Blog 54 …bah humbug…BUT…Merry Christmas too!‘Twas the day before Christmas Eve…when all through the house…not a creature was stirring…not even a… workman…and everywhere was covered in inches of dust…’
At the time of writing this I am sitting in the back bedroom which, you may remember, we converted into a study after the ‘Bridezilla’ moved out…I have had to squeeze through the piles of boxes and junk from the kitchen and am sitting curled up in the cold with a candle on the desk…the sky outside is grey and the cold is sticking to the window…I am surrounded by boxes, rolled up carpets, pieces of pipes and my favourite Christmas decorations waiting to be used… yes you have guessed it; the kitchen is still not finished and there is a problem with the heating hence the coldness of this little room; and the candle? No not for light or warmth just a little reminder that it is nearly Christmas! It smells lovely and I can close my eyes and pretend that my kitchen is finished and that my tree is decorated and lit and that all the presents are bought and wrapped and all the food shopping is done and …and…and…and then I open my eyes to realisation and POW! Back down to earth!
At the end of my last blog I did say that I would be back in the week beginning the 10th December…well here we are … except that it is nearly the week beginning the 24th December! The last few weeks have been so hectic and this week has been a total nightmare and the time has run away with me. I have not had a moments peace…and I have found myself most days holed up in the garage [converted to the family room…] doing little jobs like writing cards, ironing, de-cluttering drawers…anything so that I am able to see the vans drive up for deliveries of fixtures and fittings or workmen…you see the doorbell doesn’t work and if they don’t get a quick response then they’re off and that’s another day gone! The fact that I say I’ll be in all day doesn’t seem to register yet it works the other way round when they say they’ll be here I wait…and wait… the worst part is deciding when to go to the loo because if I stick a note on the door like “Be back in 10” or “knock loudly I’m upstairs and I’m deaf…” am I inviting burglars to have a go?
I had thought that when workmen say ‘It’ll be ready for Christmas…’ then they mean like now…you know…with a few days to spare but I’m feeling that it’s only me that talks about it being Christmas now and that the real Christmas for workers is actually up to midnight on Christmas Eve!! I felt that we had had all the back luck we were going to have at the start of this project with floods and things and that now things would begin to run smoothly …I know I’m in cloud cuckoo land as my mother would say! As I said previously the heating engineers had major problems just as my kitchen was due to arrive and they had another contract to work on so they had to leave me to honour that commitment…commendable I know but I wish they’d stayed! So there was heating in the house, but a few of the radiators were cool, and of course there was a huge hole in the bathroom floor as well as there being no heating in the conservatory…which now has become damp and mouldy due to this lack of heating… plus now there are pools of water from leaking pipes; the ‘Hubby’ has had to cut sponges up to pad round the leaks in an effort to stem the flow! I’ll tell you how cold it had got in there bearing in mind this is to be our main dining room after the kitchen is finished, I emptied the old fridge freezer in preparation for the new one and there were a few frozen meals that we could defrost for our evening meal…2 weeks later they are still defrosting! Well there are lots of changes but every job creates a new problem…for example the new cooker, dishwasher, washer, drier and fridge freezer arrived before the old ones were collected and the man buying them was delayed which meant all the appliances were standing in the kitchen along with boxes of new cupboards! The workmen measuring a stencil for the worktop had just completed the stencil which had to remain without so much as a midge’s wing of movement so that they could mark the walls and the gas man arrived to connect the cooker. Of course the cooker needed a wider gas pipe so that meant that the connection had to be altered and the fitter was called away for an emergency leaving total chaos for a few days…and of course the new pipes chiselled into my newly plastered, newly painted walls had to be re-plastered and are drying so I still have the painting to do…but there is the light at the end of the tunnel: the cupboards are hinged with the wrong hinges but at least they are fixed to the walls, the cooker is now connected, the worktops are now fitted and so this week the tiler has set about tiling the walls and then he had the floor to tile ready for the next stage: ah bliss I hear you say ah well…
He needed some wood to wedge the bottom tiles and so he sent ME in search of it so he could get started…
I thought that you just walk into the wood shop and say ‘I’d like 3 metres of the thin stuff please…’
Ha! No you don’t…you go to the store in the back of beyond where all the tradesmen go and are so busy that you get in their way…and park in their spot…and bump your car against an abandoned pile of wood because these men are watching and it makes you nervous: then you traipse around looking gormless at the huge sheets of wood: all different types for internal, external, thick, thicker, thinner; you choose a sheet and then a young man cuts it to the size you want…what? I only wanted a couple of strips…in panic I drove to the ‘Hubby’s’ place of work and asked him how do I get the right wood…he is so, so patient…he came with me and talked about 2 be 2 and 3 be 3…and heaven’s knows what and then he called the tiler…for goodness sake I never thought of that!
