Whenever we go to stay with Emma’s parents (who have Foxtel) I always find myself watching British house-renovation programmes – mainly because Emma has a serious addiction to the LifeStyle channel. For a little while recently, it felt like we were in one.
It had all the elements – a run-down house in the country, family, drama, doubt, resolution.
If you haven’t caught the news, Emma and I went halves with my parents in a country cottage with some land in the village of Crookwell, half an hour North-West of Goulburn.
The property is going to be let out to tenants but before that would be possible it needed some serious affection.
So my whole family – parents, 4 kids, 3 spouses – went to work. Mum and Dad and I stayed there for during the second week of January, the others came and went during the week as they were able. Since then, Emma and I have made another overnight trip to finish some things off.
It’s hard to know where to begin.
Probably with the moment that Dad started sugar-soaping the ceiling in the main lounge in order to prepare it for painting. Up til that moment we’d been under the impression that the ceiling was painted yellow. When the first wipe over brought down a stream of brown water, we realised it was white, with 20 years of cigarette smoke…
there was much cleaning to do.
Later in the week, Sam (my brother) was poking around in the attic, in the old part of the house. He found an old-skool rabbit trap, with the nasty metal jaws, and a foot. A bit later he found a possum skeleton covered with the last few bits of fur, and without a foot.
Yes, someone had once trapped a possum in the roof, and it had rotted there while they lived with the smell. Probably somehow related to the cigarette smoke.
There were a number of odd-jobs that still needed to be done after the week of painting and cleaning. Most importantly, the old electric stove needed to be replaced, so Emma and I went to work on ebay. I lost 4 auctions before we got what we were after – a good quality, 2nd hand replacement. The pickup was from Mt Colah (about an hour north of us in Sydney). I press-ganged my mate Dave into helping me load the stove into our Toyota Echo (small) in the middle of the pouring rain. We wedged it in, then I dropped off Dave, picked up Emma, and drove with it straight to Crookwell. The next morning, I decided to have a go at installing the new stove (normally you’d get an electrician, but hey, I used to do Dick Smith electronic kits…). I found out that I’d left all my tools in Sydney, but I keep a pocket knife in the car.
I was pulling out the old stove and undoing the wiring when I found what I thought was a nest in the wires. I pulled it out with the knife and realised it was a mouse. It had fried itself across the two live terminals. Not real good for the oven, probably lucky it hadn’t burnt the house down.
So many highlights…
The week of painting was aching, hard work. One afternoon I spent 3-4 hours straight, just painting ceilings. Painful.
The result is worth it. The house now has a consistent colour scheme. It is fit for human habitation.
My brother Sam worked out how to cement-render, and rendered up the chimney in the main lounge.
Emma went to Ikea and bought funky light shades, and cool, wooden fittings for the bathrooms.
Russ went berserk with a brushcutter (at 7:00 in the morning), clearing thistles and weeds, wearing Naomi’s jeans under his shorts for protection. Probably just as well because one of the sections he went to work on turned out to be full of snakes. (and one monitor lizard who died needlessly because he looked like a very fat snake).
Mum and Naomi painted the front fence white – it now has a ‘white picket fence’ – an important marketing feature.
Dad hacked out annoying trees, and managed to find quite a lot of viable plants still in the garden.
Min did all the detailing around the fire-places and mirrors – using our special colour ‘twiggy’ – bought from Shane at the Hardware store, who might be interested in renting…
Mick really finished it all off, he came back when we’d all had to leave, to put on the last door handles, replace the toilet cisterns, did the handy-man stuff.
And on the Friday night of that crazy week, we roasted a lamb and a chook on the Barbie, fashioned some seating from ladders and painting trestles, and entertained our first guests for dinner, my Aunt and Uncle from Bowral. Later that night, my wilder relations kicked on at the ‘Horse and Hound’ otherwise known as ‘The Bottom Pub’ over the other side of the creek from us.
I went to bed. But I heard quite a number of wild country yells.
Video: Work in Progress
(click for slideshow)
Work in Progress