I remember when blogs were young.
Back when I started, back in the dim, dim depths of time when I had a really good template that was, obviously, ripped off from another site, the point of this blog was so that my Mum could keep up to date with my news while I went off travelling from one place to another in my role as international gallivanter and Excel troubleshooter. I would sit in an air conditioned office, sipping dodgy instant coffee in Ho Chi Minh City, and I'd compose witty two line entries about the goings-on in the offices beyond my door. That way, she knew I was alive, and all was good.
These days, I live with her, so she knows that I am alive. However, this means that I have abandoned my evil sidekick cat Mr Twinky, and he now only knows I am alive because he reads this site and I occasionally send him lewd text messages.
I know these facts because they cropped up over dinner the other night. Mr Twinky is here to get me sorted out, out of my parents home and in to a Love Shack. By the end of the week, this will be painted, and within eight weeks, it will be suitable for living in. I plan to move in this weekend.
To make this transition easier, I am now waking up at 6 in the morning. This will come in particularly useful when I am living without curtains. We're saving up for those.
After the rush of excitement at the beginning of the week, the pace of change in the building site has slowed. The carpets came up and the false dado came down, and well, they can only do that once, can't they?
I've been round every day. Yesterday, I arrived at lunch time - and I almost bumped in to someone leaving. The flat door was wide open, and there was only one person inside. He was sitting on the floor in his shorts, legs spread wide, painting the door frame. I said hello, but he just smiled at me.
I could have been anyone, I thought as I rummaged through the mail. I could have walked in off the street and decided to have a look in to this chrysaline flat. But, I thought, that would probably make me a bit mad.
Three days ago, I got the keys to New Flat. Two days ago I gave them to a virtual stranger. Today I went back to New Flat for the first time.
When I left it, it was relatively tidy. When I got back, it was a building site. Carpets up, fake cornices removed, light fittings removed, wall sockets moved, a good chunk of painting done, fake dado removed and much, much more.
This bomb site work is, it must be said, good. It makes me more confident that we're doing the right thing in doing all this work on New Flat, and also that the team we're using are up to the task. There's always a degree of nervousness about letting someone in to do some work like this, and even more so when Mr Twinky can't be on site to supervise.
I think he'll be pleased.
I've put up two small shelving units tonight. They were cheap ones from B&Q, and they came with a tiny Allen Key and 24 hexagonal headed screws. As a result, my fingers are blistered and sore, I feel virtuous, and we have some cheap pine furniture. Hurrah.
The Allen Key was invented in 1943 by The Devil. Designed to be cheap to produce so they could ship with flat-pack furniture, easy to slip in to your tool-box "just in case" so you keep them uselessly for decades, and in so many different sizes that they're not interchangeable. They look like they'll allow you to apply a reasonably small amount of force to screw in whatever you're trying to screw in, but in practice they take chunks out of your hands, fly out of your hand as they slip out of the head of the screw, and take a chunk out of the newly re-plastered walls. And so you hit the damn thing with a hammer.
I'm led to believe that professional joiners eschew them.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned screws, I ask? You can't beat a good screw. You don't need to have absolutely the right size of tool, and you've got an option of manual, ratchet or electrical.
I toyed with glue. I toyed with getting out my copy of Junior Carpentry for the Gays and putting together a dovetail joint. In the end, I just gave them a really good hammering and they look okay.
Doctor Kevin McKidd came around last night, bless him. As usual, he was muttering to his unseen camera team, you remember, the ones that are in his head only.
"The last time I was here," he said, Doctor Oddverse and Mr Twinky thought their bathroom would be finished by the end of the week. Let's see how they're doing."
The bathroom isn't finished.
"So, what happened?" he asked Mr Twinky.
Mr Twinky rolled his one remaining good eye.
"It's the carpentry," he said. "The carpenter keeps coming round, which is nice because he's got lovely handwriting, and he's very easy to look at, but so far, five weeks in to build, and all he's done is measured some stuff and forgotten to wear a belt."
Kevin turned away to where the mirror will be once we get some cupboards to attach the mirror to.
"This was supposed to be a luxury bathroom by now, and it's about 80% of the way there. All of the wetworks are done - I've showered with Mr Twinky and let me tell you, the shower is excellent. It's often the case with developments like this, that just one subcontractor can let you down, and as the build drags on and on, you find yourself becoming more and more frustrated."
