There are many things about modern living that differ greatly from when I was growing up. In those days we were expected to eek out Dad’s income by growing all our own fruit and vegestables. This was quite normal for many families anyway – there being far less shops available, we would have gone pretty hungry without the home grown produce. We had a nice grassy patch to play on and a few paving slabs arranged outside the back door. My parents would put out their deck chairs on high days and hiolidays. The patio table was in fact an upturned orange or potato box with a tea towel over it. My how much more sophisticated things are today. With really lovely patio sets and to set off a warm autumnal evening, we can have lighting schemes to enhance the shrubbery. Professional installation is critical to ensure safety – cutting corners is never a good idea.
When anyone moves into the houses in my area, it seems that the first thing to be done is always rip out the existing kitchen and replace it within a massiveextension, all shiny white mirror like tiles . . . . then the finishing touch is a massive bi fold patio door arrangement across the width of the room. Eveyrthing is so much easier to get hold of these days. These bi fold triple glazed patio doors for example are so carefully measured and manufactured, there’s no likelihood of breaking building regs. Whereas one house I tried buying years ago, the previous owner had taken out most of the back wall of the lounge and replaced it with a massive aluminium framed, single glazed sliding door – he’d done it himself and had not checked any of the safety aspects. My mortgage was refused – the surveyor was so unimpressed with his work, he condemed the installation and reported the owner to the local council!
Some things about home ownership can be inspiring and a welcome boost to the ego. Then there are the times when it can just be jolly frustrating. Take for example this week – I’ve had need to open the up and over garage door a few times. I don’t like to leave the door up – there are lots of nice tools and garden implements to see and grab. However, the general change in weather conditions has made the door stick and being a huge double affair, it’s hard to unstick – I have to really slam it hard towards the left side when I’m inside the garage. It shifts a minute bit and unsticks from the wooden batten . . . . How much nicer would it be to have a brand new electric up and over door that can be operated remotely from the car as I approach the drive – this is my new year’s treat to myself.
It’s incredible just how quickly the year seems to roll by. It doesn’t seem possible that only a few short months ago we were wailing about the ghastly weather – winter had been harsh with storms, lashings of wind and rain. There had been much flooding and then ice and snow at Easter. I recall contemplating having an expert in to advise me about garden lighting – safe new schemes that can be controlled from my mobile phone and act as a security measure too for when I’m not able to be home in the evenings. I didn’t complete my research at that time but I am definitely going to very shortly. I was able to see such a system first hand recently and the chance to wander around a carefully lit garden first thing in the morning had not occured to me before. It’s on my ‘must have this year’ list for sure.
We can’t all afford to go out and buy the latest solar panels or heat transfer systems to convert anything into domestic energy. Some are out of the question on finance grounds primarily. However there are things that can and should be done to cut our own domestic energy and utility use. Families tend to use the dishwasher every day – that in itself would only be a problem if they don’t fill it completely and ensure even loading. Then they need to use the correct detergent tabs, salt and rinse aid. If they washed up manually, for a family this would use a huge amount of water every meal time, plus the mess left ! Washing machine use can be more streamlined too if children were encouraged to wear clothes more than once – rather than drop everything for mum to pick up and wash and hanging laundry outside or on clothes horse for free instead of tumble drying!
Several houses have changed hands near me. From years of inactiviy in the housing market, to suddenly a whole raft of folk upping sticks and moving on. This does introduce a whole new set of families into the area – with younger children again replacing the teenagers the original toddlers morphed into. One such family that moved in some months ago have completely remodelled their downstairs – it has got a brand new kitchen and living area – much of it open plan and with smart energy and security efficient bi fold doors across a newly widened space. They do have a lovely garden and this was their reason for shelling out that kind of money. They have installed colar panels and other energy efficient gizmos. Apparently. I’m guessing they needed to because at the end of the garden is a new hot tub/outdoor jakuzzi – money needed to run that for hours.
I very often help out as a room steward in an old house that opens to the public. They also hold fund raising events there, including lots of weddings and bridal showers. The house was built in the 1700s and it didn’t have any sophisticated things like running water or toilet closets for many years. In fact it was only in the 1920s when a wealthy tenant leased the place that central heating was introduced. The house is famous now for its gardens and they are fantastic – always featured throughout the year in magazines for the borders and fabulous big shrubs. The lighting schemes help enormously – for the evening guests to be able to make the event very special, it needs the most perfectly placed lighting. Getting this right makes all the difference and the photographs show that a bit of thoughtful planning can turn ordinary into absolutely magical.
I have a habit of checking out the local estate agent web sites and looking up any houses that are near to me. With the new fashion of not advertising with a for sale board, the only way of knowing who’s moving is by the same route – online. I am staggered at the difference in prices of some nearby properties. We have basically 7 different design of house here, but all similar in that they are comfortable executive style 4 or 5 bedroomed detached all with double garages. The 5 bedroomed have smaller master suite to enable the 2nd bedroom to be ensuite. The house size is very similar so it’s a compromise. Most of these recent additions to the sales list have had work carried out to enhance the look – although none have taken my fancy. Additional lighting and clear light from windows seems to be the best way to sell a property. As it always has.
Having a garage is one of the most abused privileges I have encountered in all my years of owning a house. I have one that is huge – a double width and slightly longer than standard. By rights I should be able to put my car in the garage at night. Of course, this plan of action is hopeless, there isn’t a cat’s chance of doing that. I found this out when thinking I’d need to do so when several guests were coming to stay, I wanted my car out of the way to free up parking space outside. I have a work bench at the top end, a huge metal filing cabinet next to that and a mass of junk objects parked in all the other areas. This is not an efficient way to live and plans are afoot to make my home – especially the garage, much more efficient and safet to live in.
Ah, the first signs that spring could well be on it’s delayed way have begun. There is much bird activity outside – the various food containers I’ve been hanging out are being visited more frequently and at last it seems as though my efforts are paying off. There is nothing quite as spirit enhancing than the sight of sunny gardens, birds whizzing about from tree to fence to tree again. We have to be very careful these days about saving energy – gone is the free time we had of leaving doors open and not worrying a jot about who was picking up the heating bills. It’s not just a question of finance – it is literally a question of ensuring we don’t waste even the tiniest bit of power into our homes, offices, public transport network etc. We buy in much of our energy source and nowhere near enough comes from renewable sources. Efficiency at home is required!