Last year, we bought a house - our first house. Seriously exciting stuff. It was a bit of a fixer upper, stuck in a 60's time warp but with a lot of promise if you had the vision to see it. Which quite a few of our friends and family members didn't, but hey ho. We went for it, all in.
Our first weekend as owners, we opened the front door and pulled out the interior, from carpets and linos to cupboards and curtains. Doors came off, partitions were pulled down, layers of damp, horrifically patterned wallpaper was shed from the walls like a snakeskin. And that was when we realised just how much we had bitten off.
Actually, I lie. We thought we had realised. So we took one extra month's rent at our old place. We had the new place rewired, sprayed for woodworm, and enlisted a lot of help from family members with replumbing and deep cleaning.
Then we realised the extent of the work.
We had a month to replace the entire lounge and bathroom floors from joists and timbers to floorboards, tear down and rebuild two stud walls, and get the (cold) water working (hot water was a pipe dream).
At the time, I was 6 months pregnant. Suddenly, into our lives came an enormous ticking clock, belligerently shouting at us to get a move on, or else.
Shockingly, clock ticking in our ears, we managed this bare minimum level of functionality and safety thanks to friends and family who gave up pretty much all their spare time, ando an amazing husband working every hour he could squeeze from the day. My own personal contribution included waddling around the place armed with a few tools and a notebook, scribbling PRINCE2-inspired product breakdown charts on various bare plasterboard walls and placing orders to Travis Perkins every other day.
We put our stuff into storage, which sounds really cool, like something out of a film, but basically meant that all our valued possessions went to live in a dank metal box. The storage guys even made me buy my own padlock for it. For the next couple of months, we camped out on a futon in the what-would-eventually-be lounge. Our kitchen was a kettle and a micro-convection oven, and our water supply came from a copper stand pipe hanging out of the bare stone of the back wall. Of all of us, our spaniel, just over one year old at the time, was the least willing to adjust and make the best of things.
During this time, we brought gas into the property (another story in itself), installed a boiler and central heating bringing hot water with it, redid the sofits and fascias (bye bye leaks), and performed complex surgery on the kitchen wall armed with a lot of research, some stone chisels, and enormous sheets of, essentially, bubblewrap for builders.
Finally, my husband took a bit of holiday before the holidays, spending the three days before Christmas learning to create a kitchen from scratch (no fitted flatpacks for us). On Christmas day, I prepped veg on a fixed wood work top, cooked in a gas oven, rinsed in a working (hot and cold water) sink and threw all the dirty plates in the working dishwasher. What a wonder he was.
We had done it - or mostly, he had, while I waddled around eating tomatoes and Haagan daaz and made encouraging cups of tea from our makeshift kitchen.
By the time our little girl arrived, the lounge was finished, bar the skirting and alcoving, her bedroom was complete, our bathroom and kitchen were functional - if not beautiful, - and our bedroom was reasonably livable in (plasterboard walls and hardboard flooring being highly sought after).
We agreed to take a 4 month break when our little munchkin arrived so we could enjoy those early days, (and not feel useless when we failed to finish the tasks we had at ourselves).
But now 5 months have gone, and our last month of renovating has been... Slow. Really slow. We dedicate evenings, weekends, whatever we can, but everything just takes so much longer with our little'un around.
And now she's starting to crawl.
Our days of trying to stop only the dog from eating loose plaster are now limited, and just as the clock was tick tocking loudly before we came along, it's back with a vengeance. And this time, I have her safety to think about.
It ticks louder and louder every time I look at her rocking back and forth on her knees, trying to work out what moves next. Every time she makes a little bunny hop then face-plants adorably and looks up grinning. Because soon she'll be wrenching the hot water pipes off the wall, picking and eating rotten plaster and loose nails, and splitting her head on the concrete steps in the kitchen.
Tick tock, tick tock.
It's not just marking the passing the time, it's marking the gradual increase of mummy-hysteria.
I'd best get downstairs and start pulling the grippy spikes out of the stairs.