Thursday, 27 April 2017

Appointment with my Surgeon

I saw my original surgeon today. I had been told by the surgeon who did my emergency surgery three months ago, to repair the parastomal hernia that was causing an obstruction, that he was only able to do a temporary repair, and that I would require a further operation to insert some mesh to provide more permanent protection against the hernia recurring.

At today’s appointment, I told him that I had recently been experiencing some pain in the area of Kermit, my stoma, and suspected that the hernia might already have returned. He examined me and the results were inconclusive; he said it did feel rather “loose” but he couldn’t confirm it one way or another. He is booking me in for a CT scan which will show more clearly what is going on.

He said that the surgeon who operated on me didn’t normally do these hernia repairs, and that it would be most unusual to do a pre-emptive repair when there was no actual hernia, because of the risks that all operations incur. I asked whether they just left them to recur before dealing with them, and he said that was the case. I said I certainly didn’t want to have a repeat of my recent experience, having emergency surgery because of a blockage, but he said that wouldn’t necessarily be the case, and that if it did recur, they could repair it.

So we are a bit in limbo now. I had psyched myself up for a definite operation and now this isn’t going to happen, but I am left with a temporary repair that is inevitably going to fail (statistically a sutured repair of a parastomal hernia has a 100 percent failure rate) and we don’t know when that will happen, which is very unsatisfactory. Perhaps we will know more when I have had the scan. I told him I didn’t like the idea of living in this risky situation and really didn’t want to go through another blockage and feeling so ill again.

I whether, if it did have to be done, it would be done by keyhole surgery, and he said no; having already had two major operations in that area (three, actually, if you consider my hysterectomy over 20 years ago) there would be adhesions and it would not be safe to do keyhole surgery. Also, he said that the mesh would need to go in the muscle to do any good, and open surgery would be required for this. He said an alternative would be to re-site the stoma on the other side of my abdomen and I said I really wouldn’t want this; I want minimal interference with Kermit, and anyway, it would be putting me at even more risk of herniation – at the new site, and also at the old site, which would still be weakened. I didn’t want to have a stoma on the left side as I was used to it on the right.

I told him I was having problems getting support garments organised and that I felt really vulnerable. He said we’d get the scan done, and take it from there.

So that was that. No operation on the immediate horizon unless I’ve actually got a hernia, and so far, no support garments either.

After seeing him, I asked to see one of the stoma nurses, so that I could fill her in with the saga of the non-appearance of support garments that actually fit me. She was horrified that I had been waiting nearly 6 months for this to be sorted, and said she would be contacting the company, and phoning the lady who has been doing my home visits to discuss the matter. She was concerned that I had not been able to wear even the one pair of pants that were right, because they kept being sent back to the company to copy (and they keep getting them wrong so they don’t fit). I said that even when I did have them, and was waiting for yet another visit to collect them to copy again, I couldn’t wear them because they had to be clean to be sent off, and anyway, with only one pair, I had no spare to be “in the wash.” I told her I was seeing the lady this afternoon and will keep her informed of developments.

She came mid-afternoon and compared the original pair with the latest set of three which still don’t fit, and took them all away. I asked for this to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, and that a different seamstress be employed to do the work. I said the stoma nurse would be contacting her, and that she had said that they should be writing a letter to the company about this, because if this has happened to me, it is quite likely to be happening to others also. It is not like a normal purchase where a dissatisfied customer can go elsewhere, because it’s a small specialised market, and it would be hard to find another company that does a bespoke service and home visits. She said that the paying customer was the NHS and that shouldn’t make any difference to how individual patients were treated by the company. The stoma clinic has an arrangement with the company and so have regular contact with them, and will take up my cause. This is a relief, because I have felt trapped, frustrated and powerless to sort out the situation, and angered by the cavalier attitude of the seamstress who is responsible and who is not taking responsibility for her mistakes and trying to make out that it’s my fault, and I haven’t known who to contact about it. Someone needs to take responsibility for this because it is putting people’s health at risk. My hubby is convinced that the obstruction in my hernia that landed me in hospital could have been avoided if I had had the garments when I should have done, nearly six months ago, and he’s pretty upset about it. He suggested I inform the stoma nurse about it today, since we were in that department anyway seeing my surgeon, and it seemed a good idea, and I was glad to have the opportunity.

