Category Archives: Book Updates

How to build a house

If we hadn’t built our own house where would we be, who knows? The Queen herself advocated that local authorities create a register of people interested in building their own homes and that they make provision for innovative self-build projects. Perhaps she’ll put some plans in for a new castle – she’ll have to put her name down on the list though.

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/selfbuildandcustomhousebuilding.html

A house built by a property developer can’t possibly provide the level of detail pertinent to your tastes; they don’t know your mind and which taps you would like. Every decision made when we built our house formed our home. To have the freedom to choose what you want is rare – we are bound by limitations, there is no question about that, but allowing for these and with the help of a good architect you can build a beautiful home. In a neighbouring village there are some castellated big modern houses in the middle of a picturesque village, I often wonder how they got past the planning police and who actually bought them with their postage stamp sized gardens. (Maybe it was Her Maj the Queen having a go at affordable housing).

We built our house to fit in with the local vernacular, but if we’d had free reign would we have done anything different? Probably not, we wouldn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb in a small village- well not on the outside anyway. Imagine the comments.

I have some friends just about to embark on a build. I congratulate them for getting their planning permission – not an easy task, but worth the effort in the long run. Having built a house and knowing what is involved I can imagine the road ahead for them, but every build is different; every subcontractor has a different number of sugars in their tea and every district council has their own planning officer, some who wear high heels and don’t give you any hassle, and some who don’t and who mess with your choice of bricks.

Good luck all you self-builders out there. If I can be of any help let me know.

If you’d like to read about my journey over the rubble pile and back again, you can buy Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure from this website or from Amazon.co.uk in paperback or on Kindle. It is packed with top tips and genuine insights into life on the building site.

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How to build a site manager out of a fussy middle aged woman and a Pot Noodle – husbands and subcontractors take note.

  1. Make sure she has knee pads (with Velcro fasteners)  How about these?
  2. Make sure she has steel toecap boots
  3. Keep an emergency Pot Noodle in the site office
  4. Give her a kettle, teabags, some milk and a mouse-proof container
  5. Never attempt to put fish tins on her rubble pile
  6. Buy her draught-proof clothing
  7. Buy her waterproof clothing
  8. Sing to her
  9. Tell her some jokes when she looks upset –  You could have this book handy.
  10. Don’t tell her jokes when she looks a bit miffed
  11. Don’t ignore the red and white barrier tape around her trees
  12. Don’t tell porkies
  13. Admire her choice of bucket colour – this Jewson one looks nice.
  14. Remark how tidy her site office shed looks
  15. Don’t let on she has hat hair

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You can buy this fussy site manager’s book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure from Amazon.co.uk in paperback or on Kindle or from this website.

Do you need more storage? An Ikea Pax wardrobe might float your boat.

Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure is available in paperback from this website or from Amazon.co.uk in paperback or on Kindle.

Well … I have made my first foray into writing an article for a magazine – I am very happy indeed and feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity. I was invited to write the article for the April edition of i-build magazine and I am very pleased with the result – thank you editor Emily Smith.

Self-building is a big life changing experience and writing the book is another. When I wrote the article I was thinking of other self-builders battling the wind and rain trying to get their build watertight – as being watertight is a major achievement and signals a significant step in the process of building a home. I suppose April showers are all part of the process. If you are building at the moment I feel for you, but hang on in there; it’ll be worth it, there is light at the end of the chilly and damp tunnel. One day you’ll look back fondly – it’s amazing how you forget the sogginess (but you do).

I don’t know if you have read my previous ramblings, but I have said in the past that I wish we had built in more storage at the time of the build. Well, Mr Clark and I took the plunge and now we have a fabulous Ikea Pax wardrobe.  Actually it isn’t just a wardrobe; it is a whole wall of storage with drawers and shelves, which we customised for the space with the help of a lovely young lady at the Southampton branch. We went to Ikea for dinner – who doesn’t love their meatballs – and came away with a printout of exactly what our wardrobe would look like. When it arrived, Mr C put it all together himself … he demolished a light fitting in the process but I think he enjoyed the challenge. It prompted an overdue spring clean which can only be a good thing and Oxfam will be happy.

