Many apologies for not posting a blog last week. What can I say? Time seriously got away from me. Although I had the week off work it was completely taken up with decorating, having a new bathroom installed, and getting Franki ready to return to university. By the time I fell into bed exhausted on Saturday night, I realised I had forgotten my blog was due and hadn’t written one. Never mind, I thought, I’ll get up early Sunday and write it. Nope. My body decided I was too tired and by the time I awoke at almost eight, I was running late for the Maker’s Market I was supposed to be at by nine. Anyway, more of that week later.
Firstly, of course, I can’t go on without saying something about the death of our beloved Queen. It was such a shock when the news broke, and it is difficult to process that her long reign is over. Whatever you may personally feel, it cannot be denied that she served this country and its people faithfully. No royal works as hard as she did, and she will be missed.
A true lady in every sense of the word, her devotion to her country was an inspiration. Listening to the comments of the people in The Queue, it is astounding how many have travelled so far and endured so long a wait simply to have a moment of quiet reflection with her. A truly momentous moment in history, we will never see the likes of this again.
RIP Ma’am, we are grateful for all that you have done for us.
How do I feel about Charles? I am hopeful he has inherited his mother’s strength of purpose and commitment to duty, but time will tell. He has big shoes to fill. Although I must admit, it does feel odd saying Long Live the King.
And now onto the blog.
Several of you messaged to ask about the blood-soaked crazy man running amok on my road after smashing his head through two of my neighbours’ glass front doors, before threatening others and finally being arrested by the police. They took him away and we assumed he’d be going to prison for quite some time. Nope. He was out the very next day on bail and once again living with his girlfriend in the block of flats opposite! This led to some anxious discussions as we feared he would once again come looking for revenge on us. For some reason, he holds us responsible for all his actions and blames us for calling the police. Mate, you threaten people with a knife, throw all your belongings out of a second-storey window, and smash up people’s houses with your head, of course, we’re going to call the police.
Anyway, a few days later we heard that he’d been sent to prison for a year. Not for all the damage to property, threatening behaviour, or even for attacking the police. No, he was sentenced for breaking a restraining order and a community order. Both Franki and I have given statements, twice, but I haven’t heard any more so assume we will not be required to give evidence in court, which is a relief.
In other news, my new bathroom is almost complete. There are a couple of finishing touches to do, and I’m still waiting for the builder to come and replace the window and plaster the ceiling, but the bulk of the work is now done.
It was … interesting … the week the bathroom was installed. I had managed to take the whole week off work. The plumber was scheduled to begin work early on Monday and was confident it would all be complete by Thursday afternoon. Great, I thought, that all works out nicely. We were going out with my parents for dinner Thursday evening so it would be nice to have it all done. I planned to write my blog Friday morning, attend my local authors’ group Friday evening, and have Saturday to help Franki begin the mammoth task of packing up for university. Sunday I was going to be at a Maker’s Market all day, then it was back to work on Monday.
But as my regular readers will know, the best-laid plans of mice and Julia are all filed away somewhere.
Monday. We were both up and finished in the bathroom by 8:30 – the time the plumber said he would be here. Time ticked on. At nine he texted me – running a little late, with you soon. Okay, that’s fine. At ten he phoned me. His tyre had blown in the middle of nowhere, he’d be a bit later than planned. Right. At almost eleven, he phoned again. He couldn’t get the tyre off so was waiting for the RAC. Very sorry, but I’ll be with you asap. Okaaay, deep breath, these things happen.
Whilst all this was happening, I was painting in the basement. The whole week off was earmarked for decorating the basement. At midday, I texted him asking what was happening and if he was okay. He called me back. I’m so in the middle of nowhere, he explained, that the RAC have only just found me.
I told him to be careful of the locals and if he heard banjos, to run.
I carried on painting. By this time, we’d managed to apply the first coat of primer to all the woodwork. Quite a large task as the original colour was a deep, chocolate brown and we were changing it to grey, so it needed a good primer/undercoat.
Mid-afternoon, another text from the missing plumber – be with you soon.
An hour later, another text – be with you really, really soon.
At four-thirty I texted him – would it be a good idea to write today off and make a fresh start tomorrow?
Back came an immediate reply – yes, see you tomorrow at eight.
