My furniture is shrinking
Starved of the natural moisture provided in the old, damp, Wendy House of the UK
It’s showing the strain as gaps appear. Oh Dear
My furniture is shrinking
Starved of the natural moisture provided in the old, damp, Wendy House of the UK
It’s showing the strain as gaps appear. Oh Dear
Phillipo Lippi’s “Madonna” reminds me to wash my hands as I move from the bathroom into my bedroom. She prays for me at night and watches over me sleeping.
A couple of Ben Bauer views of the Minnesota landscape bring calm and countryside from the distance into the main living space.
Rob Piercey’s Snowdonia landscape and boats bobbing in Portmadoc harbour (Cei Ballast) show both peaceful and expansive opportunities for a fresh day. They greet me when I open my eyes each morning.
The 16th century maps in the living space show where I’ve been. They map my history with places.
A couple of (oil copies of) Rembrandt portraits keep an eye on everyone who enters my apartment and guest room. The evening light runs across them highlighting different brush strokes and their eagerness to look into my world.
Still unhung are the 20 Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac prints. I’m waiting to find out where and how they can move the apartment’s “feel” in the best direction. For now, they decorate the bedroom floor and move around the apartment in pairs and triads, testing the local light and mood like lost souls.
Exchanging the Wendy House staircase of doom for the Wendy Loft scary balcony, is a novelty. As the weather warms I’m sending myself as a scouting party onto the balcony to discover it’s virtues:
To the east in the morning an active dog park & neighbours’ BBQ’d balconies of similar scariest quotients
To the North in the evening dramatic shadow cast through the legs of a local state route ramp
The grass is yellow from months of snow-covered sun starvation. Now we’re in a ‘drought’. It hasn’t rained since I moved here in November. The local’s tell me the snowfall has been very light. It seems to come 3-6 inches in a couple of hours, but only for a couple of hours and not frequently. During the winter months snow falls and stays, gradually accumulating then spring temperatures above freezing melt it away.
Alas, when they arrived I wasn’t in Minneapolis to greet and shepherd them into the loft. Arizona’s nice this time of year.
While my belongings have been elsewhere indulging in meditation and mindfulness, I’ve been preparing the loft for their arrival, adding peanut butter, porridge oats, honey and tea to the empty kitchen cupboards. I’ve not yet found a local Marmite, or twiglets, source.
My dusty things arrive today
Today I spend my first night in the loft
This is as near as I’ll get to what my aunts and cousins call ‘settling down’ which is what they think I should be doing. Apparently, I’ve left it a bit late…
My last vacuum purchase was a Dyson animal canister vac. It was a joy to unpack and worked a treat for my 7 years in Britain. I want that again.
This Dyson animal is an upright, my first. Unpacking was an unpleasant surprise. How should I get into this box? How many bits of over folded and slotted cardboard? How many plastic bags? A bag to carry all my pieces? Totally unclear which bits go into which pockets in the bag. The bag was something I don’t need or want. Nearly 30mins of frustrating unpacking and it doesn’t even have an auto-retractable cable.
It feels flimsy, not sturdy like my canister, I hope I grow to love it because our first meeting has not been auspicious
Bob the building manager is a hero in my world, and it’s only my first day in the Wendy house loft. Bob’s not his real name. We met in the car park of my apartment building. It started with a friendly hello and within the hour I’d discovered many things that make Bob a hero. Bob:
If can, I’ll spend time helping Bob
Now my key ring has returned to full jingle-too-big-for-pocketness. It holds
My apartment is empty because my belongings are in a shipping container that’s been caught in a container jam in Norfolk VA since 23rd December. Meanwhile I can start visiting my empty apartment to fill it with new electrical goods and work out how to get the internet working before moving in.
This may be the last time I see the polished concrete floors before they’re covered with cosy Persian rugs…
The keys tie me to a cosy life with a home even if the building is still bare.
Sampo is the Queen of the Wendy House Orangerie. Here we see her surveying her Queendom, making sure the rug doesn’t escape and no unanticipated guests can sneak in through the new French doors. Sampo doesn’t trust those French doors.
I bought my first sofa aged 31 in 1994. At £899.00 it was a BIG purchase. Only the house and car cost more. We visited many sofa shops, we asked friends, we searched online. I saved up for a year and we used interest free credit for 3 years. It was a cast iron frame, hand made, sofa bed. I loved that sofa, it was so comfortable, in forest green, mustard and rust colours. The sofa moved several houses with me and eventually went to Seattle.
