An Alarming Development

IMG_9013A reassuring red light sentinel flashes on the new external siren box. The ‘first fix’ wiring was done for the alarm sytem about two years ago but it has taken us this long to get around to having the system actually fitted. The company has been so patient with us, giving us a courtesy call every six months or so. It’s one of those jobs that has to be done when everything else is complete – in particular all the decorating. For a look at what was happening back then look here.

IMG_9009Alarm system brains and communication centre.

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Downstairs keypad.

IMG_9008Upstairs keypad.

IMG_9007Internal siren.

IMG_9003Passive infra red movement detectors (pet friendly).

IMG_9006Door contacts.

IMG_9005Shock and vibration detectors on windows and doors. It might all seem a bit much but we were burgled once in our old house so we are keen for it not to happen again.

Another job complete!

 

January in the Edwardian House

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Happy new year! We had a little snow earlier this month. It started coming down one evening and we thought it would probably melt by morning.

IMG_8680It stayed for a day or so though. Not much snow admittedly but this is the most we’ve had in the two years we have been in Leicester. There was even enough for children to make snowballs. Luckily it melted before it had a chance to turn into ice on the footpaths.

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We also got a new car for Christmas!

IMG_8694The bird feeder in the back garden is proving popular, particularly with the family of robins that live in the holly tree. They seem to regard it as their personal pantry and chase the other little birds away. This photo is a few weeks old – the robins now look more like tennis balls with beaks, so we think we are fueling a robin obesity crisis.

IMG_8711Ruby would love to catch one of the pigeons, which are also getting quite fat.

IMG_8746Speaking of husky animals. Oliver getting comfortable on the clean towels I had just put down for a few minutes.

IMG_8870I was looking through my January photos and realised that I hadn’t taken a picture of Rose all month! I headed upstairs immediately to rectify the situation.

IMG_8864She began to pose, as usual.

IMG_8869Time for a chin scratch.

The house priorities this year are carpet on the stairs and landings, finishing off the security systems, and  taming the back garden.

More to follow!

The Return of the Japanese Chest…or is that the Phantom Japanese Chest…

Or The Japanese Chest Awakens? With apologies to George Lucas. In truth though, there are only three Star Wars films and they ended when I was eleven years old. So there.

IMG_8473Today I went down the street to visit my friend Claire who owns the local antiques/vintage shop called The Vintage Fox, where I previously bought this. What should I find on the pavement but the Japanese chest that had spent nearly sixty years in The Edwardian House!

You can see my post about the chest here.

IMG_8474I knew I should have held onto it! Claire said she bought it from a man who occasionally drops by to offload the odd piece. I had thrown the chest into our skip when we were starting Stage Two of the renovation in April/May this year and six months later it turns up here! As I laughingly told Claire, my builder used to refer to these individuals as ‘skip rats’.

Christmas in the Edwardian House

IMG_5872 (1)We are approaching our third Christmas in the Edwardian House. Ruby on tree inspection duty.

On the first Christmas we were living on the top floor in three rooms waiting to get started with the renovation. By the second Christmas we were part way there with Stage One complete and a semblance of normality. Christmas number three sees a completed build (with just a bit more carpet to lay and a back garden to tame) and plans for the future being made.

It has been an eventful two years.

I will keep you up to date with new developments as they occur, so please do not delete us from your blog feed.

All best wishes for the holiday season from Scott, Mark, Ruby, Oliver and Rose.

 

Ceremony for the Unveiling of the Plaque to Commemorate G S Fraser

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Last Thursday we had the ceremony for the unveiling of the plaque to commemorate the poet G S Fraser, who lived here from 1958-1980. The plaque was installed in February but we had postponed the official unveiling for several reasons. First, we wanted to coordinate it with the Literary Leicester festival, where there was a special event for G S Fraser held at the University earlier in the day.

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This included the launch of the new volume of his Selected Poems.

The unveiling was held on the 12th of November, and the 8th had been the centenary of Fraser’s birth. Waiting until November also gave us time to get the house in a complete enough state to hold the event!

IMG_8028I spent the day preparing. Ruby assisted. Not a single glass was broken during her leap into the (at that point empty) champagne bath. She’s extremely dextrous.

IMG_5831The scene was set.

IMG_5825It was a symbolic unveiling of a facsimile of the plaque – we couldn’t be sure of the November weather and also it gets dark by 4:30pm. The logistics of an outdoor event would have been too difficult.

