Tuesday, 27 October 2009

the wall is gone

One of the first things we did when I bought the bungalow was to redesign it, as you do! I decided that I would widen the hall, making the large double bedroom into a small double by moving an internal wall back a couple of feet. and create a single bedroom where the hall is now.

I didn't know, then, that the internal walls of a bungalow carry the weight of the roof, unlike in a house, where the external walls take the weight. Sadly that meant that for quite some time now, I've had a little corridor storage area between the new wall, and the existing wall, which needed removing.

It couldn't just be knocked down, though, as it's supporting the roof. So, finally, the builder has installed an RSJ to do the job of the wall, and David and I dismantled the old wall, brick by brick. It's now been plastered over, and the hall is enormous!

I'll just get used to all the space, then it will be time to erect another stud wall and box it all in again. Why do we buy properties just to change them? At the end of all this I'll have 3 bedrooms and a separate lounge and dining room, instead of 2 bedrooms and a lounge. It will be worth it, it really will.

In the midst of the brick and plaster dust, this is what I tell myself. Sometimes it's hard to believe, but I know it's true.


loft conversion, shower room

It's really beginning to look like a shower room! Wow, how fantastic - I'm so glad I got builders in and didn't wait to do-it-ourselves!!

When I'd finished tiling the bathroom downstairs (it's a bungalow, remember, so there wasn't an upstairs until now, and it still feels strange to say upstairs and downstairs!!) I had three boxes of large, white bevelled edge wall tiles left over. I'd assumed that I'd be able to buy more when the time came to do the shower room. Wrong! They've been discontinued, bother!!

So, off we went for a trip round the local tile shops - and can't you spend a fortune??? I decided that I would remain cost conscious, and finally found some reasonably sized white tiles at £7.99 a box, and bought the 9 boxes the builder stipulated. My eye was caught by some mosaics. Oh dear, they did look sparkly and indulgent. They were. £14 a square foot. But I bought three of them, to inset a two-deep row around the room. It makes such a difference, don't you think?

I bought a three foot high mirror to be included in with the tiles, as it's something I've done before, and I think it's so much safer than a wall-hung mirror. There's no way it can be knocked down if it's grouted in place!! It looks lovely, as you can see.
The plumber is due in a couple of days - how can it be so exciting? I can hardly wait. Watch this space :-)


Monday, 26 October 2009

Boasting - my words were chosen

Well, as you can see, another short piece made the grade :) It is such a good feeling when someone you don't know decides that my writing is goodl thanks C Beth :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Fiction: Wedding
Write a brief bit of fiction, with a wedding as the setting.Friday Fiction is your opportunity to write a short (short, short, short) story. Many participants use more than one minute for Friday Fiction prompts, and I open up the One-Minute Writing of the Day contest to entries of various lengths.Click on the "Friday Fiction" tag beneath the post to see more examples of Friday Fiction writings.

One-Minute Writing of the Day:Writer: Christine

I eally didn't want to be a page boy, not even for my lovely sister. Then I found out I had to wear a skirt. Calling it a kilt doesn't stop it from being a skirt. You can imagine the fun that gave my mates at school.

Now everyone's here, in this cold marquee, smiling and drinking champagne, while I have an iced cola - great.They all look so happy, but then they don't have a breeze blowing where no breeze should blow, and bare legs under a pleated skirt. The velvet jacket and tartan bow tie just add insult to injury.

Now they want me to smile for the camera! Who do they think they're kidding?I think I'll use this dirk to carve my name in one of the trees outside. Yes, that'll make the day go better.

Maybe I could force just one smile for them...

Congratulations on another win, Christine! One thing I really enjoyed about your response was that it was set at a wedding, but wasn't about the bride and groom. And it definitely made me smile.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

runner beans, free food, seeds, harvesting

Well, it's that time of year when things start to slow down in the garden. Although the days may still become warm and sultry, it's decidedly cooler in the evenings, and the plants are beginning to shut themselves down for the winter. Some will die down completely, others will slumber gently until the gentle warmth of Spring calls them forth again.

My runner beans are still flowering their little socks off, or would if they possessed any! At the same time, they are creating the seeds for me to harvest, and dry out, ready for planting again in the Spring. Free food :)

I always leave one plant, at least, to grow long, plump beans, which I don't harvest to eat. I allow them to stay on the plant until they have dried out. They don't look particularly attractive when they've turned papery in texture, and brownish in colour, but they contain that precious cargo of next year's seeds. For that alone, they could be considered beautiful. They have served their purpose, and that's a wonderful thing.

