Monday, 14 May 2018

294 The Bungalow is finished.

In the last 23 moths we have been working on and off, on our bungalow. Some of these photos have been published previously but are reused to show the differences from June 2016 to present.

This was it as we bought it. The only think that has changed in this picture is the grass in now completely paved over.

The problems we had with the bungalow were mainly that it needed updating but the big problem was the lack of any proper heating. The electric storage radiators were simply rubbish and gave off their heat during the day and were cold in the evening when most needed.

The bungalow had already been extended on four occasions so some of the layout was a bit mixed up. Like the 3rd bedroom or study door being into the kitchen. 

The main tasks we set ourselves were to overhaul the electrics, install a central heating system and renew the bathroom and Kitchen.

One sort of problem we had was that the deceased previous owner had  OCD (Obsessive compulsive Disorder). This was told to my by his son who we bought the bungalow of off. For example: now that we have finished the work we have counted a total of about 140 13A sockets throughout the property. There were 10 in the loft, 14 in the garage, 8 in the sheds/outhouses and 16 in the study.

Bathroom, Electrics and Plumbing.

The first job to get tackled was the bathroom. This included installation of a new hot water tank and an electric boiler. The job started with he removal of the storage radiators and an overhaul of the electricity cupboard. The old system had a special electricity meter that provided electicity to one specific board that connected to the radiators. this had to be replaced with one for the new boiler. At the same time completely new and up to current specifications, main board needed installing.

This is what we started out with. All old fuses and quite simply, a mess.

This what we have now, clean, tidy, modern and safe. Top fuse box is for the central heating.
  The next job was the bathroom refurbishment. Initially we had two toilets, one had a shower and a sink and the other had a bath and a sink. We decided to do away with one of the toilets, intending to create an en-suite off of the main bedroom later. This what we started out with:
Old and cream with lots of disabled aids.

The other end of the bath. The wall with the rail has got to go.
 The wall between the two was to be removed and make way for access to the new shower that although larger, was in, essentially the same place but to include the area used by the second toilet.

New shower to be placed where this toilet and shower are following removal of the part of the wall behind the toilet.

The rip out has started. This toilet was the next to go.
 With the above toilet removed, we had to use this one that following the removal of the wall, was left floating in mid air till the first one was replaced.

In front of this 'floating' (is that a good word to use in these circumstances ?) toilet a dividing wall was to be placed to cordon off the new boiler/airing cupboard.

Main bathroom are finished.
 Now that the main bathroom including a useable bath and toilet were finished, I set about removing the second toilet and shower to install this one from the main bathroom.

New shower room on right and a waterproof TV at the end of the bath., just for Karen's long soaks. A new wall has been inserted. It's the one far right with the coloured tiles on.
On the other side of this new wall is the new boiler and airing cupboard with a new water tank.
The property initially had a 15mm pipe from the main supply tap. On investigation, I found that the supply to the house was a blue 1" pipe. So I upgraded all supply pipework to 22mm and therfore more than doubled the potential water supply to the house. I stuck a pressure gauge on one of the pipes and found that I had 2.2bar pressure. Enough to put in a pressurised cylinder and remove the old tank in the loft.

It was like a dream come true. The original shower had a pump to make it half usefull and now that was no longer required.
This is the system that I put in. It was a bit of a learning curve but, with the exception of the boiler, I had done most of it in my previous house. My cousin John, who is a plumber, put me on to this system. Thanks to you John.

The new system. The long white box on the left is the boiler. It is like a seriously powerful vertical immersion heater.
The system includes 2 pressure vessels, one to pressurise the central heating system and one for the hot water supply. Hot water then comes out at the same pressure as the cold and it mixes a lot easier and does not scold when someone turns another tap on.

