I was woken up this morning by a loud crash. It took a moment or two to realise that it was thunder. I love dramatic weather so I hopped out of bed and whipped open the curtains. The road outside was draped in a thick blanket of soft, white snow.
I lit a fire, turned on the heating, cooked myself a breakfast and went for a walk in the snowy countryside. For tonight I have a movie lined up with regular references to the various tv weather forecasts planned.
Home is where the hearth is!
As these are things that require modest DIY skills they have remained undone since I moved in 3 months ago. But this weekend my DIY super-hero brother arrived with tools, know-how and enthusiasm.
Kevin is the guy who once explained to me that a philips screwdriver was not simply a screwdriver that was owned by a bloke called Philip.
No sooner was he in the door than we were off to the DIY store to buy shelves and brackets. Then he set up his gear, measured and marked the wall space, and started cutting up the wood.
“Do you have a spirit level?”, he asked.
“I think I do”, I said.
“You should have”, he replied, “I bought you one for your birthday”.
Indeed he did. Several hours later I had a brand new set of shelves above my new work top and we finished off the day watching football on the telly and drinking beer. Then we watched the dvd, Anvil. Genius!
Next morning (this morning) he put up the bathroom cabinet I had bought and now when I shave I can see what I’m doing in the mirror instead of guessing, which is a really bad way to shave.
When we were done (I say ‘we’...) we watched some more football. Before he went we had a brief ceremony where I officially named my bathroom cabinet in his honour and then he went home.
A magnificent weekend. Brothers are cool!
In between my patio and my lawn there is a troublesome patch of gravel. When I first saw it I knew that it would need some attention if it wasn’t to become just a neglected no-man’s land. And it didn’t take long for this bare-footed summer weather to turn it into a spiky obstacle course that made a trip to the garden into a hazardous journey.
This weekend I addressed the issue by purchasing seven paving slabs in order to form a flat and pain-free passage to the soft oasis of the back yard grasslands.
While I was doing this my mother, who had come along to lend a hand, spotted a granite topped garden table with two iron framed chairs. I’ve been putting garden furniture off on budgetary grounds but she bargained furiously with the store manager and got them for just fifty euro!!
It was a triumph of consumer savvy that only began to backfire when we got to the car. It complained bitterly at the weight of the paving stones and refused point blank to yield to the awkward shape of the iron chairs.
We struggled for half an hour before the puzzle defeated us, providing great entertainment for any passers by who cared to watch. In the end I was left in the car park while the table and chairs traveled home in luxury, one in each seat.
But it was all worth while when later that evening, sat like royalty at my lovely knew garden table, we enjoyed an al fresco meal in the setting sun.
.. so progress on transforming my house into a home has been slow. My new job, for which I am paid a disgracefully small amount of money, went mental and I spent the past three weeks pulling 12 hour days.
However, that all calmed down on when I finished up at 1.40am on Friday morning. The rest of the weekend was my own.
The timing was excellent as my mother declared an official visit on Sunday. I zipped into the city on Friday morning and bought myself a kitchen table with four accompanying leather chairs. Well posh!
I lugged all the bits home and spent several hours in flat-pack torment only to find that one tiny piece wouldn’t go in. I took out a wrench and broke it.
On Saturday morning I returned and got the offending table leg replaced. At the end of the one and a half hour round trip the new table leg declared it’s individuality by siting a clear half inch higher than the other three team players.
I spent the weekend with the table top balanced on a beanbag in the sitting room, the table stem thrown into a hall corner and a vast empty space in the kitchen where the table should have been.
Finally, on Monday morning, I marched back into shop in foul humour. “It doesn’t work!” I said. The girl behind the counter looked at it, twiddled the screw in stoppers on the base of the legs, set it evenly on the floor and said, “There you go”.
Oh the shame.
On Monday evening I cooked some very nice chicken fillets and ate at my new, well balanced kitchen table for the very first time. Victory!
.. I got myself a lawnmower. The actual mowing operation was worthy of NATO. When I had got it out of it’s box and tightened up the handlebars I put oil in it (very proud that I got that right) and added some petrol. Then I spent twenty minutes vainly hauling the starter cord. All I got in response was a momentary splutter and then… silence. As the cursing got louder my new neighbour took an interest.
“Did you put oil in it?”
“Did you feed the choke?”
Yeah, fed the choke.
“Is the throttle on?”
“Are you sure you put oil in it?”
But we had a pleasant half hour chatting about vegetables and scrap metal grinders. Then he said, “Is the spark plug cap on?”
I tried to disguise the fact that I didn’t know where the spark plug was. “Ah yeah, that’s all fine”
“Are you sure?”
“Yup… spark plug cap.. yeah, yeah”
“It’s at the front”
“Thanks – Oh, look at that, the caps not connected”
43 (bizarrely) baskets of grass and two hours later I had a freshly mowed lawn and two massive inset bites. By the time I finished it needed doing again. It’s fantastically massive.
Then a mate of mine called around to have a look at the place. His face was priceless as he turned the corner from the yard into the garden. “Bloody hell! Is that all yours?”
I love my new garden. Absolutely love it.
