Friday, 30 March 2012

Builders in the House 11 - new furniture chaos

At about 9:30 on Wednesday morning, ten rather large boxes arrived with the new classroom furniture. We just had to stack them up because one of my students was due to arrive. Once that class was over, the foreman from the construction company arrived to help us unpack and assemble everything, and to hang the new whiteboard and clock.

We were literally sweeping the floor and loading all the discarded packing into his truck when the students for my 1pm class arrived - just a slight panic! After the somewhat makeshift class finished, I rearranged the desks to see what the big room would look like, and remarkably it looks just like a classroom!

Wednesday is always a crazy day for me, as I think I mentioned earlier, so it wasn't until yesterday that I could experiment a little with permutations for smaller classes. This is the room we expect to use the most, although I taught here last night with the partition open, and it felt really comfortable.

It is so different to how it was three weeks ago that I kept having to remind myself where I was!

And to finish, the beautiful flowers you can see on the desks above. A wonderful present from the students in that first class with the new furniture. What a lovely thought - thank you so much!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Builders in the House 10 - back to work

This was back to work on Monday, and as it is the spring holiday, Kayo's elementary school children came first thing in the morning. Of course, the walls are still bare, and, as mentioned before, slightly disappointingly the furniture wasn't due to arrive for another couple of days, so we used the trusty old pine table and chairs that have served us so well.

The first photo with the inevitable "peace" signs, so as usual I asked them to pose for another one without. Tenma decided in that case that he wasn't going to smile!

And my first student in the new room was Tomoyo. We listened to a conversation on the CD player, and the sound in the room has changed completely. A bit of an echo, I guess, because there isn't much furniture, and the tatami mats are no more.

I love how clean and tidy everything is. All the books are now out of sight in the cupboards which means we don't have four mismatched bookcases in the room - great! The desks and chairs arrive on Wednesday, and we have also ordered some new maps for the walls. My original UK map (thank you Karen!) has been put up and taken down so often to be used in different classes that it is now a bit worse for wear.

I'll be back soon with some classroom furniture to show off...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Builders in the House 9 - or not, as the case may be...

Friday was scheduled by the builders as "cleaning day", and after they had finished this is how our new classroom looks (this is taken from where the new whiteboard will be) and I don't think we could be happier! Everything is so clean, bright and well-finished.

And this from the reverse angle looking towards the new doors onto the porch.  We're not sure if the roller blind is a temporary measure or not, yet.  I think curtains would be cosier in winter, so we'll just wait and see.

This is the room that used to be the classroom, and I guess will remain the room we use the most.

And this is the new classroom on the other side of the dividing doors.

Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix up with the company we ordered our classroom furniture from, so it won't arrive until Wednesday now. The builders have promised to return then to put up the new whiteboard and finish off one or two other things. If the walls weren't concrete, I could do it myself, but the job really requires something a little more serious than a DIY electric drill!

Although I would have liked to have had my first class in the new room with all the new furniture, I think we'll use it tomorrow with the old table and chairs. No ginger, again. Looks like I'm going to spend the afternoon moving books!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Builders in the House 8 - doors

I came in from work last night at around 9:30, but much to my frustration I wasn't able to have a good look at the work that had been done as we still don't have any lighting. Unfortunately my camera work was even worse than usual, but hopefully these give a general idea of what has been done now. Not content with papering the walls, the music-loving wallpaper guy also papered most of the doors! Quite common here, I believe, and I think it is an effective technique. I love all that light coloured wood trim, and what you are looking at here are the three big sliding doors that will divide the space into two smaller classrooms. The wooden door leads into the old hall to the stairs and toilet. The picture below is from a slightly different angle, but again from the
front door. The sliding doors will slide right out of sight to make the one big room.

After all the preparation everything seems to be happening very quickly, and it now seems to be finishing touches. Today has been another busy day for the builders, but I'll have to wait until the morning for more photographs. Be back soon!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Builders in the House 7 - wallpaper

This is so cool! My limited experience of hanging wallpaper is, of course, of the DIY variety - measuring walls and paper; trying to cut straight lines; an old table to paste the paper, and then trying to get the stuff to stay on the wall with no air bubbles under it. Now I see there is a very professional way of doing it - a machine that does everything except put the paper on the walls and make the tea!

Our music loving wallpaper guy worked for about ten hours yesterday, and has comleted about 75% of the papering. I think it looks fantastic, and I wish I could have seen how he papered the ceilings on his own!