After 10 years of intensive use, in 2004, it looked its age. The arms had faded, the pattern was dated. It was still awesome to sit and sleep on, but I’d tired of it. I tried selling it on Craigslist as an imported, handmade classic British sofa. But even for $50.00, there were no takers. Eventually I got to a point where I was grateful that someone just took it away. It left to adorn a nice fellow’s mountain cabin porch where his Great Dane would enjoy lounging on it.
I’ve procrastinated on buying another sofa since then. 10 years of procrastinating, that deserves some kind of award. Close friends have pointed out that a front room without a comfortable sofa is not really good enough. I’ve got individual chairs, I’ve got a 17th century ‘Settle’, I’ve got a love seat. There are places to ‘sit’ comfortably. But a sofa seems a social necessity.
Since moving back to the UK I’ve been searching. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to my search for a sofa. I’ve sat and bounced on sofa’s in stores, on my own and with friends. This has helped me to refine my awareness of my sofa purchase criteria to:
Finally I took my credit card to Bright of Nettlebed and commissioned a 2.5 seated Coleridge with claw and ball mahogany legs, feather seat cushions. The photograph was taken in the Nettlebed showroom. I’ve placed my choice of fabric over the back. The gold is a thick thread that has a delicate pattern as part of the weave using different textures. The orange thread is thick, like a dense chenille. It reminds me of the
The sofa will arrive in August… …when they’ve made it.
Estate Agent #1
Estate agent #2
Estate agent #3
I didn’t get the impression that any of them offered anything that would add any real value over the property details and access to buyers that have been pre-screened for a mortgage. None of them really told me about their access to the type of people that would like to buy the Wendy house. I suggested excluding:
Estate agent #1 was the least offensive, arrogant. She listened and related to me as a person most effectively. Maybe I’ll have to make my own promotional materials pack – showing related documentation from my purchase, guarantees on work done, local service professionals etc
Based on a light weight trend analysis, I suspect I might be moving home this year.
Flicking these white plastic switches had no effect on the lights they’re supposed to control. Unscrewing the faceplate showed that a small piece of plastic that acted as a ‘catch’ for the switch was broken. I needed to replace the faceplate and switch mechanism.
All the light switches in the Wendy House are the same style. Another one feels like it will break soon, frequently failing to work. I wanted to replace all of them with switches that have a firm action, are well made mechanically, are good looking, compliment the House style. I took my design brief to a local retail DIY store.
The switches were displayed to show their faceplate, they were packaged in a way that prevented me seeing the mechanical action, materials and quality. Darn.
I chose flat, reflective-nickel, switches. Black to compliment the old oak beams in my ceiling and wrought Iron door furniture. Black to make the switches easier to see against the light walls in the dark when I’m fumbling to turn them on. Unfortunately, the behind the scenes mechanism is deeper than the back-fittings of my old plastic switches. Replacing them was not just a process of swapping the plates and re-wiring. The masonry drill came out and the wall hole had to be made deeper. A bigger job than anticipated. Why aren’t switch box sizes a standard? Pah!
Now I’m loving my new sleek nickel switches, they have a very pleasing action with a good ‘thunk’ when they fall.
A temporary break in the flood production system. No rain this morning.
Laundry to be washed and dried. No modern tumble-drier accessories. My laundry its catching some rare sun rays in the Wendy House wind-swept garden.
Extra ballast had been added to the ‘airer’ to prevent it attempting a take-off garden tour. Bricks.
The ships that carried lumber from Seattle to San Francisco, to build the beautiful houses there, carried stone back to Seattle as ballast to weight the ships appropriately on the return journey. The stone was used to build many of the Historic buildings in the Pioneer square area of Seattle. Awesome.
The RSPCA has warned that cats are likely to take-off in these strong winds. Despite her own substantial personal ballast, Sampo’s a cautious cat.
Sampo’s not risking any unplanned flights.
French doors? According to internet gossip, the French have a reputation for not being very good at keeping out invaders and these doors have big windows so invaders can see what to steal and they are easy for burglars to open, not very secure.
