Letter Home: Christmas 2002

Letter to  mum, December 2002.

Jingle bells, jungle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun (??) it is to have to find a Christmas tree and deccies not seen for 12 months and packed away before moving….

‘Tis the week before Christmas, and all through my house,
the creatures are stirring, and we finally killed that mouse.
Our stockings are shoved under the corner of the combustion heater with no care
and by the time Santa finds them, they will be coated in pet hair.

We sleep exhausted, unaided, snug in our beds,
while visions of renovation and demolition jangle round in our heads
and me in my daggy clothes, he in his cap
with projects half finished, no time for a nap.

All through the house and the lawn, such clutter and clatter
No point jumping up to see what’s the matter…
someone will have fallen over ‘important house stuff’
or the dog in his ambition to catch the ball of fluff
will have knocked it all askew once again, and just guess
who will have to collect it and pick it up, and… oops…  I digress…..

away to where the window should be, (mind your leg, on the sash)
peer through the curtains, (mind the broken shutter, if you are not careful, it will gash)
The moon, shining brightly, on half finished plumbing
reminds me of why, in this house, I am slumming…
when what, to my wondrous eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer!

My neighbours! His lights! Oh no – the Christmas bus tour!
Oh god help me now, I just spread fresh horse manure
on the roses out the front that I planted with care,
and odours are singing the tourists nasal hair..

and the little old driver, so lively and quick,
has turned a ghastly pale shade of green and looks like he may be sick,
and my neighbours are staring at my house with such sheer hate,
I think this weekend we will build a fence with a gate.
The tourists whistled and shouted and called us rude names
My relationship with my neighbours may never be the same.

Now front wall, and garden, and plumbing need fixin’
and the floor boards needs sanding and the roof needs uplifting
and we need to build on the porch, and knock out that wall,
and find a new kitchen and remove that old hall…

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly
you can see through sections of the roof, right up to the sky,
when the wind blows you hear such a great creaking sound,
Convinced that the carport may soon be on the ground
and patching the roof seems such a long way ahead,
this is getting way too hard, let me go back to bed.

And then, in a twinkling, I hear on the roof,
good lord no, not rain? Is this place weather proof??
as I drew in my hand, and I turn myself around,
sure enough – what’s that – a puddle on the ground??

When was the last time I wore make up – a skirt?
and our clothes are all tarnished from renovators dirt
a permanent pony tail stuck on my head,
and phone calls from visitors, something I most dread

My eyes how they wrinkle, -and wrinkles, how many
new ones this week, with threat of any
new ‘surprises’ I may find in this old cottage shack
How I wish Santa would supply 3 airline tickets in his sack
and a small lotto winning, so I could  finish this shack
without nervous breakdown or mild heart attack.

This poor house is ready for much needed help
and I laugh when I see it, in spite of myself
and a wink of the eye and a toss of the head,
I resign myself to cooking on a frypan instead
of the gourmet kitchen complete with open fire
and a shower instead of the bath I desire

and hanging out laundry on a tilted Hills hoist
and preparing the walls for the new little joists
and smiling at the those neighbours, for soon they will be
jealous of my shack, and all it will be.
And take myself off for a walk to the beach,
and dream of completion, not too hard to reach…

So dash away, dash away, dash away all,
I have to go off, remove dry rot from my hall
I am really quite happy, here in my plight,
I will accept gold coin donations, though – letter box on the right –
and in a flurry of wood shavings, I am out of sight…



Letters Home: November 2002

Hi mum, all, everyone… 
I imagine you are, dear reader, sitting in your chair, propped at your computer, ready for an entertaining page  filled with renovation wonders, amusing tales of finds we unearthed, and gushing statements how how great our work is progressing.

Should that be the case , hit the close button. Now.