This is looking towards the front door, and you can see what still has to be done. I think the wood on the new white paper is really striking.

The wallpaper will be finished today, but has to be done while working around four other guys who have come to fit doors and light fittings. It seems a bit chaotic, but... the work is almost done!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Builders in the House 6 - let there be music

Not too much to report today. Just one guy working on his own all day getting the walls ready for wallpaper. He has spent the whole day smearing some kind of yellow gunk all over the walls and ceiling. I think he starts on the actual wallpapering tomorrow despite the fact it is a national holiday. Hope he doesn't wake me up when he arrives for work!

It only struck me today, and perhaps it is because it might be a stereotype, but of the eight or nine different tradesmen we have had working in the house so far, today's guy is the first one who listens to the radio while he works. I seem to have an image that in Britain there would be a radio on all the time. Someone correct me, please! Anyway, he brought his own radio and has even trusted us with it overnight. Of course, if it were me or the boy Jones, we would be listening to the cricket...

And just as an update on when the work will be finished, it seems that we are now back on track, and everything should be completed on Friday. The only hiccough being that although the desks and whiteboard we have ordered will arrive on Friday, the supplier called us to say the chairs won't be here until a week tomorrow. A bit disappointing, but there's no ginger...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Builders in the House 5 - slowing down?

It's been another hectic week workwise, and although I could have written something yesterday I think it was better for my sanity to go and play squash in the free time that I had...

I'm not an unusually tall person, but at 183cms (six foot one and a bit in old money), I'm three centimetres taller than the doors and beams in our house, something that causes me to stoop somewhat. This beam is going to be in the middle of our big classroom when the partition is open, and although it couldn't be removed without the house collapsing, I'm pleased to say that it has been raised just a tad, and I can now walk under it without banging my head (Yes, yes, I'm on my way to play squash...)

We seem to have done a lot of decison-making this week, and there has been a lot of builder activity, although on the face of it, not much seems to have changed since the beginning of the week. This cupboard has required the most thought. The large space in the middle will eventually hold a new television, and then it was a case of deciding how we wanted shelving arranged. Once we had done that, a couple of guys came and took a lot of measurements so they can prepare what they need to complete the job.

Other than that, much to the delight of our son Tadashi, a plasterer called Tadashi came to fair the walls. Anyway, it seems that this was a bigger job than anticipated, and the now smooth walls are going to take several days to dry sufficiently for the next stage to begin. The last couple of days have been rather eerily quiet.

And one last picture today. You can see the wooden frame that will hold another sliding door. This time between the classroom and the front door.

Other decisions this week have been the size, colour and number of new desks and chairs, and I'm just about to go and measure up for a new whiteboard... And this weekend? Squash, of course, and then a midnight appointment with the TV on Saturday to watch Wales secure the Grand Slam againsit Les Bleus.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Builders in the House 4 - a "new" window and signs of crookedness

If you go back to the first Builders in the House post, you'll see a photograph of some cupboard doors (one of which has my squash poster on it). From later photographs you will see that the cupboards have been completely removed.
And you can see from this one that a floor level window was revealed, which of course we knew about because we had seen it from outside. The builders have recommended however, that we leave it uncovered which will make the room brighter, and also allow a breeze through the room in spring and autumn - too hot in summer, and too cold in winter to open it then!

The "missing" materials from the previous post turned out to be wood to make the frame of the new cupboards. We are now trying to decide exactly where to place shelves and partitions.

I thought I would just return to the "crooked house" theme of earlier, too. The big wooden beam you can see is parallel to the ground (even if I haven't held the camera as level as I could have!) Look at the space between the beam and the top of the concrete door frame.

Now look at the same space at the other end of the door frame. There is a difference of between two or three centimetres from one of the door frame to the other. I'm hoping it won't be so apparent when all the work is finished!

Sunday today, so no noise from the builders to contend with, but one of Tadashi's friends has come round to practise singing a Queen song which they are going to perform for their class. I'm not sure which is worse...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Builders in the House 3 - the new floor

I've had a hectic couple of days, so things have moved on quite a bit since Monday's post, and I'm glad to say that the house, although noisy at times, isn't anywhere near as dusty.

I missed this part of the floor process when the other side of the room was done. A kind of polystyrene slot-together insulation... definitely didn't have that before, and I wonder if it will make the room warmer in winter. I certainly hope so! It is held in place by dint of being just slightly wider than the space between the beams.

The beams all covered, and a shot of our new step.

