Tag: home improvements

Windows, dating news.

The last of the windows were replaced today, fulfilling a major household objective. That’s all the windows done now.

last windows

Leroy is expected tomorrow. When I see him, it is my job to spell out exactly how I want him to behave, going forward, so that there are no misunderstandings and we can enjoy each other and not argue. I had better give it some thought, I suppose. So I can be specific about what I want him to do.

1 Home point.

You better think about what you saying. You better think about the consequences of your actions.

Aretha Franklin (The Blues Brothers): Think

Painting the kitchen floor for a reason.

You know me. As much as I would love to be self-starting and self-motivating, the reality is that most of the time I won’t take action unless there’s some kind of external factor prompting me, usually something to do with boys.

I broke up with Leroy. I loved him quite a lot considering we only just met, but he is a big liar and a fake so we are done with each other. In the kind of reactive move that I like, I immediately booked appointments with my hairdresser, dentist and Botox doctor. Then I called for the Honcho, but he was out, as we used to say in the 1970s. Then I texted Blondie and told him he could come over on Friday. Then I realised that his flat is probably a lot more swank than mine, so I painted the kitchen floor.

kitchen floor

While I was in the middle of painting the floor, a friend of mine who is himself a bit prone to weight gain, called round and told me that I was looking the sexiest he has ever seen me. This made me well happy as I am 25 pounds heavier than I should be and I was feeling deeply unattractive and kind of embarrassed. So the fact that he would say that and ogle my tits even though I was just wearing an old t shirt and my fat girl jeans fairly cheered me up. Made me feel a bit more optimistic that Blondie isn’t going to run screaming when he comes round tomorrow.

You will note that I did not move the furniture before painting the floor, because fuck that, I just painted round it. Nor did I bother painting behind the door, because fuck that as well. 1 Home point anyway.

Next time it needs doing, I am thinking of throwing some glitter in with the paint. I feel that it would give the kitchen more personality.


Well, my flat seems to be a complete tip, all of a sudden, but I have the next 12 months of craft projects organised, the Christmas tree is in a crate and all the Christmas decorations are down except for the white fairy lights in the hall, which I am leaving up because they are creepy and remind me of that hotel in The Shining. Normal service has been resumed.


Kitchen Storage: In which I no longer need sleep and become slightly obsessed.

OK, so I put in a full day of work and that went amazingly well considering I’d only had about 3.5 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours, and even that was spread out over two sessions.

I thought I would be ready to collapse into bed at about 5pm but astonishingly I was driven by a burning zeal for more Home Improvements, so here’s what I did.

I went to Homebase again and purchased two sets of drawers. They weigh 9.5 kilos each. The reason this is relevant is because I paid for them both, walked home carrying one of them in my arms, dumped it at my flat, walked back to Homebase and then carried the second one home. Then I arranged them in my kitchen, as you see here. They are stacked on top of each other in a way that they were totally not designed for but I don’t care. It will be fine. They’re not going to fall over unless someone gets horribly drunk and lurches into them, and I don’t drink that much.

kitchen shelves

The difference this made to my ability to put things away in the kitchen was amazing. Those drawers now contain: plastic reclosable bags, collection of, different sizes; tablecloths and napkins; recipe leaflets and magazines; all of my baking materials, from ingredients to silicone bakeware. As you can see, I’ve also found room in between and on top of the sets of drawers for: 4 tea trays; kitchen scales; cookbooks; cake tins. The effect this had on the rest of the kitchen was miraculous. I was able to clear off an entire unit of valuable counter space, then I cleaned out the other kitchen drawers (3 of these, rather smaller) and they now contain foil, cling film, greaseproof paper, freezer bags, and all my other utensils such as the hand blender, the widget for measuring cocktail ingredients, chopsticks, serving spoons, wooden spoons, etc etc, without any problem. It is like magic.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you bring one new thing into a room it makes everything else look shit. In this case, the whiter than white painted wood of these sets of drawers caused me to realise that the whole kitchen needs repainting: walls, woodwork and floor, that the tiles around the newly cleared counter space were dirty and that I had neglected to scrub the outside of the kitchen cupboards when I was doing the insides last night. So here’s what I did.

