Here’s the summary of my blog so far:
Me: buys an old house crumbling to ruin
House: treat me right, will you
House: restore me with love
Me: I will try my hardest to do everything right and cherish you my love
Me: cheap building shite, though
When I was in comprehensive school I had this Finnish-teacher who allowed her students to swear as much as they wanted during one lesson of their final year. To get it out of their system. This was known as vittu-tunti, roughly translating as the f*ck-it-hour. As much as the teenage me needed an outlet for all those profanities, I feel the time is nigh for a confessional post, right here, chez nous! I hereby come clean on all the restoration sins I have committed in the name of preservation of a status quo that is the reality of living in a century old property… and beyond. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the ultimate vittu-tunti – chez nous edition: All the things I’ve done to this beautiful house that are against my principles, and the principles of good restoration and the civil taste, but needed doing regardless.
This will be a tale of creative problem-solving on a budget, but those of a strong conservatorial constitution might wish to sit this one out…
My story of cowboy building begins in December 2018. Forgive me reader, for I have sinned. There might have been a few slips of the old acrylate paint before, but this one is major!
Let me set the scene for you: Our balcony was leaking downstairs and the winter storms were imminent. The roofing would protect the cracked and leaky concrete, but a bit of the fibre-glass sheeting was lost and the replacements kept disappearing with the strong winds blowing off the Montagne Noire. We cannot really afford the big works for the minute, but left untouched the floor was only going to get worse. Driven by desperation I set out to investigate, peeling off broken bits of concrete and bitumen to reveal a gaping gash to the structure. This thing is huge with a capital H. I hesitated a moment before filling the hole with a wooden dowel and half a gallon of poly-filler before sealing the deal with a thick layer of moisture repellent paint.
Out of sight, out of mind. Blissfully.
Although the hole is now filled, I needed to think of something to cover the gap in the fibre glass sheeting. As mentioned, we tried fitting a new panel, but the wooden supports were too rotted to house the screws tightly enough to withstand the strong winds. I did not have a replacement panel, but what I did have was some thick black plastic and a staple gun. Sin number two, but this “repair” if you can call it that, has lasted 6 months and counting.
Forgive me, dear reader, but sometimes the flesh is weak.
There was a small incident with a marble fireplace and super-glue, but I had been a very good girl until it came to replacing a panel on one of our doors. Now, these things were hand made a century ago, but some arse with an anger management problem got to them a decade or two before we adopted this house and most of these stunning wooden panelled doors have holes punched and/or kicked through them. I am no carpenter, but patching up a door with a bit of beech wood veneer and ready-made moulding is not a true crime against ones historical abode… is it?
Strike number three!
Summer is here and I have one last confession to make – the balcony I mangled for its own good in the winter was looking a bit sad and instead of getting on with proper repairs I simply covered up my butchery with a rug and a set of canopies made out of printed cotton. I am unashamedly proud about this one. The material first served in our wedding as table cloths, then I made curtains out of them to cover a gaping patch of raw concrete in our dining room… and now this!
Adding a handy distraction has given us another year of living with the horrible fibre glass roof without needing to replace it with something equally cheap and nasty. My plan is to source some pre-loved art deco metalwork and make this balcony a glazed conservatory, but we are at a dreaming-stage with that one, I am afraid, rather than ready to rumble.
There. My conscience is clean.
Let the renovator without sin cast the first stone. All I can say is that I did it for the greater good!
THE GREATER GOOD.