Happy Christmas from me and Frisco.

Finally the skip has skipped off, so have the builders, for their fortnight break.

There was a bit of a panic when I climbed up into the new loft to put the second sun tunnel window out of harm’s way.  The stuff that goes missing on building sites is nobody’s business.  Greta Thunberg would have a fit at the stuff that gets repeat bought and the stuff that gets chucked on skips (of which more later.)  So, seeing the sun tunnel lying around I popped it up the loft ladder, and for lo!  Daylight.  Two little triangles of daylight.  I got the OH to confirm the daylight, which he did.  I got the builder to confirm the daylight, which he did.  Then those that had made tiled the roof came and declared the triangles to be caused by the angle of the tiles on the sloping bit.  Then there was daylight round the bit on the old roof where the chimney has been removed, so they fixed that.  Then the joiner fitted all the lock plates in the new door except for the old bathroom door whose lock plate has turned up missing after being on the same windowsill for months.

So, one way and another it was this morning before I got out to photograph Frisco in situ.

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How jolly mysterious is that?  Makes you want to open the gate and slip down the alley to a mysterious kingdom of intrigue and dragons and what have you.

Actually that’s just me putting a filter on,  Unmysteriously what’s behind the wall is the dustbins and in actual light Frisco looks like this


and closer up like this

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not very mysterious at all, in the wall, in the location he had to be for technical building considerations, as to how many bricks above, below and to the side of him to make it work.

And you can see all the bits round the bottom of the garage wall where the path has to be finished and so on.

But there he is, what do you think?

As to the skip, having been self-levelling in the matter of stuff being nicked, it then reversed the trend by stuff being added.  First we got a room fan, then a microwave, then a lot of boxes.  The skip was growing at such a pace I begged the builder to arrange for it to be collected before we acquired a forest of Christmas trees.

Which is about as festive as it is going to get round here.  I refuse to drape tinsel on brick dust, and as I am still feeling very bereaved and struggling with it, it suits me this year to be covered in brick dust and busy busy busy.

The OH has bought me a huge lump of limestone for Christmas. Almost as good as the year 33 ago when he bought me my first bucket of mud for doll making. Come the summer I will be out in the garden with a chisel.  Recent experience suggests that the ideal place to do limestone sculpture is not here, Jane.  The OH is still grumbling that his shed is lightly covered in stone dust.

So, as we all do at this time of year I am packing up the old stuff in my mind and looking forward to getting rid of a load of baggage by bashing a rock with a hammer.  It’s good for you.  I fancy a sleeping griffin.  Maybe. If it turns out good it will go on top of the arch if I can find several strong men.  The block weighs eighty kilos.

If it is rubbish it will go in the back garden and acquire a cluster of pots in front of it.

If it is any good you will see a photo.  About June probably.

Look forward, new decade, new work room, new dolls, new sculpture.

Happy Christmas.


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It all makes work…………….

Do you remember the comic songs of Flanders and Swan?  They had one called The Gasman Cometh in which each tradesman who arrived created a problem that required the work of another tradesman.  The chorus was ‘Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.’

I thought this was hilarious and fanciful at the time, now I know it is funny because it is true.

In my beautiful new work room I have painted three walls and the ceiling white and one wall as green as green can be.  Against the green green wall of home will stand a radiator composed of 44 tubes in a enamelled bronze colour that are decorative on their own and will cast interesting shadows as the light moves round.  On the opposite wall are a wall of cupboards with glass knobs that cast interesting shadows as the light moves round.  On the ceiling twin three spot lights that cast interesting shadows from the radiator and the knobs as you move round.

So cometh the plumbers after three days of turning up and buzzing off.  They cannot put the radiator on the wall; it is too heavy.  So the wall was knocked out in two lines and replaced with two battens strong enough to hang the radiator.  Then they plastered.


So the plan was for me to paint again.  Then I had the vomiting thing again. Oh how heartily tired I am of that.  You cannot paint a wall when your intestines are acting up, all you can do is lie in bed and sweat.

This AM, quite a bit better, I have got started.  I have to get three coats on and dry because they are coming tomorrow AM to hang the radiator.

