Two Beds, A Birthday & A Bouquet of Flowers

If you’ve read The Tour de France & A Parquet Tour de Force! you might be interested in how things turned out, after the parquet was restored – that is, how the room was finished, and Mum and the family’s reaction.

Here is the finished room:

It is no mean feat decorating and furnishing a room that has to be used by toddlers, teens, twenty-somethings and my 87 year old mum! In its previous incarnation, it was painted in aqua and mostly used by the older boys, but more recently, it is increasingly used to sleep in by my youngest grand-daughter and my mum. The boys these days come on day-trips and mostly use it as a bolt-hole once they’ve raided the fridge on arrival!

They wanted white walls – but they’ve been brainwashed by their minimalist mother! My grand-daughter likes purple!! But she is three. I opted for a very pale yellow.  I find yellow welcoming and uplifting but not so energising that you can’t sleep. It makes me smile.

My mum hates yellow.

She also dislikes wooden floors.

She was coming for her birthday visit and things were not looking promising.

There was the problem of the bed. The old bed had been our daughter’s: it was her half of the set of pine bunk beds she shared with her brother. All the grandchildren and my mum had used it. It had a memory foam mattress and was very comfortable. However, when my husband took it apart, we were appalled to find that it was cracked around one of the bolts holding it together and a slat was also cracked. I dread to think what could have happened when Mum used it. It was time it retired.

We thought we had come up with the perfect solution and were very proud of our find: a wooden bed that had a trundle bed underneath so the younger boys no longer had to sleep on the floor, and 3 storage drawers. The existing mattress fit perfectly, I bought a new duvet cover and some colourful cushions. But as soon as I saw the completed construction, I knew it was too high for Mum. It was the night before she was due to arrive when the room was not quite completed, but enough that she could use it. There was no option but to cross our fingers and hope that our only other alternative would work if my fears proved correct.

She loved the floor. She spent some time admiring it and asking questions. We told her the whole story of how we’d discovered it, the difficulties in restoring it and how long it had taken. She listened and ackowledged. We were prepared for the next question but it still made us laugh:

‘What kind of carpet are you going to put over it?!’ Oh, Mum. Every one of our neighbours is green with envy at our new floor. The rest of the family love it. Only Mum would want to carpet over it. It’s a generational thing. For her, wooden floors are associated with having a low income, you had bare boards or at best lino over it. Fitted carpets were the height of luxury and meant you were in a higher income bracket. She really can’t understand our fascination with wood. She likes the feel of carpet. We put a rug by her bed (backed by non-slip underlay) and she was ok.

The next hurdle was the colour.  I was ready for her next question: ‘What colour is this?’ ‘Vanilla, Mum, vanilla ice-cream,’ I lied. ‘Oh, right, it’s very nice.’

And so to the final hurdle, the bed. I could sense her nervousness and building anxiety as she looked at it and I stepped in to reassure her. I acknowledged that it was too high and we weren’t able to change it, but we had a suggestion: my husband would dismantle the single bed upstairs and bring it down for the duration of her stay. This we did and will have to do every time she comes to visit. One final final problem (or so I thought): she  couldn’t have it positioned with the headboard in the alcove under the window as she didn’t feel comfortable getting in and out of bed on that side. (At this point, there was no chest of drawers in the alcove). So it had to be positioned with the headboard in the middle of the room.

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But we were still not done with the bed issues. I took one look and said to my husband, ‘I know what’s going to happen, the pillows are going to slip through the gap in the headboard and end up on the floor.’ My husband was of a mind to cross our fingers once more and see, we might get away with it.

Of course, we didn’t! So next day, he found a large piece of cardboard and attached it to the headboard with bicycle ties! Not the look I was going for, but it worked!

She slept well in it and was happy with the arrangement.

Phew!

Mum had a quiet birthday, watching her new André Rieu dvd, eating Carrot, Apple & Spice Cakes with Cashew Frosting and curry (not together!)

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Mum’s birthday was complete when she received flowers from my brother who has recently emigrated to the US, she was convinced she would never receive flowers from him again – or indeed, see or hear from him.

