Thursday, 27 December 2012

A big update

I promise we're still here, and still plodding on in our own way. It's just been a blog-free-from-me plod because I've been distracted. Luckily Cassian has been keeping you a bit up to date with wall-y shenanigans, and who doesn't love those?

Here's a little round up of other events chez Golem in recent months.

Toby came to stay for a week unexpectedly, and to make up for imposing on us so horrifically*, worked like a dog on the spare room. The removal of the tiles on the walls left hundreds of holes, large and small, and he filled them all up. Every last one!

B.T. (Before Toby)

A.T. (You get the idea)

This room has been patiently awaiting a paint job ever since, mostly because after Toby left, we filled it with bags full of broken up plasterboard from the hallway walls, and had to wait for that to be disposed of before we could even get through the door! It's clear again now, so will hopefully soon be looking swish and ready for a big reveal.

Speaking of the hallway walls, we have now gone from this, to this, to this!

Apologies for the rubbish shot, but you get the idea!
The hallway which gave this house it's original nickname (Labyrinth, for those who may not remember) is now wider and much, much lighter, and in the course of this big improvement we have made both Joe and Cassian's rooms bigger. Win all round! Their new walls are still at the plasterboard stage, but will hopefully be lovingly plastered soon. There is an enormous amount of making good to do, both in their rooms and in the hallway, but the big layout change is at least done, and sound insulation fitted in all the new partition walls. The studwork is staying here to be recycled, so we'll be taking it down in a leisurely fashion at some point soon. Toby came for another week and worked for days on this too, and very grateful for his help we are too.

This whole corner is now in Cass' room and not the hallway. Woop!

Outside of the house, there have been no big changes. We have finally accepted that rebuilding the wall is beyond us, and in mid-January a builder is coming to do the footings (and possibly the wall too). Although this is going to be a much more costly route, we have decided that delaying some other work in order to get this huge, lingering and in-the-meantime-quite-dangerous job done is something worthwhile. Personally, I can't wait for it to be done so we can start Operation Clean-up in the garden, which includes knocking down the breeze block wall which someone has plonked, very badly, on top of the Victorian stone wall between here and next door, and lifting the concrete. So much to do!

Speaking of paying professionals to swoop in and majestically fix things, we recently spent less than the cost of one new window to have six windows repaired. Between them they needed new hinges, handles, internal gear-y bits and panes of glass, and in the space of a few hours they were all as good as new. I swear the house has been less drafty as a result, Flick can now  see her wonderful view at last, and the frames should be good for a long time yet.

One of the hardest things I am finding about the work is that we are constantly delving into things and discovering over a century of tinkerers like ourselves and their weird ways of doing things. The house is not in a bad enough state to rip everything out completely and start again with bare walls, far from it, but I almost wish we could sometimes. This has obviously always been the case as lots of others have been there before us, adding layer upon layer of their own best efforts. The handrail of the stairs is a good example. It is completely different on each floor, and being me, I'd love to continue the small section of original handrail on the top floor back down to the bottom of all the stairs, and try to find some suitably authentic-ish spindles. Alas, someone has removed a key part of each stair on one section in order to fit their own bodge, so this would be much harder than it sounds. In order to make the handrail make sense, we would probably have to rip it all out, including the good bits, which seems to be the dilemma we arrive at in every room of the house.

Our financial year ends in a few days, so amongst other things we will be re-jigging all our work budgets, and re-planning out work priorities to match. Once the garden wall is done, we will probably be re-doing three of our four roofs, a thought which fills me with terror and delight in equal measures. Knowing the roofs are all in good nick will be the most wonderful thing, and we are hoping to re-roof the dormers and bay window at the same time. There's just the small matter of spending a few wintry weeks up four storeys of scaffolding to deal with! If that sounds like your thing, then please get in touch and we can let you know when we know more about dates.