– I can’t repaint the whole kitchen right now, although I MIGHT attempt to do the floor tomorrow, but what I did do was get out a can of white paint and touch up the wall where dirty finger marks had accumulated around the light fitting. Then while I had the paint out I went and touched up the light fittings in the living room and bedroom as well.

– I scrubbed the outsides of the kitchen cupboards.

– I scrubbed the newly exposed tiles with the super corrosive tile cleaner that I found in the utility room and got some of it on my finger, so I have a blister now. But the tiles are clean.

– Then I went to the spare room at the back which is going to be my craft room and cleverly made about 20 cardboard boxes disappear, including some very large ones like the packaging that comes off monitors.

– Then I organised my cleaning materials and spare lightbulbs into new boxes and put them away tidily in the utility room.

– Then I realised the utility room was a mess so I divested it of: plastic bags; old coat hangers; a horrible old duvet from the 19th century; a piece of timber that looks horrifyingly like it was once part of the structure of this house, not that there seem to be any big chunks of house missing.

– Then I got rid of the packaging that the kitchen drawers came in.

– Then I did some laundry.

– Then I went back in the living room and hung up reindeer bunting, because the Christmas decorating has risen to new levels of craziness. I can’t stop myself. It’s like a drug. My brain is fried because of lack of sleep and all I want to do is Home Improvements followed by excessive Christmas Decorating.


I could honestly keep going all night because I am on a roll, but I don’t think I should. It’s nearly 2am and I have work again tomorrow. I think I should go to bed. Btw, do you like my hand-knitted tea cosies? World of Warcrafters will recognise that one on the far left as bearing the mighty Horde logo. Lok’tar Ogar! Serve the Horde or be crushed beneath it!

1 Home point.

… all right, I might just go and put some superglue on those sets of drawers to hold them together. I don’t think I can resist. I know where the superglue is. I’ll just quickly do it now. THEN I’ll go to bed.


Look at the time. It will be 2am by the time I’ve finished writing this post, I have work tomorrow including meetings, I have preparation to do ahead of the meetings, I have plans for the weekend, and my house looks like this:

messy 1

messy 2

It looks like that, in every room, mind you, because I am frantically de-cluttering. I’m not going to be able to de-clutter Every Single Unwanted Thing from the house tonight or over the weekend but I can sure as hell take care of most of it. The reason I need to do this in such a big hurry is because the windows company, who said they were not coming until after 5th January, phoned me up rather spontaneously and announced their intention to come round this Monday. FFS. I’m not ready! Getting all of my windows replaced means that I have to be able to pack all my belongings in boxes and move them away from the walls, without even one room available to reserve for storage, and for that to be at all feasible, we have to reduce the amount of belongings as much as possible, so that there are fewer boxes. So that’s what I’m doing tonight. It is ridiculous. We are playing beat the clock here.

The epic decluttering and window replacement preparation is complicated by the fact that I want the place to look nice for when Leroy comes over on Saturday, and as little as possible like a horrible warehouse, because I am having a massive crush on him after only two dates. It is also complicated by the fact that here at The Life You Want we are celebrating Christmas all through December this year. It is Christmas-tastic. I am having my very first Christmas at home in London, I am incredibly excited and I am having a month-long celebration. So that’s why there is glitter! Let me show you what is happening!

Yesterday, even though I am way too busy for such nonsense, I made a stag decoration, using a kit off the front of this month’s Homemaker magazine. I’ve hardly ever bought a general crafts magazine before, as I can’t cook, I can hardly sew, I don’t make scrapbooks and I prefer knitting magazines but I bought Homemaker this month on impulse and enjoyed it. The website is really attractively designed and has downloads of a 2015 calendar, Christmas decoration templates, recipes and lots of other things. Plus, there is a cover gift on the front of this month’s issue (26).

homemaker mag

The main part of the set is a bunch of pieces of MDF which you have to (carefully!) press out of a sheet, cover in paint, fabric, paper or whatever you like, and then slot together. I used some red fabric with a tree pattern that might be by Amy Butler and some rather luxurious linen-feel gold wrapping paper that I saved from a gift that somebody gave me last year. Here are the pieces, lying on a sheet of paper, waiting for the glue to dry.

