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.

 

 

A flying visit to Johannesburg this past week showed up a little progress:

Cottage kitchen installed.

Cottage kitchen installed.

The counter tops in the cottage, guest suite and main house are in Caesarstone, colour; panecotta. Although I think chose these handles, I now want to change them…

Kitchen from another angle.

Kitchen from another angle.

West Boundary Wall going up.

West Boundary Wall going up.

Through the opening of this temporary gate, you can see the boundary wall down the western side of the property.  After endless trouble from our neighbour, including veiled threats, we have resorted to building this wall within the boundary line on our own property.

Sandbags outlining the pool.

Sandbags outlining the pool.

The pool company, Curtis Pools, has started work.  They have ‘outlined’ the pool with sandbags for now while the filling in of the surrounding garden continues.

Cottage has been painted and the veranda tiled.

Cottage has been painted and the veranda tiled.

Pavement/Sidewalk View of cottage.

Pavement/Sidewalk View of cottage.

The picture above is probably my favourite from the past week as it looks like something is nearing completion at last.  A concerted effort has finally been made to clean up the pavement.  The board in front of the tree is the pool company’s advertisement.  The square to the left of the gate is the door in front of the electricity meter board and will be painted the same colour as the wall.  If you look carefully at the top of the wall to the right of the gate, you can see that the electric fencing has been installed.  We’ve tried to make it as unobtrusive as possible.

And finally, with reference to the photograph of the patio doors in my previous post, I came across the photo below in a magazine recently.  It shows rather well what the finished product of our doors should eventually look like.

Example of completed stacking patio doors.

Example of completed stacking patio doors.

At this stage it’s hard to imagine that our veranda and garden will ever even vaguely resemble this, but hopefully we’re moving forward inch by inch.

With the focus of my attention having been so fully on moving house for the past several weeks, I haven’t been keeping up very well with progress on the building.  It is a relief to be able to concentrate on the new house again.  Below is a collection of photographs showing more of less how things looked when we left Johannesburg last Saturday:

Electric Sliding Cottage Gate Installed.  To be painted white.

Electric Sliding Cottage Gate Installed. To be painted white.

The emphasis for the past two months has been on getting the cottage completed so that the office can function again from a fixed base.  The ‘box’ fitted into the wall to the right of the gate (for those of you overseas), is the electricity meter board for the entire property.  Meter Readers, who carry keys to these boxes, are supposed to do regular readings.

Cottage Flooring going in.

Cottage Flooring going in.

When it came to the wooden flooring, I have to admit to having been an absolute sucker for marketing.  I have loved all the Oggie flooring print advertisements since I first became aware of them.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a room photographed for one of their adverts that I haven’t wanted to move into.

Oggie Ads

Oggie Ads

A visit to their showroom, right back in the beginning when we first started this project, confirmed for me that Oggie floors were the way to go.  And so far, I’ve not been disappointed.  The installers worked beautifully and the floors look great. We chose oak planks in grey mist finish.

Flooring looking good.

Flooring looking good.

Cottage Second Bedroom, South Facing Window.

Cottage Second Bedroom, South Facing Window.

Above is an inside view of the re-positioned window in the second bedroom of the cottage. The carpeting has also been laid in the two bedrooms and since this photo was taken, the skirting boards have been installed.

2nd skylight on the left installed and small west facing window.

2nd skylight on the left installed and small west facing window.

The west facing wall of the cottage looked a little ‘blank’ to begin with, especially from the outside, so we decided, quite late, to add a small west-facing window which you can see in the photo above.  You can also see the two skylights; one west facing and one north facing.  We have used Velux skylights throughout the cottage, guest suite and house.  We had one in our previous home which we loved and we’re very familiar with them in England.  They all open and they don’t leak.  All the skylights have blinds.  We’ve gone with manually operated blinds as they’re simpler and perhaps there is less to go wrong….  We’ve had expert service from Wolfgang Hinze who has the sole agency for Velux in Johannesburg.

Tiling underway in the upstairs cottage bathroom.

Tiling underway in the upstairs cottage bathroom.

The cottage has a very compact downstairs guest bathroom (a toilet and basin – sink for the Americans…) and a small bathroom upstairs comprising a basin, toilet and a shower over a bathtub.  We’re using the same white subway tiles in all the bathrooms on the property.  This little bathroom needs a sliding door and we’re having a some trouble extracting this from the door company.  They have supplied the door but seem to have stalled over the sliding mechanism.