Hmm, okay. I applied a second coat of primer, then washed up as best I could and made dinner.
Tuesday morning – I showered and again we made sure the bathroom was clear by eight. The plumber turned up just after nine. Because he was now a day behind, he set to with vigour ripping everything except the toilet out of the bathroom. A smashed-up bath and sink lay forlornly out in the garden being rained upon. Everything from the bathroom was stacked up on the dining room table. We were cleaning our teeth and washing in the kitchen sink. We had no shower. And, after a full-on day of decorating, trust me, I needed one.
Tuesday, we managed to get two coats of paint on all the walls. Franki helped a little, but she had a ton of university work to get through so the lion’s share of the decorating fell to me.
I’ll be here bright and early on Wednesday, the plumber promised.
Will it still be finished by Thursday evening? I asked.
Oh yes, he assured me with confidence. I’ve really caught up today.
Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny – with no sign of the plumber. At nine he called me; the builder’s merchant had let him down and my bath hadn’t been delivered. He was very sorry, but the bath was crucial and without it, he couldn’t progress any further. They’d promised him it would be delivered early Thursday direct to me, and he’d work until whenever Thursday night to get the job done.
I looked around my empty shell of a bathroom containing only a toilet and I did not share his confidence.
Still, I carried on painting. The ceiling had been done to the best of my abilities. My house is very shadowy, and I always struggle with painting ceilings because I can’t see which bit I’ve done and which I haven’t. This time though, I spent the extra money and bought the Dulux paint which goes on pink and dries up white. Brilliant, I thought, no more peering at the ceiling and having to resort to touching it to tell which bit is wet and which is still dry, this is the solution.
Only, it wasn’t.
Oh, I’m sure if you’re in a well-lit house and the painter has 20/20 vision it works a treat, but, as I said, my house is dim and shadowy – no matter how many lights you put on – and my eyesight is far from being 20/20 – more like 9 and a bit on a good day. Also, the paint was disappointingly not very pink at all. I’m not sure how pink I was expecting it to be, not shocking certainly, but maybe something a tad darker than it was. For all those of a certain age, you might remember the hint of range of Dulux colours that were popular in the eighties. There was bluebell white, oat white, daffodil white etc, all basically white with a whisper of another colour. Well, this pink was the rose white, in that you’d be hard-pressed to see it was pink at all.
Muttering curses under my breath, I peered at the ceiling and dabbed uncertainly at where I thought it was possibly a different shade of white meaning I hadn’t done that bit yet. Franki came down into the basement and tried to be helpful. Shining her phone up at the ceiling, she pointed doubtfully – I think that bit needs doing, I think.
I did a couple of hit-and-miss coats then gave up. It’s better than it was and at least it’s clean.
We also managed to get the first coat of paint on all the woodwork and that was Wednesday.
Thursday. The plumber had pledged to be at ours by eight to make an early start to try and make up for two missed days now.
Unsurprisingly, he was over an hour late, but he went to work with gusto, throwing cheery motivational remarks our way as he took over the kitchen and started building all the vanity units. In hindsight, I honestly don’t know why he hadn’t come Wednesday and built all the units then. There were quite a few and they took him much of Thursday. He also could have taken away a van load of the rubbish, which would have saved time later.
We were supposed to be going out for dinner with my parents that evening. By mid-afternoon the plumber was showing no signs of slowing down, we still had no shower and, after three days of hard physical graft, there was no way I could be in polite society – or upwind of anyone. My hair was splattered with paint, we were both exhausted, and I was uncomfortable going out for the evening and leaving the plumber alone in the house.
So, we spoke to my parents, and they agreed it would be a good idea to postpone the dinner until Saturday, Hopefully, I’d be able to take a shower and wash my hair by then.
That left us with no dinner. I went and peered around the dining room door. The kitchen was crammed full of partially constructed units, tools, and plumber. No way would I be able to even heat up a pizza in there. We ordered a takeaway and took refuge in the lounge.
At going on for nine, I went through to talk to the plumber.
I think you need to admit defeat, I gently told him. Realistically, you’re not going to finish tonight.
He looked at me and his face fell. No, he reluctantly agreed, I’m not.
Go home, I told him. Get something to eat and get some sleep. We’ll see you in the morning.
