In trouble

I’m in trouble with my boss for not updating this blog frequently enough. If I’m honest everything’s starting to get a bit overwhelming and I’ve been having trouble gathering my thoughts clearly enough to write anything, but that’s a bit of a cop out excuse, as that’s the stuff that I started this blog to write about.

The loft is still making good progress. It’s only been just over three weeks since they started, but they reckon they’ll be finished within the next couple of days. I’ll believe it when I see it, but anyway, the whole thing’s been going incredibly fast. But now comes the tricky part, coordinating the plumber and the electrician, making sure all the fixtures and fittings are delivered on the right day, getting a quote for the wardrobes, getting the wardrobe surveyor round, setting up a date for the fitting of the wardrobes, realising the wardrobes can’t be fitted until the walls are painted, failing to get a quote from the regular decorator, finding a new decorator who can do the job quickly, realising this new decorator can’t do tiling, finding a tiler, trying to work everything out so the carpet, which has to be the last thing to go in, can be fitted before Christmas. It never ends.

To be fair, it has been poor Ursula who’s been at the sharp end of most of this, as she’s around in the day more than me. Juggling working with bringing up children is hard enough. But throw in project managing a loft conversion and being heavily pregnant with twins, and you have to be both an organisational genius (which she is) and a saint (less convinced 😉 ).

Well it will all be over soon, and then we’ll only have to deal with bringing up two new babies.

On top of this, we’re also deep into the thick of new car dramas. We finally realised we had to pull our collective finger out and get moving on the car front this week, as I think we could have trouble fitting a family of six into my surprisingly petite on the inside Audi A4. So an afternoon of tedious test driving on Saturday narrowed us down to our final choice of a Renault Grand Espace. It’s really quite depressing the choice of cars available to you when you have 4 children. But joy of joys, Renault have closed their Espace factory for the rest of the year, and in typical French fashion, have decided not to give out any information about when their ordering system will reopen. So we’re left with the choice of going for a car that doesn’t match our requirements, or waiting until next year and then probably not having a car in time for when the babies are born.

Life had just settled down into a quite calm and peaceful routine before this pregnancy. What on earth were we thinking?

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Loft progress

So it looks like we chose the worst week to go away. While we were in Barbados, work on the loft proceeded at an unbelievable rate. The gable end was built, the rear dormer was built, all the windows were fitted, all the internal walls were insulated and plastered. On the day we got back, the inside of the house still looked completely normal. But they chose the day we got back, with our horrendous jetlag, to break through the ceiling from the loft to the landing, and build the new stairs. Again, amazing speed of work – I couldn’t believe they could do all that in one day – but it didn’t make the house the most pleasant of places to be.

 

New staircase
New staircase

This week has ben total mayhem. The plasterers are in, and it’s incredible the mess they make. They’re doing very good work, but the entire house is full of dust, muck and general unpleasantness. We’ve also got the plumber, the electrician and the roofers in, in addition to the regular carpenters. We also had the painter come to measure up this morning, so all in all we had about 10 workmen in the house. I can’t wait until this bit’s over. I hope you appreciate what your parents are going through for you, babies (but I know you don’t!)

 

The new gable end
The new gable end
Rear dormer
Rear dormer

Two peas in a pod

 

Two peas in a pod
Two peas in a pod

Here’s a picture of the tops of the babies’ heads, squashed together inside the belly of their increasingly unfeasible mother. The pregnancy is at around 26 weeks now. Twin pregnancies rarely go beyond 38 weeks, but that still means poor Ursula’s still got 12 weeks to go. They currently weigh around 750g each. By they time they’re born, they will weigh over 3kg each. Us guys really do have it easy not having to deal with pregnancy!

Barbados

 

Barbados beach
Barbados beach

 

 

And we’re back.

I was hoping to blog from Barbados but our internet connectivity was seriously flaky over there. In the first hotel, you had to sit on a chair outside the hotel office in the baking heat to get a signal, and even when you did, the connection was so slow it was painful. In the house we stayed at for the second part of the trip, there were two internet options. The first was sitting in the living room in the main house, which felt rather uncomfortable as it was right next to the bedroom of the owners. The second was sitting on a bench under a mahogany tree in a certain part of the grounds near our room – not advisable when raining – and again the connection was either painfully slow or broken. So I decided to take life at more of a Bajan (that’s the Barbadian word for, well, Barbadian) pace and not bother with the blog while I was out there.

