Seeing the light

On Saturday we had a lesson in lighting as we ventured over to Chelsea to John Cullen, a lighting specialist.

It was illuminating in many more ways than one as we learned about a variety of lighting options for bathrooms and kitchens and suddenly understood the difference lighting can make to a space.

Of course it all comes at a price and our next step will be to try and find similar products for less money but what a difference it will make if we do it right.

The squeaky wheel

This week I have become the squeaky wheel.

Having noticed that the bathroom demolition began in late August (thank goodness for dates on photos) I alerted the builder to the fact that we were over five weeks without a shower and we needed to pick up the pace.

That resulted in another chap arriving for a day and the installation of our new toilet. See, it wasn’t that hard! Squeak squeak.

It’s a very nice toilet and we were rather pathetically pleased with it. I suspect we’d be pleased with a toilet roll holder at this point.

Unfortunately the extra chap vanished after a day having done his back in and we were back to slow progress for the rest of the week. More squeaking required.

We’ve now been promised three chaps and a rubbish clear out this week as living conditions have deteriorated due to old pipes, rubble sacks, radiators and a large Japanese toilet cluttering up the hall and kitchen.

I’ve also mentioned the original schedule of kitchen installation by Christmas so let’s see how much squeaking is required to get that moving!

Popular with builders? Not so much!

Handy tips for living in a building site

As an experienced building site resident, I feel qualified to offer up a few nuggets of wisdom for any fool stupid enough to embark on a DIY project and attempt to live in it for at least a year…

1. A kitchen is the least of your worries. Set up a table with a hot plate, a kettle, toaster and coffee maker. Buy a mini fridge and install under table. When things get really bad, admit defeat and buy paper plates and a microwave. We have just bought a microwave.

2. Running water is a precious commodity. Keeping clean is very hard when you don’t have a bathroom. It’s amazing how clean you can feel if you can brush your teeth and wash your hands. Wet wipes are useful but not as good as running water. Anything is better than nothing.

3. Do try and keep a toilet working for as long as possible. If you get to the bucket stage you’re in trouble. We are not at the bucket stage but we have been there before. It’s not fun.

4. Love your launderette. Try to change your sheets every week as the dust and filth as well as lack of a shower isn’t doing you or your linen any favours. Unfortunately the sheets you’re using will never be clean again so dream of the day when you can buy new sheets to go in your brand new washing machine. We’re at the dreaming stage.

5. If your head itches, you need a shower.

6. Cleaning seems futile but keep fighting the resistance. If you give up, the filth will win. Dusting is essential and is an exercise in either sanity or madness depending on your state of mind. I’m clinging to the yellow duster of sanity.

7. If you can smell something, it’s probably you.

8. Always have a Plan B, exit plan, backup plan. Hmm, we seem to have forgotten that.

9. Do not buy a property which needs a simple renovation, you know, like just knocking a wall down to make a bigger kitchen.

10. Remember to have enough money to finish your project otherwise it will take years. Oops.

And with my top ten tips of coping I would just say the smartest thing is simply…do not live in a building site. Just don’t do it!

Living conditions

It’s been a while since I updated our living conditions mainly because it’s quite challenging.

We are now down to the old toilet on a piece of plywood for a bathroom. It’s been two months since the shower packed up but the pipes are in so perhaps there’s light at the end of that very dark tunnel.

The kitchen foundations apparently have to dry for twenty eight days. Which is a month so this is what the kitchen looks like.

There are lots of holes in the floor and it’s a bit precarious.

The hall is cordoned off with sheets and there’s a sheet hanging across the bathroom entry as there’s no door.

Unfortunately Big T walked in on one of builders having a sit down. I shall be coughing loudly (which I am anyway from the dust!)

Anyway it’s all a bit challenging and the photos don’t really capture the filth so here’s some parquet floor we looked at on Saturday. We can dream!

And it’s the end of September. Will we be finished by Christmas? Hmm…

Reykjavik

Our final stop on the whistle stop tour of Iceland was the capital city, Reykjavik.

We were quite tired and hungry when we arrived but managed to find the old city centre hidden among what seemed to be massive recent development.

After being immersed in nature, the outskirts of Reykjavik could have been anywhere but the centre was quaint and we discovered a nice shopping area below the iconic cathedral.

Before long we were dropping off our car and boarding our cheap, no frills airline to return to the glamour of Luton.

We’d travelled by Wizz airlines, a budget Hungarian company which meant we arrived at Luton airport at 2am and finally got to bed around 3am. Luckily I’d booked a taxi!

Going into work that day was hard but it had been worth it!

Geysers, Waterfalls, Black Sand and Glaciers

There were four main themes in Iceland, all involving natural at its best.

Following the ultimate spa experience we spent a night at Geysir and saw exploding geysers, boiling pools of water and filled our nostrils with the smell of sulphur. 1E3F8D7C-5D00-4382-9C6C-4EBA1BDE22E2img_1228Waterfalls were aplenty with the giant Gullfoss (foss being fall, we think), Skogafoss and more. We walked behind one, hiked to the top of one and stood inside one. It really was the land of waterfalls and with waterfalls came rainbows like we’d never seen before.IMG_1230.JPEGimg_1282img_1341img_1254img_1268img_1182

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IMG_1276.JPEGIncredible black sand beaches at Vik were a highlight as it was like stepping into a world of monochrome. White foam smashed into the black sand and with grey skies rolling overhead, it was a powerful setting.img_1302IMG_1306.JPEGIMG_1287.JPEGIMG_1295.JPEGTravelling east we entered the land of glaciers where we had intended to get a boat tour around Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. It was the worst weather of our trip as we battled torrential rain and wind on the road to the lagoon and then the boats were cancelled. An hour later things had cleared up but we’d headed to another lagoon, Fjallsarlon which we had to ourselves and saw the stunning scenery without tourists, boats or a price tag so the weather helped us out.img_1328IMG_1330.JPEGOne of our favourite places was a hike to a lovely canyon in Skaftafell National Park. Called Fjadrargljufur (yes we couldn’t pronounce it either) it was a stunning view of moss covered rocks, wind and water.IMG_1350.JPEGimg_1351Our final day in Iceland saw us hiking to a hidden hot spring 3.5 kilometres up a mountain. It started hailing and we almost stopped but with perseverance we kept going and after an hour or so reached the bathing area where a few other persistent folks were dipping into the warm, sulphurous water.IMG_1367.JPEGIMG_1376.JPEGWe stripped and dipped (with swimsuits of course) before drying in the icy wind and trekking back down the hill. We saw shepherds on horse back rounding up sheep on the fells and upon returning to the car park, saw the sheep in pens ready for auction.IMG_1368.JPEGIMG_2223.JPEGAnd to top it all off, a full rainbow.

Just another Sunday in Iceland!

 

The best spa ever

Part of staying at The Retreat was the complimentary four step spa treatment.

We started after breakfast and went back into the lagoon, this time in daylight but still as magical.

From there we enjoyed the steam cave. True to name it was a cave lined with cedar benches and filled with steam, perfect for a dust-inflicted cough!

I took a brave plunge into the cold pool (6°) before we headed into the dry sauna.

We lay in suspended oval nests for a while to relax before we headed over to follow the ritual.

Four steps of different scrubs, two masks, algae showers and finally body and face oils took a couple of hours and for these two dirty chaps living without a shower, it was the ultimate paradise and what a way to spend a birthday.

It was truly the best spa I’ve ever been to and the minimal modern Scandinavian architecture sat perfectly against the backdrop of dramatic scenery.

Far too soon we had to check out but we were excited to see more of the natural beauty which was tantalising us from the many windows.

We set off in search of Geysir.