.. situation is becoming critical. I may just have to bite the bullet and go out and get one. The bloke who installed my satellite tv made the unlikely claim that he got a qualcast petrol driven one at Woodies for 35 euro so that will be my stop off on the way to work this afternoon.
I’m slightly worried that I am getting used to living in a half made home and that my motivation for getting the remaining items that I need is slipping. Beware of complacency will be my mantra for the coming week. A house without a kitchen table is a foolish eccentricity, as my white sofa (yes, I know, what was I thinking?) can testify. Residue of spaghetti, baked beans and blackcurrent juice do not compliment it’s appearance.
.. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Today I went at the garden, which is huge. In the two weeks that I have been here the lawn has transformed from an attractive green baize into the jungles of apocalypse now. And guess what? I don’t have a lawnmower.
As I stood among what I can only refer to as the undergrowth I was put in mind of Colonel Kilgore and his love of chemical defoliants, a love I am beginning to understand.
You may wonder why I haven’t bought myself a lawnmower. Well, finance is tight and my brother has promised to buy me a lawnmower as a house-warming present. So until he comes up with the goods the vast grass plain will remain unmolested. He’s reckoning on stopping by some time in August and with two baby twins to take care of my problems with the wilderness are not at the top of his priority list.
In order to make some kind of a start I began picking away at the neighbours intruding vegetation with a hand held snipping implement that I doubt very much was intended for anything more challenging than the odd rosebush. Our gardens are separated by a combination of wire-link and wooden fences, leaving plenty of room for rogue bush branches to wind their way into my garden.
I made good progress, gathering a large pile of woody vegetation, although I have no idea what I should do with it. As I went along I disturbed an impressive array of wildlife and was only surprised that I didn’t unearth some of those Japanese soldiers who don’t know that the War is over. But on I went, snipping, pulling and tearing until the fences are more or less clear.
But with the blood up I couldn’t leave it at that. I sped into Newbridge and bought me a strimmer. At 25 euro it was a steal, though I expect to learn a thing or two about false economy over the next month or so.
I put it together, hooked it up to the extension cable and set about the weedy borders, slashing to a pulp anything that looked even vaguely as if it didn’t belong to the grass family.
Hola! Two hours later and, while the main body of the garden remains a tangled jungle, the borders are delicately trimmed and pretty as a picture.
Next up on the to do list are the weeds. Oh my God, the weeds! Would you believe me if I told you that some of them are big and ugly enough to beat me up? They frighten me, even with a strimmer to call on. If anyone knows how to call in an air-strike I’d appreciate your help.
When I first looked into buying a house my cousin Catherine, who is an estate agent, warned me that as soon as I has signed the papers I would be faced with a long line of people each demanding large sums of cash for what might appear to be obscure and unnecessary services. My God, she was right.
Usually I am very cautious with my credit card but in the past two weeks it’s had more exercise than in all it’s previous years of existence. My current account is solidly in the red and each day requires new feats of financial juggling.
Today I paid what was due on my tax bill along with a deposit on my new electricity account and also committed to pay for tv satellite installation. I have also paid to have my mail redirected, suffered a cruel hit from a forgotten legal bill and fallen into the trap of putting a myriad of small household items on my credit card and then realising that it all adds up to a small fortune.
The final straw was going into a shop this morning to buy towels and recoiling at the idea that these simple pieces of fabric would set me back 26 euro a pop. “No!”, I screamed in the centre of the shop floor. “Damn you, I’ll use a dishcloth”.
Yesterday, Saturday, saw the first visitors arrive at my new home. My parents rolled up outside and unloaded a slew of household goodies that my mother has been collecting since I first bought the place. Picture frames, dishcloths, wine glasses and many other bits and bobs. Bless.
I had forewarned them that the whole place was very much a work in progress and that seating space (and indeed sleeping space) was at a premium. But the delivery men of Ireland came through with impeccable timing and as we sat on assorted bean bags watching the rain pelt against the windows a sofa and a mattress came through the door.
We spent an hour or two making the bed in the spare bedroom hospitable and putting together the Ikea 3 seat sofa. Then we cracked open some champagne, lit a fire and sat down in comfort to watch ‘Planes,Trains & Automobiles’ on the dvd player. Luxury.
my new home is now open for business.
.. I get to know this house a little bit better and, as with a lover, I am discovering things that make me smile and other things that make me grit my teeth and think of the bigger picture.
It’s situated just a mile or two from a military camp and was originally built in the 1880’s as accommodation for British army officers. No doubt, when the Easter Rising took place in 1916, this house was a seat of voluble recriminations against the rebels and one of the few places in Ireland that expressed satisfaction at the execution of those same rebels shortly after the rebellion was suppressed.
Such a lofty historical perspective seems at odds with my present day concerns such as finding a connection that will successfully join my Tv cable to my Tv. Or finding a suitable place to put my printer.
This house is very small, you see. It has a living room (small), two bedrooms (both very small), a bathroom (big enough but not big), a kitchen (big enough to cook but not to sit and eat, and a garden (absolutely huge).
The beds cannot be bigger than four feet across, the sofa will just fit provided I am happy not to be able to open the adjacent cupboard and I can fit the cd player but not the cds.
And as for my books, I fear another bout of ruthless disposal is in the offing. Anybody want a worn copy of George Orwell’s 1984?