Still here? This is an interlude, of sorts,  rather than an update. Just in case you  think we are slacking off you see.   It’s gripe time. last we spoke, I let you know about Ross’s rewiring the home (which *is* gushworthy), and a promise of me enjoying a nice  hot shower with my new gas hot water system in place, and crystal clear water just racing down those pipes to get to my skin. Hmmm. I still have no gas. I still have no pipes. I still have no connected hot water system.What I do have, however, is half connected copper and plastic piping, snaking in and out of the floor and walls at the most interesting angles.

Nary an end is connected to any type of H20. I also have a new, shiny hot water system sitting on it’s own wee cedar pad in the corner. It’s bare copper connections smirk at me every time I walk around the corner of the house to manually connect the old hose to the galvanised tap that I use to fill the pet bowl or water the plants. (One day I will kick it and look accusingly at the dog). I also have a pyramid of besa blocks holding up 2 x 9kilogram barbeque gas bottles. I have a wonderful leaky showerhead.

And a mess.

All these together give me a shower, on a good day, and if I am lucky, and the wind is blowing in the right direction…   You see, when the pipe work was being connected, something possessed the HMOTH (handy man of the house) to fiddle with the shower base. “It leaks” he pronounced. “Right into the sand in the crawl space”. It does ? Since when?? “There is a puddle – wet residue?” ask I. “No…” “But you are sure it leaks?”  Yes, it does leak… now…” Indeed. I would leak too if I was hit with sledgehammer to check if I was solid.  So, it is silicone and fibreglass we need, so we can stop the leak until such time that we are ready to renovate the bathroom.The very next day, right on cue, the toilet begins to gurgle. “oh, says the HMOTH,  that will be air coming in from where the shower is leaking, thus creating a vacuum”  I hear him doing his very best Julius Sumner Miller voice, looking at me like I should *know* that.  I resist the temptation of saying “why is it so”… 

An interesting thing to note, dear reader, is that apparently, air locks can also completely block toilets when it comes to palm tree roots. Or so it appears….  So the gas hot water needs the pipework finished in order to have the water pressure to keep it happy, so to speak. The water pressure will be supplied via the pipework that is dangling out of the house, spider legs everywhere, waiting for the leak to be fixed. The silicone and fibreglass is in the shed, somewhere… The toilet is backed up, and HMOTH is currently  outside with an electric snake,  doing gawd knows what to gawd knows what,  making sure he stays far enough away from me so I cannot snort anything that sounds like “air lock – hah!”  (I told him he needs Rootex, he looked at me like I was being rude).

Mercy, the things that come out of blocked sewage!!!!! GROSS.

So, the last few weeks have been spent playing chase the water. At this stage, a motel is looking good. Tell me again will you  – location, location, location….

July 2003

A letter to mum, July 2003

July 2003

It’s been such a long time since I did an update, for that I apologise. After all, with Ross’s redundancy smacking us in the face like it did, we have had so many other focuses instead! Anyway, thought I better get this off before mum leaves Perth (Hi Mum!!) tonight, to fly over and spend a month with us in Paradise. (see it’s not raining today and I am in a T shirt!!).

Now that things are settling down, we have had a little, not a lot, of time to get back into the renovations. So far, the concept of doing it ourselves using recycled, vintage and/or antique materials has proved a challenge – not so much in fitting them, but more in locating what we want. Some compromises are now being made – I have a desire for NEW architraves, skirtings and power points (wouldn’t you?) The gutting of the old lounge room was fun, and many months later the new walls are in place. There is a floor (gasp!) and we were fortunate in scoring some early 1900’s floorboards through an auction, that we used to make the floating floor ourselves, right down to the ‘floats supporters” which came from the same place. Seems these are old schoolhouse boards, once sanded they will be lovely. There is a ceiling now – my how we move up in the world – but yet to have the holes and seams plastered. The VJ’ boards and dado rail are almost finished, and one can actually see that a room is taking shape. The fireplace should come out next weekend, but then again…… The best thing – the room, all self built does not leak! (small happy dance). Thankyou, Thankyou….