As I wipe the salad cream off the ends of my hair (I’ve just had my dinner) and the dinner medals off my jumper, I would just like to say – before I have a glass of Chardonnay, thank you for reading my blog. It would be lovely to hear from you if you felt like dropping me a line.

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You can ‘self’ do it too!

From self-building to self-publishing, I say all a person needs is a bit of grit and determination and probably a deep need to be in control. You may be on the cusp of a ’self ‘project and I am here to say that it isn’t as scary as you think it is – help is at hand.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a control freak (others might). Mr Clark says that I am fussy – I say that I am just a bit particular, but we both agree that if you want something done properly –do it yourself and for those things you can’t, pay someone else to do them (or if it is your sister, just ask nicely).

You may not know anything about ground source heat pumps or where to put your punctuation after a bracket, but there will be someone who does. I think the best way to learn about something is from talking to an actual human being – as well as Googling of course. The internet does have its place in gathering essential information – how else would I know how to cook Jamie Oliver’s sticky ribs recipe or even how to recognise a sociopath?

Homebuilding shows are brilliant for self-builders, not only for gleaning information from suppliers but from random conversations you may strike up with other self-builders as you eat your sandwiches. One such conversation gave me and Mr Clark the confidence to do it ourselves. (We also managed to get quite a good supply of free pens and sweets from the stands).

This week we went to Bath Literature Festival and I went to seminar given by the lovely Flic Everett on ‘how to promote your self-published book’ (while Mr Clark went to see his e-bike friend and ate his way around the city). Not only did I come away with some extremely valuable nuggets of information but I met some really lovely people too, all like me on the quest to do it themselves.

Mr Clark and I also visited the aptly named Topping and Co booksellers where I had the great fortune to meet and chat with a fabulous young lady who works in the shop and who gave me some very sound advice.

I’m not under any illusion that a ‘self’ project is easy – I’ve built a house – but it was a worth all the hard work and I still have a great sense of satisfaction, especially when I look back at the photos I’m submitting for magazine articles which document the build from start to finish. I’m still on my upward self-publishing trajectory – who knew what was involved without a publisher! As I get to grips with it, I must remember when I am checking my blog ‘stats’ (yet again) that getting out into the world and talking with people is paramount in enjoying the journey – and that is after all, in my eyes, what it is all about.

If you would like to know how you can build your own house there are some handy hints in my book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure, available from Amazon.co.uk (now available on Kindle) or from this website.

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The Bath Literature Festival:  http://bathfestivals.org.uk/literature/

Book cover design: www.katenorthover.co.uk

Art blogger L.E Wright https://lewright.wordpress.com

Homebuilding shows:

http://www.homebuildingshow.co.uk/

http://www.granddesignslive.com/

http://www.buildshow.co.uk/

http://www.nsbrc.co.uk/

 

My cork has been popped and my love has been Kindled

2… and… 1 – we have lift-off!  Thanks to my clever sister’s patience and hard work, the Kindle edition of Mud & Marriage is out now – phew! I have a slightly fuzzy head due to a few glasses of Prosecco to celebrate last night, but I am very happy indeed to be out electronically. You can now buy it from Amazon.co.uk. 

Valentine’s Day is here and lovely Mr Clark gave me some chocolates and I gave him some meat products (no,I wasn’t wearing them), so we’re both happy. We’ve just have just had a very challenging Bananagrams game, so Mr Clark has gone for a lie down as he has to be fit for his Deckchairs gig tonight at the Queens Arms  in Reading – on the same bill as Peter and the Test Tube Babies. I will be going along (with earplugs, I want to try at least to save what is left of my hearing after having been in a loud band myself all those years ago).  I’ll probably wear a badge that says ‘sorry I can’t hear you’ and take along a notebook. I remember taking a notebook out with me once when I had lost my voice. I made a heading saying ‘I have lost my voice’ and wrote what I wanted to say. It worked really well, but the strange thing was, people wrote back to me on the notepad rather than speaking to me – a bit odd, but effective. I still have the notepad from that evening and it makes interesting reading.

