OK, so it’s a subject you may never have discussed at a dinner party or over the post office counter but I really feel more informed now on the topic of lime mortar than I ever have before. We need minor repairs done to the roof of the house so I invite a number of tradesmen to come and have a look and give us a quote for the work they think needs doing. We had a survey done before we bought the house but felt the surveyor lacked a little in imagination and possibly experience. He assessed the age of the house as being built in 1900. This we know immediately is wrong but let it go and concentrate on the meat of the survey, part of which is that there is a small amount of damp coming into the house.
When we move into the house, we see small patches of damp but the house doesn’t smell of damp and considering it hasn’t been lived in for two years, it is in remarkably good condition. So, with Mr Mason pulling faces that say “Do we really have to do this NOW?” I contact several roofers to come and do their worst. Within minutes, we have responses and have the first roofer coming over that very day. He has been a builder for several years but has had an accident at work and is only now just getting back into building work again. We find people in Lincolnshire like to stop and have a chat and this includes tradesmen, the postman (Tim) and just about everyone else. So, Seve, the first roofer, suggests a few solutions and then is on his way having given us a day rate and an assessment that the work will take up to one and a half days to complete.
Tradesman 2 is Ambrose. He’s very ruddy faced, as a proper roofer ought to be, but also shocks us by saying he is getting old and that he will be 50 this year. Mr Mason and I had been mentally assessing him as in his 60s but mentally he is definitely older than the age of his teeth. Speaking of teeth, Ambrose and Seve both seem to have relatively full sets but the next roofers seem remarkably lacking. Next we have Lee who is amiable but I like less. His quote is cheaper than Ambrose’s, has no front teeth and suggests at one point spraying a weatherproof coating over the roof. Mr Mason’s face must have told him he was on the wrong tack as he shut that option down quickly.
At 5pm we have our final roofer, Alex. He has a range of teeth missing and his clothing is covered in paint and what-not so he looks the part. He is also Scots which may have something to do with the lack of teeth (sorry, Scottish readers). Alex talks the hind leg off a donkey. He starts talking at 5pm and leaves, still talking all the way down the drive just after 7pm. But he is interesting. We discover he is a specialist in old buildings, especially those which are listed. Ours isn’t listed but we know it’s not originally Victorian having lived here for just a few days. He talks lovingly about different kind of bricks, building methods, pantiles and the difference between lime mortar and any other kind of brick filling. Yes, I’ve forgotten all about it already yet I know lime mortar is very important. I know we are going to use his services rather than the others’ when he suggests putting smoke bombs up the chimney. The expression on Mr Mason’s face is a picture.
We continue working on the house during the week, planning each day to go out but having something preventing us. The bed we ordered, as you know, went AWOL. By Monday I have emailed MFW with a strongly-worded missive and later I am called by a lady called Carol who is the Customer Service manager. She tells me the bed was out of stock which is why only half was delivered. In a Universe somewhere, this makes sense but I am too tired of the whole thing to question her logic, especially as she seems to have been actually doing something about it. She has found another bed which is very similar and emails a picture over to us. If we like it, she will order it and it will be with us the following day. We like it and agree. The bed arrives the following day. We dismantle our bed and move it into a spare bedroom. We unpack the new bed. It is damaged. Part of the metal is bent so I email Carol a photo and we then go and put our bed back together again so we have somewhere to sleep. The work is agony but Mr Mason can’t do it on his own so I take oramorph and continue. It’s hard to breathe when I bend over so that makes it even more difficult and I just feel cross. In the night, Dog gets up a couple of times which is unusual for him. I think it is because we are sleeping in a different room but when we get up in the morning, it becomes obvious that there is no heating and he has just been cold. We check the oil level which shows about 3/4 of a tank and although I look up the manual of the boiler online, we can’t get to the bit we need to fiddle with so start phoning around for an engineer. Someone can come the following morning at 8.30 so we know we’re in for a cold night. Dog gets his pyjamas on.
Carol asks if we can live with the defect or do we want another bed delivered? We say we will try to put it together and see if it works. The damage appears to be at the back of the bed where it will not be seen so we decide this is OK. We put the new sheet on, open the new duvet cover and then the new packs of duvets. We have chosen wool again (honestly, if you’ve never tried it, do. It’s the most comfortable thing to sleep under and really seems to regulate your temperature) and have bought a spring/autumn weight and a summer weight. We look to see how they clip together. Ah. One has button holes and the other has button holes. Hmmmm. Neither has buttons which means they will not join together. I phone the company (Soak and Sleep – what a rubbish name) and explain my problem. She knows exactly what I am talking about and can arrange for the summer duvet to be collected and a new one with buttons on delivered when they have some in stock.
The engineer arrives at 8.30 on the dot the following morning and is a cheerful man who explains to us how the boiler works. He also tells us that part of the problem is that we are out of oil. Yes, our lovely vendors omitted to tell us that the gauge on the tank does not work. We phone a local oil company and beg them to try and come out today. They promise they will try and that’s where our story ends for today. We seem to have had a range of minor disasters ever since we moved in but we have also had some lovely events and I promise they will be in the next blog. More than anything, I wanted to catalogue for myself everything that’s been happening so that when everything is running pretty smoothly, I can sit back and really appreciate it. And there will be lots more about lime mortar when Alex starts his work on the roof, I promise.