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More on walls

It is a little understood quirk of human nature that we all like to stand around and watch others working, undertaking manual tasks of one sort or another, particularly when those working are good at what they do (or at least seem to be). This is the reason viewing windows are placed in the hoardings around large building sites and it also goes a long way towards explaining why we have so many programmes on TV dedicated to cooking. Simply watching other people is not quite sufficient, they really need to be doing something worthwhile to hold the attention fully. Better still, of course, is if they are doing something destructive. Demolition will always beat construction if for no better reason than because it is a quicker process, satisfaction coming much earlier and holding on right until the end.

We have waited months for our opportunity to watch the destruction of a wall separating our kitchen from the living room and when the moment finally came it was every bit as satisfying and exciting as we expected, perhaps even more so. First there was a holeThere was a terrific banging noise accompanied by vibration which shook both our house and our neighbours’ but slowly, starting at the top, a hole appeared which became larger and larger until it could no longer even be called a hole. The hole widensPeering through the cloud of choking plaster dust, so fine that it penetrated the covers placed over our furniture and crept into firmly closed cupboards, we began to see daylight from the other side of our house, light from another world. Slowly our two rooms became one as the hole became a whole.

For all this fun we have to thank our builders, Geoff and Andrew,Wall demolished two brothers who take the whole process in their stride and who certainly don’t seem in the least bit phased by the fact that with the wall down, the house is now supported only by slender steel bars placed around the room. We just stand open-mouthed as we try to take in what they have done, then smile. Without curtains at the back or the front our neighbours now have a fine view of our back yard they never had before but who cares, we’ll deal with that later. The vision held in our heads is finally a reality, albeit a dusty one.

With the rubble carted off to fill the skip on the front lawn, next comes the job of placing our massive steel girder in position across the ceiling where it will hold the house together again. Beam raisingThis is a three-man lift, above head height, so we all muck in, again our two lads staying as cool as cucumbers as we move the props into place. It is terrifying to watch this, but far worse to actually be involved in it, as one false move will let gravity take over with forces far too great for any of us to handle. Fortunately the procedure goes off without a hitch and there it is, a red steel bar sitting up there just where it should be, with more props in place preventing the floor from hitting the ceiling.

There is much still to do but the day comes to a close and our building brothers depart leaving us in peace for the weekend. We would like to sit and stare, to get the feel of our new space, but more of the white dust which coats everything floats around us so it is not yet a place to linger. IThe new living roomt needs to be left alone to settle out so we adjourn upstairs, carefully, lest we disturb the equilibrium beneath.

The morning after and our vacuum cleaner overheats as it tries to suck against a blocked filter but gradually our lives return to something approaching normality. Looking around we begin to notice little things, unexpected vistas now having opened up. After drastically pruning the upper branches of the tree in our front garden, we hung what was left with fat balls and a seed-filled feeder in the hope that this might attract the odd passing wildfowl. Word travelled so quickly that by the time we emerged to partake of our breakfast, the starlings were well into second helpings. And sitting at our table in what was previously our back-facing kitchen we find we can now peer out front and watch all the bickering and chatter, the acrobatics and the aerobatics. Far from being dull, seen close up starlings are brilliantly coloured birds whose feathers have an iridescent sheen when they catch the sun. But they have few manners and do rather take over the place so sparrows and bluetits need to be fearlessly bold if they are to get a look in.

We are also starting to navigate around the house differently, using only the former living room door to enter our large new room. Our builders are contracted to block off the former internal kitchen door so that we can install a new kitchen across the same space, a kitchen that is already ordered and on its way. But by what name should we refer to our new and vast open-plan kitchen/diner/living room. Ideas on a postcard please but Kate has already rejected my suggestions of ‘The Auditorium’, ‘The Hanger’ and ‘O Mighty One’. It may just end up being ‘The Space’.

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