All I want is a satisfactory resolution of these various problems and to have some peace of mind that I am not going to have any further blockages caused by hernias. The last one was a major upheaval in my life and made me very poorly indeed, and took a long time to recover from.

Roll on the scan, and we’ll see what happens after that, and hopefully the correct support garments will be made for me in the very near future, so at least I’ll have some protection.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Infusions Mini-Album–Working on the Pages and WOYWW 412

Having finished making my Infusions samples, I have sorted the order of them and decided how to assemble the album, with some of them being stuck to flattened toilet rolls to contain explanatory tags, and some stuck back to back. This is not a part of the project that I enjoy as it’s messy and tedious, and I find it hard to get the order correct for nice double-page spreads, and not muddling up left and right hand pages, and making sure the binding will be on the correct end for each one!

05 Creating  the Pages

The ones I did yesterday have been flattened under heavy books overnight and I am glad to see that the toilet rolls are now nice and flat. The toilet rolls are open at both ends (one end for the hidden binding, and the other to take the tag) and the sample sheets glued together back-to-back are left unglued at the binding end, so that I can slot in the hidden binding pieces when I’ve made them.

My desk is a shambles with all this activity!

WOYWW 412 26-4-17


In a few idle moments, I’ve finished the latest piece for our half-tester. I’m quite pleased with its bold primary colours against the plain blue background.

15 Plain Blue with Primary Colours


I am glad to report that both our elderly girlies seem to be a bit better now. After a day of staggering around as if drunk, with very wobbly back legs, Beatrice seems to have got much better and has been running around and having the occasional mad fit when she rushes around the house for no apparent reason! Phoebe is fairly subdued and has lost weight again, but she is eating, and seems to be enjoying the small, appetising pouches my hubby bought for her, and they both need feeding little and often. They have been enjoying the sunshine. We continue to keep a close eye on them. Here they are with my hubby, taken about 18 months ago.

Daddy Cuddling Beatrice & Phoebe 25-12-15

Dry Rot

The work is all complete as far as the dry rot is concerned – the new floorboards are down and the alcove where the old cupboard was has been plastered, and we are now waiting for the kitchen fitter to call round for a chat about how I want my walk-in pantry to be. Apparently he has a carpenter lined up to do the work, as he himself is fully booked till July, but he may do the doors for us, to match our existing kitchen, and one or other of them will need to complete the laminate floor so that it extends into the alcove. We are still managing fine in the small kitchen in the flat and I am quite used to it now.

20 Work Completed 20-4-17

Spring Cleaning

I have given most of our kitchen a thorough cleaning now, taking advantage of the absence of all the stuff that used to be out on the tops. I have started moving a few things back in, that are not in constant use, because I don’t think the work on the pantry will create much dust. I can’t do a lot at once, but it’s amazing how quickly things get done, doing a little at a time.

01 Kitchen - Window

It will be nice to be back in again! It’s all looking so bare.

Health Update

I’ve got an appointment tomorrow with my surgeon, three months on from my recent emergency operation to repair my parastomal hernia. He wants me to have further surgery to do a more permanent repair as they weren’t able to do more than a temporary job before, because I was too poorly. I have a nasty sneaky suspicion that the hernia has already come back, but maybe I’m being paranoid!

My next oncology appointment is in May, which I hope won’t coincide with the upcoming operation but I expect everything will work out OK. I am not worried about seeing her because I am quite sure everything is fine in that direction.

