Archives for posts with tag: Johannesburg

Over the past several years a new obsession has quietly crept up on me.  I find it difficult to walk past a basket without stopping to examine it and, more often than not, buying it and bringing it home. Something to do with the shape, texture and ‘organic’ nature of baskets hold an irresistible attraction for me and despite my determination to keep this house as uncluttered as possible, my collection of ‘woven-ware’ is growing steadily.


A window display in Cape Town.

Loving baskets as I do, Africa is a good place to live.  Baskets abound.  There are weavers on street corners, piles of baskets at markets and some beautiful examples in many of our loveliest decor stores.  But discovering Amatuli in Kramerville is like walking into Basket Heaven.



There are baskets of every size, shape and colour imaginable.  They come from all over the African continent and I am particularly drawn to the Bohero Baskets.  These are made from plant fibres by the Bohero people who live on the borders or Zimbabwe and Zambia to our north. They are used for carrying and storing food.  No two are alike and there is something very appealing about their form. So far, I have succumbed to three large ones which are under the stairs and a couple of smaller ones which are now on bookshelves.


Small Behero baskets and woven Zulu hats in the library

Basically, there are baskets all over the house:



Three shallow (originally brown) African baskets, now painted in duck egg, hang above the headboard.

Art Africa in Parkview is another source of beautiful basket-ware, along with a huge variety of other African craft work.  The brightly coloured baskets on the wall come from there.  They are made with telephone wire, rather than grasses or reeds.



Art Africa.  Mind-boggling choices.


Art Africa.  Just love these black and white wire baskets.

An abundance of basket-ware…

In most South African towns it is not unusual to find street vendors selling basket-ware on pavements, street corners, traffic intersections and, of course, markets.  I have only to go a couple of blocks to find Khosi who comes from Swaziland.  She makes beautiful baskets and floor runners and can be found most days of the month on a corner of 4th Avenue in Parkhurst.

The woven grass runner in the kitchen area of the guest suite was made by Khosi.

And finally, it seems my passion for baskets extends to all members of the household…


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.




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

Arriving back in Johannesburg after a full month away in Cape Town is always something of a shock.  We drove back, covering the 1200 kilometres two days and breaking the journey at one of our favourite Karoo farm stops.  One of the benefits of the long road trip is the opportunity to change up a gear from the more laid-back (and much better organised) Cape, to the frenetic, unpredictable energy of Gauteng.  But despite all those hours on the road, exiting the motorway and finding oneself back on Oxford Road in Forest Town still pulls one up short.  The traffic lights are malfunctioning and the challenge of trying to avoid all the potholes brings one back quickly to the reality of Johannesburg.  This time we drove in under looming, threatening thunder clouds which lent a disconcerting sense of impending doom to the afternoon and one of my first thoughts was ‘Why on earth are we building another house here?’

But you’ve got to live in Johannesburg to love it.  It has its own unique and stealthy charm and within a day of getting back, I’m happy once again to be here and this year is no different.  By Tuesday morning we were ready to inspect our building site and to check on any progress that may have been made in the builders’ first week back at work.

This is a quick photograph update for interested faraway family and friends:

Surveying the Situation...  After a month away.

Surveying the Situation… After a month away.


Standing on the downstairs patio, looking west.


Taken from the laundry, looking through the scullery into the kitchen.


Taken through the ‘front door’ looking north over the Treetops – which is a word that comes to mind whenever I think about the new house and which might become its name.


Seven of the nine builders who were on site yesterday.


Taken from the kitchen looking out through what will be an informal seating area and a bay window.

The walls are now just higher than ground-floor ceiling height and overhanging branches from the neighbours’ properties will have to be drastically cut back soon.  Watch this space…

Now that the foundations are in place, it seems like a good time to post a copy of the ground floor layout:Phurst Ground FloorplanThis is a simplified plan but for anyone who might be confused here are some pointers:

The cottage is at the bottom of the plan.  It is positioned south of the house, on the street and has the driveway on the left.

The driveway slopes downwards and turns right into the garage which is linked to the house through a door into the laundry/mudroom.

And then there is The House.

