Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Coming to You from Fortress Balcony

The long promised kitchen renovation has last.

The new kitchen units are in the dining room, blocking all access to the book shelves. The oven has been dismounted from its 'temporary' position on a table in the kitchen and is also in the dining room, blocking the door to the kitchen.

The 'temporary' rack has been moved to the balcony.....all unopened goods now live in the office where it dos not behove you to make too quick a move if you don't want an avalanche of tins of tomato with chili around your feet.
Not to speak of a pack of refried beans braining you from above.

A remarkable number of small tables, stools and chairs have also moved to the balcony from kitchen and bathroom, together with the table which once held the oven and a sprawling box of old cloths for cleaning which the dogs have taken as their own and managed to spread over three times its original size.

Inside the kitchen the two and a half burner monstrosity on a half sized  table has been moved centre stage....The Men do not intend to go hungry.
It was supposed to come out onto the balcony but there was no room.

I have arranged menus involving as little use of pots and pans as possible.
Man A demanded mashed potato and cabbage to accompany his one pot stew.
Amazingly he is still here...on the grounds that he was to control progress.
He wants a souffle squawk for potatoes and cabbage and he'll be in it...face first.

The plan was to remove the huge traditional sink from the area between the kitchen and bathroom to the outhouse which already shelters the smoker, and run water to that so that basic washing up and what not could continue.
The Men had been thwarted in their first plan to use the handbasin in the bathroom as it was too small.

To remove the sink the wall between it and the kitchen had to come out, so furniture, etc, is covered  in old sheets and the fun begins.....lumps of breeze block fly through the air and the dogs and I take refuge in Fortress Balcony as dust billows through the doors.

It takes all day, thanks to the Man A changing his mind about total removal and deciding to make an arch.
Arch still not made as Man B has never made one before and is showing the whites of his the plan to get all the dust making jobs out of the way on day one falls to the ground.

The sink, however, is removed, by dint of Man B calling his son and the two of them heaving it out on rollers.....the chorus of the Hebrew Slaves runs through my mind.
Goodness only knows how, but they get it up on its new stand....and The Men return to the fray, chipping off concrete that is proud of the walls and making ready for a start on a new wall at right angles to the original one.
Measurements are made and holes drilled in the floor to take the iron bars.

All swept up.....and a new day dawns.
Man A has by now decided that the new wall only needs to be at half height so a discussion ensues as to whether it would not be best to take out all the bars and cut only what was needed, or just to chop across the lot in situ.
Out they all come and are cut to size. The one that is saved is reverently placed in the outhouse. It will come in handy.

Emphasis moves to concreting the walls, and I retreat to Fortress Balcony again.
When I emerge at coffee time it is to find the existing sink unit standing proudly alongside the hob.....and the tap disconnected.
The water supply to the old sink has been forgotten in the discussion about the new wall.

Further, to get to the only working tap apart from that in the bathroom I have to go through the dining room, doing three rounds with the cooker and units, to escape by the front door as Man B has parked his barrow full of cement just inside the back door.
On return I find that the hob has been placed  in front of the tea and coffee packs.
Problem solved by using the tongs from the barbecue to reach what is required....after a trek to the outhouse to retrieve same.

Man B fetches a bucket of water for washing up the cups. Thank goodness Costa Rica has products for washing up in cold water....huge tubs of what looks like the dentifrice paste I used as a child.
I remember in time not to pour water down the sink.
Retire to Fortress Balcony.

A stir fry has been planned, and the ingredients are prepared on the balcony.
All morning, the only sound has been the swish of trowel on wet concrete, but as I light the burner for the stir fry I am blasted with debris and covered  in dust as Man B cuts through a breeze block with an electric saw.
I suggest he returns to his concrete.

Lunch is served on the balcony followed by acrimonious discussion with Man A about exactly what control was he exercising in forgetting to get water to the old sink.

No agreement having been reached I wash up.
This entails piling everything into two buckets, taking the dentifrice and moving outside to the above ground fish tanks which are served by a continuous water supply.
Deft work with the hoses and articles are rinsed, washed and rinsed again.
It starts to rain.
As I pour away the surplus water into the drainage ditch behind the tanks an anxious voice cries from the interior

Don't let any of that water get into the fish tanks....

It rains harder.

Over afternoon coffee our local version of the International Labour Organisation hammers out a deal.

The water will be connected to the old sink tomorrow.

The arch will be made immediately afterwards.

All those interesting little lumps of concrete will be removed from the floor.

On pain of death...theirs....will the new units be put in place before the walls and ceilings are painted.

In recognition of which I agree to stop singing 'Right Said Fred'.



  1. Good luck - having been in the same position 8 months ago I feel for you. The dust lasts about 6 months!

    1. Married to a serial house renovator....I feel for me too!

  2. Aaargh! How can you stand it? It will be lovely when it's finished though..just keep telling yourself that!

    1. It will.
      The carpenter has made a lovely job of the units....there is already much more natural light...

      If I just keep repeating this to myself...

  3. No, I can't read this right now. Sorry. I'll come back later, fortified by something a helluva lot stronger than my Costa Rican coffee.

  4. Soufflé! Makes demands for endless brews look easy peasy! I congratulate you on keeping your sanity -- so far!!!

    1. It's not guaranteed to last.....

      But souffle is O.K.
      One saucepan for the base, one bowl and whisk for the egg whites and one souffle dish....into the mini oven which is...where else...on Fortress only one foray into the kitchen.

