18 – 22

oh dear, rather a lot of weeks have passed since the last entry, my aim has been to update the blog as and when phases are complete, but nothing is complete, in-fact new things keep getting started…..it’s all good, it’s how it goes, some thing’s can’t be done until other things are done, some things are dependent on other things happening and some of those things have got nothing to do with me……like my electricity supply.

In order to get the exterior of the building up to date, water tight and insulated I needed my mains electricity cable moved, shouldn’t be too complicated eh ? no, first I had to book a survey with the national grid, then unbeknownst to me it turns out I am sharing my cable with my neighbour

not uncommon in these old houses, I’m told…….I had to sign contracts and break the bad news to my neighbour that they would be digging up her drive…..rather unfairly I had to pay an extortionate amount of money and she had to pay nothing, ridiculous sized holes and trenches were dug

everything had to be ready for a set date, including installation of new meter box etc. if things weren’t in place on this set date, I would be penalised with a huge fine and the whole thing delayed, no stress there then….the road was closed, and much mayhem ensued

and then it was all over, I now have a new supply, she has hers and the builders can get on with the outside, except that, because I wanted to clad the side of the house, I had to apply for planning permission, I made so many mistakes on all my applications, I had to ask an old friend to draw up proper architectural drawings, submit everything, pay more money, wait for the officer to visit, wait for the permission, this has all taken months……but I have it now, a silly piece of paper allowing me to clad my own house so that I can cut down on my carbon emissions, bloody daft

in the meantime the builders got on with the inside

and

remember the old bathroom ?

I now have an almost functioning one, a bathroom that doesn’t require a military operation in order to get clean, the shower works but everything else is on hold whilst the builders are away but I don’t care, I love it, it is such a luxury

I’ve been super busy in the garden, my new asparagus plants arrived, which have been planted and the new shoots are coming up, can’t eat them his year but am so glad to get them in

i bought some more old crap, including another chair, I must stop with the chairs now, I have far too many chairs and a garage full of old doors, 9 doors have come out of my house including old cupboard doors, 2 have been repurposed, one for the cupboard under the stairs and one for the new bathroom cupboard

I bought an old chandelier, which I took apart and fitted the old top bit to the bottom and have turned it into a candelabra, yet to be finished, thats gone into sarah’s shop of unfinished shit

I repainted an old chair

All the tanks and pipes were removed from the loft and the loft flooring was finished

The weather has been exceptional so all my indoor projects have been abandoned for the outdoors, more wood has been sorted and stacked, the trees are blooming and my garden is producing

fifteen, sixteen, seventeen

People often complain about finding a builder, a builder that will what he says, turn up when he says, knows what he’s doing, is willing to do all the trades and doesn’t need to be watched and checked. When I found mine, it was another one of those serendipitous moments. He is the step-dad of the chap who bought mum’s house. He came and looked at this house when I first saw it, he encouraged me to buy it.

He comes with his co-worker, they come when they say, they don’t stop for lunch, they work bloody hard and the only complaint from the neighbour is the singing and giggling, they make me laugh a lot which takes the sting out of the stress, even though I trust them implicitly and know I’m in safe hands, the stress levels are huge………

I’ve been alleviating my stress by tidying up my ever expanding wood yard, my skip diving had got out of control, so I decided to make a kindling wood store out of all my crap, it’s taken a few days but I’m pleased with the result.

I finished tarting up some old garden furniture that has been half way round Europe and survived the fire

I finished the two dining chairs

I repaired a mirror of mum’s that got damaged in transit (yes, there’s a chunk missing, it was always missing!)

My chair fetish continues and I procured these two beauties on market place, I haven’t done any upholstery for years but a friend on the island has all the tools, so at some point I will re-stuff the seats

I cut down the clematis in the hope that it will come back, most of it was dead anyway

Whist I’ve been doing all this, the builders have been busy, first of all up in the loft, partly to sort out the plumbing and to beef up the floor, insulate and board it out, we found an old water tank which was full of straw and at the bottom I found some very very old hazel shells……and the usual rubbish, old bits of carpet and rotten underlay and an old mattress

the landing and stairwell is very narrow and pokey, so I decided it would be better if we opened it all up and get rid of the giant slightly useless cupboard on the landing

before the bathroom could be done the back of the house had to come off soil stack removed and new windows put in some replacement timbers, treatment, breather membrane, batons and lovely brand new weather boarding

