Renovations - the Early Years

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Wendyf
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Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 02 Sep 2016, 20:16

As I'm waiting for the final room in our (hopefully) final renovation project to be completed, I thought you might like to see some old photos of previous projects.
I need to go back to Chester in 1975....
.....I was happily working behind the bar of the Boat House pub in Chester having given up on three jobs... infant teaching, being a governess to 2 aristocratic children in a castle and attempting to be a pensions officer in the Civil Service (Bootle). Colin started coming into the pub because he was building a mixing desk and amplifier for a local band who frequented the pub. He was working as a draughtsman for Manweb, but his hobby was electronics. I immediately fell for the waist length hair, beard, waistcoat and pipe and his air of capability & common sense... three weeks later I gave up my bedsit and moved in with him, we had a mattress on the floor of a room in a shared house and little more.
However, one thing he did own was this wreck of a Reliant Robin....should I have realised what life was going to be like and run away then??

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I didn't, and three months later we tied the knot, by which time we had a usable vehicle...did it matter that the windscreen wipers were operated by a piece of string? No, we were very proud...Col hadnt passed his driving test, but he could drive the Reliant on a motorbike license.

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We soon found a tiny flat to rent within Chester City walls, and Colin started to build us some furniture from chipboard. He completed his ONC in Electrical Engineering on day release and at night school then got a new job as a technician for Chester City Council. Though the flat was convenient for both our jobs it was down an alleyway between a Chinese restaurant and an Indian restaurant...our bedroom was over the kitchen of the Indian, and the noise and smell, combined with the smell of perming solution from the ladies hairdressers across the hall, was overpowering. Time to look for our first house!

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Stanley » 03 Sep 2016, 03:26

A good story well told. More please!!
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 05 Sep 2016, 19:10

In the spring of 1976 we found the ideal little house just into North Wales. It was a 2 up - 2 down end of terrace, one of a row of 6 ex- brick works cottages. The works itself was long gone, and behind the cottages there was a huge open area where young woodland was growing up between piles of old engineering bricks that came in every shape & size. A rail track that had served the works passed nearby. The whole place was a wonderland of opportunity!
At the front long gardens sloped down to a belt of woodland that hid the main Chester to Mold road. It had a quarter of an acre of garden, half of which was a neglected veggie plot.
At that time you couldn't get a mortgage on properties that needed basic improvements, but grants were available. My parents gave us a mortgage on the asking price of £5000 (all done through a solicitor and the interest rate the same as the building society- Dad still wasn't too certain about Colin!)

Here are the proud new owners, photographed by Dad, that's his mower on the lawn...

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We got straight to work knocking plaster off the walls ready for putting in a damp proof course, and pulling ceilings down ...this can't have been long after we moved in. I'm clutching our first new kitten in the middle of the chaos. A new kitchen was planned in an area that was pantry/ vestibule and new stairs had to be built. It was that long, hot summer of '76 and I discovered vegetable gardening for the first time. How young I look...and how happy!!

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 05 Sep 2016, 20:00

Looking at old maps of the area the cottages are marked on the 1869 OS map. You can see them to the right of the word kilns, in the triangle formed by the 2 rail tracks.

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Stanley » 06 Sep 2016, 04:05

The days of big hair! I used to go to Mold Auction occasionally with the wagon and trailer so I passed there regularly until 1972. Was it a brick works or did they make tiles? A lot of that round that area.
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 06 Sep 2016, 07:36

Definitely bricks Stanley, there were still stacks of them around, all different shapes and sizes. I still have a hollow hexagonal one in my back garden that I use as a planter. The brickworks on the opposite side of the road were still operating in the seventies, I think it was Christian Salveson that owned it. My clay garden gnomes were fired in one of the kilns there, it must have been good clay as they have been outside in all weathers for 40 years.
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Tizer » 06 Sep 2016, 11:19

A great story, Wendy, thanks for sharing it! Was there an earlier 3-wheeler made by Reliant? My dad had one for a while in the 50s and it was more primitive looking than the Robin. I went with him to collect it and other drivers kept hooting at us on the way back. It was only when we got home that we realised the the knob for the indicators in the middle of the dash worked opposite to the way we thought! We had a dog then, a `Westie', and she loved standing in the back with her head out of the window.