This afternoon the lady from the support garments firm is coming round yet again to try and sort out the problem I am having – I have one pair of support pants that fits perfectly, but they seem incapable of making up further identical ones for me – the third lot still don’t fit. I’m beginning to get a bit desperate to say the least – I’ve been waiting months for this. The lady who comes to see me is brilliant and it’s certainly not her fault, and she is doing her best for me. I hope this will be the final time and that this time they will actually produce something that is going to fit, and do the job it is supposed to do!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Infusions Mini-Album–Prepping the Pages

A couple of days ago I put a whole lot of toilet paper rolls into my flower press to flatten them, and a few under a pile of heavy books. The ones under the books didn’t flatten too well, but those from the flower press did pretty well. I bought this flower press at a village fete last year for a song, thinking it might be useful for just this sort of job.

01 Flower Press and Toilet Rolls

The ones that had been under the heavy books, I put into the flower press for a bit more squashing. Not sure how many I shall need, but I can always do more if necessary. I’ve got thousands of the things knocking around in my studio (they keep falling on the floor!) so it will be good to use them up.

Making albums out of them, you do have to make sure they are all the same size. I use 2 different kinds of loo paper – one is soft and posh and expensive (the middles of which I am using for this project) and the other is real el cheapo stuff (£1 for 6 rolls) for cleaning the drainable bags for Kermit (my stoma) – after all, you don’t need anything posh for this so why waste money? Ha! The cardboard rolls for the cheap stuff are bigger (bit of a cheat, really, because the full rolls look nice and big, but the hole in the middle is bigger, so you’re actually getting less). Since getting Kermit just over 2 years ago I’ve become quite an expert on loo paper… but I digress…

Since the edges of the rolls and the inside of one end (where the tags will go) will be visible, I painted these with black gesso. Here are the insides done.

02 Gesso on the Insides

I used a narrow palette knife for this, and realised after doing both ends of the first one that I only needed to do one end, since the other end will be closed by the album binding, and invisible.

I used a small foam brush to apply gesso to the edges of the outsides of the rolls, making sure I coated the edge of each roll because this will show, both ends.

03 Gesso on the Outsides

They were still not 100 percent flat, but I hoped that once I got the samples stuck onto them and they were bound into the album, they would eventually flatten completely.

This proved to be a messy job!

04 A Messy Job!

Thank goodness for washing up liquid and kitchen scrubbies! I got nicely cleaned up in time for a cup of tea!

Coming back later, I touched them up with more black gesso where they needed it, using a grotty old brush I’d already ruined using it for gel medium… You live and learn. I also started pairing the samples and working out which ones needed to be stuck to the toilet rolls that will contain explanatory tags, and which could be stuck back to back. I began the messy and somewhat tedious task of sticking the samples and assembling the pages. More photos tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Spring Cleaning, Embroidery and Kitties

Spring Cleaning

Today I started cleaning the kitchen, while there’s nothing out on the tops since the dry rot work began. I came to the conclusion that the chippie isn’t going to make much mess constructing our walk-in pantry, and I’d better get on with the cleaning while the going was good, especially as I can’t do too much without completely exhausting myself! Today I climbed up onto the worktop by the window and cleaned the huge window, the windowsill, the picture rail and worktop around the corner and behind the microwave, as far as the hob. I also cleaned the curved glass of the extractor fan over the hob. I’m not sure it’s ever been so clean!!

01 Kitchen - Window

After that, enough was enough, and I came down, made a cup of tea and sat down with my hubby to watch TV.


While doing that, I did a bit of embroidery, and completed another piece for the over-bed tester decorations.

15 Plain Blue with Primary Colours


Better news on the kitty front today. Phoebe is better than yesterday and has eaten a bit more. My hubby bought some small pouches of especially tempting kitty nosh and she enjoyed one of those for her tea. Beatrice is much less wobbly today – weird how both kitties’ symptoms seem to come and go a bit! We continue to keep a close eye on both of them, and they are getting lots of love and attention as always. We are enjoying the time left that we have with them and want to give them as much comfort and love as possible.

Here they are in their younger days.

Beatrice & Phoebe in Hammock 15 Dec 04

My goodness, they both look so fat and furry and young in that photo – taken back in 2004! Beatrice (on the left) was 4, and Phoebe was 18 months old.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

More Infusions, Garden and Kitties


Today I have been back in the studio for the first time for ages – what with the work being done on the kitchen and other activities, I have been very busy, and in between too tired to do anything, but I was determined to continue with my Infusions experiments today.

