I looked up the meaning of ‘discombobulate’ a few days ago as the word kept hovering on the edges of my slightly frazzled mind and seemed somehow appropriate to the way I was feeling: slightly disoriented, very confused, and somewhat frayed around the edges.  Seems it is a word that hails from North America, has a humorous connotation and is a reference to being disconcerted or confused.  Well, I’m not so sure about the humorous bit but the rest does seem to describe the way I felt during the first few days of last week.

Eddies came with two trucks.

Eddies came with two trucks.

The move did happen, as planned, on Friday, July the 17th.  The move of the furniture, that is.  The morning dawned bright and sunny but freezing cold and my feet turned to ice as I stood in the newly paved driveway directing pieces of furniture to new destinations.

Johannes and his team.

Johannes and his team.

It was reassuring to see the same Eddie’s team who moved us out of Dunkeld under the competent leadership of Johannes, climb out of the truck and start the process of unloading numerous cartons and then pieces of furniture that had been in storage for the past 6 months.  It must be a thankless job, really, lugging someone else’s heavy possessions around and this team did it in the best of spirits.  Most of the men seemed to be Zulu-speaking and some of them even sang as they worked.  Within just a couple of hours everything was unloaded and stacked either in the house or in the garage and all the boxes and individual items of furniture had been ticked off Johannes’ list.  It was a pleasure dealing with them.  It wasn’t straightforward as despite all warnings, there were builders and workmen everywhere and the moving men had to pick their way over people and equipment but they did so without complaint.

Competing with the electric gate motor man.

Competing with the electric gate motor man.

 

Heavy Loads

Heavy Loads

Once they had departed though, the real work started.  It was daunting trying to decide where to begin, not least of all because the house was still teeming with builders.  We had numerous offers of help from friends, coffees hand-delivered and suppers promised but in the end, the process of unpacking and deciding what should go and what should stay comes down to the individual and there’s just no escaping it.  All well-wishers were given the option of dropping in for drinks the following week.

We finally followed our possessions into the house on Sunday afternoon.  We collected the three cats from the cattery (where they’d been resident for 6 months) at 5pm and brought them, squawking and squeaking to their new home.  They’ve settled in very well although we haven’t allowed them outside yet and keeping them in is quite challenging with so many people still in and out.

Monty settling in.

Monty settling in.

Izzie on a favourite chair.

Izzie on a favourite chair.

Mishka without a care in the world.

Mishka without a care in the world.

Daisy, after the peripatetic  life she’s led this year, has adapted well and loves her daily runs in the park.

Straight through the garden gate... Daisy Heaven.

Straight through the garden gate… Daisy Heaven.

 

Thursday became the ‘come round for a drink day’ and when it rolled around we did think we must have been crazy to suggest it but it turned out to have been a great idea.  It was motivation to get better organised and nice to simply have fun and enjoy the space instead of working in it.

So from looking like this on Thursday morning –

Thursday Morning.

Thursday Morning.

 

We managed to get the living room looking like this by Thursday night –

 

Thursday Evening.

Thursday Evening.

Throughout the building process, I’ve been quite surprised by the number of people who’ve asked if we’ll be ‘buying all new furniture’ or simply making the assumption that we’d be doing so.  That is quite a foreign concept for me.  My favourite pieces of furniture are things that have been around me all my life.  Some of them belonged to my parents and some to my grandparents.  Seeing these much loved items ‘reincarnating’ themselves into new spaces and places is – for me – one of the most satisfying and fulfilling aspects of finding our feet in this new home.Moving Sue's orchid

And now with each passing day and each carton unpacked, we feel better settled.

Unpacking books in the library.  All those boxes are already empty.

Unpacking books in the library. All those boxes are already empty.

I did email the contractor today, however, to remind him that just because we’re at this address doesn’t mean the house/building site we’re living in is complete.  With the exception of a few subcontractors, there has been a marked lack of progress since we got here.  The generator, delivered weeks ago, is still not in operation and we have already had several episodes of  load shedding.  It’s a little frustrating  to think of it sitting in the ‘bunker room’ twiddling its little generator thumbs while we stumble around in the dark or sit doing crosswords by the light of our indispensable headlamps….

But I’ve also messaged Bernard several times just to tell him how absolutely lovely the house is.  In terms of the spaces, the light and the flow, it has turned out exactly how we hoped it would and we’re loving being here.

Showered with orchids.