I think that's everything, or everything major at least. I'll endeavour to update you more often, and will hopefully soon have a fabulous garden wall to show off. You never know!

- Hannah

* I jest, of course. He's been invaluable :D

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Holes! In the wall!

I know, right? Awful picture. The house is wonky, but not *that* wonky; that was my laptop webcam being awkward to use.

However, it shows how different things are looking. That doorway to the right wasn't there before; this is the view from my bedroom door, which is also soon to move, and I previously was unable to see any of this. It was just wall. The studwork is pretending to be banisters for the time being.

Those pesky previous landlords, of which there is often at least one, decided that splitting our house into two flats was a good idea. So there were lots of funny shaped rooms and doorways in odd places. Coming down the stairs seemed like an epic mission to me, the sleepiest Golem, because to get upstairs from my room involved a weird U-turn detour thing.

It is now starting to open up and become glorious. The lightbulbs shine over a bigger area now, which saves electricity and makes the hallways safer, I feel. It would've become even more glorious today, except my lovely housemates held off on the work because I've been asleep all day with some kind of hideous stomach bug. What a bunch of legends.

The longer I am here, the more I get over my living-with-people grievances and love the place and its inhabitants.

This has gotten rambly. My point being, we're going to need to deal with an awful lot of plasterboard waste soon. At least it gets recycled, eh?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

October Work Weekend Update

Well goodness! All my whinging that nothing much has happened, and then we go and have a pretty tiring and busy work weekend in which a couple of major things get done. What a relief!

The plan for the weekend was to focus on the spare room in order to hopefully get it finished. I'll be honest and say that it still isn't finished, but one of the major jobs got done and that feels like a big success. We wanted to build a cupboard around the boiler to make it look less minging, provide some storage for bedding for guests, and cut down some of the noise from the boiler for people who are staying there.

We managed to re-use a door which Sven had taken down in his room, and some architrave from the hallway we removed in the kitchen, but alas, (until our stocks are replenished by the massive wall-removing spree we're planning soon), we'd run out of stud work so bought some in instead. Sven and I set to it yesterday and made fantastic progress, with the last few bits being finished today by me and the lovely Zabelle.

Below you can see the cupboard springing into being, like a beautiful flower (or somesuch).

Unfortunately due to the epic dustiness created by the circular saw, and the general lack of space for additional people to work in the spare room, AND the fact we were having a Halloween party in the evening and everyone decided to make costumes, no other work on the spare room was carried out. It does feel like we might be on the home straight somewhat, though, as there's only filling the holes in the walls and then decorating to do before we can move furniture in!

If anyone fancies popping over and filling a few holes, we'd be most grateful. Or you can play with the toddler while I do some. There's dinner in it for you :)

Fortunately there was the unexpected bonus of another digger-day occurring, and some fantastic progress was made on the garden. We're working towards the next major phase, which will be digging the footings for the new wall. Getting rid of enough garden contents to do this has proved quite challenging, but after yesterday we are either there, or very nearly there! George has dug back to a previous wall, and uncovered what may be some quarry tiles or nice bricks forming a path (I'm guessing here) which I'm going to try to lift for re-use in the garden later on.

Here are before and after pictures for you to enjoy.

After the first two digger days

Third time's the charm!

Amongst all this excitement we managed to have a Halloween party, which featured some particularly awesome party food, and a truly spectacular costume from Joe, so I'm going to include some gratuitous pictures of them to show that we're not all about DIY :) - Hannah

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Now I am just showing off

Okay but look what I made for our bathroom.

I know it's not really a big thing in the grand scheme of doing up the house, but I'm hoping it'll make a difference to how cluttered our little upstairs bathroom will feel when there's often more than 8 people sharing it.

Hannah says it's a bit impressive that I do it all with a hand-cranked Singer and I'm not sure why because I like the slow and steady approach. This particular model took three months for me to get a wiggle on, but I like that this whole thing cost £6.99 for the fabric (with some to spare) and used no electricity in the making. Perhaps electric sewing machines are faster? But what can I say, I am terrified of them.