The photos show the pods agains the sunlight. If you look closely, you can see the shape of the beans within the drying pod, as the light can pass through the thinning shell of the pod, leaving the shadowy outline of the beans. Harvest when brown and dry.

The last shows the dried out shell, and some of the hidden treasure from within, revealed just for you! And aren't the beans pretty? Such attractive markings, and glorious colours. Bright pinks are fashionable just now - I wonder what a dress would look like created from fabric patterned like the beans. Probably quite attractive, I'd say. But then, I'm biased.

I store my harvested beans in an envelope, on which I write the variety and the date - I used to think I'd remember, but nowadays I know I won't, so I write it down. If I have plenty, I share them with family and friends who also appreciate organic, fresh food.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

loft conversion, update, progress, Velux fire escape window,

Well, the Velux fire escape window is now happily settled in its new home, looking over the south-facing back garden. I just hope that I never have cause to use it, because it's a steep roof overlooking a hard, unforgiving patio area, and I don't much care for heights! I'd probably take my chances on the stairs.

Talking of which, the stairs now have a wall either side of them, unplastered, as yet, but walls nonetheless. There'll even be a handrail eventually - but that's jumping the gun slightly!

This shot is from the top of the stairs across the bedroom to the fire escape, I think it'll be lovely when it's finished, but then, I would, wouldn't I?

This photo is taken with my back to the fire escape, the shower room is on the left, then the stairs, then the storage area leading to the space above the garage. We'll need to floor that once the builders are gone and we can get on at our own pace.

Here you can see the Velux in the shower room, and the view of tree tops :-) You can see the interesting angles caused by the hip of the roof. This has generated fun and games. The original shower tray I bought was 1200 x 900, with a quadrant at one end. Lovely - yes, but way too big because of the restricted head room! I've bought a more sensibly sized 760cm square stoneware one on eBay, which David is collecting for me today. Thankfully, the electrician and plumber are both on holiday this week, so I haven't held them up. Perhaps I'll retain the bright yellow steps as a towel rail. What do you think?

The plasterer arrived a short while ago. He has such a mop of dark curly hair! He probably hates it, very few of us are content with what nature gave us, are we? But it looks gorgeous - I'm sure he has the girls at his feet, especially following the recent TV series The New Romantics, or whatever it was called.

More another day - bet you can't wait!

Friday, 16 October 2009

short story, dead man in the loft

When the builder told me he had to move a dead man in the loft, I was taken aback, to say the least. I'd been in the loft several times, and nary a corpse had I seen!

Once he'd explained to me what he meant, I decided that therein lay a story for children, and since one of the modules I'm taking this semester at uni is Writing for Children, this was serendipity, indeed.

This is the first draft of the story that evolved from this chance phrase, I hope you'll enjoy the idea, and bear in mind that it is only a first draft!

There’s a Dead Man in Our Loft

The builders arrived yesterday. Two of them, wearing clothes so scruffy Mum wouldn’t let us be seen dead in them! Tufts of grey wire sprout out of the back bit of Frank’s baseball cap. Paul’s bald. I always thought that your hair turned grey then fell out, but Paul’s much younger than Frank. Maybe he’s had chemo-therapy; Dad’s friend Eric’s hair fell out after he’d had chemo, and he was only 30.

Mum’s going to have a baby, and our house is already full! There’s me, I’m Amy, my sister Brenda, and my brother, Chris. And there’s Mum and Dad too. We’ve got three bedrooms, but one’s only tiny. Chris has that one, and I share a bigger one with Brenda. There’s no room for the new baby. He’s a boy, so the scan says, so we’re having the loft converted into a “Master Suite” for Mum and Dad. Chris and baby Danny will have Mum’s old room, when it’s been decorated, of course. They won’t want a room with roses all over the walls!

* * * * * * *

I was deep into my Nancy Drew mystery, when I heard Frank, the builder, asking Mum if he could have a word with her. He was speaking very quietly, and for some reason, whenever I hear people speaking softly, my ears have this habit of trying extra hard to hear what’s being said.

I wish I hadn’t heard what Frank said to Mum, though! I don’t know what to do about it.

‘Mrs Jenkins, could I have a quick word with you? We’ve uncovered a bit of a problem.’

‘Oh dear! What sort of problem? It isn’t going to hold up the building work, is it? The baby’s due in four months, and I really need to have the bedrooms sorted out before he arrives.’

‘It’s nothing we can’t handle, don’t worry. We’ve come across this problem before. There’s a dead man at the far end of the loft needs moving.’

‘What?’ Mum’s voice went quite high, then she sort of laughed, nervously. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. There isn’t a dead man in my loft!’