One or two people have asked ‘what sort of house’ we’re building and also, what I meant in an earlier post when I said I wanted a ‘South African house.’  To the first question I answer that we’re building a double-storey house with an iron (tin) roof, sash windows and wooden floors.  These are the criteria I gave Bernard in a nutshell.  To which he responded, rather to my surprise, that I was describing a ‘contemporary Transvaal farmhouse.’

This was something of a revelation to me as I had not before given much thought to differences in house styles in various parts of the country.  With the exception, perhaps, of the beautiful Cape Dutch architecture in the Western Cape.  So I think I’ll have to devote a future blog post to the reasons behind this choice.

Other features I mentioned were the direct link from the house to the garage, a covered patio and lots of skylights and, if possible, a sunny bay window.   We wanted one open-plan living area and an open plan kitchen since at this stage of our lives we have no need of either a formal dining or sitting room.  I also asked for separate bathroom facilities with outside access for casual workers as I’ve found this to be a bit of an issue in other houses.  Looking at this plan, we seem to have covered all these points.   But what Bernard (our architect) doesn’t know yet is that somewhere or other, inside, outside or on the patio, there is going to have to be a swing….  I’ll break that news to him further down the line.

We had a site meeting today for the first time in two weeks and while there was quite a lot of progress to be seen in some areas, in others, chaos still seems to reign.

Site Meeting, Oct 10/13

Site Meeting, Oct 10/13

Architect and Contractor

Architect and Contractor

But brickwork has finally started and it is almost possible to see the layout of the ground floor taking place.

Brickwork up to floor level of patio.

Brickwork up to floor level of patio.

In a nutshell, getting the site ready for building and sorting out the different levels, has been a lot more complicated and has taken a lot more time than anyone ever seems to have anticipated and as each week passes, I am more grateful that we have not yet sold our present home and so have no real time pressure.

One problem that has recently surfaced is the depth of the sewer in relation to the position of the downstairs guest toilet.  I have never before given a moment’s thought to how plumbing works on sloping sites and now find myself learning all kinds of things of which I’ve previously been happily ignorant.  If the sewer runs off the lowest end of a property there’s no problem, but if, as in our case, it runs off the highest point towards a connection under the street, it poses all sorts of issues I’d really rather not think about.

The original house on this plot was built just a little lower than street level.  And now we understand why the guest toilet which was odd anyway, was perched up a step on a throne-like structure.  It needed to be higher than the sewer outlet.

Up until now, we’ve been aiming to position our house as close to the level of the park as possible.  We were hoping to have only one shallow step from the patio down onto the lawn, and from the driveway and front porch, only a very shallow step up into the entrance hall. Tracing the sewer proved problematic.  The council couldn’t help.  Days and days of digging by the builders, however, have eventually revealed the sewer to be – although buried far down – at a higher point than our downstairs toilet was going to be.  So, at this morning’s site meeting we had to take a decision to raise the entire ground floor level of the house by two brick courses and that may still change to three.  Of everyone involved in the planning, I seem to be the one least troubled by this:  Knowing how the rain thunders down in Johannesburg, I was always a little concerned that we might have flooding under the front door occasionally unless the driveway drainage is absolutely and completely faultless.  Also, in our present home, our patio is completely level with the lawn and many storms have left the tiles awash with water, despite our having built a special drain to avoid this.  So a few steps here and there, provided they’re wide, shallow and outside, are fine with me.

I'd like a miniature version of these steps.

I’d like a miniature version of these steps.

What isn’t fine with me is the chaotic look and feel of the site.  I can’t help feeling that by now, with a little imagination, it could be better managed and today I requested that something be done about it.

Still all a bit chaotic.

Still all a bit chaotic.

While I appreciate that there is very little ‘spare’ space to play with in terms of stacking building materials etc, having everything piled on the pavement and sliding down into the road is not an option.

These need to be stacked on site.

These need to be stacked on site.

Today I asked for the entire street frontage to be fenced off with temporary corrugated iron fencing, with a solid gate to replace the untidy blue plastic which is currently operating as an access point. Each time I visit, it has bigger and bigger holes torn in it, made, presumably by curious passers-by.  And I’ve also asked for a proper board to be erected on the pavement giving the details of the contractor, engineer and architect.  I’m curious to know how long this will take.

