Today was meant to be about slowing down and finally taking some time to celebrate having our own home. We had it all planned out.
It was going to start with a coffee at one of those terribly hipster coffee places on the quays after dropping the boys at school and nursery.
We'd then go and sign the last closing documents with our solicitor before meeting with a recent graduate of the Dublin School of Architecture to discuss having plans of the house drawn up.
We'd decided on a date over a leisurely lunch at our local and oh-so-trendy "neighbourhood Eatery".
Then we thought perhaps maybe we'd go back to house and spend the afternoon doing whatever bit of DIY we felt like doing without the kids swinging off our ears.
As is often the case whenever we try to do something nice as a couple, everything fell apart before it even started. I'd been feeling unwell for a few days and was getting worse - to the point that I couldn't sleep last night from pain.
Now, I'm never sick. I can't even remember the last time I was ill with more than a mild cold. But it had to happen yesterday.
Not one to miss out on a good party, the 2 year old woke up screaming at midnight with a bad cough, a 39°C fever and hallucinations. It took Michelle until 3am to get him back to sleep. There went our date and day of relaxation.
At 7am, we woke up frazzled and depressed.
After dropping the 6 year old to school, we started our morning not at a hipster coffee place but in the waiting room of our GP, listening to an obnoxiously loud lady talking on the phone for the 40 minutes while we waited to be seen. Halfway through our wait, the 2 year old had one of those godawful diarrhoea nappies that require immediate attention, an open window and a full packet of baby wipes. Unfortunately we'd forgotten to bring nappies. My trip to the nearby shop and local pharmacy to purchase emergency nappies ended in failure: neither place sold nappies...
At 9am, we were not signing the final papers at the solicitor but queuing at the local pharmacy with a hallucinating, foul-smelling toddler.
We didn't cancel our meeting with the architect graduate as we can't afford delaying things right now - we're moving into the house in less than 2 weeks! So we rushed over to the new house after filling the prescription and stocking up on Calpol to meet Mariusz. He was very excited about the project and his enthusiasm really brightened up our day. I thought I did a very good job of following him around the house pretending not to be in pain. We introduced him to the 2 year old when he stopped hallucinating.
Mariusz noticed a few things that we hadn't seen before, such as this oddly patched up bit of the ceiling in middle-sized bedroom:
Lifting the carpet on the floor directly underneath it revealed another clue:
It was clear someone's had a go at tidying up something. Mariuz went into the attic to look for the culprit and found this:
An old coldwater tank that seems to be leaking from below.
Mariusz also identified a quick fix for our leaking drainpipe:
The growing plants clearly show where water was flowing down the brickwork, rather than the drainpipe. He lodged a piece of wood in there to re-align the drainpipe so that the water now flows through the pipe instead of onto the wall. He also added a stray block of concrete to the bottom of the pipe to direct the water into the drain instead of into the foundations.
We clearly need to get this fixed properly but Mariusz has taught us we don't always need to spend hundreds or thousands of euro to make a big difference in any property.
Mariusz also pointed out that the lack of growing plants under our gutters along the roof probably means that those gutters aren't blocked or leaking. They're most likely just fine. Or they're leaking inside the house. Which is probably not so great.
Chris, our gas engineer came back today to fix the gas boiler. It's a good, modern Worcester boiler (that and the ultrasonic rodent repellent are the only pieces of modern equipment in the house). Chris had originally serviced our boiler, got it up and running and checked our pipes. But after he left, it stopped working. And despite our best efforts (Michelle must have switched it off and back on again at least twice), we couldn't fix it. We know from long rental experience in the UK that repressurising a gas boiler is important - a quick Google search told us our pressure gauge should be between 1 and 1.5 bars. Ours was barely at 1 bar. We decided to repressurize. But after having watched all the videos and read all the guides, we couldn't find a filling loop, filling key or filling lever. We admitted defeat and called Chris.
It took Chris all of 30 seconds to spot the problem: the gas supply had been shut off. There's a lever near our gas meter under the stairs that can be used to shut off the gas supply. It needs to be like this for the gas to flow:
At least we now know what do in an emergency if we need to shut off the gas supply. But we have no idea who actually turned the gas off in the first place.
While he was here, Chris rather patiently explained to me (3 times over - I was really not feeling well today) that our gas boiler installation was a semi-gravity, low-pressure system. Contradicting the Internet, Chris explained that the pressure in such a system doesn't need to be between 1 and 1.5 bars. At rest, it's perfectly normal for the pressure to be as low as 0.5 bars. When the heating is on, it will rise to 1-1.5 bars. We don't need to (and indeed can't) repressurize such a system.
The system starts in the attic:
There's a cold water tank there that feeds the heaters via gravity - no pump involved:
This non-return valve prevents the water from coming back up into the tank.
So that's another good thing that came out of today: we no longer have to keep our winter coats on when in the house. We now have heating! That somewhat offset the downer of having our day off ruined by a sick toddler and a chest infection.
Later that evening we had a call with Simon of Neighbourhood Construction, a Bristol-based consultancy and "open source framework of systems" specializing in no-cost and low-cost insulation solutions for period properties. Their approach of working with the traditional building and taking the time to understand how it works before launching into big building works is well aligned with our ideals. We'll see if Simon's approach will be a good fit for us.
Michelle ended the day by rushing off to the PTA AGM while I put the boys to bed. Michelle managed not to volunteer to sit on the PTA committee. We figure that right now we have enough on our plates...