Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review of the Year: 2014

It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow, heralding our third Christmas at the Old Rectory.  It doesn’t seem possible.  The year has flown by.  On a personal level, it’s not been the best and I will be glad to see the back of it.  But luckily for you, dear reader, this blog is about the Rectory and not about me.  So I thought I’d take a moment, sit back on my heels, easing my back after all that scrubbing at the flagstone floors, and reflect on where this year has taken us on our revival journey.

First up, in May, we saw the pruning of the privet by S’s shed.  Well, when I say pruning, it was decimation.  However, I am pleased to report that the bush has now recovered (and looks all the better for being cut to the ground!) and the backyard now looks slightly less like Belgium in 1914.  

Agent Orange
In June, our casement windows went for repair.  In December, they are yet to return.  We are preparing a sharp letter to the company in question, which will be there to welcome them back to work after their Christmas festivities.  I reserve the right to name and shame them on this blog if our complaint remains unheard. 

Lost - Casement Windows.  If Found, Return to the Old Rectory
Internal View to Aid Identification
We also had the lintel to one of the back bedroom windows repaired, which involved scaffolding and a long delay while a baby blue tit grew big enough to leave the nest.  At the same time, more dog proof fencing was added at the end of the garden.  (I’ll add a quiet note here that I have just found a bit of a gap where a small white dog might make his escape.  More dog-proofing to follow, I fear.)

New Lintel
Scaffolding for Lintel Replacement
"Call This Dog Proof...?"
We had a kitchen designed and are still mulling over the options.  Such a lot of money involved and we want to get it right.  On the cheaper side, S started work on repairing the windows, turning out to be a bit of a master craftsman and potentially saving us thousands.  And the Leylandii trees came down, leaving us enough logs to see us through the next couple of years at least.  The garden is gradually being tamed. 

A Proper Kitchen.  Longing Sigh.
Master Craftsman at Work
Something Lovely in the Wood Shed
Preparing to Shred
Tamed Garden with Wild Beast at the Gates of Hell
Tame Dahlias
Many of the jobs that we have tackled have been dull, dull, dull – in fact, some too dull to report but all very necessary in terms of the house renovation.  The water tank leaked and had to be replaced.  The process of replacing the heating has begun and 32 very heavy cast-iron radiators have been emptied, taken off walls, carried downstairs and flushed out.  There is nothing to see, so just move on.  But how important is it for us to be warm and to have hot water – and for the system that delivers that comfort to be efficient and effective?  Very, I can tell you.  Ceilings have been repaired.  Boring.  Not worth photographing.  But necessary.

Defunct Tank.  Boring.  Dull.
We have yet to finish decorating the bathroom or the dining room.  So, it made obvious sense to start on my mum’s bedroom (completed!) and her sitting room (embarrassed silence...).  But, you must understand, that there is a leak in the corner caused by wiring on the outside of the house that needs to be removed before we can repair the water damage.  And so it goes on.  We start a job and we find another job.
Painting Mum's Bedroom
Job Done!
We went on the road a little bit too.  A sojourn at a cottage in Suffolk without the aid of electricity but with a leaking wood burning stove that filled the rooms with smoke that smelled like old tyres.  We only narrowly avoided carbon monoxide poisoning.   This was followed at the end of the year by a weekend in Barcelona.  This time with the aid of electricity and much more comfort.

Without Electricity...

...And With Electricity!
And, finally, I can’t let a review of the year pass without again mentioning (aka rubbing in) our success in the Produce Show: a FIRST for the dahlias in a vase and S receiving a third for his bread.  Not to mention my mum and her plum jam.  S is already booked on to an artisan baker’s course as part of his training plan for this year's event and I am doing a six-week cookery course starting in April.   Produce Show 2015...HERE WE COME!
The People's Choice - Third from Right
Modesty Prevents Me From Commenting...
And looking ahead, what do we want to achieve in 2015?  For me, I’d like the heating completed.  This will mean sorting out the pantry where the boiler is destined to go and fitting another water tank in a cupboard on the first floor.  I’d like to repair the chimney where the jackdaws roost and, while the scaffolding is up, get the roofers in to do a quick once over.  I live in terror of major roof repairs, which I think will cost a small fortune.  

I'd like the rotten pillars that prop up the porch repaired.  I’d like the sitting room chimney lined and a wood-burning stove installed.  I'd like to decorate the sitting room and S's study.  And, dare I suggest, another bathroom for my mum or (whispers) a new kitchen? 

What Rot!
How much of this will we achieve?  Tune in over the year for further instalments of Reviving the Old Rectory…


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

We're Going on a Kitchen Hunt!