And to finish the job off:

Removable shelving installed to make it into an airing cupboard. Karen is happy.
Study or bedroom 3

Next job was to sort out the study or what could be used as bedroom 3. The problem was, with the first extension being placed on the back of the bungalow, it included the rear door to the house. This ended up being the door to the study. We could not progress with the kitchen unlill the door was moved. We thought the best thing to do was to seal the door up and make a new one into the living room. It had to be better than the kitchen. Not ideal, but better. This was the real problem:

The study with everything built in including the desk. The door into the kitchen was the big problem.
Looking the other way at some of the 16 sockets. It was an electricians nightmare.

We punched a hole through the wall into the living room and bricked up the doorway into the kitchen.

When finished and bare. this is what it looked like.

The radiator is where the original door was.
This what it looks like now we have it in use. Back to a study.

The Conservatory.

Due to the need to punch a hole in the rear of the house for a back door into our conservatory that was the next logical job to do. We had to get our neighbours views on the build as it exceeded the normal permitted development but no complaints were made so we bought a 4.5 x 3.5m kit conservatory.

Prior to this we had submitted plans to convert a small link room connecting the house to the garage into an en-suite for the main bedroom. Whilst the plans were awaiting approval, we changed our minds and used the drawings for the conservatory approval.

We started with a blank wall and a large patio area. This lended itself to building a steel framed floor model as it was easy to build upon.

The blank canvas for the conservatory.

When it turned up is was huge and daunting.

Once the floor was in, it was time to put the walls up.

Now finished. It was a bitch doing the roof, especially as the glass roof panels were huge and heavy.

Nearly done. The very last job I did on the whole bungalow was to finish the conservatory skirt off.

And this is what it is like now.

Living Room

With the two holes into the living room now done, it was time it get on it.
As can be seen from the original photos, there was nothing actually wrong with the room. It was just old. On top of this, all the walls in the bungalow had embossed wallpaper that all had to come off and be scrubbed down for painting.

The living room showing the storage radiators. The room past the sockets on the left is the first extension.

 This is what it looks like now with the two new doorways into the study and conservatory.

And....  Karen doing a jigsaw on the dining table.

Old, old, old and more old.

We like this much better.


 With the living room done, it was the turn of the hallway. This is without a doubt the weirdest room in the house and was the last extension to be put on. It was called a 'Sun room' on the planning application and that is exactly what it is. We considered making it into another bedroom but it has far too much glass and would entail bricking up one wall. We decided against it but it is still a waste of space in reality.

The hallway (or Sunroom) with some of its 13 sockets shown.

This is it now. Still a waste of space.

But looking the other way, Karen has put her stamp on it. A New York, central park mural.

The Bedrooms

The bedrooms were the last to be done. It involved removing most of the built in cupboards and installing sliding wardrobes and an en-site toilet.

The second bedroom was done first. It started out like this:

And ended up like this.

The main bedroom was a bit more tricky. Due to the way the coving went around the built in wardrobes. We needed to get the ceiling re-skimmed.

Same view as above (almost).

Looking the other way.

This shows the en-suite we installed in the corner. The porthole was taken off of a real sunken ship by my good friend Bob. The toilet is attached to a macerator and is pumped over the ceiling and down to the bath outlet.

The Outside.

The last job to be done (ish).

This was the patio area outside the living room.


And a slightly different angle from the same spot.

Little has changed on the patio (nor will it !) but we use it as a breakfast area as the sun hits it in the morning. The conservatory has now taken pride of place and much of the foliage removed to open up the view into the garden. Oh, and shed load of plants.

The summer house was getting crowded out by the trees next to it, so.....

...they had to go. This has made the garden feel so much larger and allowed a large wooden deck to be placed outside it. The lawn has been graded as it had a hump and a sump and is now one grade and no longer floods. Oh and 2 new paths.  Sadly the stones are 24" apart as per all the gardening books but would be more comfortable for a dwarf to use.

We now have a very nice evening sun-downer deck that gets the sun all the way to the horizon.

Oh, and more plants. Lots of plants.