It was around this point that Mr Twinky hit him.
Next week: Our friend Sarah Beans tells us where we should have moved the wall to.
If only Kim and Aggie were dead, they would be turning in their graves.
We don't clean often. It's not that we can't clean, we just choose to get someone else to do it for us. And to be fair, we're pretty good at cleaning up after ourselves. Oh, so we do clean. Contradicting myself already, what a fantastic way to start. Never mind, let's just pretend that it didn't happen.
Where was I? Well, we moved back in to our luxurious one-bedroom heap on Thursday night, and it was clear that all was not right. Largely because the floor was still covered in dust sheets, and underneath that, a layer of dust had been trapped and preserved for all eternity. The top of the dust sheets were liberally strewn with little pointy plastic cross things, chunks of plaster and stanley-knife blades, all ready for unwary feet to trample on. I do love the smell of Accident and Emergency. We wore shoes all night, just in case.
The next sign that all was not well was that they were still in the architect-designed bathroom at nine on the Friday night. Not bad going for a job that they should have finished on the Tuesday. We escorted them from the premises, found a couple of sofas, and drank wine until we could face the haven of our bedroom, littered as it was with refugee furniture and the contents of our bathroom in a zillion individual plastic baggies.
And so, on Saturday morning, we cleaned. Everything. We hoovered, dusted, polished, mopped and buffed. I cleaned the communal areas of the apartment block where our Lithuanian friends had trampled plaster-dust through. I plumbed in a washing machine. We disassembled seven bookcases and loaded them on to a trailer. We had a sit down and a cup of tea. We moved furniture around, polished tins, hoovered the sofas. And at the end of it - although the work is certainly not finished yet - the place feels like our home again. Which is nice.
I must admit, I was deeply disappointed by the Lithuanian workmen. I've seen documentary footage of Lithuanian workmen, and in it they are all corn fed twenty-somethings, who like nothing better at the end of a hard day labouring in the fields than to shower together and entertain each other in front of a camera. At least I think it was a documentary, it was on late at night on one of the telly channels that's usually encrypted. You wouldn't put these guys in front of a camera for fear of breaking the lens. Although it did mean I could trust Mr Twinky to be on site with them during the building work.
What have I learned from this experience? I've learned that despite rumours to the contrary, any numpty can clean and that doing it for a lengthy period of time can be almost meditative. I've learned that although rubbing your microwave with a lemon may well work, it's much easier to use Mr Muscle. I've learned that the local shop sells some really rubbish mops. I've learned that if you leave a fifteen-foot long piece of pipe in a skip outside our flat it will be gone in sixty seconds.
How clean is our flat? It'll do until Tuesday when the real cleaner comes.
While the entire population of Lithuania occupy our apartment, ripping out our bathroom and replacing it with a smaller one, and taking our bookcases away, we are staying in a "suite" which has exactly as many rooms as our home. It's handier for work, too. It's incredibly weird to be here.
It's definitely better than being stuck in a hotel or a guest house, though. In a hotel, if you want something to eat, then you have to call room service, pay a fortune, and give a tip on top of that. We've got a fridge here. In a guest house, you're a guest in someone's house. You're polite to them. You turn up for breakfast at the right time, you try not to drip your undercooked egg on to their tatty tablecloth. You have to eat out in the evening. We've got a hob here.
In a hotel in the price range we're playing in, if you've got a chair then it's next to your bed and it's where you're forced to put stuff due to a lack of storage space. Here, we've got two rooms. They're cleaned daily, and the cleaners even make the bed and re-do all my washing up for me.
But. It's too close to work. I can leave here and be in the office in five minutes, which is not good. And it's just too spartan. The sofas are just not comfortable enough, the floor is just too hard, the kitchen is just a little too small.
We're just here a little longer, though.
We're moving out tomorrow morning.
For a week we'll be in a holiday apartment. It's handy for work. I'm leaving for work early tomorrow, and as soon as I've gone, half a dozen workmen move in to our apartment. They're going to rip out our bathroom and put in a new one. This is basically a big thing. It's been big for weeks.
