Monday, 16 November 2009

Winging it . . .

Do you ever have a job to do where you find that although you have started, you have got to the stage where you don't know what the heck you are doing? I had one of those days today with reupholstering my husband's armchair. The book open on the table beside me gave all sorts of illustrations of different chairs, but NO answers to the questions I had in my head. Anyway, in the end I just had to make it up as I went along, using common sense . . . Largely, it worked, though I had to unpick and resew the extra bits of material I'd put on the side to tack onto.

The Mobile Library came today. I got DH a book about house restoration, and jokingly said to the Librarian, "I wish we'd had this book when we first moved here." I took it indoors to my husband, and he said much the same thing, admitting that he knew NOTHING about any of the jobs we had to tackle here, and believe me, there was a LOT of restoration work to be done. That shocked me a bit, as I really thought he pretty well always knew what he was doing! When we had injections of money, we paid for the rewiring to be professionally done, and the central heating extended, and chimneys lined, and some major building restoration on rooms which were completely derelict. Then the was the digging-out of our well so we had our own water supply and didn't have to rely on sharing a supply with Next Door's cows . . .

I have to confess though that at times, my heart has been in my mouth when one of the builders had to do things which weren't strictly in the manual - like capping a chimney singlehandedly - edging along the ridge tiles with the lump of slate slab clutched to a manly chest and then going back for the bucket of cement to keep it in place . . . Every time I look at the next chimney over I notice the upside-down wok which has been doing sterling service as a cowl for probably 15 years now . . .

Then there was a more recent roof adventure where we had to climb out of one of the Velux windows in a spare bedroom, scramble the few steps across the roof to the inglenook chimney stack and then lay across the chimney to knock off loose bits of render which were causing a problem. You can see the window, chimney stack and catslide roof in the photo below, at the back of the house. Hopefully when we move, such shennanigans will no longer be necessary . . .


  1. That side photo shows just how huge your house is. I wouldn't like to climb on that roof!

    I love the previous photos too, and P says she wishes we were staying with you now! She has no idea how floods can affect things!

    Stay safe and good luck with that chair. x

  2. I empathise with all you have obviously done - much the same here, from derelict farmhouse (1969) to ... not quite so derelict but still so much we want to do.

    All the best with the chair, and everything else.

  3. J. has always said that renovations are much more trying than to build a house from the ground up. He has undertaken such jobs only of absolute necessity. One can analize the work to be done, prepare an estimate and then be utterly flummoxed by an unforeseen problem when a wall or ceiling is removed.
    As to the chair and the book of helpful upholstering tips: sounds like a task where the photos in the book never look quite like what one is trying to do--my attempts to translate flat diagrams of anything into a three dimensional project usually fall short.
    I am very taken with the book mobile: one came to the rural school which I attended as a child--a marvelous treat to go in the little van and choose the books we would have for a month or more, so different from going to the local library.

  4. Ha ha when we moved here, someone thoughfully gave us a book entitled "Doing up a dump" :D and I hadn't thought it was that bad!

  5. Hmm - I made good progress with the chair today until putting the side panels on. Temporary stop (and some "unpicking" of tacks tomorrow) as I need to make up a strip of something which will give a sharp edge of material, covering the other tacks too . . . It was easier in class, as I only had to ask for what I needed then. Hey-ho though, progress . . .

    Kath - I'e seen that book too. It would definitely have applied here! During the first few years we used to pray that the roof wouldn't collapse whenever there was a bad storm, and we didn't dare ask for grant work to be done for fear the Council would condemn it!

    MM - Tell J this house would send him BONKERS. There is no straight line, nothing level, not stairs, doorways, windows and in some rooms you walk downhill from one side of the room to the other! Someone in the past (Jim's dad we think) "plastered" one side of the hall wall with 100% cement . . . You should have heard K swearing when he broke drill bit after drill bit on that, trying to hang a picture for me!

    WSC - I dare say you had similar problems when you were doing up your house. No job was ever straightforward - something that should have taken a week always uncovered another problem and took at least 6!

    Yarrow - Give P a hug from me (and don't squash the hamster!) - you're all welcome whenever you like, and in the next house too of course!

  6. What an unusual house, BB.
    You are very brave reupholstering - I smiled because I feel that any job like that you do, whatever book you are working from will never have an explanation for your problem. Glad it turned out OK.

  7. WG - it is a very ancient site. I'm not sure which bits - if any - are part of the original "Great Hall" here, but it has a long history. Only last night I dated one past occupant who died here to being born around 1260 . . .

  8. Your story of work on the house reminded me when I decided to buy a smallholding in Wales BB...
    I was widowed at a young age and a 3 year old daughter, so decided to set out for the self-sufficent life ;) Some of the places I saw would have frightened any builder, layers of wallpaper if stripped off would have bought the walls down, roofs that looked so wonky they could have fallen down any time. Eventually commonsense won (or people yelling at me) I bought a modern house in Wilts, but one wall slipped, the builder had built it over an old well, and............. to this day I swear I saw the ghosts of the old couple who must have lived in the cottage that stood on that ground - they went through the bedroom wall one night.....

  9. J. looked at the photo of your roof lines and declared no one has any business up there unless getting there by way of a very stout ladder and roping themselves to the chimney piece for security. Thus says the man who has done his roofing with benefit of a "Sky Trak" these last several years!