I stole this picture from this other blog after googling "angry sewing machine" - win.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Small Achievements, and Some Prettification Plots

Ahoy-hoy, lovely readers.

I do not tune in much here, because I am not able to get a lot done these days. But I have a little exciting success to report! I suspect that no one else is as excited as me by such things, but that will not stop me from showing you...

Our second compost bin!

Do not ask about the bath. We do not even.

Huh? Oh, it's the green dalek looking thingy, behind the fence...

The one on the left, also behind the fence, is a water butt with the *ahem* butt cut off, to let the worms and bugs in. We put it there a couple of months ago and what with there being seven adults and a tiny-massive-cuteface boy plus various guests, it filled up sometime a week or two ago. WOW.

I would be like, "what on Earth (pun intended) do we do with all this compost?" except, oh my word, have you seen our garden? We have no soil. We have an abundance of polystyrene balls, the like of which can be found in beanbags etc. And, most importantly, I found out today that the fire escape is STILL BURIED. If it were up to me and we had space and had previously befriended the mythical golems of Going Postal, I'd have a compost production line going on.

So if you're in Swansea, you can get a 330 litre compost bin for £18 from Swansea Council when they're usually £35+; you can even get up to three of them if you're so inclined. Smaller bins are cheaper, too.

In other news, we have a work weekend coming up, on 27th and 28th October. We will once again be working on the upstairs living room that will double as a spare room. The jobs seem to be largely cosmetic, with some carpentry thrown in. Here's some of the stuff that would be very valuable to us, and for which we will ply you with dinner and somewhere to sleep should you require.

This clothes-drying device is conveniently door-ish, so we're going to use it on the cupboard. Also, check out those holes. You could help filler/plaster them! It would be so helpful, and we would feed you handsomely.

  • Plastering/fillering the holes left from removal of kitchen tiles;
  • Building a cupboard to go around the combi-boiler;
  • Painting;
  • Toddler-wrangling a charming little pixie boy who is learning to talk and enjoys going for walks and playing with autumn leaves and flowers.
If you are feeling a bit DIYish (or in the mood to befriend a small boy) and want some delicious home-cooked food, please do consider coming along to assist. It would make us all very happy.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you are having a fabulous evening.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Small Things

So here we are again, and not much has happened. There's no progress on the garden wall, the spare room is still... spare, and the days are getting colder without a jot of insulation going in anywhere.

I'm not sure about the others, but I've been feeling a bit frustrated about all the work that needs doing, and all the weird barriers to it actually getting done that seem to keep popping up. With Finn in tow there is a limit to what I can do in terms of DIY, but I did hatch a plan to try to make a small improvement to the house, one which will actually act as prep work for us improving it further in the future.  Most delightfully, it doesn't cost anything.

I have started to scrub the Well of Despair. The walls and steps of this part of the house are covered in varying thicknesses of slime. Some of it budges easily and some doesn't, and even once it's off it doesn't exactly look great but it does look better, and that will do for now.

For now, it looks like this:

Which, after several hours of scrubbing, is a slight improvement on this:

Eventually this whole area will be painted (or covered in mosaic if I get my way!) once the concrete's up and the French drain is in, and then it will get filled with plants and some sexy green-roofed rubbish storage (again, if I get my way) and the end result will be rather like the picture below. Honest.

 Wish me luck!

- Hannah

Monday, 1 October 2012

Slow Times...

Although I've been very busy not blogging, things have been moving along slowly here at Golem HQ. We are mostly still mired in the saga of the garden wall, which promises to go on for quite some more time yet. Every time we do something to it, more issues arise which we couldn't have foreseen, and send us scurrying back to the drawing board, sapping our energy for other projects in the process.