Then there is the soil stack. , Have I told you about the soil stack?

I haven’t got time, I have to get another coat on now this minute to be able to do the next one and get it all dry by tomorrow, other wise they will come, look at a wet wall, shake their heads and disappear.

Oh it all makes work for the working Jane to do.

The OH has joined in.  He is painting the ceiling of the downstairs loo so the electricians can put a light in there.

How our ambitions shrink in life as we age!

All I want for Christmas is a working toilet with a light.

It feels like one step off a pit and a cover.


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The horns of a dilemma

Is what I’m on.  Conflicting advice and viewpoints.  Tricky.

When we moved in to this house 33 years ago we inherited a strange pipe.  It comes out of the bathroom wall and disappears up into the ceiling.  As we had just moved in and were skint, what we did about it was nothing. At the time we had a seaside themed bathroom so I hung a whale bag over it, as you do and that was that.

Fast forward to the architect pointing to the pipe and asking me if I would like to get rid of it.

I do not trust architects.  Let loose with a pencil whilst enjoying a pint and a pickled gherkin, they could come up with anything.  They could visit Egypt, look at Paris and get daft ideas.  My late father, builder, always used to complain that architects never designed to brick sizes.

When we were at the stage of demolishing the outer bathroom wall, prior to it becoming an internal bathroom wall there was a chance to inspect the pipe from the side.  Turns out to be a cast iron soil stack bending round a steel RSJ holding up the roof.

The first plumber shook his head, sucked his teeth and said ‘Ooh no Jane, don’t touch it.  Cast Iron pipes can shatter just like that.’  So we ordered a concealed cistern toilet preparatory to boxing in the pipe.

The second plumber said, ‘Ooh Mrs Laverick, you don’t want to go hiding that, that’s asking for trouble, left alone they can spontaneously disintegrate just like that.’

Then two plumbers took my shopping list went off to the plumbing suppliers, brought back three radiators and disappeared shaking their heads.

I have watched some videos of people dismantling cast iron soil stacks.  You do need to be strong, however if you hit it in the right place………….

On the other hand, the planned second bathroom will have to plumb into the existing waste system.

On the other other hand we have lived through three earthquakes here and my stack has not shattered yet.  (Sounds like the lyric of some desperate Country and Western song, doesn’t it?  In the third verse the stack will fall out of the wall demolishing a cow that was minding its own business, roll down the hill into a river where it will give a beaver a headache and thence to the sea where it will enthrall a small eel, but only briefly.  And the cowboy doing the stack song will just have to shit in a bucket, such is life.)

My other toilet suffered damage early in the build when I believe someone stood on it to reach the light in the ceiling.  If I am not careful here the cowboy might not be the only one very inconvenienced.

So I called the plumbing firm and asked the receptionist to call out the MD as I believe either plumber getting it catastrophically wrong is a worry well above their respective pay grades.

Meanwhile I have agreed with the builder that after Christmas if I have manage to clear this

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we will be able to lift the concrete floor and see what was done when the downstairs loo (on the other side of the wall) was plumbed in and with what and connected to what made out of which material.

Meanwhile, meanwhile, what I really need is the building equivalent of the bendy camera on a wire that was bunged down my throat with such enthusiasm at the hospital, so I can see what is going on in the intestines of this building.

Supermarket shoppers are starting to stop me to say in tones of surprise,’but you must be nearly finished by now, surely?’

When I am twenty years older and still living here I will be satisfied that I have got to the bottom of everything and that there are no nasty surprises coming out of the walls.

It will be a happy situation arrived at by myself putting in the ground work for it.


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This is my dining room, three weeks before Christmas.

Oh yes it is.

The rest of the house is worse.  In the next two weeks the chimney is coming off and down in the loft too.

Today I have got a first coat of paint on the new work room upstairs and tomorrow a painter arrives to do the front bedroom.  I have a white speckled face, to to be more accurate, a silk finish brilliant white speckled face, because I haven’t used a roller on a ceiling before and I kept looking up.  I have painted rooms for fifty years but not with a metal arm, (I usually used a paintbrush) so a roller seems like a good option.

