Monday, 8 April 2013

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Well, the house was like the parsonage in that it was built of stone which had weathered to that black colour, so different from the golden honey-coloured stone of towns in the Cotswolds and Northamptonshire.  Due to the Dark, Satanic Mills, of course, the proximity of industrial activity.

It was about the same size and shape, being quite squat and more than one room deep, again unlike Northamptonshire vintage stone properties, which tend to be only one room thick until extended.  Chimneys and windows all a bit old and wobbly in our case.

UNLIKE the parsonage in that it was set on a corner of two main roads, therefore not at all peaceful, and positioned between a pub and a chip-shop on one side, and a housing estate on the other.  Therefore a lot of litter and worse ended up in our gateway.

The first thing we had to do was put on a new roof, (which we installed with the help of a council grant).  Next there was the fact that it had no central heating.  A house with stone walls a foot thick does take a long time to heat up, and, contrary to popular myth, cools down again very quickly.  So husband designed a system with the help of a book called "Install Your Own Central Heating", and fitted it himself.  OMG, he was so young and energetic then!  I remember that every floorboard in the house (or so it seemed) had to be pulled up.

I recall another epic row about food, this time a roast dinner I had cooked (again, very proud of it, saw it as a work of genius).  I was furious that husband did not immediately down tools to come and eat it at once, but rather carefully finished what he was doing.  OMG, I was so young and spoiled in those days!

The house had previously been occupied by an elderly couple and their even older mother, plus her two small dogs.  After about thirty years of the couple's constant smoking the walls were all yellow and streaming with nicotine, and the carpets stank of it.  Also the carpets (1970's shag pile) were full of dog hair.  We had nothing to spare for re-decorating or new carpets.

As soon as we moved in, everything started to fall apart.  You know how in your own house, there is a special way of doing things, like turning a door handle, to avoid trouble? All the door handles fell off under our callous hands, and the ancient gas heater in the kitchen packed up altogether.

Then there was the drainage.  A mains water pipe was leaking in the back garden, and the house  clean-water system drained into a soakaway under the street outside, so no washing machine could be connected until mains drainage had been installed.

The mice were despatched by next-door's cat, the most efficient method I have ever seen.

Another memory I have is of being woken in the middle of the night by our next-door neighbours entering our bedroom.  In those days we both slept completely naked, so it was quite embarrassing!  Luckily Mr Next-Door worked for a brewery so they both had a great sense of humour, and were used to late nights.  Our burglar alarm had gone off, and our stone walls were so thick we had not heard a thing.  

In the kitchen (which consisted of an ancient cooker, sink and some 1950's formica cupboards), there was a large chimney breast which had once held a range and after that an Aga.  Both long gone, but had left a big problem.  The Aga fumes had caused the mortar to disintegrate and the chimney breast was in a state of collapse.  Husband's building background again to the rescue, he got some Acro-props installed to hold it up.  I am not sure what was supposed to happen next, but what did happen was that he was offered a job move 100 miles further south, with a payrise and company car.  We decamped, and put the house on the market.

Amazingly, someone bought it, complete with Acro-props and drainage problems.  I think the fact that he had no wife was probably a critical factor.  I can't imagine any wife agreeing to buy the house in the state it was in.  He had been widowed,  and his mother lived in the housing estate a few hundred yards away, which made the house a useful proposition.

We later discovered that he dug the channel and fitted the pipes to connect to mains drainage himself.

On moving to the East Midlands, we spent more than a year living in rented accommodation, determined never again to make the mistake of falling in love with a totally unsuitable house.  Eventually we picked a brand new box, which, while ugly from the outside, was warm, clean, easy to run, and equipped with state-of-the-art plumbing and heating.  A perfect place to bring up a young family, which we then proceeded to do, and we are still here to this day!

6 comments:

  1. There's a lot to be said for plumbing.

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  2. Ah your husband is a handy type....my mister is not, but he gives things a go...and not always succesfully........I love the East Midlands and there is a lot to be said for brand new and practical.

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    1. Yes, I know I am lucky, but sometimes he takes things a bit far. Like yesterday, when he announced he was going to get a builder in to "sort out the cracks". Only last week he promised to wait until next year to do this, and as I am still recovering from a septic finger, the thought of all that dust made me feel desperate!

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  3. My mother used to say it was the foundation of civilisation!

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  4. does sound quite an adventure though......do love a fixer upper!!

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