It’s been a long time between blogs (writing my own and reading others) but not that long between drinks; which is not to say I have turned into a boozer but I have found that a medicinal whisky and soda (my maternal grandmother lived till her 90s on little tots of whisky) while soaking in my new claw-foot bath has helped soothe my frazzled nerves. Let me explain. Having sailed through my renovations by avoiding the whole thing down in Anglesea, I ran into a few issues on my return.
But it wasn’t the dust (even if it did find its way into EVERYTHING including the freezer compartment), the dirt, boxes and general chaos of drop sheets and furniture piled up in the middle of the living room that got to me, or the clothes dryer jammed next to my bed, or the chair that developed a coating of white fuzzy mould in the shed, or the wires hanging down from the bedroom and living room ceilings where light fittings are yet to be chosen. It was the Paint Problem (capitals intended). In my attempts to cut costs I had told my builder that I would not be using his painter, but would instead get my handyman to do it. Interestingly, my mother, when she was over, did express concern that I didn’t know about Mr H’s painting, but I chose not to listen. And, boy, do I regret it now!
The truth is that Mr H is not great at painting. So you can imagine my distress when I first got back to the house and noticed patchy painting, wiggly lines between walls and cornices, paint spots on the tiles (my gorgeous new black and white bathroom floor blemished already…) cupboards, mirrors and the timber floors. And that, a bit like Bunnings’ lowest prices (incidentally I’ve been to Bunnings about ten times in the last month) was just the beginning!
As diplomatically as I could (oh the speech rehearsing that went on beforehand), I told Mr H that he had done a good job but it was clearly too much to expect of him so I had decided to get professionals in to finish the job. Far from taking offence, Mr H was clearly relieved. Phew. One major hurdle overcome.
Someone recommended a team of professional painters to get it all into shape. Their price was similar to the quotes I had had from professionals in the beginning and so I thought it was worth the financial stretch (yikes). What’s more, a team of four were ready to start and blitz the place the following weekend if Bertie and I could vacate. I hadn’t much enjoyed evenings camping out on a sun lounger eating takeaways in front of the TV in my guest room (the sitting room was still under dust sheets), so was quite happy to decamp to my brother’s house just down the road complete with Aga cooker and cocker spaniel playmate for Bertie.
But the so-called professionals ripped me off and did an appalling job. And it still hurts. Every time I lie in the bath, wash up, sit on the loo (sorry but you do notice things from that vantage point), I see blobs and blotches of paint, paint on the floors, and lots of rough, uneven areas on the woodwork.
I found out that the boss guy of this dodgy outfit has one service for the mansion owners and one for the rest of us. One of his staff, a lovely guy and trainee painter (that makes him cheaper you see), let slip that the boss had told him: “Don’t take too much time on this job. She’s not paying much.” He had the cheek to tell the student that I was paying 50 per cent less than I actually was. Needless to say the woodwork didn’t get properly sanded down or prepared. And the belligerent boss insisted on using oil-based enamel even though I requested water-based. “No worries (his catchcry), I’ve already bought oil-based paint,” he said in his thick Eastern European accent. Perhaps he had purchased a job lot, I couldn’t help thinking afterwards. So the place STANK when I finally moved back.
What’s more, the painters (well it was just the student for the last two of the four days) didn’t seem to know what was and wasn’t included in the job. So I had to yoyo back and forth to my house, checking on progress. But the biggest challenge was standing up to the boss man when he came to collect his money and refusing to pay the total amount until the work was brought up to an acceptable standard. I was scared; he’s an imposing man, four times my size, a bit of a bully and, I suspect, a misogynist. If I had rehearsed my speech to Mr H, this time I wrote a dissertation. The bastard tried to intimidate me, to pull the wool over my eyes blaming an old house for imperfections in walls and woodwork (for someone that grew up in houses dating from the 1700s in Britain, a house built in 1969 is NOT old.) So that didn’t wash. Then he was rude to me (If I had known you were going to be so difficult…) but I stood my ground and went round pointing out the areas that needed attention, such as a door that had clearly not been sanded. Grudgingly he agreed to send back the student for a few hours (it turned into a day) and apologised for not project managing the job more closely. Something about his son having bad asthma.
There were 56 bits of masking tape highlighting areas that needed fixing when the student arrived. He did his best, and in fact unbeknown to his boss, is coming back this weekend to fix up more areas but we’re never going to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. At some stage I will stop looking at the place with a magnifying glass and let go of the drama of it all.
Thank Goodness I had a comfortable base at my brother’s house as the whole episode knocked me for six (add a few noughts and you’ll appreciate just how painful it was!), but it wasn’t just the money or the bad craftsmanship, it was all the nervous energy it gobbled up as I vainly tried to juggle work, tax demands, backlogged paperwork, cleaning and scrubbing paint-flecked everything, unpacking my house (I couldn’t find anything) and spending weekends flogging round IKEA, Bunnings and Masters looking at carpets, fixtures and fittings and trying to track down someone to lay a bit of vinyl in the laundry.
I went through about ten days of total brain fog. I got lost in several car parks, went shopping for milk and came out with everything but, struggled to focus on my work and would spend hours on one paragraph, sent invoices out with the wrong number, left the oven on one night, tried to turn the television on with my phone and so on. You get the picture. I was totally overwhelmed. And into the bargain I had a severe migraine (Bertie dog took advantage and kept me company on my bed; what better therapy), another massive paint-induced headache a week later and several episodes of bursting into tears. But there was an upside; I changed the colour from Hog Bristle quarter (too beige) to Antique White USA and it looks great.
And we’re winning now and it is beginning to look like home. I love my new bathroom, my breakfast bar in the kitchen and my $180 antique shop period sofa shipped all the way from Gippsland makes a cosy spot to curl up of an evening. If I haven’t lost you in the drama (yes, I’ve bloggd on a bit long haven’t I?), stay tuned for the next episode; next week my builder returns to get the place ready for carpets and to install fixtures and fittings and I’m awaiting quotes to lay vinyl in Bertie’s bedroom aka the laundry.