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A few years ago I decided to start a new career as a performer. I used to be a biology teacher but couldn't face walking around in a white coat all day teaching children who didn't want to learn. Actually it wasn't so much the children as the system cause I think all children want to learn - they just don't all want to learn in schools. Anyway I now work as a Life and Executive coach. Work is perhaps not the right word because it never feels like work. I just love to see people grow and change. I love it when they peel of the layers of limiting beliefs and find their true self. And I make some great frends in the process. I've re-discovered my writing and have published two poetry books and now working on 2 CDs, a novel, a book of short stories and talking to someone about a collaoration on a film script. That should keep me busy for a whild. Oh and I do bellydance.
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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Disappeared deadline

I should feel very depressed because the deadline for completing the conversion is today and the elves didn't come out and complete the work. Instead the electrician worked all weekend, the kitchen fitter put in a marathon spell, the door fitter put in a stint on Saturday and got all but one of the fire doors fitted, Andrew worked like a trojan with the electrician but it was not enough. I think we will be lucky to have it done by next week so I'm setting a new date of December 12. Apparently running over on your first project is not unusual - and is actually expected. It doesn't help either that we are now in dispute with the drainage company for not being able to deliver to our agreed date but worse of all for trying to rip us off on the quote. Not fitting equipment and trying to charge us for it. Will be interesting to see if the director turns up tomorrow to get his money as he threatened.

I'm not depressed because I've been too busy preparing for the World's Aid day performance at the Town Hall tomorrow. Amazing how long it takes to put together a ten minute skit. I'm doing it with Ita - one of the Mahagony Tree. Also today I was asked if I would be master of ceremony for the Amnesty/Writers Without Borders event on December 6th. My gut reaction was 'I'm not ready for this' but if someone considers that I am then I must be - so I said yes. I'll have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Still wading trhough treacle (or is it sawdust)

I discovered something today - some builders don't want you around when they are working - especially if you know what they should be doing and more to the point - how they should be doing it. No scope for scams, for charging you for materials they didn't use, for doing things shoddily and charging you top whack for the privilege. We are two our builders worst nightmare (or at least Andrew is) because he scrutinses their work and insists on getting it to his standards (which even I think are a bit excating at times) but as these guys don't come cheap they shouldn't expect to deliver a shoddy service. Yes- you've guessed it - the main builder and the drainage boss man.

I had to ring them today as I've had no word from either of them in a week. The fire doors are still not on and the drains which should have taken one week now looks like taking five and a half - and still with the unresolved issue of the paved patio. We should be getting a drawing of his proposal to incorporate decking into the design tomorrow. Though somehow I'm not holding my breath. And I've now been told that the new doors will be arriving tomorrow afternoon and the 'chippy' will be out to fit them on Saturday. Fortunately at this stage they are not holding up progress in the rest of the house so it will be no great disaster if he doesn't arrive.

What is holding up progress though is the tilers not being able to complete the bathroom this week. Not now till early next week. I can't really get mad at them because they had other stuff booked in and it's partly our fault that they couldn't get access to the bathroom when they were free. What is also holding up progress is that we still hven't got all the electrics in place - not even (or especially the first fix). Work is going on as I write (10.30 at night) but that's part of the problem. The 'sparky' can only come sometimes after work which apart from slowing the process makes for very long days for us. We have to be up to let in the workmen that arrive at 8.30 a.m. and be here for the ones that finish at 11.00 p.m. and frankly at this point I'm am fed up; tired of the long days, of the constant dust; of what appears to be so little progress or at least the sporadic nature of the progress. My dreams of having this all finished by the end of the month has not quite turned into a nightmare but it is certainly an uncomfortable place to be.

I am trying hard to maintain my belief that thing happen when they are meant to and that everyday I learn a new lesson but right now I just feel like I want a day off school. It was great to have the kitchen guy start yesterday. Please dear God let him be consistent
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Trouble in the waterworks

I'm still trying to get my head round what happened yesterday. Here's the situation. In September we were recommeded a drainage company and was initially impressed by the speed of thier response to our enquiries and the delivery of thier quote, and we were able to negotiate what we considered to be a good price. It was all in wiriting. Later we negotiated some further work to the garden, putting in steps, laying slabs etc. This was agreed at an additional price (not written) and there in lay the issue. Through a series of delays on thier part the work did not begin till 8th November with the promise of 'throwing 4 men at it and it will be over in a week'. On the 8th one man turned up - and he is still here and at the rate he is going (he's quick but still one man doing the work of four) he will be here for at least another 2 weeks.