This blue plastic needs to go.

This blue plastic needs to go.

The foundations are dug but following a delay in the delivery of the reinforcing steel that needs to be put into the trenches before the concrete is poured, no wet work has happened as yet.   This delay seems to me to have been unnecessary and we are still waiting for the Quantity Surveyor to give us a Work Schedule; something I plan to follow up on tomorrow.  In the meantime, two hard hats have been purchased and have been travelling optimistically on the backseat of my car for the past two weeks.  Looking at the site, I suspect it will be months before we really need to wear them.

Ready and Waiting

Ready and Waiting

Bit by bit though, we’re getting more organised.  After taking delivery of a few pieces of mail that had been delivered straight into a muddy puddle before being rescued, fortunately, by Thabo I bought a very basic letterbox which has been fixed to the old front gate.  This is working quite well and when I visited on Friday, Thabo proudly presented me with a whole pile of dry, clean envelopes.  Most of them are for the previous owners but at least when the council bills us for services, we’ll know about it.

This is what things looked like on Friday.

Reinforcing Steel for Foundations

Reinforcing Steel for Foundations


In the meantime the neighbours continue to surprise.  Neighbour on the left is agitating about the boundary wall between our two properties.  Our structural engineer has declared that part of the wall needs to be lowered as soon as possible:  Excavations have shown that its foundations are completely inadequate and at its present height, it poses a danger to both her side and ours.  We are meeting with fierce resistance but will need to act on this as soon as possible.

And a week ago we heard through Bernard that our neighbour on the right had quietly and unexpectedly sold his house.  I am disappointed as he has been charming and we were looking forward to living next door to him.  When I visited our site on Friday, I saw him talking to someone on the pavement and decided it would be a good idea to introduce myself.  I had only ever spoken to him on the phone up to then.  Turned out he was talking to the new owner who hopes to move in before December.  She was friendly and very happy to be able to put a ‘face’ to the building site she is going to have to live next door to for several months.  I’m really surprised that anyone wanted to buy a house next to a building site still at such an early stage, but hopefully it says something about the desirability of that particular row of properties bordering on the park.  We have exchanged numbers and I have said she is welcome to attend the next site meeting in case she has any particular concerns. We’ve started out well and hopefully we’ll be able to go forward in the same way.

Back in Johannesburg after five weeks away, it’s taking some time to settle into old rhythms and to get back into the building mindset.

We arrived unannounced at a site meeting on Thursday and my initial reaction was one of mild disappointment that there was not more progress to be seen.  We’d been on site three minutes when we were joined abruptly by an employee of our contracting company, who, without introducing himself, reprimanded us for not wearing hard hats and suggested that we remove ourselves from the site. We were too taken aback to respond for a minute and then introduced ourselves as the owners.  We pointed out that we had not been offered hard hats, that there did not appear to be any available for our use and furthermore that we were perched on the very edge of the site since there was nowhere to go without mountaineering equipment to navigate the high piles of red earth.  We were hardly in a danger zone.

Mountaineering equipment needed.

Mountaineering equipment needed.

The atmosphere shifted a little and hopefully we will be provided with the necessary hard hats shortly.  Far from resisting wearing one, I’m delighted by the prospect.  I’ve always wanted my own hard hat….  Watch this space.

The red earth mountains were what contributed to my slight sense of disappointment as they both prevented us from exploring the site and obliterated the view of much of the progress.  The foundations had been dug and many tons of earth removed from the site during our absence.


Foundation trenches .

Foundation trenches .

Fortunately, on arriving at the site, I had experienced the same sense of ‘rightness’ about it.  The outlook across the park is lovely, particularly with the trees taking on their fresh spring colours.

At the meeting we were reminded that until we had signed the JBCC documents, the contractor was unable to pour foundation concrete.  JBCC -Joint Builders Contracts Committee – have a website explaining their role in the control and supervision of building projects and it is important to have a contract signed at the start of the building process.  The documents had not been ready for signature when we left for Europe at the end of July but they were signed this afternoon and hopefully the concrete-pouring will begin soon.