stag pieces

Then I gave it all a light coating of Spraymount glue and sprinkled it with glitter. Waited again for the glue to dry and then put the pieces together. I will not say that it all slotted together with no difficulty, but it wasn’t too awful. Here’s the finished product! It is actually sitting on my bookshelf but I photographed it against some wrapping paper so you can see it better.

stag decoration

After that I still hadn’t had enough so I knitted a Christmas bauble out of 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne and Carlos, a delightful couple who live in a converted railway station in rural Norway, where the whole region is knee-deep in snow for about six months of the year, with the result that a midwinter celebration is valuable and important. The book is gorgeous, it is full of the most charming photos of their house, its location and the decorations that they collect and knit. It’s one of my favourite knitting books of all time, so I want to show you some photos to encourage you to buy a copy. The knitting patterns are lovely and super easy to follow. Plus, their knitting is perfect. Much better than mine. This is because they take a huge amount of trouble with steam-blocking and sewing things up just so.

arne 01

arne 02

arne 03

arne 04

arne 05

Isn’t that beautiful work, I wish my knitting (and photography) were that good. 55 Christmas Balls to Knit is available on Amazon for £10.39 and it does not surprise me that readers gave it five stars.

This is the first time I’ve made something from the book, I used white four-ply wool, gold lurex yarn and 3mm bamboo double-pointed needles (going down to 2.75mm might have been closer to ideal and resulted in a slightly smaller, tighter bauble, but this is okay for a first attempt). I made the Snow Crystal bauble, which has a snowflake design on it, then I decorated it with gold glitter because now I can’t stop glittering everything, and here it is.

snow crystal

I am so pleased with it and now I want to make hundreds of them, even though there really isn’t time between now and Christmas when you include all the other things I have to do. But maybe I can find time to make just a few.

yarn for baubles

My Christmas tree is up already. Note how this was immediately followed by the bloody windows replacement company calling me and announcing their immediate intention to come round and tear up my house. Look, in the first picture you can see my knitted snowflake bauble on the right, just above the red tinsel.

tree 01

tree 03

And that’s all tonight’s news. I am fatter than Santa but Leroy says he doesn’t care.

Let’s have a tune before bed. This is Diana Decker singing I’m A Little Christmas Cracker in 1950-something, followed by an equally delightful version of same by the London Gay Men’s Chorus, 2012.

Diana Decker


London Gay Men’s Chorus

Homeowner pain.

Did I mention how much I hate being a so-called home-owner (should be called home-ower). I had about two days of feeling vaguely responsible because I made a giant payment on my mortgage and now the situation becomes even more painful. I have just returned from a meeting with other people who own flats in my building, and:

  • The windows all over the building have to be replaced immediately and I am fully and privately responsible for the cost of the windows in my flat, of which there are a lot.
  • Windows means scaffolding, which is expensive and has to be paid for separately.
  • Because of the expensive scaffolding, the plan is to permanently repair the leaking roof at the same time. Roofers have been out twice now, the last two weekends, but the roof is in such a bad condition that the repairs that have been done are only temporary and now it has to be repaired properly. I don’t think I am privately responsible for the cost of repairing the roof, but I need to find out who is, and in the short term I am going to have to supply funds up front for both the windows and my share of the roof, which is going to be really challenging because I just blew all my money on my mortgage. I could have come up with money for the windows but I didn’t realise scaffolding was a separate cost, or how expensive it is, and I frankly don’t know where roof money is going to come from.

This is not pleasant. I would very much like to do some video gaming this Sunday morning but I can’t, not yet, anyway. What I need to do is sit down at my desk right now and go through all of the paperwork relating to my purchase of this flat and find out exactly what I’m liable for and where the roof money is going to come from. Hate.

I am having 1 Reclaiming The Home point for this activity, because if getting the roof and 6 windows replaced isn’t Reclaiming the Home, then I really don’t know what is. Also 1 Friends point because I went to visit a friend on Friday, which now strikes me as extravagant. Aaargh. I need a cup of tea. I wouldn’t mind something stronger but it is only 11am and I daren’t risk not being able to understand the buildings paperwork.

Madness: Our House (1982)

Orlando. The book, not the place.

I am working on my Brownie badges, I can see I am not going to win them overnight and that is fine. We will just keep the Brownie Points themed season going until I’ve collected all the badges that I realistically can, or until it’s not fun any more.

