Tag Archives: Challenge

Buying And Renovating A House |
Part I

I am a strong believer in “when something is meant to be, it just happens”. Take our new home. We were doing most of our research on the Internet and Sexy Hubby spotted a house he thought was pretty. We viewed it on a Saturday, liked it but there were several question marks. Walking out, I noticed the adjacent house seemed to be empty. I thought it looked wonderful and asked the estate agent whether he knew the property was for sale too. His answer was yes, but he did not know who the agent was. I had a strong gut feeling about it, so I decided to find out.

Before we drove home, Sexy Hubby filled up the car and bought the local papers. In one of them, I spotted a tiny advert and wondered if the house described was “the one”. I rang on the Monday and asked for the description to be sent to me. I received it per email on Tuesday and, lo and behold, it was the dream house. I immediately rang again and made an appointment to view it the following day. And I fell in love. I have what we jokingly call between us “the vision”. It means that I can see past the state of the house and imagine what it will look like once the work is done. Sexy Hubby absolutely cannot do this, so he just has to trust me! I made a second appointment for the Saturday to come with Sexy Hubby and a friend of ours, who is an architect. After that second visit, I was even surer about it and Sexy Hubby liked it too. The three of us sat down and prepared a renovation budget. Then we made an offer, slightly lower than the asking price. On Monday, we heard the owners had accepted it.

Now if I could give one piece of advice, it would be: “Listen to the people who know”. In our case, our friend the architect, who told us to be realistic and expect completion of the work at the end of November when beginning mid-July. I did not believe him and argued that we did not want Second Daughter to start the new school year in her current school and then arrive in the new one once everybody had settled in already. I thought – Sexy Hubby was more cautious – that eight weeks would be enough. Our penthouse flat was as good as sold, with the buyers paying the asking price. Only there was a delay in the confirmation of their financing, which meant that we had to postpone our solicitor’s appointment by two weeks. Our eight-week planning changed to six weeks…

Next on the list was finding builders. I searched local firms and our architect friend was kind enough to come to the meetings I had set up. Kitchen, electricity, heating and roof companies were found that way. We still needed a “general” builder and went for the one recommended by our new neighbours. We were ready and the work was to begin on the first Monday of August. Except that on the Friday, General Builder came to the house and announced that he could not start on Monday due to delays on his current worksites. I went ballistic and told him this was not my problem and to find a solution, as he knew how tight our schedule was. We had asked him MANY times if he could really take this on and he had assured us it would be fine. The following day, he rang me and said he had found three people, who could work the whole of August. I breathed a – heavy – sigh of relief.

I had expected General Builder to work as well at least part of the time, but he barely came to check late in the afternoon a couple of times a week. Not what I had had in mind, so it was a good job that I managed to free my time to spend hours on the building site every day. A few examples of what I had to deal with:

1. Mould: the previous owners had gone for inside insulation, not a good idea with a house originally built in 1860… Only four ground floor rooms were affected, but of course that was enough to set us right back time wise.
2. The Angel of Doom: this is the name I gave one of the builders. As soon as I arrived, he would shake his head and flail his arms, delivering bad news in a sepulchral voice. He was one of the original three builders and was there with his son. After two weeks, he announced that the two of them had to work on another building site for a couple of days and would then come back. They never did.
3. Desperately trying to find builders: see previous point! After a week of them not turning up and not answering their phone, it was clear we had to find a solution. General Builder was by then on holidays – this we knew about before we started – and not answering his phone either. In addition, the promised fourth man that was supposed to start on the bathroom never turned up. So we approached our last builder and asked him if he knew someone. Yes, a “Bekannte” (acquaintance). We had to smile as this sounded like something out of The Godfather, but the Bekannte certainly delivered. When he promised to come with a certain number of people, he did, and on time. Unlike General Builder, we recommend the Bekannte to everybody we know.
4. Trashed round bushes in the garden: the guys thought it would be a good idea to simply throw through the windows the planks from the ceiling they were gutting on the first floor. NOT a good idea.
5. Rubbish management: we became one of the best customers of a local skip company and our builders were quite good at adding only the stuff that was supposed to go in the containers. The problem was wood and metal, as well as odd bits and pieces, which had to be collected separately. I tried again and again to explain that we had a pile for each, to no avail. So every Saturday, Sexy Hubby and I spent an hour or two sorting out rubbish.
6. Pulling off old wallpaper: in order to speed up things, since I was there every day anyway, I offer to help removing the wallpaper in what was going to become our two studies. Sexy Hubby helped at the weekend too. Only we found out that it was not one layer, but several… I felt like Sisyphus at times. Needless to say, there is not a scrap of wallpaper in the house now.

