Regular followers of this blog may remember that I discovered a hidden staircase in our basement. Three rooms of unused space, accessible from inside the house? It was inevitable: Wendy “requested” that the stair be re-opened, and (my) work commenced. I said at the time that I should have kept my mouth firmly shut, but – hey, ho – I never was any good at that!
Other part-time DIYers will nod knowingly when I say that any project is a voyage of discovery, because things rarely go as expected. My first step down the path of the absurd was to decide that the basement’s four hopper windows needed replacing. Original to this 1903 house, they were rotten and falling apart.
“It won’t take long, and it will keep the basement watertight,” I told Wendy as I unloaded window frames from our pick-up, “Unnecessary” (That’s the truck’s name. Don’t ask.)
Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men…. The closest size of ready-made window almost fit the first opening; none of the openings were quite the same dimension. Adjustments were required, usually involving a hammer, lumber, and curse words strung inventively together.
The next “not to plan” moment: water pipes in the underfloor staircase space had to be removed and the washing machine relocated to the garage and plumbed in again. Luckily our good friends Leroy and Witold were on hand when sealing off the old pipes proved difficult and frustrating. I hate water leaks!
But I was yet to meet the bigger leak (and further plan diversion): four days of continuous rain led to the discovery that rainwater simply ran off into the yard, and that our bone-dry basement wasn’t always so clear as I’d thought. There will be digging to do, if this bloody rain ever stops. I have been concerned by the parade of spider species exiting the basement in pairs; rumor has it that Noah picked them up.
Finally, windowsills, torrential rains, pipes and all, I got to the grand re-opening of the staircase (which we promptly christened Tutankhamen’s tomb). No steps were the same size; the old washing machine pipes proved near impossible to cut out; all the electrical cables running through the space had to be maneuvered to the side where they can be boxed in.
With all that done, at last I could re-build the steps using the old ones as supports. This will not be public bookshop space, as we originally envisioned. Wendy is making noises about moving our bedroom down there.
Renovations reveal all kinds of hints at the history of the house, and conducting friends around the work (where we found yet another hidden staircase; no, Wendy, no) has proved fascinating—although speaking of conducting, we found yet another problem: old electric cables down there are live, despite going nowhere, which will mean yet more scary stuff further along.
Did I mention spiders?