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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Inching Forward with the Impending Renovation


After much searching, pleading with anyone and everyone I knew, and multiple phone calls, finally I had found my plumber. Not only that, he spoke a very little English (about on par with my French) and he had an electrician he could recommend.

Of course, that didn't mean the electrician was necessarily any good; perhaps just a friend. But, the only other contractor who had been willing to bid on the job was charging sixty percent more and Chris, my builder, said he knew the company, who handles both plumbing and electricals, and was distinctly unimpressed by what he'd witnessed. (Their electrician had drilled right through the plumber’s pipes and caused a major leak that each tried to blame on Chris, who’d had nothing to do with it.) So that was that.

Now it was a matter of finding out everyone's availability, as the job meant that every participant had to do their part when it was their turn. We were starting with Chris, which meant I wasn't worried. He would construct the walls for the new bathroom, at which point both the plumber and electrician would have to come in to plumb and wire.

When Chris and his friend, John, as an extra pair of hands, arrived, it took all of 15 minutes for the first problem to surface. The first task at hand was moving furniture to make room to build the bathroom.

“The cherry bedframe upstairs has to be dismantled and the mattress and boxspring set on their ends out of the way and then we want to bring the leather sleeper sofa upstairs, because that’s going to become my office,” I said. Even though the movers three years earlier had told me they couldn’t get it upstairs, I’d long suspected they just didn’t want to do it. And, as I’d told Chris, this time I was okay with removing the stair rail if we had to.

After some pushing, shoving and maneuvering, Chris and John were about one-third of the way up the stairs.

“It ain’t gonna make it.”

I froze. If Chris said it wasn’t going to make it, it wasn’t going to make it. Turned out the sofa was about five centimeters too wide in every direction to make it through the beamed opening. Chris stepped outside and eyed the bedroom window on the second floor.

“It’s not going to make it there, either,” I said. “Too narrow.” Oh, God, what to do? There just wasn’t sufficient space in this tiny three-room house to put it anywhere else.

“Get rid of it,” my friend Innis advised.

“No,” I said, flatly. I’d already gotten rid of about 85 percent of my belongings when I left the US. I’d kept only those items I really loved and this mahogany-colored leather sleeper sofa with the mattress you could actually sleep on for several weeks without requiring traction and physical therapy was one of them. I knew if I ever moved somewhere else, I’d bitterly regret having gotten rid of it. My neighbor, Philippe, a retired artisan carpenter, came over to look when I asked if maybe we could take it apart and put it back together again upstairs.

After taking out a number of the upholstery staples and assessing it, he shook his head.

“You’ll never get it back to what it was structurally,” he said. “You can ask a tapissier, an upholsterer, but it’ll be very expensive.”

“And if you ever take it apart a second time to get it downstairs,” Chris said, “it’ll be ready to haul down to the dechetterie. It’ll be rubbish.” Not knowing what else to do with it, the guys left it up on its end in the porch where it was out of our way. I draped it with sheets to protect it from the sun and we turned our attention to the rest of the job.

Chris began mapping out along my wood floor where the walls would go. That's when I saw that, to accommodate the 140x100-cm shower (bigger than I'd remembered buying) and the 100-cm-wide vanity, the walls were going to encroach on what was already going to be a tiny bedroom. I’d just lost sufficient space to have both my small end tables flanking the double bed. That’s tiny. But there was no getting around it … so to speak.

John and I set off to the local supply place to pick up the sheetrock, rails and other materials. We were gone maybe an hour. When we got back, Chris had removed the old bathroom door and installed it in the space for the future bathroom. The walls would go up around it. It was already starting to take shape. In just a few hours, Chris had all the walls up, the sheetrock temporarily screwed into place so that the plumber and electrician could both easily remove it, and he showed me precisely where they should place their wires and pipes. I felt like things were moving forward very confidently and precisely and I felt myself relax.

I would learn very quickly that this would be my second mistake.

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