IMG_5838We managed to squeeze about forty people into the dining room! There were three generations of the Fraser family present, along with friends, neighbours and colleagues. G S Fraser’s son, standing on the right, spoke.

IMG_5841Mark (centre) was MC. The Orator of the University (right), who had known G S Fraser, also spoke.

 

IMG_5845The plaque was then unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Leicester.

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He was very pleased as he had never unveiled such a plaque before. See how the Mayor’s ceremonial chain contains the heraldic cinquefoil, a five petaled flower that is the symbol of the City of Leicester, which also features on the plaque.

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The Mayor with G S Fraser’s daughter.

IMG_5853Me with the Mayor.

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The actual plaque outside.

Guests then stayed on for the reception. It was a great afternoon!

Early November

IMG_7966It’s early November and the autumn leaves are falling fast in today’s windy weather. Oliver thinks he can catch them as they drift by. Yesterday the window-cleaning/gutter-clearing man fitted leaf guards in the five downpipes to stop them blocking up.

IMG_7962Rosie looking gorgeous on the stairs.

21978416103_72be30a9d6_zRuby getting into mischief.

22060743194_52fd76d8fe_zWe have spent the last couple of Sundays tidying up the garden at the side of the house. Mark tackled weeds, blackberries and even excavated the dirt covering the mid-century crazy-paving path that leads down to the dining room french windows.

22060800204_6e9b33e923_zThe path is still a bit dirty but the rain should clear some of that. Eventually we will cover the path with weed matting and lay gravel down, like we did in the front garden. I also want to plant ferns in these garden beds as it’s very shady along here. The camellia on the right loves growing in this shade and produces beautiful red flowers. The fuchsias to the left of the path also thrive. In the distance you can see that we moved the bird bath as it wasn’t attracting birds where it was originally placed. I originally sited it directly outside the breakfast room window where the cats had front row seats on the window sill.

22657529346_5e5bfa9c7f_zYou can also see we have completed the back garden. Only kidding. I just lay the spare pavers down temporarily on the overgrown lawn for something to look at from the back door.

Next Thursday afternoon the Lord Mayor is coming to unveil the blue heritage plaque and we have about 35 people coming for a reception. Luckily we won’t need to use the back garden! More to follow.

Secondary Glazing

IMG_7881Yesterday the six huge windows on the stairs were fitted with secondary glazing. The three on the first flight of stairs.

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And the second.

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Secondary glazing improves the thermal insulation performance of your original windows whilst not detracting from their appearance. This is useful in period homes where you don’t want to replace perfectly good and extremely characterful windows with brand new double-glazing.

Secondary glazing is also an excellent sound proofer. Noise from outside, particularly traffic noise has been greatly reduced. Apparently the bigger the gap between the two panes of glass the greater the noise reduction, so these are actually better at noise insulation than double-glazing.

There were old secondary glazing panels here when we moved in but they were poorly fitted, had large timber frames and the glass was not the required safety-glass.

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I chose aluminium framed secondary glazing with hinges and clips. This will allow access for cleaning and also possibly future repairs to the fragile Edwardian leadlight glass.

IMG_7879They also have a seal to prevent any draughts.

As soon as they were fitted we noticed how much warmer the house felt on the stairs and landings and even the rooms off the halls. I have turned the heating thermostat down a little and it’s still toasty warm. We will be very glad of this during January.

Hibernation

The clocks went back last night so sunset is currently at 4:45pm. By Winter Solstice, on December 22nd, it will get dark at 3:54pm. This means we are moving into hibernation mode.

IMG_7751In the lead up to the clocks changing Oliver was not fully convinced it was morning so he stayed in bed a bit longer.

IMG_7848As the days get colder we seem to get dozens of ladybirds coming into the house – they probably don’t survive outside at this time of year. It gets the cats excited though.

Speaking of hibernation, the hedgehog is still eating his food in the back garden so he hasn’t gone to sleep just yet.

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Rosie inspecting a new coffee table book about one of her glamour idols.

IMG_7861Recently acquired vintage sideboard for the dining room. The new antique shop at the end of the road is getting a lot of business from me…

I am currently doing lots of little things around the house. For instance, last week I hung 33 pictures on various walls. Yes, I counted.

 

 

 

Lounge Before and After

IMG_5736On Monday the (beige) carpet was fitted and I have spent the last couple of days setting up the room.

IMG_5774I think we did the right thing not going for the red carpet as there are enough red accents already. Not to mention the cat fur issue.

