Yeah, So…

When I said in the last entry that I’d just get my head down and do the mosaic…

I’ve not done any more on the mosaic. Because it got to the point of being a usable shower, albeit a seated only shower. So I stopped feeling like there was a significant carrot dangling there anymore and moved on to other things, including a WHOLE LOT of not working on the house at all, some of it productive in non-house-related ways and some of it utterly unproductive and very theraputic for that.

I took all of December off from building, in an attempt to finally like Christmas again. Not that Christmas has been unlikealble, it’s been fine, very nice, even, but I’ve sort of struggled to redefine my relationship to it since my life exploded a few years ago, and I hadn’t really had the opportunity to try doing it on my own terms. I’d never had a tree, for example, while living here. So we gave it a go, and it was nice. No more or less nice that the last several years have been, but executed entirely on our terms and that was somehow… important? I don’t know. I used to really love Christmas and since the life trainwreck, it’s had a sort of ghostly feeling for me. I expect I will never quite feel like I used to about it, but it was nice to finally have a Christmas I was at the helm of, in my own home, an opportunity to further build a positive relationship with this house.


Back to progress report.

Here’s a picture of what I can show you of the bathroom; it’s such a small room it’s basically impossible to get a photo of it in any meaningful way.


I did eventually start making more progress, and actually, am cracking on something amazing, thanks to my new arrangement with Rae. We both had projects that had totally got on top of us and were just too baggage-laden to crawl out from under, so we decided to become a DIY mutual support group and work on each others’ projects. It’s both motivational and highly productive because we have new and fresh perspectives on each other’s hideous problem projects.


Rae’s got a house in Blackpool which she’s been trying to finish doing up and sell it, but it has become rather a millstone round her neck. But it looks fresh AF to me, so I’m quite enjoying going there two days a week and working on stuff that has NO BAGGAGE for me. And Rae comes here two days a week and does clay plastering, which she loves to do.


We are taking the opportunity to put a couple of niche shelf things in, since you can do that with straw.



Some nice oak floor board offcuts, courtesy of Anthony, are making the shelves.


Turns out my angle grinder is really good for cutting back the straw.


We also had great success using the last of the waney-edged siding as skirting boards.


The niche with shelf attached.


A niche getting clayed in.


Damn, Rae is sooooo good at this.


As well as fast, especially when I do the mixing and she does the plastering.


I’m good with gak also, filling in holes and making a smoothish surface for her to plaster onto.


She gets such an excellent finish. She tried to teach me, but to be honest, I’d rather do grunt work at her house in Blackpool forever than even try to compete with her level of skill.


It’ll take quite a while to dry, but we can be moving on in the meantime and hopfeully get this room ready to be a guest room/airbnb income generator asap.


Meanwhile, Anthony’s tame scrap metal guy came and took away the god-awful tank I had no idea how to move otherwise. And cut up the remaining caravan and carted it away in a quarter of the time it took a whole team of us to do it during the caravan destruction party. I guess it pays to know what you’re doing.


It’s so nice to have that area clear. When we get some decent weather coinciding with a day off for Julian, we’ll move stuff around and start clearing that quadrant for Actual Finished Gardening. Amazing. All that south-facing wall!

And lastly, in happy, happy news, a very excellent cheesemonger has opened a shop in Todmorden. It’s truly amazing. We now spend our very small cheese budget there, on less cheese, but    SO    MUCH    BETTER. Highly, highly recommended.


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Mosaic Progress and Running Water

True to form, I committed myself to doing a huge amount of very tedious work for a result that will be amazing if I manage to stay sane through the doing of it. Below is two days’ work on the mosaic. Gawd.


So I’ll stop even bothering to tell you how many hours have gone in or how many hours I calculate remain. I’ll just get my head down and do it.


It does get less physically painful as I get higher up the wall and can sit in a less awkward position while doing it.


This is how far I got before I took myself off to visit the aged parents for a while.


I grouted that bit and siliconed the lot so Julian could use the space for actual bathing while I’m away. It looks pretty great.


I did a bunch of plumbing as well, and only screwed it all up so badly that Anthony had to come and do half a day making it all right. So that’s not bad going!


After a very few floods and slightly more drippy joints, everything’s been tightened up to more or less work. I even did a bit of laundry. In my own house. It was amazing.


There’s plenty more to do in that room but it’s nice to reach a major milestone.

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Shower Mosaic Underway

All cement board is in place, joints taped, bench seat graded for slope and all surfaces tanked with some blue goo Anthony gave me. Here we go.


First I transferred the patterns for the complex upper mosaics onto the walls with a sharpie, a ruler, and an indomitable sense of fuck-it, it’ll be fine.


I did a row around the bottom of larger tile pieces for ease and for better chances of success in the sealing of the bottom edge with silicone. I’m very paranoid about water leakage.