Showered with orchids.

Every now and then I stop in my tracks somewhere and remember envisaging that particular spot or space when it was just a couple of lines intersecting on a sheet of paper and now it is a room with a shaft of sunlight falling exactly where we hoped it would.  So far, I think it’s safe to say it is surpassing our expectations.  In fact, I’m starting to feel almost “recombobulated”.

moving champagne quote

 

We’re supposed to be moving in tomorrow and to mark the occasion we are having a most unseasonal, wild wind and rain storm in the middle of our notoriously dry Highveld winter.  With any luck it’ll have blown over by tomorrow but luck has been in short supply recently so we will have to wait and see…

I had a cleaning service in today, Bright & Spotless.  They did a ‘post occupation’ clean when we moved out of our old house and they did a pretty good job today, despite the builders’ best efforts to keep everything as dusty and chaotic as possible.

Just for the records, this is how things looked today:

The weathervane is up at last.

The weathervane is up at last.

The weathervane, sourced a few months ago in Cape Town is finally up.  It is a beautiful tribute to Jason, Bonnie, Tessa and Cody, the Golden Retrievers who have shared our lives.  It is immensely satisfying to see something that was just a little idea, finally materialise in place.

Bedroom 3

Bedroom 3

Barn sliding door in bedroom 3

Barn sliding door in bedroom 3

This third bedroom is the smallest room in the house and it has a tiny en suite bathroom.  A sliding door was far more practical than a conventional one and I had seen similar ‘barn’ sliders on Houzz.  Amoretti, the company which has supplied all the doors and windows, were able to find the fittings locally and it works really well here.  We’ve put one between the kitchen and scullery too and I may change the bathroom door in the guest suite as well.  (But we’ll let the dust settle a bit before I start suggesting any changes…)

2nd bedroom

2nd bedroom

2nd bedroom cupboards.

2nd bedroom cupboards.

The same company who built the kitchen units, built the bedroom cupboards (‘closets’ for the Americans…).  There is a similar one in bedroom 3.

Bedroom 2 from another angle.

Bedroom 2 from another angle.

En suite bathroom for bedroom 2.

En suite bathroom for bedroom 2.

The bathroom for bedroom 2 is compact but we managed to fit in a separate bath and shower. Bedroom 3 has only a shower.

Pyjama Lounge at the top of the stairs.

Pyjama Lounge at the top of the stairs.

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom

The bed (delivered today) should be on the opposite side of the room.

Main bedroom from a different angle.

Main bedroom from a different angle.

Dressing Room all cleaned up.

Dressing Room all cleaned up.

Dressing room with glass door to bathroom.

Dressing room with glass door to bathroom.

Main bathroom.

Main bathroom.

Main bathroom shower.

Main bathroom shower.

Basins waiting for mirrored cupboards.

Basins waiting for mirrored cupboards.

The toilet has its own little room within the bathroom.

The toilet has its own little room within the bathroom.

The stairwell does not look ready for moving men.

The stairwell does not look ready for moving men.

Kitchen almost but not quite finished.

Kitchen almost but not quite finished.

Living/Dining room not quite there yet either.

Living/Dining room not quite there yet either.

Raucous Hadedas have already decided that the roof is a good vantage point.

Raucous Hadedas have already decided that the roof is a good vantage point.

It was lovely to finally see some of the spaces cleared and I wish we had more time to enjoy the house almost complete but empty.  Although the pictures might give the impression that everything is finished, there are still hundreds of things to sort out and there is not one room that will not still need a workman in it –  somewhat daunting at this stage.

So, while our furniture and dozens of boxes will arrive tomorrow, we still can’t be sure that we’ll be able to sleep there tomorrow night.  In the meantime the wind has died down and the rain is now just a whisper.

 

Well, we didn’t make the 10th of July and we’re now booked to move in on the 17th and we really can’t push it out any further.  I was warned that the ‘finishes’ take a long time but this seems quite ridiculous.  And it’s hard to believe that with literally a week or two to go, the contractors can still make monumental mistakes.

Last weekend I arrived at the house to find huge holes chopped out of all the showers.  After weeks of insisting that the reason we were not getting hot water in any of the bathrooms was because of a problem with the gas geysers, the plumber finally admitted that the mistake was his as he had put all the diverter pipes in the wrong place.  By this stage all the walls had been plastered and tiled.  Last Saturday was not a happy day.