The leadlight front door looks lovely, and we have the matching bi-fold doors in where the lounge will step up to what will be  the new master bedroom. All very pretty.

In the guest room (where we now sleep) all that’s left to do are the architraves and a little plastering, and hang the new door. Then, when we move out of it, I can paint it (how exciting!)  The hallway only awaits it repaired dado rails, the new office needs the charming pink rosebud wall paper stripped off and painted, and Rielly’s room – the new windows and door – oh, and the removal of the wall…. (sigh).

Steptoe and wife next door have settled down, seemingly over their tanty about us ripping out the gross concrete eagles from the garden (shudder). Wait till we tell them we are putting in a 6 foot picket fence down that side, I am sure they will step out to tantyville again.

The poor old Hill’s hoist fell down (everybody say ‘Ohhhhh’) I hung up a sisal rug to dry and the whole concoction tipped goat over brisket, so I had to get a new clothesline. (everybody say ‘yayyyy’).

So today, I am paper working and invoicing then doing the school reports, followed by sourcing the last amount of floorboards needed to refloor the hallway, then the whole house is ready to have the boards sanded. That won’t happen for ages though – there are still 3 rooms to gut walls from first, the new bathroom, kitchen and laundry to go in and the ensuite to build and…….. gawd, I need a cuppa.


Plastered! October 2003

 Dear Renovators Rescue / Backyard Blitz / DIY Rescue / Burkes backyard / Auction Squad / Do your Block / Tooth Fairy / Santa / Lotto / Insert you Charity Here (Pick Me!)

 I am writing to ask you to assist us in our plight to complete our renovations of house and garden, in order to enable us to restore our sanity, and show our child that  – Yes, Virginia – people do really live in houses with intact walls, plumbing that does not squeal, downpipes that, well, downpipe, and belongings in cupboards, not cardboard boxes. (Yes, I know my son’s name is not Virginia, thankyouverymuch)

You see, being the DIYers that we are, we have a great many jobs on the hop all at once.

What was the lounge room is to be our bedroom – (unfurnished as we speak), is awaiting the plastering and dado rails. The plasterer, lovely person he is, came on Monday, spent 2 hours here and we have not seen him again. So the couches and TV are living in what will be the ensuite and walk in robe, keeping the dining table and chairs company – because there is no where else for them either.  It’s not all bad – we can eat and watch TV at the same time, with our feet up – and it really does not matter if we develop long sightedness. Truly.

What was the entryway games room shack tacked on thingo is all but finished now. Well, it’s been floor boarded and had the wall knocked out and rebuilt and new doors and VJ boards and dado rails, just waiting for that plasterer (again) and then some cornicing. And the ceiling fan. And paint. And the step…. So that room is empty too, furniture relegated to the shed, keeping my kitchen supplies (I remember them, I last saw them in August 2002, along with my sanity) and R’s toys (I guess grandchildren will like them, he outgrew them ages ago) company. And we really don’t mind clambouring over saw horses and plaster buckets when we wish to enter and exit the house. Truly.

What started off as our bedroom now has big windows and is half plastered, waiting for the plasterer (remember him?????) It houses our wardrobe tho – the one we bought off the roadside because we had nowhere to put our clothes whilst we “Took a few days” to do our room. Last January, I think that was….  So, apart from the wardrobe and dust, that room is empty and we are camping out in what was the 3rd bedroom but us destined to become the dining and family room.  It’s fun sleeping in there, really – it’s OK climbing across the bed because we can’t walk around it – and the fact that we are sleeping with 2 book cases, a television entertainment unit (The TV is in the wardrobe, remember?) 12 dozen boxes of wine and the ironing rack with some more clothes on it really does not matter. It’s cosy. And I am getting used to the stubbed toes. Truly. And the wine comes in handy, in the absence of said plasterer….

