Starting these blogs with an apology with lack of updates is probably beginning to wear a little thin, if not for you, then certainly for me. To this end, having spent my formative years as a journalist and magazine editor, I’m now going to start not by apologising, but compiling a list of excuses as to why my copy hasn’t been filed on a more regular basis.
For starters, I don’t get paid for this so feel free to send me a cheque. Secondly, if I was being paid then it wouldn’t be enough, so feel free to write another, doubling the size of the one you just wrote, not forgetting to stick them both in the envelope. Thirdly, I tend to write these little ramblings at about five in the morning while Richard and the dogs are still lolling about the king size, with another five hours of sleep to enjoy.
Five in the morning. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but have you FELT HOW FUCKING COLD IT IS OUT THERE? You’re probably wondering what relevance the outside temperature has to the writing of my copy but bear in mind that however cold it is out there, is exactly how cold it is in the ‘van. And we have an electric blanket. A genius purchase, I’d go so far as saying that short of marrying Rich it’s the best financial and emotional decision I ever made, but that it has significantly affected my ability to get up at five in the morning. While it’s minus 9 – so cold even the chemical filled Turdis is choked up. So that’s why I haven’t been inclined to jump out of bed, full of the joys of spring, and write you lot another blog with progress updates. Instead, I’ve cranked the blankie up to six and taken a leaf out of Richard’s book. Snoozeville is a very fine place to be.
So, to the anger. I hate anger. I find it a hugely destructive and timewasting emotion, but one that I seem to have embraced over the last few days which, in turn, makes me very grumpy. If you’ve been a blog follower since Day 1, you’ll know that grumpiness is a trait prohibited on this site, and I’ve been a bit guilty of it. Nothing to do with the build, but also has everything to do with the build. It’s the snow. And ice. And frozen water. My horses are currently an enthusiastic 18 minute drive along the B660 away, morning and night. Add the snow and general road chaos and it makes it a 30 minute drive. Each way, twice a day. The horses don’t like to be couped up. I bring them into a stable at night, turn them out each morning, feeding and clearing up the shit in between. They hate to be in during the day. Over the past few days though, they’ve been in, kicking the walls down owing to the fact that they’re marooned in the yard thanks to the wanker farmer who turned the yard into an ice rink by driving his truck back and forth over it. Farmer, you’re an inconsiderate cock, just so you know. Which is why we’ve moved to the middle of nowhere, no neighbours, no farmers, no anybody – I just can’t wait ‘til the grass starts growing and the horses move down here with us.
Anyway, now to the joy, the build is progressing despite the wholly freezing temperatures. I was beginning to wonder just how much work was still to be done on the inside, until the rendering started going on and mother of God, it IS almost finished. I’ll let the pics do the talking but all of a sudden, apart from a bit of paint, skirting and flooring, a few of the rooms are looking positively habitable.
We’ll have to let that God damn snow melt before Stu gets back up there and finishes the roof, but I’m telling you, it won’t be long.
Better news still, the errant Building Inspector has returned. We know this, because one night he’d obviously decided to take a closer inspection and sleep inside the house, causing DependaPaul to shart himself, claiming a ‘Tawny Owl the size of a buzzard’ had taken up residence in the living room, and running away. Stu rescued the Building Inspector and I saw him, just today, overlooking the site. The Building Inspector, not Stu.
That’s one very special thing down here, the nature. Not that we like nature, obviously, because if we did, we wouldn’t have any qualms about paying a man £45 per hour to fill in a bat licence form. Except that, by all accounts, it’ll take him an entire three working days, 8 hours a day, to fill out.
Yep, you guessed it, more anger. The ecologists are looking for £45 x 24hrs to fill in a European Protected Species Licence. For one (alleged) sighting of a bat. I kid you not. And then he wants £360 per day, plus expenses, to oversee the demolition, money to ‘talk’ to the ‘demolition team’ (that’s me and Rich) to explain how important bats are and, of course, travelling and meal expenses. That’s on top of the £850 we paid the guy to stand here for an hour, dawn and dusk, and record the bat sightings – but not actually give us a report from it, apart from saying ‘We saw a bat probably enter that building’.
I called Natural England. The guy told me it’d probably take about 3-4hrs (at £45 per) to complete the form. That much, I can swallow, but seriously, a full three days work, at £45 per hour, for a single (quite common) bat? I despair, but they have us over a barrel regards demolition of the bungalow. What would you do? (The maximum fine, if prosecuted, per bat is £5000). I’m half tempted to leave the eyesore in place and wait for nature to take its less expensive course. Or, to pull the fucking thing down and hope for the best.
In all seriousness though, these people are taking the piss. I’m serious about seeing nature. I love that the Building Inspector watches over our site, and have been Googling things that may well make his life happy so that he doesn’t leave here. Same with the Barn Owl (see how I used capitals for his name?). The robins and wrens that watch us on site are a total pleasure (fat balls in the trees, where once there were none) and the hares gambolling across the fields are something I’d miss. But when the law and planning says one thing, and excessive costs say another, if I was going to do it all again, detonating nature is the far cheaper option, which is very sad indeed.
More news is that I’ve investigated the water borehole. Although I’ve had conflicting reports, I found a company in Wales who had been given very positive reviews by the farming community (yes, those wankers I’ve already moaned about, but even so, I have no scruples and they do like to save money so can’t always be wrong – the farmers, that is). After calling their number, and speaking to a VERY helpful lady called Andrea at Dragon Drilling, it seems that the borehole isn’t really an option for us. She had her resident geologist have a quick squint at our postcode, and it seems that our bedrock is about as dry as a Chicago boozer during prohibition. We ‘could’ find water, but it’d be a looooong way down which equals muchos spondoolies. The geologist (Nigel) had also worked on the A1 widening boreholes (and, I quote so as not to upset him, ‘About a hundred years ago’) and they’d reached holes of 20m in length without even a dampness to them. Much as we’d love to be off grid for water, we’re just going to have to suck up Anglian Water and rainwater harvester costs, even if we do it temporarily.
I sent the info off to another borehole drilling guy who’d come up with a quote. He reckoned that the Dragon Drilling geologist was way off the mark and that drilling was going to be easy, but cost in the region of £12,000 with no guarantee of water. Due to our location, there was never going to be anything in it for Dragon Drilling – something that was made clear when I had the conversation with Andrea, but she sent the information freely and then called me back (at their cost) to feedback what their geologist had already told me (again at their cost). Dragon Drilling could have just done what another load of companies had already done, either ignored my call, or told me it was a goer, come and drilled a hole, found nothing, and then charged us for the privilege. I may have mentioned the tv company following the build, I may well have mentioned the fifty thousand blog views but, in hindsight, I even more appreciate people who are passionate about what they do, without charging you for the insight.
With that in mind, if you’re looking for a project manager for your build, no matter how big or small, my rate is £45 per hour. And I will charge out at three times the time sheet.
Perhaps, I should have been an ecologist 😉