There was another digger day, which there are no pictures of as I wasn't here, in which a skip was very laboriously filled with completely rubbish-free rubble and soil. Much as I agree with the legislation preventing inert waste such as rubble from being mixed with old batteries, suitcases and geotextiles (just some of the delightful substances abounding in our garden), I do feel for Lloyd and Joe, who had to sort through every scoop of mixed garden detritus by hand in order to make sure we weren't breaking the law. This was apparently very time-consuming, and by the looks on their faces when they recounted their day's work, not something they wish to repeat.

The fact still remains that there is too much stuff on the garden for us to clear enough space to dig the footings for the new wall, and that leaves us still stuck in a wall-less limbo, constantly hoping our garden doesn't make a break for it into the alleyway.

The digger was here on the same day as the planned work on the spare room was being done, and due to a number of diverse circumstances, much of the work in the day was done by Flick alone, with further work apparently happening later once Sven and a bottle of wine joined in. Loads did get done though, and it feels much more like a potential bedroom/sitting room now that all the tiles are off.

I've added a little bit of work since, but there is still lots to do. If any of you feel like popping around for a few hours, it'd be hugely appreciated, and I'd be happy to feed you in return. The next jobs are building the studwork for the boiler cupboard, or filling the holes left in the wall by the tile removal. Or, if you're so inclined, looking after the toddler while I get stuck in to some DIY.

We're also on the lookout for a tile cutter which can cut thick, large floor tiles, as nothing we've borrowed or bought so far is up the job, and it's stopping me taking the "Finish the kitchen" card off of our epic workflow wall chart.

More updates on future work weekends, and the grim saga of the wall will be forthcoming when I've got some photos to enliven them with!

- Hannah

Friday, 7 September 2012

Kitchen Work Weekend Update (at long last!)

I know it's been a couple of weeks since this actually occurred, but I promise you can have lots of pictures to make up for it.

So, for our first monthly work weekend, we decided to try to make headway on finishing off all of the loose ends in the kitchen. We decided that this included decorating, as the patching of plaster on the walls and ceiling, and general grubbiness of the place, was making all of the good work we'd done look a bit shabby.

In the pursuit of making our decision about a paint colour quicker, I turned to Photoshop. We'd try discussing paint colours before and got absolutely nowhere, but I think that's because when someone says "let's paint it green!", everyone imagines their least favourite shade of green and objects! In anticipation of a long discussion, I decided to go around the co-op and Photoshop the kitchen to each of their favourite colours, so we could usefully compare them in the meeting. The photo on the top left shows the original kitchen, and then there are 7 options which people either chose, or suggested and then let me choose.

When it came to deciding the colour, I showed everyone the images on the right and opinion quickly narrowed it down to the scarlet (bottom left) and the deep orange (top right). It's a dingy room but with lots of pale surfaces, so everyone was keen to inject a bit of personality and colour. In the end we had a majority vote (oo-er!) and it was 4 votes to 3 for the scarlet.

Lloyd and I popped off the the shops and took the laptop with us, and managed to get a paint mixed which, while similar, was not identical. Everyone likes it though, so the process does seem to work, and certainly cut down a lot of discussion time. I think we'll be using it again in the future.

So, onto the picture spam! Many of these photos were taken by Toby, one of our volunteers (along with the beauteous Gemma from Random Camel Housing Co-op).

Hannah and Lloyd working on the recycled futon shelves

Finn gets involved in the DIY :)

That's 7 metres of new shelves for the kitchen!

Other work completed included building epic shelves for our enormous communal spice and food collection, and making some headway on the floor tiling (which has turned into an enormous job, quite out of proportion with how big it should have been). Cassian and Adam also fitted a new light on the basement stairs so we no longer hit our heads on the bulb. Win! It's little jobs like that which make the house feel a lot better.