I have gained a lot of experience over the past few weeks: for example the language of workmen…or should I say the vocabulary; tea 1 without means: 1 tea with 1 sugar and no milk; coffee 2, 1 with 2 and 1 none : translates into; 2 coffees 1 with 2 sugars and 1 with no sugar and finally tea 1 leave it: means 1 tea with 1 sugar and leave the bag in! I’ve also visited the tile trading place where they saw so much of me over a few days that I’m sure they were going to invite me to their Christmas do… [old joke I know!]I had to get some more adhesive…then swop a length of plastic edging for 2 lengths of a square edged edging, then another box of tiles, then return an extra bag of grey grouting for a bag of black, then ask about a different edging…they were always very polite and remembered me so I didn’t have to keep getting the post code right in order to use the trademan’s discount card!
Each night I have been washing up in the ensuite…yes I even stuck the plates under the shower at one point…I have shifted boxes and tried to damp dust around the house to keep the dust down…does it work? Not sure as you can still write your name or other familiar words in it…thank you boys!
After what seems like months with no sink and no washing machine…no water some days…they are now plumbed in and are working round the clock to clear the back log of bedding and towels etc…I know I could have gone to a launderette but when? I have had to stay in the house in case any workmen show up!
Here’s another gripe: why when it’s so cold do they leave the doors open? Icy blasts blow through these open doors and chill me through to the bone whilst they are cosy in the kitchen! I know, I know I’m ungrateful but I now realise that I am not made to cope with all the tools and bits of drills and screws and sawdust and mucky footprints everywhere and I certainly will never be doing this again…that is of course AFTER we have mended the bathroom!
So let’s turn my thoughts to nicer things…ah yes Christmas…I have watched with envy as friends and family have posted beautiful pictures of Christmas trees and other decorations on Facebook. I have envied friends who have had the chance to meet up for coffee, cakes, mince pies and a chat…whilst I watched my very slow transformation! But I have had a break so it’s not all doom and gloom. I went on a coach trip with the ‘Bridezilla’ and some cousins to Birmingham on a shopping trip. This has been planned for 12 months: all that time ago I had thought that by the time we go I will have had my kitchen fitted, my shopping will have been done and I will be able to relax and buy a few extra treats! Ha! Well anyway, we stopped for a few hours in a beautiful little place called Lichfield which had lovely shops and the ‘Bridezilla’ and I visited the Cathedral where an orchestra was practicing for Christmas services; the music was stunning and we felt like we were in a film whereby the heroine walks in slow motion to haunting music; we were walking silently through this magnificent building with our own theme tune! [I didn’t look up, being mindful of the episode in the Durham Cathedral!] The markets were buzzing with Christmas cheer and I bought sugar mice for the Christmas stockings from an ‘old fashioned sweet shop’. [Actually it was set out exactly how I remember sweet shops as a child! How old am I?] We arrived at the hotel with enough time to shower and change ready for a wonderful roast turkey dinner; 3 courses, plenty wine, a few games of cards and lots of giggles later the ‘Bridezilla’ and I retired to our hotel bedroom…where she claimed the double bed! Ah well I didn’t mind it was a little treat away for her too…except that the single bed I was in was very narrow and as I turned over to snuggle down I felt myself slipping over the edge and landed in a heap against the wall! The room was very dark and she laughed at me when I got up to open the curtains a little to let some light in: so that I could see that there was no one hiding in the corner. Then she had to come and check the window for me because I couldn’t get it to lock…what if someone climbed in? Then I stumbled about in the dark trying to be quiet, to get to the bathroom…I stumped my knee against the chair, fell against the wall and as I put my hands out I felt the TV and realised I was walking in the wrong direction…good job she’d locked the window or I’d have ended up on the balcony! Next morning, after a wonderful full English breakfast, we arrived in Birmingham where we shopped until we dropped…literally! Ah the smells of sugared almonds, pretzels, doughnuts, sausages…mmm the mulled wines [two huge mugs actually…!] the hot chocolate…the chill on our cheeks and the music in the air…it was fabulous! The Christmas markets were lit up, the stores were buzzing, the buildings were fantastic: huge 3 and 4 storey shops, all linked with one another! I need to go again just to see the parts we missed!
I have to say that the ‘Bridezilla’ has inherited a bit of my ‘dizziness’; we had arranged to meet up with my cousin and her two daughters for a drink at 1.30pm. Suddenly she announced that we were going to be late and practically dragged me to the other end of the market….by which time of course the mulled wines had worked their magic and I needed the Ladies toilet. In desperation I texted my cousin to apologise for being late as we were in the large bookshop on the third floor in a queue for the loo...why are there only ever one or at the most two toilets for ladies and why are they so far away? Do the men designing these buildings not understand how a lady’s bladder works? Worse still if she has a few children in tow! Then my cousin texted back to say we were supposed to be meeting at 1.30 and did we still want to meet? Oh no! We were so late and they would have wasted time waiting for us! Eventually we emerged just as they were approaching the shop…thing is it turned out that it was only 12.30 as the ‘Bridezilla’ had mis-read her watch! Good excuse though for another mulled wine before setting off again!