The cool air from the Orangerie, in the winter, is drawn around the heavy drapes by the warm air from the wood burner rising up the stairs to the hayloft in the North wing (bedrooms). A draught. On cold winter days the drapes stay closed to trap the warmth in the main living space where I lurk like vampire afraid of daylight. This won’t do if Mum’s going to be visiting this winter. Costing on ugly UPVC doors were all rather expensive, especially given how ugly they are. I found a carpenter and briefed him with
‘simple, plain design consistent with Victorian period. Wrought iron hinges and door furniture, bevelled edge glass, that’s the one fancy thing I want’
His sketch captured the ethos well. True to French insecurity, no locks on these internal doors. It took a week for the carpenter to make the doors and 2 days full of sawdust to install them. It took me a day to put two coats of varnish on them and a day to buy new Voiles and hang them without the use of the irritatingly ineffective superglue and rod solution that the last owners of the Orangerie had installed.
The droughts have been subdued with a beautiful work of art. Daylight has found the front room in winter. Mum can visit.
This year I discovered that cars could legally park in-front of my driveway entrance. I discovered when a person on vacation in the USA left her car across my drive blocking my car in.
I took the bus to work, £25 per week bus fare seemed very expensive, a lot more than the £10 diesel costs. Not knowing when, and if, I’d be able to use my car was very disheartening.
It was also disheartening that a person would choose to block my car in, it seems such a mean spirited thing to do. When I’d knocked on my neighbours doors to see if they knew the car owner, could contact her and ask her to move, they were all wonderfully outraged on my behalf. Some had seen her before, none knew how to contact her. One neighbour offered to park her car so close to the offending car that it would be unable to get out without knocking on neighbours doors. We decided against this potential emotional escalation path, and giggled.
The council wouldn’t put their white lines “Access Protection Lines” (APL) outside my drive until I’d dropped the curb. This is when I discovered that every time I drove in and out of my drive I was breaking the law by driving over the public pathway. Oops. Myself and rather a lot of my neighbours were all breaking the law.
To avoid breaking the law I needed to arrange to drop the curb. To be able to ask the police to remove people parked in front of my drive I needed APL. I gave the council a cheque and some sweet-talk – you know so much, you’re so good at your job, I’m just so ignorant of all these things etc. The road workers were at my place before the cheque had even cleared, 2 days later, at the weekend! Sweet!
It took them a day to rip-up the pavement, half a day to lay the concrete foundation and half a day to lay the surface tarmac. Less than an hour to paint the APL
Hooray! Confident, legal and easy access to my driveway has been established. Peace of mind
Then, I added a house sign to the mix. The name and number of my home with an arrow to help people see which way to go to find the Wendy House. My neighbour used his cable-less drill to fix it. As he fixed the sign he told me stuff I didn’t know:
He’d been suffering without telling me, so English, he was thrilled that I’d decided to put this sign up.
Front of house access sorted.
I reversed onto my drive, with no bumps or bangs as would happen before my dropped curb. Beautifully smooth. A figure in the dark opposite is fiddling with my neighbours door. I get out of the car and can hear the figure cussing.
Wendy: Can I help you?
The elderly lady sounded distressed and talked about how the keys my neighbour had given her weren’t working. I offered her a cup of tea in my place and I’d call my neighbour’s mobile phone. She calmed down and tried the keys again.
Wendy: it probably won’t make any difference, but I’d really like to try the keys.
She gave me the keys and the door unlocked smoothly with absolutely no problem
Wendy: I’m magic
The lady laughed. We exchanged praise of my lovely neighbour and went our separate ways.
I’m magic and available for all your ‘locked-out’ needs
Have NEXT ever put their Self-assembly instructions in front of actual customers, observed them using those instructions to assemble their cupboard, then updated the instructions to remove the big problems?
No. If they had followed this standard good design process then it would have taken me 2 hours, not 4, to construct the cupboard.
The instructions include 17 steps on double-sided, A4, photocopied paper. Before starting these steps NEXT recommend that I check I have all the required parts and the right tools. Because those aren’t steps, I do them before the steps and wonder. What’s a step?
Here’s step 1 completed in the Wendy house Orangery.
Putting in the cambolts and dowels took about 5 minutes.
Working out what I was supposed to do, interpreting the instructions, took about 10 minutes. 15 minutes per step for 17 steps? This doesn’t bode well. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply learning from step one later down the line, and the steps will be faster.