And the office, now that wall paper is gone – empty too, except this little machine wrapped in plaaaaaaastic, which I have to shove off whenever I wish to type or catch up with what’s happening in the OUTSIDE the world. The room is waiting for the plasterer too… (Let’s play where’s Wally?) to patch the holes that were left from the 7 million brackets,  and plaster up the doorway. Preferably with me in it.  And it really does not matter that those 4 rooms of the house are totally out of commission -we can live in one bedroom, 1 bathroom and a non functional kitchen for a while, Truly.

Once those rooms have been PLASTERED (I may get plastered before they do) then that’s 4 rooms we can paint, sand floors, and put furniture into. If it is not all out of date by then.

Then we can start the meals area, Rielly’s room, kitchen, laundry, gardens, decks, driveway, garage, paths, carport, and fencing….
Have to dash now. I hear a truck coming up the road. It may be the plasterer, or some unsuspecting delivery man who is about to assume a tradesman’s identity so that I can GET SOME SORT OF NORMALITY AROUND HERE.

Yours sincerely
us xxxxxxx

October 2002

Time for me to bore your socks off  with an update.

Well .. we are in! just….
It’s been 3 weeks since ‘Le Movin'” day… and things have not exactly gone according to plan. Why,  I hear you ask? Oh, please, let me take a few minutes to fill you in on our nice, simple stress free move…  (If one more person asks me if we are ‘settled’ yet, I shall smack them about the head with a benchgrinder).

As you can probably recall from the last chapter in the continuing sto-o-ory, we were having the clean up that we needed so desperately to do after Mr Emphysema and Mrs no-knees and one eye moved out. (no disrespect meant at all.) When we came in, 4 days before settlement, we thought they must not have finished moving. There was so much ‘stuff’ here. Bedside tables, a couch, rugs, a rocking chair,  a recliner, a wardrobe, roll top desk, buffet, bookshelves, tables, crappy units of some description , a set of piranha teeth complete with jawbone (true), a staircase,  … car bodies.. errrrr hang on… back up… car bodies?  watssallthishitthen???  Yes, this was our inheritance, our treasure trove, our wonderful goodie bag of loot, ours to cherish for ever.


The walls are covered in a thin layer of dusty dank grime. The light fittings and power points are actually slippery with age old ick. the carpet seems to be speckled. The speckles move… err.. the speckles move???  The carpet has things JUMPING in it…. There is a patio, underneath a mountain of dog hair and leaves.  The kitchen is inhabited by the creepy oil man that lives in the peanut butter commercial… (always oily, never dry..!!) and the toilets may not really be beige after all…

In 4 days, we scrubbed the house from top to bottom, starting at around 8.00  most mornings and collapsing around 1.00 ish each night. We removed 6 ute  loads, 6 trailers loads, AND 2  SKIPS  of rubbish. At least it was clean enough to  move into. Sort of. And it smelled better :)

Moving day arrives, and as we shift and shove, Mr Gas man comes to link up our gas bottles. He tests our lines. We fail :((((((( “You have a gas leak in your main line” he sez. I see the dollars fly off into the sunny sky ask him about the course of action. “Probably need  new pipes”, he sez – “Maybe a new hot Water system too” (as he eyes off the 40 year old Vulcan held together with duct tape and good luck, and a bit of rust to boot..) Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….  Better get a plumber in to have a look… (and we have not even got all the stuff out of the removalist truck yet!)So, 3 weeks later, here we are, *still* showering off gas bbq bottles hooked up to our leaky dinosaur Vulcan (Beam me up, Scotty)… but a nice shiny “new” (read “I-got-this-second-hand-from-a-plumber-mate-but-it-has-a-few-good-years-left-in-it) storage Hot water Unit ready to be installed. And the pipes? The pipes are dead, my whites are brown, my browns are browner… erk. Nigel-the-plumber, our new bestfriend, is coming hopefully next week, to completely replumb the house, reposition the indoor and out door taps, get rid of the gal and copper pipes and put in the new whiz bang ones (which means I will have water in my water pressure, what a novelty), install the new H/W system – (install a Rheem, install a Rheem, install a Rheem…..) and new gas lines. I won’t know myself. I will think I am Rose Porteous. I will be Queen of my shower!!!! (well, okay, but you understand about no hot water and no water pressure and brown water for 3 weeks, right?) 