The day flew by and I felt all the problems that we had had dissolve away as I enjoyed the excitement of Christmas…my all time favourite part of the year!
My mother always made it magical; as little ones we would come downstairs early in the morning and find the tree decorated and lit up with presents set out in special piles. The fire would be taking the chill off the room and the smell of the turkey cooking and fresh fruit filled the air. My mother taught us how to write our letters to Father Christmas neatly so that he could read what we would like! We sat watching her mix the cake ingredients and we took turns to scrape the bowl or lick the spoon. She let us help decorate the Christmas chocolate log and we made Christmas cards with glitter and pictures. As we got older we wanted to decorate the house with tinsel and paper chains and balloons but we could only put the tree up after the ‘Big-sister’ had had her birthday on the 10th of December. Then of course in our early twenties Christmas was a time for party dresses, new hairstyles and nights out. I think I inherited my mother’s gene for trying to make Christmas brilliant for everyone and I will spend a long time choosing presents, hiding them and then wrapping them whilst listening to Christmas records! I get as much excitement out of giving as I do out of getting!
At college as First Year students at the end of the Christmas term, we were instructed that we were to go bed at 9.00pm and not to leave our rooms until we were called for the next morning. Feeling a bit apprehensive about what the older students were going to do to us, we did actually stay in our rooms…early the next morning we were woken up by the sound of bells ringing and Christmas music blasting out and as I left my room I was amazed at the sight of the Christmas decorations strewn around the corridor, on the doors and a lovely Christmas tree: we were treated to a special breakfast and then a pantomime! It was like being a child all over again, the surprise and that magical feeling! As a teacher I have loved being a part of the Christmas preparation and keeping the magic alive for little ones. In one school the children would all go into the school hall for a carol concert with the head teacher and then the rest of the staff would decorate the corridors in a traditional fashion with paper chains, snowmen, winter scenes painted on the windows and the children would emerge to these wonderful sights and find Santa sitting in the reception area with a little present for them all. Seeing children’s faces light up with the excitement made the effort worthwhile. I have tried to keep the magic of Christmas going for my own children. I introduced different things over the years which have become our traditions: Santas’ elves decorate the tree after we have put the lights on and sat the fairy at the top; a little present is left under the tree for each of them which is usually a chocolate selection box and a Christmas movie and it has been wonderful watching them as little ones to walk into the room on the first morning that the tree is ready and see their excitement; we all have new pyjamas for Christmas Eve and the boys have special Christmas bedding for that night too! We have stockings that we open on our bed first and then I go downstairs and switch the tree lights on and the fire and Bing Crosby Christmas classics playing in the background! The boys never know what they are getting…as they have got older they have printed me their ‘wish’ list of ideas and they have a set budget that they stick to…the best shopping experience for me has been when they have found items on the internet; printed off a list with pictures and information including prices and where to order them from and handed it to me! That Christmas I literally ordered everything on line and wrapped them as they arrived! This year has been slightly harder as I have been unable to pop out as often as I would like but eventually I have their gifts…including a surprise present which is a great tradition because each year I buy them something that they have not asked about on their list but may have passed comment on during the year! The fact that they ‘know’ how Santa works hasn’t as yet diminished their excitement. [When I told the ‘Intelligent-Cutie-pie about Father Christmas and how dad and I were the ones filling the stockings his face crumpled, his eyes filled with tears and he looked me straight in the face and said; “So you’ve lied to me all these years…?” I think I was more upset!]
So here we are…nearly Christmas and I have so much more to do my mind has been so full of the building work I’ve had little room left in my brain for anything else but I think I’ve got it all covered…
the workmen have clocked off now for the Christmas holidays and I have an unfinished but workable kitchen…the set of lights around the middle of the tree have fused…but at least it's still standing...there is dust everywhere…I have some wrapping still to do…I have a mountain of shopping left to do…even some cards still need posting! But we will have a great time just being together, relaxing, the 'Hubby' and I always have a new book each to curl up with a glass of something tasty and afew chocolates, we will be eating at a table instead of resting plates on our knees…we will watch Christmas T.V, play games, enjoy the company of our families and look forward to a very important new year…2013 is the year the ‘Bridezilla’ will be getting married…it’s the year the ‘Intelligent-one’ will go to University…it is the year that the ‘Intelligent Cutie-pie’ will choose his GCSE subjects and hopefully it will be the year the kitchen is finished!
So all that is left for me to say tonight is that I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday…
…stay safe and happy…
…and don’t eat too much turkey…
…OMG TURKEY…did I order it…?
Seasons Greetings to you all especially my regular readers in:
United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Iraq, Italy, Russia, Latvia, Norway, China, United Arab Emirates, France, Ukraine and Canada.
See you in 2013!
See you in 2013!
Blog 54