Wednesday 17 January 2018

News from Chateau L

Throughout the final months of 2017 Chateau L was a living hell (in relative terms, this is not Raqqa). In late August the builders moved in, and we made the mistake of not moving out. In addition to having the moat re-lined and the turrets polished, we had our ancient kitchen replaced, new central heating and a loft extension done. All of this happened concurrently and at one stage we were confined to one half of one room, with a toaster and a slow cooker on the floor, plates on the windowsills and cutlery in an old shoe box. Washing up was done in a bowl filled from the kettle for we had no hot water downstairs - indeed we had no kitchen whatsoever - and Mount Garment (of which I have previously written many times, including here) grew to truly epic proportions as we had no washing machine either.

Day to day life was reduced to one of those square puzzles which has one free space where you have to slide tiles around to create the picture. The contents of the loft went into the bedroom and the front room, the contents of the kitchen (including all the appliances) went into the drawing room, toilet and conservatory. Meanwhile the contents of the drawing room went into the front room, the left hand side of the conservatory went largely to the right hand side and the greenhouse, and we moved the bare essentials into the space this created. Builders tools, materials and new bits of kitchen were slotted in wherever they would fit. Our new fridge for instance lived in the hall for a few days, and then migrated to the front room for a couple of weeks. For what seemed like an age our evenings were spent huddled around a table in an unheated room, eating the same food night after night -  for no matter what you put in a slow cooker it comes out as identical mush. Compounding the misery wine reserves were largely inaccessible during this time, and I quickly went through the Tanqueray. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse it did, just when you thought that you were nearly there you weren’t.

Meanwhile a cold breeze blew in from the hole cut for the new loft stairs, as well as through various holes in the ceiling where the builders had fallen through  - once carrying a bucket of water for added comedy value. When the kitchen ceiling was taken down it was then discovered that the shower above it leaked copiously, so we were reduced to shallow baths once every 2 days. Every move we made involved stepping around a tower of cardboard boxes or plastic sheeting. Wood, pipes, tools and above all dust dominated our lives. The inmates of Stalagluft IV would have felt at home.

And this is with a team of builders that were good, and I mean really good. There was the odd hiccup of course, like creating and fitting a beautiful kitchen counter and then discovering that they had carved the hole for the sink in the wrong place, but largely they were excellent. They worked six days a week for up to 14 hours a day to ensure that it was done by Christmas, and whilst individual elements of the project took longer than anticipated, especially the kitchen, the overall build finished on time just as they said. Looking back it has all been worthwhile, the crocodiles look much happier with the increased water depth in the moat for instance, but whilst it was ongoing it was really hard.

But even though the builders have gone and all the rooms have been restored to their former glory, there is an ongoing legacy that refuses to leave. Dust. Now of course castles are dusty places at the best of times, and back in the days when this blog was interesting I frequently wrote of my ongoing battles with dusting, but this is a whole new level. Which coincidentally is what we now have of course. Anyway, despite the copious use of dust sheets and masking tape, dust has managed to penetrate everywhere and settle on every surface. This includes the vertical inside walls of cupboards that were taped shut and then covered with a dust sheet. And this is not regular grey fluffy dust that blows off, this is a fine white layer of brick and plaster dust that only a damp cloth will remove. My team of domestic staff (i.e. me) have been gamely trying to remove it, but I think it must be in the air as two days after a robust cleaning session you can run your finger over a surface and yet again be coated in a thin film of white powder.

Nearing completion. Yeah right!
It has all been worth it of course. The new kitchen has lights, the cupboards have doors, and the drawers have handles – I think in the previous incarnation we were down to two florescent tubes underneath the wall units and thus could barely see for most of the winter. Drawers were opened with the screws that had used to hold the handles and we had long since given up using gaffer tape to put the cupboard doors back on and simply thrown them away. It was altogether a very down-market experience but one that we were largely reconciled to, but I have to say that the novelty of being able to see what we are doing has yet to wear off! 

There is also another huge and worthwhile change, but this needs a blog post all of its own....


  1. Your analogy with those square puzzles is genius and so apt. The dust will keep appearing for weeks, make sure you don't get your lungs x-rayed for a while, it may not look pretty. Looking forward to reading the next instalment - a viz mig balcony as part of the loft extension perhaps? Matt

    1. The vizmig potential is indeed a topic of note, but not what is next up.

  2. Been there, done it and never, ever want to do it again! Commiserations.

    1. That's what we thought, but the pain will lessen over time.