Saturday, 19 September 2009

When we first bought the Tall House two years ago, I had naively chosen my 40Th birthday as the date for the renovations to be finished. The party would be HUGE and we would invite all our friends! In my rookie-house-renovator mind two years was ample time to redo a house top to bottom, inside and out. But I hadn't factored in the time constraints of living with young children. There are parks to explore, Pirate ships to accost and of course Super-hero identities to keep secret. The renovations may have stalled a bit, but the two little creatures that fill the Tall House with magic and giggles don't seem to mind in the least. 

So two years on and there are holes where ceilings should be and insulation where walls should be. But we have already planned for the party next year. So I will very unoriginally remain 39 for a second year in a row. Or as Manu likes to say: 41 will be the new 40. And although the Tall House will be far from finished the first and third floors will be completed. And they will be lovely.

Manu had very thoughtfully planned for us to take weekend trip away somewhere to visit other Tall Houses in Brooklyn, Boston or Chicago. But I had a hard time justifying spending a small fortune when we were already going through a sizable one on renovations. So we stayed put and I indulged myself by taking the day off from my advertising job to work in the Tall House.

We had found some absolutely stunning doors that had originally belonged in a Parisian apartment. Lord only knows how they made it to The Big City, but they crossed our paths one winter's morning while we were out for a walk. And in probably what was our second biggest impulse buy (after the Tall House itself), we snapped them up then and there. For we saw right away that these stately doors would be the ones to transform our lowly  future cloak closet into a work of art. But like most things we fall for (happily, with the exception of each other!), they are falling apart. Decades upon decades of paint and grime need to be removed in order to restore the doors to their former glory. 

So as Manu busily prepared the pared down festivities for the evening (only a privileged few are granted access to the Tall House in its present condition), I happily worked away with my scraper and heat gun patiently bringing those doors back to life. And as the sun sparkled through the trees the birthday wishes poured in, with cards and letters and messages and emails. Even The Poet, back in full African regalia, stopped by with a special birthday verse. And my wonderful, crazy mother festooned the dining room with a piñata and an abundance of balloons including a 4 foot Mylar bride that she'd of course purchased because it reminded her of me.

There were flowers, and champagne, and extravagant gifts. And the food was delicious. And the incongruity of the huge helium filled Doras, T-Rexes and my inflatable doppelgänger  against the backdrop of plastic sheeting and hole-filled walls, not to mention the fact that this was the decor for a 40Th birthday party, made us laugh until our sides hurt. 

And it was a wonderful, wonderful birthday.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The mighty backhoe

The completed framing for the future patio doors

The ever essential coat closet.

PF on his coffee break. Coffee by Manu.

The Tall House is a veritable hive of activity today. Plumbers plumbing, Electricians de-wiring, PF and Louis erecting walls, not to mention a big honking backhoe tearing up the place.

The backhoe was brought in to dig up the front yard so that we could replace the old lead pipes that stem from the city ducts to our house. But as an added bonus the ugly-beyond-mention brick-a-brack flower container is no more. Money well spent.

Most of the framing has been completed. PF and Louis are magicians and take extreme pride in their work. Because of them we will have beautiful, straight walls (quite a feat seeing as the Tall House is anything but square) not to mention a lovely straight ceiling. For a while we had considered trying to do the framing ourselves but once we were confronted with the geometrical headache that the crooked, stripped walls represented we knew that we were out of our depth. So PF and Louis have been working their magic since Monday, easily accomplishing in 5 days what would surely have taken us a very painful 3 weeks.

Manu also spent two half days (and a few nights) working alongside them doing the grunt work: insulating some walls, lining others with black paper, cleaning up, even getting coffee. And although the work is hard, I can tell that Manu is having the time of his life, taking great pride in his unofficial apprenticeship with two masters of their trade.

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