Saturday, 30 November 2019

Doors and Draws with a little water

It's been quite a while since the last update.  This is mainly due to the lack of activity on the house.  Since we moved in last August, the builders have occasionally turned up and addressed some of the inevitable snagging that all new houses are susceptible.

This is the fourth autumn in Cropredy, and our second autumn in the new house.  The leaves have nearly all come down, but unlike last year where they lay on bare mud and clay, this year they lie on grass and flower beds.  Those leaves that seem to miss our garden seem to be attracted to the canal, and in particular our boat and its relatively new landing stage which are currently sporting a healthy layer of willow leaves from our willow tree.

There really is grass under there

The boat is moored directly below our willow tree
Returning to the house, nearly all the snags have been rectified and since we were withholding quite a large amount of money, the builder was keen to have a meeting and work out what else needed doing.  With just about everything having been addressed, the builder asked for his money.  However, the proverbial 'elephant in the room' was the front door which became the main focus for discussion.  We agreed that the after 3 failed long-winded attempts to fit the correct German front door, we would remove the front door from their contract and get it fitted ourselves, with a small retainer to make sure that the builder returned after installation to complete the decorating in the hallway.
So the search began for a new front door which fits our requirements:
  • Less width, allowing for an adjacent glass panel to bring light into the hallway
  • Hinged on the correct side
  • A similar design to the 'incorrect' door
  • A similar colour to the 'incorrect' door
  • Not from Germany!
Investigations and recommendations suggested a local company would be the right way to go and we spent a happy afternoon trawling through their various doors to find something that met our requirements.  Quotes for two different manufacturer's doors were then obtained, both at a similar price.  One door was from Austria and the other from High Wycombe.  Thinking that Austria is a little close to Germany, we elected to go for the door from High Wycombe.  It was very slightly cheaper anyway!

Whilst welcoming the prospect of a sale, the salesman suggested that we wait a week before ordering as we could benefit from a promotion which was about to be run.  Thinking that we had already waited well over a year, we thought that an extra week would not be a problem, so we duly waited until the following Saturday.  On the day, our reception at the supplier's for 'promotion day' consisted of prosecco and nibbles.  The order of the door from High Wycombe was made; the promotional draw entered; the promise made that the door could be fitted before Christmas.
Imagine our surprise when later that same afternoon the phone rang and we were informed that we had won the promotional draw and were entitled to a free door!  Well, the door was free, but we would still have to pay the VAT and fitting costs.  Still this made a very significant difference to the overall price.  A couple of weeks later, a surveyor turned up and measured the doorway and confirmed that fitting would 'probably' be before Christmas.  So, dear reader, here we are again: we have not yet received a fitting date and the supplier has not yet informed us when fitting is likely to take place.  To be fair, we haven't yet chased them.  That is a job for the beginning of next week!

Although we took the boat out for several weeks earlier in the summer, we had little time to do so later in the summer.  We were able to take it down to Oxford for a week during October, but this seemed to coincide with the start of the rainy season!  On our way back, the canal shares its course with the River Cherwell in two places.  Although the rain had swollen the river, we got across the first crossing, but by the time we reached the second, the river had risen to such an extent that the second crossing was closed by the Canal & River Trust.  Fortunately, we were held up outside a decent pub.  However, there really wasn't much else to do there and when we were informed that the closure could last several days, we realised that we were only about 8 miles from home, and got a taxi back, collecting the boat later.  Since that week, it seems to have rained almost every day and earlier in November, so much rain fell that the entire village was cut off for a while, and one of the 'main' roads out of the village was closed for 2 days and sported 4 flooded cars by the end of it, one of which at a precarious angle in a ditch.  Reassuringly, no water found its way into the house or the garden.  The canal however did rise by about 18 inches, flooding the towpath.  The Canal & River Trust appeared and opened all the sluices they could find in order to get rid of as much water as they could, probably to the detriment of Banbury which was suffering flooding further downstream.  Unfortunately, they forgot to close them again, so we woke up the next day to find all the boats in the village sitting on the bottom!  A selection of photos follows:
Cut off for a while
Although obvious, a few still had a go....
....and failed!