Okay, he said. I’ll be here by eight.
So, that’s nine thirty then? I thought but didn’t say.
Off he went. I noticed that the huge packing crate the bath had been delivered in was still standing in the road behind my car. I knew the neighbours were probably not happy about it, so thought I’d put something about it on the road’s WhatsApp but went to bed and forget.
Friday. We awoke to some sarcastic comments about the crate on the WhatsApp page and hastily reassured them that yes, it would be going today.
The plumber turned up at eight-thirty – getting better. Meanwhile, work continued apace down in the basement. We’d decided to spruce up the large window area with some new grey, stick-down, mosaic effect tiles so popped to the shops to buy some. I’d decided it would be a good idea to get some thin board and cut it to perfectly fit the window area and stick the tiles onto them. My thinking was if ever rain got into that part I could lift the boards and dry it out. Also, it would be easier to clean and paint the walls in the future. I had begun chipping up the old cork tiles that were there and realised what a horrible job it was so figured if at any point I needed to replace the new tiles, not having them stuck directly to the ground would be a darn sight easier.
The first cork tile came up so easily you see, it had lulled me into a false sense of security that they’d all be that easy to remove. Of course, they weren’t! The rest had to be prised up with a chisel and hammer, came up in tiny pieces and took me most of the day to do. I also hurt my wrist from using the hammer so much.
When we got home with the two pieces of board and the tiles, the plumber was in the street cutting up the bath crate.
Are you up for a bribe? I asked him.
A bribe? What sort of bribe?
A cup of proper coffee and a custard doughnut.
There’s not a lot a man wouldn’t do for a coffee and a doughnut. What do you want?
I showed him the two pieces of board.
If I give you the measurements, could you please cut these to size for me?
He insisted on measuring the area again. Luckily, my measurements were spot on. He then cut them for me in a matter of seconds using his cutting tool thingie and Franki and I had fun sticking the tiles on. They really have made a difference to the window area and smartened it up nicely.
Saturday. No plumber, but then we weren’t expecting him back until Monday morning to finish up. We had the bathroom in – sort of. At least the shower was in, well, almost in. There was no sealant so the plumber told me to keep the water below the level in the bath otherwise it would flood under the tub. I was so desperate to have a shower, I didn’t care.
We had to get more tiles to finish the window, so we whizzed to the shop and then finished the last few pieces. We moved furniture back into place and Franki built the two small shelving units ready to go up in the basement. I tidied up the ground floor as best I could and cleaned the kitchen. On our way to the shop to buy tiles, we stopped at the recycling centre and disposed of the old radiator cover from the basement, a broken typing chair, and all the cardboard from the bathroom vanity units.
Mid-afternoon, I was able to stop, have a shower and wash my hair. It was bliss to be clean again. At four I had to dash to Argos to collect the new laundry basket I wanted, and then my parents turned up at five. As requested, Dad brought his drill to put up the two shelving units, and the new blind, and put a padlock on the cupboard door in the basement. We plan to store all our DVDs in there and Franki was convinced unless it was locked then Airbnb guests might steal them. Don’t think anyone in their right mind would steal her Barbie DVDs but hey ho.
We had time to do the shelves only, because, of course, they took longer than anticipated.
Our table was booked for six-thirty, so we wandered down to the restaurant at six. It was very busy, and we had a lovely evening. It was so nice to relax, have a glass of wine, and have a meal that someone else had thought about, cooked, and cleared away from. The others had dessert, but I wasn’t hungry enough so instead, I had a tiramisu martini, which was the height of sophisticated bliss and a real treat.
Totally relaxed, we went home, and it was as I was cleaning my teeth that I realised it had been two weeks since I last blogged. Bugger, I thought, I’ll have to get up early and write a short one. But my body – possibly done in by a week of hard physical graft, a big meal, a relaxing evening, two glasses of red wine, and a cocktail – said no, and for once refused to wake at six as normal.
Opening my eyes at just gone eight Sunday morning, I realised I didn’t have time to blog as I had to be at the Maker’s Market by nine to set up ready for the doors to open at ten.
Despite being tired, I enjoyed the market. I sold about £50 worth of books but spoke to a lot of people and handed out lots of cards, so maybe seeds were sown which will later grow into book sales. You never know.