I had an idea, given the hallway narrowness and the ridiculous amount of doors coming off the landing why not dispense with the whole thing?? rather than being too radical and given that some of the walls are structural, I’ve decided to get rid of my bedroom door and the bathroom door, leaving the middle door for the back bedroom, there will be a hole cut in the wall into my bedroom and I’ve now had a hole cut in the wall from the back bedroom to the bathroom, so the whole of the upstairs is a giant one bedroom/dressing room/ensuite with a giant landing (at a much later date, I will have Velux windows put in on the east side)

all the walls at the front and back of house and some on the east side need to be replaced, so far the back bedroom has been done and the front room, various timbers replaced, insulation put in, a vapour barrier, sterling board and eventually plasterboard, the larger windows at the front of the house will have to be replaced but they are over-sized and need to be ordered

my bathroom has gone

so, thats it, so far, I’m lucky enough to have a friend round the corner who is currently out of the country and has kindly offered me the use of her bathroom, whilst all this is going on. The bathroom will be sorted soon and the electrics will be done (long story, I’ll save for another time)

meanwhile, my neighbour set light to her house this week which caused me some anxiety, I got told off at the dump, I had a man come and grab all my hardcore, I leave piles of stuff outside with a free sign on (it all gets taken) the fox continues to watch me and I had a massive two day bonfire

11,12,13,14

It’s time for an update whilst things are calmer, I suspect that other things will all happen at once in the Spring, as is the way of things…

I’ve finished two more beds, a smaller one for asparagus and the other for veg, this bastard trenching is exhausting but satisfying, I set myself daily goals as long as it’s not raining, I usually manage about 3 – 5 rows at a time

I’ve set myself up a propagation station in my front porch, it’s the only free area that gets the sun all day (when it’s out), I can’t wait to sow some seeds

The fruit area is complete, for now, I’m going to see how well the currants do that were dug up and given to me, before I decide what else to put in, the tayberry and loganberry have now got their tension wires in place. I’ve got fruit trees ordered (thank you Pat and Sandy xx) for a mini orchard and rhubarb crowns all to go elsewhere in the garden

I’ve managed to strip every wall in the house, except the kitchen, which has revealed a mass of horrors, nothing that can’t be fixed, I think the old plaster is rather beautiful but does fall off everyday leaving flakes all over every single floor, which I have given up sweeping…….it’s nice to get down to the bare bones of a house and see where it all began

My lovely little wood burner has gone in, a month early, taking me by surprise and precipitating an early log delivery which is being housed inside because I don’t have a wood store yet, I’ll have two eventually, one where the oil tank was and one the other side of it……

I’ve also been amassing a load of skip wood which is slowly being cut up and put into a crate given to me by a local roofer, this is only being used as kindling

I finished another dresser, a very large chest, a table and two chairs, a skip found cabinet and a skip found mirror, I’ve got a couple more bits of furniture to do but they can wait for now, the dumping ground is tidy

I had the hatch in my kitchen wall cut out and an old door way revealed, new lintel put in and slowly the walls repaired

I’ve joined various classes on the Island, including learning to play badminton with a bunch of very competitive retirees, I bought a bicycle on the side of the road and regularly cycle round the island (looking in all the skips, obvs.) making my way to the beach to catch the sunset

the fox and the robin visit almost daily and both check me out from their safe spaces, I love them both for different reasons

and for no particular reason at all, but simply because they amuse me, here’s some boots and shoes

weeks six, seven, eight, nine and ten

crikey, where’s the time gone……happy new year everyone. I’ve been such a busy bee….I know there’s an awful lot to do here but it’s starting to sink in and feel like home. My neighbours are lovely, my new friends are lovely, my walks are always lovely, I’ve joined various classes on the Island and people say hello, all the time……..So whilst waiting for various nonsense to sort itself out. I’ve been getting on with things that aren’t dependent on someone else or won’t be disturbed when major work happens.