Our boat sitting rather high against our landing stage

Flood towpath one day.  Not enough water the next

Water rushing  over the gates down the towpath beside the lock

This should be fields
One of the highest recorded river levels in Cropredy

Friday, 28 June 2019

Spring Catch-up

You may have thought that since it has all gone quiet, nothing has happened.  To some extent, this is correct in that we have seem little of the builders, but other things have been progressing.  Let's start with the front door.

To remind you dear reader, we moved in with a temporary barricade in place until the front door could be fitted.  Within a mere month however, the front door was fitted.  However, it was the wrong one, being the wrong design; wrong shape; and lack of glazing panel.  It was however the right colour and the dimensions were such that it could be securely fitted as a temporary measure whilst we waited for someone to admit liability and order the correct door.  All the parties we dealt with declared that culpability rested with the German manufacturers.  So much for German efficiency.  We were assured that a new door was on order and would be delivered in a matter of weeks.
Throughout the winter various people came and checked the doorway and re-measured everything, and eventually in the middle of May a new door arrived.  The fitters carefully unpacked it and then there was a knock on the (original) front door asking us to come and look at it.  Either in manufacture, packing or transit, it had been damaged!  The fitters were reluctant to fit it and we rejected it straight away.  So we are now waiting for another replacement to arrive.  We were advised that it may be another 2 months, but recent emails requesting an update have gone unanswered.  That is until today when we were told that it will be ready for fitting at the end of July.  Watch this space!

Unpacking the 'new' front door

One of the several damaged areas
Although we have seem little of the builders, we have had one of their better employees working on the house on 2 separate days.  Many of the inevitable shrinkage cracks have been filled and decorated; guttering has been fixed; drainage on the outside terrace has been improved; and importantly, all the suspect door catches have been replaced (after yet another catch failed!).  We now feel a bit more comfortable closing doors in the house.  Whilst all this has made a dent in the snagging list, there is still more to do.

The previous blog dealt with the drainage and planting in the garden.  This has now had a couple of months to mature.  The lawn was laid and has taken off with a vengeance.  The hedge we planted is now in leaf and affords a little privacy which will hopefully fill out over the next few months.

The garden in April
When we first bought the plot, it came with a couple of rickety landing stages jutting out into the canal.  We have been using these to moor our boat against, but because of the water flow from the nearby lock and the fact that our boat occasionally gets hit by boaters taking the adjacent 'narrows' too fast, the landing stages were near to collapse.  A total rebuild of the canal bank was prohibitively expensive and ruled out in favour of a long single landing stage which does not jut out into the canal quite as far and therefore the number of collisions we receive should be less.  A local expert who has done similar work elsewhere in the village was tasked with building the landing stage.  The brief was that it should be strong and not move when water is released from our nearby lock.  We are very pleased with the result although the flatness of the landing stage stage has revealed the undulating nature of the ground around it.   Over two tonnes of top soil was ordered and delivered and we spent a happy(!) Friday afternoon moving it from where it was tipped, down to the lower garden where it was used to try and level the area around the landing stage.  Grass seed has been planted, and is just starting to grow.