I heard them walk upstairs, so couldn’t hear what they were saying any more. I felt like somebody was squeezing my tummy muscles, and I found I was holding my breath. How could there be a dead man in the loft? Was it like when they found the Princes in the Tower? Had a body been shut up to die in the loft space years ago, when the house was new? Or had a burglar broken in and died up there, starving to death with a broken leg, unable to climb back up the chimney?

My mind played all sorts of little film clips really quickly, trying to make sense of it, but couldn’t. What did it mean? Who could I ask? Should I tell someone, or not? Does it count as a secret? Should I phone the police? I decided I’d tell my best friend, Zoë, about it, and see what she thought. I bet she hasn’t got a corpse in her loft!

* * * * * * *

I was sitting, reading, when somebody else’s hand turned the page for me! It was a hairy, withered-looking hand, with long, yellow nails. My own scream woke me up. The thudding in my chest was so loud I though the house would wake up, but nobody moved. I wish they had woken up, my skin was all goosey, and I was scared. I pulled the duvet over my head, and closed my eyes tightly. I must have gone back to sleep, eventually, because next thing I knew Brenda was opening drawers and cupboards with her usual clatter.

‘Zoë, come over here, I want a quick word with you.’ I stopped, I was speaking like Frank! ‘Zo, quick, I need to talk to you before we go in. Let’s go over there for a minute.’

‘Hi, Amy. What’s up? You look a bit flushed! There’s no need to pull me, I’m coming!’

‘There’s a dead man in our loft! I don’t know what to do.’

‘Don’t be silly, Amy, there can’t be a dead man in the loft. Your whole house would be stinking and full of flies. I’ve seen films where they find bodies, and there’s always big bluebottles, and they use the larvae to see how long the body’s been dead.’

‘But I heard Frank tell Mum. He said they had uncovered a problem, there was a dead man and they had to move it.’

‘You must have misheard him. There can’t be a dead man in your loft. There just can’t. How would he have got there?’

‘Maybe he was burgling the house, fell and broke his neck, and just died. Nobody would look for him in our house, because nobody would have known he was there, would they?’

‘Noooo, no, I suppose that’s possible.’

‘Or maybe he was entombed, like the Pharaoh’s slaves were.’

‘That’s not very likely, is it? Though sometimes when old houses were built they used to put a small animal, or child, in the walls for good luck. But that was in really old houses, and yours is only about 200 years old. And I don’t think they did it with grown men, only children.’

‘The thing is, Zo, what do I do? Should I phone the police? Or will that get Mum and Dad into trouble? Even if I make an anonymous call, I’d have to tell them the address. Then when they come to the house they’ll hear my voice and know it was me sneaking on my parents. So that’s no good.’

‘I don’t think you should do anything yet, the bell’s about to go. Let’s go and line up, we can think about it in class, it’s art first lesson.’

‘You don’t think Dad could have killed anybody, do you? He does get very cross sometimes.’

‘Don’t be daft. Your dad wouldn’t kill anyone. Everyone gets angry sometimes, but we don’t go around killing people!’

The whistle silenced us, but my thoughts were still whirling round like Sher Khan’s eyes in the Jungle Book, making me feel dizzy. We muttered to each other while we painted, but Zoë didn’t know what to do, either. I decided that I would look in the loft when I got home, and see what I could discover before I did anything else.

* * * * * * *

Once I got home, I told Mum I had some homework to do, and went upstairs to my room. I could see Brenda and Chris out in the garden, Mum was in the kitchen, so it was all clear. I crept up the new staircase into the loft on tip-toe. I felt like a crime scene investigator, looking for evidence – I love all the CSI series. The afternoon sun through the new roof window made the loft space look golden, not like a crime scene. I sniffed the air deeply, but couldn’t smell anything rotten. Nor could I see any bluebottles, or any other sort of fly. I couldn’t see any little white maggots wriggling around, either, though I was quite glad about that. I can’t look at the TV screen when they show the maggots, and have to wait until Mum or Dad tells me it’s OK to watch again.

There weren’t any cupboards that might have hidden a body, and the chimney was quite narrow up in the loft, so nobody could have got in there. Where could this dead man have been found? Unless he’d hung himself, but I couldn’t see any hooks in the rafters above my head, just a few dusty spider’s webs, long since abandoned. And Frank said he’d uncovered a problem, but Daddy would have found a man just hanging there when he put the Christmas decorations away each year.

* * * * * * *

‘How’re the builders getting on with the loft, Mum?’ I asked when we were having our pizza, later.