Those are only a few stories, but I have to keep a couple for my Part II post, which I will publish next week. In the meantime, I leave you with a few “before and after” photos of the kitchen and the second bathroom, where the transformation was the most spectacular.

And do tell me: what are your experiences with renovating a house?
Kitchen RenovationNew kitchenNew dining roomBathroom renovationNew bathroom - Shower and basinsNew bathroom - Free standing bath

It Has Been A Long Time

When I wrote my post about the KISS concert in Hamburg last June, I knew that I was about to go on a “blogging pause”. However, I never imagined that the said pause would last seven months!

So what happened? We sold our flat, bought an old house and renovated it. It sounds pretty straightforward, but it became my full time job for the next five months and then I needed a bit of time to recover from the stress of renovating and moving… I will tell more about the actual work – so many stories I could easily write another book! – but for now, let’s just say I am really glad my “worksite boss” job is over and that I can resume with my various projects.

First of all, I am sending Foundation, my first novel and the opening book of The Crossing Lives Trilogy, to the next batch of literary agents for consideration. I never did hear back from the one who requested the full manuscript last year and received only rejections from other agents. I still remain positive and hope that this new year will bring good news!

I am also impatient to begin with Book Two – Resilience. The opening scene has been playing in my mind for a little while now and I cannot wait to get writing.

The next project is setting up a new website dedicated more specifically to my photography and my writing. I have the name, the layout and lots of photos waiting to be published, now I just have to find a minute to actually do it…

Finally, the end of January should see the start of a great new freelance opportunity. I am quite excited but would rather wait until everything is confirmed before saying more about it.

As for Funky Wellies Random Thoughts, I will still keep it going, but with a couple of posts a week only, as the other projects now take priority.

It is nice to be back, though, and I will leave you with a few photos taken on walks with Cute Doggy. I am sure you can see why I fell in love with the area we now live in…
PS: responding to comments takes a lot of time, and not many readers come back to look at the replies… I will therefore stop replying from now on, but will catch up with you on social media to thank you, as you taking the time to comment means a lot to me! 🙂
Convent ruins in the sunBench with grass and treesMansion park with majestic treesPond detail in the sunTree reflection in a pondSunlight in the forest

Writing Bubble


Photography | Manual Mode

I love photography and have been told many times that I have an eye for details. Thanks to Sexy Hubby and part of my family, I now have the proper tool to take the plunge and learn more about this art. To finally move from the comfort zone of “full auto” to the much more exciting world of “manual” has been set as one of my challenges for 2014.

Here are the very first photos I spontaneously took in manual mode completely on my own after being given a crash course on basics and my new camera by a lovely friend. I am quite pleased with this first attempt but cannot wait to get better.

What is your opinion on these first pictures?
Photography in Manual Mode 1
Photography in Manual Mode 2

The Art Of Aiming Right

Taking a photo of us with my camera or my iPhone is something I do almost every time Sexy Hubby and I are having a night out or enjoying a holiday. Sexy Hubby is incredibly patient and humours me at every occasion, even if it takes several attempts (OK, by photo number six or seven he may start to get slightly restless…).

It is not easy, aiming right so that both our faces are actually recognisable. And not blurred. And not making us look like rabbits caught in headlights. And with both us looking half-decent.

Self-Portrait Photography

I am especially proud of this one. It was taken four years ago at a close friend’s birthday party. I am not one hundred percent sure anymore, but I think that I got it right the first time. A happy memory from a fabulous party.

Do you share the same habit?