I am nearly at the end of the samples that I am going to create, and today I spent most of the time working with Infusions combined with white fluid acrylic paint and gesso.

Here are the materials I used for creating a marbled effect using white Pebeo fluid acrylic paint and Infusions – Sleight Blue and In the Navy from set 2.

84 Materials for Marbling with Acrylic Paint

I painted some of the acrylic paint onto the large acrylic block and sprinkled on the Infusions in both colours, and then spritzed it with water to activate the Infusions. I pressed the card down onto this and made sure good contact had been made all over, and then pulled it off, and these are the results.

85 Marbling with Acrylic Paint - Printing Method

Top left: the first impression. Top right, a second impression after spritzing the block with more water. Bottom left, third impression, ditto, and middle right, fourth impression, ditto. By bottom right, fifth impression, much of the interest had gone because the Infusions had blended too much into the somewhat watered down paint that remained on the block. I had to press the card repeatedly onto the block for this one, to ensure complete coverage. However, to get five impressions from one block is pretty good! The first two are pretty similar, but on close examination you can see a bit more texture from the paint on the first one. They get more muted and subtle with each impression. You could do this technique equally well directly onto a non-stick craft sheet or a gelli plate, I should think.

Next, I did the direct-to-paper method of marbling with acrylic paint.

86 Materials for Marbling with Acrylic Paint - Direct to Paper Method

In this case, I painted a layer of the white fluid acrylic onto two pieces of card and sprinkled the Infusions in the same two colours on top. Spritzing with water activated the Infusions and they started to flow. For the first one, after spritzing, I blotted it very lightly and then left it to stand for a few minutes, and then dried it with the heat gun.

For the second one, I alternated heating with the heat gun and further spritzing, and added a bit more of the Infusions half way through, which gave a slightly stronger effect.

87 Marbling with Acrylic Paint - Direct to Paper Method

I think on balance I prefer the more subtle effect created by the printing method.

I then moved on to some further experiments with gesso, beginning with spreading gesso through a stencil (my own honeycomb stencil which I cut myself). For these pieces, I used Terracotta Infusions from set 2.

88 Materials for Stencilling with Gesso

I spread the gesso through the stencil using a palette knife, being careful not to be too careful with it! By this I mean I wanted a fairly distressed, incomplete look.

After doing this, I immediately turned the stencil over and blotted off the excess gesso onto another piece of card, to get a fainter, reverse stencil effect. I dried the gesso on both samples, using my heat gun, and then sprinkled on the Infusions and spritzed them with water.

89 Stencilling with Gesso

The gesso acted as a resist. I spritzed and added a bit more Infusions and tilted the card around to get the Infusions to flow between the raised gesso. I particularly like the subtle effect of the second sample, with the reverse stencil effect.

I then remembered a technique I used ages ago which I really liked – boiled gesso! I spread some gesso onto a piece of card with a palette knife, deliberately keeping it pretty rough with different thicknesses of gesso across the card, and then, before it had a chance to dry, immediately heated it with my old, high-powered heat gun held pretty close so that the gesso boiled and bubbled up. Once it was dry, I fanned it to cool it, and then used my fingers to squash the bubbles down onto the card to stop the tops of them flaking off. You get a gorgeous texture this way.

Adding some of the Terracotta Infusions from set 2 and spritzing it with water, this is the result I got. Pretty good!

90 Boiled Gesso

Here’s a detail shot where I tried to show the texture a bit better. Hard to see in the photo but I love it! This would look good with a touch of gilding wax on some of the raised parts, I think.

91 Boiled Gesso Detail

My final samples today were done with cling film.

92 Materials for Infusions with Clingfilm

I cut a piece of cling film larger than two pieces of card and spread it out but not too flat. I sprinkled on two colours of Infusions – Violetta and In the Navy, both from set 2, and spritzed them well with water.

