Sunday, 24 August 2014

Week 7 and Running Out of Time ….. August 2014

11 – 17 August 2014:  London

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The Saga of the Shower

The installation of the power shower wasn’t quite as straightforward as we had hoped.  The new models have the pipe entries at the top or bottom, our old unit had the entry at the side.  Subsequently the copper pipes just weren’t where we wanted them.  Marks newly acquired plumbing skills just didn’t quite extend to bending and soldering pipes but he persevered with other options and fittings and got there in the end.  

Unfortunately we both missed the rather important note on the instructions indicating that the shower motor must be 75cm below the bottom of the water tank, we were only 50cm and the shower wouldn’t work.  Somewhat of a setback!!!P8150173

So a day was lost taking the shower off, getting fittings that would go into the top instead of the bottom of the unit and drilling more holes in our new tiles to attach it lower down. 

When it was finally reinstalled and we turned it all on, you can imagine our dismay when one of the internal pipes at the top was leaking.  Off it came again, we changed over the offending pipe with the now redundant bottom pipe, reattached it again (no mean feat) and presto …. the shower now works.  Just need the bath below it so the downstairs neighbours don’t get water coming through their ceiling!!   P8130171

To finish off the shower saga Mark then had the pleasure of needing to replace one tile without damaging the surrounding ones.  More You Tube Videos were watched for handy tips and away he went.  Mission Accomplished.  

Legs At Last

At last the missing bath legs arrived, and after a couple of phone calls we even managed to have some instructions emailed through.  Just exactly how you are supposed to attach brackets and screw the bath to them while it is against the wall is beyond us, but as you can see from the photo Mark sure gave it his best shot and after several hours of hard, frustrating and fiddly work including moving it in and out 4 times the bath is definitely permanently attached.   Now we can finish the bathroom.

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Continuing The Kitchen

Mark squeezed some time into his busy schedule to attack the kitchen wall with a chisel and hammer and make a big hole around the gas pipe so the Gas Fitter could come and change our fitting and install our new gas hob.  This meant we had to pull the back off the adjacent cupboard (I knew there was a reason I shouldn’t glue them in as well as screw them!!), we also had to remove the oven which we had fully installed. 

What we hadn’t thought of was that the other benchtop would need to be fitted before the gas pipes could be finally connected by the Gas Fitter, we really weren’t quite prepared for this but had no choice, it was benchtop and hob on, fitting tightened and tested for leaks, Gas Safety Certificate issued and Gasman gone.  The kitchen is now ready for completion.

P8160180 So Just What Have I Been Doing??

You probably are getting the impression that Mark is doing all the work, and he sure has been doing all the hard bits.  But I haven’t just been sitting back supervising, and making teas and coffees.  The hallway is completely finished (ok, I confess I haven’t finished painting inside all the cupboards).  The paint colour is a little darker than anticipated, it is called “Light Rain” but resembles “Thunder Storm” more accurately, but with “Brilliant White” trim and the light wooden laminate floorboards it is looking great.  It will look even better when we move the oven back into the kitchen!  

I have also finished painting the inside of all the fitted wardrobe cupboards in the bedroom, installed the new curtain rail, built a cover to go over the toilet plumbing, fitted the skirting boards over the new flooring and held down my full time “plumbers mate” role. 

Time Is Running Out So We Have Extended Our Time Here By 3 More Weeks

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Down On Our Hands & Knees ….. August 2014

04 - 10 August 2014:  London

P8080149 Finishing the Hallway

We decided to continue the laminate wooden flooring from the kitchen into the hallway and bathroom.  So  my fulltime job was to continue on painting the hallway while Mark the newly recruited plumber started in the bathroom. 

Once the painting was finished we started laying the laminate flooring.  Those 5 doorways and 2 cupboards that had taken so long for me to paint around were now providing us with a huge challenge.  The hallway took a day for us both, as did the bathroom, the long straight parts taking just minutes but the doorways took hours – the results were outstanding and the work very fulfilling.  It will only look better as everything else gets finished off.   P8080153

Back To The Bathroom

I did the fiddly bits in the hallway - cleaning the old fittings, replacing some with new shiny ones, laying the skirting boards and painting inside the cupboards.  Meanwhile Mark carried on in the bathroom.  With the floor now down, the stage was set for installing the toilet and hand basin. 

Mark has had more experience than he would like with plumbing on the boat so slotted into his new role with confidence –  but then he had to piece it all the pipework together.  The toilet was started and successfully installed in no time at all but the basin well lets just say it wasn’t all straightforward, and the odd faulty piece that leaked at the seams once installed certainly didn’t help.   We purchased u-bends, s-bends, joiners, reducers and piping – at one point the floor was littered with pieces of plumbing that just refused to do what we needed it to.

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But we have time (although diminishing by the day), patience and common sense, and after all these are only pipes so after quite some time and several trips to the local plumbing store we cracked it.  So next up it was fitting the electric power shower to the wall, in the photo above I am jigsawing our newly laid tiles as the holes from the previous shower plumbing are not matching up with the new shower.  Although the other photo shows the shower on the wall it is not finished …. there are a few hiccups!! 

