight or Flight

Some people escape reality and responsibilities. Some fight it. My father died when I was 5 and fighting for my happiness was ever the only real option for me. If there is an issue I face it, if there are problems I search for a solution. If I can't find it, I seek help. Help from friends, help from professionals, help from my inner self. I am my worst critic and my strongest supporter. I believe in honesty. With oneself and with others. 

I believe in letting people close into my life and showing it for what it is, good and bad. I don't believe in putting up faces, in pretending, in escaping. The flight coping mechanism feels unnatural, time consuming and frankly a bit childish.

I went on twitter this morning and this quote was the first thing that popped up in my timeline. Sometimes God has his own ways to tell us things...

Friday, 25 July 2014

The 7 Rules of Home Improvement. Sadly learned too late.

It is currently week 9 of our home renovation project. It was meant to take 4 weeks at best, 6 at worst and the end is still not entirely in sight. I did all those things that people recommend you to do. Hire a good architect. Check. Hire a project manager that you trust. Check. Get 4 or 5 quotes and don't go for the cheapest (nor the most expensive). Check, check, check. 

Yet my experience ended up a total fail, so here is what I have learned hoping to save someone else the trouble.

1. A good architect will pay his or her fees in savings to you. Either by knowing the cheapest supplier of Corian worktops or by knowing of obscure websites which can save you a fortune. Plus good architects have good ideas and, let's face it, they'll be better than yours. Architect hiring gets my vote!

2. If this is your actual home rather than an investment property, do not waste money on a project manager. This person will take a minimum 10% cut and he or she will never truly have the same interest as you in the project. He or she will come with recommended tradesmen, but this will make you lazy on doing your own homework and checking who they are, which leads me to point 3.

3. Do not let anyone work on your property because someone else has got them there or you will set yourself up for possible disasters. A builder might have a great plumber who he works with but he might also have a terrible tiler. Do your homework and check each tradesmen within its own skill set or you could end up with an electrician painting your walls and I assure you, it is not a pretty sight!

4. Home renovation is always a headache, but if you want the right skills on site at the same time, spend the time upfront booking tradesmen separately because even the best renovation company has weaker links and you don't want these people to be in your home after all.

5. Do not expect tradesmen to have any logic when it comes to working hours. We had people drilling at 8am on a Sunday morning who thought nothing of it...until the neighbours threaten to call the police! We had painters turning up at 12 noon and painting at night time with a torch. Yes, really! And we had handymen and electricians charging us for a day rate when the day is 10:30am to 3:30pm! 

6. Ikea products mesmerise all tradesmen. They all hate having to use their brains and dealing with flatpack kitchen or European electrics. They will spend hours directing you elsewhere despite you knowing that you are not interested. If you want an Ikea kitchen, hire their own fitters. And even then, pray God that you get given good ones.

7. Line up plan B, C, D, E and F as tradesmen will quote you a date to complete the project and this will never be realistic. And if it is it might be coming at the expense of quality of the finish. 

How are we coping with it all? Badly! I have not felt this stressed in a long time and Little G is often out of sorts. We travelled for 2 weeks and were meant to live at friends for 2 more weeks, 3 at the most. We are now on week 9 and still 'homeless'. I curse the day that I decided to 'improve' my home. 

The only good thing that has come of this all experience is that you really get to find out who your friends are. I have been touched by the love and kindness of some friends in a way that has brought me to actual tears. I have some amazing people in my life. I knew they were amazing, I didn't know them to be quite so mindblowingly awesome.

Some 'good' friends have not been in touch for months. I guess when you cancel weekend plans for a trip to Ikea or the lighting shop, some people feel that you've stopped being fun after all. This is also a good lesson to learn as once your home is repainted and eventually finished, you'll know who you don't need to bother inviting over for dinner. Who wants their newly painted white walls possibly marked or scratched, right?


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