Black Death

After a dismal trip to Homebase in the rain to buy the next step up in respirators, Sunday was spent removing wallpaper and discovering more wallpaper, from 70s vinyl to Victorian print (I am never wallpapering anything for future inhabitants to have to remove) and all the time, the rain poured down outside and, if the truth be told, the room we’re calling the wet room wasn’t exactly dry either.

I took my mask off to eat lunch and the sneezing began. It would appear I’m allergic to the money pit. Not really surprising.

After a few hours we had stripped off all the wallpaper we could in preparation for the damp and rot guys to come in and estimate and so we got a bus home, in the rain, sneezing and feeling rather low. Did I mention Black Death?

The rest of Sunday involved hot baths, warm food and the heating turned on. We’re making the most of free hot water and central heating while we’ve got it.

An early night and I was miraculously recovered. I set off to enjoy a day in a clean, mould-free office (a relaxing contrast) while Letad went to get quotes in for the first stage of work.

I’m upgrading to a gas mask and we are all systems go.

Feel the pain

Sunday morning, I awoke early to the sound of heavy rain and lay worrying about damp and drainage. Is this my future?

I then googled black mould health risks, brick rot and gutter cleaning. A great start to the day at 5:30am.

I am feeling the pain from yesterday. My hands are sore, my body aches, my lungs hurt (black mould poisoning?), I’m sneezing and I’ve got a massive welt on my arm from a nettle sting. The only missing is trench foot but I’m sure that can’t be far behind.

We’ll be heading to Homebase this morning to look at heavy duty face masks and respirators. Those flimsy white things didn’t do the job. I’m looking for a contamination suit with oxygen or I’m not going back in!

Matching Outfits

One day in and we’ve ordered matching boiler suits. It’s apparent we’ll be spending a lot of time getting dirty, from yesterday’s mammoth clearout to damp proofing, plastering and one day (hard to imagine at the moment) painting and decorating.

Despite not wanting to match, colour choices were limited and so we’ll both be sporting navy boiler suits as soon as they arrive.

My Prada days are over.

Day One: The work begins

Early on Saturday morning we skipped down the road to the Rocky soundtrack as we set off to start the renovation project at our new flat, the Queen’s Park Money Pit.

By 10am we’d made some serious progress. The photos tell the story and we were very pleased that by 3pm we had gutted the flat, ripped out the kitchen and had two guys with a van clear everything out.

In the hall
The room formerly known as the kitchen, destined to be the bathroom  
Timber!… in the garden
Some of the kitchen
Crap in the hall 
Plastic lino ripped up, I am never using that bath
The under stair cupboard 

There’s nothing quite like clearing out other people’s stuff. Dead man’s shoes was all I could think as we pulled suitcases out of the under stair cupboard. There’s still a massive trunk which we couldn’t fit in the van and another couple of suitcases to go.

One clear room – future bedroom
The front room – cleared

 By lunchtime we had done a huge amount of work. The front room was looking great and a huge contrast from the room with burgundy carpet.

Front room – chimney breast (imagine a lovely Victorian fireplace here)
Hall – cleared

I am intent on knocking down the wall pictured above to create the Master Suite (a rather optimistic title). Hopefully the ceiling won’t collapse. We’ll wait until we’re sure…

Hall – cleared 
Bay window – front room – cleared. A window seat perhaps?

We did make a surprise discovery in one of the bedrooms. We know damp is a problem but we found a very wet wall and have to deal with the cause rather than the symptoms first. There was also a hole in the floor and some very dubious plaster. Lots to do in that room.

Bedroom – cleared
Nasty surprise in the bedroom
A very wet wall – bedroom
There’s a hole in the floorboards, dear Liza, dear Liza
Mouse hole? Not good

Amazingly we didn’t see any rodents or slugs and only one tiny snail so that was a plus. We noticed how quiet the area is compared to the sirens of Camden and an amazing amount of birdsong filled the sky. In Chalk Farm we have magpies, crows and jays around us, all the nasty birds. In Queen’s Park we saw a blue tit and sparrows so think a bird bath may be nice. The birds may get their bath before we do!

By 3pm we’d done all we could. We tidied up, locked the door and collapsed on the bus back to Chalk Farm. Exhausted was an understatement.

We were really proud of what we’d managed to do. We have guys coming round on Monday to look at the drains, the damp and the rot and we’ll get estimates in so we know what we’re dealing with.

