Side Project A

In order of conception, the first of our side projects was the cloakroom – oh, all right, call a spade a spade: the downstairs loo. [It’s so small there’s absolutely no room for any cloaks, anyway.]

Having decided to continue the kitchen/dining area flooring into the hallway, it was but a small jump to continue it into the downstairs loo. Shortly afterwards it was but another small jump to continue the flooring into the utility room.

Francine was keen to replace all the hardware, including the tiny radiator, and to incorporate a skinny vanity unit. The loo, after all, was original so must have been 40 years old. I’m willing to take on many DIY projects but exchanging a loo when the new one needs seating on a concrete floor with plumbing running through it is not one of them. So, way back when, we got our friendly Plumber Men to rip out the loo, radiator and hand basin, leaving the room denuded to ease the fitting of the new flooring.

As readers will be only too aware, the fitting of the flooring became the ripping up of Floor v1.0, followed eventually by the fitting of Floor v2.0 after a seemingly interminable 2-month gap.

Expecting Floor v1.0 to be acceptable, Francine’s skinny vanity unit had been procured eons ago. With all the work necessary in our other rooms, the vanity unit was stateless and got shuffled from room to room like a refugee. Almost inevitably, yours truly managed to knock it over (it isn’t terribly stable when freestanding, especially on carpet) and a replacement was needed. A replacement proved difficult to get which incurred yet another delay.

The upshot is that we’ve been without a downstairs loo for the last three months. Since it was denuded for the duration, however, there now was plenty of room for cloaks. 😀 [No, we didn’t.]

So, first to be conceived is last to be completed. To be fair to the smallest room in the house, though, side project A would have been completed a shade before side project B, the utility room, were it not for the fact that we needed to find and fit a mirror and come up with a cunning solution for a splashback. To be accurate, that is Francine needed to find them [“yes dear”] and I needed to fit them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally it’s done. We have Francine’s replacement skinny vanity unit, a matching skinny hand basin that I’ll never get my hands into, a modern loo with a very svelte cistern, probably containing insufficient water to flush effectively, a new radiator (hidden behind the door) and there still isn’t any room for cloaks.

Now we also have a mirror, there should be room for Francine to powder her nose, though. [I won’t tell you what I thought that phrase meant as a young child.]

I may have to do something about that hideous lightshade, though. 😀

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Side Project B

Once we’d decided to continue our ground floor flooring into the cloakroom, .a.k.a. downstairs loo, it was but a short step to decide also to continue it into the utility room. Thus the utility room became side project B.

After the flooring, the main effort was to fit some cupboards to tidy things up. We’d needed a new worktop for years; I’d tried twice to replace it ordering a section from (bloody) Homebase but both attempts failed ‘cos (bloody) Homebase supplied damaged worktop twice. This time the nice folks at Ultrawood Interiors donated a perfect worktop that was superfluous to requirements gratis. How’s that for service? It’s even in trendy grey, not that we particularly want trendy.

Utility (1 of 1)As you might see from the picture, a very skinny ceiling light was needed to enable cupboard doors to open. We found a suitable fitting and I fitted it.

Glitch number I’ve-lost-count happened when fastidious Mr. Fitter came to hang the cupboards – the far cupboard had been supplied with no door. Naturally one was ordered (I can’t call it a replacement ’cos there was nothing to replace).

Meanwhile, Francine’s washing machine had been refusing to work with fabric softener for some time and, as well as replacing that, she was keen to get rid of our tumble drier which she now saw as a fire risk, a few having apparently burst into flames having used the collected fluff as tinder. So, Francine began investigating a combined washer/drier. Some such machines don’t enjoy the greatest of reputations but you can waste half a lifetime fretting about things so, after due diligence, she opted for a Bosch.

Our missing cupboard door turned up. Making glitch number I’ve-lost-count-plus-one, the missing cupboard door was supplied with the holes for its hinge attachments in the wrong places. Brilliant. Somebody must’ve changed the jig. Who’d’a thunk it? A second was ordered specifying exactly where the holes needed to be.