I won’t go into the details of the accommodation – you can read about that in Ursula’s article in the Daily Mail when it comes out (probably in January). Suffice it to say that the house we stayed in was like nowhere we’ve ever been before, and at $3900 a night, never will again. The first night was like a scene from a James Bond film. There we were, sat on a terrace high above the Caribbean sea, sipping mango daiquiris, in an exotic mansion with stunningly beautiful grounds. Around the dinner table were: the rich property owner, his German wife, the world renowned doctor, the Michelin-starred chef and his pregnant Italian wife, the jet-setting tree surgeon who had smuggled his chainsaw in his hand-luggage, and…wait for it…the American Ambassador. We’d just got off a transatlantic flight after waking up at 5 in the morning to get to Gatwick, so it was all a bit blurry and surreal. And there we were, two ordinary, north London, middle class, working parents of small children. To say we weren’t exactly with our kind of people would be a little bit of an understatement. Later in the week, we had the pleasure of the PR bunny daughter of a famous French actress, a couple of elderly, gay, German art collectors, a former actress and film producer who has now decided to take up addiction counselling, an ambition-free toff who decided to set up a dog rescue centre in Barbados who was able to do so by dint of being the daughter of a former actress and film producer… Ugh.

Still…shouldn’t moan. The first few days were in a much more down-to-earth hotel, much more our kind of thing, and we didn’t have to talk to anyone if we didn’t want to, apart from Graham, the hotel manager, who was absolutely lovely. We spent the bulk of those days, sleeping, eating, swimming, and more sleeping. It was wonderful. I had afternoon naps for the first time since I was a student. I drank lots of rum (poor Ursula couldn’t because of the babies), ate lots of great food, and had an all-round good time. It must be said that part of our suffering in the second part of the trip was due to the fact that, after four days, we started getting to the point where we had had enough of being without the children. The first few days were lovely and peaceful, but we started to miss the terribly about half way through.

I’m writing this while sipping on a homemade rum punch, my drink of choice while I was in Barbados. We brought a heck of a lot of rum back with us, but they’re not going to last very long at this rate!

Here’s a link to an album of the best photos I took while I was there. I won’t bother posting them all again here – instead I’m linking you through to my album on Facebook.

There’s lots of news on the loft – I’ll post about that tomorrow.

Moving fast

This whole loft business is moving ridiculously fast. The builders have only been here 3 days, and they’re already a good distance along. The steel supports are in (a scary looking guy with a bull ring in his nose  showed up this morning, who turned out to be the welder), the frame of the new gable is already built, and we’re already having to give them instructions on the location of power sockets etc.

 

 

Crane delivering steel girders
Crane delivering steel girders

 

Hoisting into place
Hoisting into place

 

New gable frame
New gable frame

 

New gable from the back
New gable from the back

There won’t be any loft updates for the next eight days, owing to the fact that Ursula and I are off to Barbados tomorrow morning. Yes I know, sometimes it’s hard to be married to a national newspaper journalist. The children will be looking after the house and the in-laws, so that, combined with the builders in the loft, leaves me wondering if the house will even still be standing by the time we get back.

Gender stereotypes?

If ever there was a more stark illustration of the male-female divide than this, I’d be surprised.

The scaffolding went up on Thursday (pictures to follow). In response, on Friday morning, Ursula and I both made calls to separate services companies. Hers was to a portaloo hire company, after one of the scaffolders came in to use the toilet and left muddy footprints all over the rug. There is no way, she said, that we could possibly have strange men coming in to use our facilities for the next six weeks.

Mine was to a satellite engineer, after the scaffolding blocked the signal to our dish. There is absolutely no way, I said, that I could cope without my Sky+ for the next 6 weeks.

We now have a portaloo stinking out the front drive, and the satellite dish has been moved to the outside of the scaffolding. So order has been returned to both our male and female universes.