What else have we done? Ross has totally rewired the house, installed a new whizzy looking indoor power box, housing all fuses and safety switches (state of the art, natch) ensuring no nasties can cut off my power and rob me of my exposed walls, saggy floorboards and collection of Penotti glasses…. and… a whizzy new meter box at the side of the house for Mr Elecrickery man to read my kilowatts, without having to open anything… all nice powder coated bone, thankyou very much. (It pays to be safe!)  I have new wires all through ceilings etc, no fires for me (damn there goes my insurance claim)… and 2 speccie new fire alarms/smoke detectors. Ripped up all the carpet in the house (untreated floorboards are better than rotten carpet) and as we lifted the carpet it fell away in our hands.. erk. The lawn is slowly coming in as the bindii, broadleaf and other weeds dies of noxious gassing (heh – call me Arnie), the rose bushes we found UNDER the weed matting (true) are actually blooming already (Thanks mum – that seasol worked a treat) and recovering from  their collar rot.  The woman on the other side of our house  (Now known as Groovy Groober and her strange husband) said the roses have been here for 40 years. She thought they had been ripped out, or died. They were chopped very low and covered with weed matting and cheap pine chips. There are 15 or so bushes, and although they are not where I had planned the cottage garden to go, if I can salvage them I will replan the garden to incorporate the roses, and add to them.The dustbowl will become a lush tropical garden out the back, the front a cottage type garden. for now, I concentrate on weed ridding. We ripped down a doggie door (gross) a dead security door, and found 9 boxes of tiles, all new, but none matching (??) in a box in the weed patch aka dust bowl…

In addition, I spent a day painting not-so-nice-white kitchen cupboards only a semi gloss white, threw away the doors (so swollen with grossness they just about jumped away from the screwdriver,  – how long I can live with open shelves in a kitchen/ pantry/ pot cupboard etc… ?  – , another day completely disassembling kitchen stove, took it outside, used 3 cans of oven cleaner and a bottle of ammonia in it, gurney’d it and put it back together (and the sucker works!!). Took the eagles out of the front yard (needed a fridge trolley to lift each one, held down with 2 feet of premix each) much to the chagrin of the neighbour (who is henceforth known as Mr Nosy) who was mortified that we were removing them, because “That’s where they LIVE” – and WE ARE PUTTING THEM BACK, AREN’T WE?  (in a pigs eye we are). Conclusion: We need a fence down that side – SOON… very tall!   (Friends are quite sure that we will find a body under the eagle site, the guy was so beside himself thought he was going to come over and put them back in himself. I’ll let you know when forensics leave)… Have taken out 3 utes of garden waste from front and back yards, removed a VERY bizarre picket fence enclosure thing from around patio area,  and now, on Mr Nosy’s side, need to work out : A. where the dog is getting out, and B, how to sleep at night (wally neighbours hung windchimes in the tress on their side of our fence line. Cheap ones. Ones that do not bong, tinkle, or gently chime in the wind. No – these sound like badly tuned children’s tin xylophones, all lined up in a row, with a group of Kindergartner’s banging away  furiously with wooden spoons. Very melodic… and C: – how to find and resurrect a 6 foot fence with no money…

The new windows are here (antique silky oak), the new front door was delivered Friday, the French doors are on their way, and as soon as finances allow, we will start the first major project – the removal and replacement of the front wall in the lounge room  and the instillation of 2 sets of windows (we have 12 sets to do all up) and hang the front door. Until then, little jobs that require little (read – NO) money, and several bottles of wine to keep me sane.

Where is that sledgehammer…..