The start of the kitchenette cupboards in the guest suite.

The start of the kitchenette cupboards in the guest suite.

As soon as the cottage is finished and ready for occupation, we’re moving the pressure onto to the guest suite.  Once that is complete, we might have a place to stay when travelling back to Johannesburg for site meetings etc.  The photographs do not show the sloping ceilings very clearly but you  can work out where the slope begins from where the white paint starts.

The small windows above the counter echo those in the main house kitchen. The boundary wall down the east side is very close to the windows.  Close enough to have wall-mounted pots for herbs growing just outside.  At the very least, I will have some sort of garden decoration mounted on the wall beyond the windows.

Taken from living room, looking south through the library.

Taken from living room, looking south through the library.

It was good to be able, finally, to get a sense of this space, looking from the living room, south through the library.  For over a year, this double door space has been boarded up and the library space has been used as a site office. Eventually there will be sliding doors in this space.  Again, while all the doors in the main house have been delivered and installed, we are still waiting for these.  Sliding doors seem to equal delays for some unknown reason.

Taken from library sliding door opening, looking north, through living area and patio to garden.

Taken from library sliding door opening, looking north, through living area and patio to garden.

Now this opening has been boarded up again as we’re using the space as storage for the office furniture that we hope to get moved into the cottage this coming week.  So below is what the library looked like on Friday…

Library used for storage.

Library used for storage.

Below is a reminder of what the north library wall should one day look like:

Shelves (white) will surround the sliding doors between the library and living room areas.

Shelves (white) will surround the sliding doors between the library and living room areas.

The sliding doors (when they arrive) will slide behind the shelving; ie between the back of the shelving and the wall.

Compacting the front (north) garden.

Compacting the front (north) garden.

The level of the front garden has been raised considerably but there is still quite a way to go.  I am reasonably satisfied that I will not hit broken bricks and other rubble each  time I try to plant something, having been very specific about this from the start.  I’ve watched this process carefully over the past few weeks and they seem to be doing a very thorough job.

The pool company is supposed to move on site in about a week, so finishing this is important.

 

Recent Site Meeting.

Recent Site Meeting.

 

The Patio Stacking Doors in place.

The Patio Stacking Doors in place.

Most of the time, I expect these doors to be open and because veranda space is important to me, I thought carefully about having them at all.  But with downsizing to a house with effectively one open-plan living room, being able to use the outside veranda space in all weather is very useful.  There will be fixed glass panes in the curved spaces above the doors.

Barrow Art

7 Wheelbarrows Hanging on the Wall…

And someone, somewhere in the chaos of this building site seems to have a sense of style!

Eddie's Removal Truck outside on Feb 23rd.

Eddie’s Removal Truck outside on Feb 23rd.

It’s funny, the places that writing will take you.  Having never given it much of a thought in the past half a century, the nursery rhyme ‘I wish I lived in a caravan’ spooled through my head on repeat for the whole of last week and much of the week before that.  So last night I googled it and found it was actually regarded as a poem and was written by someone called W. B Rands.  I remember the illustration vividly and my ‘Hilda Boswell Treasury of Nursery Rhymes’, dog-eared and somewhat worse for wear, is one book that has survived many culls and charity book sale appeals but is right now inaccessible to me. It is packed away in one of the approximately 100 boxes that have gone into storage so I’m unable to reproduce the picture here.  But it’s not the picture that kept running through my head, it’s the sentiment: “I wish I lived in a caravan With a horse to drive, like the pedlar-man! Where he comes from nobody knows Or where he goes to, but on he goes.” That was the first verse.  On Google I discovered several more verses and found the last one oddly relevant to me: “With the pedlar-man I’d like to roam, And write a book when I come home, All the people would read my book, Just like the Travels of Captain Hook.” By the end of last week I felt I could just about write a book, or at the very least, an article, about what to expect when you pack up a fairly big house after 20+ years of living in it.

Moving Out.

Moving Out.

As it was.

As it was.

As it became...  Special packaging was constructed around the piano to move and store it.

As it became… Special packaging was constructed around the piano to move and store it.

The Doll's House, still incomplete, also required special packaging and was the source of intense interest.

The Doll’s House, still incomplete, also required special packaging and was the source of intense interest.