‘Don’t talk with your mouth full, sweetheart, you know it’s rude. They’re getting on alright. They’ll be taking up the old boards and laying the new floor joists tomorrow.’

‘It’s odd having another staircase. The new banisters look really pale, like the ghosts of the other ones. Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to mention ghosts.’

‘Why on earth shouldn’t you mention ghosts? You know there’s no such thing, really.’

‘Well, yes, but after this morning …..’

‘After what, this morning? Did someone say something to you about ghosts at school?’

‘No. Sorry, I heard what Frank said to you. I wasn’t listening, I just heard him.’

‘Heard what, sweetheart? You’re not making much sense.’

‘I heard him tell you about the dead man, Mum. Then you went upstairs, and I didn’t hear any more. Was it a very old man? I’ve been thinking about it all day. Where did they find him? Where is he now? Will there be a post-mortem? Are we in trouble?’

‘Whoa, hold on!’ I couldn’t believe my eyes, Mum was laughing! ‘There isn’t a body in the loft, love, it’s not a real dead man.’

‘But Frank said …’

‘I know, I was confused too! Oh, you poor girl, worrying about dead bodies in the loft all day. Oh dear!’

‘Stop laughing, Mum, stop it!’ I was all mixed up. I was angry because Mum was laughing at me, relieved because there was no dead man, and embarrassed because I’d got something wrong, and, what was worse, told Zoe about it. I could feel my cheeks glowing, and my vision blurred. I sniffed, and stood up quickly to leave the room before anyone noticed.

Mum followed me out.

‘I’m sorry, sweetheart, I wasn’t laughing at you.’

‘Seems like it to me.’

‘No, I was laughing because I’d thought exactly the same as you! Who was he, what was he doing in our loft, how did he die?’

‘Well, it’s not funny.’

‘No, it’s not. Except that it is when you know what Frank was talking about.’

‘Why? What did he mean if he didn’t mean a real dead man, what other sort is there? A live dead man?’

‘No, come up to the loft with me and I’ll show you the dead man.’

‘I’ve been up there. There isn’t one.’

‘Oh, yes there is, come on.’ She took me by the hand and squeezed it. ‘Come on.’

At the top of the stairs Mum pointed to the other side. I couldn’t see anything except a couple of dirty cups next to a pile of bricks.

‘What?’ I asked, still a bit cross.

‘Do you see the bricks over there, like a little wall, under the long piece of wood?’


‘Well, that’s what builders call a dead man. A pile of bricks that isn’t actually a wall, it just supports the beam. And the beam supports the roof.’

‘But he said it was a problem.’

‘Yes, it is. He has to take down the bricks and replace them with a huge chunk of wood so that we can have a nice, neat wall across that end, otherwise it would have to have a kink in it. That’s what he meant. Frank had to bring me up to show me, just like I’m showing you, because I’d never heard of it either. So we’ve both learned something new. Now, let’s go and finish that pizza, shall we?’

* * * * * * *

I’m going to have to think very carefully about what I’m going to say to Zoe. Maybe I could pretend I knew all along, and was just teasing her.

loft conversion update

It's two weeks today that the two builders arrived on site, or, in my home, as I prefer to call it! They have worked hard since their arrival, and a plumber, carpenter and electrician have also appeared, played their parts, then exited, stage left.

They arrive at about eight every morning, except Sundays, and leave around fourish, having made still more impact every day. You can see here how space-age and silvery the loft looked when the insulation was installed, the silver being like the two slices of bread in a conventional sandwich, surrounding a thick layeer of custard, or rock wool.

It almost seems a pity that all the lovely light reflective surface is then concealed by plasterboard, but I know it's only practical to do it, I'd be forever catching and snagging the fragile foil if it was left there!

The small Velux window in the shower room has been installed, and today the fire escape Velux is being fitted. This really irritates me, having to have a fire escape window fitted. Not only that, but because the window is above the purlin in the loft, I need to have a step fitted so that I can reach easily to step out of the window in the event of a fire. To cap it off, I need a sign fixing to the cupboard in which the step will live, to tell me it's there for use in the event of a fire! This is my bedroom, on what is now the first floor, not a hotel room somewhere with countless members of public passing through - or, at least, I hope not!

This is the space where the new Velux will be sited, hence no insulation there. You can see plasterboard visible at the sides, covering up the lovely silver.