93 Spritzed Infusions on Clingfilm

I then took the two pieces of card and placed them down on top of the spritzed Infusions.

94 Printing the Paper onto Spritzed Infusions on Clingfilm

They immediately started to curl up, but it didn’t matter. I flattened them down with my fingers, and carefully lifted the whole thing up, gathering the cling film a little at the sides so that the Infusions wouldn’t run off too much, and turned it over. Using my fingers, I scrunched up the clingfilm to create a nice texture across the two pieces of card and walked away and left it – how hard is that!! – with this technique you can’t peel off the clingfilm until the paint is dry. Patience…

95 Scrunched Clingfilm on Infusions


The Infusions had dried by bed time and I gently peeled off the clingfilm, and this is the result.

96 Cling Film Peeled Off

97 Infusions with Cling Film

I think these came out really cool! Definitely a technique to repeat.

I discovered most of these these techniques online, but I’m afraid I can’t remember who did what, so I give a general thanks to everyone for blazing the trail before me.

Our Garden

The Clematis montana growing on the end of the garage is now in full bloom! It is so pretty. This picture was taken from my hubby’s study window upstairs.

01 Clematis Montana in Full Bloom

In a few years, this prolific plant will have grown to cover the end of the garage. Next year my hubby will extend the range of the two trellises by adding wires along to right and left, and over the top of the window. It’s going to be glorious.

Taken from the same vantage point, the Forsythia is now in full bloom as well, and looking very pretty beside the steps to the upper garden. Beyond it, you can just make out the blossom on the apple tree. A few weeks ago my hubby’s brother came over and helped him prune the apple tree, and it’s a nice shape now, and hopefully we’ll get a good crop again come the autumn. The apples it produces are delicious.

02 Forsythia in Full Bloom with Apple Blossom Beyond

Finally, another shot from the study window, looking down onto the water feature/rock garden outside the kitchen window. It’s looking quite pretty now.

03 Water Feature from Study Window

Eventually the aubretia plants we put in will cascade over the wall, making a pretty display.


The news isn’t good for either of our two old ladies now. Today Phoebe was unwell again, very listless and not interested in food, and she was sick a little bit, and produced some very small pellets of poo. The vet said that eventually the cancer would cause a blockage. However, we didn’t take her to the vet today, because when she was unwell before, she suddenly rallied and started eating again, and since then she’s been very well. She did eat a little bit at lunch time, and a bit more at tea time, and she seems a bit better now. We are keeping a close eye on her and are both realistic enough to know that eventually we are going to have to take her to the vet and have her put down…

As for Beatrice, for some time now, her balance hasn’t been that good when clambering into her hammock, and she’s been quite wobbly especially in her back legs. Today she seems a lot worse and even just walking along, she appears drunk. If she shakes herself while on her feet, she tends to fall over. She is eating well and is very communicative and purrs a lot, as usual, and is taking her usual interest in things, and her fur is in good condition. Again, we are keeping a close eye on her and my hubby thinks it’s just old age – if she was a human she’d probably be using a granny frame by now! She hasn’t had a stroke, we are sure, because it seems to be mostly both back legs that are affected and there’s no sign of hemiplegia. We don’t think it’s arthritis either, because she doesn’t seem to be in any pain. If it gets any worse we’ll take her to the vet but my hubby is sure it’s just old age. She is nearly 17.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dry Rot–Work Completed

Today Kevin completed Phase One of our work in the kitchen to sort out the dry rot under the old cupboard, and to construct a walk-in pantry. The kitties were pleased to be released from the bathroom after their third day being shut in there – Beatrice fell out of the door like she did yesterday, but Phoebe was busy weighing herself – she was sitting on the bathroom scales! She weighs 7 lb!

The new render had dried sufficiently overnight for Kevin to plaster over it. This is how it looked at lunch time.

19 Plastering - 20-4-17

The work completed by mid-afternoon.

