In which there is a house tour

Standard

Our balcony was finally finished over the bank holiday, and so coinciding with S taking some photos of the house with a wide-angled lens, I thought I’d share the fruits of our labours over the past few months.

When we moved in, the house was stuck in a time warp. The electrics all pre-dated the 1977 colour change, there was no central heating and the bathroom still had the original 30s tiles (sadly not good enough to keep). We were only the third owners since 1936, with the couple before us being in there for over sixty years. It was described as “in need of some modernisation”. It definitely needed TLC. A friend of mine called it “retro”, which I think was rather too kind! This is what it looked like before.

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Front bedroom

Front bedroom

Back bedroom

Back bedroom

Bathroom

Bathroom

Small bedroom

Small bedroom

There were loads of great original features though — internal doors with Bakelite handles, the leaded glass front door and picture rails in most rooms. S loved the cellar and the garage as potential bike storage/workshop space. And, of course, the view. The view is what really sold it to us, being high up and looking out towards South Bristol and Somerset. We knew there was so much potential for it to be an amazing house.

Over ten months we stripped wallpaper, knocked down a wall and an outhouse, did the bonding plasterwork, dug the foundations for the balcony, put in a lintel, rebuilt a wall, sanded and polished the floors, built shelves and painted. A lot. External contractors rewired it, installed central heating and a woodburner, swapped windows and doors over in the kitchen-diner, did the top coat of plaster, put in a new kitchen and bathroom and built the balcony.

And here’s how it looks now…

11059330_10155574133355343_1342158601942606064_n

10995336_10155574132300343_6480254784515397744_n

IMG_20150311_222956

11052525_10155574134305343_678208646312651291_n (1)

11209744_10155574131775343_2637913551207396809_n

11255842_10155574133255343_6085644496415684648_n (1)

10509646_10155574132840343_8856814170525336614_n

11150948_10155574133975343_6268870601477294653_n

11128372_10155574132440343_956378201707641424_n

10583947_10155574132830343_1679939806490996017_n

11263971_10155574133805343_5543313812485984635_n

10471087_10155574133740343_7968059916277310966_n

11255834_10155574131195343_5515130127815323908_n

11054452_10155574133070343_353422285715528616_n

11165314_10155574131270343_2342529694329003560_n

11165271_10155574131785343_3000699037665312791_n

Seeing these photos side by side makes me realise how far we’ve come from that day in September 2013 when we fell in love with the view. Every time I put my key in the lock, I still get a thrill to see it all complete, and I genuinely can’t imagine living anywhere else now.

For those of you interested in the details: all paint Wickes white trade matt with a top coat of Dulux matt soft sheen in brilliant white; kitchen: all units, sink and worktop from Wickes; dining room: tiles in fireplace from http://www.milagros.co.uk; bathroom: suite from Bath Store, tiles from Topps Tiles; living room: floating shelves built by us using batons, tongue and groove and redwood planks; cat: photographer’s own!

In which that was the month that was: April issue

Standard

IMG_20150406_190533184

April is one of my favourite months: blue skies and blossom popping out everywhere. It’s been pretty warm here, too, so lots of meals have been eaten on the balcony and the first falafel of the year in Castle Park.

This month I have…

Upped my culture quota

I saw a contemporary circus show at the Old Vic (Under the Dark Moon) and comedy at the Tobacco Factory (Tom Stade), although neither were amazing. But of note was that even after a large glass of wine prior to the former, I didn’t want to fall asleep  in the darkened auditorium, so I’m taking that as a win for the MAD.

Celebrated Easter and a friend’s wedding

IMG_20150405_134509346

My ex-university housemate got married on Easter Saturday at a rowing club in London where the Prosecco flowed, the favours were Mini Eggs and the youngest guest was just five weeks’ old (my other ex-housemate’s baba who received a pair of last month’s knitted booties). We took advantage of being in our nation’s capital by going on the Eye the next day (which S has never done) and wandering around Westminster in the sunshine. We then sat on the balcony for pretty much all of the Easter Monday, eating a lot of chocolate. The stash is still holding out, however.