The diverters have all been repositioned this past week and fortunately the tiler – a private subcontractor with nothing to do with Esprit, managed to source a box of tiles from the same batch originally used, so there are no colour variations where the repairs had to be done.

Little by little we’re inching forward.  Site visits are still a complete headache as we continue to  discover unexplained discrepancies.  Amoretti installed two lovely ‘barn’ sliding doors, but fitted them with bright yellow brass handles completely at odds with all the other ‘door hardware’ in the house…  A rather portly gentleman from the kitchen and cupboard company managed to break the bullnose off the bottom stair yesterday, while a misguided cleaner mopped unsealed marble with filthy water and singlehandedly changed the colour of all the bathroom floors which now have to be ‘skimmed’…  We have decided to delay that process until we’ve moved in so as to have a modicum of control over it.  And last of all, the library shelving which is meant to surround the sliding doors, has been installed straight across the door opening, reducing the height by approximately a foot…  This is completely and utterly inexplicable and when I asked the complacent, genial cabinet-maker to show me the drawing from which he was working, he replied that he ‘didn’t have one…’

And so we fight on.  This is how things are going:

The chimney pots are in place.  Heather in Suffolk, this one's for you!

The chimney pots are in place. Heather in Suffolk, this one’s for you!

The generator has been delivered.

The generator has been delivered.

The generator looks alarmingly small but apparently they have become more ‘streamlined’ of late.  It has not been connected yet, but hopefully once it is up and running, it will be able to keep the more essential parts of the house functioning during our increasingly frequent power outages.

Godfrey, a bricklayer, working on the steps from the garden to the path.

Godfrey, a bricklayer, working on the steps from the garden to the path.

The front garden (by which I mean the area on the north (sunny) side of the house, not the side where the front door is – this can be confusing for Americans…) has been raised to just below the level of the veranda.  These steps are necessary for getting down to the path that runs down the west boundary and leads to the park.  They are steeper than I would have liked but I didn’t want them to encroach too far into the lawn and garden.  I have had gaps left in them for planting.

Some of the kitchen appliances are in place.

Some of the kitchen appliances are in place.

The oven still has to have its ‘feet’ attached which will raise it to the correct height.  It is still wrapped in plastic.  In this photo you can see the small, glass-fronted cupboards running along the top.  They are lit by tiny lights above.  Having downsized considerably, these are for displaying favourite pottery items that I seldom use.  There will not be much other storage space in the house for non-essentials.  I saw cupboards like these in several American kitchens on Houzz, to which I’m mildly addicted.  I had a little trouble getting the cabinet-maker to understand exactly what it was I was looking for and arrived one day to find them fitting solid doors – despite the clear evidence of the light fittings.  But now they’re done and it was worth the effort.

The oven is still wrapped in plastic. It is a Smeg with a gas hob and electric oven.  Fortunately I have got used to using a similar one in the house in which we’re currently living and I’ve loved it.  The kitchen tops are Caesarstone and the colour is panna cotta. I chose it with the idea that it would tie in with the wooden floors – once they’re uncovered.

Fridge and Microwave in place.

Fridge and Microwave in place.

Trellis going up on the driveway wall, opposite the garage.

Trellis going up on the driveway wall, opposite the garage.

So this was how things looked on Friday afternoon.  Each time I visit the site I come away with Dusty Springfield’s “Little by Little” playing in my head.  ‘Little by little by little by little by little,’ we inch towards occupation.

 

 

 

By the end of last week I had to admit defeat.  It was abundantly clear that we would not be able to move in this Friday.  So we’re now officially a full year overdue.  We’ve pushed the moving date out by a week but have neglected to inform the contractor of our change of plans.  So the site has been a hive of activity for the past several days with different sub-contractors falling over themselves and each other.

There will be one small delivery of furniture on Friday, just to keep everyone on their toes.  We had some things stored in a friend’s flat and that has to be vacated by the 3rd so there will something of a mini-move.  Just enough to instil a little bit of panic, I hope.

This is how things looked this morning:

Taken from the kitchen (90% complete) towards the bay window.

Taken from the kitchen (90% complete) towards the bay window.

The Oggie flooring is almost complete throughout the house and it looks beautiful.  They were working on the stairs today which made the upstairs inaccessible.  One or two more enterprising workmen used a ladder.

Kitchen, taken from the bay window.

Kitchen, taken from the bay window.

Living room floors.

Living room floors.