20 Work Completed 20-4-17

Kevin was trying to put back the pieces of laminate flooring but was having a terrible job with it, because it was so tight. In the end, I suggested that he leave it for the kitchen fitter to do, and he said if I was happy to do that, then he would – he will discuss it with Andy, the boss man, and if we have any further problems with it, to let them know. He wasn’t really happy about leaving his job not quite complete, but we agreed that perhaps the kitchen fitter might have a special tool for this, and anyway he would be very experienced in laying laminate floors, so that’s how we’ve left it. I told him it was fine, because until the walk-in pantry is completed, we wouldn’t be moving back into the kitchen, and were happy to continue to use the flat kitchen for the moment anyway.

This is what the floor looks like now. A huuuuge improvement on the awfulness of just a few days ago! I am so relieved that it is all sound now.

21 Work Completed - Floor Detail 20-4-17

He has nailed down the pale green underlay for the remaining laminate floor panels. There is a visible gap between two of the pieces which he wasn’t able to close. On the rest of the floor, you have to look very closely indeed to see the joins.

Andy called at lunch time while Kevin was on his lunch break so he didn’t see him, but we discussed the work and I told Andy how pleased I was with Kevin and all that he had done, and how pleasant he had been, and how conscientious. Andy was pleased, and said that “best case scenario” at the outset had been to remove the double oven unit and not have to go through into the sitting room, but the result was actually “better than best case scenario” and he was very pleased for us that it had all gone so well.

In the early evening Gary, our neighbour, phoned to say he’d got my message asking him to contact the kitchen fitter. I said to Kevin earlier that we’d probably have to wait a while because if he was as good as Gary said, he’d probably be booked up with other jobs for a while, and Kevin agreed, saying that if he was just sitting around waiting for the phone to go, he might not be that good! Gary bore this out by saying that the kitchen fitter is booked solid till July!! He also said he would never recommend someone he wasn’t prepared to use himself, which is a pretty good recommendation.

The kitchen fitter told him that despite the delay, he would be very happy to do the finishing part, fitting the doors etc., but if it was a question of fitting shelves in an alcove, then he knew a very good carpenter who could undertake that part of the work, and sooner, too. I told Gary I was happy with this arrangement, but would need to see the kitchen fitter beforehand, to tell him exactly what I wanted, so that he could liaise with the carpenter. Gary said he’d phone him straight away, and he’d probably be over to see us one evening soon.

He also said that the carpenter would probably be able to sort the floor OK, and that the kitchen fitter would be able to get hold of some more of the laminate panels to match.

So now we wait, but I don’t think it will be too long before something happens. In the meantime the plaster will have the chance to dry out thoroughly.

I said to Gary that once the construction of the pantry is completed by the carpenter, even if we have to wait for the doors to be fitted, we should be able to move back into the kitchen and use it, and I’d be able to start using the pantry. Fitting the doors shouldn’t involve too much mess, and I’d certainly like to be back in there way before July, especially in view of the fact that I shall probably be having my operation before then, and would like to get it sorted before going into hospital, as I shan’t be wanting to shift a lot of stuff when I am recovering.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Dry Rot–Work Continuing, and WOYWW 411

Nothing on my desk for WOYWW again, I’m afraid, but I thought you might like an update on the dry rot problem in our kitchen. Please see previous posts for more details.

Another day spent in the bathroom for two disgruntled kitties! Hopefully only one more day, though, because further good progress has been made on the work in the kitchen today.

First thing this morning, after Kevin had removed the floor boards covering the hole and before he started work, I took a photo of the new joists. You can see that he has wrapped the ends in damp proof membrane, and you can also see the new wall plates underneath.

14 New Joists 19-4-17

The first job was to spray into the hole and as far as he could reach under the floor with a chemical to prevent any more dry rot. This was a lot less smelly than I’d anticipated. He also drilled into the outside wall and injected a damp proof course.

He then fixed the new joists permanently into their correct position and nailed down the new floor boards. So nice to know that everything underneath is now treated and dry and safe. The rest of the work is repairing, tidying up and making good, in readiness for the fun part – the fitting of my new walk-in pantry, as soon as we can get hold of the kitchen fitter.