I am writing the second novel while the first coat dries.

So if you could please excuse me not posting very frequently, I’d be grateful.

Still got a skip on the drive, it will be filled with the chimney soon, so I will still photograph the arch and the head in it, when I can.

I spent Friday out of it a bit because I did that vomiting thing that has landed me in hospital so often.  I phoned the doc to tell him and get it put on my notes, in case it needs surgery and then I starved myself for two days, which is what they have always done in hospital.  It’s quite an effective pre-holiday season diet, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’m off for an early night.  Builders, plumbers, painters and other similar trades all arrive at crack of dawn this time of year because they are dealing with rooms with no electricity and short days.

And it is costing a bomb.


At the end I will have room to work, in the light and bedrooms for the grandchildren to stay when they get a bit older and all the misery of it will be worth it.

I hope.

Christmas smistmas, haven’t got time this year, but I am so glad I made 70 Christmas cards in August.


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When the family up the road had their house improved, we visited to assess the possibilities.  They told us that they lived there for most of the build except for the last couple of weeks when they decamped to a nearby hotel.  I thought then that was a little strange, surely if they had survived the bit where the walls were knocked down, the bit where the plaster goes on would be subsidiary, misery wise to the initial stages?

How educational is life!  Walk a mile in my one slipper, one fashion boot (because pairs are under a tarpaulin, somewhere) and find out.

The OH is on the happy pills, I am permanently cold and cannot eat without coughing because my digestive system only works within a certain tolerance.  If I were a seal hunting under what is left of the pack ice, I’d be stuffed.  I’d be stuffed even in a vest and scarf.  I’d be stuffed in a vest and scarf sending out for pizza, I so would.

The plasterer needs to come in both front doors and walk up the stairs with multi-gallon buckets of water, so he cannot possibly be blamed for leaving the door open.  While they were on their break I popped  up to use my own bathroom but the plasterer was in it, plastering. On the way out I would have turned the lights out had the switch not been just a mass of wires sticking out of the wall.

The side door, which is now back on again, has a large gap between the floor where the wall used to end and the new wall, which has footings but not much else.  However today egress from the building is assisted by the sun room door which is wide open as the fitters fit the plaster board for the plasterer, obtaining access through the dining room which has no ceiling but everything which used to be my doll business piled upon it.  The door between the dining room and the outside is permanently open, so ideal in November when you live in what used to be an open plan house but is now an open plan building site.  To think I complained two weeks ago when I stepped out of the shower on to rubble.  Wimp that I am.

The head that I sculpted is in the wall, when I get a minute I will take a photo over the skip and let you see, though it is currently draped with a drape to protect it from fall out from the roof until the last course of bricks goes on and the scaffold comes down, though I think it will have to go back up again to remove the chimney which I have determined cannot stay if a lift is going into the chimney at ground level through two floors.  The lift will happen if there is enough money at the end.  Financially this is future planning.  If our collective knees go or any other bodily part, being able to go upstairs in a lift might avoid having to sell up and move to a care home.  I remember my mother stopping halfway up the stairs, looking like a person climbing Mount Everest last thing at night and how happy she was to see the lift in the care home was right opposite the door of her flat.  I also recall the carers who looked after her at home costing £13,000 a month.  Installing a home lift will cost £25,000 ish. This sounds a lot until you work out that’s only two months care bill and suddenly it sounds like a bargain.

I could have continued as we were, investing the money to pay towards help, though at current rates of investment the same amount as all the building, invested would yield £250 a month.  This is such a drop in the ocean of care costs that it makes sense to invest the money in the house instead, not only adapting it to our changing needs as we age but also making it more saleable for the S&H when we pop our clogs.  I will always be grateful that my parent’s house was posh and quality and therefore easily saleable.  That meant it was easy to mortgage to get the money to help her when she needed it.

A quick look at politicians in general and a quick drop in the grocery basket of the boy begging outside of the local food shop makes you realise more than ever that the best person to help you is yourself. Throughout my mother’s dementia I was the cavalry through forward planning.  I am now putting all those skills I acquired to my own use.

