Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The life and legacy of Baroness Thatcher

So by now, if you're alive, you know that Margaret Thatcher passed away yesterday morning here in London. Every news outlet, pundit, and commentator – professional or otherwise – has offered his and her assessment of her work and legacy, so I won't offer anything more here. You can find them yourselves, if you haven't already, across the internet. But what I wanted to point out here on my patch of the internet is what's been missing from the commentary.

I watched 4 hours of coverage about Margaret Thatcher last night across the BBC, read countless articles and had several conversations about her yesterday. Not one of them focused on Margaret Thatcher as a woman beyond her being the first female Prime Minister of the UK. I've been fascinated and impressed that the coverage of her life and death has been shaped by her policies and achievements (and failures) rather than her gender.

Regardless of whether you think her actions shaped modern Britain successfully or detrimentally, or whether you're conservative or liberal, or whether you think she was a feminist or not (she absolutely didn't think so), Margaret Thatcher should be celebrated for her achievements in breaking into the old boys school of politics in the UK. In a world where still the US cares more about whether Hillary Clinton wears makeup or not and who a woman is married to, you have to hand it to a woman who achieved a position of political power and accomplishment over 30 years ago. At that point, women were still fighting for a seat at the table in the US rather than commanding leadership at the head.

Debate will continue rage for the foreseeable future, as all of these headlines attest, as to whether Thatcherite policies built or broke the UK. I can't claim to know the truth, and my opinion is clouded by the here and now rather than the experience of living through some of her more dramatic decisions and policies. But I will always respect The Iron Lady who said

Friday, April 5, 2013

Project Casserole: UK vs US DIY terms

A short and sweet post for you guys: as we've been working hard at completing the renovations to our home, I encountered some serious linguistic differences in the words Americans and British/Irish (Bi-rish) use for home improvements. I stubbornly refuse to switchover to many of them, resulting in a fair bit of confusion and sometimes hilarity. Here's a quick list for your amusement:

crown molding, or cornice (US) = coving (UK)
molding (US) = beading (UK)
spackle (US) = filler (UK)
baseboard (US) = skirting boards (UK)
drywall, or sheetrock (US) = plasterboard (UK)
hardware (US) = ironmongery, or fittings (UK)
shop-vac (US) = Henry (UK)

I'm sure there are more, so I'll update you when I discover them – but maybe you have some to add? Send me your additions to the DIY word differences list!

PS: Even though I use it liberally across the blog when talking about our renovations, DIY as a term is a uniqely British concept and saying. It not only encompasses the activity (i.e., the home repairs completed by an individual not a builder) but also the category of paraphenalia and associated jargon surrounding the activity. So if you talk about what you did over the long Easter weekend, you could say you "Did DIY" which isn't grammatically correct AT ALL but refers to the wearing of yuck clothes, going to B&Q, prepping, doing, cleaning – the entire lifecycle of a home repair. And it can be anything – renovation, repair, redecorating, replacing lightbulbs – anything home-related.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Project Casserole: the DIY files

Hi everyone. I hope you've all been well and staying warm  – here in the UK, in London, on the 4th of April, it snowed. SNOWED. I'm sick of the winter now and am really desperate for spring.

The other thing I'm desperate for is my house renovation to be complete. I know I promised to keep you up to date with our progress, but it all happened so fast that on the Tuesday after my birthday I left for work and came home to this:

It's been over three weeks now without a kitchen, and frankly, I think we were a bit naive. We really just thought they'd take down the wall separating our kitchen and our living room and that would be it. But they also reinforced the structural support in the ceiling (so our bed doesn't end up on our sofa).

And they re-routed the pipes, which went through the wall we removed, and moved our boiler to the opposite wall which helped with the plumbing being made all nice and tidy. They also extended this wall, so that we could put more cabinets on it. This is really only exciting if you're into plumbing and plastering.

While all of this work was going on, my living room looked like this:

And everything, I mean EVERYTHING, was covered in dust. We spent most of our time in the loft, sitting on mattresses from the spare bed, watching tv from the iPad via the Apple TV. It was like being a student, in a squat, only we own it. Weird.

At the end of the 10 days our workers were in, this is what we were left with:

On the left there, that new door is my coat closet. I fought The Irishman very hard for that closet, and I'm very excited for it. This is my life now: excitement about built in storage. But the space is open plan now, and feels light and airy and BIG.

Obviously you can see that the flooring is gone; our kitchen had tiles and the rest of the ground floor was a laminated wood. We decided to put wood down on the whole floor, and went with engineered wood – and decided to save money by installing it ourselves. It arrived last Thursday, in time for our Easter Bank Holiday DIY-athon Weekend.

This is what they call "curbside delivery." You have to heft it into the house YOURSELF. I was the lucky one who worked from home that day and had to do it – all 28 boxes.

And here is the wood, and all of our DIY supplies bright and early last Friday. We covered a lot last weekend – filling in holes, removing the decorative woodwork, sanding, priming, painting, and laying over half of the flooring. We are finishing the flooring this weekend, and installing most of the kitchen cabinets along with the new oven (which arrives tomorrow) so we will have a pretty much functional kitchen AGAIN for the first time in nearly a month. We'll post photos of the nearly complete space next week – and in the meantime, if you have any tips about countertops or tiles, we'd really appreciate it!

Til next time... xx