293 January 2018 to May 2018

2nd January 2018
It was the night of a 'Supermoon'. It is when the moon is full and at its closest to the Earth. On this occasion we had a rare clear sky so I took the camera out to play. The result:

14th January 2018
Mum was still with us and we arranged to visit John's daughter Philippa and her boyfriend Ben. Philippa had recently given birth to a boy they had named Thomas. We also arranged to meet John there and he would take Mum back to Scotland with him.

4 Generations in one photo. Mum, John, Philippa and Thomas.

22nd February 2018
Karen decided she wanted to visit a show called 'The Lion King' in London so she booked tickets, found a reasonable hotel in central London and we caught the train to London.
It was only an overnight stay so we arrived early on Thursday and trawled around Covent Garden and surrounding areas for a couple of hours before the show. Covent garden is a strange place with street entertainers and a massive amount of bars and cafes which all seem to be full at all hours. It's a great place to visit but it is horribly expensive. As the evening drew on, we went to see the show. Karen was more enamoured by it than me but but it was very entertaining and lively. It was a sort of physical mimicry of the cartoon film which in itself was fantastic. After the show, it was a short pub crawl back to the hotel and so to bed.
The next morning, we visited St Pauls Cathedral, specifically, the dome and the crypt. The dome is a long way up and is supposed to have some magical system where you whisper into one wall and people on the other side of the dome can near you. The fly in the ointment was the hoards of Japanese tourists not quite grasping the concept of the whispering thing. Needless to say, it didn't work.

It was then over the river for a bimble along the Southbank and then back over the Thames to return to Liverpool Street for the train home.

St Pauls Cathedral. One of the few buildings to survive the bombing of WW2.

London's infamous 'Wobbly Bridge'. When it was first opened and the public (lots of them) went on it, it started to wobble violently sideways. It was later fixed with dampers but the name has stuck. Its official name is the Millennium Bridge.

Tower Bridge from the wobbly bridge.
Central London has some great sights and a lot of history. Sadly having worked in it most of our adult lives, we know what it is like away from the centre and the mere mention of the place makes us shudder (a little bit anyway!).

31st March 2018
Today was Aunt Enid's 85th birthday.
We had a family dinner at a restaurant in Dumfries. We all got a bit drunk and had a great time. Thomas, being the newest addition to the family got the a great deal of attention.

Clockwise: ?????, Enid, Mum, Ben, Philippa, Thomas (in pushchair), Susan, John and Karen.

A proud dad. Ben with his new son. He is a very 'hands on' father.

A beaming 85 year old Enid with Thomas.
15th April 2018
For the last couple of months I havebeen workingh on the Honda Quad that we bought from Mums in Scotland. I have put road legal lights on it and got it registered. Our intention was for Karen to use it to play on. However, it transpires that there are virtually no places we can take it off road in this area and although road legal, it dous not handle well on tarmac. We decided to sell it on. It was a shame as we have had a lot of fun on it over the years. I placed it up for sale and within 2 days it was sold.

Clean, tidy and legal but it had to sadly go.

2nd May 2018
I (Ray) had a short, 4 day, visit to Corfu. It was not a holiday but more of a welfare visit. Ted and Ruth Wooller are my ex Father and Mother in law. Despite my divorce from their daughter, we remained good friends, although for obvious reasons rarely saw each other.
Ted was a Specialist Firearms Officer in Hertfordshire police (like a SWAT officer). He, I and a few of his team mates used to go hill-walking together when we were in the police.
Whilst I was their son in law, I was involved in a serious incident for which I was nominated for a George Medal. The prime minister at the time, Tony Blair (spit !) refused the award as he did not want to upset the Northern Ireland peace  process. Ruth was livid at this and complained to the press. This caused a furore in the papers as I was not the only police officer to be passed over in similar circumstances.
My marriage to their daughter then broke down and we separated.
When they retired, they moved to a small village in the North of Corfu called Nissaki and despite my split up with their daughter, I drove with Ted and his possessions to Corfu along with a couple of his old police friends.
Some time later, I was awarded the Queens Police Medal by the then Commissioner, Paul Condon.
I owe this award to Ruth and due to her being in Corfu, I never had the chance to properly thank her for it.