At last, today, our second missing door turned up and Mr Fitter came to hang it. Joy of joys, the hinge holes were now correct. You really do have to have your holes in the right places.

So, in the race to the line for our final two outstanding side projects, the utility room beat the cloakroom by a short head.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Side Project C

In the time lottery of our completed side projects, next up is my Man Cave. Yay! Some good news on Remembrance Day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was looking a bit bare last time, though it did have its smart new oak wood-effect flooring.

Speaking of grain, Man Cave goes against it. Man Cave is not painted in Francine’s corporate Wimborne White. [GASP] “Why on earth not?”, I hear you ask. Well, before settling on Wimborne White for the Kitchen/Diner, we thought we fancied Dulux Morning Light and I went and bought 10 litres of the stuff. It is a very similar colour, though with a touch more yellow and, since 10 litres cost about £120, rather than waste it … enough said.

Francine did a good job of planning use of the space, having found some reasonable looking office desks. There are a number of suppliers offering similar products and a swift spot of research proved that you have to be very careful when choosing where to place an order. One in particular had utterly appalling reviews the like of which I don’t think I’ve seen.

We heard favourable reports of National Office Furniture Supplies who had a large (1800mm x 1200mm) curved office desk that came packaged with a matching 400mm filing cabinet/drawer unit. Here it is, though I needed the right hand version. ‘T would be a perfect fit with space left for a document shredder. 😉

It was duly ordered on 26th October and turned up today. Communication throughout from the supplier seemed perfectly reasonable, both emails and phone calls to arrange delivery, and now I have it the quality feels good.

Man Cave (1 of 1)-lefrancofile-2The pedestal comes basically assembled but not so the desk. The assembly instructions required a little interpretation with components varying slightly from some of those shown but, calling on experience from Ikea assembly, all went well. It’s installed and feels terrific; I have SPACE. The cupboards, incidentally, are excellent and were from Ikea though they sadly no longer seem to be supplied.

I am going to have to add a bookcase for my collection of 40+ nature books, mostly field guides.

I now need a new monitor, too. The 8+ year old Dell 23” doesn’t have drivers for Win 10 and doesn’t quite fly properly – tries to enter power saving mode and gets stuck such that I can’t even power it down. Big red switch time. Bigger!

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Side Project E

This project stemmed from my Man Cave side project (still ongoing), which was made necessary by Franco being forcibly ejected from Office 1.0 to make way for Francine and her humongous printer in m’ Lady’s Chamber (side project D).

Our upstairs ceilings have always been in a poor state with scrim tape becoming detached from several plasterboard joints. The ceiling in Bedroom #3, destined to be my Man Cave, was poor but that in Bedroom #2, destined to remain a bedroom, was dreadful. Since the ceilings are covered in that horrible 60s Artex crap, I took the opportunity to get Builder Man back to knock off all the pimples, apply new sticky scrim tape over the joints and skim both ceilings with beautiful flat, smooth plaster.

To make way for Builder Man, the old bedside cabinets and cheap, white, rickety, MFI-style wardrobe got broken up and went to the tidy tip – sorry, Household Waste Recycling Centre – complete with nasty pink-ish carpet.

Drastic clearing out is really very therapeutic. There are times when I’ve wanted to hire a huge skip, fill it with everything from inside the house and start again with a clean slate.

Right, rip off the outmoded wall paper for Builder Man to do his ceiling thing, let the plaster dry, then paint the fresh ceiling white and the walls in Francine’s corporate Wimborne White. Much, much better.

Without breaking the ever-diminishing bank account, we think we’ve managed to improve on the rickety MFI-style wardrobe [I suppose it should be Ikea, these days] from Lucas Furniture who have a fancy new showroom in Aylesbury.

Headboards are a problem for me. I really don’t like headboards like wrought iron gates with metal bars that dig into your head. Neither do I like padded, upholstered affairs that get greasy and discoloured. Whatever they are, I don’t care for headboards attached to the bed, either – they are never rigid enough and bang against the wall. [Keep smutty comments to yourselves.]  No, IMO a headboard should be fixed to the wall. Francine found an oak effect hard headboard that would be cleanable, looked OK and, though it was designed to attach to the bed, I thought a modification would get it secured to the wall.