Yesterday the guy we had done the deal with came and swore blind he had not quoted to carry out the work on the garden area - only to lay the slabs. I was gobsmacked but was incerdibly grateful for my previous experence of working with delinquent liars and managing difficult staff. I asked why his staff had started the work if it was never intended - he said Andrew had instructed him. There then followed a verbal tennis match about who said what, what was understood and more to the point what was misunderstood. He asked questions like 'Surely you could not have thought that all this work could have come so cheaply' to which I replied 'I am not in drainage or in groundswork I have no idea what the work is supposed to cost - that is your area of expertise'. He suggested the work we were asking for would cost another £1,500 . I suggested that his staff put back everything he had spent the last 3 days digging out exactly as he found it, every rock, every pebble, every shrub, every bulb. It was time for hin to look gobsmacked.

I then acknowledge that there had indeed been some major misunderstanding - I totally refrained from pointing out that he had underquoted for a piece of work and was now trying to wriggle out of it - and asked him to think of a solution that would leave the space maintenance free (which is what we wanted). I was not overly impressed with his idea of decking and shrubs.

No coincedence methinks that this issue has come come quickly on the back of a dispute with the main builder about the what was quoted for - he tried to wriggle out of paying for plaster work which was included in the price of a partition wall. The upside to this is that we've found another plasterer not connected to these guys in any way - just as good at one third of the price.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Deadline receeding

I agree with the woman in the bank who said most tradesmen go on a special training course where they learn how to look customers directly in the eye and lie about when work will be finished. Yes, due to some particularly efficient trainees our deadline is receeding fast. We are now just 11 days from our original finishing time of 30th November. I want to laugh hysterically when I remember that the plan was to have the house ready for let by this date- decorated, furnished and ready to show. I know I've been asking for a miracle but nothing short of one is going to bring this project in on time.

The main problem continues to be the main builder - but much worse we've discovered his real links to the other tradespeople he recommended to us which we subsequently used. They all have the same ethos and work on joint projects which are similarly running over time (and as a result I suspect) over budget.

We are now having disputes about the spec of some of the work. Lesson here Predencia - get it in writing, and if the spec changes by agreement after the initial one - get that down in writing too. A couple of these guys are as slippery as eels. The drainage contractor who got the work in September is now saying he may not be able to finish by the end of the month. He promised to start on 8th November using 4 men to complete in a week. After a week and a half with just one man he will only now commit to the work being completed.....but wouldn't say when. Aggggh!!

We've had some good experiences though. The tilers are proving very reliable and sticking to their quoted prices; the plumbers were in and out in a flash Thursday, Friday and Saturday(though sadly they had to return this morning because of a leak in the bathroom that soaked the brand new kitchen ceiling) but they were pleasant and stuck to their quoted time and price and will put right any lasting damage from the leak.

We finally got an electrician. We were estactic - competent and ....not turning up when he says he will - completely screwing up our schedule. I still have hair - but only just. I've been making time for meditation - otherwise I'd be bald by now.

I'm still optimistic that some miracle will work for us and that we'll have the property ready for showing before Christmas or am I just being stupid?
Monday, 10 November 2008

Progress - but still a long way to go

It is now November 10th and things have begun to move. Not quite a miracle - maybe a miraclette. The tiler's proved a Godsend (maybe he is the miracle). Despite the fact that he's charging £20.00 a sq metre he's agreed to drop the preparation cost. He's brought his brother in to help. They arrive when they say they are going to, do what they say they are going to do and work quite quickly. The tiling is beautiful so much so that despite the cost we've had more of the ensuites tiled than we had intended (another 60 tiles and approx £80 labour).

After hearing nothing from the main builder for a whole week , and discovering that the tilers also fit bathrooms we asked if they would fit the bathroom and toilet for us as we couldn't see how the main builder would have time (even if he was able to fit the ensuites at the weekend). Not knowing till the moment he turned up on Saturday morning that he was actually coming is no way to run a project. He arrived with the doors and the carpenter. The focus for the weekend was fitting the doors which left no time for the ensuites. We could not help but think we are not at the forefront of his mind. He brought 8 doors - yes we had ordered 8 doors but he'd already fitted two of them. Five of the doors were the wrong size so had to go back, they were therefore only able to fit three and they may (or may not) be able to come back in the week to fit door furniture and may (or may not) be back next weekend to begin the kitchen, Arggg!!