Decking Complete

Surrounding area levelled with topsoil

More decking

Monday, 8 April 2019

Beating the Clay

It's been a while since we posted anything.  This is mainly because it's been a while since something significant was achieved at Willowbank.  Over the last week though things have changed outside.
At the end of last year, we planted a hedge between the house and the lane, and it is now growing.  We also got the professionals in to advise which plants would do well on our clay/soil and got the experts to plant them.  They were also tasked with giving us a lawn but that did not go quite to plan.  Firstly, it was decided that the ground was too wet to take a lawn and we would need to wait for it to dry out.  But then, it was decreed that the drainage in the lawn was inadequate and improvements must be made.
Ready to start
So Monday morning dawned and three men and a little digger duly set about tearing up the ground to find the original single drain installed by the builders at our request.  It seems that this drain would only drain the centre of the lawn and it was too deep to do any good anyway.  The plan was to introduce some shallower drains properly seated in a bed of gravel, wrapped in a porous liner, and located 8 inches down (the recommended depth apparently), all arranged in a herring-bone pattern.  These new drains would be routed to the deeper drain and all would be well.
Indeed, all did seem to go well and before the day was out, we had a fully drained patch of dirt!
Mini-digger at work
New drainage going in
Tuesday was all about levelling and conditioning the 'clay' and although it started well, by 10am, rain had stopped play and with the forecast suggesting a soggy day, time was called and our gardeners left for home.
Nearly level
On Wednesday the levelling and conditioning was completed during the morning.  This year it seems that decent lawn turf is a surprisingly hard to find due to the hot and dry summer of 2018, but our gardener managed to get some decent turf (he says!) and that was laid in only a couple of hours.  They returned on Thursday morning just to finish tamping it down.

Turf laid
Lawn and Willow
So that is the progress outside, but what about progress inside and the snagging list?  Well, there isn't really a lot to report.  The builders have not been near for several weeks now and there was still no sign of the front door which they proudly announced was 'in the country' some weeks ago.  Several emails have sent, with follow-up phone-calls, all to no avail until today when we eventually got to speak to someone.  The front door is 'scheduled' to be fitted next week, so watch this space.  There are many other items which we have reminded the builder's remain outstanding.  Fortunately, none are too series and at least we still have outstanding payments to make to them, but only when they complete the work!

Having just re-read the previous blog entry, I realise that I haven't quite finished off the saga of the ebay sale of the left-over slates.  You will be pleased to hear that it did eventually have a happy ending.  It involved us acquiring a spare 'standard-sized' palette that the Oxfordshire Library Service deemed surplus to requirements (thanks Nikkie!).  The neatly packaged slates were then again unpacked from the non-standard palette.  The non-standard palette was then fixed to the standard palette and refilled with slates for the fourth time!  The collection company turned up and decreed that although the palette was now acceptable, it was probably too heavy!  However, the driver seemed a little more pro-active than previous drivers and he had a go.  We got the palette on to the palette truck but with the two of us pushing, we could not get the palette truck on to the tail-lift.  Eventually, with the lane blocked by the lorry, a van driver wanting to pass came and gave us a hand.  The driver was concerned about all the weight on the tail-lift, but it managed to lift the load (very slowly).  They were secured and driven away - at last!

The 4th packing attempt!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Slates & Clay

We are still waiting for the builders to come and resolve some of the outstanding items on the 'To Do' list.  This includes the front door which is on a 3-month delivery and is now overdue.  To keep ourselves sane, work has shifted to the outside and in particular, the garden.
As we mentioned in the last entry, we decided that the amount of planting and work required in the garden would mean that we would be fully occupied there until well into next year.  So we have merged the various designs we had produced and sprinkled on a little of our own ideas and got someone else to do most of it!
The one thing that we have always said that we would do is replace the hedging that was removed to allow access for the house to be built.  The hedging arrived last week and we had run out of excuses for not doing it, so last weekend, we bit the bullet and got on with it.
Mixed hedging delivered
Future hedge location
We spent a happy time (!) outside in the occasional shower digging very thick clay to make trenches to plant hedging and bulbs in.  About 90 hedging plants arrived last week and were basically sticks with some roots at one end.  Each one had to be soaked in water and then lovingly basted in some sort of rooting compound before being artfully positioned in a precision-dug trench to just the perfect depth before being covered over with more clay soil.  This was a lot harder than it seemed as the heavy clay we have sticks to absolutely everything: clothes; shoes; spades; forks.  This increases the weight of every item two fold. 
The day before we started planting the hedge, the landscape gardener appeared with what seems like hundreds of plants and distributed them to the appropriate locations around the garden ready for the next tier of gardeners to plant during the following week.  This gave us a good idea of what was going where but did make hedge planting something of an obstacle course.  We were afraid to move plants out of the way as we didn't trust ourselves to put them back in the same place.  Digging then became somewhat more like a contortionist's exercise.  Despite all this, by the end of the weekend, nearly all the hedging is planted.  This just left the rest of the garden!
Delivery of some the garden plants
Plants in position
New hedging in situ
More hedging
Fortunately on Monday morning one of two gardeners appeared to start planting the actual garden.  Within an hour he was complaining about how hard the clay was to work with.  Copious amounts of tea and mince pies seemed to be the only way to placate him.  On Tuesday and for part of Wednesday he was joined by a second gardener resulting in a trip to the shops for more tea and mince pies.  The main gardener estimated that planting would take 2 men 2 days.  We have already used more than that and they are back for another day each next week.  A further gardener will then appear to weed and lay the new lawn.  It's a good job that it's a fixed price contract!

