A Plank of Wood and a Glass of Wine

In some places this project would be considered therapy

I’m not really the mental psycho bitch that I am often portrayed as. For example, this weekend Baz came to France with me and helped me put skirting board around our tiny multi-angled bathroom, working around the cast iron bath, sink and loo already in situ. Despite these frustrating obstacles we worked well together, didn’t break anything and didn’t lose our cool in the afternoon heat. By the time we were cleaned up (Baz loved his first ever experiences of cast iron bathing luxury this weekend) and taking aperos we remained very relaxed and still on speaking terms

Always a good start to an evening

Through necessity, the bath is installed in a fairly small space and there is nowhere to put toiletries (the name ‘roll top bath’ sort of gives it away really)

A shelf on the wall next to the bath would look cramped, but my memory strayed back to childhood: we had a hideous broken plastic bath rack across the bath, as I remember

There are some vintage 1920s metal bath racks for sale as well as a few modern ones, but I felt that a metal rack could look very fussy in the small space. In fact, the designers of some of the modern ones have totally lost the plot, adding ugly random sticky-out bits to hold wine glasses, books, tea lights, as well as the necessary shampoos etc

Baz had some interesting ideas for add-ons but I cannot share these here

They’re a bit niche

I went into a very expensive bathroom showroom and said ‘I don’t suppose you get many people asking for bath racks, do you?’
It seems that my instinct was correct. He only had one silly rack which cost more than our entire bathroom

So I consulted my erudite friend, M. Google, who introduced me to the simple wooden racks – rather like chopping boards – that can be bought for not very much, according to M. le Goo

I decided that I would make my own, using a piece of old wood found in the house itself. I had visions of using a patinated oak floorboard, of course

There are none going begging, as far as I can see 🙂

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Before and after some graft

But last night after the plumbers had left I found this unpromising shelf, recently ripped from a (probably late 1800s) walk-in bedroom cupboard to make space for a water heater. I removed a few hooks and nails from the underside, cut a piece off and then scrubbed it with steel wool and white spirit. As you can see, the wood came up nicely and I even left the original uneven unsawn edge. I added toilet seat dampers to protect the bath enamel and to hold the shelf in place, then treated it with an oil-based waterproof finish. Simplicity itself

I could have added a wineglass holder, but no-one tells this psycho bitch where to put her wine glass I don’t think I need one

It could almost double up as a cheese board!

If IKEA had made it, it would be called ‘BJÖRD’ or ‘BÊAM’

But they didn’t make it, did they?

Because it belongs to this house, a token minimalist item. And it cost nothing

The bath will be an even greater pleasure this evening, I am sure, now that I can enjoy a glass of red wine and listen to a bit of Lana Del Ray…

Object of Desire

What’s black and white and grows in the bathroom

‘Your bath looks wonderful’ said a friend. ‘It’s as if it grew there’

The bathroom is finally coming together exactly as I had planned, dominated by the roll top bath. I was unreasonably thrilled when the plumber confirmed that I could have my first bath today – nearly two years after buying the house

And yet, as it approached 8pm I realised that I had been finding things to do and putting off filling the tub. I had really stuck my neck out by insisting on a roll top bath and it had caused a lot of effort for everyone. Supposing I didn’t like it? I was even obsessing over the idea that it would not take the weight of the 120kg tub full of water and me, and that it would fall through the floor, leaving me cold, naked and alone in the hallway downstairs

But it looked so inviting, and I was filthy

Yes, I had to improvise a bath mat (today’s dirty T-shirt) and my toiletries were balanced on the taps, but I was so euphoric after finally taking the plunge that I composed an Oscar-type thank you speech in my head as I bathed. ‘Thank you Baz for believing in me when I bought this house and this bath back in 2015, and for allowing me to fritter away war could have been our pension fund. Thank you to the Smiley Plumbers for doing what I asked, even though you thought it was wrong. Yes, you did. And thank you to the bloke on Ebay who was chucking away the bath of my dreams,’ etc …

Afterwards I ran downstairs to check that water was not pouring into the hallway. (Oh, me of little faith!)