And the new floor being laid. It is quite a light colour, which we hope will make the room bright, and much as I enjoy polishing the other floors we have upstairs, I wasn't particularly upset to hear that the new floor is a "no polish" type. I confess I was a little surprised that our beautiful floor was completed first given that there is still so much else to be done, and I had fleeting images of all kinds of damage being done to it. However, of course it has now been covered with cardboard sheets.

And so to the ceiling...

Aimi was so excited when she saw that it was pink... and she is going to be so disappointed when she finds out that it isn't finished, and won't be pink when it is. Poor thing!

I went to Hiroshima this afternoon to play squash, as I often do on a Thursday, and was told on my return that the carpenter had knocked off at 2 o'clock because whatever materials he needs for the next stage won't be here until tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing what they are. More as it happens.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Builders in the House 2 - ...And they all lived together in a little crooked house..

The builders were planning to have a day off on Saturday, but what they uncovered on Friday (see above) gave them some unexpected extra work to do. They told us that the house looked as if had originally been built by someone used to laying roads rather than building houses - safe enough, but a bit strange!

This morning the carpenter arrived to put down a frame for the new floor in what was the classroom. He discovered that because of the aforementioned road laying techniques used, there would be something like a two-centimetre difference in the level of the floor from one side of the house to the other. (He had a really cool laser thing like something out of Mission Impossible, except this one showed exactly what the problem with the floor was) Perhaps the road layer had built a camber into the floor... The carpenter said that he could compensate for the difference in level, but it would always be a little odd. I had visions of our new desks (on castors) rolling down the hill!

We decided to let him do the job properly and he promptly pulled up the remaining floor that used to be the hallway and cloakroom, and set about raising the whole thing by the two centimetres which will allow him to complete the floor so that it isn't on a slope.

More rocks holding up the floor.

This is the base for the new floor after the level had been raised. This morning there wasn't a two-centimetre gap between the big wooden beam that is the step up to the room and the black ceramic tiles under it.

And this is where we are tonight. I think the "under" floor will be finished tomorrow, and then hopefully things will really start to take shape.

And the title of today's blog? When we were told about the problems we had because of the way the house was originally built, I was reminded of a very old nursery rhyme:

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

Google it if you are interested in finding out how old it is. I should point out that despite my advancing years, it was already very old when I first heard it as a child!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Builders in the House

Once again I find myself having to apologise for the length of time it has taken me to write something since my last entry. Sorry! My wife, who somehow finds time to write something most days, puts me to shame.

For those of you who don't know, Kayo and I work mainly in a room on the ground floor of our three-storey home. It isn't that big, but we have managed for the eleven or so years that we have been self-employed. Of late, though, there has been an increasing need to have another classroom and also a bigger room to accommodate larger classes.

I wish I had a wider angle lens, but here are some photographs of our ground floor. This one was taken from the front door. The door on the left in the immediate foreground is a floor to ceiling shoe cupboard, and the white wall on the right is part of the cloakroom/boxroom. You can see into the classroom, and a little way up the hall that goes to the stairs.

Inside the classroom, which, for sure, looks a bit cluttered! Of course, I have to have a map of the UK and a picture of Glencoe; and all the postcards are from friends, family, and students from wherever they have been on holiday.

The reverse angle showing about half of our textbooks, and some cupboards that conceal all manner of things including a television which we sometimes use in class. Yes, yes... that is a squash poster on the cupboard door!

This is looking across the hall into the cloakroom, or perhaps I should say storeroom. You can see a stack of winter tyres, and I keep all my squash kit in here, too.

So... that was how it all looked until Wednesday of this week. We had decided it was about time to take some drastic action, and had spoken with a local company to see if it was possible to "rearrange" things to give us both a second room and a bigger room. "Oh, yes" they said, and on Thursday they arrived...

This was taken just a few hours after they arrived, and from pretty much the same place as the first photograph above. Most of the doors have been taken away, the cloakroom gone(!), and the hall temporarily blocked off to stop too much dust getting into the rest of the house.

A somewhat bemused Tadashi arriving home from school. But that was Thursday...

This was yesterday, and oh, my goodness, what have they done?! What have they done with the floor? It's starting to look like an archeological dig. The whole floor was supported on the six rocks you can see, which the builder says is perfectly OK, but perhaps a little unusual in a concrete house like ours. He told us that is how traditional Japanese houses were built.

That is where we are at the moment. It is all very exciting, and we are really looking forward to seeing how things develop. The work is scheduled to take about three weeks, and I hope to be able to keep you updated on an almost daily basis. Come back and see how we are doing!