Monday and Tuesday were two long days. I was at work for both, then in the evenings was helping Franki to pack and cooking us nice dinners. The plumber was supposed to come Monday to finish the bathroom. He didn’t and I honestly can’t remember why not. But he came Tuesday and did as much as he could. There is a tiny bit of finishing up to do once the builder has taken out the window and plastered the ceiling, but the plumber told me to hold back £150 of the payment to cover those little bits.
One nice thing, when he found out I was a writer he got very excited and sent his wife the link to my website. Apparently, she was all over it and selected The Book of Eve as a good place to begin, so he bought a paperback copy off me which I signed and popped in a nice Julia Blake bag with a bookmark. When he came back on Tuesday he said she’d read the whole book over the weekend, loved it, and had told him to buy a copy of The Forest.
It just goes to show, that readers and selling opportunities can be found in the most unlikely places.
So, my bathroom is more or less complete. I’m now waiting for the builder, and he is waiting for the new window to come into stock. Life is all about waiting for one thing or another.
Wednesday morning, we got up, showered, and packed up the car with all Franki’s things to go back to university. We were on the motorway by midday and had an uneventful run up to Cheshire to where Mx R, Franki’s partner, has rented a house with some friends for her next year of university. On a slightly different course to Franki, they must move to Chester university for their third year. We settled the hamster with Mx Rys – yes, that smelly, biting, noisy, carpet-eating pest of a rodent has gone!!! Forgive me whilst I do a little happy dance. Miss Moo will be living with Mx R now and I think Franki is relieved not to be a hamster single parent anymore.
We ate dinner and then they walked me around the corner to my Airbnb where I was staying the night. I was very interested to experience the whole Airbnb affair from the side of a renter and get some pointers for when I start my own business. There was a tray of tea and coffee things in the room, which was a nice touch and something I will certainly copy. But, I will add a couple of small bottles of water to the tray. When I got to my Airbnb room I realised I didn’t have any water. Yes, I could have gone downstairs to the kitchen and asked for some, but I could hear my hosts down there talking and cooking their dinner and I didn’t like to. I drank some water from the bathroom, but it tasted funny. I think fresh water in the room will be a nice touch.
And then there was the mattress.
Oh, the mattress.
Regular readers will know the issues I’ve had with almost every mattress in every hotel and guesthouse I’ve stayed in over the past year. This one, whilst certainly better than some, was a solid slab of foam no thicker than my finger. I was exhausted so did manage to sleep, off and on, but my back was hurting by the morning. The mattress is the most important thing in the room. It doesn’t matter how many fancy cushions there are, or individual sachets of coffee, if you haven’t slept because of the mattress then they were all for nothing.
Thursday, I was up early and gone. I had a quick breakfast at Mx R’s then we were in the car and on our way to Franki’s university by eight-thirty. Franki was panicking about the cupboard situation in their new house on campus. Apparently, there are good cupboards and bad cupboards. Franki had her heart set on the two cupboards in the kitchen island because they were a generous size and meant that the worktop above would be her space.
Fretting that somebody else might beat her to these desired cupboards, Franki jumped out of the car as soon as we reached the university and rushed off to register and get her key, whilst Mx R and I parked the car and lugged all Franki’s stuff to the door of the house and waited for them.
We needn’t have worried. Franki was the first person to move in so was able to stake their claim on the desired cupboards, and the freezer drawer and fridge space they wanted.
Leaving Franki to start unpacking all the things we’d brought from home, Mx R and I went to the storage unit to collect the first load of belongings. There were more than I remembered putting in there at the beginning of the summer and I wondered if someone had snuck more stuff in or they’d bred!
We filled the car with the first load and went back to the university. Unless someone has done it, they have no idea how much time it takes to transport an entire student’s life at the start of the academic year. Trying to help unpack, collapse boxes, and bag up rubbish as we went, I was relieved Franki was the only student in the house yet. It meant we didn’t have to worry about having mountains and mountains of things everywhere.