IMG_20150405_202642103

Treated my mom to afternoon tea

We headed to the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath to celebrate her birthday, and the weather gods smiled on us too, so we got to sip our Champagne and eat our cakes and scones and Bath buns in the magnolia-filled garden. Can highly, highly recommend this place: the food was delicious, the fizz dry and the service impeccable.

IMG_20150415_135257794

Celebrated six months in the house

We marked the occasion by buying and framing some new prints, getting a proper vase (as I was constantly nicking S’ specialist beer glasses to put flowers in) and continuing the destruction of the garden!

IMG_20150426_195618376

In which I finally have a proper night’s sleep

Standard

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been tired. Most of the time I could deal with it; there was just a nagging sense of fatigue tugging at the edge of my consciousness, and if I didn’t focus on it then it would be fine. But every morning I would wake up wanting to go straight back to sleep, and no matter how long I slept for, it was never, ever enough. Offer me a nap and I would take it. Put me as a passenger in a moving car and I would zonk out, no question.

I just thought this was me, though: that I was sleeping too much, or not sleeping to the right patterns of time; that I drank too much coffee, or not enough water. A few years ago I went to the doctor to see if he could come up with something, but while he was very sympathetic and nice, blood tests showed nothing and all he could suggest was reading Frank Lipman’s book Spent.

It wasn’t until S was having trouble sleeping last summer and noticed that I had very erratic breathing — I would gasp and sputter, he said, as if I had been holding my breath, and never seemed to have the regular, deep breathing you associate with sleeping people — that something clicked, and I started to Google symptoms, putting two and two together (plus the Darth Vader-esque heavy breathing/snoring I did) and thinking that the answer of apnoea could well be the magic four. Convincing my GP (a different one) wasn’t the easiest: when a 32 year old womansays she might have apnoea, it’s not the typical overweight middle-aged man you’re expecting, so it’s understandable that there was some scepticism. But after completing an Epworth sleepiness test, which I’d already done for myself, the doctor realised that I may well be a candidate and I was referred to the sleep studies unit at the hospital. For two nights I wore a pulse oximeter strapped to my finger, which measured my pulse and breathing, recording these onto a USB so they could be mapped out as a graph on a computer. I saw the consultant two days later, and was fully expecting her to declare that I was a malingerer, a fraud, and not to waste her time anymore. Instead, she told me that there was no doubt I had apnoea, and she could diagnose the reason why straightaway – my very narrow jaw, which when relaxed in sleep closed off my airway, restricted my breathing and caused my brain to come out of deep sleep in order to get more oxygen. This was happening 6 or 7 times an hour – I was never getting enough of the deep sleep my body and brain needed and craved. Finally, the mystery was solved and I had an official diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

Treatment options were discussed – I’d read about CPAP machines, devices which blow constant pressurised air down your throat, which didn’t sound appealing, but the consultant said a mouth device would be the best thing to try first. An appointment was made at the dental hospital for me, and now five months later, I’m the proud owner of a Mandibular Advancement Device, aka a very large gumshield. I wear this at night, it pushes my jaw forward into the correct position, and voila, I sleep properly.

The first week was tough in terms of jaw pain, but no worse than when I’ve had braces in the past; a few days of softer foods and ibuprofen did the trick. And any pain was cancelled out when I woke up and for the first time in over twenty years, I didn’t want to go back to sleep again. It’s a miracle.

There was a blip: on Monday morning, for some reason, I was exhausted again. I could have fallen asleep straight away (and in fact did), and had to have a nap in the afternoon. I panicked that the magic had worn off; that now my jaw had adjusted to the device and it wasn’t hurting, that it somehow wouldn’t work. But luckily it seems to have been just a one-off (touch wood), possibly because I lost an hour of sleep when the clocks went forward on the Saturday.

