1 man and his faithful dog and wife stretch renovation to the limit

Hi All

I think that now that we are all sitting comfortably, I can take a few trips down memory lane and share a little bit of our life previous to Serendipity Farm. I always find it most interesting seeing how other people change over the years and Steve and I most definitely have done a fair bit of changing. From meeting online to undertaking, sharing and surviving a long distance relationship, to Steve taking on an instant family and the many changes that our lives have taken since then we have evolved and more fittingly, developed natural selection to deal with all of the challenges that came with this most interesting of relationships. Moving here was monumental for us and living in town was an exercise in organisation because we had 4 adults living in what was most fittingly explained on the four Yorkshire men sketch from Monty Python as “A shoebox in the road”. We had to think outside the box (pardon the pun :o) and use more of the vertical space in the house to give us a less cluttered look and a vain attempt to fit us all in. Dad had given us the ability to study by allowing us to live rent free in one of his houses in town and so we were incredibly grateful for what we had however when we arrived we had a few shocks. Dad had told us not to bring any furniture over with us because he would get us some second-hand things to make do. Stewart, our son who stayed in Western Australia got the initial benefit out of having instant furniture without having to pay for it. No doubt most of what we gave him is languishing at the Albany City Waste Disposal Depository as I type this, but at least he had a bit of a boost when he could least afford to be paying for a house full of furniture. We took our fridge and a few other things but when we arrived we discovered that dad and ‘good taste’ are 2 very separate entities. We had some most interesting circa 1970’s furniture and the house (previously tenanted) was teeny compared to the rental that we had just left in WA. The previous tenants had smoked inside the house and the ceilings were terrible and wandering around the house left us a little shell shocked. Hopefully no one out there thinks that we are massive ingrates. I know that my sister and brother will understand it when I say that we were not prepared for one of dads ex tenanted properties. The one thing that gave me a degree of optimism was the kitchen area. Clean, renovated in the last 20 years and liveable. That’s where I took my comfort from. The rest of it had to go!

We started off by staying with my dad for 2 weeks while we renovated the house and waited for our car to turn up. We had 2 cars in WA and sold one to help fund the move but kept our little ford Capri which was an impulse buy when we were both working just before we came out to Tasmania. We used dads van while we were here to travel in to town and to paint the house and generally get it ready for us to live in. The girls were not very happy with their teeny 1/8th of a shoebox rooms, but live with it we had to and so we all had to do some adapting and compromising. We bought the girls bunk beds with desks underneath so that they could fit into their rooms and make the best use of the available space. Dad couldn’t understand why we had to get other furniture. The generation gap was quite obvious at this time including him racing me into picking out a colour for the bathroom paint that he insisted on paying for. I had no time and tried to explain the green colour (light buttery yellow sage) that I wanted and ended up getting light and bright mint green! We painted the bathroom with it anyway and lived with it until something happened that gave us the time and space to do something about it.

About 3 years ago my daughters headed off to Western Australia for 2 weeks over the school holidays. That gave Steve and I the perfect window of opportunity to totally renovate the house. We had 2 weeks to paint the entire house, totally redecorate the bathroom and rip up the carpet in the lounge room, hallway and our bedroom and sand the floor and then seal it. We started out with such enthusiasm. They say that ignorance is bliss and we were ecstatic! We were going to change EVERYTHING and it was going to be fantastic. Dad loaned us his old caravan and you can forget about grumbling about “dun-ya-dough” as he was away on holiday at the time that we did it all and didn’t get much of a say till he came back and saw what we had done. We started out fresh and vital and ended up stressed out twitching shadows of our former selves. We learned why they say that renovating a house is right up there with a death in the family and divorce (which we almost considered at the end of the 2 weeks). Living in a caravan with a boisterous dog in the winter in Tasmania is a fool’s errand. Renovating a house at the same time is sheer madness. Again, ignorance was bliss and with hindsight, we wouldn’t have even attempted what we did in that short space of time.