Rob from The Drive Housing Co-op fitted an extractor for us while he was visiting a few weeks ago, so all in all the kitchen is starting to feel really posh. Once the tiling's done I think some new lighting might be in order, and then it will be amazing. While big jobs like the garden and the roofs rumble on for ages, finishing something that we use loads every day has really helped give us a greater sense of ownership over the house, and it's a great thing to show visitors to demonstrate how different co-op life is from privately rented accommodation.

To demonstrate how awesome we are, here's a before-and-after shot of the kitchen, and some gratuitous shelf pr0n.

Before: so drab! so dull! so institutional!

After: characterful and gorgeous!
Sexy shelves made from a tatted futon.

Glorious from every angle.

The next work weekend is on September 22nd-23rd and will be focussing on turning the upstairs kitchen (what's left of it) into a beautiful spare room for your selves to stay in. Get in touch if you fancy coming along.

- Hannah

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Demolition Day

Just to let you know, I am blogging this all in the wrong order, but today has been so epic, I'm going to forgo chronology and tell you about the kitchen work weekend in a later post.

So today we demolished the garden wall. I say we, but it was actually Lloyd and Joe's dad, the incredible, wonderful, and ridiculously skilled George. Along he and Cherry came, bringing a digger on the back of a truck, and using his truly brilliant diggering skills, he brought the whole wall down without damaging anything around it. Amazing stuff.

I wish I could say we made some fascinating discoveries, but apart from digging out a lot more of the old retaining wall, and seeing that it used to have steps coming down to the road in the centre, nothing new was revealed. I'm rescuing any bits of the old tiles I can find, and we're reclaiming all the whole bricks we can find from the heap in order to build raised beds once the garden is done.

There's not much more to say, except that the issue we have now is that there is too much stuff. Even with a slope running up the garden for about 10 metres, the top of the slope is about 5 metres above street level which is more than a little bit terrifying to look down on from above. It looks like we'll have to get another skip to reduce the volume of stuff enough to make room for building the new wall. In the meantime we need to protect the slope, so on Monday we'll be sorting out securing it with some kind of netting.

I took a huge amount of photos and some videos, but to try to avoid spamming you I've put some into a slideshow, and I'll try to be restrained with the rest.

This is the view from the top of the garden, so you can't quite see how dramatic it is below.

There's a little video below to demonstrate George's artistry when it comes to digger driving. Brilliant work. We're a very lucky co-op to know such skilled people.

I promise to return and blog the kitchen work weekend in the next few days. It looks amazing and everyone worked really hard. I'm off now to eat fish and chips and watch Dr. Who as reward for my part in it all.

- Hannah

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Build It Where You Are

We're just recently returned from the Radical Routes gathering, and when I say recently, I mean within the last couple of hours. As usual it was busy and tiring and intense, but also incredibly inspiring. Being around other co-op members is a great reminder of why we're doing what we're doing, and more importantly, that we ought to be doing more.

Sven and I had a great blather, both at the gathering and on the way home, concerning the lack of co-ops in south Wales and what we could do about it. It's not that there aren't co-ops, but in an area with a significant need for affordable housing and relatively low property prices, it's genuinely surprising that there aren't more. We'd like to be surrounded by co-op people more of the time, and so it's up to us to build it where we are.*

So this is our** plan, which I am recording here in order to help it happen, and also to start garnering interest from you lovely lot. Just to point out that Sven and I are in no way experts, but we are keen learners with lots of contacts, and most importantly, we have done this recently.

We're going to plan a detailed set of modular workshops covering the whole housing co-op set-up process and related topics (such as consensus decision making), and then offer to run them for small groups in South Wales who are interested. You can tell us where you are in your process (anywhere from random, interested people who are wondering what a co-op is, to registered co-ops who are looking for funding inspiration) and we'll come and run relevant workshops in your garden/living room/community space.

So, are you interested? Could you get together a group of 3+ people who are also interested? Let us know and when we are ready to roll, we'll get in touch. And if we don't get around to it, please feel free to tell us off.

