Although I have been writing (for my children's - principally, I think, my sons' - sake) about my childhood and youth - what I have named with the grandiose title of 'Memoirs' - life is now. And now involves very actively the house we live in.
As I said some time back - late last year or early this year, I think - there is a possibility of our moving to Patumahoe, to keep an eye on the house next to the 'Rural Retreat' (as those who are planning it call it). If this happens - still quite uncertain, I should say - it will take place probably early in 2010. In that case we will either rent out our existing house, or sell it.
As my children can testify, it is - or at least has been - scarcely in rentable or salable condition. We moved in in September, 1984. The house itself was probably built in the late 1920s, variously modified since then, and prettied up a little bit (very little) before we bought it. At that time the carpets were pretty old, I think; the wallpaper new (some of it); the paintwork mostly not very new. Since then, until early 2009, Sue and I have done the minimum necessary. We have had it painted (the outside) once in those almost-25 years (and that was probably ten years ago); had new iron on the roof (the old had really had it); fixed one thing and another: not much.
So this year we borrowed some money from our friendly local branch of the Bank of New Zealand (they really are very good people, and know us well), and made a plan.
That plan could be summarised in one word: Susan.
Susan has done all the work so far, and will certainly be doing all that remains. Well, to be completely accurate, the work has been done by Susan and friends - principally Gail. Gail has been pretty amazing. She has been doing house renovations for years as a sort of paid hobby. She loves doing it and is a wonderful worker. And because of her experience, she knows what to do, where to get needed materials, what not to touch, and so forth.
Susan and Gail picked out wallpaper - and bought it at half price. Gail and Susan have so far wallpapered the dining room and hallway along the back bedrooms (there are two in the back of the house and one in the front); removed the wallpaper in the rearmost bedroom - the one I had been using, so I have been banished to the 'sleepout' room that has served as bedroom for each of our children at different times.
Oh, well, not only Gail! Elise, my very close friend at work, got her cousin's husband Paul to sell us a houseful of carpet for NZ$1,000. We will get it put down for another $2,000. The numbers might, perhaps, sound high to an American, I wouldn't know, but it is very cheap for here.
There is much more to be done. The three bedrooms and the living room must be papered. The linoleum in the kitchen, laundry, and toilet needs to be redone. We are getting insulation in the attic and perhaps under the floor - the NZ government has just started a programme offering up to $1,300 (or one third, whichever is less) towards insulation, so we will do that. If we can somehow manage it, we will get some kind of dry heating.
And Susan has got a mixing tap for the kitchen sink! That has been a marvel. All our sinks have separate hot and cold.
Sue is now falling so much in love with her tarted-up house that she won't want to leave, if it turns out that we are to do so :-)
Don't know about the outside - paint and such like. If I had the money I would tear out all the gib (what I am told Americans call 'drywall board' - one of those brand names that, like 'kleenex' in the States, or 'biro' in New Zealand, have come to be generic), put all new wiring in - we will probably be burned to death one night by our ancient fabric-insulated wiring - and in-wall insulation, new plumbing, the lot. I haven't and what sells, or rents, houses is, I suppose, the carpeting and wallpaper, not the underlying fabric. So we do what we can, and what will pay off. But it is a bit like eating peanuts: the more you do, the more you want.