There is some good news though. We found a plumber who gave us a quote on Saturday and carried out moving the gas pipe on Sunday - arrived when he said he would - took as long as he said he would and charged us what he said he would. We've also found an alarm engineer who is extremely reliable and his work is brilliant; but then he is the same engineer that fitted the alarm 14 years ago and it has worked perfectly ever since. We are having quotes from two ariel engineers tomorrow and they can carry out the work quickly - even though we need TV points in 6 rooms. And today we gave the ensuite as well as the bathroom and toilet to the tilers and they've almost completed one of them already. It was fantastic to see water running in the basin and to hear the toilet flush. They intend to have the two ensuites and the toilet done by tomorrow.

Our biggest headache (apart from the main builder) is finding an electrician. If they are good they are busy and we are asking for a major work to be carried in a very short space of time. We've had one taker out of the 5 we've approached - and we cannot afford him. We're thinking of engaging a specialist fire alarm company which would take a significant chunk of the work out and we may then have a taker for the rest. The more off putting things seems to be the alarm system and the metering of the rooms.

Despite this it does feel like things are moving and we've had an injection of energy despite working a 7 day week for the last two weeks. We managed a meal out on Saturday night but getting to the cinema to see the new James Bond film was more difficult - don't think either of us could have stayed awake long enough to watch it - and my friend said Craig is definitiely worth staying awake for.

The result of engaging all these people is a significangt increase in our budget - but maybe it has simply increased to the level it should have been in the first place.

It's easy to imagine that my life has been completely taken over by the building work - almost but not quite. I'm rehearsing for a drama performance at Birmingham Town Hall on 1st December as part of the World's Aid Day celebrations, and I've been helping to organise a Writers Without Borders/Amnesty International collaboration event on 6th December to celebrate 60 years of the Human Rights Declarations.

And my youngest son has just comeback from a fantastic gig in Berlin - The Fairytale took Berlin by storm. I can't wait to hear the details.
Sunday, 2 November 2008

Still needing a miracle

We are now into November and I now know we're going to need a miracle to finish this project by the end of December. As the end of November deadline receded and disappeared into a mist of brickdust we sat down to restructure our plans and our budget. The problem continues to be our main builder who proves to be more an more unreliable each week.

He didn't manage to get a tiler to us by last Wednesday or by Thursday, Friday or Saturday. He arrived on Saturday to fit the en-suites but after fitting the shower bases on Saturday informed us that he would not be coming on Sunday as he had a kitchen to fit elsewhere. He would try and get hold of a tiler for us a.s.a.p. When I suggested getting one ourselves he said he get one to us on Sunday - which he did. The only problem is that this tiles charges £20.00 per sq metre plus preparation of walls and floor. This pushes our budget up by about £800.00 for the total tiling job. We've agreed to go ahead because he can start tomorrow.

Even though the fire doors were the first thing we asked him to fit he informed us this week that he's just ordered them and that they will arrive within 14 - 21 days, then they will take a week to fit. It's too late for us to engage anyone else at this stage an so we live with the frustration.

The other big realisation for us this week is that Andrew has taken on too much and we are going to need a series of tradespeople to help us complete the work if we're to bring the project in by the end of 2008. We need an electrician, an ariel engineer, an alarm engineer and possibly a plumber. We hired a carpenter to reroof the shed at the weekend so we can store some stuff down there while all the floorboards are up. He was quick but left us a lot of mess to clear up. In addition we've had to have paving slabs for the back garden area which is going to add an extra £1,400.00 to the budget. I'm not even thinking about the budget till we get the quotes in from all the various tradesmen. All I know at this stage is that the figure we thought of in the first place was woefully inadequate if we are to hire extra people.

We are pinning our hopes on the week beginning 8 November when we've been promised the fire doors being fitted, the drainage people will be in and we may be able to have the kitchen started (its been dilivered on 6th Nov.) If the electrician quote is anywhere near affordable he may well be able to start work that week too. Maybe that will be our miracle week. God knows we need a miracle now.