- Hannah

* A concept that is often talked about, summed up nicely in a phrase from Sven.
** Other members of Golem might be interested too, but I was too excited about the idea to run it past them all before posting this.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Keeping the Pace Up (more work weekends)

This is sort of a post letting you know a thing, and sort of a post reminding me about a thing, and sort of a post to remind all of us Golems to do said thing.

I'll explain.

I've been feeling like we have big surges and slumps in our energy when it comes to doing work on the house. We all pulled together and got loads of work done on the kitchen, and then all had a rest and settled in a bit. And then we got all dedicated to the garden and then we had another rest and some of us went on holiday. That's a simplification, but you can hopefully see what I mean. We need to keep the momentum up and the motivation going.

So in the noble pursuit of getting off of our arses more often, we're going to start having a monthly work weekend. It will be on the fourth weekend of each month, which means the first one is on the 25th-26th of August. The next one will then be on the 22nd-23rd of September. We'll try to post in advance to let people know what we'll be doing, so that if you want to join in, you can.

I've volunteered to co-ordinate the first one, so if you are interested, please get in touch. These are the jobs I'm hoping we'll attempt:

- finish the kitchen, which involves some tiling, the building of some shelves from some reclaimed wood, and re-fitting a pane of glass to a window.
- bashing out the flowerbed in the front courtyard and lift the paving slabs, perhaps clearing the drain along the way.
- if we have time, another job, which might be bricking up the smaller window in the downstairs bathroom.

You'll probably get food, potentially biscuits and certainly a lot of appreciation and tea. Let us know if you fancy it.

- Hannah

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Mystery Object Revealed!

Do you remember the mystery object buried in the garden? To recap, here it is, in it's mysterious glory.

Well, I have good news! It's a mystery no more. Joe spent his time digging around it while we've been away, and good grief, there's no way any of you could have guessed what it was.

It could have been a lovely garden trellisy thing.

(image nicked from the intertubes)

It could have been the metal remnants of a barrel...


... or some kind of iron cart wheel.

(I'm basically a massive tea-leaf)

But no. In the true spirit of extraordinary weirdness that pervades our house and garden, it is...

a fire escape.

It's hard to photograph, but so far about 8 feet of it is visible. Yikes!

You know, one of those ones with the ladder and the metal cage thing to stop you falling off. All of one, or at least it looks like it. It's been there for a while, as the small wall which runs across the garden is built right over it in a most nonchalant fashion.

I think it's safe to say that none of us were expecting a huge thing like this, and we haven't even started to contemplate what to do with it, but I thought I'd at least relieve you of your suspense about what on earth it was.

- Hannah

Sunday, 22 July 2012

We're (nearly) all going on a summer holiday...

In the week since the wondrous work weekend, we have not been idle. A few of us are heading off on holiday for two weeks, so the blog may or may not be quiet in my absence, and so I thought I'd give you a little roundup of events Chez Golem before I go.

Cassian and Joe brought joy to the entire house by getting the shower to be up on the wall on one of those poley things. I cannot put into words how exciting it is to be able to have a quick shower instead of the sort of bath I have with (at the very least) Radio 4 and a cup of tea. Queues for the bathroom are now greatly diminished.

We had a budget workshop where we worked out a way to plan for our spending over the year, based on things like projected income and expenditure. It involved a glorious addition to our accounts spreadsheet made by me and Lloyd, and our explaining of it terrified the few Golems who didn't know we both love spreadsheets that much.  Talking through the spreadsheet by displaying it on Sven's projector helped enormously, and I think it's one of the most helpful gadgets for a co-op to have (but maybe that's because I love gadgets). We now have a lot of our money for the year ring-fenced into different budgets, but which are flexible enough to be changed during the course of a meeting if needs be. Everyone seems to feel like we have a better handle on our finances, so it's win all round.