It’s not that I don’t like the music, I do, especially the song that goes … ‘baby … have you ever been to Bracknell oo-a-oo-a-oo’, but I just don’t want to go mutton just yet. Mr Clark has been downloading sound effects onto pedals for the gig; I might miss the Charles Hawtrey one where he says gently ’ooh I do feel queer’ but  I expect I will hear the scream, the siren and the explosion, as I don’t think even earplugs could keep them out.

Right then – time to put my PVC trousers on.

Kindle edition of Mud & Marriage arranged, formatted and uploaded by Kate Northover 

If you want to have a listen to the Deckchairs you can here (parental guidance lyrics!): https://soundcloud.com/the-deckchairs-1/zombie-attack

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The bubbly is chilling…

The bubbly is chilling in the fridge waiting for the launch of the Kindle version of Mud & Marriage, and will be popping its cork soon, as will I.

My talented sis Kate Northover has been at it again (design-wise I mean) and has made a splendid job of getting the pages ready and putting them in the right order – who knew what was involved? So the countdown begins 10…9…8… ‘shping’- hold on a minute, that’ll be my phone. It’s my sister; she’s coming over so we can make some final adjustments to my ‘front matter’. I did get a Nokia Lumia 635 and am whizzing away nicely now thanks for asking. Apparently I can download an app on my phone to be able to read the Kindle book.

7…6…5…’ping’- that’s my phone again. My friend Sue has just put a picture of me on Facebook from the 1980s with very big hair; I look moody, I expect I was trying to look moody, although that is the trouble with my face – it either looks quite cross in repose or otherwise it looks as if I have done something really naughty, no expressions in-between. It’s a problem. Don’t be fooled by my online face, I had to try really hard to look normal.

4… Ah here’s my sister. We just have to tear Mr Clark away from Salvage Hunters long enough to give us a hand with some html code, and that might take a while. We’ll have to wait until he gets to an episode that he’s already seen. Mr Clark is an expert in code, especially at the moment as he has an ’orrible code in the dose, boom boom. (Yes, I know .. I know). Poor Mr Clark, all rugged up on the sofa, festooned in tissues with his mug of blackcurrant Lemsip. Blackcurrant Lemsip? Now that is a perplexing paradox or is it a misnomer? It could even be an oxymoron.

3… I’ll get the glasses out ready.

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Book cover design by Kate Northover.

Technophobes in treehouses?

Should I get an iPhone? I’ve been putting it off. Whizzing touchscreens scare me. I had one a while ago but had to give it to my sister as I kept calling people by mistake. Mr Clark says that I am a Luddite and technophobe – charming. Things are moving on so quickly, I’ve been left behind and now I can’t be arsed to keep up. I went into the Vodafone shop in Reading recently for some help and the young chap serving me couldn’t be arsed to help me catch up either. He was drumming his fingers on the desk and looking around for something more interesting to look at. His attention was lost while I was confused about megabytes and why I would need so many of them – so what now? If it wasn’t for Mr Clark I would probably turn into Catweazle and go and live in a treehouse in the woods with my tellingbone.

Mr Clark has now got a car camera which records his journey. Apparently it records sound too. I have been sticking my fingers up in front of it and saying outrageous things in case it gets played back. He pointed to the little screen and said to me ‘look, now you can see where you’re going’.

If Mr Clark suddenly lost his memory, I would be stuffed. He deals with all the technical things like internet banking, error codes on the boiler and strange messages that pop up on my computer. I hope he doesn’t. Maybe I should build a treehouse just in case.