I’ve repainted a chest of drawers

I bought a box from a charity shop

I ‘ve painted loads more fence panels and finished my first bed and heavily manured it

I’ve finished my fruit area

I’ve moved all the bulbs from the front and side of the house, to save them from being trashed later

I’ve started stripping walls

The fire place is nearly ready for a stove, bit more work this week

I’ve re-glued, wood-wormed and re-painted my beautiful peg board from Italy

I sold my oil and oil tank and will make a wood store in due course

I have removed the under stairs cupboard, painted it all white, i’ll make another smaller cupboard with the old door later

The builder is coming back this week and it’s going to be mucky but it’s the beginning of the transformative phase, I’m very excited

I do take time off, most days I go for a walk, sometimes just to check out the skips, sometimes friends come over and sometimes I leave the Island, but not often

week three/four/five

I moved in a two weeks ago, the builder is on another job, which is fine, it’s given me time to unpack everything and make life very difficult for him when he comes back, ha ha

I cut down the only tree in the garden because it was in the way of my plans, I tried to dig it out properly but………I turned it into a Christmas tree

There were a lot of old dead tree stumps and bushes in the garden which I’ve had removed

and at the same time I persuaded the stump grinder man to push my shed over with his machine

I have painstakingly dismantled the shed and am trying to keep some boards to line my vegetable bed and have burnt the rest or taken to the dump and removed the pond

I toyed with the idea of hiring a turf stripper but by several accounts they are awful to use and I’d still be left with the problem of what to do with all my turf, so I’m going the old fashioned way and doing something called bastard trenching, it’s a bit like double digging but harder!!! I’ll go slow and steady, it’ll get me in touch with my soil, so far I am very happy with it, although my back would disagree

I’ve had a couple of wood burner installers in to give me quotes and a chimney sweep is booked for Christmas eve, meanwhile on closer inspection up the chimney I found a bit of dead bird

The conservatory is my new furniture restoration dump, slowly I am dealing with projects that I never got round to or have inherited since I moved in

other than that, I’ve joined the library, been to a useless yoga class, had walks with new friends, had lots of visits, tried to calm down a bit (not easy), started reading books again and generally partaking in a lot of faffery

week two

The tides have been perfect this week and the sun has come out a lot

I’ve pulled over and watched murmurations and skeins, it’s been magical……other than those brief interludes and walking into the village to get lunch, all I’ve done is work…….I am loving it, finally all those years of getting my hands dirty in the garden, iI can finally get them dirty in a house

Phase one of “lets get me in to my house” is complete…..

The builder has done amazing behind the scenes things, like sort out the plumbing temporarily

sort out some electrics, removed cupboards from the kitchen but sadly until other things have been completed by other trades he can’t do anything, I wanted to take out the cupboard under the stairs, to open up the hallway more, it would have taken me ages, it took him five minutes!

Peach came and painted my newly plastered ceilings, saving my neck and hands from days of agony, he also put two of the kitchen cupboards back up in a different place

I have finished my bedroom floor

I removed the mirrors from the wardrobe, which will become a snug eventually

I’ve painted the inside of the inherited wardrobe and some shelving with left over floor paint, I kept the original lining paper

I’ve finished the living room floors, there were some cracks and splits that needed repairing

every single room in the house is covered in ancient wallpaper, some of which is temptingly hanging off the walls, it will have to come off later and the woodwork painted throughout but I can’t do everything now if I want to move in to the house, so things will happen in stages

I must start my garden soon and get some manure in, this is the next most important thing along with getting some heating working, hopefully the next blog entry will be from my sofa in my house

week one

I decided a while ago that there is no need to struggle, I spent years of that with Rick, this project will be different. I am not making anything by hand or, doing things myself if I can’t either physically do them or mentally…….I’m not shy about learning but without the right tools or skills and a feeling that time is not on my side, I’m getting help for the big stuff but will labour when needed and do what I can, when I can, I understand why Rick did it, because he could, I can’t, so I won’t

I’ve gutted the house, removed all the old carpets

dismantled some furniture, removed all the lampshades, removed a million picture hooks from the walls and am now painfully removing all the staples and tacks from the floorboards

I also tackled the currently not functioning bathroom which was covered in talcum powder and limescale

it’s not finished but it’s good enough to get some taps working. The bathroom will change radically with some wall removal, but for now it will serve it’s purpose

Miraculously, a plasterer came to cover up the swirly shell design artex!! (plasterers are like gold dust, so I feel very blessed that a friend found this one for me)

