a river runs through it

It has been an Easter holiday of two halves, the first half spent painting and decorating the downstairs of the house after the floor was re-done at the beginning of the year. My OH has it in her head that the house is dark (it’s not), because it always was a little dark when her great aunt lived here. But since that lady’s death, we’ve knocked down a wall, fitted a new French window, and generally opened the place up. So it is quite light and airy – especially as it is painted white-on-white.

Well, there was no persuading my OH to add a little teal or lilac to the white. There are plenty of paintings around by both our daughters, and they add the splash of colour, but the walls, ceiling, skirting boards, dado rails etc. are all painted white. WHITE.

So we spent the first few days cleaning and prepping. Had to hang a bit of wallpaper (well, fibreglass paper). Some holes were filled. There was a lot of damage caused by damp. This is a 200-year old house, and it has only just had a damp proof membrane installed (in the new floor). The new concrete floor replaces the old oak floor, which was properly rotten. So much so that we had to place garden ornaments on the bits where you ought not tread. All that is gone now, replaced by a smooth and level concrete floor. We’ve even got the pipework for underfloor heating installed (see photo – though not yet connected).

Today, we took delivery of the ceramic tiles that will go down over the concrete. They’re Italian, 120cm long and 20cm wide, with a “fake wood” pattern. They look amazing, actually, all the beauty of wood with all the practicality of ceramic tile. And they weigh a tonne! In fact, the 63 packs of 4 I had to lug into the house (one by one) add up to a total of 1,200kg, and I’m definitely feeling it in my back. Still, I’m sure I closed a ring or two.

Now we’ve got a proper floor, I can contemplate my dream kitchen appliance. I would never have considered it before because I would assume it would fall straight through to the cellar, but I have a yen for a Lacanche oven – just a small one. I’ll start saving now.

So to the title of this post. Why was there such a damp problem? Well, I always knew there was a well in the basement: yes, you can pump the clear cold water out of it onto the garden in the summer – it’s even allowed when there’s a hosepipe ban. But what I hadn’t realised was that the cellar also has a fucking stream running through it. A FUCKING STREAM. Under the house. You couldn’t really see it before, because the cellar ceiling (i.e. living room floor) was being held up by a Heath Robinson arrangement of wooden posts on concrete blocks. Now, thanks to the miracle of concrete, there are no pillars and the cellar is open plan. So you can see the stream! Under the house. No wonder it was damp.

You can see the new concrete ceiling here and, yes, that’s a stream running down the right hand side of the cellar

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