Belfast ’61 to ’69, All about 15.

Buying 15 Having got Number 18 exactly as we wanted it, inside and out, it was obviously time to move. Sophie saw a board outside Number 15; virtually that was that, except for the protracted negotiations. leading nowhere. Then a friend, suggested if we quoted another similar property, stated we were interested in vying for it, but making a firm, time limited, offer for this one, there was a good chance the matter would be closed,. We followed her suggestion, and it worked. Then fate intervened. At about five, the following morning I awoke, beset by the most frightful pain It turned out I had a severely slipped disc and would have to be on my back for sometime so the negotiations continued rather like jungle telegraph, she on the phone in the hall, I shouting instructions, and she shouting the reply. The details of the removal I found interesting The son of a well established remover, out to show his business acumen, made an offer it was difficult to refuse. He said the price was firm from our point of view but if it turned out to be otherwise, the estimate stood if he had underestimated, and if he had over estimated he would refund the difference. This left me a little open mouthed but to reciprocate I told him there was stuff in the roof space and more still in the garage. He said he had no need to see any more. OK! I thought, but backed it with a request for a written quotation with all the provisos included. It was just as well, later I found a debt collector on my doorstep, saying we owed money due to the excessive time taken. Fortunately I was able to produce the quotation, the debt collector smiled, nodded and went on his way.

The Lawnmower Caper The garden of 15 was huge. The layout had been what had attracted Sophie to the house because of the number of specimen plants she had found there. However, there was insufficient grass to allow the children a bit of freedom so I reshaped the beds and the lawn at the back. I had been advised to buy a petrol mower with drum blades because our main lawn was class one. To avoid having to edge I placed granite square sets at the edge of the lawn and then, twenty years before the cigar ad on Telly had the idea, I made the lawn like spectacles, with overlapping lenses, and in the centre of each circle I placed a two inch diameter tube which would take a wooden stake. A two inch peg has a circumference of about six inches, so, if a mower, with a twelve inch cut, no grass box, is set on the paving, the front roller attached to a rope from the stake, it will go round and round with an overlapping cut until it arrives at the peg and falls over, stopping the engine. What was more it worked, and apart from providing endless amusement to our friends when they saw it in action, it allowed me to get on with other things while the lawn was being cut. There is nothing new under the sun!

The New Kitchen The worktops at 15 required replacing, I got in touch with a builder, decided on the units that I wanted, put it all in hand, and after a year, when nothing happened I decided to do it myself. I knew a clerk of works who had been a joiner and he agreed to help me, and came one dark evening in January to assess the work. The conversation went something like this. I say conversation, it was a monologue. ‘You realise if you put on new tops you’ll have to take the tiles off the wall above them?’ I nodded. ‘You can’t take them off without stripping that wall as well, for the new tiles won’t match!’ ‘Ah!’ I muttered. ‘We’ll have to bring in new cable if we are to strip the walls and have you got a spade?’ That was certainly a switch. Mystified, I brought the spade. He hefted it, shook it a bit, as if to limber up and then struck the ceiling a couple of times until a large piece of lath and plaster fell at our feet with a cloud of dust. ‘That ceiling was bowed,’ he remarked, ‘it had to come down some day.’ With that laconic statement he proceeded, with our compliance and aid, to wreck the ceiling, pull all the tiles and plaster off all the walls, remove the sink and units leaving nothing but rafters above and brick exposed around us. When all the arisings had been wheeled into the yard he packed in for the evening, having given me an extensive list of purchases based on an ad hoc design mainly in his head.. With Tommy there were no half measures and there was no turning back. Good as his word, for a week he turned up every night and also at the weekend. We plastered some of the walls, we made the framing for the wall cupboards and units and installed the sink unit and taps, but that was as far as we got as a team. Unfortunately his father was suddenly taken ill with cancer and needed careful attention. I never saw Tommy again in any guise, either as helper or COW. The next few months were a drudgery, a hell.. How Sophie and the family stuck me, I can’t imagine, except they never saw me, I was always, either at work, asleep, or sawing, hammering or painting The quantities were so huge, especially the frustration, if I heard a voice at the door I told it to go away – I just wondered if Tommy really had to wreck it so thoroughly.

Categorized as post WW2

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