I texted people to tell them ‘I’ve had a bath’

I called Baz, still full of enthusiasm. After all these years he still just laughs and says ‘if you’re happy, I’m happy’

The guy’s a saint

This gorgeous bath, including the taps and shower thing, came out of a house three miles from us in the UK, where developers had gone in :(. The site manager just wanted a few notes and collection within 24 hours. Two years on, it has found its homeIMG_4386

Why do people choose acrylic baths over cast iron? Enamelled cast iron looks wonderful. The smoothness of enamel is calming, cosy and warm, like a big cuddle. It’s huge. It cleans down so easily. Oh, someone stop me here! I have spent the last forty-odd years since my childhood dreaming of another cast iron bath while everyone else has moved into the acrylic future

What am I missing?

A Very British Sunburst

I was so sure I would manage all kinds of tasks while Baz was away, but I have been hit by cold-snap apathy over the last few days. Waiting nearly an hour for a cab to work this morning and the ensuing migraine were just the icing on the cake

I think it’s time to reflect on a previous project which I haven’t followed up on properly: the sunburst cabinet

In time for Christmas, it reached its potential as a drinks cabinet. It totally owns the living room at home and will not be going to France, being simply too BritishIMG_3987I have avoided any work to the wood itself. This cabinet is in great nick and I love its patina. Mirrors make it more glamorous, as does a shelf in the lower cupboard IMG_4023I added a cheap bath plug chain to give a stable working space on the fold-down doorIMG_4025I love how the top opens up. It’s very useful and I’m amazed at how many bottles I can stuff into it. The top is for beer and other small bottles, but it’s the bottom where the magic really happensIMG_4026

It’s such a sweet little cupboard and I love that something so basically made has, with very little effort, become such a star

Marriage and Serial Monogamy

‘We’re always away when he gets married’

Baz left for his annual golf trip yesterday. We shared a cab to Slough Station, and along the way we reflected on, among other things, marriage

‘We’re always away when he gets married’ I said. A good friend has married several times, but he has very high expectations of a partner. We have failed so far to attend his weddings. ‘Don’t worry’ said Baz ‘There’s always the next one’

We are lucky to have just enjoyed our 19th wedding anniversary. C unashamedly used her cousin’s ID card at Waitrose to pick up a celebratory bottle of Cremant de Limoux(!), and Baz and I had a gorgeous meal in The Fox and Hounds at Bishopsgate. Our first ever meal there together was a Sunday lunchtime, we hadn’t booked and the restaurant was so full that we had to sit at an outside table. I was chilly in my halter-neck, and the owner at the time – a lovely man with a terrible wig – immediately whipped off his enormous cardigan and draped it over my shoulders

That was 22 years ago and we’d been together just a few days. Back then, we were love’s young dream. I remember the day so clearly

While Baz is gone, there’s plenty of stuff to do in the garden, and things to fiddle with in the shed and the garage, though robin chicks are chirping in the old wardrobe in the garage, so paint stripping has to stop. Work on the aluminium flying saucers will have to wait until the nest is empty

The first of the shades (above right) is ready and Baz asked if I will be taking it with me to France. He thinks that I should tilt it at a jaunty angle and tell Ryanair that it’s a hat

Half Woman, Half Squirrel

Digging up treasure

The image on my phone was captioned: ‘Would you like to explain yourself?’

img_0532I could see his point. At almost a metre across, these four aluminium light shades are ‘statement pieces’. I hadn’t slept well the night after Baz went home back in February, leaving me alone in France, I had been wide awake early the next morning and went on Ebay …

Yes, I’ve used fairly similar excuses before. Several times

The squirrel gene has kicked in. There are plenty of projects to get on with and the longer spring days should allow me to dig them up to work on. I can barely wait to get home from work tonight to get started

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The shades will eventually look great in the kitchen. (Once we have a kitchen, that is)

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These are just some of the little ‘bits’ that came with the shades

This pile of accessories is just the support cast. They have all been scrubbed and will need a lot of elbow grease. The seller found one of the small reflectors left behind and very kindly posted it on at no cost. I worked by hand on the flower light but this time I am using various drill-mounted polishing pads to get a shine. More fun, less strain

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Before and after initial polishing with ‘Mothers’. Pretty convincing, I’d say

The lightshades should be going to France sometime in the summer, but there’s no need yet. More pressing is the cast iron washstand (Very hard work) that needs stripping back before re-painting. Currently it has moved into our hallway at home between working sessions so that it doesn’t rust as soon as I strip it. After the two fireplaces of 2014, I swore no more cast iron

Who was I kidding?

