Tuesday, 18 December 2012

It Was The Worst Of Times, It Was The Best Of Times

I think that heading sums up our visit to Suffolk. We got back to the caravan last night exhausted after an eight and a half hour drive and are just about getting ourselves straight as I write.

The journey down to England went smoothly although we worried a bit when it started snowing as we approached Annandale which looked like a winter wonderland. Fortunately the snow eased off as we went further south and we had a pleasant evening at my mum's in Southport after sister-in-law Val was not well enough to make it out for the planned meal at The Vincent.

It was supposed to be a happy and relaxing visit to Framlingham. We stayed in the excellent Barn Cottage which we booked twelve months ago when we made our first visit to Suffolk to investigate retiring to the county and we were happy to stay there again. That was a positive aspect of the visit.

We had plans for meetings with the boss of the kitchen company, the builder, the landscape gardener and the interior designer - all potentially interesting and enjoyable. On Thursday, Gill from Orwells, who are fitting the kitchen, ran through the progress with us. All is going well although it is likely that the corian work top won't arrive on target and they would like us to postpone our move for another seven days.

The first couple of units are in place and all the LED light fittings are in. The delay was slightly disappointing but not a major problem as we like it here in St Andrews and another week is not really a big deal. However our meeting with the landscape designer on Friday morning was nothing short of a disaster. He had drawn up a beautiful design bearing in mind the budget that we had given him. The meeting was to see the contractor who he planned to use. The contractor then presented his estimate. If it had been maybe ten or twenty percent over the target we wouldn't have minded but we were given a detailed document on which just two items (the decking and pathway) took up the whole budget and when we turned to the final page and saw a total that was three times the budget the atmosphere turned into one of silent awkwardness. In fairness to the designer he told us that he had not seen the estimate until five minutes before the meeting and he was as shocked as we were. He remains convinced that he was not that far out with his original ideas but it was a real let down and we both felt extremely fed up.

It was pouring with rain as the meeting progressed and as the gardeners left we noticed a damp patch developing on the lounge wall. Initially just a small spot it gradually grew into this. It seems that some of the exterior render was damaged when the bifold doors were fitted and rainwater had found its way to the RSJ and capillary action had done the rest. After the negativity of the morning this was all we wanted to see. The builder and the architect both came to look but were not too worried and were confident that the problem can be put right very quickly. Although we were reassured, it wasn't the best of news. At least it cropped up before the wallpaper went up.

The builder Roger went on to tell us that a light fitting for the downstairs WC that was delivered six weeks ago was smashed to smithereens. The loss of £80 didn't exactly cheer up the already depressed mood of the day and when we saw Jemima the interior designer we weren't really in the right frame of mind for choosing curtains - sorry Jemima. What else could go wrong? Well we had a dining table on order and John Lewis had given us a time slot of 2 p.m to 9 p.m. I had booked us a table at The Lemon Tree in Framlingham and we were looking forward to it having eaten nothing since breakfast but you don't need to guess what time John Lewis turned up. Well it wasn't quite nine but it was eight forty and I had to ring The Lemon Tree to cancel and fly to the Co-Op and buy a microwave meal.

We didn't bother opening the table as we felt that after a day like we'd had it would almost certainly be scratched. So we went back on Saturday morning to open the box and assemble it. Fortunately it turned out to be perfect although the suggested half hour assembly time is for people who know one end of a screwdriver from the other and it was about ninety minutes before we finally turned it upright to find everything in order. As you can see, the dining area has now been painted, the sockets are in place and the fabulous George Nelson light fitting has been installed. The eight dining chairs from M&S have been delivered too.

At the moment they're stored in the lounge with a couple of new armchairs and a nest of tables. The lighting in there is complete too with two smaller Nelson bubble lamps completing the design.

The family bathroom is finished and the en-suite shower room is just waiting for the shower screen.

Things started to look up after the table was found to be okay and we headed to Snape Maltings for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat in their excellent cafe although even then things did not run smoothly as I managed to leave a bag of Xmas presents at the till and not notice my mistake until I was back at the cottage with only forty minutes to get back and collect them before closing time.

But on Sunday it was the very best of times as we travelled Rochester to visit Paul, Josephine and baby Catherine. It was amazing to see how much she has grown and developed in just a few short weeks. We had a wonderful day stocking up with some lovely food at the Rochester Farmers' Market and then enjoying tapas in a back room pop up restaurant on the High St. It was so good to see the family and to realise that in less than a month we will be within two hours drive and available to baby sit whenever needed.

As we got back to Framlingham the village (sorry town - must get it right) centre looked lovely with it's tasteful array of Christmas lights and, having been made very welcome at a neighbour's birthday party on Saturday night, I'm sure that we are going to be very happy there.

Another big trip south is planned for just after Christmas but until then we can have a week of family and relaxation - we need it.