Where’s Stanley?

One of the most used phrases over the last 11 days of renovations at New Ing Lodge Stanley being, of course, a Stanley knife – a tool that tends to just walk off as if to say “I’ve had enough of this madhouse”.

The process of renovations is always hectic and rushed in the house. Mainly because we are working to a strict deadline. We had to be ready by Thursday because we had guests checking in. Over the last two years that I’ve worked here, I’ve seen a few of those mad spells. Twice I’ve been completely ill while pushing through it. It’s not very much fun climbing on ladders and painting ceilings when you are fighting to stay conscious with a fever. But the show must go one; in a small place like this, it’s all hands on deck to get everything done.

This time we had 12 days to put down a new oak flooring in our lounge and dining room as well as in the halls on the ground floor. The hallway walls needed plastering (our hope of finding a double fireplace in one of the old walls faded on the very first day) and all the walls needed a fresh lick of paint and new skirting boards had to go on in the hall. Simples, right?

If there’s anything I’ve learnt over the last two years, it’s that things take longer than expected. I have become quite a pessimist just to balance of the unrealistic optimism of my Employer. But even I fall into the trap of thinking that things can be done quicker. After the living and dining room floor got laid, it was pretty much solely my responsibility to get it painted. I started on Tuesday at about 4pm thinking I’d have two coats of paint everywhere by the end of Thursday. I painted until 9 pm on Wednesday (with a break for dinner in between), throughout Wednesday, which happened to be my birthday (and 3 tradesmen and my Employer came in with a cake singing and Employer forced me to stop working at 5pm!) and only finished rollering and brushing by Friday noon time.

The tradesman aren’t always the most reliable of species. It took way longer to plaster the walls than it should have because of the plasterer’s inability to get on site in time. This obviously held everyone else up. If you’re working tao tight schedule, it can get quite stressful. Luckily for us, there were other who would come in on Saturday to help us get things done.

Weekends are also not ideal for getting work done, especially if you happen to go for birthday beers to the Fell in Penrith on Friday and they have some great stuff on. The Monk and the Employer have trained me to like craft beer and the Fell is definitely the place to go around here for some great ales. Unfortunately for me, they had, among other great stuff, an excellent mango IPA at 7.2% and a sticky toffee imperial stout at 10% on, which made for a very rough Saturday (and some completely inadequate conversations Friday night…). I ended up laying the floor with the Little Man From Sedbergh (our joiner) and we used a different type of glue which had an absolutely vile smell. It was nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t spill my guts there and then.

The Little Man From Sedbergh is from a completely different planet. The stories he tells (like of his 80-year-old uncle who got banned from a supermarket for inappropriate behaviour) are absolutely mad. And if you happen to work with him for more than a day, you’ll hear them several times. Those last two weeks would have been much more of a drag without his bad jokes (“I asked him how he can make so many mistakes in one day and he said he gets up early.”) and his constant singing. I find the thick Cumbrian accent also rather soothing to the ear.

With a help of a few later evenings and despite me slightly throwing my toys out on Wednesday, we actually managed to finish the work in time and by 5 o’clock on Thursday evening, we were as ready as we could be. Yes, there are still bits that need finishing but on the whole, the house was clean and ready for guests again. I must admit that I didn’t think that would happen as peacefully as it did. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the results, even the Off-White no. 3 that I hated look good on the walls! (The before and after photos don’t really look that different but in real life, the difference feel huge!)

When I started working here two years ago in September, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know that my job involved being part the crazy and unrealistic renovation projects as well as making beds and serving the customers. And as much as I hate being covered by plaster dust for days on end and waiting for your skin cells renew to get the paint off, there’s some perverse delight in the job. I have always been better at the theoretical than the practical but I like doing “real” work and being part of the renovations.

I, in a way, enjoy getting my hands dirty, literally. One of my pet hates is women who think that their gender is a reason they can’t do or shouldn’t be doing something. Women who say “It’s a boy job”. For me, if “the boys” are working, I want to be working. I don’t care that it’s not a clean or glamurous job, I’ll get on with it. I do stuff just to prove a point, which may occasionally end with me lifting heavier items than I should be and putting my back out. (However, after nearly two hours of spreading that horrible glue for floor boards, I did shout at the Employer that I f#%$ing hated that job. But that was mainly because that smell really didn’t mix well with my hangover.) There’s something liberating in walking around in old paint-stained clothes and a bun that is actually a massive knot in your hair that hasn’t been touched for a week. I’d rather impress people with my work ethic than with my looks (I can’t count on the latter anyway!).

However, I’m glad we’re done and now allowing my aching body to rest in my new little cabin and I am actually looking forward to catching up with the computer based jobs!

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