We've had quotes and estimates, we've had comings and goings, we've got paint samples, we've had removal men in to take half of our stuff away, we've got people coming in to look at some of our furniture and maybe take some of it away. We've thrown out eight hundred bags of our stuff. We've sold some. We've given away some. We've filed and trimmed and we're exhausted and the place is basically Empty. Capital E.
They say that moving house is traumatic. We're not even moving house yet. We're just thinking about putting it on the market, and in the mean time we have to live in it. They say that moving house is traumatic.
We're moving out tomorrow, and when we move back in, we should have a new bathroom. That's a thing.
The Scottish Parliament building is on the shortlist for the Stirling Prize.
It's a hugely controversial building, mainly due to the spiralling costs, not least of which is the cost of the enquiry into how much it cost.
Personally, I like it. I think it's important. And it's right next door to where I used to live. I've seen the regeneration of the bottom of the Royal Mile, and I've come to the belief that it was the right place to build it - despite the strong competition from other sites. It's already won a couple of Scottish awards, but that's not really going to be enough.
It's important for the Scottish people that their parliament succeeds. It's important for that success that the building is seen as an asset and a treasure, something to be proud of. Scottish people need to be able to stand at the end of the bar and say "It cost a fortune, and I'm not sure if I like it, but it won a lot of awards."
If it won the Stirling prize, it would be more than just a win for the architect, or the building. It would be a win for the people of Scotland.
The full shortlist is here. I rather like the Lewis Gluckman Gallery.
There is madness in my method. Regardless of how one feels about architecture, there can be no doubt that it affects us all. A good building can be considered a work of art in the same way as a painting, a novel, a poem, a sculpture, a shade of blue, a giant head, a handprint, or an unmade bed.
But just because someone is creative, it does not automatically qualify them to design a building. Just because someone has a fantastic design concept, it doesn't mean that they can't design a building that looks great from the outside and awful from the inside.
It doesn't mean that an architect can automatically paint, or design furniture. But some do.
Nonetheless, there are buildings in this world that one would classify as a work of art, whether ancient or modern, housing, offices, museums, galleries, schools, shelters, libraries or tube stations.
We've had a problem with our central heating. The central heating guy can't do anything about it - he came, he went up a ladder, he serviced our boiler, and he was wearing nasty, nasty underwear.
It's a leak, you see. Somewhere between the boiler (at the front door) and the radiator in the bathroom, water leaks out of our supposedly closed system, so we have to top it up regularly. This is a pain in the bum to do, but also means that somewhere in our flat, water is leaking.
Look, water is leaking from their pipes...It is called shite workmanship. It is a sign of their weakness.
Between Sunday and Tuesday, the water pump that makes sure that we have pressure in all of those good places where we want water pressure died. This isn't a good thing. It means showers are weak and tepid, and I now take twice as long in the morning to get rid of embarrassing stains before I can come to the office.
So Mr Twinky went for a look at the pump, to determine the model, so we could work out where to get it serviced. He couldn't make out the name on the pump because of dust, but luckily a drop of water fell on it, and he could make out the name.
Hang on, thought he. A drop of water?
So, last night we dismantled the cupboard where our boiler lives, found a whole load of pipes that we can't really see a point to, and decided that it would be best if we called out a plumber.
The expense of doing this is nothing compared to the thrill of having found a leak without having to take our walls down to hunt for it. And it means that Mr Twinky gets to go home at lunch time and hang out with Fintan, the rangy plumber with dark hair, blue eyes, precocious tufts of hair poking out of his collar and sleeves, and a wicked sparkle in his eye.
Architectural thought for the day.
Over at neohomo, Brent is pondering the British terrace - and we're not talking about the gorgeous Georgian terrace, built with an classical aesthetic, with gardens, and with grandeur. He's talking about the Victorian terrace, the workman's home, the red-brick version, cheap and small, and built in row upon row, handy for the factory.
In a comment, he ponders "Can you tell me why there isn't more vertical building in the UK, more skyscrapers?"
I used to think I knew the answer to this one. I don't, though. I've seen skyscrapers working as a living environment. I've seen them failing dismally. Generally, they've worked best in areas where they've been well thought out, and well managed. I've lived in a couple myself, on the 15th floor, and on the 27th floor.
In some ways, they're not that dissimilar to terraces...