I got step 1 right. Phew. If only all steps had been this unambiguous…..
The delivery man carried my cupboard on his shoulder. Even before it arrived in my hall I’d realised that it was self-assembly. My heart dropped. At the price charged for the cupboard I hadn’t expected Self-assembly, I hadn’t anticipated spending Saturday morning with a screwdriver. Sigh.
Page 1 of 20 Is the cupboard that difficult to construct?
2 people, as tools, to construct it? I’m offended at being called a tool, I want my cupboard today and my friends, who are not tools may not be available to help me for emergency cupboard assembly….
2 screwdrivers, phew, I’m equipped. Actually I also needed a hammer for inserting dowels and a pair of pliers to removing pieces inserted in the wrong place due to design asymmetry and instruction ambiguity. Now I understand why the sales person was so keen to sell me insurance against getting the furniture scratched.
Helpline?! Goodness, it must be difficult to construct!
This phrase nearly put me off unpacking the box:
“Self-assembly items cannot be returned once assembly is part or fully completed unless the item is found to be faulty“
I wonder how many returns Next get from people like me who didn’t realise self assembly, unlike me are scared by 20 pages of instructions and a ‘helpline’ for something that should be simple, and read this no returns as evidence of difficulty to construct and Next pre-empting, to avoid, arguments with its dissatisfied customers.
Important? they want me to check that they’ve sent me the right bits? Cheeky! They should check they’ve sent me the right parts. They don’t think I should involve my children in the construction process? Do they think I’m a complete idiot, unable to take responsibility for making decisions about my children and taking responsibility for my own poor decisions. Bloody cheek.
About half the text on the front page is NEXT covering it’s back against customer complaints and returns and treating customers as ignorant, irresponsible, or devious. Thanks NEXT
After 5 years of looking for a cupboard this size and shape I wasn’t gong to let these poor first impressions put me off. I started unpacking and gathered my tools… what happened next is another story….
A little space in my entrance hall is aching for a cupboard. I carried a tape-measure in my pocket for 5 years, diligently measuring every small cupboard I encountered. Like Goldilocks uncovering non-conformity problems:
I learned to see ‘wrong size’ at a distance, I stopped measuring and hope gradually dwindled. The space in my hall gradually attracted stacks of practical boxes. As I walked by them I thought ‘crazy box woman’ and sighed. I suspect I’m not alone in feeling a disproportionate pleasure from finding durable, functional, beautiful home storage solutions.
Then while off to buy some food I walked passed this in a shop window display.
It looked right. I got excited as I slipped out my tape-measure to check I wasn’t fantasizing. Yes! It fits just right. It’s sturdy, the colour compliments the room. Purchase made, delivery arranged. What I didn’t check was whether it was self assembly or not, but that’s another 4 hour story….
Maybe I left a candle burning unattended and my whole home is now going up in smoke. My heart sank and I broke into a run. Luckily it was just a garden bonfire in my neighbours garden. I took in my ash-speckled laundry and climbed the wall to talk to my neighbour. A group of people were clearing the badly overgrown garden, I acknowledged their good work and said next time I’d help of they warned me. Then a friend’s face turned up and I discovered that they’d bought the house, so I now have new neighbours who are old friends! Excellent result. Reading town is a small town in many ways.
The next morning I fought procrastination and took a trip to buy some bulbs. At the store I realised that I didn’t know what size or fitting to buy. I plumped for the ‘common’ size and bayonet fitting.
I found a screwdriver to open the sealed bathroom light fitting and a bar stool to stand on, then started fiddling. I managed to open the fitting without breaking the glass cover, remove the blown bulbs, then notice the bulbs were the unusually small screw fittings – not what I’d bought. A quick scout around the house uncovered a couple of small screw fitting bulbs in my bedside table lamps. Phew. Easier to go to bed in the dark than bathe in the dark. Screw fit bulbs in place and bathroom light fitting reconstituted.
Just call me capable. Even without the aid of power tools.
Recently, while downtown purchasing a cushion or 2, curiosity pulled me into the British Heart Foundation Charity furniture shop. I found a court cupboard and a welsh dresser fronted with beautifully carved linen scroll. Bargain price. The British Heart Foundation even took my old ‘modern’ furniture away for free. A modern minimalist somewhere will be thrilled to find my old furniture!