It was very hard work.  It wasn’t particularly emotional or sad – in the end there really wasn’t much time left over for sentiment – it was simply exhausting and all-consuming.  On just one day last week my Fitbit informed me that I had done over 13000 steps – 3000 more than my daily goal – and I had not even left the house.  The packing just seemed to go on and on despite the loads that left with Joseph, with  Caroline – 2 full trucks – with Hospice and with another wonderful charity called Cordis Brothers and the deliveries we made to Meals on Wheels and an Aids Orphanage.

Caroline on her way to retirement.  With two grandsons and a friend.

Caroline on her way to retirement. With two grandsons and a friend.

And  I know that when the time eventually comes to unpack in the new house, there will still be more to give away.

Too much stuff. But the little chair, made for an ancestor in Oxford 150 years ago, has to come along.

Too much stuff. But the little chair, made for an ancestor in Oxford 150 years ago, has to come along.

I never want to own so much stuff again. For now, the furniture destined for the new house is in storage with the removal company as are rather a lot of boxes.  And still more boxes – because we were not ready in time – are stored in the homes of several long-suffering friends.  The three unsuspecting cats are all boarding in a cattery and this has left me more aggrieved than any other aspect of the building delays. Finally, last Saturday, a day later than planned, we were ready to hand over the house keys and – with  Daisy squashed into a corner of the back seat – we set off on the long journey to Cape Town.  Ironically, it was the thought of the open road that kept me going over the last few days of packing.  I found myself longing for the wide open spaces of the Free State and the Karoo and although it has been inconvenient not being able to move from one house directly into another, in the end I think this hiatus period will be a good thing.

Karoo Skies

Karoo Skies

My love of long road trips and of driving often draws sceptical looks but recently I discovered in the writing of Antony Osler, an echo of myself: “I love the empty road.  My eyes attend to everything but don’t get caught anywhere.  They see without trying.  I welcome whatever comes into my field of vision, I let it all pass behind me without regret.”………………..”Just driving. Just driving and seeing.  Just driving and seeing and thinking.  Letting the landscape flower through me as I flow through it.” (Zen Dust, Antony Osler, Jacana Media, 2012). So it’s not only me!  I feel vindicated.

Storm over the Free State.

Storm over the Free State.

Boxes Everywhere

Boxes Everywhere

Home is chaotic.  Boxes are piling up in every room.  Some are marked for storage, some for charity, some for Cape Town and some even for England.  Caroline casts repeated, acquisitive glances over the various piles of  belongings and she is not interested in charities.  I feel like a smuggler in my own home as I hurry a few possessions into my car in an effort to reach far needier communities.

Our buyers are very enthusiastic and have now visited on three different occasions with an entourage of relatives, painters, decorators and builders and spent up to two hours in the house at a time, measuring, discussing and debating.  Daisy, the nervous spaniel,  becomes quite desperate with anxiety.  I have put her on tranquilisers but they seem to be having little effect.  She behaves as though the new family are dangerous intruders, which – to her – they probably are.

Daisy can actually mimic a Rottweiler.

Daisy can actually mimic a Rottweiler.

The London kitties hide upstairs while Monty lurks in the shrubbery and shows up at mealtimes only.

Monty on his favourite chair.

Monty on his favourite chair.

He sauntered across the lawn on Wednesday evening only to stop dead when he reached the patio and discovered that his favourite chair was no longer in place.  It had been carted off in the morning along with some other bigger pieces of furniture, never to be seen again.  He is getting more and more suspicious and I’m afraid he will disappear into a neighbour’s roof as he has done on one or two other occasions.

The start of serious downsizing.  This truck carried off lots of things and I haven't given them a thought since.

The start of serious downsizing. This truck carried off lots of things and I haven’t given them a thought since.

It is not peaceful.  In between packing boxes we’re trying to speed up our building process and quite a lot is happening there now.  It seems as though the cottage/office will be ready for occupation by the 24th of February.

Cottage Upstairs.  We've added a window and extra skylight since this picture was taken.

Cottage Upstairs. We’ve added a window and extra skylight since this picture was taken.

Not only have we added a small window and an additional skylight to this room, I also met with Bernard just last Sunday and asked him to change the position of the two windows already in place.  I felt they had been placed too low and had been worrying about them for months.  They were moved within days and I’m much happier with them now.

South facing cottage window has been repositioned.

South facing cottage window has been repositioned.