IMG_5738So, what have we done in this room? Early on I ripped out the old plywood bookshelves and stripped the eighty year old wallpaper (remember L Johnson’s signature and the date June 11th 1935 written on the wall?). The ceiling was replaced, new wiring and radiator installed, new gas inset and slate hearth for the fireplace (reusing the original timber mantel), plaster repairs to the external-facing wall to repair old penetrating damp from the broken downpipe, damp proofing of the corner to the right of the window, and the room was redecorated (twice!).

IMG_5744The room currently has that wonderful ‘new carpet smell’.

IMG_5750Miss Rose insisted on being in the centre of every shot. Speaking of Rose, we also added the ceiling rose you can see above her.

IMG_5754Our resident diva Rose loves the camera. Ruby, in the meantime is ignoring me completely.

IMG_5755I got the mirror above the mantelpiece the other day from a new antique shop that has opened around the corner. Also that pair of Delft vases. Mark is worried as the owner of the shop now has a list of my needs for the house.

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Ready for her close-up.

Lounge2And now a selection of Before/After shots for you. Some of them are repeats from above but they remind you of how it used to look.

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Lounge1

This room is now done!

Mark’s Study

9515772939_ba80d597f8_oThis is what Mark’s study looked like when we first viewed the house. It was the most modern room in the entire house as the top floor had been converted into a flat for the carer of the previous owner to live in. The fact that this floor had its own little kitchenette, separate hot water tank and updated electrics meant that I could envisage how we might live in this house while it was being renovated. It was therefore a key factor in our decision to buy the house.

20418512562_6d87f1fd44_oAfter we moved in.

20425087482_8337d4dbb8_oThis room became ‘command central’.  It was our kitchen, dining room, living room, cat bedroom, my study and the building site office all rolled into one. It was a stressful time for us – Mark was in a new job and we were living in a new city, I was dealing with a hopeless architect and slowly coming to the realisation that we probably should have had twice the budget we actually did have for all the work that needed to be done. Later there was noise and dust, and a great personal loss that I have never blogged about here. Even day to day tasks were a challenge. The hotplates on the little electric cooker would turn off when they got too hot (!!), the drains blocked, we had a tiny little fridge, no proper heating for much of the time, and at one stage the windows were boarded up for several weeks. And no dishwasher! But we did have cable TV and wifi so it wasn’t all bad, and in fact we look back at that time with a certain fondness. We had everything we really needed in that small space, it was cosy and the cats adored having us and all their sleeping and eating places in close proximity.

20425090202_9cc3dc45f9_oThe bookcase was my pantry, the toaster was next to the armchair, and I still pity the poor moving men who had to heave that leather recliner up two flights of stairs (it was only about three months ago that we discovered it pulled apart into four separate pieces). Cat tree to the right.

20440409555_8fa610451f_oRose in the top of the cat tree, whilst Ruby surveys the scene from the other bookcase, which held glasses and crockery, knives, oils and vinegars.

19814780513_a6f1ef8611_oOliver and Ruby looking relaxed, probably despite massive construction work taking place on the floor below. Note the blocked up fireplace behind them.

IMG_7368This is how that same corner looks now.

IMG_7356Still plenty of cat beds though, if you look closely. I took these shots at dusk on a cloudy day, but in the afternoon this west-facing room gets masses of sunlight.

IMG_7365What have we done in this room? Not a great deal compared to the rest of the house. A new radiator was installed, the casement window was remade, the floors were stripped, sanded and polished. We redecorated of course – new blind, light fitting and wall colour (Farrow and Ball’s London Stone).

IMG_7363We had considered ripping out the kitchenette but then thought better of it. The little electric hot water tank under the sink might come in handy one day if ever the gas boiler breaks down – it supplies hot water to this sink and also the sink in the bathroom on the other side of the wall. The kitchenette is also handy for Mark as it means he doesn’t have to go down two flights of stairs to make himself a cup of coffee. It would also be useful in the future if someone wanted to turn this room into a guest room, or give a family member a certain degree of independence. There’s also a very convenient wine fridge under the counter…

IMG_7375This is also Mark’s den and library. Last weekend he finally unpacked his books, which had been in archive boxes for two years.

IMG_7372The units are from Ikea and our relationship even survived their construction!

20425186362_8f000d1758_oOliver, Ruby and Rose on the first day of building work, April 2014. To them, this will always be their room.