Some plants planted
More plants planted (in the frost)
When you build a house it is inevitable that some bits will be left over.  We covered the saga of the surplus bricks in a previous blog (14th September), but we also found ourselves with a spare heated towel-rail (as a result of us changing our mind), and a crate of Welsh Slate.  Ebay came to the rescue and the the towel-rail was sold and collected yesterday.  The slate however is another story.  We felt we did rather well on ebay and got a reasonable price for the 300 slates.  It was sold on the basis of collection-only as postage could be a tad expensive.  We had expected the successful bidder to be local.  I suppose on the global scale Durham could be regarded as local, but this was going to present the buyer with a challenge to collect them.  We had carefully squirrelled the slates out of the way in the garage.  This was not easy and involved emptying all the slates out of the crate and stacking them somewhere else whilst the empty crate is relocated.  The crate was then refilled from the temporary stacks.  We recognised that whoever collected them would need them to be a little more accessible so over the weekend we again repeated the process to move the slates outside.  This was acceptable to the buyer (photos were sent to him) who then commissioned a palette company to collect them.  However, when they turned up it seems that it was not acceptable to them.  We had all expected a lorry to appear with a hiab crane on the back and lift them up.  Apparently this company doesn't use hiabs, preferring instead to use a small palette truck to wheel palettes on to a tail lift and hoist them on to the lorry that way.  The collection driver had already had a bad morning (I overheard him talking to one of our gardeners beforehand) and he decreed that the the crate was not on the 'right sort of palette'; it was not on the road; and anyway his palette truck could not run over gravel.  So he went away again, much to the buyer's annoyance.  It seems that we have now reached a compromise which involves moving the crate to the edge of the road.  The problem is that I rather did my back in moving the slates the first (or was it the second) time, so I am reluctant to move them again until it has recovered.  We have now agreed on Thursday next week which means that some time early next week we will to unpack the slates and stack them somewhere, move the empty crate 4-feet, and then repack it.  We are not looking forward to this!
Crate of Welsh Slate
Next week the builders have 'promised' to get 'Building Control' here to complete the sign-off of the house.  This has been delayed from this week apparently due to a broken down car.  I wonder what the next excuse will be?

It is now the run up to Christmas and the many many crates of decorations which have followed us around the village before being corralled in the garage have been opened, examined, and the best (well, meets the strict colour criteria apparently) decorations taken out for display in the new house.  Considering the number of decorations we actually have, I am really very surprised that so few have been put up.  However, amongst those few are three trees.  A small one on the boat, a medium one in the lounge, and a large one on the terrace outside the lounge.  One of our friends (you know who you are) has previously stated that they will know when we have finally settled in when the Christmas tree appears on the terrace.  So it looks like we've arrived then!

One of the 3 trees

Chilly evening in Cropredy

Saturday, 1 December 2018

The Erratic Snagging List

As the builders were 'finishing' and moving out of our house, we started to use a snagging list to keep tabs on what needed doing.  The list is actually split into two parts.  Part one deals with all those things which we think need doing before we part with the penultimate payment.  Part two deals with other snags which develop whilst we are living in the house.  The final payment is due after 12 months on the assumption that all the snags have been dealt with.

The builders do make occasional visits to the house and things do get crossed off both lists, but every so often we find something else which is then added to the lists, so its size does increase for a while, and then following visits from the 'trades' shrinks back a bit.  Overall though, the trend does seem to be downwards.