Today I have been looking at the Vodafone website and wondering about the Nokia Lumia 635. That’s as far as it got, because then I couldn’t be arsed and wrote this instead. Now I’m going to sit somewhere nice and comfortable and read a book. You won’t be surprised to learn that I haven’t yet bought a Kindle, but for those you have, the Kindle version of my book Mud and Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure will be out soon on Amazon.co.uk – watch this space.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

 

5 top tips for self-builders

  1. Get like-for-like quotes if you can.
  1. Always check the work somebody has done before they go, and get them to explain what they have done.
  1. Mark everything out exactly where you want it in case you aren’t on-site when the work is done.
  1. If you are a site manager, invest in some skiing salopettes from a charity shop for the winter, they keep out draughts and prevent builders’ bum.
  1. Don’t put a roll of lead behind your car seat and put the brakes on hard.

There are lots more top tips in my book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure. Available to buy from this website or from Amazon.co.uk http://po.st/wJ1KZW

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Is that a book I see poking out from your Christmas stocking?

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I know it’s shameless but there you go. I can’t reasonably use sex or kittens to sell the book but I reckon Christmas is fair game.

How about a log cabin up in some snowy hills with a roaring fire and a nice glass of sherry? Lovely jubbly.  Somewhere quiet surrounded by snow covered fir trees where you can forget all your troubles, your planning permission application and give your nails a chance to grow back.

But then you’ll probably think as you tuck into your stollen and your reindeer shaped cinnamon biscuits…actually we should build a log cabin instead and stay here in the snowy mountains away from the M4 forever. Somewhere where we can chop logs, build snowmen and go sledging, perhaps even get time to read books or write that novel that people are always telling us is in there somewhere.

With your faces glowing by the light of the fire, you’ll say cheers and chink your glasses of eggnog, but those creeping doubts may try to wheedle in … would there be broadband? Would we be able to watch Strictly, and where would the nearest Waitrose be?

Our whole village was plunged into darkness with a power cut last Sunday evening and I was a bit worried that I might miss the Strictly results show. Mr Clark and I lit some candles and the log burner and enjoyed the quiet and soporific atmosphere, so much so that we both fell asleep. I didn’t mind missing Strictly (because after all I could watch it on the iPlayer on Monday if I wanted to, and I could always call my sister from the plug in phone to see who was out.) The electricity came back on, which oddly enough was a bit disappointing, so we turned the lights off and went back to sleep.

I’m busily collecting things for Mr Clark’s Christmas stocking. I don’t think I can get this industrial vacuum cleaner in it though which is a pity. www.ebay.co.uk/itm/350897542517

You can buy Mud & Marriage – A housebuilding Adventure from this website or from www.amazon.co.uk

 

 

Self-build book launch a go-go!

We have lift off! I hardly ate anything for four days in order to squeeze into my dress for the book launch! There were loads of lovely people there to help me celebrate. The Newbury Weekly News fab photographer Geoff Fletcher came and took some pictures along with Trish Lee their brilliant arts lady. You could get a Kubota digger through the gap in my front teeth so I tried not to smile too much.  It was a lovely do though.

My sister Kate made the carrot cake (pictured) she’s so clever. You’ll be relieved to hear that I didn’t eat the whole thing; the ladder would’ve got stuck in my teeth for sure.

I have friends who are just embarking on their own house builds and I would like to suggest a small reading list to help them on their way. These publications certainly helped Mr Clark and me along the way with our self-build and I’m sure their wisdom will help you.

  • Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine                                                             www.homebuilding.co.uk
  • The Housebuilder’s Bible by Mark Brinkley homebuilding.co.uk/magazine/books/housebuilders-bible-10
  • Penguin books Dictionary of Building www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780140512397,00.html
  • The VAT Act (You think I’m joking!)

…and of course I foisted a copy of Mud & Marriage on them too in case they need some handy top tips.

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