When we first bought this house, we were lucky that it already had a kitchen.  (Remember that it had been an office housing 60 people.)  A room at the back of the house had some kitchen units with work tops and a dishwasher.  It's a reasonable size and, luckily, could have been an awful lot worse.

The dishwasher disappeared before we moved in, broken apparently.  We got a socket put in for a new cooker, bought a new dishwasher and fridge as the ones from the other two houses had been fitted.  And we were up and running.  There was a horrible cupboard affair housing the boiler but with wall units attached.  As storage was relatively short, it stayed.  There were also cupboards in what we call the breakfast room (originally the kitchen, we think) and we put up some stand-alone shelving here and there.

Originally, the plan was that we would make the kitchen the utility room and what we currently use as the breakfast room into the kitchen.  The pantry would be the pantry (inspired, aren't we?).  We wavered from this plan once we settled in and actually used the space.  Our thinking now is that we will make the pantry the utility room and have two kitchens (is that greedy?).  Sounds weird but the breakfast room, which we think is the original kitchen, has very little space for kitchen units.  But the idea is to have a giant island with storage, then to refurbish the original cupboards around what was once the inglenook fireplace.  We don't want to take out the door to the back stairs so are trying to incorporate it into the design.  Not sure how it will look in reality but here is the design.

On one side of the island, between the door to Cuffer's lobby and the door to the back stairs, will be a range.  We are still considering an aga.  S has been on a cookery course at the local aga shop and is sold on them.  It would look wonderful but we're not sure how difficult it would be to cook on or how practical it would be for my mum.  However, we could keep the current cooker in the second kitchen as well.  Under the window on the other side of the island, which was once an inglenook fireplace, according to the surveyor, will be a sofa with, hopefully, room for some small tables.  The idea is that people will be able to sit there and chat while food is being prepared.

Then we will move to the second kitchen to eat.  This will have an unfitted look, housing a table, chairs, some units and perhaps the dresser that is currently in the breakfast room.

The designs are by Neptune.  They have their head office, which is packed full of their furniture, and an outlet store in Swindon.  Well worth a visit, if you're local.  At least I think you can visit if you're the public.  When we went there, we had to sign in and then they gave us coffee.  That doesn't even happen at John Lewis.  Perhaps they thought we were buyers from some department store.  For kitchen design, we had to go to Kitstone in Marlborough.  Go there if you don't have the courage to test the system in Swindon.

The Neptune style is slightly New England, which I like.  Neutral colours, plain lines, simple.  Here are some shots of how it currently looks with the designs of how it might look.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

I Can See Clearly Now...

S has taken it upon himself to repair the windows.  And I have to say that he is doing an excellent job as well as saving us a fortune.  The quote we had was roughly a thousand per window.  Of course, he has had to buy the right tools and draught-proofing bits and pieces but overall the costs will be minimal compared to the savings.  And friends who are also engaged in a renovation project have given us loads of bits of wood that will do nicely to replace any rotten bits.  He has started with his study window.  The only trouble is, it's taken a while (she said, tactfully) because he keeps getting distracted 'jobs' (aka golf).  So, one window nearly finished.  And only another 22 to go!

Study window heading out of kitchen door (logs in the background)
Shutters but no window.  Not sure about that green, after all...
Arty shot - gaping hole and no window
Still no window
Taking out the top window
Taking shape - note gravestone to the left, remnant of the collapsed wall
Putty looking good...
...Must be all that putting practice on the golf course.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Dog Proof Fence: the Sequel

The second dog proof fence has been erected, at the bottom of the garden.  It's on the wall that separates us from the Church offices, once the Old Rectory stables, I think.

BF - Before Fence - Our Side
BF - The Other Side
And then the lumberjacks arrived again, to remove the huge pile of debris that you can see in the first photograph.  It was all the vegetation that we have removed from around the garden as we have excavated and macheted our way through the overgrown plants.

Once they had cleared the heap, we could at last access the final corner of the garden that remained hidden.  It is overlooked from the Churchyard.  The youths gather in that corner.  And drop their litter over with gay abandon.  I filled the wheelbarrow.

I've been dying for ages to excavate the area beyond the Rector's Steps.  And this is what emerged.

Once cleared, the space looked huge.  Sprocket went to investigate.

Note the beauty of the new dog proof fence.  And the fact that the dog is this side of it, which proves that it was well worth the money.  The red bricked area that you can make out down the pathway where Sprocket is standing used to be the access to the stables.

Sprocket investigates the area for squirrels, ever vigilant, while I uncover a low wall that borders the garden, which we will reinstate.

I revealed the wall along the length of that flower bed.  Exciting.

And once I had excavated the end of the garden, we needed the lumberjacks back with their shredder!

Oh.  And how about a picture of some logs?

Including some neatly stacked logs in the log store.