Greetings From Lockdown

Hey so the apocalypse is defo happening, I’ve been saying it for years and there’ve been floods and locusts and now the pestilence. Still, we are remaining as cheerful as possible and hoping that from the ashes of this shitty world economic model rises a bold new economic model that works for all of humanity and the planet, leaves nobody starving or unable to access education or healthcare, treats our environment with respect and gives all these key worksers literally risking their lives to keep the world running the remunerative recognition they have always deserved.

Is that so much to ask?

I have this theory that massive world events like this can offer opportunities for human growth that weren’t possible the day before the apocalypse. Like the first world war gave women the vote and the second world war gave us the NHS. This round of end times is obviously scary and dangerous for the lives being lost and the chaos it is causing to the world of employment, but it’s such an excellent opportunity for us as a world (and for the first time it’s actually practical for us ALL to think about it together as a world) to talk about what the world economy is for. What is money? What is worth? Why do we pay bank bosses as if they were demigods and nurses and teachers as if they did nothing useful? Money is a completely invented thing at this point in economic history. Used to be gold. Then it was bits of paper promising gold. Then it was bits of paper promising gold that doesn’t actually exist. Now it’s bits and bytes promising not gold… just erm… worth… uh… wait, no, it doesn’t exist at all. It’s just a big lie we all continue to tell each other and agree to pretend we don’t know it’s not real!

So let’s reinvent the whole system! Let’s fix as many of the stupidities as we can! Let’s compensate nurses and cleaners and carers and delivery drivers with what they’re really worth, considering we literally can’t function without them.

Ok, soliloquy over. On to donated house updates.

First things first:

I made Death By Chocolate for the first time in approximately 10 years. It was amazing. Lockdown spurs all the creative energies into activity and some of the results are delicious.

Oh, here’s a blurry, shitty picture of that bed Ben and I were building in the last post. It came out great. Thanks to Anthony for the reclaimed wood and Ben for the carpentry skills.

We went on a holiday to Scotland just before we weren’t allowed to leave the house, and there was this amazing tourist attraction in the town.

A Victorian toilet block with the most ridiculously over-opulent interior imaginable, albeit in a badly coordinated mish-mash style that would make Billy Morris turn in his grave.

…in the men’s loos, that is. I went in the women’s first and was feeling very cheated, having been promised unparalleled toilet splendour, but then the attendant saw me looking glum and directed me into the men’s, whereupon my toilet dreams were realised in all their eye-watering glory.

Such a shame there was not a neat row of men in tailcoats and top hats having a piss. would have capped the experience neatly.

Anyway, more about tiles. It came time to put a floor down in the kitchen-to-be, and I had a few boxes of some really nice natural stone tiles (thanks Anthony) but not enough for more than about 5 sq meters. So the audit of the reclaimed tiles began. A lot of messing about with the random shapes and sizes I had resulted eventually in a pleasing layout.

Which, when filled in with the stone tiles and surrounded by the leftovers…

 

Turned out really nice. And is now ready for Ben to build the actual kitchen units.

In other news, we had a lovely stretch of nice weather which was quite inspiring for gardening. We’re going to plant up the front slope this year, with a bunch of stuff I started from cuttings in the last year or two. And whatever comes up at Lidl for £4.49.

Julian dug over a bunch of it and we put the black plastic back to keep it dry and friable for when we get around to it.

This cherry tree I rescued from that house clearance (thanks, Anthony!) will take pride of place.

So all in all, lockdown is not treating us too badly. Plenty of toilet paper. Plenty of beans and rice. Plenty to be getting on with. So I’ll go get on with building walls in the kitchen.

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This Post Is Mainly About Pizza

Well, however many years after we had a pizza oven built into our house, we finally made pizza in it

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Ben (who is now staying here again for a while, hooray!) declared that he was good at pizza dough and he was not lying.

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We bought ALL the pizza toppings and set them all out and everyone got to build their own pizza. It was amazing. I want pizza all day every day. I want pizza right now.

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I got another large carload of scrap wood from Anthony. That’s my day sorted now, doing something with all of it. A lot of it will end up in the fireplace, but some of it will hopefully become part of my kitchen, which is genuinely about to become a reality.

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Oh, and blah blah, straw walls, clay plaster, blah blah.

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So sick of straw walls and clay plaster. And only like 5% done with that job. Aargh.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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The niche with shelf attached.

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A niche getting clayed in.

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Damn, Rae is sooooo good at this.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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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