Our plan was to take the flat in the cellar and make it liveable for the family. This would require digging out the exterior of the building. The Man was to do all the work that he could possibly do himself. There were some structural changes, however, that would require a builder. The entire floor space needed to have a damp course, we hired a plasterer to do the living room and dining area and another man to artex that area. The bathroom and a kitchen would be installed by The Man.
The interior of the cellar was in a terrible state. It was full of junk and the detritus of a quickly put together flat by a rogue landlord. Added to the problems of making a place for ourselves, was the fact that the tenants we had had been badly treated by the man from whom we had bought the place. He was in every sense 'a nasty bit of work'. We were, however, fortunate that two old dears who shared the ground floor flat at the back of the house were very helpful and informative. They were also to become very helpful to me in the days and months to come! Then there was another, not so 'dear' old dear who was entirely suspicious on any and every landlord on the face of the earth and who complained and complained endlessly. But even she was no match for the young anarchist who disabled his meters and had free run of the electricity and gas! Becoming a landlord has a very steep learning curve, especially with the other tasks before us. As I write 'us' I am thinking that really it was almost all on The Man's plate.
Now then, here is an idea of some of the challenges before us in the interior of what would in time become our home ...
On the right is the room which would become the bathroom! When we first moved this room had a damp course that had just been put in, however, it was below the water table and a sump pump needed to be added. We were making do with a portable toilet. In order to keep our feet dry we planted bricks -- as you might do flagstones in a footpath -- to the base of the 'convenience'. I am sure you can easily guess what The Man's least favourite job was... It was quite a problem figuring out what to do about the plumbing and for a while there was a question as to whether we could successfully access the sewer because of the depth of the cellar.
The room below had been a kitchen/living room. We decided that we would prefer to use this room as our bedroom even though there was the inconvenience of having the back door, which was also the one most often used. Eventually the apartment was expanded to include three bedrooms located on the first floor of the house and this early bedroom became a very large dining room.
Fortunately, the bedsit at the front of the house had become vacant and we were able to use this for a month or six weeks while The Man worked on getting the living room and kitchen ready to be used. In the beginning it was very difficult to get really started on our grand project because the house we were living in was several miles away. Since he was working full time for the RAF he had limited time to work on the house and when he got there his time would often be taken up with the needs of the tenants as well as finding that some tool or other he needed was back at the house 6 miles away!
Time to insert a very imprecise, but more or less accurate layout of the 'before' and 'after'.
|On the left is the flat as we found it|
On the right as it would become
I did not take many pictures of the living room 'before' but as you can see it was pretty grim! The electric fire was the main source of heat for longer than I would like to remember, but we would later find a more attractive position when the old fireplace was again exposed.
I cannot remember if these pictures were taken before or after the baby arrived on the 20th of May 1983. I know that despite unforeseen difficulties we did manage to move lock, stock and barrel into this house with three young children by September 1983.
In the next instalment: Have you ever considered what life would be like without drains? In my humble opinion and from my own personal experience, drains are the cornerstone of civilization!