Over the last couple of weeks we have had 6 trades on site: builders; joiners; window fitters; stove fitters; garage door fitters; and renewables installer.

The builders themselves sent someone to touch up and repaint  some of the marks and minor cracks.  Larger cracks will be addressed in a couple of months when the house has finished 'settling'.  Fortunately, none of the cracks are structural!

The joiners returned to finally fit the door latch to the cloakroom door.  This latch was sacrificed to the bedroom door after it failed the first time.  They also fitted a new, different latch to the bedroom door following its second failure!  The new latches are very similar and slightly cheaper, but seem more robust.  If all goes well with the new version, and the supplier finally admits that the original latches are unsuitable, all the latches will be changed to the new type.

The windows company returned to remove a faulty window (the integral blind stopped working) and fitting a temporary (no integral blind) window whilst it is repaired.  This is due to be refitted in 'a week or two'.

One 'blinded' window, one temporarily 'unblinded'

The missing up-stand behind the stove was fitted.  This is made up of the same material as the hearth, and although it doesn't get hot around the back of the stove, we didn't think that putting skirting board that close was a good idea.  We tried the stove for the first time last weekend, and we are really pleased with it.

Stove hearth sporting the new up-stand behind
The garage door fitters returned last week to investigate why the garage door occasionally jams.  It did this quite a bit in the summer when the door got hot and expanded.  They thought that they had fixed it, but it has jammed a couple of times since.  Unfortunately, they could find nothing wrong, and we were asked to get them back when it does it again.  They suggested that we took a video of it to show them.  Since it only jams very occasionally, we do not propose to video the door every time it opens or closes!  The plan now is to wait until the Spring in the hope that the jamming becomes more predictable.

The 'renewables' have finally been commissioned.  This seemed to involve sticking warning labels on most of the equipment, and fitting a remote monitor to the heating system.  We can now monitor the amount of power consumed by the heating system as well as monitoring and changing the temperature of each room, from our PCs and mobile phones.  We can also now remotely monitor how much power the solar panels are generating.
Fully labelled solar power meter
More labels in the airing cupboard
More meters in the airing cupboard
...and more labels under the stairs!

There is still a lot of paperwork to be raised, mainly by the installer.  We are entitled to claim some money back from the government (the Renewable Heat Incentive or RHI) for the installation and operation of an efficient 'Air-sourced Heat Pump' heating system for the next 7 years.  Since we have solar panels, we are also entitled to the 'Feed in Tariff' which gives us some money back for generating electricity.  Applications to both of these schemes seems to require a significant amount of work and explains the large number of meters needed in the airing cupboard.  We have made a start on our application, but until we get the next tome of paperwork from the installer, we cannot complete the process and start to get some money back.  He has promised delivery of everything we need next week.  However he does not have an exemplary record in meeting deadlines, so we'll see.

The 'Blinds' company returned last week to fit the final blind over the staircase.  It seems that the risk assessment has finally been completed and the fitter arrived with his ladder and just got on with it.  This has added yet another remote control to the many already acquired.  Fortunately, in keeping with the heating, solar and CCTV systems, they can all be controlled from a PC or mobile phone.

The garden is making slow progress.  In the end, we gave in and let two different people have a go at designing it.  We like to think that we have taken the best bits from both plans to come up with something which should have some colour throughout the year.  Hopefully the lawn will be laid in the next couple of weeks.  Now that most of the leaves have now come off the trees we were finally able to order our hedging.  The only problem is that unsurprisingly, the hedging company is now rather busy and delivery of our hedging has been delayed until the middle of next week.

At some point during the week one of us (I'll let you guess), managed to accidentally switch off the freezer.  Of course, we didn't notice for a couple of days when the pool of water on the kitchen floor finally gave it away!  We did manage to salvage most of the contents, but since we cannot refreeze much of it, we have been trying to eat what we can over the last few days.  Those things which we really weren't going to manage were converted into copious amounts of soup.  We won't be buying any more soup this winter!