The headboard arrived wrapped in cardboard and with foam corner protectors taped to it on the inside. I set about my rudimentary carpentry to modify the fixings. Once done, I removed the corner protectors only to discover that one corner had not been adequately protected; it had clearly been smacked on that corner, possibly dropped on it, which was cracked and distorted a little. A tell tale scrap of laminate was embedded in the foam.

“Bother”, said Franco, crossly.

I’d already done my carpentry so returning it seemed a less than possible solution. However, Francine sent an explanatory note to the supplier,, a.k.a.Hughes Furniture Ltd, a Northern Irish outfit operating through Amazon. They were terrific. They said that, since it was damaged, they’d ship us a replacement straight away; they didn’t even want our photographic evidence. My modified fixings would go straight onto the replacement headboard. Result!

True to their word, the replacement headboard arrived this morning sans damage. My modified fixings worked a treat.

Bedroom 2 (2 of 2)Now for the pièce de résistance, the bedding.  You just have to check this out; it could’ve been designed just for me. This is Sophie Allport Dragonfly bedding. How great is that? [Well, not great at all if you’re not addicted to dragonflies, of course.]

Sophie must be a very classy lady. Look, the kitchen, our main project, hasn’t missed out either:

Sophie Allport Dragonfly

Bedroom 2 (1 of 2)Here’s the finished side project E, Franco’s West Wing retreat with personalised bedding. 🙂

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Side Project D

[Clearly our side projects to 2020 Covid19 Knockdown were not destined to be completed in the order in which they were conceived.]

Hitherto we’ve both been sharing one “office”, which was originally designed to be a single bedroom. Francine, a confirmed laptop user, has been using a desk beside mine that looks directly through the south-east facing window. So, when it deigns to shine, glaring sun could be a problem.

A little while ago, Francine also invested in an A3 printer which is a bit of a lump and which meant she needed more room – the entire room. So, Francine decided to kick Franco out into bedroom #3 which was to get kitted out as a Man Cave. Franco is a confirmed desktop user and bedroom #3 has a little more space for a decently sized monitor. [I need a new one anyway ‘cos there ain’t any Win 10 drivers for my old 23” Dell monitor.]

So, I had a third bedroom to decorate which, by decree, was to be done in the new Francine corporate colour of Wimborne White; it’s spreading quite rapidly throughout the house.

Then we got to thinking, if a boy has a Man Cave, what does a girl have? Girl Cave doesn’t sound right.

Enter a useful phrase from a traditional ol’ nursery rhyme, though I must confess that, being blissfully child free, I had to look up where the phrase came from:

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.

Ah ha, men have caves but ladies have chambers. Perfick!

An aside. Having looked up my nursery rhyme, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the splendid movie Educating Rita. Frank [Michael Caine] refers to a poem by WB Yeats in which he “rhymes swan with stone” as an example of assonance. Rita [Julie Walters] responds, “yeah, means getting the rhyme wrong”. Excellent!

We have the same here. Gander doesn’t rhyme with wander, if it’s supposed to, and neither does wander rhyme with chamber. ‘Tis all stuff and nonsense. Poets, eh? Who’d have ‘em?

Lady's Chamber (1 of 1)Back on track, we’ve been creating a Lady’s Chamber.

This gets me into some more delightfully irritating modern English. We might say that we have re-imagined our original office as a Lady’s Chamber. Not only that but we have done it with re-purposed furniture that we already had, namely an old stock of Beaver & Tapley units in a rather swish burgundy oak (sadly no longer available). These were largely the units from our original dining room when 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown began. Glasses cupboards have lost their glazed doors and become book cases.

I dislike what is happening to our language. None of this is quite as infuriating as “a big ask”, though.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown


Some businesses seem to be booming, largely those dealing with the things people have done whilst stuck at home during a pandemic.

