Returning to Worksop in March to carry out the bulk of the renovation, we found ourselves suddenly incapacitated by a nasty car crash. As I lay upon a gurney in a hospital corridor that night, understandably unable to sleep, I mused upon how on earth the job would get done. I also wondered if my wallet would be stolen if I did drift off because the corridor was a hive of activity with visitors proffering pizza boxes right through the night for other patients atop gurneys. The following morning, I was wheeled into a ward and given breakfast options by an 'apprentice catering assistant', as it said on her badge, "Would you like toast or porridge or cornflakes or...?" I waited but nothing else was forthcoming. As I had not eaten for eighteen hours, I asked if I could "have the lot". She complied, although puzzled.
When you're so hungry, you're not too repulsed if the porridge is inconsistently mixed with intermittent flaky lumps amidst luke warm white liquid. Fortunately it didn't need chewing because its flavour was rank. It slid right down into the growling void. The two slices of scarcely toasted white sliced bread were margarined and wrapped in tinfoil. The texture was rubbery. It was also chucked down pronto. The cornflakes were okay but definitely of the no-brand cardboardy ilk.
For the month that followed, I was mostly prostrate with a broken ankle on the couch of a property I rent out which fortunately happened to be between tenants. To have recuperated in the house in Worksop would have been a dusty, cold and damp business. The main thing I wanted to eat was mashed potato because it was somehow soothing to my battered and bruised inners which car crashes appear to give you. Sleeping did not come as a relief because sore ribs are not happy when you alter your position in bed. Waking up five times a night with an angry ache became the norm but I was interested to finally know how many times I adjust myself in my sleep.
Returning to the renovation in Worksop, I was determined to do what I could, even if it meant working up a ladder on one leg, which ended up happening on a few occasions. The state of play meant we had to hire people for the jobs we now couldn't do. So, here are some befores and afters of the finally complete project which ended up taking four months. As always, much longer than anticipated.
I could smell a rat in the kitchen on our second visit to the house in September 2022. Indeed, peering below the sink there was freshly dug earth where there were supposed to be tiles, at least in my mind. Having tiles stop in front of units is quite an unhygienic notion. The next logical step was to pull out all the floor units, take them to the tip and tile the entire floor. It was a shame to discard it because it was quite a new kitchen but it had sat in an empty house for two years and was damp and mousey. The wall units, however, were retained. I'm not a fan of fitted kitchens but I thought I'd be able to cope with keeping them if they were revamped. I unscrewed the metal handles and left them outside in a clear plastic bag for the scrap metal van. They were double screw handles so I filled the hole surplus to requirement with polyfiller. I had bought porcelain knobs with a crackle effect from Screwfix. Using a mini sponge roller, I then painted them with Rustoleum's one coat cabinet paint, a greenish colour called Leapish. I'd done a few hours of research and this was the only brand that didn't ask for loads of prep. All that's needed is a wipe down beforehand.
We bought an antique Victorian mahogany cupboard that our enterprising handyman, with much trepidation, cut a square into the top of for a porcelain sink. Packets and cans to go, out of sight, into the wall cupboards. Plates and pans to go on the steel Ikea shelf units on the floor. In future, we plan to have stone cut to provide a surface on the shelf units. The kitchen is big enough for a cute gate leg table and two chairs. Here are the before and after videos...
The finished product, clean and simple. Porcelain floor tiles - I only buy porcelain as it is the strongest - were on offer so a good bargain when renovation costs inevitably spiral. Walls in Dulux Orchid for kitchens which looked, more or less, like magnolia!
The Sitting Room
This room has the unfortunate feature of having a door off the street. Never good any time but especially in winter. Fortunately, there is a side door leading into the dining room so this has become the one that's used - the exterior door into the sitting room has been sealed and curtained. The sitting room had to have the floor repaired - it had a hole in it - and then tiled. The walls were patched up and repainted, green chimney breast with beige walls which was a bit of an ad hoc decision but it kind of goes. The basic pine mantelpiece had streaky white chalkpaint so that was mainly sanded off then oiled. Improvement but not amazing. The iron fire surround was original so cleaned up and now looking glossy. The chimney was sealed to stop the draft. (The chimneys were removed from the roof some time in the past so no roaring fire possible - this fireplace is purely decorative.) The furniture - we decided to give it a '60s vibe, even found a vintage wooden sewing box on spindly legs. Very comfy room. Before and afters...
Top Floor Bedroom
This was a very miserable attic bedroom like something out of James and the Giant Peach that had a damaged wall due to a leaky roof, which we had fixed in December '22. My son prepped these walls for weeks. There were many layers of paint on the beams - a seemingly endless challenge but he got there in the end. These have now been oiled and really help the room pop - much more than just painting them again would have. Floor was on sale medium oak laminate. Walls are Antique White. This is now a guest bedroom with two single beds, low linen chest between.
This room had suffered from leaks after being empty and unmonitored for two years. The drainpipe was full of sycamore babies so the regular water spill necessitated re-pointing outside. We had a sympathetic builder who used a lime-based mortar on old houses. Bags of filler were needed on the interior's pitted plaster, see white blotches, followed by a lot of sanding. My favourite place to be is amongst trees so I have boldly made a themed room to induce relaxation. The colour is Dunelm's Mill's Ashley Blue for a forest in twilight feel. My son had concerns about this as he likes a room as plain as possible, preferably with no colour at all, which is how he has always decorated his bedrooms. (Even a picture on the wall is a bit much: I once suggested an original watercolour of a dog from the 1920s but he claimed it would make it look like "an old man's room" which was a shrewd observation.) I chose a wallpaper with horse chestnut and oak leaves and dotted with woodpeckers on a sage background - a Dunelm Mill colaboration with the Natural History Museum design with matching curtains. Maybe I've gone overboard on this but, for now, I'm enjoying it. The antique yew desk and drawers were bought at auction, the brass bed on Facebook marketplace. The rustic door was already there on the cupboard. Despite my handyman saying it "looks like a door on a shed" I quite liked it so decided to keep it. The floor is dark oak laminate on sale. I hoped to use the original wooden floor but it was patchy and gappy - so drafty in winter - along with the remnants of what was once a hearth.
Auriel Roe is an editor of memoirist.org, the home for high quality literary memoir writing. Her debut novel Blindefellows was Amazon #1 in humour in UK, US and Canada. It has been translated into Spanish and Italian and is also an audiobook. A Young Lady's Miscellany , a humorous memoir of a troubled adolescence, is also available. Auriel created the Jane Goodall eightieth birthday portrait and is, on two occasions, a Royal Academy shortlisted artist.