I know that each thing that gets done will transform the place and I love watching it all unfold, I’ve changed my mind several times about hiring sanding machines and varnishing floors but have decided against it, over the next week I will be lightly sanding some of the floors and painting them, the rest I will leave until all the mucky work is done. I have also been to the dump about 100 times and managed a trip to London

Currently my daily commute is about 40 minutes and I have to check the tide times every night to make sure I’m on the island or off it before i’m stuck

I love that about my new life, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be living on this island, a place that has held so much magic for me since I can remember

home sweet broken home

it took me a long time to figure out what my next move was going to be, I knew what I didn’t want but I wasn’t sure what I did want, I started making big charts of things I thought I wanted and also dreams I’d forgotten about and dreams I thought I might have, all of it an experiment, a way to get back to me

I’d lost sight of so much over the years, I wasn’t even sure I knew who I was anymore……so after all that muddy walking in the winter, I came up with a plan, I started visualising what I wanted, I could see it in my mind, I just didn’t know where it was but I definitely knew where it wasn’t!!

As is the way, a very bizarre set of circumstances led me to my next project, I got the thumbs up on the day of my mum’s death anniversary, I’ve had to keep it all very quiet for fear of it not happening. Today I got the keys…….

I’m moving to an Island, surrounded by mud, I’ve bought a broken house!!! again with no functioning bathroom or heating ……..but it’s my broken and I will un-break it, it has a huge blank canvas garden, loads of potential, the Island is cut off from the mainland when the tide is high, it’s flat (massive bonus) and there are beaches and beach huts

and boats

and birds

and mud

loads and loads of mud

I’m very excited, I will have to do a lot of the work myself, I’ve never bought a house on my own before and I’ve never not lived with a builder!!! It’s daunting and nerve-wracking but I’m willing to give it a go, it’s the fresh start I wanted, it’s the fresh start I needed

sarah-dipity and symbiosis

if there’s one good thing that has come out of covid and all these endless lockdowns it’s that I have had the luxury of time, the one commodity we can never get back, I’ve used it wisely, I’ve had no choice…it’s not often that we are in a position to dedicate an enormous chunk of time to our own recovery, recovery from anything, life gets in the way, dependents need looking after, our significant others have to be considered and not forgetting that if you have a job, this also takes out a huge chunk of your personal time

When Rick died and Woody went, and then my mum, it was the first time in forever that I had really been on my own, with no-one needing anything from me, I felt adrift and at the same time guiltily liberated, unable to utilise my freedoms in the way I would have done pre-covid, I was left to sit and be quiet to allow the emotions to come up, engulf me, process them and let them go, the grieving process is a chaotic one and if left, can fester and turn into all sorts of unattractive behaviours and possibly illnesses, not just affecting you but impacting those around you

Having been absent from the UK for so long, my friend base was tiny and because I wasn’t allowed to play with anyone, it felt, at times more isolating than living abroad, but this is exactly what I needed, the few friends I had, slowly came out and gently held my hand, often daily on the phone, sometimes in person

One of the weird and wonderful things about my life since I can remember is that I have bumped into people in the strangest of places in the strangest of countries at the strangest of times, it happened so often to me that Rick called it sarah-dipity, it seems to be happening a lot again and it has made my heart sing, I’ve bumped into all sorts of people that I hadn’t had contact with for years, we’ve re-connected and walked and talked and laughed and cried, it’s been an absolute tonic for me.

Finding myself in this position of extreme loneliness and isolation has allowed me to re-think my life philosophy without a new life philosophy, I was finding everything rather pointless and nihilistic, what is right, what is wrong, what is good ? what is bad ?, asking myself daily, how should a human live ? and how do I want to live ? what is important to me ? what will I tolerate ? what won’t I tolerate ?

