I’ve been trying desperately to get some inspiration for having my house redecorated. It’s jolly hard as the job won’t be started until at leastMarch, a good 5 months away. The decorator lives abroad but he comes back to UK every winter to volunteer his decorating and restoration skills at various heritage properties and he’s allocating an additional 2 weeks of his valuable time to be available to help me. One job that desperately needs seeing to is the bannister and stair rails – they are now a mixture of coffee and cream colour because the top coat has started wearing off and I don’t have the strength in my hands to rub down the gloss work – a professional does that sort of thing in a trice. When he decorated the rest of my house a few years ago, I was amazed at how quickly the preparations were carried out – all the doors off and rubbed down in the time it would take me to find the sand paper!
In the years immediately following the last war, the severe shortage of housing – through years of bombing raids by the enemy, made it a tremendous challenge to try and rehouse all the displaced families. The main thrust of the housing campaign was by way of corporation or local council housing – great swathes of land were compulsorily purchased from landowners and councils to allow for a new housing to go up in village and small town locations. These ‘council’ houses were necessarily built in a great hurry and as economically as was allowed. Consequently they were ugly afffairs. When it became obvious that houses could not be built quickly enough or when land acquisition became bogged down, temporary land was taken and fantastic little prefabricated homes were put up by the thousand. These were supposed to be temporary, slightly more than a static caravan and sited with full plumbing and electricity, they were fantastic little places for the smaller family.
One of the most alarming things for property owners is to find bits of it falling off or completely missing. These many facets of ownership are brought to our attention by the conveyancing lawyer we see when we discuss and sign the contracts. But how many of us really listen and take in the seriousness of maintaining everything within our boundary in a safe & legal state. One house I had was adorned with pretty gables at the front, but after a lot of bad winter weather and rain, during bird nesting season the cement/mortar gradually fell out from under the pantiles down the front of each gable. The problem was actually pointed out by the chap up there reinserting the downpipe back up in the gutter . . . . professionally he looks at everyone’s roof when he’s up at that level on any task. He then hopped along the garage roof to inspect the rest of the roof and discovered that birds and weather had eroded the pantile fixings all the way round. It needed fixing a s a p to stop rain, birds and vermin entering and also to prevent the pantiles flying off. The job required scaffolding to be erected, It’s not a lightweight job and had I been more vigilant over the previous years, I would have known what to look out for. I do now so it won’t happen again.
Needing a decorating expert is probably the bane of many a housewife these days. Not so many chaps take on these very worthwhile jobs, or only do so when they’ve had a hobby of some sort and then they realise their skills at decorating could earn a fair sized chunk of someone else’s capital But there are people who are naturally very good decorators – speedy, accurate, very tidy and trustworthy. When such a person is engaged for a job, and they do it as well as they usually do, their reputation is enhanced every time and by word of mouth they get recommended and engaged for more and more work. Sometimes they find there is so much work on offer they can’t actually accept every job available, or have to accept but advise a longer time scale. Someone who comes that well recommended can generally call the tune and every customer wanting him or her has to accept his popularity is by virtue of him being able to do a fantastically good, economical and timely job!
It would be wonderful to be able to build ourselves a home of our dreams anywhere we fancied, wouldn’t it. Well this seems a fabulous plan, on the surface. However when you look into it a little deeper there are flaws immediately. As we see from other countries that don’t have our stringent planning controls and regulations, the chance to build absolutely anything anywhere does not actually work. There have to be compromises with other people who may fance that piece of land too. So this is where you have to buy it for your self and prove that it is yours and only yours, to build anything on. Next hurdle is that not every piece of land for sale will have building permissable scope – each county council planning department sets out a five year plan to include the boundary of all permitted developments and anything outside that boundary will not qualify – it will generally be classed as green belt i.e. plain unbuilt on land. And with any building project, especially a dream one – a good well experienced professional desiner / architect with good working knowledge of the local planning department is the key to any project taking off.
There cannot be much more of a frightening scenario on the home front than to have something serious happen to the house – a fire or maybe a break-in. It makes the whole of our future experience in the property take on a completely different feel. Nothing is more important than the feeling of being safe and secure, belonging. When we need to have work done on our properties, the opportunity for fraud or underhand treatment is obviously increased. That’s why it is vital to engage the services of tradespeople and experts who are known throughout the locality for their good workmanship, honesty and ethical operations. I for one will never ever pay ‘under the counter’. . . . i.e. paying less than the usual rate – generally by not paying VAT. This is a sign of an inherently dishonest operator and therefore not deserving of my hard earned funds. I mean to say, who is going to pay ito the national treasury for all those new nurses, doctors, police etc etc that were so needed when we had the recent general election. Evading all taxes is not good. It is cheating on everyone else.
It would be absolutely wonderful to be able to build ay property that took our fancy on any bit of land we owned, or more likely, one or two family members owned. This canot be possible in this little country – it does feel as if we are getting engulfed by all the new edge of town developments already. When I was in the States earlier this year, I was given a tour round the terrifyingly expensive area that the good and the very rich now have their first homes built. I discovered there is no sentimentality towards houses or buildings in general over there as there is here. Some of the neighbours I managed to chat to were incredulous that we have heritage charities set up specifically to care for old properties, historic battle sites, monuments etc. They do still on the whole bulldoze existing houses once they’re deemed a bit old fashioned, and new ones goes up in their place. Theirs don’t seem to be built by the same methods though and do tend to look like the home built property style.
We all need a little help when we start a new project. Whether this is to do with refurbishing a house or garden. You can have all sorts of ideas of what ought to be moved from here and put there, or perhaps let’s knock down this wall and make the area open concept – used to be called open plan when I was a nipper. . . . . however that’s just splitting hairs. the only way to really ensure that a good project is designed, planned for, approved, costed and adhered to is to engage the services of a good local contractor. Unless you and your helper have explicit experience in knocking down anything other than a stickle brick mountain, then major headaches can occur from the very first. A professional company will save hours of heartache, massive fracturing of the friendship and an even bigger rupture of the bank balance. Cutting corners to save a few pounds has very very rarely worked out for the good in real life.
I had occasion to visit a splendid split level penthouse suite recently. It is some years since this turn of phrase was used in open conversation . . . . I was really intrigued to see if this one offered the amazing views and open toof top garden that it had originally been advertised as including. I worked out that the penthouse I was about to enter must have been built in the late 1980s – it was on top of the once very fashionable hotel next to the river bridge. I can well remember the adverts for it at the time as they showed an artist’s impression of large spacious sitting room, dining area off the large open concept kitchen. The king sized edrrom with dressing room and ensuite looked so luxurious back then! I am pleased to report that most of the flat was of good proportion. It had been recently refurbished throughout and the kitchen was fantastic. Can you imagine having to take down all the debris in the service lift and bring all the new fit up that way . . . whooh!
I often leaf through the endless stream of magazines in the supermarket – thechance to look at ideas for decor and maybe a quick glance at what’s going on in today’s world of self build and design . . . In all of the magazines geared for ladies, of a certain age and up, there are adverts for various river cruises, coach trips, railways trips etc. and every single one includes Amsterdam and / or Bruges. Both of these locations are jolly pretty – well the one or two cobbled paved areas they show in the ad. When you take the included excersion, on a river barge, you’re guided to look up and appreciate the intriguing architecture and it’s only recently I really did do that. I did wonder how on earth did they build such pretty little narrow gingerbread style homes and wharfs on top of such a watery base. I’m quite sure the local design teams in my town would be able to produce ideas for building on top of man made canals – their training would have covered all kinds of scenarios I’m sure; but I’m jolly glad they wouldn’t have to in reality!