There will be extra rooms for carers if I go nuts.  There will be a lift to go up and down in if my legs fail.  There will be an extra bathroom if my guts turn out rubbish.

There is a ton of insulation, there is a big south-facing window.

I hope for a publisher.

And then, in the future, for many years I will be able to sit in a warm room and write, unlike the wind tunnel in which I am trying to type this, but I can put up with awful a bit longer because the forecast is sunny.


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Talk to the hand

I finished the hand clutching the brick at the end of the week.

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The brick is an actual brick, the hand is Milliput.

I thought the bricklayer was going to build the arch on Friday but he doesn’t want to until the scaffolding is removed from the side of the house, in case dragging the scaffolding down damages the arch or the sculpture, which sounds reasonable.

We have been unbelievably cold recently.  We do not have a side door to the utility, which includes the bit of wall with the glass panel.  We do have a wall there now, closed off with a wooden board with a huge gap at the top and bottom.  We live in an open plan house and the weather has dipped below freezing for several days in the evening.  The side door cannot be replaced in the utility until the scaffolding is down, either. The scaffolding cannot come down until the corner tiles for the dormer are up.  The corner tiles for the dormer were due to be couriered to the site last week.  The builder, who is on holiday in Spain for the second time during this build, has been unable to urge the tile manufacturers by telephone from abroad, which is a source of amazement to the lads on site, who have done their best.

Have you seen a film called The Money Pit, with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long?  Exactly like that.  Exactly.

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Fortunately I have the finger to give them all.  Four in fact. And a thumb.


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art and that

I have finished carving the block of limestone.  I really enjoyed it. Here he is, sitting on a tin.

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What do you think?

He is one of the flint knappers that lived here 2,000 years ago.  I keep turning up his leftovers ever time I dig the garden.

He has a really risky earring, so when the wonderful bricklayer rebuilds the arch, Frisco will be recessed into the bricks so he is coming out through the wall and protected from the elements.  I have rung the stone suppliers to ask what I can do about protecting him from pollution because we now live on a busy main road.  It wasn’t when we moved in but it is now.

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Frisco is going to sit on the table while I make his hand, grasping a brick. I am going to make the fingers with Milliput, the two part epoxy resin which is referenced elsewhere in the blog.  I’ll show you that when I’ve done it.


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brick and stone

Some years ago a shopping channel was selling blocks of stone and the tools to sculpt them.  I bought a small flat block, much the size of a standard brick, and a cube of limestone and the instructions to turn it into a gargoyle.  At the time I had attended about three sessions of sculpture, bought chisels and a mask and turned the top half of a breeze block into the dancing baby from Ali McBeale, the television series.  Then I broke my arm.  The half dancing baby was consigned to the porch and the limestone blocks were put in the garage.

I re-encountered the blocks when clearing out the garage prior to its destruction.  I placed them under the kitchen counter to a chorus from the OH of: Do they have to be there?  What are they?  They are in the way.  etc.

Before the garage was demolished we had a nice brick arch to the side of the house, housing a gate leading up the path to the garden.  The pillar part of the arch was also knocked down to about knee level. I bethought me of my blocks, retrieved the lesser block and carved our house number on it and a couple of stylised flowers.

As everywhere downstairs is either piled high with stuff, or has no ceiling, or in some cases, wall, the only place I could find to sculpt was the lounge, which currently has two kilns and boxes full of crafting stuff.  It also, crucially has a small table, which by hook and by crook I have kept clear.  Upon this, on plastic sheeting I began to sculpt.

The OH was loud in his disapproval, angry at the dust, scornful of the result and full of misery.

When I began on the block I placed my Victorian scrap screen, draped with a sheet, between me and the rest of the room, which was fine up to the point where I abandoned my chisel and muttering: sod this for a game of soldiers, got out my Dremel.  Oh I do love a power tool.  It has the ability to get through limestone fast, make smoother cuts than a chisel and cover every surface with a thick layer of limestone dust.  I was wearing a dust mask, though not my twin filter respirator as limestone has much larger particles than porcelain.