6 Weeks Down, Just Over 2 Left

Sunday, 17 August 2014

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back ….. August 2014

28 July – 03 August 2014:  London

Small Rooms Are Not Always The Easiest!P8020139

While we were waiting for the professionals to come and install our kitchen benchtops, Mark kept up his work on the bathroom while I started sanding in the hallway.  Although the hallway is small it has 5 doors and 2 cupboards – lots of woodwork to sand back, hinges with layers of old paint to clean up, fiddly walls between the door frames to prepare for painting; hours of entertainment for me. 

Marks work was way more fulfilling, the tiles above the bath were grouted and although the corners, join with the ceiling and the bottom row of tiles were not finished, things were starting to look great.  I escaped from the sanding for a couple of hours and constructed the bathroom wall unit we had purchased at IKEA.  Good thing we had had plenty of practice on the kitchen cupboards as this one was a little more challenging with its “sketch only” instructions - but I got there in the end. P8020143

 

Why Didn’t We Do It Ourselves?

We spent quite some time watching videos on using a router and mitre board to achieve a professional look for the cutting and joining of the benchtops.  In the end we decided that by the time we hired the extra equipment we may as well put that money towards getting tradesmen to do the job.  Thursday arrived, as did our two kitchen installers.  They were very complementary on the work we had done, a perfectly level and square platform for them to fit the tops to. P8020138 

Necessary tools were laid out, measuring was done, benchtops were marked and the power tools were fired into action.  The inside of the flat sounded and looked like a saw mill for a couple of hours while work was in progress.  Several fittings were undertaken, swearing was heard, dents into the newly plastered walls were made, paint was chipped – the total butchering of the benchtops continued.   The end result is very disappointing and quite unsatisfactory.  Ends of the benchtop have been chipped, as have the edges of the imperfect mitre join.  Neither top sits square with the wall, one has a gap of over over 1cm behind it, the other has a larger gap at one end.  P8020144

We were not prepared to let them do any more work to try and remedy their extremely poor workmanship, we wanted them gone before they damaged something else.  The kitchen sink has been installed by Mark who is honing his plumbing skills, the other top and gas hobs will stay in the lounge until the gas fitter can come and change our gas socket.  It has to be changed as we now have a fixed gas hob instead of a freestanding one and the pipe must be changed to meet safety standards. 

Work on the bathroom and hallway continue but the bath can not be installed as the legs didn’t get sent with it and will take over a week to arrive.  Oh well, there is plenty to keep us busy!

End Of Week 5, A Disappointing Week   

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Time to Install the Kitchen ….. July 2014

21 – 27 July 2014:  London

Turning Square Boxes into Kitchen Units

We were quoted £2,000 and 5 days work to have the kitchen installed by the professionals.  So no prizes for guessing what we did this week.

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Over the years we have constructed the odd piece of kitset furniture that didn’t fall over when we touched it so decided to go for broke and took on the kitchen.  We armed ourselves with all of Marks families tools, then borrowed other tools from friends Helen and David, bought ourselves a jigsaw, long spirit level and various other essential items.  Once armed with all these necessary weapons, we sat down, actually read the kitset instructions and away we went!!

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We are very happy with our work, and despite the drawer units taking way too long due to incorrect instructions we had all the units in and level within the week, and that’s including laying the laminate flooring – something we had never done before.  We have decided however to leave the mitre cutting of the benchtops to the experts so the kitchen has gone as far as it can for now.

So Lets Start on the Bathroom

Fresh from watching more You Tube D.I.Y. Vidoes we were ready to take on the tiling in the bathroom.  Our previous experience of tiling did not bring back particularly positive memories but we had certainly learnt “what not to do!!”  We invested in a big grunty tile cutter and away we went.

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End of Week Four and Doing Well

Friday, 8 August 2014

Painting, Painting and More Painting ….. July 2014

14 – 21 July 2014:  London

Concentrating on the Kitchen

The next week of our renovations saw delivery after delivery of boxes of our new kitchen arrive.  The lounge turned into the storage area, work shop, and makeshift kitchen. 

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Meanwhile the real kitchen was undergoing a makeover once the plaster dried fully.  We went for clean and bright – good ole “Brilliant White”, but when the afternoon sun shone it was so bright we went for a grey feature wall to tone things down a little.

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But the kitchen wasn’t the only room getting our attention, the painting of the bedroom was completed and for a couple of days it was all looking clean and tidy in there, until it too became a storeroom.  Painting also commenced in the bathroom – it was all go. 

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Three Weeks of Hard Work

Friday, 1 August 2014

Settling Into Renovations ….. July 2014

06 – 13 July 2014:  London

The Demolition Duo Continue Their Work

We started the week off with more demolition work.  We had organised a plasterer to come on Thursday and Friday to plaster the walls in the bathroom and kitchen so we needed to clear the rooms, and that’s what we did!