The kick-boards for our kitchen units have been languishing in the garage for a month or two waiting for our flooring to get sorted out. Over the somewhat protracted wait, our trusty Fitter Men apparently got themselves booked up until Christmas. However, not liking loose ends [i.e. us], they managed to fit us in on a truly revolting day of rain to fit the long-awaited kick-boards.

There’s a lot more work involved in fitting kick-boards than some might imagine, not only cutting to length but scribing into the floor, too, and you can’t go cutting lengths of kick-boards outside in pouring rain. So, to help both their cause and our cause along, I cleared what I could out of the garage to turn it into a workshop. Sure enough, Fitter Men pitched up a little after 09:00 having loaded their van with tools and a few replacement cupboard doors, which segues smartly into an interesting little side snippet.

We have two glasses cupboards with glazed doors. (We declined the lights option because it shows the dust.) Soon after they were initially fitted, hawk-eyed Francine noticed that one door appeared not to have been glued together; the tongue [the tenon, if you want to be technical] of the bottom rail could be pulled out of the slot [a.k.a. mortice] in the side rail. Naturally we reported this, complete with photographic evidence, and a replacement door was ordered by Ultrawood from the supplier.

The replacement glazed door duly arrived but eagle-eyed Ultrawood, this time, noticed that it, too, would pull apart. Was there a common manufacturing glitch? A second replacement door was ordered which – wait for it – yes, also separated. Hmmm.

A confused Ultrawood, who are not unfamiliar with these products, contacted the supplier again to explain the problem and investigate.

Oh, that’s how we make the glazed doors to enable customers to change to frosted glass should they want to.


So why, pray tell, would they keep sending replacements if the original was as it should be?

Bizarre. It seems that nobody before has managed to separate a joint partially or, even worse, fully.


The upshot is that not only do we at long last have kick-boards with all but invisible joins – Fitter Man #1 is meticulous – but we also have two spare glazed cupboard doors.

At last, on day #72 [workday, that is; I’m discounting weekends] of our 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown project:

I declare this kitchen-diner finished!

Darwin bless here and all who eat in her.

Now for the side projects.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Tabling a Motion

One of our more agonizing decisions in our kitchen-dining room conversion was settling on a dining table.

We had wandered around various furniture establishments with a sample of the wood grain top to be used on the dining area cupboards, which was a relatively light oak. Anything too yellow would clash. A twin puzzle was the colour of chair seat material, which we didn’t want clashing with the Oxford blue of our island unit which would be nearby.

Enter Ercol Romana, first spotted in Furniture Village and subsequently seen at Lucas in Aylesbury. Francine immediately fondled its smooth light oak wood lovingly. The example in the Lucas showroom seemed to match our light oak sample perfectly. Furthermore, there was a blue seating material option that proved a very good match to our other sample of Oxford Blue. Ignoring the Ercol price tags as much as we could, this had to be it – it was our little extravagance [as if the whole project wasn’t extravagance enough].

Ercol this may be but this is modern, sexy Ercol; Romana is built in Italy so I assume was designed in Italy, too. It took the usual 8-12 weeks but eventually “was in the country” and available. Lucas was happy to store it until our darn floor was sorted but once that was organized, Francine arranged for delivery on 12th October.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wasn’t really expecting an Ercol table to be assembled on site. It wasn’t “flat pack” as such but the two pairs of legs were married to the table top in our dining area by the Lucas delivery chaps using a modestly sized Allen key. I suppose International transportation of a fully assembled table would take more space, be more expensive and more prone to damage.

And so to the motion. [Lose 10 points for starting a paragraph with a conjunction – I’m picking up bad BBC News habits.] Once the delivery team had left us to admire our new table, we naturally started fiddling with it. It was very tight to pull apart and extend but that’ll probably loosen up with use. More worrying was the movement induced by our leaning on the two ends, unextended. Rather than being solid, as I expected, they flexed up and down, rather like a leaf spring. The movement on one end was about 5mm, the other about 4mm.