We now have our house signs up.  This means that we have removed the laminate with the house name printed on it which has been wedged behind the mailbox for the last 4 months! 

Sign on the Garage

Sign in the Porch

Friday, 9 November 2018

Holiday is over

Having returned from a well earned (at least in our opinion) break of 3 weeks, we arrived back to see if any further work has been done.  We did not allow inside access to the builders whilst we were away, so they were restricted to external works only.  Since there were several outstanding items on the 'External To Do' list, there was plenty for them to do.  The difficulty now is that they have moved everything off site (at last) and have basically moved on to pastures new and it is difficult to get them back!  Only the lack of payment seems to keep them interested!

It was dark when we returned home, so a look around the exterior would have to wait until the following morning.

Several months ago, when the garage walls were built, the builders seemed to have forgotten to put a brick near the top of the side facing the road.  On investigation, it seems that they had decided that the building needed an engraved brick with the date on it, as this would match a similar brick on the 1993 house nearby.  So for several weeks, we have been asking when they would fit our missing brick and the first thing we saw on our morning external tour of the house was that the wall was finally completed in 2018.

Complete brickwork at last
Our tour continued with the external plumbing to the rainwater harvester system which all seems to have been properly completed.  The tour then moved on to the garden where it was revealed that the paving slabs 'seemed' to have been cleaned.  The other thing that was noticeable (and it is hard to blame the builders for this) is that garden has sprouted all sorts of weeds in our absence.  In the few places where weeds had not grown, leaves from our weeping willow had made a home.
Our 'lawn'
Our tour of the estate seemed to indicate that all was well with the external works, but we noticed that as the paving dried out, cleaning and brush marks started to appear on the slabs.  Another item for the snagging list!

Strange patterns on the paving
Even though we have post-and-wire fence, it is a condition of planning that we need to augment this with hedging using plants found locally.  This is largely hawthorn, so a few days after our return, we set off back to the local nursery specialising in hedging.  We had been turned away from the nursery a few weeks ago as it was 'too early' and the hedging would not be available to buy until November..  When we turned up earlier this week, it seems that this Autumn has been too mild, and they are still not available.  So we left with the instruction that we should return in another two weeks time.

In the meantime, we have been wondering what to do about the lawn and the garden area.  We have missed the boat regarding seeding a new lawn and therefore must consider turf.  Two companies are looking at this for us, together with a planting scheme for the main garden area.  This is the right time of year to plant bulbs and Lesley is keen to do this.  My father has generously provided us with a load of crocus bulbs which are destined to go into the roadside verge with the hedging (when we can get it!).

The one area which has had no attention is the canal-side terrace which is at a lower level than the main garden.  We need to cross this area to get between the house and the boat.  It consists of thick clay which sticks to everything.  Our intention is to leave this area 'au natural', and allow it to develop its own plants.  Since it is canalside, it needs to be tolerant of ducks.  To give it a bit of a chance, we hired a rotavator to break up the soil and spend a happy couple of mornings raking in grass seed.  It is a little late in the season for seed, and I'm sure that the birds will love it, but we thought we'd give it a try.  It's either that, or live with a mud bath until next summer.
Rotavator, raking and seeding

Rotavated, raked and seeded
Regarding the inside of the house, then nothing was undertaken whilst we were away, so we are now chasing for them to finish things so that we can at least get the building signed off by Building Control.

Our kitchen was not fitted by our builders, but by a separate company.  The builders added oak skirting board as they have to the rest of the house, but we were never entirely happy that it went very well with the grey kitchen woodwork.  This week, the kitchen company returned to carry out some remedial work on the flooring and to replace all the skirting boards with the same wood as used for the kitchen plinths.  We are very pleased with the results.

A joiner has been to look at the creaking steps in the staircase so hopefully it will be possible to get up and down stairs without waking anyone else up.  The joiner was also asked to assess the internal door latches we have fitted to see if the 2 failures we have had are due to defective installation.  His company wasn't involved in the fitting of the doors, so he was asked as an independent expert.  His verdict was that there was nothing wrong with the installation, and it appears to be the latches themselves that are at fault.  The builders are therefore looking for a more reliable alternative which they will come and fit.  Hopefully before another one fails.  Watch this space!