And so after baths (thanks to the luxury of Chalk Farm) it’s an early night for the Renovators.

Seriously knackered.

The keys, the keys!!

On a dark, wet Friday afternoon I left work early and went to collect the keys to our new flat!

It’s been a bloody nightmare getting this far and we haven’t even started renovating yet!
A little daunting but mostly very exciting! Let’s raise a toast to the QPMP, may you not soak up every penny we have and here’s to a beautiful London home (in about a year)!
Work begins tomorrow!

The Day Before

Thursday, officially the day before.

Today the final transfer is due on the QPMP, stamp duty and legal fees which add up to everything we have left. We’ve shaken every last penny out of our money boxes and will be carrying a large bag of coins down to the solicitor’s office at lunchtime today.

If all goes well, we’ll complete by midday tomorrow, we can collect the keys before the end of the day and then work begins in earnest on Saturday as we have a man with a van coming round to help us clear out the old furniture.

And that’s not all. Letad has a very important business meeting tomorrow which a lot of things are hinging on including whether we’ll be able to renovate the QPMP so fingers crossed on that. More details to come on.

And the secret project will reach a likely but not entirely satisfactory end tomorrow. Not really surprising. More to come on that one too.

Eventful days ahead…

Off to the QPMP

Saturday morning and off we went on the number 31 bus to the QMPM or Queen’s Park Money Pit.

We needed to find the electricity meter and while we were there we pulled up a corner of the burgundy carpet to have a look at the floorboards. 

And then we pulled up a little more, and a little more and before we knew it, we’d ripped up all the carpet ready to be taken out next weekend. The floorboards were ok, there were obvious signs of damp but no visible rats or slugs, hurray!

After the carpet, it didn’t seem much to pull down some old curtains and tear off some of the old vinyl wallpaper. The good thing about damp is that wallpaper sort of falls off the wall, not ideal if you’re decorating but quite good if you’re stripping the wall.

After a couple of hours we decided we’d done enough. We don’t actually own it yet and don’t want to get into trouble if anything falls through.

We locked up and dropped the keys off before going on reconnaissance in Maida Vale.

So far no signs of buyer’s remorse.

And so ends another week…

After Monday it was right back into the fray. 

I spent the days at work putting digital glitter and sequins on to a bulldog for a new TV show. Despite my initial misgivings, it was surprisingly fun and the work week ended on a good note.

Luckily it was pay day (I hate being paid monthly) and so with a five minute online session, I paid off my credit card, allocated money for rent and bills and now have nothing left until December 15th. I suspect it might be a month of baked beans.

Speaking of poverty, we once again started discussing the Ten Pound Challenge, this time out of necessity. The added challenge, not having a kitchen or a bathroom. We’re pencilling it in for February.

And so tomorrow morning we’re off to the Money Pit to see if we can find the electricity meter and access the reality. We get the keys next Friday (all being well) and a man with a van arrives on Saturday so we can clear out the crap furniture left behind. Once it’s empty we’ll be able to get the first quotes for Stage One: Project Money Pot.

Either that or we’ll paint it white and stick it straight back on the market!

And so to Exchange of Contract

After one of the most stressful weeks in living history, a weekend of reading surveys and a morning of dealing with legal speak, we threw our hats into the ring and exchanged contracts on the QPMP. We hope one day it will be the Queen’s Park Money Pot instead of Money Pit.

The system is insane. There’s the exchange of contract followed by completion where money changes hands and keys are handed over. The completion date is November 21st. I think it’s the date of reality. In the words of the surveyor, the flat is wringing wet so it’s lucky I have a good pair of wellies.

If we can, we will try and keep Chalk Farm for a couple of months in order to deal with the damp and rot, my two most uttered words in the last three days and then we’ll be living in a tent in the garden.

It might be fun, it might be an adventure but I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be warm or dry!

Buyer’s remorse? Let’s hope not!

More bloody fireworks!!

Halloween, Bonfire night, Remembrance Sunday (a display of red and white fireworks) and now the top of Primrose Hill for no apparent reason.

I hate to be cynical but since living with a view of London, I’ve seen more fireworks than I can poke a stick at and I’ve become a little blasé about them.

Bonfire night, November 5th used to be the only time one would see fireworks. It was a special night with sparklers, jacket potatoes and the smell of the giant village fire. An exciting night of the year.

Perhaps as one gets older the thrill of the firework is less exciting or perhaps now there are just too many fireworks.

Or then again, perhaps there’s a celebration to come…