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The day after her birthday, she was returning home, but not before the Littles arrived to see Gran on her birthday, and to inspect their new room. They loved it! They especially liked the pull-out trundle bed and all the drawers with their toys in.

We can never have much of an overlap of visits by Gran and great-grandchildren as there is too much potential for tripping over racing toddlers and racing cars! Also, these days Mum tires easily and her deafness means she can never follow the conversation. So we keep visits short, just time for lunch together and then my husband took her home, while I got to spend the afternoon reading stories as well as catching up with my oldest grandson, newly returned from working in France – oh, and given there was no Gran or daughter-in-law present, we took a sneaky look at the Tour de France too!

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Ps The painting by the window was done by my eldest grandson when he was still at school and the stars above the picture rail were made by my three year old grand-daughter, who gave them to me for Christmas. The boomerang above the door was a gift from our Aussie friends to our son when he was small and has been there since we moved here 30 years ago when he occupied this room. There is a smaller one above the door in our daughter’s old room. No-one can bring themselves to remove them, a small part of them is still ‘home’.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

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The Tour de France & A Parquet Tour de Force!

It’s that time of year again when the sun shines (theoretically), the men don their lycra for a cycling saunter around France and Chris gets house makeover ideas beyond her station! After a few years of not really tackling any major work on the house – I think the last big upheaval was for my mum’s 80th birthday celebration 7 years ago – last year, *we* (I ;-)) decided it was time to do over the front room, which had been neglected for many years. It was dark and dated, needed new curtains and carpets and I was dying to get rid of the 90s sofa, which to my embarrassment actually featured in an episode of Eastenders when Sharon and Phil ran the Queen Vic!  Despite its age, it was hardly used until recently when we had a woodburner installed in that room. I found the room depressing and wanted to lighten it up. Bit by bit, I eventually won over hb and that’s when we struggled over the decision to give away our old piano (see post links below).

At first, we were going to replace the carpet with good quality laminate flooring, but when we lifted it we found this: image

So we took the bit between our teeth, got some quotes and found it would cost no more to refurbish the old parquet than to buy good quality laminate or carpet. We had no idea what it would look like: Wayne of Acorn Floor Sanding aka wood floor doctor warned us it would be a lot lighter but other than that it was in the lap of the gods. We were lucky in that only a few blocks needed relaying, although there were many gaps needing to be filled and many of the blocks had warped as well as shrunk. There was also the hearth to take care of. We needed to replace and extend it as there was a strip of concrete where the old fireplace had been removed and there were no blocks to replace it. So we had that done first. The whole job took 4 days and we ended up with this:

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The fire recess is actually dark teal. We were so delighted with the result that we decided there and then we would save up and do the back room this year and then the hallway next year.

The back room is variously referred to as the kids’ room or Mum’s room, depending on who is occupying it at the time: it is the original dining room but we have always used it as an extra bedroom/playroom for the younger family members. More recently, my elderly mum has been using it as she can no longer use the stairs. And therein lies the problem: trying to arrange a room that is suitable for toddlers, teenagers and my elderly mum! The teenagers complain it’s too babyish, it’s also a bit boyish as it was predominantly used by the older three, but now we have girls and Mum too.

It was going to be a thankless task. Mum doesn’t like wood floors, she likes the comfort of carpet under her feet, is convinced wood floors make a room colder – they don’t – and worried about slipping, but it is not slippy at all.

Six weeks ago, we grasped this particularly prickly nettle, emptied the room, pulled up the carpet and found a much more difficult project awaiting:

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The blocks were badly stained with bitumen that had gradually worked its way through the many large gaps, the blocks were warped but also badly cut – few were squared off properly. There was a large concrete slab where the old fireplace was, plus cement-covered bricks supporting the sliding doors to the playroom. Worst of all, the entire room other than three sides of the border had to be relaid, a time-comsuming and expensive task.

A 4 day job turned into 9 days, Summer chose that week to pay a visit making it hot and sticky work. At one stage it looked like a humungous game of jenga was being played in there!

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A large tin of filler for the gaps would normally cover 5 rooms the size of ours but it only filled two thirds of the gaps here! Every day there was a problem that delayed procedings. The concrete slab was more difficult to remove than first assumed and the floor wasn’t level, spare blocks were needed and dowelling to fill the gap that still remained under the skirting board.