Sadly in the last few years, Ruth has succumbed to Alzheimer's disease and now can only communicate with her eyes and occasionally move her hands and Ted is now her full time carer. They are virtually on their own and Ted is understandably struggling, both mentally and physically with the situation.
I am still in occasional contact with Ted and other members of their family, (I have 2 children that they are grandparents to,) and it was suggested by Nicholas (their son) that I go and visit them in Corfu as Ted would appreciate it.

I spoke to Karen and she agreed that I should go and visit them. Understandably, it was not an easy decision for her and I am grateful for her support.

On the 2nd of May I rode (through the pouring rain - Doh!) to Rosie's new flat, parked the bike and caught the train to Stansted airport. After an hour or so delay, the plane set off and I landed at Corfu airport at about 1am Corfu time. A short cab ride to Nissaki and I was met by Ted at his apartment. It was good to see him again and we had a big hug. We chatted for an hour or so but Ted needed to go to bed, to tend to Ruth in the morning.

In the morning I saw Ruth and she was in a bad way. Able to only move her head slowly and occasionally give a facial expression. It was painful for me to see. She had been a very upright and forthright woman and was now reduced to being hand fed and carried everywhere. If it was painful for me I cannot imagine how Ted felt.

I spent the next couple of days helping Ted as best I could and despite the location, the weather was colder that the UK. We did have one nice day and we took the opportunity to take Ruth up to the local restaurant. This restaurant, called 'Vitamins' was physically only 20m away but it took about 20 minutes all in to get Ruth there due to steps and steep slopes. However, once there she brightened up considerably and was obviously glad to get out.

Ted and I had some long, in depth conversations about our previous excursions and our family problems. It was good to let him vent some of his frustrations on me. I sincerely hope it helped to some degree.

I was left looking after Ruth for a few minutes whilst Ted was busy and I took the opportunity to thank Ruth for getting me the Queens Police Medal. Despite her limited facial expressions, she clearly understood what I had said and appeared embarrassed. I apologised for embarrassing her but tod her it was something I had waited a long time to do. It was 22 years late but it was something I needed to do and in private with her.
Ted, if you read this, it was very emotional thing for me to do and I apologise for being a bit skullduggerous.

When Sunday came, it was time to head for the airport. I left a bit early as I had never seen the town of Corfu amd wanted to take a walk around. I said my goodbyes to Ruth and Ted took me to the bus stop where I hugged him goodbye and caught the bus into Corfu town. It was sad to see him go. They had both been very good to me in the past and even when I split from their daughter. They are among the very few people on the plananet that I have any respect for. Thanks for having me.

Once in town I had a couple of hours to wander through the streets. It is a very quaint little place with a lot of history. As luck would have it, even the Sun made a brief appearance so I popped into a bar for a relaxing beer.

The old town back streets were very quaint.

Had a beer in this bar.

I eventually started to get sore feet so I visited the British Cemetary on the advice of Ted. It was en-route to the airport. I saw the graves of our ex-military dating back around 200 years including some deceased 'Royal Sappers and Miners' graves. The fore-runner of the Royal Engineers.

I eventually arrived at the airport and surprise, surprise, the plane was delayed. The reason was that Corfu had a huge thunderstorm hit and it stopped the plane, that we were to get on, from landing at Corfu.
I finally arrived back at Stansted and being the tight fisted git that I am, walked to the nearest public area to save £3.50 in drop off/pick up fees. I hate being ripped off. Rosie collected me there and I spent the night at her place.

Rosie and I went for breakfast at Wetherspoons in Bishops Stortford and some great father and daughter quality time together. I then jumped back on the bike and headed home.

Once at home we had a call from some new friends, Sally-Ann and Kevin to meet them in the pub. It would be rude to refuse so we went and all got drunk.