The Construction of Reality

If someone asks what its like to undertake major remodelling work, a major add on to their home, living out of one room with everything in boxes, nothing to hand, they won’t tell you the truth. You will hear cliches- best thing I’ve ever done. The time goes so quickly. It’s exciting, seeing it come on. And the list will go on. Can I tell you the truth? Its bloody stressful.

Decisions about your home aren’t your own. You get back from work and you can’t park your car as there is a dumper truck on your drive, along with a palette of concrete blocks and a bag of sand. You can’t walk down the side of your house as you can’t squeeze past the digger. You run into the spare room quickly post shower for a pair of pants, and the builders are already stood by the skip smoking a fag at 7:40am and happen to look up and clock you at the exact moment you intend to bend down and put underwear on. You get home from work to muddy foot prints all over your kitchen. It’s taking some significant adjustment.


I am glad we are doing it. I honestly am. I will never be ready for this, its too big. As a coping mechanism we fled for the Easter weekend to stay with some of our best friends elsewhere. Escaping to the home of such luxurious comforts like a fitted kitchen, a room where one of the walls isn’t a piece of board, a house whose default isn’t hopelessly dusty, no matter how much time every evening is spent sweeping and dusting.


Seeing good friends is so therapeutic. It often leaves me a bit sad that my dearest aren’t my nearest. I have local friends, I’ll admit I see them less often than I should. Life is busy, its also quite people heavy at times, so outside work I can be quite reclusive. I am a people person, but I don’t need to be around people that much. I began to befriend some people once upon a time but their needs to do things with one another were quite all consuming. I just don’t need that much time with other people. It was forced, and ultimately not really very me. It made me realise that I quite like time alone, I’m actually relatively happy in my own company. I don’t have to put on a fake smile for myself, I don’t have to pretend that I would rather watch an episode of Mad Men when what I want to watch is 3 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don’t have to go out on a Saturday to Manchester when I would rather hang around the house doing the washing listening to Radio 2. When I do see my friends, I’m so happy to be with them and to spend that time with them. Its easy, it’s familiar, its comfortable. I don’t resent the time I’m spending, I don’t watch the clock. It’s no sacrifice. Friendship involves some compromises, but spending time with someone shouldn’t be one of said compromises. You shouldn’t have to talk yourself into a friendship, you shouldn’t have to tell yourself that someone “isn’t that bad”. I have done that in the past, but it’s not one of the decisions I would make now. I make it a condition now that at the very least I should like my friends. Heaven knows, during the build I will need the perspective, the laughs and the distraction as I cope with it all.


I am starting to plan ahead, we have to. As Pete & I have zero stamina, we didn’t join the others in drinking white wine till 4am one evening, so we had a few hours in the morning waiting for the others to surface to utilise for research. I have now watched a few YouTube videos about choosing a wood burning stove. I now know that Black, Cream or Sage should not be my main areas of focus, but room size is key to choose which output I require. Think of me as a balding middle aged Goldilocks- not too hot, not too cold, just right is the goal. The answer to the colour dilemma is cream, by the way. I have also been looking at wallpaper for the seating area, A friend of mine suggested one should not paper a newly plastered wall as it will potentially pull the plaster off when the time comes I’m bored of it and want it stripping. I don’t know if that is true but the way I see it, every action comes with a risk- if I were to err on the side of caution I wouldn’t have started the extension to start with. Pete wants me to get us an Ercol sofa, which I’m on with looking for on eBay. Along with half the UK if the prices are anything to go by. To think that hundreds of these sofas have been skipped, burnt as kindling and the like. I saw one today that had been shoddily reupholstered, the straps under the cushions looked like they had been gaffer taped on and the owner still wanted £400 for the pair. Its a no from me. I’d rather abandon the dream and head to DFS before I get shafted by some charlatan on a substandard sofa and armchair and drive all the way to Consett for the privilege of collecting said lemon.


Light fittings are another nightmare I’m also having to consider. I absolutely loathe looking for and choosing light fittings. Now I’m not sure what type of childhood you had. I had the sort with a practical father and a demanding mother, who set said father on task after task transforming our home, only to start again as soon as the last room was sorted. For your own references, I ended up more like my mother. I have zero practical ability, other than cooking. And I didn’t inherit that skill from her, but alas I didn’t inherit her flower arranging skills either, so she’s still laughing. I have many childhood memories of going to the dullest lighting shops found in godforsaken areas of my hometown, with down lighter after down lighter, pendant after pendant, an abundance of fairly similar bathroom lighting, bulbs on bulbs on bulbs on bulbs. And now I’m having to go to said shops in my own capacity as adult with lighting needs. Only now the ante has been upped. We now also have the option of just hanging some fancy pants bulb or other. One of those with a slight gold hue and almost Hammer Horror looking fixings inside the bulb.


We have “zones” to light. A sitting area, a dining area and the kitchen itself. A large peninsular island will feature and we want some down lighting on there. Practical thoughts enter my mind- down lighters near a cooking area have to lend themselves to regular cleaning, and with a damp cloth. If anything is hob-adjacent, it needs to be degreased every so often, extractor and open windows only do so much. And on trend is soon old hat, so I need something that can in time be replaced if needs be, or I go more traditional and leave trendy to the youngsters. I’ve bought Living Etc and Elle Decoration for inspiration, but find myself either jealous as I scan the items about “15 of the best ethnic inspired rugs” and only like the one for £1700 from Heals, or I read the article about Tiffany in West London with her cocoon of Fired Earth walls and ceilings painted the same colour and her home furnished with her “witty finds” and end up slamming the magazine shut as I scream “Fuck Tiffany and her witty finds” in despair at the fact her home is impracticably staged, and fearing that comparably I have no sense of taste. I am just turning into my mother, I’ll have a pelmet in Sanderson’s Rose and Peony, with a green shag pile carpet before you know it. And I am wanting a standard lamp, I have done for a long while. I’ll be fond of a three-quarter length sleeve before you know it, and mainly spend my time watching Say Yes to the Dress and The Little Couple on Lifetime.


I am buoyed by the fact paint choices are a lost easier now I have discovered the ease of buying Farrow and Ball colours. The real benefit being that what you see on the colour chart ends up on your walls. If this sounds simplistic an explanation, thats because it is made this easy, what you see is what you get. Anyone who has chosen a pale grey only to find something akin to a midnight blue appear on the wall will completely understand why the confidence to know you need not paint your walls and cross your fingers is one that is worth investing in.


I have found some inspiration since the weekend though. A visit to the Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain was a really exciting one, as it evoked some real responses. A bit of bemusement with his early stuff, a sense of real excitement at his LA work in the 60’s, real emotion and development with his portraits from the 70’s, his canvass work of Yorkshire countryside and Americana really showing skill, his exciting work using the iPad. What was really interesting was how I felt. Seeing an exhibition with a group of friends, we all reacted in different ways to different pieces, and I realise that this is a question of taste. A lot of similar things drew me in, hues and moods and depictions. It wasn’t solely about provocation, or witticisms, but moods and tones and personality. So I bought a couple of prints which I will frame and will add these to the scheme in the extension. I think this was quite apposite really for this whole chapter, which is about the here and now and planning for the future, rather than the past.

So all in all, I’m a completely neurotic mess. But every day, we see things move on. The structure goes up a bit more. It is exciting, I know it is. But stressful all the same. But I will get there. It will get there. And I will moan to you all along the way!






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