We had tried to source reclaimed blocks on eBay, the internet and a reclamation site in our local Bermuda triangle where even Silly Sally SatNav got us lost 3 times! All to no avail. We needed maple and we could only find pine and oak and not the right depth. Our carpenter neighbour came up trumps with a random box of various-sized blocks that someone had given him and he’d never used, and which turned out to be maple. They weren’t the right depth, but Wayne removed some originals from under a built-in cupboard where the space wouldn’t be seen, used those in the middle of the room and our neighbour’s were used to make a slight ramp up to the sliding doors over the brick supports.

This is after the first sanding:

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What a transformation already! It had 9 sandings in all, done corner to corner in 4 directions to go with the grain as much as possible. Then it was sealed with one coat of Bonakemi Traffic and 2 coats of Bonatraffic HD. This is a high quality low maintenance Italian satin finish recommended on a website about wood floors I discovered when researching the first room we did. It is hard wearing, not too shiny and requires no ongoing upkeep, unlike an oiled finish.

It was such hot, hard work and honestly there were times when I thought Wayne was losing the will to live! We kept him supplied with copious amounts of strong coffee and amusing (haha) anecdotes to keep his spirits up, and finally it was done.

Prepare to be stunned:

We are delighted with the result. The room is so much lighter and looks more spacious. I can’t praise Wayne’s work highly enough. A lot of improvisation and imagination was required as well as hard physical work in difficult weather conditions.

Mum came this last weekend. She loves the floor, said it’s beautiful, then ‘what kind of carpet are you going to put over it?!’

I need a rest, I’m off to watch skinny men in lycra riding bikes and swapping jerseys to see who fits what the best!

To read about our traumatic decision to give away our piano see:

Ode To Our Piano, a Faithful and Long-Suffering Friend

Ode to Our Piano – What Happened Next…

Ode to Our Piano: Guess What?

Ode to Our Piano – Flowers & Phew!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Everyday Distractions…

IMG_8230As I type, there is an industrial floor sander working in the next room so loud I feel I need to wear ear defenders, there’s a plumber working on the shower in the bathroom, the Tour de France is on the telly, we are looking at websites trying to find suitable furniture for the room that’s being sanded and hopefully have it all done and dusted before my elderly mum comes to stay next week! It’s her birthday – and several other family members’ – so presents need to be found, wrapped and posted, too. All in all, I’m a little distracted just now, have been for a few weeks to be honest, what with having the decorators in (same room), choosing plants for the garden (which the snails and slugs apparently thought were Christmas lunch and so promptly decimated and killed them), trying to get a date for the drive to be resurfaced (in 2 weeks’ time) and fit in a haircut (next Wednesday).

This is all by way of a long-winded explanation and apology for neglecting not only my blog at the moment but reading and commenting on others. I try to fit in a few when I get chance, but now that all the Tour de France stages are being televised from start to finish, the men in lycra are just too distracting!

In case you’re wondering, that’s Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas winning the yellow jersey the other day.  Unfortunately I don’t have him in our family Tour de France fantasy league, but I do have his teammate Chris Froome who took it over yesterday and I too am currently in the lead – my  very competitive, bike-mad son sent me a text last night to tell me to look behind me as he is catching up fast! (He likes riding up very steep hills for very many miles and even managed to fit in a ride up one of the climbs of that year’s Tour de France when on his honeymoon a few years ago!)

When all the madness has calmed down, I’ll post photos of the parquet floor we’re refurbishing, but if you want to follow the process in real time, take a look at my Instagram account (@pearsnotparsnips) to see the transformation.

I hope normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. I’ll be posting a new gluten-free bread recipe soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the holidays and some relaxing days in the sun, fill up on Vitamin D (but beware of the midday rays), some fresh air and exercise – and commiserations to those of you in the southern hemisphere!

PS The plumber can’t fit the new shower, turns out the previous installer had extended the wires and connected them with insulating tape which makes it very dangerous! So now we have to wait for an electrician to come and rewire it – in 11 days’ time, the cost now being three and a half times as much <sigh>.

Photo by Team Sky.

Copyright: Chris McGowan