Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Renovation and transformation

Graves with decorative ironwork
Graveyard, Salzburg, October 2012
There may not be anything about diabetes in this post! I can't guarantee it - in fact, I think there will be a brief reference to diabetes, because of Mr M. But apart from that, maybe none.

The last week has been most interesting. Mr A and I travelled south to see off his mother in a moving ceremony at the crematorium, marred only by a mobile phone ringing at the very moment when the celebrant (vicar? priest?) pressed the button that lowered the coffin at the climax of the proceedings. Mr A commented afterwards that it was in keeping with the course of his mother's life.

In less sombre mood, Lola Towers is undergoing a transformation. At the moment, it is transformed into a dirty, messy pigsty, but that is only because we have not yet cleaned up after the workers. As soon as we apply a few cleaning products to a few surfaces, things will be different.

First there was the hall and shower room. Those of you who have been around a while may remember my attempts at DIY, which went quite well. Over the intervening period, it has become clear that I should have used bathroom paint on the ceiling in the shower room, and I never did get round to painting the woodwork. The wall between the shower room and the hall has never dried out, and presumably never will unless we find the source of the dampness, which would probably mean the replacement of the entire shower and cubicle. The hall has had unpainted patches of repaired plaster for several years, but all of that is in the past - Lady Decorator did a fine job painting all of the walls, ceiling and woodwork. It looks great.

Then, following our recent assistance to Lola II and Mr M with their household DIY, they repaid the favour by spending the last weekend helping us with ours. The first thing we did was jump in the car and set off for the big DIY store, where Mr A and I bought the light switches and plug sockets that we wanted, and failed to find any suitable door handles. Then, to demonstrate further our commitment to a weekend fundamentally focused on DIY, we all went out for lunch, then Lola II and I visited one of the top ten fabric shops in the UK. On our return, Mr A and Mr M were enthusiastically replacing switches and sockets, and Lola II had a fine time with the industrial strength descaling fluid. I mostly supplied catering and support services.

[Diabetes note (I thought there would be one) - Mr M has a new tubeless insulin pump, with a handheld wireless controller. At lunch, he gave me the controller and insisted I was in charge of insulin delivery. Half way through the afternoon I caught him with glucose meter in hand and a lovely hypo in progress. I blame the higher level of activity and the fact that he didn't set a lower temporary basal rate (i.e. turn down the insulin).]

Obviously the power had been off all afternoon while the boys were tinkering with the electrics. Switching the power back on was accompanied by a tiny explosion, and it became clear that something was not right with the lighting circuit. Lola Towers is equipped with a prehistoric fuse box (none of your fancy trip switches here), and because it was getting late we decided we could live with a blown fuse and no downstairs lights for one night, and the wiring fault could be fixed the following day.

How wrong that decision turned out to be was demonstrated at about 2 a.m. when we were woken by a burglar alarm. It was quite loud - loud enough to wake us up and make us look out of the window to see if there was any suspicious activity in neighbours houses. It took several minutes for us to realise that it was our own burglar alarm, and the suspicious activity had taken place in our house earlier in the day when the power had been turned off to the alarm circuit. It had taken several hours for the backup battery to be drained, but now there wasn't anything we could do to stop the racket short of fixing the wiring, and that wasn't going to happen in the middle of the night. Eventually (and it seemed like hours) the bell stopped of its own accord, we all went back to bed, and hoped that it wouldn't go off again, which it didn't.

Sunday dawned, and we surveyed the scene afresh. Mr A decided to focus on the electrical issue, while I directed Lola II and Mr M to clean the velux windows, mow and strim the lawn, and deal with the weeds on the patio, where Mr M discovered the hard way that bees are nesting in our compost bin. Mr A made heroic efforts to untangle the mysteries of the multiple black and red wires, otherwise known as the two 2-way lighting circuits for the stairs. After several attempts and a great deal of hard thinking and help from the Internet, he triumphed. I managed to avoid most of the hard work again, because someone has to make the drinks/cook supper/provide cleaning equipment/wash up/hoover etc., haven't they?

Just as Lola II and Mr M had gone home, all was quiet, and the delight in switching lights on and off was beginning to wear off, Alf rang to say he was coming next day to do the plastering and the drains. We suspect the plaster near the fireplace had decayed from long leakage of water from the bathroom before we had the bath and pipes replaced. The drain problem came to light more recently, when we finally deduced that the damp wall was probably caused by water rising from outside (rather than descending from inside). This was confirmed when Alf told us that the two drains in question were both cracked, exposing the bottom of the wall to pretty much constant water contact. By Monday night the new drains were in, we were banned from using the bath, sinks and shower for 24 hours, and the burglar alarm was still out of action (although mercifully silent).

So in the space of a week we have acquired a newly decorated hall, new switches and sockets, sparkling velux windows (for the first time in more than ten years), a freshly mowed and strimmed lawn, descaled bathroom fixtures and fittings, another newly plastered wall, two new drains, and a layer of dust and dirt over most of the downstairs floors and furniture. But we are allowed to wash again, and, although braced for a burglar alarm service call-out charge, we have even managed to re-set the alarm to normal working. All we have to do now is a lot of cleaning up, and wait for the plaster and damp walls to dry out, and then it will be time for more decorating.

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