  5. Replies
    1. If I thought for one minute it would lay the dust....

  6. Souffle is such an obvious request for a dish...!

    It all sounds horrendous. I really feel for you and sincerely hope it'll be over asap. Living in while renovating has to be one of the most unpleasant situations known to woman.

    1. We had planned to move out to San Jose while it was all going on...but experience with the San Jose project where you couldn't turn your back for a moment without something not going as planned forced this on us....

      I've been through it before...six months of hurdling two trenches between kitchen and the rest of the house was perhaps the worst.

  7. I read this first that you were doing the washing up in the fish tank - with the fish! lol

    Please stop reminding me what a pain renovation is, we are still in the first flush of romance.

    1. Heresy...he was more worried that I might let slip washing up water into the tank than he was that I was washing up outside in the rain...using the hoses for the tank supply!

      I'll await your tales of woe in due course!

      The problem here is that Danilo, while a good electrician, plumber and general builder, if left to his own devices does one whole area, then another, rather than sorting a whole system at a time and then going to finishing work.

  8. It brings back all too clear memories of moving into this house (my husband thought living in the middle of a total renovation would be "fun"). I had no kitchen for eight months, the builders rigged up a cold water sink in the old wine chai, I had my cooker, a garden table as a work surface and a bookcase to store pots, pans and tins. And 60 sq metres of chai was lit by one 60 watt bulb. There were holes in the wall too and by Novemeber it wasn't fun at all...

    1. For some reason men do think it will be long as they are fed and watered.

      You have my sympathy....renovations and cold weather do not least here it is warm.

  9. You haven't by any chance got Bernard Cribbins singing a little song in the background have you...?

    1. Well...if the clip worked....

      If the sink hadn't been connected today it would have been a clip of 'The hole in the ground'...a snug fit for The Men...

  10. A cooking station comprising a portable hob, on a table, on a balcony, against a back drop of lush green tropical trees, with a climate to match, enhanced by a stunning soundtrack of exotic bird call? Perfect.

    All you need is a camera man and a sound man and you’re a fast track to the Food TV Networks. Get your very own cooking programme – ‘FlyRica’s Feasts’ – with overtones of Floyd if you wouldn’t mind. Cos I miss him.

    Having spent many years designing, rejuvenating and extending other peoples properties, I can empathise with your misadventures in the dust right now. But as a truly passionate fan of alfresco cooking and dining environments, it’ll be a sad day for me when the dust finally settles and you take up office once again in your spanking new kitchen.

    Ever tried BBqueing a chicken with a beer can up its fourth point of contact? The guys will fall about if they see you doing one of these. Tastes delicious too BTW…

    Here ya go:

    Wonderful post this. Right up my crock pot.

    1. Super video!
      I'm just trying to imagine how it would be described on a French menu...
      Enculade de poulet, epices cajun avec de la biere..
      I bet a lot of people would try that....

      Send over the film crew..and I'll try for a cross between Floyd and Nigella - no, on second thoughts I'll stick to Floyd.

    2. “Enculade de poulet, epices cajun avec de la biere”

      That is ‘so’ funny. Enculade de poulet! You naughty, naughty Fly!! Laughed out uncontrollably loud. Inspired stuff, and an absolutely ‘must have’ on your opening night menu. To think I was merely going to call it ‘Chicken Roger’ too.

      Well I’d definitely want to know a little more if I espied that one on a French menu, and I can imagine quite a few legions of tired, acerbic maitre d’s suggesting it as their dish of choice to many a loud and enquiring Gay Beauf or Beaufette. Especially if it gave them the opportunity to undress it at the table.

    3. Perhaps I should set up a 'learn French with me' site...on second thoughts...perhaps not.
      It wouldn't be the sort of French the croissants, pink wine and macaroon crowd would use.....but then, given the nature of that crowd, why not!

  11. None of my memories of building work being carried out in my house are happy.


    1. Having concreted the walls...they realised they had forgotten the plugs......

  12. There's apparently an old Arab curse: 'I wish the builders upon you'...

    Unfortunately we occasionally wish them on ourselves.

    My kitchen went in 5 years ago. The basement was redone at the same time. Funnily enough I enjoyed it - no cooking for a week!

    Hope you are whipping Man A and B into shape! Yx

    1. No cooking for a week...goodness, you have your lot under control!

      It will be lovely when it is done...repeat to self through gritted teeth...

  13. What we have is not new but has sustained us for some time now, and with due care it should last much longer than its present users. Her and I are spending ours before we go, not young enough for visionary projects or five year plans. however, happy renovating.

    1. Well, generally I'm in agreement there.
      But while cooking on two and a half burners on a far from level stand is O.K while on holiday (and this was our holiday home for years) is not for permanent use.
      We have the tribe from Belgium descending for Christmas and New Year....and I need every possible storage space and working area because they all like to cook their own specialities...usually at once..quite apart from my own efforts to keep them fed and watered.

  14. Last time I had a kitchen installed ( only time ever)... we went to Venice for a week, and prayed daily that the mobile wouldn't ring telling us of any problems. It rang as we boarded our flight home.....water gushing through plaster, windows all fallen in, no power, no heat in whole house ( Yorkshire...February...not good ).
    You have my sympathy, and best wishes. J.

    1. What a welcome home!
      My recurring thought least it's warm here....

  15. Can't get that song out of my head now. Oh, remodeling fun!

  16. My goodness, that song took me back, Fly. Having not only fitted our own kitchen twice, in Wales two years ago and before that in France, we had the whole house renovated in Wales 30 years ago now. The kitchen moved room 3 times in all over a two year period, so your post brought back vivid memories. :-) Courage, mon brave - it will be worth it in the end!

    1. Considering what went certainly will!