I'm writing this in my coat, snuggling a hot water bottle, with two electric fan heaters whirring away in the background. This is progress. Module One - the 'last man standing' in our boiler room, was finally retired this week and we are left to experience the impact of its passing in the most tangible way possible - through the medium of cold.
The road to a replacement has been tortuous, but we are thoroughly relieved to finally have heating engineers on site, knowing that each chilly hour is one nearer to feeling comfortable in indoor clothes again and to receiving more affordable gas bills.
Elsewhere in the house, there is progress too, but it's much less immediate and therefore harder to hold onto. Rather like a motorway journey where you've committed to your route and then hit a big jam; there are sporadic and briefly euphoric inchings forward, but there are still miles to travel and no reliable sense of when we'll be able to get there. Both scenarios are always significantly worse when, as is the case for me, you're desperate for a bathroom.
Much of our focus at the moment is on getting the second floor or 'Outreach Services' as it's still known, into a usable living area. The groundwork of stripping out office trappings, flooring and lining paper were early wins, along with the bulk of the sanding. A vision for the new kitchen was cooked up pretty early on and the units have been waiting, stacked up in anonymous cardboard boxes for very nearly a year. The preliminaries for reinstating fireplaces began in the summer, and work finally started on our first bathroom installation in December.
All was whipping along very nicely. Commissioning new contractors always comes with a certain amount of breath-holding, but Mike and Daz crack on with care and all-important attention to detail. Over time, a sparkling new bathroom begins to emerge from its custard-coloured chrysalis. However, this isn't going to be quite the straightforward water birth we have been hoping for.
The first hitch we hit is one that Mike flagged up as a possible spoiler early on. Turning on the shower fanfares a sad trickle of water. Seemingly low water pressure is a familiar pitfall of 'vented' hot water systems like ours. The solution - fitting a new 'unvented' hot water cylinder, gets tagged on to the boiler installation schedule of works, which at the time, is yet to be booked in.
Libran indecision about what to do with our 'Time Team' wall creates another delay. Initial thoughts of simply leaving the layers of old wallpaper and paint raw and untitivated, fade as the sleek and simple bones of the new bathroom design emerge. Suddenly the patterns look fussy, and the polyfilled cracks and dinks begin to jar. However, there isn't any more time to buy, no option to live with it for a while and rethink as necessary - the bath will sit in front of that wall, making decorating difficult once its installed.
The bath will also limit access to the mullion window, which wears the war wounds of over 100 years of batterings by rain-soaked westerlies. It's amazing how we've acclimatised to the leaks, so it takes a while to dawn on us that the time has probably come to look at restoring the stonework. Another restoration onion to peel. The bath can't be installed until the stonework is seen to. The stone restorer will only repair the stone itself and won't re-point the leaking windows....and he's booked up for 2-3 months. Our roofer can re-point the windows but has other jobs to work on.....he will also need to wait until there's a suitable break in the soggy weather to tackle the re-pointing so that the materials will dry out properly.
And then there's the extractor fan. New venting on a listed building. Enough said.
Anyway, whilst the bath and the hot water to go in it will have to wait a little longer, progress is progress. With each new job we tackle, we'll be able to draw on these experiences and the skills of the contractors we're getting to know.
One day we might even be able to say "we know our restoration onions"!