And the brick paving of the driveway got started this morning:

Compressing the soil in front of the garage.

Compressing the soil in front of the garage.

Looking up the driveway towards the street.

Looking up the driveway towards the street.

Looking down towards the path that leads to the park.

Looking down towards the path that leads to the park.

Eventually a pedestrian gate, matching the driveway gates, will be installed in the opening on the left of this picture.  The wall on the left is one we built just inside our boundary, allowing us to leave our neighbour’s old, decrepit wall intact.  Which seemed to be the way she wanted it to stay.

We also started the process of laying instant lawn today so hopefully some of the dirt and dust will have settled by the time we do actually move in on the 10th.  Having paving down on one side and grass on the other should make a big difference.

Over the past 4 weeks I’ve started to think of myself as being a person ‘of no fixed abode’ and it’s not a great feeling.  We came back from Cape Town hoping to move into our new house by the beginning of June.  That moved to late June and in desperation I actually booked the movers for July the 3rd which is next Friday.  For a while last week it looked as though it might be possible, but since my site visit this afternoon, I have started to doubt the wisdom of that.

We’ve been really fortunate in having the use of a friend’s lovely home set high up on Westcliff Ridge with beautiful views out over the densely forested northern suburbs of Johannesburg and sunsets so spectacular as to take our breath away.  Our plan was to be installed – even if camping – in our new house by the time our host returns from his travels on the 4th of July.

Johannesburg winter sunset from Westcliff.

Johannesburg winter sunset from Westcliff.

Daisy exploring the 4th floor of our current 'guesthouse'.

Daisy exploring the 4th floor of our current ‘guesthouse’.

Relations with the contractor have been strained – to say the least – for some time now.  It seemed to take a very strongly worded email though, to get him to realise the extent of our discontent and work has speeded up over the last ten days but it’s too little too late to be in any way redemptive.

The most serious delays have been caused by the company contracted by Esprit to do all the electrical work.  Weeks have passed with no electricians on site and no amount of pleading and negotiating has made any difference at all.  It has become clear that there are issues between the two companies and it is difficult to change ‘electric horses’ midstream.  As with all building projects, the failure of one team to keep to their schedule has a domino effect as each sub-contractor is in some way dependent on the one before him so we have seen one deadline after another pass unheeded.  And I have become used to people who appear to be able to make promises with not the slightest intention of ever keeping them.

So this is where we are:  The brick paving company scheduled to pave the driveway and pathway down to the park, having been deferred several times, are supposed to arrive tomorrow.  What  I could see of the driveway this afternoon – those bits that were visible under piles of rubble and rubbish, made that seem like something of a pipe dream.  So we’ll see.  The paving job is expected to take a minimum of four days.

Inexplicably, one lone painter has been tasked with the painting of the entire house both inside and out.  He is nowhere near finished and already there are areas he’ll have to redo.

Because of a lack of supervision, the gateway into the park was built and demolished twice before being completed.  This delayed the gate manufacturer from being able to take final measurements.

Arched gateway to park. 3rd time lucky.

Arched gateway to park. 3rd time lucky.

On the right side of the photo above you can see the start of steps which will lead from the raised lawn down to the path.  You can also see the western end of the pool.  Except for the corners, all the coping tiles around the pool are in place.  Curtis pools have been very reliable so far and have done their best to work around all the date changes.

The prolonged absence of electricians has delayed the installation of the generator, the pool pump and the water tank pump.

The installation of the kitchen has ground to a halt while we wait for the electrical work to be completed.

One the plus side, Oggie, the flooring company, after being deferred several times, was able to start this week although not in the peaceful, cleared environment I’d hoped for.  They have laid the floors in the library and most of the living room and hope to get to the kitchen tomorrow.  They have also almost completed the upstairs flooring and it’s all looking beautiful.  Now we have to hope that the wood doesn’t get damaged by workmen – who should have been finished weeks ago – tramping all over it.  They still have to do the stairs but until all other upstairs work is done, they are unable to start.

Downstairs flooring.

Downstairs flooring.

flooring just inside the front door.

flooring just inside the front door.

Anthony, who is installing the sprinkler system, has kept all his appointments and has managed – despite the chaos – to lay the ‘sleeves’ he needs for his water system.  Top soil has been delivered for the front garden.  Lawn was supposed to be laid next Monday but it looks as though that might have to be delayed.

The bedroom and dressing room cupboards are almost complete and are looking good.

Dressing room south wall.

Dressing room south wall.

Dressing room west wall.

Dressing room west wall.

Dressing room north wall

Dressing room north wall

 

I’ll sleep on it tonight but I suspect I’ll have to defer our moving date by at least a week.

Visiting Izzie in her 4th month in a cattery.

Visiting Izzie in her 4th month in a cattery.

 

I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard a Beatles song.  I was seven years old.  I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, Viktor Lazlo’s ‘Sweet, Soft and Lazy’ and Keiko Matsui’s ‘Tears from the Sun’  And I can remember exactly where I was when I turned over a page of a House & Garden magazine about 18 months ago and fell in love with this light:

Globe lantern Jamb stairwell

 

globe light jamb closeup

I wish I knew what it is that makes one especially drawn to a particular item.  I cannot begin to explain what it is that immediately attracted me to this light fitting but the minute I saw it, I wished I could have one just like it and thought it might look perfect in my new stairwell.  I know where the Jamb showroom is in London and thought I might be able to collect the fitting and bring it back to South Africa myself.  But all that was before I checked the price.  It was just not going to happen.

Bernard had suggested that a chandelier might be good in the stairwell but I just hadn’t been able to find one that ‘felt’ right.  And I looked around a lot.

Just not me.

Just not me.

 

A globe - sort of - but not me either.

A globe – sort of – but not me either.

Delos in Cape Town is a great place to visit and they have no shortage of chandeliers. Occupying the old St Mary’s chapel –  built over a hundred years ago – in Albert Road, Woodstock, Delos is filled with fascinating artefacts and antiques.

The Delos Yard

The Delos Yard

Delos workshop (photo from SA House and Leisure magazine)

Delos workshop (photo from SA House and Leisure magazine)

I went there several times but in the end found the selection almost overwhelming and nothing appealed to me as much as the ‘Globe’ from Jamb.

Beautiful French Antique chandelier at Delos.   But not right for me.

Beautiful French Antique chandelier at Delos. But not right for me.

Then on a visit to London a full year ago, I visited the Petersham Nursery Garden in Richmond and look what I found – completely unexpectedly – in the indoor section:

At Petersham Nurseries

At Petersham Nurseries

It’s almost the same as Jamb’s but considerably less expensive.  Once again I debated the options of getting one home but it did seem like quite a lot of trouble and I continued to keep a look out here for something suitable.

While looking at door knockers in Suffolk, I was distracted by other globe lights.

While looking at door knockers in Suffolk, I was distracted by other globe lights.

And then, oh dear, in February before boarding a flight up to Johannesburg to check on the building progress, I bought the latest copy of one of my favourite British magazines again. And the plane wasn’t even in the air yet before I had finally found a chandelier that seemed just perfect…

This, I could live with.

This, I could live with.

Produced by a Porta Romana in Britain, this design seemed just right.  The bronze colouring would pick up on the wooden flooring and the beautiful leaf design would echo the view of the trees in the park.  I thought I was sorted.  I’d barely checked into the guest house when I googled Porta Romana and found the chandelier on their site.  Part of a new range called ‘Enchanted Forest’, the photos were accompanied by the text below:

Finding light Porta Romano text

This description reinforced my feeling that the design would work well over our stairwell but when I saw in the small print below that the chandelier had been featured in a Sotheby’s exhibition, I began to have some doubts.  Further trawling through the internet revealed the price and if I’d thought the original Jamb fitting was out of my range, this one was out of my galaxy. Perhaps I need to stop looking at foreign décor magazines. With our exchange rate what it is, what used to seem expensive now seems positively outrageous.

I decided to stick with simple downlighters until something suitable happened along.

A few friends had suggested that I look at La Basse-cour  in the 44 Stanley Avenue development in Milpark and finally, last Friday I did just that.  And there I found it, the perfect light fitting, I hope, right on my doorstep at a perfectly reasonable South African price.  Again, it is not quite the same as the Jamb example but it’s close enough to create the same atmosphere, I think.

I've chosen the biggest of the three.

I’ve chosen the biggest of the three.

Another perspective.

Another perspective.

I’m looking forward to seeing it in place eventually but that’ll be another story.

 

 

The work-from-home office has been running quite successfully from the cottage for the past two weeks.  There were the usual teething problems, internet hiccups etc but the technical glitches are being gradually ironed out.  The interior spaces still need some tweaking and the builders are still installing guttering, but in general, it’s working out pretty much as planned.

To put a stop to dirt and grit being tramped onto the lovely wooden floors, we needed to do something about the access quickly and I asked a friend of mine who runs a small gardening business to give me some help.  I had a good idea of what the end result should look like and this morning Marion arrived with her little team of workmen and got straight to work.  She also recommended someone to install the sprinkler system for that small area, which will run off a separate control panel from the main house.  He came along too and by the end of today we had not only a very promising garden but also a functional watering system.   After all the delays, excuses and mistakes we’ve become accustomed to hearing over the past year, this almost seems too good to be true.

Cottage Garden from the East.

Cottage Garden from the East.

The picture above is taken from the cottage carport on the east side.  The strip of red in the background is the gate from the street to the main house.  It still needs to be painted white.  The terra-cotta pots on the veranda came from our old home.  They have been ‘stored’ in a corner of the site since the end of February and have somehow survived the dust and general chaos.  In fact the cymbidium has a spray of buds and looks likely to flower soon.

In the middle of the white, boundary wall on the left, you might notice a ‘box’ with two black dots; that is a burglar alarm beam.  Seemed like a sensible place for it a few months ago but now I will need to be careful not to allow anything to grow tall enough to interfere with the beam.

This small patch of garden is on the south side of the cottage so we’ve chosen plants that don’t need a lot of sun, including azaleas and clivia.  We’ve also planted several baby ‘tickey’ creepers along the wall.  They’re slow-growing but will ‘soften’ the walls nicely once they’re established.  To avoid any need of a lawn mower, we’ve put down pavers interspersed with ground cover.  Hopefully all the bits of bare ground will be covered soon.

Cottage Garden from the West side.

Cottage Garden from the West side.

And while we’re talking about gardens and watering systems, I thought I’d include a photo of the water tanks which have been installed – not without some difficulty – in the ‘bunker’ behind the pool.

One of two water storage tanks.

One of two water storage tanks.

This water tank is directly in front of a second, identical one.  Each tank holds 4500 litres of water much of which will come directly off our roof during the rainy summer season.  With our municipal water supply having been quite erratic over the past few years, it seems like a good idea to have other options in place.

Throwing concrete slab on 'underground' room.

The ‘bunker’ while still under construction and before the start of the pool.

Looking at the photo above again, it is clear that a lot has happened since it was taken, but progress does still seem to be painfully slow at this stage.  Hopefully the garden will be more cooperative!

 

It’s been almost 3 months since we migrated down to Cape Town to wait out the final stages of our building project.  When we left Johannesburg, we were hopeful that the house might be finished by April and when it became clear that it would not be, we set our sights on the end of May. As the finishes started going in, we also realised that one of us, but preferably both of us, needed to be either on site most of every day, or close enough so as to be able to get there fairly quickly to answer the seemingly endless string of queries that crop up at this stage.  So, on Sunday the 17th of May, we packed up in Cape Town, loaded Daisy into the car again and set off on the long road north back to Johannesburg.

Loaded Up Again.

Loaded Up Again.

Fortunately we both enjoy road trips and Daisy has proved herself to be a very good traveller.  The long, open road, spooling out ahead gives one ample time to adjust to the change of environment from the laid-back coastal atmosphere of the Cape to the frenetic, somewhat disorganised one of Gauteng.

Leaving Cape Town

Leaving Cape Town

The last of the mountains before entering the Karoo.

The last of the mountains before entering the Karoo.

We stopped in Laingsburg for coffee and look what we found at the filling station…

Now I'd also like a car with a picnic basket...

Now I’d also like a car with a picnic basket…

And eventually, after about seven and a half hours on the road, we arrived at Kuilfontein Farm, about 12 kilometres outside of Colesberg.  We’ve been stopping over there for years, not least because they have a special section of accommodation called The Paddocks where dogs are also welcome.

Approaching the Farm.

Approaching the Farm.

Homeward B Kuil gate sign

Farm Buildings

Farm Buildings

We set off quite early on Monday  morning but not before giving Daisy a bit of a run. Homeward B Kuil Daisy   We arrived back in Johannesburg at about 2pm in time to check into yet another guest cottage and to do a quick check on the progress of the house. We had thought we might be able to move in during the first week of June but what we found was not very encouraging and that idea has been scuppered.

This does not look like a house ready for occupation in 12 days.

This does not look like a house ready for occupation in 12 days.

The flooring and carpeting was scheduled to go in this past week but instead, we’ve had to postpone both installations for approximately 2 weeks.  Ideally both the wooden floors and the carpets should go in after all other internal work is complete. It has become clear over the past few weeks that the contractor and the electrician have had some conflict and the electrical work seemed to have come to a complete halt.  At this stage the contractor is – unsurprisingly – avoiding all contact with us and from my point of view that’s probably best as I simply don’t know what I could find to say to him right now.  I rather hope I never have to see him again, ever.  For the past three months all our dealings have been with the site manager only.  Fortunately on Tuesday I eventually managed to contact the electrician directly and the impasse has been breached.  His team is back on site and making good progress.  In the four working days that we’ve been back from Cape Town, we’ve managed to move things along quite a bit so it seems we made the right decision to be here fulltime from now on.  Although, having said that, this gypsy lifestyle has begun to pall somewhat.

View of house today, May 23rd 2015.

View of house today, May 23rd 2015.

The green netting is around building materials that have been stored in the park much to the dismay of some of our neighbours.  Repeated requests that the builders keep this area tidy and keep the quantity of material stored to a minimum have gone unheeded.  We will have to do some serious grass planting and rehabilitation here when spring comes around. Where the wall ends on the right, you can just make out a space before the neighbour’s fence begins.  Our gate into the park will be going into that space.  The opening you can see in the wall just as it turns a corner back towards the house, is the underground ‘bunker’ which will house the increasingly essential generator and also, water storage tanks which were delivered and installed – not without some difficulty – last week. To cheer ourselves up after our first visit back on Monday, we went for a walk in the park which – unlike the house – was looking immaculate. May 18 Park 1

An unexpected bonus of having to manage this stage of the building process from a distance, has been the discovery  – so far – of two lovely, privately owned guest houses very close to our new home.  Feeling that I cannot always rely on the generosity of friends on my flying visits up to Johannesburg, I’ve recently stayed in both the Abbey Guest House in Craighall Park and the Windmill Guest House in Parkhurst.    I doubt I would have ever discovered them had I not found myself in the strange position of being a visitor in my hometown and they have both proved to be lovely surprises. Should I ever find myself with a very full house and unable to accommodate friends, I’d have no hesitation in booking them in to either of these two ‘home-from-homes’.

Abbey House from the Driveway.

Abbey House from the Driveway.

When the electric gate at Abbey House opened, I was quite surprised to find a very similar ‘farmhouse’ style house to the one we’re building.  This guest house was custom built and there is plenty of secure, off-street parking which is essential in Johannesburg.

Bedroom - one of 11 rooms.

Bedroom – one of 11 rooms.

Garden Path

Garden Path

Water feature in the garden not unlike the one I am planning.

Water feature in the garden not unlike the one I am planning.

Covered Veranda

Covered Veranda

Abbey House Veranda 2

Another view of the veranda.

Another view of the veranda.

If I could have simply transferred the entire veranda (with the exception of the Kudu head) to my new house, I would have been very happy.

Living room.

Living room.

I loved the overlay of rugs on both the veranda and in the living room. The floors of the entrance area, dining area and veranda at Abbey House were all done in a smooth concrete finish which we call cemcrete.  I had requested it for my veranda but somehow or other, this had been misunderstood and the contractors – in my absence – had laid tiles instead.  Becoming quite desperate to get the house finished, I had decided to simply accept them but, on seeing how beautifully the cemcrete flooring worked at Abbey House, I changed my mind, dug in my heels and insisted that the tiles be lifted.  That would have been a messy and noisy job but fortunately I didn’t have to be there.  We’re now waiting to have the originally-planned-for cemcrete surfacing poured.

Big Generator in the driveway.

Big Generator in the driveway.

Generators are becoming essential for Guesthouses and hotels in Johannesburg with power outages becoming a daily occurrence. About 10 days after my stay at Abbey House, I needed to return to Johannesburg and found it was fully booked on the days I needed to be there so I set about looking for something else in the area.  I decided to try Windmill House as I had been past it a few times on exploratory drives around Parkhurst, my new neighbourhood.

Article in a Neighbourhood Newspaper.

Article in a Neighbourhood Newspaper.

(I’m not too sure about “Posh”.  That seems to be pushing it a bit.  But it has become a very popular neighbourhood for ‘starters’ and ‘downsizers.’  A friend who lives in Victoria, Canada, one described it as being a place for ‘Newly Weds and Nearly Deads’…  This might be a good description of Parkhurst.  We have friends who have moved back there for the more compact homes and gardens, having started out there between 30 and 40 years ago.) Windmill House describes itself as a B&B and is smaller than Abbey House, having only three suites.  It is tucked away on what must be on of the last dirt roads in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg and it is nestled close to the same river that runs through the park in front of our new house.  In fact the garden of Windmill House runs right down to the river. It is quirky and utterly charming. Wind 3

The Windmill Itself.

The Windmill Itself.

The bedroom had a double volume ceiling and exposed beams.

The bedroom had a double volume ceiling and exposed beams.

Driveway leading to pool and river garden.

Driveway leading to pool and river garden.

Windmill House Veranda

So although it is very frustrating to be trying to manage this building process from afar, there have been some upsides to going home as a visitor.  Johannesburg is nothing if not full of surprises.

During this house-building process, I have often wondered what it is exactly that shapes and influences our individual concepts of ‘home’.  Why is it, for instance, that I have always wanted a Weathervane and why do I have an obsession with garden swings?

Classic Weathervane

Classic Weathervane

Not many houses in my town had weathervanes in my formative years.  In fact, I don’t think I can think of a single one.  Perhaps it was the English literature on which we were raised; all those books with beautiful illustrations of country homes, gardens and barns.  Or perhaps it was the time I spent as an exchange student in America.  I was strongly influenced by the architecture and ‘street appeal’ of so many American homes during that time, although I think I absorbed some of it by a process of osmosis.  Even since then, I have gravitated towards the combination of white woodwork and wooden floors.

Pig Weathervane on a friend's Suffolk farm.

Pig Weathervane on a friend’s Suffolk farm.

Weathervane from a distance on Suffolk farm.

Weathervane from a distance on Suffolk farm.

Searching for photos of weathervanes online, most of them are found in the States although England also has a fair share.  Driving around Cape Town I have spotted a few, always on older houses or newer houses built with a nod to the old vernacular style.

Weathervane on an old Victorian house in Claremont, Cape Town.

Weathervane on an old Victorian house in Claremont, Cape Town.

So, given the relative scarcity of weathervanes locally, I was quite surprised to come across Weathervanes Exclusive, a company based in the suburb of Tokai, Cape Town (www.weathervanes-exclusive.com) and about 10 days ago, set off to see what they had to offer.

Weathervanes Exclusive

Weathervanes Exclusive

For some reason, despite the lovely website, I didn’t have very high expectations and so it was an absolutely wonderful surprise to find, down a little country lane, a beautiful property set against the mountain and a perfect loft studio/workshop housing a plethora of weathervanes and brass sundials.

Loft Studio

Loft Studio

The choice of designs was quite overwhelming and it was helpful to have samples on hand of all of them.

A Choice of Options.

A Choice of Options.

Having pored over the website at length, we had selected a few favourites.  I was rather inclined towards a witch and cat on a broomstick, an owl, the absolute classic rooster which  is perhaps always the safest option – and the retriever.  There were no spaniels on offer or we may have been tempted by one of those.

Tempting - given how I've felt over the last year...

Tempting – given how I’ve felt over the last year…

Getting to see and handle the actual product was good and after some thought and quite a bit of research, we concluded that a good silhouette is quite an important weathervane feature and although sorely tempted by the witch, good sense prevailed:  We settled on the retriever, a reference to the four beautiful golden retrievers, Jason, Bonnie, Tessa and Cody, who have shared lives and homes over the past thirty-something years.

Golden Retriever assembled in the studio...

The Weathervane Man with a Golden Retriever assembled in his studio.

 

...and how we hope it'll look positioned on the roof.

…and how we hope it’ll look positioned on the roof.

Tessa aged about 13.

Tessa aged about 13.

Cody on the stairs.

Cody on the stairs.

The next decision will be deciding just where on the roof to position the weathervane. I think it should go on the point of the roof above the library where it will be unobstructed and high enough to catch the slightest breeze.

The left peak, above the long narrow window, seems like a good place to position the weathervane.

The left peak, above the long narrow window, seems like a good place to position the weathervane.

I wish all aspects of the building process could be this enjoyable.  Now I just might start thinking about a sundial for the garden.

Another outing, in search of chimney pots, turned into a nothing more than a picturesque wild goose chase…  But more of that another time.