The Diary of Dr. Sharon McDonnell

Aged 53 and 3/4

19th July, 2020

Dear Diary

I live in Lancashire, in a stone cottage built in the 1800’s, which were originally built for those working in the mills.  These two up and two down cottages, often housed large poor families.  Fast forward several decades, and what would have previously been perceived as an area of deprivation, is now a quaint village, with church bells ringing on a Sunday and a steam train running through it.  I live at the top of the valley and the views are beautiful. Apparently, it was only in the 1970’s that it was possible to see the other side of the valley, thanks to the introduction of The Clean Air Act (1956) which helped reduce smoke from household fires.

In 2007 we bought our cottage, which is situated on a very steep hill.  Actually, it was originally two cottages, knocked into one, about thirty years ago.  So the story goes, a couple lived in one house and bought the house next door, and the husband merged the two together. Fair to say, his workmanship was terrible.  He was good enough to do a bad job on everything he touched!  Consequently, some parts of the house seemed beyond repair, when we viewed it.  Nonetheless, I fell in love with the house as soon as I walked in. I could see past the damp, plaster falling off, polystyrene ceiling tiles in every room and the chipboard doors, etc.

I knew if we bought this house, it would take several years to restore it, and that there would be periods of time when we would have to rough it, as it was being renovated.  However, I never considered the impact workmen can have on our lives during this time!  For example, it took 14 weeks to renovate the kitchen. We washed pots in the bathroom (sometimes in the bath), cooked on a 2 ring stove, in the so called dining room.  Going to work was a nightmare as often I had to brush myself down and wipe my feet on the way out!  I have to say we have been lucky with most of the workmen. They have been very skilled and good humoured.  One thing I have learnt is if you are going to have workmen invade your home for a long period, choose wisely, in relation to their skills, reliability and personality.

During the renovations we uncovered many treasures, such as learning that every room downstairs were flagged, under the concrete flooring.  We ripped the plaster off the walls to see signs of where previous families had cooked on an open fire.  Newspapers dated in the 1940’s squashed in between bricks, to stop draughts coming through.  It is as though the history of the house and the people that lived in it before us constantly unfold before our eyes.  It goes without saying that these special moments are shared with the workmen renovating our home. 

For the past three weeks, we have had four workmen building outside.  It has rained nearly every day.  Yet, they have turned up on time and worked through the monsoons.  I had to laugh, last Friday one of the workmen had a brainwave, and suggested that we could have bacon muffins the following morning.  I thought he was joking and just laughed.  True to his word, he turned up with two packets of bacon and six stale muffins that had been reduced to 8p!  I am sure the muffins had been in his van for days.  He gave them to me like a gold clock.  I received the stale muffins and bacon in the spirit they were given and happily cooked it for them.  Needless to say, I provided toast and the muffins went in the bin!

The work will be completed on Thursday. I will be glad to get my house back to normal, but equally grateful to the workmen who have helped to renovate our home and made the disruption as bearable as possible.