Meanwhile, the Wendy House is looking darker and more Jacobean than James, in Jamestown, drinking Jameson whisky. We’re not on fashion, we are coordinated in our out-of-fashionness. Yummy.
Now I’m looking for a carpenter and a heating engineer. If they talk technical in a friendly tone of voice, and get excited about the unique opportunities I’ll be dangling in front of them. They’ll be in.
Prepare yourselves for some almost interesting home improvement posts before the winter sets in…
The ‘highway maintenance’ team who resurfaced the Avenue (where I live) were all very
Yay for road workers!
The council processes and staff were more than disappointing. It’s an odd choice to resurface the Avenue, which is a cul-de-sac, rather than one of the more well-used through-routes in Reading town.
The front and back door are next to each other, they’re actually both back doors or both front doors. Almost twins.
Very cute and slightly peeling with their stand against 5 years of rather damp summers.
When I moved into the wendy house (2008), the garden was completely covered in low maintenance and BBQ friendly patio. Bleak. Sitting on the loo with the doors open, produced the sort of view that would induce minimalists’ premature ejaculation. A bit dull.
Now, the vital view from the loo has been cluttered with the sort of frivolity that might lure a Victorian for a brief promenade:
I love my garden, I spend a lot of time there watching the butterflies before Sampo eats them, pulling weeds and contemplating blooms. I still have patio, but the lines are broken by borders full of colourful and scented plants that change with the seasons.
The Avenue is about to get ripped-up and resurfaced. It’s an old bumpy and pot-holed road so this is good. But it’s caused a big kerfuffle amongst residents because of a combination of things including
I met a huddle of about 6 highway workers having a round of tea this morning. Very nice chatty people. I feel like they’re the only ones in the whole organisational chain that have shown any good common sense, but they’re not planning to put the markings in the right place around my drive….yet….
I’ve also sprinkled Poppy, Campanula and Forget-me-nots here. A couple of each have taken root and I’m hoping they’ll self-re-seed and spread to make a green foliage and blue summer border. A winter Jasmine is also beginning to settle on this border, to add some winter colour. I may try to train a Ceanothus up the wall to add spring colour and winter foliage.
From the drive you open my garden gate to see some more Foxgloves, Ferns, logs, a thriving Ceanothus and a white Wisteria that will eventually cover the woodshed and fencing.
Harry Tuttle wasn’t available, central services turned-up
My home insurance notifies a local heating engineering service. 5 hours later the service calls me to arrange and ‘emergency’ appointment. Emergency means within 24 hours, but no time specified. We agree a visit time – 2 days out
The engineer quickly diagnoses the problem as a broken fan on a common boiler, tells me he’ll phone me when he’s sourced the part to arrange a fitting. He can’t source the part there and then because he need clearance from my insurance company.
5 hours later, no call, I phone my insurance who know about the part and the cost but cannot approve it until the engineer tells them how long he was onsite. They can’t take my word for his time on site. The say they’ll follow up with the engineer.
2 hours later I phone again and find the repair has been approved. The Heating engineering service won’t arrange a visit until they’ve actually picked up the part which will be within the 24 hour period, from approval, that their service contract with my insurer specifies as emergency cover. That’s 24 hours to get the part, not to fit it. They suggest that I call them back in 2 days time if I haven’t heard from them.
Effectively, 6 days after reporting the ‘emergency’ problem to my ‘home emergency insurance’ provider – who subcontract out their service, I will be able to try and arrange a time to have the broken part replaced. UK emergency services are bogged down by organisational bureaucracy. More than 6 days to diagnose and get hold of a replacement broken fan seems rather poor to me. I’m anticipating they wont be able to get an engineer round to fix it within 24 hours of calling me …. …and that I’ll have to chase them with phone calls.
fridge = Not Hot. Not Cold. Silent.
boiler = Not Hot.
wendy = Hot.
This morning I used Victorian methods to wash before dressing. I’m a rufty-tufty kind of a girl in a winter heating crisis. I can leave the milk outside the fridge in the kitchen, confident that it will stay cold in this north facing, unheated room.
Apparently, the ancient combination boiler couldn’t go on without its friend the fridge. Suicide pact.
Not looking forward to the boiler purchase process…