Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nearly Done

They slowly and steadily completed their jobs last week and cleaned out their rubbish on Monday. Here now is the bathroom, minus a mirror and fittings but with a rather fetching flowerpot. You can't see the rain-shower head, but trust me, it's there:

The sink leaks and has to be replaced. I bought a cheap one from HomePro when I first moved in, and it proved a false economy. The same design by Cotto costs about 4,000 baht:

And here's the new loo:

The french doors have turned out well, though the workers devastated my courtyard (I suppose they needed somewhere to keep their crap, cut and paint the iron and so on, and they did clean it up as best they could). The iron trellis above the door will hold a creeper called Maad Bali, which makes a sort of curtain of air roots:

And from inside:

The downstairs loo/dog shower room is fairly innocuous now -- I decided to paint it white after all and leave it looking cheap and functional -- and has a proper drain:

Really I have no complaints, except for some design flaws that are my own fault (showering in the bathtub is a bit splashy). Wut and his people did a good job and nothing very suprising happened. What can I say?

Of course it's not nearly done, and probably never will be.

Kitti the electrician is coming this week to move, repair and connect some lamps. I need a mirror, replacement sink, shelves and towel rack/ladder for the bathroom, and to have a new sofa made for the first floor (the old one is disgusting). New pictures for the first floor. The front and back doors downstairs need bamboo blinds, but nobody is taking orders at the moment because the factories were all flooded and have just started catching up with their backlog. Rush matting for the bedroom, I think. New Chinese lanterns for outside now that the gutter pipes have been extended; the old ones were damaged by the rain. Then a new air conditioner...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ancient Wisdom

The 'Turkish proverb' When the house is finished, death comes is in fact from Buddenbrooks, and Thomas Mann either made it up or misremembered something; might as well be 'Confucius say'. It's also, however, true.

It Never Rains But It Pours

Could they have chosen a worse day to get back into dervish mode? All morning a storm was brewing and the air was like hot soup, plus I woke up with a terrible hangover, only to find that there was nowhere in the house to rest my aching head and churning gut nor cool my sweating brow. The ensuite, as we estate agents call it, was taken over by two women who were to finish the grouting, and Ood (actually I think his name is Wut) and the iron man had chosen this morning of all mornings to invade the first floor and turn round the windows at the back so they open inwards and can be cleaned.

That meant the rotary saw. Oh, the rotary saw: it was slicing right through my brain. Downstairs Noi was at her cleaning job.

Wut showed me a palette of paint for the downstairs loo, which is waterproof paint for roof tiles, and the only yellow was a horrible orange. Yes, yes, that one, said I, under the influence of last night's drink and the rotary saw. That one. He thought I couldn't be serious. I am serious, I said, under the influence etc. Well, he did as he was told, and this is the result:

A sore thumb's innocuous by comparison, I think we can agree. It's not to be helped: I'll have to pay extra to have it painted over a very pale lemon yellow. Nothing else will do, because I'm not replacing those awful blue tiles that are in there already, and two colours is already more than enough.

By the time the storm broke they were done with the windows and had moved on to the french doors downstairs. The rain gave me a chance to assess the new drainpipes (excellent) and the need for a gutter along the ledge (present). Wut didn't agree, but we know he has a religious fear of gutters. I've already talked to a tin man on Ekkamai, so we'll do that without him. Patiently grouted the women upstairs / And by evening completed their task.

Completed too, or almost, were the french doors. They just need a few strips of iron to face the gaps and a pair of handles:

Friday, March 23, 2012


I haven't posted anything for a few days because Ood and the elderly cement expert slowly and carefully tiled the bathroom, tile after small tile. They worked steadily from 9 till lunchtime and 1 to 5, no monkeying about, but it was tedious progress because all the walls are crooked. What can I say, except that having perfectly capable builders doing a job they are well on top of is a dull experience? Here now are the bathroom walls, tiled:

The institutional effect is a bit stark even for my perverse taste, but it won't look quite so Albanian hospital once the joins have been grouted, and I hope that the chessboard floor and wooden tub and washstand will provide some warmth and character.

The downstairs loo is being tiled in the cheap yellow tile, which is so ugly against the white that I'll have to paint it yellow:

Today there's a little more activity -- they're fixing an iron trellis over the new french doors and grouting the tiles -- so maybe there will be more to report.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lazy Days

We've had a few lazy days. He's got another job somewhere nearby where most of his people are needed, and it really is very hot. The person who was supposed to tile the bathroom today called in sick. Still, progress has been made. The french doors downstairs are coming along:

The roof has been sealed:

The washstand now has the requisite holes in it, the new bathroom walls have been plastered, and the downstairs loo has a pair of doors made from something called smartboard to conceal the pump under the stairs. I've bought some tiles for the downstairs loo--buttercup yellow, cheapest in the shop--a water heater and a tap for the bathroom. All in all these have been a busy few days.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Great Engineering Swindle

Our much-trumpeted engineering solution was a total failure. They used huge chunks of styrofoam instead of small cubes, no mesh, and no gravel at all in the cement, so they might as well have covered marshmallows in icing sugar and hoped for a miracle:

But the miracle never happened:

Like a bad politician I blame others, but like a good soldier I'm resigning my commission because I can't see how I could bring anything but shame on the regiment now my lack of leadership has been so glaringly exposed. From now on I'll just be Me.

Actually it doesn't matter very much; they can just fix those bits and then it'll get a layer of tile putty and tiles on top, but still...

I suffered another setback because the antique tile I fancied, at 28 baht a tile, would have made the bathroom the most expensive room in the house. I couldn't bear to live in a place like that, especially since the rest of it is carefully badly finished and done on the cheap. Also I'm cheap. Instead, with a heavy heart, I made my way over to Ratchada and the bathroom emporia there and bought some bog-standard chessboard floor tile and small white tiles for the walls in the hope that that will at least produce a slightly institutional effect.

I had to get a Subaru to transport them back. The driver was ancient and a kind of stoic complainer, the way such people often are, somehow both grumpy and imperturbable. The load was far too heavy for the car, but he noted the fact and then cleared some debris from the seat and we set off. Have you got your bill? he barked, 'not unkindly.'

The car was a time machine, weird bits of armature and rusty bottle tops on the dashboard, dusty curled papers spilling out from behind the sun shield, and the drive took us along one of those back routes where it's always 20 years ago. Little lawyer's practices, condo sales offices where the hoardings have bleached to near-invisibility, bad apartments, restaurants with a car parked in the back of the eating area, grimy houses where no one seems to live but the slippers outside the door change every now and again ...Pracha Uthit. Klong Chuat Yai. And then, in the gathering dusk, you recognise the handwriting on a sign nailed to a tree that says sue air kau, and soon you're home.

He helped me carry the tiles in, so I gave him a 100-baht tip and a cold drink, and all of a sudden a radiant smile... No, I can't do it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Her Own Worst Enemy

The woman with the warm woolly hat and socks, who is very nice and gentle and works wonderfully hard -- she never takes a break outside but brings food in -- has a habit of painting herself into a corner. She did it twice today, first by starting to pour the concrete by the doorway and working her way back to the window, then again on the roof, so now her footsteps are sealed into my house for all eternity. Not that it matters: the bathroom will be tiled and the roof needs to win no beauty contests, plus the dog also went for a little walk on the fresh cement.