In a nutshell, were anyone to ask me how things have gone so far, my response would that everything has taken at least twice as long as we initially expected.  Starting with PHRAG and getting permission to demolish the original house, to getting the plans passed, progress has been laborious.

In the heart of Tuscany two weeks ago, we heard that our plans had finally been approved, stamped and released.  We had expected to have them back in the first or second week of May.  Despite using two “Plan Runners” who – for a fee – undertake to facilitate and hasten the progress of the plans through various divisions of the planning department, it was almost 4 months before we had them back.  Other than adjusting the ceiling height of one room by a mere 200mm, there were no other design issues that needed to be addressed so the process does seem to have been surprisingly sluggish.

However, hearing that they had been approved and passed was good news and went some way to offset the only other communication we received in Italy which was an email from our ‘neighbour on the left’, informing us that ‘the philistines had wrecked her pavement garden’ and that she was informing her lawyer of that fact.  I continue to be intrigued that this person has apparently managed to renovate no fewer than twelve properties without causing even a minor inconvenience to anyone, ever.

At Thursday’s site meeting there was no sign of any damage to the pavement garden which is looking remarkably pretty considering we have not yet come to the end of our winter.

Moving on.  We were told right at the beginning that the building process would take about a year and at this stage we feel we should only start counting from next week.  That takes us to next September, about 9 months later than we thought when we originally bought the property.  This also affects when we can confidently put our existing home on the market.  We are bombarded by conflicting opinions by estate agents and even by friends as to what would be best.  Above all, we want to avoid moving twice and having to spend time in rented accommodation.  So right now, we feel we can only realistically market it early next year.  I am bracing myself for the calls from agents who were told we’d be ready to sell from this month or next and I admit to finding this aspect of things quite unsettling.

In the meantime, a drive around Parkhurst reveals other building projects apparently forging ahead at great speed and I am a little envious.  One small stand that sold at about the same time we bought ours, now has a house built on it up to roof height.  Needless to say, it was a level site with no previous building on it.

Our contractor told us today that he hopes to get to roof height before the Xmas break this year.  Originally we’d hoped to have the roof on before the rainy season starts, but at at this stage that might be asking too much.

While away we did take the opportunity to visit a few building exhibitions in London although it was difficult to relate what we saw to our own project which still seemed to mired in bureaucracy.   Some things bemused…..

London's answer to PHRAG.  I somehow don't think 60 years would count for much.

London’s answer to PHRAG. I somehow don’t think 60 years would count for much.

while overall the sheer choice of products is quite overwhelming.  In the end, with the exception of one or two unusual features we might find abroad, we are likely to be perfectly content with the decor options we have available right here in South Africa.  Our aim is to have a South African home in a South African environment and hopefully, when finally completed, it will both look and feel like one.

This morning we had a site meeting with Bernard (our architect), our demolition contractor, Mark, who would also like to build the new house and the consulting engineer, Eric, who we had not met before.  This was mostly to discuss getting the levels on the property right before building can start.  The engineer now needs a few more days to work things out more precisely.  In the end we will be looking at three separate levels:  the first, at street level will be where the cottage will be built.  There will be a retaining wall built behind the cottage.  The driveway will slope down past the cottage and curve to the right into the garage which will be on the second level, the same as that on which the house will be built.  The third level will be the garden which will be one or two shallow steps below the front verandah.

Working out where rubble has to be used as filler etc is quite complicated and one thing I am quite sure about is that I don’t want to discover broken bricks and tiles just a few metres down in the garden.  So the preparation of the site is very important and it’s going to take a bit of time to get it right.

Today at last we were able to get a very clear view of the whole property from the street down to the garden wall bordering the park.  We are thrilled with it.  I was also really pleased to hear some lovely bird calls there this morning despite the prevailing wreckage.  There were grey louries around and a black collared barbet fluted continuously.  Leaving behind the prolific bird life in our present garden is the thing I feel most concerned about so it was reassuring to hear all the singing today.