The OH was loud to the point of shouting, insisted I clear the table so he could put his porridge there, said the result would be awful, I hadn’t asked his permission etc etc and I could do it on the lawn.

In the end I’m in his shed, as mine is full of the contents of the garage and, apart from the bit where I come out to get shouted at and told what rubbish I am, I am loving it.

I am not doing a gargoyle, I am doing the head of a bloke.  He will be coming through the wall.  He has a headband and an earring.  I woke in the night and knew his name was Frisco.  He will be recessed into the bricks, as limestone is quite porous and I’d like him to stay white for a while.

If he does turn out rubbish as predicted by the OH, we do have a handy skip on the drive but I don’t think he will.  Thirty years of sculpting dolls does give you an idea of what a face looks like.

And why is a bloke coming out of the wall?  Well, dear, a woman would just open the gate and walk through.


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Scattered energy.

One of my greatest challenges, other than horrible diseases and difficult other people, is focus.

There are always a large number of things I want to do, as a result of which I have stockpiled dolls house kits, card making essentials, dies, art materials, notebooks, fabric and a hundred other things that I will do someday.  I know this problem is common among miniaturists, who are all multi-talented.  In fact I would class the hobby as the natural home of the multi-talented because you need knowledge and diverse skills to build and furnish a miniature dwelling.  If you buy the house ready made and simply collect, you still need knowledge, imagination and sourcing skills.

I buy, create, collect and invent; there simply aren’t enough hours in a day.  I do not have a mobile phone and would not dare to get a smart phone, nothing would get done, ever.

After a request I did think about making a paper catalogue again.  They were very home made, competitive (because there was only one of each thing photographed) and quite popular.  I am still thinking about reviving the online store but that requires the major assistance of the S&H, who might be about to get a new job which will involve travel overseas, in which case the shop would be impossible.  I am still entertaining the ambition of putting a thousand hand-made miniatures on the table in spring at the Min, if I can get enough space (the Spring show is growing, space is at a premium.)  I had a quick count in a lull in the autumn and found I had put out 825 individually hand made items.  No wonder I’m always the last exhibitor to leave.

Then I had a couple of poorly days.  I am still struggling with my digestion and back to the hospital this week with my intestines.  Well, I have to be really, it would be tricky to leave them behind.  Long term readers will recall that I had five surgical keyhole explorations, each of which, after twenty months of agony, the right scan revealed, had left a string of scar tissue behind it, tying my intestines in knots.  I think they are slowly getting better, it is now a couple of months since I was last languishing in hospital, vomiting blood.

Anyway, the awfulness reminded me of what I had wanted so badly to do during all the years I cared for my demented mother and what I wanted after the cancer diagnosis.  There is a song, I think, about not dying with your song unsung.  My song is comic novels.  After the fiasco of the fake agency I picked myself up, reported the scam to the police, turned myself round, looked up publishers again and sent the extract off into the darkness with a covering letter.

Then I got distracted by miniatures, builders, phone chats, family stuff, rain in the downstairs toilet, shopping channels and all the rest of it, easily.  Not like turning a tanker with tugs, more like gifting a schoolboy a catapult.

I only had to turn up to my writer’s group twice with nothing to read to realise I wasn’t getting on with it.  The essence of writing a novel, encapsulated by Mark Twain, is to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and not separate the two until the job is done.

So I am off to do just that, and not faffing around rearranging the bookcase, tallest on the left, shortest on the right.  No eyebrow plucking.  No organising winter shoes.  No counting plastic propelling pencils.

There still does have to be builder’s tea, three hourly.

You do still have to eat and drink (though after bad intestines, that’s best kept to a minimum.)  And you do still need to sleep.  Sleep is helpful, close your eyes pondering a problem, wake with the solution.  (I used to do this with dolls house building difficulties, fall asleep with a tricky roof, wake up with dormers.  Now I’m doing it in one scale.)

If you requested pictures or dolls, they will still be on the way.

In a chapter or two.


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Site for sore eyes.

I am living on a building site.