Mx R and I went for the next load. I hoped to do it all in two loads. Nope, the boxes kept coming out of the storage pod and I quickly realised it would take three trips. Back to university, we went. By now it’s gone midday. I’m seriously hungry and my blood sugar levels are crashing. I’m also tired, very tired, and when I get tired I get clumsy. Constantly tripping, stumbling, and falling upstairs, I knew I needed to have a break and something to eat and drink.
It was decided to do the supermarket run to stock up Franki with food and other supplies. They also needed a quick trip to the local B&M – a sort of sell everything superstore – for a few essential items, and I needed petrol.
By the time we’d done this and had a lunch break, it was gone two thirty and we still needed to get the last of the stuff from the storage pod. Mx R and I dragged ourselves reluctantly into the car to make the now familiar trip. It was coming up on school run time, so the roads were busier, and it took us longer than the previous two trips. I let the receptionist at the storage company know that the pod had been emptied. We’d paid at the beginning of the year so there was nothing else to do.
Wearily, we went back to the university and carried all the boxes up two flights of stairs. My legs were wobbling and before I could stop myself I fell up the stairs, bashed both my kneecaps and the box I was carrying crashed down with a horrible crunching sound. Horrified, I pulled the box open. It was a printer.
Oh, it’s okay, Franki told me, it was broken anyway.
Then why, I muttered through gritted teeth rubbing at my bruised knees, was I struggling up two flights of stairs with it?
It was getting late. Horribly aware I still had the long journey home and how tired I was, finally, at four, I threw in the towel.
Loading up the car with the broken printer, my overnight case, things Franki had decided they didn’t want and was sending back, plus all the boxes we’d salvaged and collapsed for me to keep until next year, I hugged them goodbye and pointed the car for home at four-thirty.
I don’t like motorway driving very much, but at least the radio works in my new car. Franki doesn’t let me listen to the radio when in the car with me and insists on playing her music. I don’t like the radio; she says, it’s all talking and shit. What they don’t understand is it’s all the talking and shit that helps keep me awake. Listening to the DJ chatter, the news, the weather, and the traffic reports pull me back into the moment. I think if it was a continuous wash of music there’s a real danger I would fall asleep.
I got home at seven-thirty, beaten up – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I unpacked the car and sent texts to let everyone know I was home. Fed the cat, had a plate of pasta, fell into bed, and slept for seven solid hours.
Friday. I wasn’t sure how much I would get done because of being so tired, but to my surprise, I cracked on with things and scrubbed the bathroom from top to toe. It may have been a new bathroom, but it was far from being a clean one. I stripped beds, did laundry, tidied the house, applied two coats of primer to the bathroom door and skirting boards. I sorted all the car boot stuff and loaded it into the car ready for an early start in the morning, realised there was a leaving do for a neighbour that afternoon and cooked some sausage rolls to take. There was quite a bit of food at the do, so I didn’t need to worry about dinner – which was just as well as I seriously need to go shopping. Then I chilled for the evening and had an early night.
Saturday, I was on the road by seven heading to the car boot sale. I really, really didn’t want to do it, but all that stuff had been sitting in the house for two weeks, so something had to be done with it. At the sale two weeks previously, we’d made £100. I didn’t expect to make anywhere near that amount this time. All the big items had been sold, plus it was colder, so I wasn’t expecting so many people. I was right, it was a much quieter affair. I was home by eleven and although I sold a lot of bits and pieces, once the pitch fee was removed I’d made £15 profit. Hardly worth it, but I guess it’s £15 I didn’t have before and a lot of rubbish gone. I will sort through what’s left. One or two things can go on the local Things for Sale Facebook page, some stuff will go to charity, and the rest will be dumped at the local recycling centre when it re-opens after the long weekend.
The rest of Saturday has been spent writing this simply enormous blog to make up for missing a week. I’m planning a nice dinner tonight in front of the TV. I may even light a small fire. The temperature has plummeted, and the nights are cold. I’m not switching the heating on though. Not until absolutely necessary. I have plenty of wood and coal and as there’s only me in the house I can make do with fires. I feel an early night is also in order as I’m back to work tomorrow for a six-hour shift before having another eight days off. It’s a pain going back for such a short time, but that’s the way it worked out, so hey ho.
And that’s it, you’re all caught up. Apologies again for missing last week, but I’m sure after reading this you can see how it happened. Take care and enjoy the weekend.
All the best.