Bedroom door with latch (and handles) removed
Finally, I forgot to mention that my broadband was sorted out on the day before we went away on holiday.  It was down to me to keep an eye on the Openreach website and inform my 'case manager' when the status changed from 'may be available' to 'available'.  I noticed the change in status about 10 days earlier and informed the case manager.  He then set the wheels in motion.  This time BT and Openreach did everything they said that they would do when they said they would do it.  In the space of an hour, my broadband speed changed from below 10Mbps to over 70Mbps.  It only took 3 months to sort out!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Loose ends

Things are gradually starting to come together with the house.  We have now been in the house for 2 months, initially camping in it, but now it is more like a home.  We even had a house-warming party last weekend for over 20 of our local neighbours and friends.  There are still things to do, which require the builders to come and finish various things.  The builders are now working elsewhere and getting them to come back and finish what they started has become something of a challenge.  Despite this, the list of jobs remaining is gradually reducing in size, even if the snagging list is gradually increasing!

The garden needs some attention!  Our lawn 'expert' has still not turned up, so we will probably bite the bullet and seed the lawn area ourselves.  We currently have a thin post and wire fence marking the boundary of the property.  Part of our planning conditions is that we also have to plant a hedge.  Off we went to a nursery to enquire about the purchase of about 12 metres-worth of hawthorn (the local hedge) where we were told to come back in a month's time.  Apparently the leaves should be off the trees before you plant hedges.  Another lesson learnt!
Waiting for grass seed
Waiting for hedging
We have now emptied all of our respective neighbours garages and stables of all of our belongings and re-assembled everything in our own garage.  Again, more trips to the tip were involved to dispose of items which had not survived 2 houses moves in the same number of years as well as the huge amount of packaging material involved.  Although the builders still need to do a small amount of work in the garage, we have been able to sort things and find a home for nearly everything. There is even room to put a car in. 

This car has never spent the night in a garage before!

Inside the house, the joiners finally graced us with their presence last week and were able to finish the skirting and architrave in the hallway and cloakroom.  This meant that the carpet fitters could come this week and fit the remainder of the carpet.  It was a shame that this couldn't be done before last weekend's housewarming though.

Shortly after we moved in, I found myself locked in our bedroom after the door latch failed.  Fortunately, the joiners were on site and they had to climb up a ladder and through a window with their tools to get the door open, and even then the lock had to smashed.  The latches were supposed to be of good quality and they were expensive, so the suppliers were surprised and put it down to a one-off incident. Can you see where this is going?  Yesterday morning I was woken up by Lesley informing me that we have a problem.  It seems that the replacement latch had again failed and we were locked in the bedroom again.  This time though it was 6am and our mobile phones were downstairs.  We have a landline in the bedroom, but not many of our contacts are stored on it (another lesson learnt).  This time the failure was slightly different and with the patient use of a nail scissors (the only tool available in the bedroom!), I was able to move the latch in a little at a time until we could just open the door.  Needless to say, the latch assembly was then rapidly removed from the door to prevent this happening again.  The builders were informed, who again contacted the supplier.  The supplier now wants to come and look at the door and the latch as they are adamant that this should not happen and it must be an installation problem.  However, I am struggling to see how this could be the case.  We'll find out more when they can 'spare someone' to visit us.
We have now had the blinds fitted in our bedroom which means that Lesley is able to sleep without the moonlight keeping her awake.  However, it does mean yet another remote control, although these blinds can be controlled by a timer, or from our phones as well.  Although all the blinds should have been fitted earlier this week, the installer would not install the upper blind on the staircase because apparently it is too high up and a risk assessment needs to be performed before the blind can be fitted!

Just to finish off, autumn is really starting to take hold here and we have notice the leaves floating passed on the canal, but the colours in the sunshine have been amazing so far.

Blue sky over Cropredy
Autumn colours