The penultimate photo shows the fresh braces across the roof to stabilise it. Seems a shame to cover up such lovely white, clean looking wood, but then I think of the dusting if I kept them all, and there's really no contest. They get covered up :-)

The new side walls cover the supports for the roof trusses. These were built of brick, very clumsily, when the bungalow was constructed. They are called "dead men", for some unfathomable reason, which made me think that a story lurked there. (see next post). These brick installations have been removed and replaced with huge chunks of wood, so that the dimensions of the room are slightly greater than they would have been if they had had to block off the originals.

It's all good fun - not clean, but fun :)

boasting, my words were chosen, creative writing sites

It never fails to give me a thrill when my words are chosen on one of the site, much better than a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. This was on One Minute Writer. Thank you C. Beth :)

Here is my small offering on "Connection"

One-Minute Writing of the Day:Writer: christine

Her nose was a tinge purplish.

Her hair dark and spiky.

Skin slightly ochre tinged, but oh, so soft.

Lips puckered gently, but soundless.

Her eyes opened wide and found me.

I was lost in their depths from that moment.

"Well, Mum, here I am, let's get on with our lives."

Congratulations on another win, Christine! This was a beautiful description of such a miraculous moment.
Posted by C. Beth at
5:00 AM

I was saddened to see that Pictures, Poetry and Prose has been (temporarily, I hope), suspended due to unfortunate home circumstances of the site producer, Laura Beth. I wish her all the very best in her search for a suitable position, and hope that her wonderful site will soon be up and running again. It has inspired me so much, along with C. Beth's One Minute Writer site.

As an embrionic writers I count myself lucky to have discovered these sites, both of which I appreciate as a method of sharing my writing with others, and enjoying theirs in return.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

loft conversion update

My calves keep going into cramp with the unaccustomed exercise of running up and down my lovely new stairs!!! Am I complaining? -Oh, no :) (Well, maybe a little, when it wakes me in the middle of the night, if I have to be completely honest!)

This, believe it or not, is the embrionic shower room :) Sadly, the shower tray I bought ages ago, in readiness for this very moment, is too large in proportion to the room and the other sanitary ware, so, more shopping is required. It's hard work, project managing :) fortunately, I bought the shower tray, a lovley, heavy stoneware one, with a shaped end, in a sale, so I'm hoping to sell it on Ebay, or at the local supermarket, and not take too great a loss on it!

Here you can see that floor-boarding has actually been partially laid - a real, solid surface, so that it is no longer necessary to ensure that our weight is over the joists, just to be on the safe side! A fine assortment of tools is also visible - a good indication that the workmen will return, and not disappear to another job:)

Sadly, the sky framed by the lovely largish Velux , is overcast, but I'm assured that sunshine will be equally visible, someday. The inner frame of the Velux has to be returned, as it's spoiled by what appears to be where a screw is forcing up the wood from below, which is uncceptable in an item that costs over £250.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

bungalow loft converstion, clutter

When I bought my bungalow about four years ago, one of the first things I did was to hire an architect to draw up plans for a loft conversion to provide a master bedroom and en-suite in the spacious loft.

The plans were approved, and I paid for builder's instructions to be drawn up, too. Since then, the clutter has become a mountain, as you can see. This has been moved down into what was my bedroom, but will, henceforth, be know as the dining room. Minor clutter has been moved over the garage, where there is head height to stand, but it's not worth including the space in the conversion.

It's a good sized loft, and I've been looking forward to having the work done. Foolish girl!! The builder assured me that he would phone two weeks before he planned to arrived to commence the work, so that I would have time to clear my precious, and not so precious, belongings out of the way.

Sadly, this didn't happen, as you knew it wouldn't, didn't you? You were ahead of me! So, at lunchtime on Thursday I took the call that said 'We'll be there at eight in the morning to start the work, alright?'

'Well, not really, no, the loft is full of "stuff", you were supposed to give me a couple of weeks notice before you started.'

'That's not a problem, we'll help you shif the stuff.'

'Well, alright, then, if you don't mind helping to shift the clutter, yes, you can start. See you tomorrow.'

Oh boy!! What you've seen is just some of the clutter. I let my partner know they were arriving next day, and he very kindly drove over to help me to move and stack things up into the love pile you've seen. We were both exhausted.

However, by four o'clock Friday afternoon, I had a staircase into my loft space!!!! :-) Isn't it lovely? OK., there is a gaping two foot hole at the top where the landing will be, so it's a mite dangerous, but it's there! As I want the tread to be simply varnished, not carpeted, the builder has even gone to the trouble of laying a piece of hardboard over every one of them, and covering the whole lot with dust sheets. Impressive.

The dust sheets are not as pristine looking now as they were when I took the photos, though, believe me! Muddy boots leave a trail, and sawdust and loft insulation. Lovely.

I'll let you know how we progress :-)