You see, in a fit of mad optimism, temporary fiscal stability and decaying plaster, I’ve taken a perfectly delightful Edwardian house and turned it into a derelict shell.
And, as these pictures here clearly demonstrate (The World v Pattison, exhibit A), I couldn’t have inflicted more damage on my darling domicile if I’d invited the RAF to use it for bombing practise.
Currently, you can stand in the middle of what was once an idyllic period hideaway and – perched precariously on a pile of rubble that was once a kitchen – gaze upwards through the missing floorboards of what is left of a trashed en suite whilst marvelling at the spaghetti spider’s web of electric wires dangling everywhere like the set dressing for a Halloween disco.
Then you can let your disbelieving eyes sweep from one end of the first floor to the other, noting where bedrooms walls used to be, and shiver as the wild wind howls through the cavernous ruined spaces.
Lastly, you can take in the devastation that was once a cosy sitting room and is now so grim that even the most belligerent of ghosts are afraid to haunt it.
And I do mean ‘you’ gentle reader. I can’t do it. I can’t bear to witness what I’ve wrought on an unsuspecting property. I’d just burst out sobbing!
I know what you’re thinking: he’s exaggerating. Everyone experiences that “Good Lord – what have I done!” feeling mid way through any major renovation. Trouble is, we’re nowhere near mid way and I’ve already got the Samaritans on speed dial. And that’s before the builder uncovers the secret cellar full of plague victims or I finally realise that the roof has less support than the Liberal Democrats!
Now I’d love to be able to blame someone else for this wanton outrage but it’s all down to yours truly. It was me who decided that the crazy layout of the house had to be rectified.
An oddly designed extension in the 1980s by previous owners had left the kitchen landlocked in the middle of the house. The only way to get from one end of the ground floor to the other was by traipsing right through it. This was irritating, a bit like cooking in a hallway, and the space needed to accommodate two doorways and connecting walkway meant a third of the kitchen was unusable.
The answer was simple, I declared. Create a new separate corridor between both halves of the house, allowing the kitchen to be closed off into a conventional rectangle. Sounded simple – but accommodating the new corridor meant having to relocate and re-orientate the staircase between ground and first floors.
But it could be done, I argued. It WOULD be done. My long-suffering wife Liz suggested that the house was just fine as it was. But I didn’t listen. In fact, from that point on I didn’t much listen to anyone. And that’s when the trouble really began – because I thought I’d throw in a total refurbishment while we were at it.
Of course, I singularly failed to understand what the expression “stripped back to brick” meant when I and the architect jokingly bantered about what work the house would need to bring it up to a decent 21st century standard. Terms like “total rewire” sounded a doddle. Even the catchy phrase “complete new central heating system” invoked mental images of disconnecting a coupled of radiators and bending a pipe or two.
The initial heady site meeting with the builder was such a medley of joyous mirth and excitement, that “tear down all the sagging ceilings” felt the most perfectly natural thing to do. As for replacing the windows? It seemed rude not to.
I’d like to pretend that I quickly came to my senses. But it was only on a holiday to Italy to escape the redevelopment ravages that I began to fully comprehend the enormity of just what I’d set in motion.
We were visiting Herculaneum – the sister city to Pompeii – also destroyed by the fury and awesome power of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79-AD when I surveyed the hollow, skeletal, husks of 2,000-year-old homes and felt a nauseating sense of deja vu.
It had been a sea of boiling mud that had caused this cataclysmic devastation – turning all wood to charcoal, stripping off every piece of ornate plasterwork and removing beautiful frescos for all time. But it looked remarkably similar to the horror-show handiwork inflicted by my builders armed with kango hammers, crowbars and a never-ending supply of skips.
“My God”, I gasped, “I’ve turned my house into an ancient ruin!”
It was very apt that Liz gave me an old-fashioned look, and replied darkly that if our home wasn’t returned to a liveable state this side of Christmas she’d blow her top much more frighteningly than any volcano.
So the clock is ticking…
I hope I can deliver. I PRAY I can deliver. Otherwise, I suspect I’ll end up under the patio and Liz will, with her rather dry sense of humour, rename our historical hovel Dun Roman!