Goodbye 2010

Friday, 31 December 2010
It's New Year's Eve and the perfect time to reflect on 2010. Back in January, we had high expectations of having our house plans approved and builders ready to start so that we could be in our new home by the summer. As it was, we got our plans approved in the summer, met our builder in June and got underway in August with a date for moving in to the new home somewhere in the region of March 2011.

Since the start of building works, we've been conscious that March 2011 has to be the deadline day. I've always wanted to be "in" by the time my 40th birthday comes around and it will be on the 3rd April! We had plans to go to New York with friends for a few days for my birthday, but those plans have had to be shelved as our house "project" churns through our finances! Indeed, our annual sojourn to London during February has been cancelled this coming year too; as has a new car; our summer holiday is also teetering on the brink!

So. 2010 was a year of missed deadlines. 2011 must not follow the same pattern!

The spectacular amount of snow we got during December has already caused setbacks in that both the inside and outside plastering is currently outstanding. The majority of our windows are in, but not all. Plasterboard has been applied to the majority of the ceilings, but not all. In short... we're a bit behind schedule and my birthday present is starting to look like it may be late. I'm keen for that to be not the case, however!

On a positive note, the kitchen has been selected, deposit paid and is on its way. The sanitary-ware (a word I hate, by the way) has been selected, paid for and is on its way. Flooring has been selected - sort of - and prices arranged. The big decisions still left for us to work on are:

  • floor screed - traditional or Ultraflo (from RTU)
  • floor colouring - oak or brushed & oiled smoked oak
  • stair colouring

And, of course, we still need to sell our current house! And in the economic situation we find ourselves, that may be trickier than we had previously hoped. In any case, a Plan B of holding on to both houses and renting our old one is still an option!

So it is time to bid farewell to a stressful 2010 and welcome in what should be Happy New Year. Fingers crossed for March!

What Does The Kitchen Look Like

Friday, 24 December 2010
It's amazing how many times I've been asked that question! What does the kitchen look like? Or, how much did your kitchen cost? Or, what colour have you gone for? Or, what appliances have you selected?

I don't know why I haven't uploaded an "artist's impression" of the kitchen before now, but here it is in all its glory:

We Have Windows

Monday, 13 December 2010
We were told that windows would be installed this week and right on cue, the window installer people were onsite today installing windows. I say windows. I mean window frames.

In fact, all but 3 windows have been installed from what I can tell. And before you start thinking that I may be having trouble counting, it was very dark when I was there!

NOTE: The window frames are currently covered in some kind of white protective covering. Underneath the covering, they are black!

The large window in the hall at the front of the house has not been installed (though I'm reliably informed that this will happen tomorrow). The window in the master bedroom is sitting in the kitchen ready for the big heave-ho upstairs tomorrow and the utility room is bereft of window material.

So just 3 frames to go then it is time for the glass. If the weather forecast for Thursday is accurate, it can't come too soon.

No witty title - they've all been taken

Saturday, 11 December 2010
Today I really felt for the first time that our dream home was becoming a reality. The plasterboard in our bedroom really helps give you an impression of what it will be like. The sun streaming in on a December afternoon was lovely.

The girls climbed the ladder to see their bedrooms. Emily's room is v. big with nooks and crannies but has less light coming in than Rachel's brighter but more square bedroom. They were delighted for about 2 seconds and then disinterested for the rest of the time. Oh well, it's probably hard for them to imagine. We're delighted - that's what matters!

Picked our bathroom suites this week and we have managed to get the price reduced by nearly 50%, that's good news for our tightly stretched budget. I will probably make a few changes so the price will go back up a little, but not much.


Friday, 10 December 2010
It shouldn't have come as a surprise to see plaster-board on the walls as I saw the plater-board being delivered just a few days ago. But it did. And it was pleasant!

The master bedroom is no longer a mish-mash of frameworking. It looks like a proper room with a proper ceiling and proper walls:

Proper ceilings seem to be in place for the guest bedroom, study and front living room too. Having said that, there is still plenty of plastering still to do but the goal of having that part of the project complete this side of Christmas is still realistic.

So the house is now wired and the plumber has installed the bulk of the pipework (with the exception of the underfloor heating system. All on track as far as those guys are concerned then. And we've also managed to select the bathroom suites we intend to install - understated is the bathroom buzzword which is certainly at odds with the kitchen! Poles apart in statedness (if I may create such a word).

The installation of the windows is expected before Christmas which probably means that it will be done next week! That will certainly be a milestone and may require the opening of some Champagne, which thankfully is on order thanks to a cracking 50% off deal being run by Tesco!

The last two weeks have seen a blanket of snow covering the property but a rise in temperature of just 5 degrees in the last 24 hours has seen that blanket being removed. Fingers crossed that the weather remains kind enough to allow the window installers to do their stuff!