I am mainly working on what is going to be my first badge, the Bookworm badge. I arbitrarily decided that I have to read 3 books from start to finish to earn it. I’ve just finished the second one. It was Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, published in 1928. If you would like to read it, there is a free online copy here.

Orlando is a fantasy, a biography of a fictional character who lives for 400 years and who changes sex, from male to female, about half way through. In this biography, Woolf explores a number of interesting themes. It is partly a novel about biography. It explores the nature of biography. It asks how much we should trust narrators. It disputes the idea that “factual truth, recounted objectively”, as the usual aim or conceit of a biography, is even possible.

The book also takes up the idea of being on a quest for fulfilment, which I think is partly what TLYW is about. Where will fulfilment come from? From being alive for a long time? From the small details of everyday life? From big adventures, such as travel? From a succession of lovers? From writing? This is a difficult question. We pursue fulfilment in all of these ways through and here at TLYW and I haven’t found any final answers yet.

In my opinion, the most interesting parts of the book are chapters five and six, the final chapters. At this point, Orlando is a woman and so much time has passed that the nineteenth century has begun. These things are significantly connected. Compared to previous centuries, the nineteenth century is a very dull and moralistic age and a very restrictive era in which to be a woman. Orlando looks around and sees that there is little licentiousness, little wildness. Everybody is married. Everybody is paired off, chained to each other by the plain, undecorated gold rings on their fingers, there are not even any sparkling jewels, just plain, dour little wedding bands. People are not joined to each other by passion but by convention and respectability. Orlando finds it distasteful and stifling. But at the same time, it makes her wonder whether she should be married. Is she doing something wrong? Everyone is married except for her. She goes to the park and lies down in the grass and tries to feel as though she is married to Nature, without much success. Then a man, Marmaduke Bonthrop, rocks up on his horse, strikes up a conversation and after a few minutes they are engaged. I think that says quite a lot about the struggle of women to be independent in ages and cultures that do not want women to be single and live alone.

Because Orlando has been a man, she is sharply aware of how specific an experience it is, being a woman. The expectations that are placed upon women. The ways that women are reduced and confined. They are supposed to be married. They don’t get into sword fights. Flashing an ankle makes sailors fall off the rigging. It’s all very stupid. It also results in male authors of biographies of, and novels about, women, struggling to say anything interesting about them. Women don’t do anything, in these books. All they do is take their clothes off.

But Orlando was a woman — Lord Palmerston had just proved it. And when we are writing the life of a woman, we may, it is agreed, waive our demand for action, and substitute love instead. Love, the poet has said, is woman’s whole existence. And if we look for a moment at Orlando writing at her table, we must admit that never was there a woman more fitted for that calling. Surely, since she is a woman, and a beautiful woman, and a woman in the prime of life, she will soon give over this pretence of writing and thinking and begin at least to think of a gamekeeper (and as long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking). And then she will write him a little note (and as long as she writes little notes nobody objects to a woman writing either) and make an assignation for Sunday dusk and Sunday dusk will come; and the gamekeeper will whistle under the window — all of which is, of course, the very stuff of life and the only possible subject for fiction. Surely Orlando must have done one of these things? Alas — a thousand times, alas, Orlando did none of them. Must it then be admitted that Orlando was one of those monsters of iniquity who do not love? She was kind to dogs, faithful to friends, generosity itself to a dozen starving poets, had a passion for poetry. But love — as the male novelists define it — and who, after all, speak with greater authority? — has nothing whatever to do with kindness, fidelity, generosity, or poetry. Love is slipping off one’s petticoat and — But we all know what love is. Did Orlando do that? Truth compels us to say no, she did not. If then, the subject of one’s biography will neither love nor kill, but will only think and imagine, we may conclude that he or she is no better than a corpse and so leave her.

So there you go. I think that says it all, really. The text message is the modern-day ‘little note’, isn’t it. And now I question myself, because TLYW is not only about the quest for fulfilment, it is also substantially about love, making one’s life revolve around love and its pursuit, thinking of men, writing them little text messages and taking one’s clothes off, because that is what men like and they don’t require women to love them, or love anything, in any other way. And that is why I am a feminist failure and a sell-out.

1 Books point. In other news, I had another weekend of very energetic Home Improvements and so I am claiming 1 Home point as well.