Mrs Tiz had to put up with several old cars when we first met. A Morris 1000 whose windscreen wipers didn't work and an Austin A35 whose doors had a habit of opening as we went around corners. She used to tell people that I was trying to get rid of her (it didn't work!).

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 06 Sep 2016, 12:10

I got it wrong Tiz, just checked and the Robin wasn't manufactured until 1973, so ours was a Reliant Regal and those were in production from 1953 onwards. Terrifying things to travel in...we used to make the trip across the M62 to my parents in Leeds on a regular basis and I remember going in appalling weather conditions.

This was the veggie plot...Mum in the foreground there helping out. We hardly ever took photos, so it was usually my Dad who took the photos when they were visiting. They probably brought their caravan to sleep in, a trick they learnt very early on!

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We found a slate mantelpiece in one of those piles of earth which got cleaned up and used in the living room.

Ready to start planting...
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Summer 1976 was very hot and dry!

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Colin found time to build a superb bantam house.

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Stanley » 07 Sep 2016, 04:14

Good stuff Wendy! You could be right about the quality of the clay around Mold. The red quarry tile type of tile they made was excellent and they also made an even higher grade which they described as 'compressed ceramic tiles'. I got some from one of the surviving works for the engine bed of the pilot engine at Ellenroad. They were a discontinued line at that time but they looked in their stores and found some old stock which they gave to us.
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 07 Sep 2016, 08:06

I can't remember what stage the renovations had reached by late autumn of that year, Col was enjoying his work and tootled off to Chester every morning in the Reliant, he had started his HNC in Electronic Engineering on day release and one evening class. I had loved my first year as a veggie gardener and hedgerow forager, making jams and pickles, even salting green beans (we didn't have a freezer). I made baskets & wattle fences from the willow growing wild in the abandoned brick yard and yearned to be self sufficient!
We had an open coal fire in the front room and bought a second hand Parkray fire with a glass front which Col had installed in the back room to run a few radiators. We hoped to have central heating for our first Xmas in our new home. Life was good, and we decided it was time for me to stop taking the pill and hopefully start a family....I was 26 and time was passing! Col was younger than me, though he was heading fast towards 23.
A week or two after that decision I remember helping Colin fix a radiator to the wall in the front room when he announced out of the blue that he had a doctors appointment and off he went. An hour later he was back to collect overnight things and I was to take him to hospital in Wrexham. It turned out he had an aggressive form of testicular cancer, luckily for Col the young doctor he saw made the decision to send him straight in to hospital and the tumour was removed the next day.
I remember being called in to see the consultant with Colin before I could take him home. We were told it was a "nasty tumour" and when I asked "What will that mean?" the answer was "You know that as well as I do...is that all...goodbye". That was all the information we were given, and we went home in a state of shock.
I was reading my Mum's diaries recently and she reports that Colin came home and finished the central heating, so the house was warm for their Xmas visit.

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by David Whipp » 07 Sep 2016, 14:36

Hell's teeth Wendy - I felt that blow at a distance of 40 years...

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Stanley » 08 Sep 2016, 03:52

Life can be a bummer Wendy.... I have been so lucky!
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Tizer » 08 Sep 2016, 10:27

Forgive me going back to the Reliant again...one of my friends in the 1970s had a Reliant 3-wheeler. He always dreaded winter because he had to `plough his own furrow' in the snow with that front wheel!

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by LizG » 09 Sep 2016, 07:47

I obviously haven't been paying attention, I just came across this post. What fantastic memories. We were never very good at renos, clearly no imagination. You have my admiration that you can actually see what needs to be done and then get on and do it.
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 11 Sep 2016, 08:02

i know this part of the story is a bit "off topic" but it's integral to our time at that house so I'll just put a bit more in about it.
The New Year brought a letter from Christie's Hospital in Manchester. Col was to go in for a lengthy stay, we had no idea what was going to happen and thought he might not come out again. I drove him there in the Reliant and came home thinking I might never see him again! We had no phone in the house, but there was a phone box about half a mile down the road and I think we must have booked a time for me to be there to answer it. I really can't remember much about that time, but I do remember talking to Col on the phone there the next day and him saying something on the lines of " It's OK, I can have radiotherapy and will probably live but we won't be able to have any children...is that OK?" :smile:
I think his treatment lasted three or four weeks, it was January, and the trip to Manchester wasn't easy in the Reliant, but he was allowed home at weekends. He kept remarkably well (and didn't lose his hair!!) it was only after he came home that the side effects of the treatment started to kick in.
The next few months as Col recovered were one of the best times of our lives. He had six months off work, we were poor but happy and he just got on with working on the house and enjoying our lifestyle! I'll scan a few photos later of finished bits of the cottage.