Who Has Been Snooping

Sunday, 5 December 2010
I paid my normal Saturday morning visit to the site to check that all was as it should be to find that the "gates" weren't tied together by the little pieces of rope as they normally are.

I thought it odd but figured that maybe one of the builders had just forgotten to secure the site properly.

When I'd finished my inspections, I tied the gates together properly and left only to return 2 hours later with my brother to show him the progress. Bizarrely, the gates were open once again! And footprints were visible in the snow leading round to the back of the property, in behind the garage and in to the far corner of what used to be the garden.

Given that it was a Saturday and that the builders don't work on a Saturday: I can only come to one conclusion. Someone has been snooping. I don't know if it is someone being nosey or if it is someone "casing the joint". Either way - I don't like it!

A couple of padlocks have now been applied to the gates which should be sufficient to keep the casual snoopers at bay. Anyone more determined to gain access to the site will be bitterly disappointed when they do as there is nothing there of any interest!

Virginmedia Runaround

Wednesday, 1 December 2010
I've been a Virginmedia customer since the days before they became Virginmedia. Indeed, I've been a customer of NTL since before the day they became NTL. I've had cable services piped into my house since the days of Cabletel. In other words, I have a long standing relationship with the company and they provide me with a 50mb broadband connection, a telephone line and access to more television channels than I could ever hope to watch.

Yesterday, I had a long standing relationship with my phone while I spoke with a number of Virginmedia employees!

I made the mistake of asking for them to send someone out to take a look at my new house and confirm that the wiring that is being installed is appropriate and that the location of the incoming cable is as they would expect. Not a difficult request. A simple "Yes, we will send someone out right away" or a simple "No, I'm sorry we can't do that" would have been sufficient.

The conversation I had, though, was anything but simple:

Employee 1: "Hello. What can I do for you?"

Me: "I'd like an engineer to perform a pre-install site survey please"

Employee 1: "Can you confirm your post code and house number?"

Me: "For my new house or to confirm my current customer credentials?"

Employee 1: "Current please"

I was, as you can imagine, perfectly capable of verifying my identity (though it did take a while) and the employee tried to be helpful though she couldn't understand why I was talking to her at all and why I couldn't give her a date for me moving house. Seemed irrelevant to me, but she decided (after a while) that she wasn't able to help and that she would put me through to another department.

Employee 2: "Hello. Sales department. What can I do for you?"

Me: "I'd like an engineer to perform a pre-install site survey please"

Employee 2: "Can you confirm your post code and house number?"

I've been here before, haven't I!

Employee 2: "I can order an installation right away."

Me: "I don't need an installation just yet. I won't move in until March."

Employee 2: "OK. I will order a disconnection for the 1st March and connect your new services on the 2nd March"

Me: "How do you know what date I'll be moving in. My builder doesn't have that information yet! In any case. I want a survey now first."

Employee 2: "Please hold and I'll put you through to a department that can help"


Employee 3: "Hello. What can I do for you?"

Me: "I'd like an engineer to perform a pre-install site survey please"

Employee 3: "Can you confirm your post code and house number?"

It might not surprise you to learn that Employee 3 (who I like to call Michael) was of no help at all. He couldn't understand why I couldn't give him a moving date. He didn't seem to understand anything I was saying. Maybe that was because I was starting to get a little agitated.

It won't surprise you to learn that Employee 3 decided (after a while) to pass me on to Employee 4 though not before I had to endure another few minutes of tedious jingles.

Employee 4: "Hello. What can I do for you?"

Me: "I'd like an engineer to perform a pre-install site survey please"

Employee 4: "Can you confirm your post code and house number?"

Inner rage was really starting to kick-in now. I think I had a rant at this stage and almost refused to give my Post Code and House Number. We did, however, get through that particular distraction eventually.

Employee 4: "I'm confused as to why you've been put through to me. I arrange for roads to be dug up with the local authorities. I don't deal with domestic installation."

Me: "I'm confused to. I don't want to talk to you. You are of no benefit to me. Please put me through to someone sensible and tell them they better not ask me for my postcode!"

Employee 5: "Hello sir. You're through to the Sales team."

Me: "WHAT? I spoke to sales at least 3 people ago! What is going on here. How hard can this be?"

Employee 5, to be fair, was the only sensible person I spoke to during the 90 minutes of torture that I had to endure. She was knowledgable, helpful and seemed in some way sympathetic. However, she couldn't provide me with an engineer for a pre-installation survey as Virginmedia don't do that any more.

And that would be the end of my story if it weren't for the fact that a 5 minute phone call a week earlier resulted in an engineer called Bradley phoning me to arrange for a pre-installation survey. He, however, didn't show up. I was merely calling yesterday to arrange for Bradley to make more of an effort next time.

So it would seemed that Virginmedia policy changed inside a week. Either that or very few people working for Virginmedia know what is going on. Which do you think it is?

In summary. I have found almost everyone working on our building project to be nothing other than professional and helpful. Almost everyone!