I could imagine diners attempting to saw through a traditionally ropey British steak and seeing it retreat as pressure was applied, only to have it spring back in their face once pressure was released. Whilst this might conjure up amusing mental images, a table top that moves while you’re eating your meal is clearly unacceptable.

As a reality check, I drove over to Lucas to compare the example in the showroom. It was the baby brother but was Romana and sure enough, the table top was rock solid. I explained and voiced our concerns to the sales folks who entered our dissatisfaction into their customer service system. Customer services would get back to us with a date for a Lucas technician to visit.

They did: the technician wasn’t going to visit until November 10th. WHAT!? Four bloody weeks? There must be an awful lot of business being done generating an awful lot of issues to be sorted out. Alternatively, of course, we’re once again falling into the standard Covid-19 trap; 2020’s excuse of choice. Our biggest concern was that this would leave us dangerously close to the 30-day time period when consumers are able to say, “it’s not good enough, take it back”.

Today I got to wondering if there was anything in the way the leg pairs had been attached. One leg in particular looked as if it was a little low compared to the side rails and to its three companions, which looked perfectly flush.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach leg is fastened with three hex bolts so I grabbed the Allen key that came with it and set about fiddling. As I loosened the third bolt of the potentially offending leg there was an audible clunk as the table top settled slightly. The leg now looked a bit too high but I managed to align the leg with the side rail using my right hand whilst tightening the bolts with my left. It looked much better. Just because I could, I repeated my exercise on the three remaining legs though not to the accompaniment of any further clunks.

I applied my weight to the table ends. Wha’d’ya know, a spring-free table. It should now be safe to saw away at the most demanding of steaks without risking a rib in the eye. [Francine didn’t get that.]

I think we can now get over our disappointment and set about loving our extravagant table and chairs. We haven’t cancelled the technician yet, though.

Someone needs to be told that this was an issue with how the assembly on site had been done.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Floored Again

Murphy’s Law is generally quoted thus:

If anything can go wrong, it will.

Complete tosh, of course, since there’s always something that can go wrong but our flooring episode was beginning to make me doubt my rationality. [Francine, of course, has always doubted my rationality.]

While we’re on the subject, Francine had scarpered off to Harris and Lewis and left me with nought for company but a varied selection of fillers, paints, paint brushes and roller sleeves. As if we weren’t already doing enough concurrently, I’ve been redecorating two bedrooms as well. While the cat’s away the mice will labour. Our few unaffected rooms are filled to the rafters with displaced paraphernalia. Moving around is, shall we say, a challenge.

Be that as it may, after what seems like an eon, on Tuesday 02 October our replacement flooring was delivered with a view to its being fitted on the Thursday. In what is already an overcrowded house, I had to find somewhere to store the flooring, too.

Enter the redoubtable Mr. Murphy: the suppliers delivered the wrong glue to Flooring Man. Now there’s something that one might not have considered as a potential glitch, the wrong glue. Wrong type of snow or wrong leaves on the line, yes, but wrong glue? No doubt Covid-19 was to blame, like everything else. The right glue was sourced from another supplier but it put the fitting back to Friday.

Sure enough, on Friday morning, the long-awaited fitting of Floor v2.0 commenced after its initial false start. The guys had to work around our newly delivered fridge and a washing machine which was still in situ.

A little after midday, our favourite Builder Men unexpectedly pitched up to build a new, raised entrance door step. [Another of Francine’s brainwaves to stop people tripping over a rather high door sill.] So, the main entrance door would be out of commission. No problem, Flooring Men could come and go using the back door. So, not quite Murphy this time, then.

One of our little side projects, my Man Cave, having been painted was also to get its new floor in the form of yet more vinyl wood planking. Hopefully that would resist the wear from my scooting about on an office chair.

We had four Flooring Men beavering away. One of them eventually set about my Man Cave at about 15:00. First job was to fit flooring grade plywood (whatever that is) which was a shade over half the price of the flooring itself.

Eventually, at 17:30 our Flooring Men swarmed out of the house and all was done. We had Floor v2.0.