This is not a metaphor for something, I am actually living on an actual building site, in the rain. This morning, early, I got up to investigate the dripping noise that was keeping me awake and found it was raining in the sun room again.  I am so used to this I simply fetched the turkey tin from the kitchen, put it under the drip and went back to bed.  Later investigation, through a bedroom window which had let in a flood yesterday, revealed the cause of the problem to be a stack of roofing tiles on the area of previous flat roof that was letting the rain in.  It’s the weight, you know.

I have been living on a building site for some time now.  Weeks.

I haven’t gone into what used to be the garage because it has no ceiling, so I don’t need to look to know that it will be raining in there and probably paddling  We clustered the furniture together in the middle of the floor.  That was the S&H’s old wardrobe that the porcelain slip lives in, obviously and some garden tools in plastic tubs.  The tools will be OK but the floor of the wardrobe has been sitting in several inches of rain for some days now.  It’ll have to come out to stand on the drive near the end when they add concrete to the side of the garage where the new foundations are and level the lot off.  If the weather’s bad that will probably kill it off.

I have learned not to leave anything lying about.  I have yellow trugs. You can’t tell from looking at me but I have.  I left them in the front garden; I’m using them for gardening.  They disappeared.  Scaffolders arrived with yellow trugs.  I asked if it was my trug and the scaffolders said it might be as they have yellow trugs too and gave me one back.  But later the labourer climbed up the ladder with what was definitely my yellow trug.  So I have the scaffolder’s trug and the labourer has my trug, in the absence of which what the garden has, is weeds. I would pull them out but my trug is full of brick dust and it is raining.

Then there are ladders.  The plumbers left the old tanks in the loft and their ladders down the side of the house but I have stopped asking them to remove the tanks because the builders are using the plumber’s ladders on the third storey up, which is the new roof, or will be and they are still there, unless that the massive bang in the night was the ladders descending to the lawn.

I am quite tired.  I am getting up before seven to let the builders in at eight, though I have taken to opening the door in my pyjamas which is a strange place to have a door.

There is a sand pile on the drive and has been for weeks and there have been high winds.  When all this is over I am going to fork out for new contact lenses, ones without such bad scratches I cannot tell if my cataracts are getting worse or not.  My eyes are permanently gritty.

I look after my builders.  They get tea and biscuits at ten.  Tea and crisps or savoury biscuits at one and tea and chocolate biscuits at three.  The mugs are huge and they have access to the downstairs loo with clean towels, soap and a locking door at all times, though if it is occasionally raining in there that is not my fault.  The polystyrene tiles are going to come off the ceiling at some point, on who is anybody’s guess.

There are acro props everywhere on what used to be the carpet.

The OH is finding this all very challenging.  He keeps making gloomy predictions and absenting himself for hours at a time, shopping, to the gym, to the pub, anywhere but here.

I, on the other hand, am loving it.  I love all the builders and they love me.  When they took my bedroom window out and just put a bit of wood there I said I was cold and they fetched silvered insulation board in their socks and filled the gap on my side so I am toasty warm.  Currently everyone is working their socks off to get the roof on and the quality and speed of the build is the talk of the parents collecting children from the primary school up the hill.

Why am I happy in the midst of mud, sand, rain in the house and builders everywhere?

I grew up on building sites.  My dad was a builder. My treat was to go with him to a site in school holidays.  Every winter when other firms laid the men off for bad weather, he did not.  Instead my poor mother had brickies making unnecessary walls in the garden and covering the flower beds with concrete.

I could lay bricks by the time I was four, and, as you remember when we built my shed, I am at my happiest behind a cement mixer.  Wheeling a barrow full of cement feels absolutely right to me. Even with the awful weather we are having it is a joy, though we could do with the Roman invention of waterproof concrete, opus signinum, a lot of the time.  However, it is not too cool yet to stop the mortar going off, so everything is setting, the building inspector is happy, I understand when I’m talking to roofers, window manufacturers, brickies and labourers and we still have the lovely carpenters to come, though not until I have designed the cupboards, and I have yet to get started on carving the stone block to go in the archway.

It’s dolls’ houses but real and I am loving every minute of it.


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