I was VERY lucky to have mosaic expert Sarah May Matthews visiting for a few days, so we shared the load of the lower mosaic work, which was rather back-breaking.


Luckily, although she’s more meticulous and generally better at it than me, she was able to ape my style and our respective sections look pretty similar.


The curvy edge was done in short sections of bars of tile cut on the tile saw, to avoid any pointy-uppy edges. After all, people’s bare bums will be testing this surface.


It all ended up passably smooth and it looks amazing so far.


Grouted up and with a line of blue to break up the two sections, this is the finished bit so far. I’m pretty damn pleased. That’s about 5 days’ work you’re looking at. 5 relaxed Grace-style days, but still.


Meanwhile, I’d done a bit of testing with the coloured tiles for the complicated bits up top.


And I’ve got started on it. From what I’ve done, I think the whole top bit will take maybe 80-90 hours. Better get a move on.



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Working diligently to finish the shower before the end of August so that Julian has a working bathroom before autumn.


So much fear paralysis to overcome. Just do it, Grace. Nothing gets done if you’re too scared to even start. You know this…


I seem to be medium-resilient lately, so I’ve managed to do a pretty good amount of scary, difficult work that I have no clue how to do. It’s almost like the old me is coming back.

And then there’s my comfort zone stuff:


The handles for gate valves apparently only come in red. I thought of buying old steampunk looking ones on eBay, but then it occurred to me to paint the ones that came with the valves.


It is fair to say I am chuffed with the results.


Watch this space for news of the shower mosaic, hopefully coming soon.

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Many and Varied Bits of News

Right, here’s a long awaited update. I mean, I’ve been waiting a long time. I don’t necessarily flatter myself that you have. You may have just dropped by because you were bored.

I made some taps!


I don’t know if they’re watertight yet, because I’ve not quite got round to the actual plumbing yet. But they look really pretty.


And I assembled and cut and fixed and oiled and sanded everything in readiness…


And it’s looking pretty fabulous, albeit without any of the actual functioning parts yet. Nor any mirror, tiling, plastering, sides and doors on the cupboards, but progress is progress.


This sink is so effing cool.

Meanwhile, Julian turned 30 and we had a party, some of which was harry potter themed and all of which was food themed.


Birthday pies replaced birthday cake.


I borrowed this awesome dress from REx costume hire, and I am definitely finding the pattern and making myself several of them. Except maybe not the impractical sleeves.


How many times do you find Newt Scamander, Lucius Malfoy (minus blonde wig) and Scabior nattering in your kitchen?


And next on the birthday hi-jinx list, a boating trip on Coniston Water in the Lake District.


This day was amazing. I cold emailed the Arthur Ransome Trust to ask if they could point me toward somebody who might be willing to take me and Julian out for a sail and the absolute nicest guy, Geraint, who answered my email, gamely volunteered his services and that of his wife and their beautiful boat Peggy Blacket, which is a replica of one of Ransome’s own boats that appears in some of the books he wrote.


Now then, I am not a super-nerd about Swallows and Amazons, that’s Julian’s department, so I will not go on about that stuff. Instead, I will go on about HOW GREAT OUR TRIP WAS because it was truly magical.


These two fabulous people took us for a lovely sail, taught Julian how to steer and turn and tack and all sorts of genuine sailing skills while I was allowed to just be ballast which suited me fine.

Geraint and Helen are just the best kind of folk, were truly welcoming and enthusiastic about the boat and the lake and the books. The whole experience was ten times better than I could have imagined.

I earned many, many girlfriend points for this.

After the sail, they gave us some tips on finding this cute little hut in the woods, which was the model for something called the Dog’s Home in one of the books. I have been unable to figure out why it’s called that, I don’t think there was a dog involved. But anyway, it was a nice walk and a pretty little forest hut to imagine camping out in for a summer adventure.


The rest of our time in the Lakes was spent gawping at lakes, unsurprisingly, which was relaxing and delightful. Below is a view of Peel Island, which was Wildcat Island in the books.


And then we went and walked the pretty, less-touristy bits of Windermere.


And had a picnic on a rocky point near a castle.


So that 48 hours in the lake district immediately made my top 10 short breaks ever. I am going to arrange my life from now on with a view to having time for more of that!

Anyway, gratuitous cats:


He’s just adorable.


And finally: you know that cherry tree, the Montmorency I practically killed myself trying to source in England and planted about 6 years ago and it never really did anything and was to bushy and vigorous for where it was and really wasn’t pulling its weight in terms of output? Well last winter I ring-barked it to kill it so I could grow a climbing rose up its carcass. It not only survived my botched murder attempt, but it’s finally putting out fruit (as a result of my botched murder attempt? Who knows…) so we will have a cherry pie tomorrow and the tree may well live to try this again next year.


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