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Tizer » 11 Sep 2016, 09:46

It must have been especially tough having to face such things so early in your lives and just when you wanted to settle into a new life.

Your comment about phones reminds us all of how different it was then, not just without mobile phones but with no phone of our own at all! Just public phones or those of kind people who let you use theirs. Mrs Tiz and I were working 150 miles apart in the 1970s and I haven't forgotten how we had to agree a time to make a phone call. I had to walk through several streets to a phone box then wait if someone was already in it. We can probably all remember our parents having to make emergency calls from a neighbour's phone. And those times when a neighbour or someone from the local shop would come and pass on some bad news received on their phone.

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 11 Sep 2016, 10:34

Some neighbours along the row had a phone and they let me use that when they were about. I think my parents insisted on us having a phone put in not long afterwards...there was a delicate line between allowing them to help us out financially and offending Colin! We had a different experience of family life...I remember phoning Col's parents (who lived locally) from the neighbours house to let them know he had cancer. I was probably a bit blunt .... they never went to visit him.

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Stanley » 12 Sep 2016, 03:41

Wendy, in the olden days when Billy Harrison lost the contracts at West Marton Dairies which were our main work I was sat at home waiting for any work that came up. We had no phone. Billy was banned from driving and I had his car as well as the wagon at the farm. If he found work he sent me a telegram and I went to Thornton for instructions in his car...... In the end I started looking for return loads myself and went on the Tramp. We still didn't have a phone and I was away for days at a time. If I wanted news or a massage passing to Vera I rang the pub at the bottom of the lane..... People forget nowadays.......
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 16 Sep 2016, 15:00

The work continued and by the time these photos were taken at Xmas 1977 we had a small but cosy hand-built kitchen.....

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....with dining area (note the "beer- sphere" in pride of place behind my mother's head).

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I don't know when this next photo was taken, but probably summer 1978. Col made all new windows in the original style...we went to have a nosy round a couple of years ago and his windows were still going strong! The cupboards in the alcoves were home made too.

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I had moved the veggie garden to the front and planted a small orchard at the back.

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My parents bought us a Moggy! Col passed his driving test and the Reliant was left to rot behind the garage along with a Reliant van he had acquired from somewhere.

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The Moggy soon turned into a project of it's own as the subframe collapsed on the way to a friends wedding in Derbyshire. Colin built his own welder before sorting the car. I remember the lights in the row of cottages dipping when he used it!

By the end of 1978 Col had passed his HNC in Electronic Engineering and was thinking of looking for a new job, we were beginning to get restless and Scotland was drawing us......

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by LizG » 16 Sep 2016, 23:28

Wendy, I love this. Keep the story coming please.
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by chinatyke » 17 Sep 2016, 01:23

Wendy wrote:My parents bought us a Moggy!"
Didn't know that Moggy meant Morris, it was always a cat where I was brought up.

Good story. Isn't Col's work good? I wish he was over here so I could call on him to do some joinery work for me. He looks like a hippie in those pics.

Reminds me of when a lady from the local labour exchange rang me to say they had someone interested in a job vacancy that I'd notified to them. The lady said "he is a nice polite lad but he has one fault that is stopping him getting employment." "What's that?" I asked. "He has long hair." "No problem, I have long hair too." ... "But his is bright red." "Send him round to see me." He got the job!

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Stanley » 17 Sep 2016, 03:52

Another lovely post. Keep them coming.....
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Wendyf » 17 Sep 2016, 06:36

We always called it the Moggy Minor, perhaps it was just us China! We had 3 black moggies as well. :grin:

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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by Big Kev » 17 Sep 2016, 08:29

Wendyf wrote:We always called it the Moggy Minor, perhaps it was just us China! We had 3 black moggies as well. :grin:
My dad had a Moggy Minor (is the one in Wendy's pic a Moggy Traveller?), I can remember it being left hand drive and he bought the bits and converted it to right hand drive.
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Re: Renovations - the Early Years

Post by PanBiker » 17 Sep 2016, 08:47

When I started work we had two Mossie Thou vans, first car driving experience in them, if you exclude the tractor and a Land Rover when I was 11 or 12!
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