By lunch time he had made good progress hacking off the render from the walls. He needed to do this to make sure the rot had not extended up into the wall.

15 Hacking Render off Wall

More good news – there is no sign of any damp or rot in the wall. He said the plaster was bone dry, and all the blockwork is sound. He was able to go ahead and render the walls with fresh sand and cement in preparation for plastering.

After the work this morning, the room is very dusty and smells of old masonry dust. I am glad I removed everything from the tops in the kitchen. The contents of the cupboards are fine. Once the work is finished I intend giving the whole room a good spring clean.

In the afternoon he re-rendered the walls with sand and cement.

16 New Rendering on Walls

17 Detail of New Rendering

Down the left hand exposed edge he has incorporated a metal bead.

The new floor boards – unfortunately I couldn’t photograph these until Kevin had gone, and he’d tidied his kit into the corner, covering them up a bit!

18 New Floor Boards

Tomorrow, once this is all dried off, he will skim the lot with plaster, clean up, and his job will be done. Ready for Phase Two – the walk-in pantry!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Dry Rot–Work Begins

Today the man from the damp proofing company came to begin work on our dry rot problem in the kitchen.

He worked fast, efficiently and very tidily. I was amazed how much he had got done by lunch time, and with so little mess, too.

To backtrack a little, here are the pictures of the problem area. First of all, the old kitchen cupboard to the right of my fitted double oven.

01 Original Cupboards Closed

When the fitter installed our new kitchen when we moved 3 years ago, I asked him to leave that cupboard because it was an original feature of the house and it seemed a shame to strip it out. However, it proved an absolute pain – it was too deep, and the back was inaccessible, and whatever I wanted was always at the back, which meant that I was constantly taking stuff out to get at what I wanted! The first rule of larder design: have shelves that only hold one or two things deep, so everything is accessible. Also, in front of the cupboard was an area of dead space in the kitchen. The fitted oven unit is built against the front of the old chimney breast, and the cupboard goes into the recess to the right of it. When the new pantry is built, the door will be flush with the front of the cooker and will make use of this dead space.

Here is the top cupboard open, and you can see the problem I have with access to the contents.

02 Top Cupboard Open

This is the bottom cupboard, already cleared – you can see how far back it goes, and you can also see where the floor boards have rotted away, and the hole on the left.

03 Bottom Cupboard Open and Cleared

The rotten floor boards and the hole.

04 Rot in Bottom Cupboard

Looking down into the void beneath the house – you can see the rotting joists.

05 Detail of Rot in Bottom Cupboard

When the damp expert came to assess the problem, he said we would not know the extent of the problem until he’d got the floor up, but the worst case scenario was that it might have spread quite a distance, and he anticipated having to remove the oven unit anyway, and possibly even need to take up some of the floor in the sitting room next door. He said he would definitely have to take out the whole of the old cupboard, and I had no objection to this as it had proved such a problem to use.

He was due to begin the work a couple of weeks before Easter but a death in the family took him away for a few days so he said he would start the following Thursday instead, until I reminded him that the next day was Good Friday, which would mean we would have a hole in the floor for four days and no work being done, and he said he would start the day after the Easter bank holiday, which was today, Tuesday 18th April.

In the meantime I had plenty of time to clear the kitchen, starting with the rest of the offending cupboard. I didn’t know how much mess would be created, and anyway we needed to move into the kitchen in the flat, so I cleared everything that was out on top – no point in taking everything out of the kitchen units as they’d be protected from dust anyway. The next two photos show work in progress with the clearing!

06 Clearing the Kitchen Ready for the Work

07 Clearing the Kitchen Ready for the Work

It started to get very bare indeed and it became quite echoey in there! Once the work is done, it will be a great opportunity to give the whole kitchen a good spring clean before bringing the stuff back in, and the new pantry will allow me to organise things better so that I won’t need so much stuff out on the worktops, making it tidier and easier to keep clean.

Here is the flat kitchen with our stuff moved in. (You can see the primrose bank through the window!)