I know that we were starting to lose our grip on reality because in the last week of the renovation, with our furniture stacked in the kitchen and the girl’s bedrooms and with only room to shuffle and climb over things to get in and out of the house, I took Bezial for a walk. We hadn’t showered in a week due to the bathroom renovation, we hadn’t washed our hair, we had dust, paint and sodden clothes that we couldn’t dry because the drier was out of reach and we were perpetually grouchy and shell shocked. I noticed a man walking towards me when I was walking Bezial and he crossed the road when he got close to me. I thought nothing of it until I got a look at myself in the window of Woolworths as I was walking home and saw a scruffy middle aged woman wearing her husband’s clothes (because hers were in the wardrobe that was behind EVERYTHING else) with hair sticking up in the air, in various shades of paint ranging from cerulean blue, to burnt orange and pillar-box red (we don’t do anything by halves and Steve chose the paint) full of dust and cobwebs and I burst out laughing. Laughter is indeed the best medicine and the ability to laugh at yourself when you look like Ronald Macdonald who has seen better days and who is living the life of a homeless bum is most therapeutic indeed. We managed to finish the reno and come out the other side still married, still alive and the only thing that tarnished it was on the last day we decided to take poor long suffering Bezial for a play in the park next door to us and he was running around with a chunk of left over pine from the renovation and he tripped and the stick broke off and cut his throat internally. It was a trip to the vet to get him sorted out (one of many, Bezial was a most adventurous pup…) and passing over of the last of our money that we had saved to move to Tasmania but it was worth every cent. We now had our own place that we decorated to our taste (note I didn’t say “the girls”…) and that suited us and we lived there most happily until we moved out to Serendipity farm.

Here are some progressive photos of  how we changed a sad and neglected home into our own private “happy place”. Most of them are taken after we had painted the house. We did this first because it was winter…it was raining steadily and we needed the paint to be dry before we even attempted to rip up the carpets, sand the floor and go through the process of sealing it and protecting it so here is a small part of what we went through in a 2 week period. This is what you DON’T see on those reno shows where everyone is all happiness and light. Its all lies I tell you! This is the sad, but honest truth…

You can see the colour of the walls in the hallway. You can also see the old polished floor boards after we ripped up the carpet and here you see predominately a poor man, ignorant of what is to come and his faithful dog. Note who is getting the ear protection here!

Here is the lounge room. Note the burnt orange/pumpkin colour. Note also the sanding machine (hired from Bunnings) that had rendered our Tas oak floorboards beautiful again. You can also see the interesting set up of wooden boxes around the outside of the room that act as book cases and also a bit of seating around the outside of the room. We kept them as they are storage and storage compartments in the house in town are few and far between. Steve is still smiling in this picture. I do need to point out that I helped sand these floors. I was very considerate and decided to decline Steve’s kind offer to take photographs of me in deference to all prospective viewers of said pictures. Don’t thank me…the simple fact that I spared you all is good enough for me :o)

As you can see, its a dusty old job sanding floors made a whole LOT dustier when the stupid hirer forgets to provide you with the right dust bag for the machine and to this day we can still find evidence of this sanding 3 years after we did it!

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and these 3 pictures are all that you need to see to explain the process of sanding down the wooden floors after we ripped up the 1970’s green flocked carpet. There are no photos of me in this process. Some things are simply not ever meant to see the light of day and you can be most relieved that there is not pictorial representation of me during this renovation.

This is Bezial, laying on a covered sofa that was wedged into the kitchen area. The kitchen had already been renovated prior to the girls leaving for Western Australia and so we were able to use this area to stash the furniture from the loungeroom. The girls rooms were packed to the rafters with everything else that we could stuff in and the kitchen had to house 2 finches, a budgie and Madeline’s parrot Taylor. You can see how ‘happy’ Bezial is with the efforts from the sanding and here is a better picture of the poor puppy that has been permanently  traumatised by his involvement with this entire process…

He looks more like a thrashed waif/stray than the spoiled pup that is was/is doesn’t he? No thrashing was attempted at ANY time during the process of this renovation…all dogs that you see in these pictures were treated with great respect and deference and given all of the hugs, cuddles and love that their poor exhausted owners could muster at the end of each horrific day…

Steve has actually allowed me to put this picture on the blog. If it was my picture it would have mysteriously dissapeared by now from all existence. He is a MUCH braver man than I would ever be to allow you to see this picture but as he so rightly said “You can’t get a much better representation of what this renovation did to us than that picture!”…here goes nothing Steve…

I think that both Steve and Mr Jimi Hendrix (who took part in this renovation by default) would both agree that sanding floors is a mugs game, only to be undertaken by fools and eejits. I need to point out that we repeated this process at Serendipity farm and you can make up your own mind whether we are either in the ‘fool’ or ‘eejit’ catagory.