North window in new position.

North window in new position.

 

The main move is happening on the 23rd, when all the furniture and boxes that are going to the new house, will be taken away for storage.  The garden pots and outdoor things are being moved on the 20th which is also when our daughter will be moving into other temporary accommodation.  And the office movers will come on the 24th.  The logistics are quite complicated.  Especially when I always envisaged quite a leisurely move from one house directly to the other, spread over a few days.  No such luck.

But last Tuesday I had reason to be in the suburb of Fourways and while I was there I visited one of my favourite decorating shops, The Private House Company.  I had a lovely time wandering around looking at all the beautiful house and garden furniture.  I delayed going home as long as possible but eventually returned with renewed enthusiasm for ‘starting over.

Pvt House showroom

Private House Showroom

Private House Showroom

Pvt House showroom 4

I love the natural, quite tactile elements that this decorator incorporates into all her rooms. She manages to capture a sense of Africa without leaving one feeling overwhelmed by it.  I’ll be going back there.

And yesterday I escaped to Cape Town for a few days.  I had a commitment down here made many months ago when I thought we’d already be completely settled in the new house.  As the time drew nearer I started to question whether or not I should still come but I couldn’t wait to get a little bit of distance on all the disruption at home.  I got off the plane into temperatures 10 degrees cooler than Johannesburg where we’ve been enveloped in the most oppressive heat wave for the past week and was immediately relieved to be here.  But most importantly, I walked into the cool, uncluttered calm of our small Cape Town house and knew at once that we’re doing the right thing in Johannesburg.  I shall return on Monday to tackle the downsizing, throwing out and decluttering with renewed vigour as we enter the final countdown.

Sunset over Camp's Bay.

Sunset over Camp’s Bay.

In November we sold our house.  Had we known just how slowly our new house was going to progress, perhaps we’d have waited a few more months but it’s a difficult call to make and in most ways, it’s a great relief to know that the deal is done.  We’re particularly happy about the fact that a lovely young family have bought it and we’re sure they’re going to enjoy being here just as much as have.

Board outside our house.

Board outside our house.

The slightly unexpected thing is that the buyers want to move in at the beginning of February and we didn’t feel we could keep them waiting until April so a compromise was reached for the beginning of March.  And that is just around the corner.  With our Parkhurst completion date moving further and further away and no really sensible communication from the contractor on the subject, this has complicated things quite a bit.

Most of our possessions (those that survive the ‘downsizing’) will have to go into storage – as will we.  At this stage we plan to spend some time in our Cape Town holiday house, but managing what has become quite a problematic build, will be challenging from there and will require lots of trips back to Johannesburg.  And the 3 resident cats, which include two who arrived from London with our daughter in November, will have to spend at least a month in a “kitty hotel.”  None of this was anticipated.

Cape Town house.

Cape Town house.

So packing has begun in earnest.  How do animals just know that boxes mean bad news?

Daisy and Monty show their disapproval.

Daisy and Monty show their disapproval.

Izzie is determined not to be left behind.

Izzie is determined not to be left behind.

So things at home are quite upside down at the moment and the situation was not helped by an attempted break-in last Monday in the middle of the day.  There was a short period of about 20 minutes when there was nobody actually in the house and during that time, somebody managed to get through the pedestrian gate, down the driveway and onto the patio where they attempted to force a locked French door.  They must have been disturbed as they didn’t get very far and it was only because of two garden gates left open that we first suspected anything at all before finding evidence on the door in question.

There is a perception that having a ‘Sold’ sign outside one’s home is an invitation to burglars.  I have never taken this seriously but now I’m not so sure.  Maybe there’s a sense that things will be disorganised and that people will be caught unaware? So we’re being extra vigilant now.

Packing up a home where one has lived for over 20 years takes time.  All sorts of unexpected bits and pieces, long-forgotten, emerge from the back of cupboards and demand attention.  Particularly things that belonged to parents and grand-parents. Aiming, as I am, for an uncluttered home, much thought has to go into the destiny or next life-phase of some of these possessions and it is this that takes up so much time.  I’m often tempted to simply box up everything and deal with it at the other end and I suspect that as the time draws nearer, that is exactly what will happen, but right now I’m still trying to be sensible.

Funnily enough, despite many dire predictions, emotionally I feel absolutely ready for this move.  Over the Xmas holidays, with only two of us in the house, it was abundantly clear that we are taking up too much space,  much of which we hardly ever use.  I’m looking forward to having cleaner, clearer, nearer boundaries.

And although I’m told that I’ll be away from Johannesburg at the worst possible time as far as the building is concerned, at this stage I’m really looking forward to the complete change of scenery and pace that some time in the Cape will offer.

The most difficult thing for me, apart from the interminably slow progress of the new house, is going to be retiring our housemaid and gardener, both of whom have worked for us for over 30 years and both of whom are going somewhat reluctantly.  Caroline will be going home to a house we bought for her many years ago and where several of her family members live.  Just beyond Pretoria, it is not too far away and I have no doubt we’ll have many visits.  I’m not particularly concerned about her future.  Joseph, on the other hand, is not well enough to return to his home country of Zimbabwe and at the moment it seems he will have to live with two of his sons in a township east of Johannesburg.  He’s always had a rather fractious relationship with these young men and I hope all will work out and that they will take care of him and get him to his out-patient appointments when necessary.  His departure from here is not going to be easy.

For so many African people, their lives are intricately bound up with the lives of their employers, especially when they have been with one family for so long.  Now I feel as though I’m dismantling those lives day by day and more than anything else, this is what I find unsettling. I think the temporary move to Cape Town might be good for all of us.

Looking forward to Time-Out in Cape Town.

Looking forward to Time-Out in Cape Town.

 

Yesterday, our neighbour-on-the-left (Nol for future reference), had her lawyer turn up on our property with the police in tow.  The lawyer arrived bearing notice of an Urgent Interdict to be heard in court this morning, while the police threatened to arrest Nigel, our site manager, and to take him off to jail right there and then. (Quite what influence this lawyer has on the police is something of a mystery.  It’s not as if a charge has ever been laid against Nigel and I’m not sure if they had an actual warrant on them or not.  It’s fascinating.  It can be difficult to get the police out even in an emergency so to have them come out on a spurious charge of trespassing – which he was not doing – must take some persuasion.) Although I know I have mentioned problems with Nol in earlier posts, I have tried to stay away from the topic as much as possible on this blog.  That is not to say there haven’t been ongoing niggles and complaints along the way.  There have.  Many of them. But for the most part I have continued to believe that a calm, measured and co-operative response would win through in the end.  It has in the past, in all other aspects of our lives.  But it’s not working this time. My first draft of this post, written  last night, ran into pages and pages as I tried to document all the stages and correspondence that led up to yesterday’s denouement but it became a cumbersome – and boring – piece of writing. Suffice it to say that from inception this neighbour has been difficult about the boundary wall separating her property from ours.  It’s a horrible wall, made up of different sections of brickwork and precast panels.  It wanders down the slope weaving from her side of the boundary to ours and parts of it, being pushed over by trees towards our side, look as though they could collapse at any minute. Way back, we offered to build a completely new wall, entirely at our cost, down the full length of the property following the correct building line. It would have been plastered on both sides and topped with electric fencing – she has huge security concerns – and she could have painted her side any colour she liked.  This was rejected out of hand.  Then there was a period in the middle of the year when it seemed it might be allowed, but when the reality dawned that the shabby precast wall would have to come down and that some of the privet and syringa trees  (both regarded as alien invaders in this country) would have to go or be drastically trimmed, there was another Nol wobble. With the Builders’ Holidays being almost upon us, it has become more urgent to resolve the issue, especially with regard to the precast walling.  All attempts to communicate have been rebuffed and we’ve been told to talk only to her lawyer.  This has been a very new experience for us, not being litigious by nature. Attempts to contact the lawyer last week were unsuccessful and eventually, with another deadline passed, work on dismantling the precast wall started yesterday.  It is worth mentioning that this stretch of wall is entirely on our property and topped by electric fencing installed by us in an effort to placate our neighbour’s security fears when we first started building.  So ‘trespassing’ doesn’t come into the picture. Presented with notice of an interdict yesterday and the threat of Nigel being carted off to jail, we’ve had to concede the defeat of any rational, co-operative approach.  So we’ve been forced to get a lawyer of our own to intervene on our behalf.  For now, the ‘Urgent Interdict’ is on hold and an offer has been made by us to provide for extra security for the duration of the reconstruction. It’s funny.  If I ever felt threatened of overwhelmed by building activity next door,  I would regard my security as my responsibility and would install whatever extra measures I felt were necessary.  It has never occurred to me for a second that my neighbours are in any way obliged to take my safety – or my anxieties – into account.  This whole experience has been something of an eye-opener to us, but actually, knowing that in future we’ll also be able to say ‘Talk to Our Lawyer’ is quite a relief.

I’ve been away in England for a while but more of that another time.  I arrived home a few days ago to find the summer storms had taken up their annual noisy, volatile residence in our Johannesburg skies, bringing with them their intermittent thunderous downpours that can turn our streets into rivers in minutes.  And also bringing with them that time-worn builder’s excuse of ‘weather delays.’

By this stage, we’ve heard just about every other possible excuse for what seems to be one of the slowest building projects ever and my response to the ‘weather’ one is to discount it as there is an endless list of things to be done inside out of the way of rain and lightning.  We are, however, now on a helter-skelter slide to the South African Builders’ Holidays which start next Friday the 12th and which continue until the 12th of January.

We resigned ourselves months ago to not being in the new house before Xmas and are concentrating now on simply getting it to as secure a condition as possible before everyone disappears to The Bush, The Coast, or, as with most of the labourers, to other parts of the African continent.  The contractor is making a big deal out of security.  Personally, I think he is exaggerating the risks but then he does have experience in these things so I’m trying not to say too much.

I rather suspect that his reluctance to have the plumbing completed before the 12th of December has more to do with simply running out of time than of the risk that the copper piping might be ripped from the walls in the dead of night over the Xmas holidays…  Once again, for those of you in First World Countries, this might seem unlikely, but the theft of copper piping has become quite a major issue here.

My husband has turned into quite an impressive project manager over the past two months and along with Bernard is drawing up weekly schedules for the site manager to follow.  We never expected to have to get so involved in micro-managing things but it seems to be working.  Fred, over there in Sydney, we do rather wish you were here to take this on!

In an effort to convince myself that we have made some progress during the year, I looked back over this blog to find what things looked like last December and found the photo below on a post written on December 2nd, 2013.

Above the Ground at last!

Above the Ground at last!

Well, we’ve come quite a long way since then but so we should have seeing as it is a full year tomorrow since this photograph was taken and it’s not as though we’re building a particularly big or complicated house.  But, looking on the positive side of things, although very slow, Bernard is very happy with the quality of the workmanship so far.  So, for the sake of reassurance, the photo below, taken from an upstairs window of the cottage, shows what things looked like yesterday.

South view of house.  Taken from upstairs cottage window.

South view of house. Taken from upstairs cottage window.

So by the end of next week, all the exterior doors must be in and locked and all the windows must be glazed.  The opening onto the park must be secured and the gates onto the street must be bolted and that’s about all we can hope for at this stage.

Below are a few photos showing some interior progress:

Stacking doors delivered

Stacking doors delivered

These doors are waiting to be installed across the front of the veranda.  They’ll hopefully make it a completely weatherproof space in both winter and summer.

View across stairwell from the pyjama lounge.

View across stairwell from the pyjama lounge.

Finishing off rhinoliting in the stairwell requires a head for heights.  For those of you overseas who might have another term for rhinoliting, it is the art of applying a 3mm plaster finish to walls and ceilings using gypsum plaster, especially manufactured as a combined basecoat and finishing plaster for internal application onto brickwork.  It gives an exceptionally smooth finish and there is a certain degree of skill required to apply it.

Throwing concrete slab on 'underground' room.

Throwing concrete slab on ‘underground’ room.

On Friday the workmen were busy throwing the slab on the ‘underground’ room (L-shaped structure on the left of the photo) that is to house the pool pump, water tanks and generator.  With the number of power cuts we’re experiencing at the moment, we’re looking forward to having an alternative power supply.

Framework for Bay Window going in at last.

Framework for Bay Window going in at last.

Part of Bay Window Frame waiting to be installed.

Part of Bay Window Frame waiting to be installed.

We’re putting pressure on the contractor to get the cottage finished by mid-February.

The ground has been filled in to the right level for the cottage carport.

The ground has been filled in to the right level for the cottage carport.

Cottage veranda taking shape.

Cottage veranda taking shape.

Parkhurst Cottage Garden 2

In the photo above, you can see the edge of the veranda relative to the street boundary wall.  Both photographs are taken from East to West.  I’m planning on growing climbers on the wall and doing paving interspersed with ground cover between the veranda edge and the wall.  I’m very happy with the way the veranda roof has worked out.

Internal door installed upstairs in cottage.

Internal door installed upstairs in cottage.

All the internal doors, throughout the house, guest suite and cottage are like the one above and will be painted white.

The cottage is going to start life as office space for 4 people.  And since those 4 people need to be out of their existing office space by mid-December and plan to work from our present home until the new space is ready, there is considerable pressure on everyone to turn this into an inhabitable building as soon as possible.  Looking at it now, I think it’s going to take a while.  Watch this space…

 

 

Spires in the small town of Wellington, viewed across vineyards.

Spires in the small town of Wellington, viewed across vineyards.

Last Monday, the 27th of October, I took a break from flying around Parkhurst on my broomstick and went wandering around the vineyards of Wellington in the Western Cape instead.  Along with a group of 10 friends, we did, not for the first time, the Wellington Wine Walk (wwwwinewalk.co.za) which involves three full days of walking and three nights staying at different wine farms.

Wide Open Spaces

Wide Open Spaces

This time we walked 16kilometres on the first day and 12 on day two and three.  The walking is punctuated with several stops on different estates, tasting wines, having lunch and generally getting some idea of life down in that part of the world.

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

It could not be more different from life in Johannesburg and it offered a complete break from all things building-related.

Far From the Madding Crowds.

Far From the Madding Crowds.

A day or two before I left for the Cape, I popped in at the house to check on progress following my previous  not-too-happy visit and found quite a lot of activity.  It seems that the occasional broomstick dive-bombing exercise can be quite effective…

Stair window and front door frames were in place.

Stair window and front door frames were in place.

Living room door frames in place.

Living room door frames in place.

 

Ceiling of cottage veranda with street boundary wall behind.

Ceiling of cottage veranda with street boundary wall behind.

Rhinoliting started in the cottage. And paint samples on the walls.

Rhinoliting started in the cottage. And paint samples on the walls.

Painting undercoat on the garage walls.

Painting undercoat on the garage walls.

The wall bordering on the park  taking shape.

The wall bordering on the park taking shape.

Production Line

Production Line

Bird's Eye View from upstairs balcony.

Bird’s Eye View from upstairs balcony.

Up to now, I haven’t really tried to explain what is supposed to happen in the front garden which is what the chaos above is eventually supposed to be.  And the main reason for that is that I’m not sure where to begin…  Firstly, there is going to be a swimming pool somewhere in this space.  It is designed to run parallel to the park wall.  A vast quantity of ‘filler’ has to be delivered to the site to bring the level of the front garden up to just two shallow steps lower than the finished house.  In effect, the pool has already been dug.  The filler will be packed in around it.

On the left of the pool, close to the gate that will open onto the park, there will be an underground room, housing – among other things – a generator and a couple of water tanks.  For those of you reading this in First World Countries, this might come as a bit of a surprise but having back-up electricity and a supply of stored water is becoming almost a necessity in Johannesburg and seeing we’re building from scratch, we decided to factor that in.  Power outages are increasingly common and every now and then we turn on a tap to nothing more than a burp of fresh air.  This usually happens without warning and with no  information forthcoming as to how long it will be before services are restored.  I never thought that having a swimming pool in one’s garden would prove to be useful in such a variety of ways…

And so it is that landscaping the front garden is not as simple as one might have thought and at this stage, quite a lot of energy and time is being expended there.  But having put up with no fewer than 3 power outages in the last 3 days, I think the effort will eventually prove to have been worth it.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the change we decided to make to the upstairs pyjama lounge.  It’s taken a while but the two original window frames have now been removed and the French doors and smaller side windows have been installed.  It makes a big difference to the outlook and the whole feel of things from the top of the stairs.  I’m pleased I insisted!

This is how things looked on my previous visit.

This is how things looked on my previous visit.

And below is how things looked yesterday…

French Doors onto upstairs veranda.

French Doors onto upstairs veranda.

One advantage of a rather slow building experience is that it’s given us lots of time to think and make changes we mightn’t have considered if progress had been faster.  And so far all the changes have been worth it.

We’re having a very hot October and various innovative headdresses have appeared.  Below is Innocent who has added a creative cardboard brim to his hard hat.  He is painting the staircase window frame.

Sun hat on site