After finding a forum for apnoea sufferers, I feel incredibly grateful that mine was diagnosed so quickly and easily, and that I was referred to a sleep consultant without having to fight for it. Being told not to make a fuss, come back when you’ve lost weight, you’re just depressed seem to be common themes when people ask for a diagnosis. I am also extremely lucky that I didn’t have to pay for any of my treatment; having to pay for the MAD seems to be a normal thing too. And my OSA is classified as mild, which is great as it means an MAD is suitable for me and I don’t have to try more extreme measures such as the CPAP or surgery.

I think I will always be a ‘sleepy’ person who loves a lie-in and given the opportunity, will always steal a snooze on the couch. But the relief of not being tired is so unbelievably sweet. I feel like a new person, and it’s great.

In which that was the month that was: March issue

Standard

Spring still feels a long way off as the weather this month, apart from one glorious weekend, has been chilly and grey. Today though, I finally wore my light jacket for the first time this year (albeit with a pair of wrist warmers and earmuffs) and smelt that scent in the air that announces yes, the season has definitely shifted on from winter.

So this month I have:

Enjoyed my first proper night’s sleep in twenty years

Farewell sleep apnoea — more on this to come!

Started hacking our garden into pieces

We’re extremely lucky in that we have 100ft of garden to play with, but we need to start from scratch by removing the huge amount of random rubbish, breaking up the acres of concrete and digging out the (mostly overgrown and wild) plants. Our neighbours on both sides did a dance of joy when S sawed down the leylandii that has been blocking their light for years. My friend and I also cleared more of our allotment (did I mention I now have a share in an allotment now? It’s very handily at the back of my house) and transplanted some raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants from our house to a new home there.

Celebrated my friend’s forthcoming wedding with a 30s style hen do in London

I wore a red satin dress I found secondhand on eBay for £15 which I adore (and am now looking for the next excuse to don it) and we had a vintage hairdresser style our hair — mine was Marcel-waved. We then aired our amazing ‘dos in a vintage club in London Bridge called Cecil’s, which is where I also went on a hen last year, and which I can thoroughly recommend — great music, fab outfits and a cocktail on arrival in an enamel mug.

Done a dolphin in the air

I’m top left!

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 13.32.37

Made my first crochet granny square

This was a lot easier than I thought it would be — I think, in a similar way that I found snowboarding easier than skiing, crocheting is more logical to me than knitting. But I did also knit yet more booties this month as well as two of my friends (and ex housemates) give birth, on the same day — what are the odds of that?

In which that was the month that was: February issue

Standard

IMG_20150220_234536599_HDR (2)

February has gone past in a lightning flash, probably due to the ridiculous amount of work I was doing until the 18th. I am very proud of having got six magazines to print in six weeks, however: that is definitely an entry for the CV. I saw one of them in the airport WH Smith yesterday which still gives me a little thrill.

So this month I have been…

Having (part one) of a balcony installed

Yes, finally! Good things come to those who wait, and we’ve been waiting a long time. Still no balustrade or steps, but the platform is built, so we can at least sit out there. As can Olivia, who finally has the height to lord it over Billy, her nemesis next door.

Hanging out in Amsterdam

Beer, bicycles and batter (pancakes and waffles, a tenuous B!) — a fab three days away and lovely to travel to another country.

Seeing one of my best friends

B made a last minute decision to come over for the weekend from Berlin, so I took a (deserved!) day off work to enjoy three days of hanging out with her. Her being seven months pregnant meant the pace was a little slower than normal, but the coffee and chat was as good as always.

Enjoying lots of flowers

IMG_20150220_085814 (2)IMG_20150217_091125 (2)

Our old neighbours came round for dinner and bought us a beautiful orchid which is making me smile every time I see it. Daffodils have started to appear in the shops so I’ve been buying them for work and for home, and B bought us a tray of three pink hyacinths that will soon be perfuming the house with the scent that always heralds spring for me.