Monday 26 September 2011

Ian T Gardner

Next door have a lovely lawn.  Really lovely.  I didn’t think I was much of a lawn man, but it looks simply sumptuous.  Ours does not.  We have what’s nominally known as the tennis court - it’s the right size and when we moved in the net was erected.  There’s even a line marking machine in the shed.  But Wimbledon it is not.  It slopes and bumps, and thistles threaten an entire service box in the far corner.

Turns out that next door’s secret is they have a gardener.  He turns up once a week and makes it lovely.  We spoke to him the week we moved in, and he’s a nice chap and went to school with Islay’s sister.  Anyway, we asked him to come and give us some advice and a quote for doing some hardcore pruning work to help us get the trees.  His patter is obviously quite good, because he persuaded Islay that he should come and work for a few hours each week up until Christmas to do all the pruning and lopping and everything over an extended period.

So he’s been coming for a couple of weeks now, and the privet/gorse/box hedge separating the upper lawn from the rockery (how posh are we?  ”upper lawn”) has now been halved to provide better views, and the vast beech hedge above the tennis court is almost halved too (it’s half halved).

(As an aside - that beech hedge was so tall that it defeated me, my father and a ladder in our attempts to prune the top earlier this year, and ever since it’s looked like some sort of big-haired Morrissey wannabe with short back and sides and a big quiff shooting from the top.  A rockabilly hedge.)

But Ian’s a groundsman at a local cricket club (or golf, can’t remember) and it’s obvious that lawns are his first love.  He’s decided to tackle the tennis court too, and is mowing it every week.  He reckons it’s recoverable.  Perhaps the Chishill Open will take place next summer after all.

Thursday 22 September 2011

The architects

So the first phase of our building work is now complete.  And relatively painless it was too.  It included:

  • comprehensively rebuilt dormers, complete with some insulation and nicely fitting lead work

  • the top three courses of the chimney have been replaced, as have some rotting bricks, a pot has been placed on top and the lead work has been re done

  • the decaying satellite dish and unused analogue aerial have been removed

  • the roof above the corner of the lounge has been refilled

  • numerous slipped tiles have been replaced

  • new drainage has been dug

  • new manhole covers have been set

  • and the appalling piece of gutter routing that was cut through the render on the corner of the house to expose part of the timber frame to the elements has been redone and re-rendered.

So the house is much more weather-tight than it was before.

Now on to the next phase.  What we’re planning is to rip out all the walls in the old bit of the house to stuff insulation into the space.  At the same time we’ll refit the top bathroom and I’ll take the chance to route data cables everywhere.  Oh, and we’ll rewire all the kitchen lights (replacing the ceiling as we do so) and we’ll put a new boiler in.  I’m anticipating that living through these works will be slightly more disruptive than having stuff done on the roof.

But we still don’t really know what we want, at least not with the detail that’s essential for a smooth build.  So, Islay called in a couple of architects.  Actually, she roped them in mainly because she’s more concerned with the long term than I am, and wanted help creating a vision for what we might do with the house to add an extra bedroom and bathroom and perhaps make better use of the amazing view we have.  I’m down with that, albeit that our budget won’t stretch to a Grand Design right now.  But it turns out that an architect could also help us in planning and detailing what we need to get done right now.  

Of course I knew that, but I didn’t really appreciate it.  I thought architects were all about lofty visions and intricate structures of glass, latex and chicken wire, not the mundane practicalities of how much insulation to put in.  Now I’m sold.  It’ll probably cost us a bit more, but it will make me more confident that we’re doing the right things, and probably make our excellent builder Neville happier too.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Warning heavy plant.

The cherry picker lurks outside the front door.