Here, Bezial had just about had enough of renovations. Steve was in the process of constructing a shower out of the space where a bath had stood. I wish that we had kept that bath now as it would have made a perfect worm farm, but we were not aware that we would be living here any time soon at this point in time and so donated it to the tip shop. You can’t tell from this picture that we tiled the walls with white tiles, we used black grout in between the tiles to get a striking contrast between the tiles, we used black floor tiles (with black grout…we are NOT stupid :o) and we painted the walls pillar box red. A most interesting bathroom and about as far as you could get from light mint green. Here, Bezial has actually taken a gentle hold on Steve’s hand and is actively trying to pull him out of the shower…

After we finished sanding and sealing the floorboards and moved all of the furniture back into the loungeroom you can see how much happier Bezial was…

He hates change of any kind and so this picture of him almost smiling almost says it all… it does, however, need to be accompanied by this photo of Bezial asleep in a sunbeam. THIS is the quintessential moment when he had reached his personal Nirvana and was finally able to start recovering from his ordeal…

What a happy dog

Here is a photo of Bezial asleep on the vacuum cleaner wheel. Note how his head has managed to assimilate with the wheel…he is “one with the wheel”… This is after we had moved everything back into the loungeroom and the kitchen was a kitchen again.

That ‘green thing’ is a portable unit to use as a chopping block or extra space to put things. I have a kitchen reno post coming up soon where you can see the process that we went through to change it from what it was, to useful space again. You also get to see the tiny kitchen area alongside the main kitchen area. Whoever designed that setup was mental… but we have come to expect no less from many Tasmanian ‘builders’ who seem to see the world through different eyes to the rest of us, especially the council regulators… Lastly, here is a photo of my crazy grass in our newly painted and refilled loungeroom. You might not like the colours that Steve chose but I did and I guess that is all that really matters. They work for us :o)

The crazy grass is perched on top of some of our newly aquired gardening books to accompany our newly aquired passion for plants (thanks to our horticulture course). The other weird and wonderful things were collected from markets. That weird hanging metal canteen is from Morocco and I bought it from the Evandale markets from 2 middle class ladies who did a bit of a Thelma and Louise thing across Europe (without the slaughtering) and this canteen was carried all over the place, despite one of the ladies wanting to toss it into the danube so its had a fair bit of a travel history all by itself, let alone where it came from before the ladies bought it in a Moroccan Bazaar. I love weird things. You can also see one of Steve’s guitars off to the side of the unit that a friend was going to throw out that we rescued. We have a most ecclectic range of ‘stuff’ and intend on remaining collectors of weird and wonderful things. Ok, time to head off and do some housework… a most necessary evil, especially today when Steve is out whipper snipping 1/2 acre of forget-me-nots and Vinca major (otherwise known as the common garden periwinkle). He has been trying to mow down the spear thistles with the car on the side of the track on the way up to the house, but has finally decided that he is tackling the mass of weed infestation today. I usually do that job, but my knee is still not up to that sort of task so Steve gets the short straw. That is why I have to do a heap of housework today to level out the playing field of ‘work’. We share the work, and Steve’s task today is a most tiring one and he will arrive back at the house covered in forget-me-not seeds and thistle sap and will most certainly deserve his beer today.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mum
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 12:16:55

    I thoroughly enjoyed going through all that with you again Pen. I, as a mum, had my doubts about that long distance relationship, mums prerogative, but when Steve came out on that first vist, I felt so comfortable with him straight away, & that put any doubts in the garbage bin ! I am so proud to have a son in law like him, that gets stuck in, & isn’t afraid of hard work. He’s funny, thoughtful & can do everything ! (Of course, I’m biased) You have both tested the relationship well, & come out the other side still sane. When you look at all that town house reno, & what you have done so far at Serendipity Farm, you have put many to shame. It’s getting to be how you want it, & hard work never killed anybody. If dogs could talk, I bet Bezial could write a book about it all, swear words too. Another fortnight, & I will be out on the deck with you, I can hear it calling, can’t wait !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: