Sunday, January 31st 2021 – The Great House Extension Project (Days 113 – 115)
Two more days of work on the house and we are now so much closer to the end game, and we couldn’t be more relieved. It’s still frustrating because we are now at the point where there are long lags between jobs getting done. We are also having the hallway/porch remodelled and slightly extended but despite the fact that the bricks are ready and waiting, I’ve been digging my heels in and refusing point-blank to let them start that piece of work until we are fully back in the main part of the house, and we have all our furniture and other stuff out of storage.
2021 will be the first time since around 1995 when I first went off to work in France and let me house in the UK out that I won’t have had anything in storage anywhere. I can’t tell you how absurdly exciting a prospect that is, because at the moment we have the contents of the wardrobes in one storage unit, our furniture in the removal company’s repository somewhere in three (out of five) containers, and stuff from our parents’ home in a third unit… including the massive old refectory table that this extension will allow us to bring back and use, and that I do sometimes jokingly claim is the reason we had to extend in the first place! It is true that it would have fitted in the old dining area, but only the table not the chairs, and we would have had to limbo dance underneath it to get to and from the conservatory (or slide over the top). It’s massive and opens out to around twice its closed length. We will have to get one of the leaves restored, probably French polished, because at some point someone decided to store it in Tony’s garage, where it suffered badly. The other leaf appears to be perfectly fine, but we’ll give it a good looking at when we get it back and see if anything needs doing to rescue it.
Anyway, without a floor that was all pretty moot. We were expecting the bloke to do the floor levelling on Tuesday, but possibly due to the weather, possibly due to Covid, he had a cancellation, so he turned up on Monday with his assistant, and they duly set about putting around 3 millimetres of screeding/latex mix down to make the entire space level, prior to laying the flooring later in the week. It was a perishing cold day, and they needed to have the front door open to bring the mix in and take the rubbish out regularly. Thankfully it was dry (unlike Sunday when it snowed almost all day) and sunny, because we were having to get to the kitchen and conservatory from our offices by going out of the side door in my office, walking round to the back of the building and going in that way. They were, thankfully, done by midday and gone, taking my washing up sponge with them (without asking which I thought was a bit off). And by 4pm the surface was firm enough to walk on.
We threw all the heat we could manage at it for the following 48 hours and on Wednesday, they were back. Wednesday it was all about the Amtico flooring that we bought last year ready to use. I could have left it to the building contractor, but I have a friend who works for the company and was able to get me what I wanted at cost price (so £14 per square metre instead of around £32 per square metre). What wasn’t to like, apart from the fact that we’ve been hefting the 20 boxes of tiles back and forth and up and down repeatedly because we’ve had to keep moving them out of the way.
I could have done without the workman being sceptical about whether we had enough tiles, because I had done the calculations very carefully, and had bought enough to do not only the lounge and dining area, but also the hallway. He seemed to be taking the “women have no technical skills” approach which is a dangerous thing to do where I’m concerned. Again, they set to work and were done around 3pm, and there were FOUR boxes and some offcuts left… Yah, boo, sucks to you, Mr. Flooring Man! How dare you doubt me! It looked good and seemed to have been very well done, but it was also all a bit messy on the surface, but we weren’t allowed to clean it for at least 24 hours. Actually, as it turned out I couldn’t clean it until Saturday because I didn’t have any suitable cleaning materials. I do now!
The remaining four boxes are now back upstairs waiting to be used, and the floor is clean and shiny and next weekend it will be treated to protect it from wear and tear. Now that’s done, we are still waiting for the coving (which is now due on Monday), for the bed headboard to be put back, for the electrics to be finished (mostly the LED lights in the lounge and dining rooms), and the loft to be finally boarded out once the electrician finally tidies up the rats’ nest of cables he’s put in up there, as opposed to the neatly channeled and fastened up cables put in by the aircon engineers… oh and the wardrobes. Which are proving more problematic than they should. The hanging rails still need putting in place, and the lights need attaching and fitting and connecting up to the power supply. That’s actually not the problem. The problem is the extra shelves and two replacement drawers I need, which were supposed to be delivered on Sunday last.
And so, the tale of the Ikea delivery… Sunday arrived and with it a message saying that my parcel would be delivered between 12:43 and 13:43 by DPD. At the end of that time there was no parcel, but there was a fresh message claiming that the driver had not left the parcel because there was no one home! Right… we’re in lockdown, and I was in the house during all of that time and certainly no one had rung the doorbell. I stuck my head outside and found no tyre tracks in the snow (which had been coming down all morning) and could only conclude that their driver was lying.
I duly filled in the delivery options to say that they should leave the parcel by the back door if no one was in (and apparently even if we were) and there was a message to say they would deliver on Monday. They didn’t. On Monday evening I fired an email off at DPD’s customer service department, which resulted in a response over 24 hours later asking for my postcode as apparently the tracking number for the consignment wasn’t enough. I sent that back, and meanwhile spent 45 minutes in the phone to Ikea hoping to speak to a human before I gave up.
Tuesday and Wednesday I was in a workshop with my colleagues and didn’t have time to chase DPD or Ikea. On Thursday morning, I got a message saying DPD would deliver my parcel. About 30 minutes later I got a message saying my parcel was being sent back to Ikea (!). I also had a message from DPD saying they had no idea where said parcel was, and that it had last been scanned anywhere in their system on the Saturday before it was originally supposed to be delivered. I tried calling Ikea again and after over an hour on hold listening to Abba on a loop I gave up.
Friday morning I called Ikea at 07.01, one minute after they opened, and was stunned to be answered on the second ring. I spoke to a hopefully helpful human who rearranged my order to be delivered from their Milton Keynes store next Monday (1st February) by a local courier, so fingers crossed it will actually finally arrive, and we can complete the wardrobes. To add insult to injury, DPD then emailed me and suggested that if I’d installed their app, I would have been able to see where their driver was on the Sunday. And given he never came near the place, what good would that have done me, I wonder…
Less troublesome, although also not without its oddities, was my delivery from Cubit in Germany of three pieces of modular furniture, ordered and paid for in December. Given the entirely foreseeable farce that is Brexit, and its effects on the supply chains, I did wonder whether the items would end up being unavailable. Last week I had an email from the company telling me that my order was on its way, and that given the new regulations, they were refunding me around €54 of VAT, which I would most likely need to pay at this end. I expected that the courier company would thus expect me to hand over money before they would hand over my goods. However, the world’s grumpiest delivery driver arrived on Thursday night at around 20:30 and simply dumped it in front of our front door (he’s a genuinely miserable shit who I suspect likes putting heavy boxes down and then watching customers struggle to get them indoors, and I have complained about him more than once) and ran off. So no VAT paid so far. It’s entirely possible I’ll get a bill at some stage, though possibly in all the chaos it’s gone missing. Anyway, with no need to attach these items to a wall, the “build” took about 30 seconds as the modules slot together with the aid of a flat piece of wood, and we now have storage under the TV/fire.