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So that was the bathroom …. now for the kitchen – almost everything but the kitchen sink

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Meanwhile Mark took the time to scrape off the flaking paint off the two walls in the lounge while I finished sanding the walls and woodwork in the bedroom.

A Day Off for the Tour de France

We did manage to sneak a day off and went into London to join several hundred thousand others to see the Tour de France.  It was a party atmosphere, all the roads were closed so it was great to just wander around soaking up the sights.

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Here they come, don’t blink, you will miss them.  No time for two photos!!!

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Piccadilly Circus in the Rain and What the Best Dressed Londoners Wear

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End of Week Two

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Summertime in London ….. June/July 2014

25 June – 05 July 2014:  London

We have left Balvenie in Grenada for a few weeks and flown back to England.  

When we left England 20 years ago, we backpacked for a year through South America, Africa and Asia before settling back in New Zealand in 1995.  We rented out our two flats in London, one of which we have since sold,  the other has been tenanted for the 20 years we have been away.    The time has come for a major refurbishment so it’s time for maintenance in exotic places yet again.

How It Looked at the Beginning

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The kitchen and the bathroom – definitely seen better days

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Paint flaking off the bedroom walls, lounge looking very tired with more flaking paint and worn carpet

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7 long days of solid demolition 

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Demolition Duo start on the bathroom and kitchen, what a mess!!

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The hallway remains untouched, the bedroom walls completely stripped back and sanded

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End of Week One

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Busy Time In London ..... July 2014

We are in London for a couple of months doing overdue major renovations on our apartment here that we have had rented out for over 20 years.  Our days have been spent pulling out the kitchen and bathroom, sanding, plastering, painting, pulling up flooring and making a huge mess.  Our nights are spent watching You Tube videos on How To Tile / Install a Kitchen / Fit a Toilet, Bath etc.  It is all go.  The blog will be updated with the rest of our Caribbean adventures for this season soon.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

A Touch of France in the Caribbean ….. June 2014

28 May – 03 June 2014:  Deshaies to Pain de Sucre, Guadeloupe – 15 51N 61 36W
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From Smoldering Volcanoes to Green Guadeloupe

We left Montserrat and continued on our journey southeast, we ticked off another 43 miles, still on the wind but the sea state was ok and the sheets were finally eased – well for a few minutes here and there!

Our first stop in the French Islands was the horseshoe shaped anchorage of Deshaies at the top of Guadeloupe.  It was a lovely spot, the anchorage was calm and comfortable and the French village ashore was very cute (somehow forgot to take photos!!)P6020018 

We had heard that check in formalities in the French Islands are quite unique and we confirmed this when we located the customs computer tucked away at the back of the brightly painted Pelican Boutique and Gift Shop, I got to do some window shopping while skipper swore at the computer with the French keyboard.  All was completed in due course, 4 Euros was paid, our arrival papers were printed off and we had legally arrived, not a uniformed government official in sight, no passports viewed or stamped, what a novelty –
voila!!

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Yummy Croissants and Baguettes

We spent a couple of nights here, the surrounding area was lush and green but we didn't do any exploring inland.  The village was lovely, but it is surely a land of contrasts with old French architecture, cafes lining the streets with blackboards advertising the plat du jour priced in euros, interspersed with the colourful local fruit, vegetable and fish markets and neighbouring boulangeries.  French speaking Caribbean folk were laden with freshly baked baguettes hot out of the oven in one arm and tropical fruits in the other, a colourful scene indeed. The French and the English fought over the Caribbean islands for centuries, and Guadeloupe is one that remains French.  Deshaies was great introduction to this Franco Carib blend.

P6020017We moved on down the coast in company with Truant III and Americans Little Wing, plans were to stop at the outlying Pigeon Islands for a snorkel in the Jacques Cousteau Marine Park and then anchor for the night in the nearby bay on the mainland.  But the plans didn’t include the wind to come in from the southwest when we are in the middle of the trade wind belt where the winds consistently howl through at over 20 knots from the east, so onto Plan B.  Well we didn’t really have a Plan B, but did find better shelter further down the coast at Anse a la Barque, a small indent that the three of us squeezed into along with several local fishing boats, it was ok for the night.

Pain de Sucre, Isle de SaintesMoving onto Les Saintes

We continued down the remainder of the coast and across to Les Saintes, the winds were gusty off the high Guadeloupe peaks then swirled all around as they raced down through the valleys – a challenging sail.  We crossed the short channel at the bottom of the mainland and dropped anchor in the beautiful bay at Pain de Sucre next to our English friends Mark and Sue on Macushla, great to catch up with them again.

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We spent a few nights in this delightful quiet anchorage, the long walk around to the picturesque village of Bourge des Saintes was a serious hill session and provided much needed exercise but with treats of decent coffee, French pastries and steaming hot baguettes waiting at the other end, well how could we resist.

It was an area you could spent some time exploring but June was upon us and the hurricane season had officially started., we needed to keep ticking off the miles south.

Au Revoir France, Off to Dominica