I've continued my researching of the history of the house (which I'm saving up for another blogpost). As part of it I ended meeting some opposite-neighbours and having the most magnificent conversation about the area, private landlords and Victoriana. I'm really hoping we get to meet more of our neighbours in the future, as we're planning to be here in the long term.

A drunken night with two archaeologists (one resident and one non-resident) led to us identifying the manufacturer of the lovely blue and white tiles we found in the garden. They were made by Craven Dunnil & Co and are very likely to be some of the tiles put in when the house was first built. The non-resident archaeologist thinks they are from a bathroom set, rather than a fireplace as I thought. Sadly the company don't keep pattern catalogues so we'll never know for sure when they were made, but I think it's a reasonably safe guess. The blue and white tiles in the kitchen are much later, probably 1960's. I really hope we find more of these little snippets of the house's history along the way.

I've also finally started doing some of the floor tiling in the kitchen, re-covering the bit which was in the hallway we ripped out.  It's taken me an absurdly long time to get started, and five tiles in, I've run out of tile adhesive! That said, the area already looks better, and once it's done there's only one more bit of tiling to do before it's finished and we can think about painting the kitchen. Hooray!

Joe cleared out the downstairs hallway so it's much, much roomier and less full of junk, though there is a little bit left to go. Small things like this make an enormous difference to how good a house feels, so we were all hugely grateful.

We're still getting quotes before deciding how to go about rebuilding the retaining wall of the garden. Another one came in this week and it was slightly less terrifying than the first, but only slightly. We're now waiting for a third and will discuss a plan of action when the travelling Golems get back. Once the dodgy wall is down and a new, spectacularly sturdy one is put up, it will be a weight off of everyone's minds, and mean that we can crack on with the other huge job of our Year One work: fixing all of the roofs. Joy!

Joe has been busy in the garden cutting up even more of the buddleia mountain and packing it into council garden waste bags for collection. Him and Lloyd had a good crack at digging up some of the bigger stumps today, and in doing so found a wall we didn't know was there. It looks to be only a small one, acting as a step down across the garden, but it's still amazing we can be finding things like this which we had no idea were there. Joe is planning to excavate more of the Iron Thing while we're away, and we're taking bets on what it is for anyone with an idea. See picture below.

It's about two feet wide, seems to be circular and goes a long way down. Any ideas?
I'm also including a little slideshow of the garden progress so you can revel in our hard work. The next phase will include digging out tonnes and tonnes of this soil/rubble, probably with a mini-digger. I can't wait!

- Hannah

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What would Lady Gaga do?

"Pretend I'm a shower curtain!"

"Oh God, it's all gone tits up."

"Lady Gaga would totally wear this."


Today me and Steve took 3 bags and 1 box of garden waste to the tip, along with lots of electrical rubbish. Then we went into the plumbing shop and bought one of those shower pole thingies and a shower curtain.

Upon my return, I attempted to fit it all with Joe, but accidentally a nap.

Then I woke up, and me and Joe blasted the bathroom wall with our amazingness until the shower pole thingy and the shower curtain were fitted, both professionally and with style.

I had a shower in my own home for the first time in well over a month and it was so good I cannot even. You guys, me and Joe and Steve are amaze.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Housing Co-ops and Housing Benefits

I applied for housing benefit upon taking up residence in your friendly neighbourhood Swansea housing co-op. The process was a little bit long and convoluted, so I thought I'd tell you about it in the hope that it might save you some time.

I assumed that it was alright for the council to know who else was living here, and so I happily put the names of other residents on my form. Some weeks later, I emailed the housing benefit department to ask why my application was taking so long, since it was just logging a change of address. I had a reply by email saying they'd sent me a letter 16 days earlier (still not received) and this:
The tenancy agreement you supplied appears to have not been signed by your landlord.  It appears to be signed by another tenant at the property.  Please provide proof of your rent liability by providing your original Tenancy Agreement which has been signed by your actual landlord or a signed letter from your landlord to confirm [rent details].
Amusingly snarky, with casual fraud accusational overtones. I emailed back the same day to explain that we were a housing co-op (as outlined on the change of address form), and as such, members are tenants and tenants are members. Members are authorised to sign such documents when agreed at a general meeting, which is what happened. So yes, a fellow tenant did sign my tenancy agreement, and that's all totally legal and alright.