Well, very nearly all but not quite. When I came to hit the sack after a hard day watching other people work, behind the dining area door I spotted a small section, about 25x10cms, with glue but no vinyl flooring. “Hello again”, Mr. Murphy, “I’ve missed you”. Lurking behind an open door, this tiny section clearly got overlooked. Floor v2.0 needed a maintenance release. A swift text message secured a correction appointment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, here we are on Tuesday 13th October, one week after it was supposed to be fitted, and we finally have what I believe is a completed Floor v2.1. Franco much prefers the look of Floor v2.1 to v1, though the journey to it was a tad traumatic.

Now bugger off Murphy!

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Two in the Tower

… or Rapunzel Reprised.

My last post was on 18th August, so we’ve clearly had a 5-week hiatus.

The intervening time has had our Flooring Man arguing the toss with Moduleo, the suppliers of our defective flooring. Going into any details of his wranglings with this particularly unhelpful company would be both an exercise in futility and would require a series in itself. Just as an idea, they apparently offered us ‘an allowance’, whatever that might’ve meant. Let’s see, we’re going to spend 10s of thousands on a new kitchen and have a substandard floor be its crowning glory? Another ploy was that, since the flooring had been put down, their technical department would have to come out to see it. That wouldn’t be able to happen until November. ¿QUE?

“Unacceptable” has been Flooring man’s response to them consistently.

It is worth pointing out that another flooring contractor has spoken of a similar problem with Moduleo. Flooring Man has now turned down two potentially lucrative contracts, one of which was a 200 m2 job, because the customers wanted Moduleo but he now refuses to do business with them. For anyone thinking of having any vinyl flooring, the message is clear.

One of the problems frequently encountered in business is companies playing the Covid-19 excuse. “There’s only one person on in our customer service department.” Covid-19 has become the modern equivalent of a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. Welcome to Covid Monopoly, a bored game by Joe Bozo. [Yes, I did spell bored that way intentionally.]

Anyway, Francine has delayed delivery of our new fridge for a second time and Flooring Man was now ready to rip up the defective Moduleo crap and re-screed our floor ready for our chosen replacement from, of course, a different company. [Kährs, since you asked.] This was done this morning and once again, with most of the ground floor being a no-go zone, Rapunzel is once again trapped in the tower. Since I was painting one of the bedrooms this morning, I am trapped along with her this time. That means I wouldn’t be able to hand wine to her through the banisters and we had to plan ahead and work out what to bring upstairs with us.

View from the TowerWe’re looking down at a glistening sea of wet screed resembling a moat around our tower. We could do with a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card ourselves.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown


Last week we were floored and were very happy with the service and overall appearance.

That lasted until Francine tried to clean up what she had assumed was a small patch of glue. [Baby wipes are the thing for removing stubborn deposits, apparently, so heaven knows what they do to baby’s bum.] The magic baby wipe failed.

FlawedUpon closer inspection, the blemish was not glue but appeared to be a small area right at the end of the the vinyl plank that did not have a surface coating and was matt, rather than silky. It was as if the vinyl coating was missing and so looks like a manufacturing issue. It’s not a big area, just about 3cm x 0.5cm, but it’s there.

Once seen, Francine started spotting more and more sections suffering from the same flaw, all of a similar shape and size. From close to and directly above, you don’t see it but look at an angle against the light and they stand out. It looks as if a good 50% of the floor is flawed.

Flooring Man has just been round to inspect it. His thought is that it all needs to go and be changed.

It will delay us because all supplies are flaky with companies playing the Covid-19 trump card. Francine has postponed delivery of our new fridge, originally due tomorrow, from John Lewis (at late notice so thank you to them) and we’ll go on with our trusty old fridge in the conservatory. At least it has an ice tray – none of the new fridges do. Weird!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a brighter note, our trusty electrician returned to fit Francine’s sexy and slightly extravagant light above the dining table, or, at least, above the space where the dining table will go once it’s here and once there’s an unflawed floor to stand it on. Neat. The cables are adjustable and we’ve left room for me to walk underneath unhindered.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown