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Posts tagged ‘building work’

A week of surprises, mainly happy ones

Life has a way of surprising us all and this week did not turn out as expected. Our grand hopes for the final stages of the building work came to nothing. Absolutely nothing as our joiner was pinged as a close contact for Covid and had to isolate. No floor then, and no presses either. By the way, a “press” is a cupboard over here, something we really are in dire need of despite our major reduction in worldly goods since moving. This was no fault of his own of course, and we are travelling hopefully into next week. It would be rather nice to get the flooring out of my bedroom. Oh, and thank you for the ideas for disposing of the bubble wrap – they are much appreciated!

The other let down was the solar power installation. The men called ten days ago and were most impressed by Davey’s work on the base and the Majestic. Foolishly we thought we were clear to go. They gave us a rough price and we were assured the panels were ordered and ready. Then, not a word. No message or call, no indication of why there was a delay and if they might pop up suddenly – probably when we were out. We are travelling slightly less hopefully on that one.

There was a bright spot in the middle of the week. We are entering the time of anniversaries in our lives. Near the start of this blog I said we always moved in December. Well in the absence of a formal ceremony in the 1980s we have marked our anniversary on the 1st of December – the day we moved in together down in Bridgwater. And talking of life’s surprises, it was 38 years ago. A lovely evening in and a half bottle of prosecco may seem a bit low key but we enjoyed every minute. Especially when we mused on last year, in the midst of chaos, packing and uncertainty. And next week it is a year since we washed up here, drained and exhausted. That is something else to celebrate.

Wednesday did deliver one rather unpleasant surprise this week. Like any good and responsible person, I went to the vaccination centre in town when called for my Covid booster. This is in a large hotel and it is a strange experience, getting a jab in one of 20 white, boarded cubicles, under the glass chandeliers of the ballroom. The staff took the “well ventilated space” very seriously – all the outside doors were open and the temperature was close to freezing with a stiff wind roaming the corridors. This, coupled with the first rendition of that Christmas album – you know the one – made it a fairly miserable experience.

The people however were lovely and my nurse, Laura, was efficient, friendly and so gentle. They cannot be faulted and I am extremely grateful, especially as Jacqui needs some extra protection at the moment. That was not the unpleasant surprise however. It began about 10.30 at night when my expected sore arm began to radiate heat. All my joints joined in along with shaking and chattering teeth. I took a quick glance at the thermometer and confirmed my suspicions. I was running a temperature that can perhaps be called “interesting”. After a day it fell to below 38 (100.4 in Fahrenheit) and I was feeling washed out but better. Well, at least I know my immune system is working!

Red Dogwood in the old peat cuttings

Ireland is traditionally seen as very green and the variety of shades is quite amazing, even as winter approaches. There are many other lovely sights here and a lot of them throw this green patchwork into sharp relief. Red Dogwood in the old, swampy peat cutting is one such sight. Rosy willow trees keep their colour even after losing their leaves. There are still gardens and verges laden with multicoloured chrysanthemums and the skies are amazing. On bright, frosty mornings I wish I could draw but that’s not one of my skills. I leave that to Jacqui who can sketch, colour and blend to perfection.

Clouds like distant mountains

We have had some cold weather here with a few exceptionally hard frosts. The fields around are glistening white and the dogs love the frozen grass. We can see the moon in the morning, up in the blue sky before it sets to the west. Some days when the clouds roll in they look almost like distant mountains, sharp and snow covered in the distance. This place never ceases to surprise and delight me, even if it comes with sudden sleet squalls and occasional power cuts.

Our final surprise was both delightful and rather awe inspiring. I was out in the garden with the dogs when I heard the familiar call of a buzzard. A second later three birds swooped low over the garden and swept off towards the Fairy Fort. I was just turning away when I heard another call – and then another and another. As I looked up a flock of buzzards, at least 15, glided over the house and headed off into the field behind us. They have been gathering and circling for the last few days, often gliding in silence on the strong wind from the south. I looked it up and saw a flock of buzzards is called a “wake” but, unlike vultures, they do not bring bad luck. We have many different types of birds here but thankfully no vultures.

Now that would be a surprise.

Apollo 13, Titanic and other disasters.

You may wonder what the films “Apollo 13” and “Titanic” have in common with our life here.  Well, both are referenced on a daily basis as we wrestle the house into order.  It has been a very busy and eventful year so far, perhaps too busy on reflection.  We began with a list of things we needed and wanted done but circumstances rather threw our clever sequencing out of the windows.  There is a huge rush of building work as Ireland moves out of lock down and both skilled workmen and materials are in short supply.  Prices have gone up and most people are working multiple jobs simultaneously.  It is challenging, for us and them.

Because of this the two most important things for us are still being sorted, though hopefully will be resolved in the next few weeks.  “Apollo 13” is the most urgent.  The electrics are very odd in this house.  Several electricians had a look, did a few things and vanished.  They are not even answering the phone, which does ring alarm bells.  Why “Apollo 13” you ask?  Well, sometimes the sockets all trip off when, for example, one of us turns on the kettle.  Or a computer.  Or the hot water – yes, really.  Remember the scene from the film where Gary Sinise, playing Ken Mattingly tries over and over again to fire up the capsule simulator and it repeatedly overloads and crashes?  So we have taken to calling “Apollo 13” before switching on anything, especially if one of us is working on a computer.

Basically the main fuse board is wired up almost at random which is why the lights dim if the microwave is on.  There’s no proper neutral loop and some stuff doesn’t seem to be earthed.  This is scary stuff and we are very lucky our builder found a brave, talented and properly qualified man who will rip it out and replace the whole lot with something safe and legal. Derrick, we salute you!

Now, the main bathroom is another interesting DIY project.  Any arrangement where the door hits the toilet when opened is not too well thought out.  The main problem for us though is the shower.  Now, the issue is highlighted in the name – a wet room.  Just a bit too wet, especially as the tiles are not non-slip and quite lethal when damp.  In fact the shower tended to flood the whole floor especially before we took out the bath as the water bounced off the sides and headed for the hallway. 

Many mornings one or other of us has slid across to the door, grabbed the frame and sung that irritating earworm of a song from “Titanic”.  Occasionally, on particularly grey, wet mornings, I hear strains of the Volga Boat Song drifting out on the shower.  The bath, by the way, is now in the garden and will make a wonderful herb trough next year.

Waiting to be repurposed

We are calling a halt to a lot of the work now as Jacqui needs to rest and regain her strength.  Our plumber, the lovely Aidan, is coming in the next few weeks to fit the shower screens that will contain this flood over the winter.  We hope to add a new basin and other fittings next year.  He has even found a proper shower chair if we need one over the next few months. 

Some Jacqui related news.  She is home and doing well.  We have to go back to the hospital in a month for tests and may have to stay overnight but at least this time we will be prepared!  Our main aim now is to avoid surgery if possible. She is being very good and trying not to fret over how sleepy she is or how slowly she has to move at present.  This will improve as she gets used to the medication and recovers from what was a huge shock to the system.  Everyone has been so kind, with neighbours (within 3 kilometres!) checking in, offering help and bringing wonderful flowers.  Our workmen decided jobs have to be finished and gone over and above what we could possibly ask.  And all of you, with your lovely comments and the good wishes you have sent.  Thank you all.

This has been an eye-opening part of our journey.  I realized I could not continue to avoid driving in Ireland, I had to just get on with it.  I thought I would be nervous, out in the countryside on my own.  But I wasn’t.  The house and this place continue to delight us despite recent events.  Things are different certainly.  There is very little radio reception but we have glorious birdsong.  We don’t have a shop within walking distance but we have a garden and a wood.  There is no street lighting but at night we can see the Milky Way.

We have kind, good friends both here and in other countries.

We are fine.