South to North View.  I stood almost where the driveway gate will be to take this. It gives quite a good sense of the length of the site.

South to North View. I stood almost where the driveway gate will be to take this. It gives quite a good sense of the length of the site.

Opposite view from North to South.  Taken from almost the 'park' wall.

Opposite view from North to South. Taken from almost the ‘park’ wall.

Watchman's Hut in bottom  right hand corner.

Watchman’s Hut in bottom right hand corner.

Eric and Bernard in discussion

Eric and Bernard in discussion

More discussion...

More discussion…

And even more...

And even more…

In this last picture we have Phineas who seems to be in charge of the site at the moment, Greg who is one of Mark’s project managers, Eric the engineer and Mark.  Esprit Contractors have an arrangement whereby they donate salvaged materials like the tiles and pavers here, bath tubs, sinks etc to building projects in the townships.  Everything that can possibly be used again, will be.

Stacked up bath tubs and a few window frames waiting to go.

Stacked up bath tubs and a few window frames waiting to go.

A few things have happened since I last wrote.

The ‘written permission’ from Phrag proved elusive.  Having heard on Thursday the 9th of May that permission to demolish had been granted, it was Friday the 24th before Bernard was able to actually collect the letter from the Phrag offices.  Only when we studied the letter did we realise that a copy had to be posted on the outside wall of the property for a further two weeks before the demolition could begin in earnest.  This was to allow for any ‘late’ objections.

We wasted no time in affixing the 'late objection' letter to the wall.

We wasted no time in affixing the ‘late objection’ letter to the wall.

While waiting for that time to pass, we established from the planning department that we needed the neighbours on both sides to sign our plans before we could submit them for approval.  Given our previous encounters with our neighbour on the left, this was not good news.

We were able to contact our neighbour on the right quite easily and he was delighted to give us his support.  He went so far as to say that if we hadn’t bought the property, he would have, if only to ensure that something positive would be done to it.  He also asked if we would be prepared to ‘straighten out’ and raise the height of the wall between our two properties and offered to share the costs of doing so.  We are only too happy to do this and will be pleased to reduce the number of steps in the wall as it stands now.

We deliberately got the “righthand” signature before approaching the “lefthand” one.

This was not so straightforward.

Neighbour on the left insisted that the plans be dropped off at her office so she could discuss them with ‘her town planner .’  This is somewhat out of the ordinary but in an effort to keep things on an even keel, this is what we did.  Leading up to this point, we had had several altercations with this neighbour who for reasons that remain quite unfathomable, is insisting that the existing scruffy precast wall between our two properties, remains in place and untouched.  This despite our offer to build a new wall, twice as high, plastered and topped with a coping, at our expense.  And despite this same neighbour, a few months back, stating in writing that ‘high walls make good neighbours.’  Logic seems to be lacking.

Following a particularly difficult confrontation earlier in the year, we stepped back from the “wall debate” and agreed to leave the existing wall as is and looked on bemused as she had electric fencing erected above it.  We still believe it would have been in her best interests to have allowed us to build a new and substantial wall between the two properties before the building gets underway, but have been quite unable to reason with her in this regard.

Two days after dropping off the plans, we received an email saying that they were signed and ready for collection on the understanding that her little wall remains untouched.  I wasted no time in picking them up before there could be any change of heart and the very next day, Friday the 7th, Bernard submitted the signed plans to the city council for approval.  And so the second waiting game begins.

On the plus side, the additional two week wait in case of ‘new’ objections, passed without incident and demolition of the original house is now properly underway.  This is what the property looked like today:

(In this photo you can see the ‘stepped’ green wall on the right that will be adjusted and on the left, one section of high wall that is painted yellow.  This was the originally the back wall of the kitchen.  In front of it you can just make out a green precast wall with electric fencing above it.  This is part of the precast walling that is deemed too special to replace.)

View of the site from south to north.

View of the site from south to north.

The west wall of the house on our right.  We'll not see this once our new house is built.

The west wall of the house on our right. We’ll not see this once our new house is built.

All I can say now is “Bring on the rubble removal trucks ASAP.”