Good Friday Round Up

Two men in a mid-air wheelbarrow – what could possibly go wrong?

I quietly admire the French disregard for health and safety. I’m never sure if it’s borne out of genuine belief in what they are doing, or (more likely, I suspect) simply a heartfelt cocksure two-fingers-up to everyone

Either way, as the wannabe bathroom progressed this week, a lot of tramping through the house with buckets was avoided by using a cherry picker up to the first floor balcony, loaded with an oversized wheelbarrow, loaded in turn with pre-mixed cement and two shovels. What I hadn’t expected was for the two guys to jump into this wheelbarrow and to shovel the cement over our balcony and onto the bathroom floor

Clearly, madness

Two men in a mid-air wheelbarrow? Well, it worked brilliantly. There should be a dramatic picture here but one was face on and that’s an invasion of privacy. The other had an inadvertent (I think) builders bum. Also an invasion of privacy, and I’ll spare you

I really am a bath person, so I had a bit of a wobble when the building crew told me I wouldn’t fit my ‘baignoire’ into the tiny space, but Smiley Plumbers Un et Deux, for there are actually two of them, said we’d squeeze it in, though we did only half-joke that I will have to dive in

The guys have worked so hard this week. They were here until 6.30 last night because the toilet was problematic. It didn’t help that I had brought them a cheap flatpack English toilet to work with, which had terrible instructions and a totally crap diagram – none of us recognised the ‘black ring’. Three of us pondered the issue that ‘we don’t have zeess system in France’ and ‘ze wall it is like zeess’. It is indeed ‘like zat’, all organic shapes busting out where you least need them, but when I said I still wouldn’t plasterboard to assist fitting the loo, they didn’t throw a strop, but found an equally organic solution. All credit to them

Today we all three walked the house again and discussed places for the radiators. Of course, everything we do here is a compromise because this lovely old house was not built for modern life, but I have enormous respect for the guys working on it. They remain polite always, they good-naturedly tolerate my British humour (and I frequently resort to humour) and they respond with theirs. Ultimately they see what the house’s beauty means to me and there is an unexpected synergy

Joyeuses Pâques, tout le monde x

 

 

 

Take Nothing for Granted

Water or wine? Sometimes either will do

(My apologies if the image is terrible. WordPress is trying to force me to buy an upgrade, so it is showing all my images as low-res and is deleting any drafts that I start. You may not even be reading this!)

Written one hour ago:

It hadn’t occurred to me to ask before, so I asked the smiley plumber this morning:

‘Est-ce que l’eau est potable?’

He grinned. Of course it is drinking water. After eighteen months we can finally go to the tap and have a glass of fresh delicious water. And it really is delicious, better than that bottled rubbish I’ve been used to. I had woken up with a caffeine withdrawal migraine, so I grabbed some tablets and the only glasses we had were a set of champagne flutes

Santé, tout le monde!

It’s Wednesday and this was day three of various people in the UK, the Netherlands and France making well-intentioned promises about Monday’s delivery: ‘this morning’, ‘this afternoon’, ‘tomorrow morning’, etc. It’s now nearly 6pm and it still hasn’t turned up

I will have no-one to help me to unload the goods tomorrow. If they ever do arrive, that is. But that doesn’t bear thinking about, as it contains a lot of things I have bought and squirrelled. Things that belong to me

Perhaps the migraine is more due to stress than to coffee. Stress is less easily remedied, of course

It might not be the best time for looking at colour charts for the head in a bag room. I’ve been torn between something fresh and airy and something dark and stormy. Guess which one was winning today…

Ooh! Perhaps that driver’s head in a bag would top it off?

At this stage I was about to press ‘publish’ but there was a man outside..

Update at 7pm

Yes!! It has arrived. And though the Ukrainian delivery guy didn’t speak French or English and looked like he wanted to kill me (probably mutual, in hindsight), and while the box appears somewhat weary and deflated, I think everything’s OK inside. Good job I stuck a few pillows in with it!

Finally I can go and shower, and celebrate with another glass of water and another look at those colours I chose

Maybe the smiley plumber can install a wine tap as well?