I’ve had to get very clear with myself about all this, because , rather than fill my life up with a load of crap I wanted to fill myself up with goodness and meaning, this is where we find peace (I believe) but it’s impossible to do if we don’t have a moral philosophy, it’s through the connection of friends and my walking in solitude that I have found just the right amount of support to allow me to feel steady enough to explore these notions…..

the thing about hand holding is, it only works if you don’t hold too tightly, with gentle occasional squeezes, the time and safety to figure stuff out on your own is left down to you, with no pushing or shoving from others just love and support in all the right places, the other fantastic thing about it, is that the hand holders don’t even know they are holding your hand (and if they do they don’t keep mentioning that that is what they are doing), it’s symbiotic and that’s how it should be, totally natural and unconscious and unconditional with love, respect and grace

for anyone that has struggled with their mental health or suffered loss of any kind, you will know that the consistency of support is the key thing, not just at the time of the crisis but after, months after, possibly even years, this is when that support is needed, do it without them knowing and don’t talk about doing it either, be authentic, be kind and be humble. It takes great strength and wisdom to do these things with grace and love, there is no honour or integrity in acts of kindness if we do them without humility

a life without humility is not a life at all…..

mud larking

Image

when woody went off on his new adventure, I stopped walking, I’d been walking dogs for 22 years, everyday and whilst I welcomed the break, I was also utterly bereft, the dogs had often been my anchor point and salvation, and at times it was tiresome to have to walk them twice a day in rain or shine but they were true companions, all of them and Woody, being the last remaining member of my little family was incredibly hard to let go, walking without him seemed so utterly awful, I just couldn’t do it….it felt so totally weird walking without a dog. It felt futile, pointless and very upsetting, so I didn’t do it

I had already decided in Italy that I was going to take the rest of the year off, after all the Rick death stuff and renovations and adoption of Woody, I felt I needed a break from it all (in fact when I think about it, I hadn’t really had a holiday for over 12 years. I know that some people think when you move abroad you’re permanently on holiday and that’s as maybe if you haven’t got a house to build, but up until 2017 we had been building non-stop for years and then what with the fire and everything, life hadn’t exactly been a bowl of cherries), so, with the sudden passing of my mum and having to come back to the UK, I needed to do something else, limited by COVID I decided to bite the bullet and walk, I bought a coat and some boots and found an old map

I set myself little targets and then big ones until eventually I’d walked quite a lot of the Essex coastline

there’s something about this landscape that’s very alluring and compelling, it’s raw and ancient, it’s wild and rough, it’s quiet and often very still and then at times it’s noisy and very busy

walking these lands has helped me come to terms with all of my losses last year, it’s been less about scavenging in the mud and more about dropping something off, I have mumbled, shouted, laughed, cried and sung my way around, i’ve stopped to talk to anyone that will listen (such a novelty to be able to speak English), I’ve had conversations with birds, I’ve had conversations with bits of dead birds, and of course conversations with dead people, I’ve asked questions and asked for forgiveness, I’ve stomped and plodded, I’ve marched and I’ve slipped, I’ve sat and just been

some of my walks were walks that I’d been on with Rick and our dogs, so there was something very familiar about them and sometimes they were quite upsetting but then I moved into new territory and things began to shift. When I finally made it out to St Peters Chapel, my destination, I touched the walls of the chapel, said goodbye, turned round and left, I think I’d reached my destination before I’d got there, I’d got what I needed on the way round

Mourning is always complicated it’s not a straight forward process, we get hurled about in a tumble drier of regret, remorse, good memories, bad memories, memories that come back, other memories hiding, like a faded photograph that have lost their edges, you can vaguely recall things but it’s somehow stuck in time, irretrievable….all of this swirls around, at times there are moments of peace, when the machine stops and then everything starts again, going round and round, one way then the other, thoughts falling on top of each other, everything getting tangled up, shrunk and ruined and murky

there are moments in the peace when things drop into place, realisations, understandings, none of which are possible during someone’s life, it seems that only after someone you deeply cared about has passed away, in between the tears and the confusion, this is when those moments occur and that is the shitty thing about death. I would have liked to have the clarity I have now about my husband and my mother, because I could right some wrongs and just let all the other stuff go, I just wish, like hindsight that we could have those understandings when those people are still alive…….it’s almost like their last gift to us, the parting of them allows us to understand something that is bigger than us, something that is stifled by us, something that we humans do not seem to have got the hang of at all

somewhere between the glistening endless mud and the huge open skies, out there with the ancient winkle and oyster beds

in amongst the shipwrecks and lost souls, tucked away for all eternity, washing in and out with every tide, backwards and forwards in a never ending cycle of life and death, lies my grief