Total transformation

It started during our nation-wide  lockdown over March, April and May 2020.  This crazy idea that we could renovate our laundry and bathroom ourselves. What were we thinking? Clearly our crazy thoughts were in response to this crazy Covid-19 pandemic.

Tomorrow is just another day
Unless my world ends when
Viruses come out to play 
What a crazy game that would be…

And just like the virus, it has created some unexpected casualties. (More about that later)
Spending time in isolation within the same four walls lead to bouts of boredom  interspersed with wild fantasies  about future proofing our lives as we grow older and our bodies become more decrepit!

 Why not take that hot water cylinder out? We could get rid of the header tanks in the roof cavity. We could remove the warm nesting places for the resident rats. No longer would we hear their skittering feet tramping above in the ceiling. Whilst we were thinking about removing the hot water cylinder, we decided to replace it with gas water heating. That would reduce our power bill and be an economic benefit to our budget. Why waste electricity keeping litres of water hot when a simple gas califont could provide instant hot water at the turn of the tap?

Of course removing the hot water cylinder meant we didn’t need those plumbing pipes in the ceiling and walls. The whole system would have to be removed.  Let’s simply take the ceiling down and the wall linings off. Out with it all!

We need to remove that old pink bath with its low pressure shower. It will be much safer than stepping into a bath to take a shower. Lets move the vanity too. Why not switch the bathroom door with the laundry door?  That should be simple enough. It is time for a new white toilet and that old pink handbasin will certainly have to go too.

New Zealand’s nation-wide lockdown was moved down to Alert Level 1 on 8 June and at last the shops were open again. And so began the first of our many trips to the local hardware stores. Our DIY delights were just beginning. 

Plans were made, budgets were set and then we started the demolition. Why did I not realise that this would be very physical work?  Out came the cupboard walls, shelves and wall linings. Down came the ceiling, the pink batts and the rat carcasses. Up and down the stairs we trekked, carting out the rubbish, filling up the first of many trailers with assorted bits of plumbing, scraps of wall and ceiling boards.

There were Difficult Days – lots and lots of difficult days.
“Every day is a new day”. she reminded herself. Just  because  the last few weeks had been filled with difficult days did not mean that there wasn’t to be an end to them.  

She could finally see the light at the end of the building  project tunnel. All that was needed now was the final plastering and painting part of the project before the vinyl tiles can be laid. 

Whilst she did enjoy the painting, the  preparation was the trickiest and most challenging part of the process.  It was a bit like the ‘soot’ storm she had endured when the gas califont got choked up with soot.  The technician had purged the system but none of the men present had thought to shut the house doors so prevent the soot from infiltrating through every room in the house, bathroom included!
She had been absent when that ‘soot storm’ had struck.  She had struggled with the monumental  clean up from that spectacular catastrophe. Now a mere few weeks later, she had the ‘white clouds’ of the plaster sandstorm to contend with.

Donning the dust mask was another new experience for her.  She hoped the mask would protect her sensitive ashmatic lungs as she swept yet another pile of dust and dirt. But hopefully that would be the final test of these difficult days.  

We suffered from Alternate Deficiencies:

We take turns, him and me

One day he is ‘hard’ of hearing
I call It selective deafness,
The next day, it’s my turn to say “pardon, what did you say?”

One of us is suffering and complaining about knee pain, the other one of us just soldiers on with shoulder pain until the job is done.  Alternately, we commiserate and share, 
“Pass the anti inflammatory ointment please” 

The builder and the apprentice (aka the go-for) have long and meaningful conversations about tools. 

When is a drill a bit or a drill?
Do you want the power drill, the battery drill or the bit that goes in it?”

Deficient explanations alternate with unclear requests. What’s a ‘go-for’ to do?

“Where is my….?" ( insert any type of building equipment/ tools in here)
Let’s start with the builders pencil.  It is always ‘where you left it’

Or maybe that ever elusive tape measure, or the hammer, or the pliers- “ no, not that one - I meant the multi grips- um no….. Get the Size 8 crescent.  And just where is my chisel? "

Is there ever a stupid question? 
Or is the only stupid question the one that isn’t asked? 

At the end of a long hard day building, 
we sit and analyze the alternate deficiencies of each,
Over a glass  (or 2) of wine and a bottle (or 2) of beer.

Remember I said we started this project in June?  Now here it is mid December and there has been a total transformation.

Not just the renovations. Whilst the bathroom, laundry and toilet have undergone a total transformation,  so too have those potentially ageing bodies we had been preparing for.  

Unexpected Casualties included: 

Already arthritic knees now compete with calf muscle aches and strains,  Torn rotator cuff muscles in urgent need of surgical treatment. Weight gain due to lots of medicinal wine, beer and fast food in addition to those Covid comfort calories. Bruised and strained bodies on a daily basis.

 Accidental injuries:

  1. I didn’t intend to jam his fingers in the door. 
  2. He didn’t mean to leave that spiked wood in the way of my forehead. 
  3. I really tried to hold the ladder steady, and that tape measure, and that ceiling gib board but my shoulder stopped working so I had to. 

And what have we got in return?  

  1. An empty bank balance.
  2. A sense of satisfaction. 
  3. A lovely fresh bathroom with plenty of storage and instant hot water in the new shower. 
  4. A neat laundry tub with drawers and a comfortable new loo too.
  5. And that new flooring looks good enough to eat off. It sure makes a change from eating sanding dust and ‘famous last words’.

What have we learnt? 

  1. Never do this again! 
  2. We were already way too old and decrepit to do such hard building stuff. 
  3. Relationships and bodies take a real hammering when doing DIY.

Our vocabulary became punctuated with swear words. The neighbors noticed. Their response was to bring us wine, beer and platters.  “Tools down” they would command us  almost as forcefully as we sounded off to each other.

Maybe one day we will look back with fondness on how well we worked together as we completed this total transformation. Maybe pigs will fly?

I wonder if there is a vaccine to prevent this geriatric foolishness disease from being caught ever again? 

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