08 Decamping into Flat Kitchen 1

08 Decamping into Flat Kitchen 2

It’s very small, but I can stand in the middle and reach virtually everything! We’ve now been in for more than a fortnight and I’m really quite enjoying it! It’s funny to be using my old cooker again, too.

So – this morning the work began, with Kevin, one of the firm’s subcontractors taking on the work. Here is the space where the cupboard once was – these photos were taken at lunch time.

09 Cupboard and Rotten Timber Removed

10 Working on the Hole

He said that the man who had laid the laminate floor had done a beautiful job – the pieces were so snugly fitted together that he had to exercise great care to remove them without snapping off their tongue-and-groove edges.

In this photo you can see that he has already cleared away the rotten timbers.

11 Detail of the Hole

The pipe over the hole is believed to be the gas pipe which fed the old gas cooker which we had removed when we had our new kitchen – Kevin wasn’t keen to interfere with this, and I am hoping it won’t cause a problem in the new walk-in pantry – I shall discuss it with the kitchen fitter when the time comes. It runs through the wall and under the sitting room floor, presumably to the main out in the street at the front.

During the afternoon he cut new joists and wrapped the ends in damp proofing membrane (the black roll bottom right in the next photo) and cut new floor boards. He also made new wall plates to replace the rotten sections he has cut out – these support the joists. The old ones were extremely hard wood where he had to cut them, beyond the rotten part – and he couldn’t get his big power saw in and had to use a small blade which got extremely hot and made a nasty smell, as well as a great deal of noise – and of course during this stage, I had to deal with an important phone call!

All day the kitties were shut in the bathroom because the last thing we wanted was for them to start exploring the hole, and wandering about underneath the house! They were not best pleased. We discussed what to do, and we agreed it was best to keep the kitchen door shut and the cat flap locked, and after Kevin had gone, let them out so they had access to the rest of the house, and if they wanted to go out, we could let them out through the door from the flat into the garden. However, by the end of the day, Kevin had laid the new floor boards in place to cover the hole, without fixing them, so we were able to let the kitties out without any danger of losing them in the foundations of the house!

This is what it looks like this evening now he has gone.

12 End of Day 1

13 End of Day 1 Detail

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the work he’d done so far in the hole, showing the new joists in place, before he covered it up, but I’m hoping to get one tomorrow morning when he lifts up the floor boards to continue work, as it looks quite impressive!

What we have learnt today is all very good news. He says that it is a great advantage that the joists run transversely, because if they were running out at right angles to the end wall, the rot could well have got into more of them, necessitating a lot more digging out, and more floor having to coming up. As it is, it has only affected the two joists running across the cupboard space, and they are bounded each end by two solid walls. Not only does he not have to dig up the sitting room floor (WHAT a relief!!!!!) but he hasn’t even got to remove the double oven unit! I was pretty well certain that this would have to happen after what the boss man Andy had said.

Tomorrow, Kevin will remove the joists he’s just laid in place for now, and hack off the render from the walls where the cupboard was, as he needs to ascertain if any rot has got into the walls. He will redo this with sand and cement. Depending on whether he can get away with one or two coats, he may even finish the job by the end of Thursday! If it needs two coats, it will go on into Friday, but the job will certainly be finished by the weekend.

He will also spray the whole area with a chemical to destroy any dry rot, and make sure it is all damp proofed and ready for the new timbers to be permanently installed.

After the render has dried, he will plaster the walls, and then once the floor is all back in place, we can go ahead and get the kitchen fitter to start building my new walk-in pantry. He probably won’t be able to start immediately as he’s bound to be booked up with other work for a while, but at least we’ve got the flat kitchen and I’m quite used to cooking in there for now.

Today’s news was so good, and I am so relieved, and no longer worried about a huge, ongoing job causing major disruption and a lot of mess.

I am very impressed with this firm, and with Kevin’s expertise and efficiency. I can’t believe how much he has already achieved, especially as once he’d seen what needed to be done, he had to go out and purchase supplies.

I should have more news and photos tomorrow.

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