They replied again, and asked the following questions:

  1. Who owns [the house]?
  2. Who do you pay your rent to?
  3. Do you share ownership of the above address with your fellow co-operative members?
  4. Please confirm in writing if you hold more than a nominal equity share in the property.
I answered by email, and a week later when I asked I was told that my housing benefit claim had been set up and was all okay. (Still no letter, mind.)

The whole process took over a month, partly because their first letter to me got lost in the post.

Someone else in the co-op also had to switch housing benefit to our new house, and had no problems, probably due to leaving off the names of other tenants when filling in the form since that information is totally irrelevant.

The reason I'm telling you all this is because it might help you if you have to do the same thing. First of all, don't bother telling them the names of the other tenants, since it's not really relevant anyway. Second, perhaps answering those four questions on the application/change of address form might speed things up a little bit.

So there we are. Extelligence. Love it.

Work Weekend Update

Well, what a weekend. It rained, it poured, it cleared up a bit and then it rained again. Thank goodness we weren't planning to spend the weekend wading through mud-encrusted rubbish.

No wait! That's totally what we were planning! And despite all the water the heavens could pour at us, that's exactly what we did. Here is a brief summary of what we managed to get done:

- formed a sedimentary layer of tiles approximately a foot thick in the bottom of our magnificent skip.
- put all the already-sorted-out rubbish on top of it, leaving a sort of chute arrangement in one corner for adding the bazillion more broken tiles we knew we'd find.
Hasselback Hotel :)
- dug through layers and layers of soil* fishing out even more rubbish and tiles to add to the skip.
- burnt through all the buddleia branches too big to go in the council garden waste.
- chopped up nearly all of the rest so it will fit in the garden waste bags.
- restacked the - by now, enormous - rubble pile into a slightly less scary shape.
- ate all the biscuits.**

Along the way, we received magnificent assistance from Lis, Mary-Eve, Sammie and Beth, for which we are enormously grateful. The skip guy was rather lovely, too.

Mmm, soil. Sort of.
Other fascinating occurrences include a guy stopping in the alley to chat to us. He did some work on the house under it's previous owner and said it was nice to see people tidying the place up. He also said, "that downstairs bathroom is pretty terrible", which is bizarre considering he apparently worked on it. I promise to write that blog post about the bathroom soon - I know you all love a good horror story ;)

We then saw him doing work on a property down the road, overseen by none other than the previous owner of our place, who waved and said hello. I saw him later, and he said "you're working hard, eh?" with a big grin on his face. I honestly couldn't tell what level of cheekiness he was aiming at,  but I think he must have known about the garden's hidden horrors. Again, bizarre.

NB: this is not what gardens are for, people!
We've also uncovered the top of a large metal object, but haven't had a chance to dig it out yet. I'll add a picture of it below later, in case anyone wants to try guessing what it is.

We still have loads of buddleia to get rid of, so if anyone randomly has the urge to take a bag to the dump, do let us know. There is still lots of rubbish and tiles left in the soil, but we've got rid of the bulk of it, and everything is clear enough now to do the garden wall (when we manage to work out how the hell we're going to do it). This evening we've got a finance workshop to get to grips with our work budget for the year, so hopefully the mystery of how to fix the wall will be solved.

- Hannah

* soil is a bit of a strong word for it. It's more like something you'd find on the banks of the Ankh.
** actually, that's a lie. We ate all the vegan biscuity things, but there's a foot long roll of uncooked non-vegan biscuit dough in the freezer, ready for anyone else who pops around to help.***
*** unless we eat it first.