Slow Progress

Reading time 4 minutes


I have watched enough episodes of Grand Designs to know that when carrying out a major building project two or more of the following consequences are inevitable:

  1. Going over budget
  2. Going over schedule
  3. Windows being delayed or not fitting
  4. Having a baby
  5. Falling out with the builder


Whilst I am pleased to report we are still on good terms with the builder (just), and have no plans to start a family, I can confirm we are encountering issues one, two and three, with bells on. The budget spent, our coffers are now bare. Hence I am breaking my own rule and consulting spreadsheets out of office hours to identify how we might complete the job without landing ourselves in the workhouse. Meanwhile our windows are suspiciously absent, the first carpenter having done a runner and the second failing to “have the right materials in stock” for an extended period of time. This is Thanet after all. There are not a lot of trees.


Thunbergia alata 'African Sunset', Polegate Cottage, September 2016


Thanks to a generous bail-out package from TFG Senior we should be able to get the job done, provided we stick rigorously to the revised budget (not my forte, but I must try) and accept we may not have carpets or furniture for quite some time. Visitors over Christmas will be presented with slippers and an inflatable mattress. We’ll call it a new form of glamping, but with books and a proper bathroom. Three bathrooms in fact. Having survived 10 years with just one I’m planning to have three showers per day, one in each, cold, of course, to keep the gas bill down. The truth is I’ve been paying two of everything for the last 18 months – council tax, fuel bills and water rates – so outgoings might ease a little when two become one.

Him Indoors and I do not often agree, but on one matter we are both resolved – no more building and no garden opening in 2017. We need a break. Just time for us to enjoy the house and garden with family and friends and an opportunity to get out and about more. Guests beware, we have not ruled out decorating: you may just find a brush under your pillow and a can of paint on the bedside table.

Top of post: Passiflora x violacea ‘Victoria’

Middle of post: Thunbergia alata ‘African Sunset’

Bottom of post: the emptiest the greenhouse has been since the beginning of the year – doesn’t bode well for winter!


The greenhouse, Polegate Cottage, September 2016





Categories: Musings, Our Coastal Garden, Photography

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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33 comments On "Slow Progress"

  1. I’m going to cut straight to the: extreme greenhouse envy going on right here!

    On another note, I hope the house woes iron themselves out quickly πŸ™‚

  2. I feel for you Dan. Just hope it all comes together faster and way more easily from here on. And wow, three bathrooms, got to enjoy that!
    Looking forward to seeing lots of photos of the end result.
    And really, no garden opening next year? Mmm…not sure I believe that will stick.

    1. Sadly it must, as the NGS require one to register by mid September and we have royally let that deadline pass. I’m a tad sad, but not bereft. It will be nice not to have our whole summer revolve around opening day.

  3. Well, I thought you must have had a gin too many when you truly believed that you were going to be able to bring this project in on time and on budget. Am yet to hear of one person who has been able to achieve this(I bet they have stretched the truth if they say they have!) It must be exciting to be nearing the end and be in a position to start planning the new garden, even if it is from cuttings as the budget is totally blown. Really looking forward to seeing the end result and I will bring a sleeping bag and working ‘clobber’. All the best – love the greenhouse. Helen of Oz

      1. Yeah….I will be booking my fare in the next couple of weeks! I will pack paintbrush, sugar soap, and sleeping bag. PromiseπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

  4. It’s astounding how getting building work and few jobs done, starts to escalate to other problems. I’ve just had my kitchen refitted, garage roof re-felted, and having a few windows replaced. So far, in addition, he found the toilet waste pipe was leaking (yuk) onto the garage roof, we’ve had to replace the garage door, and replace the facias and guttering. Now, our builder has gone on holiday. Thankfully, we are on good terms with him, so far. I’ve a list of things he needs to ‘finish off.’ It’s an interesting relationship, keeping them happy, but also being firm when something isn’t quite right.
    Hope your building work gets completed soon. I’m sure it will look fantastic once it’s all done and will be worth it.

    1. I hope so. Yes, I agree with you that striking the right balance with builders is much harder than one might imagine. I’ve found them a lot more sensitive than I expected, and not inclined to take questioning very kindly. Sometimes I have to remind myself who the customer is! Never mind, it’s all part of the game I suppose.

  5. Oh Dan, I feel your pain…those of us who have ‘built’ in some form know how fraught with risk it is…but you have endured with grace and I am assured it will be worth it and you both will sit back and enjoy your enhanced space soon. Enjoy your break but please please keep blogging.

  6. Ouch. Being so far distant, it’s really not fair to tell you I’m a top notch painter, is it? I can even “cut in” edges freehand. No need to be stingy with advice, though. On a June tour of Cothay Manor (Somerset), I heard the chatelaine lives by β€œthrifty till fifty and then spend till the end.” Sounds like a good plan to me.

  7. Oh, Dan, I know how almost impossible it is to combine building work with keeping a beautiful garden like yours up to scratch, and, what a brilliant job you’ve done this year. Then add the hurly-burly of opening a garden …well, it can get a bit much. Don’t blame you for taking a baby step back next year to recoup, relax and enjoy the fab spaces you’ve created.

    1. Thanks Kate. Having kept the builders firmly out of the ‘main’ garden I am shortly going to have to let them in to complete the knock through. I am compiling a list of rules for them to ignore, including smoking, tipping plaster slurry over my plants (they’ve done a good job of this next door) and planting their plastic coffee stirrers in my pots. Heathens πŸ˜‰

  8. Good luck with the building work – am steadily working my way through your posts, which are delightful, particularly to someone who has no garden but really, really wants one. Also liked that my search for dahlia April Heather brought up your site in the top 3 results…

  9. So sorry about the double bubble on the council tax; that’s gotta hurt. You may be happier in the long run if you don’t furnish right away…I’m on my 6th (7th? i’ve lost track) house in 20 years and I’ve discovered that any and all new furnishing or improvement decisions I make in the first year after moving turn out to be disastrous. I don’t know if it is the stress of the move, or that my eye has to “dial in” before I can make intelligent decisions. Gardens take me even longer. As empty greenhouses go, incidentally, yours is awfully lush.

    1. Funnily enough I have let quite a few potential furniture purchases pass me by recently, firstly because I shouldn’t really be spending money on furniture and secondly because I need to get a feel for the spaces before I start filling them up. Only draw-back is that access to the first floor is very limited so larger things might be better moved in before the windows are fitted.

  10. The cost spiral is a hard but seemingly inevitable thing. There are unforeseen problems, rising prices and diminishing resources and then the “as we’re taking that wall down anyway, shall we just…” But your approach is the one we took. Get the shell up, the cushions can follow in the fullness of time.

  11. I can understand how difficult it is to keep a garden going and building work at the same time. I know most people haven’t really thought about it before, but sometimes artificial grass can be a huge help, as it requires no mowing and looks good all year round. You can still grow a range of plants and borders etc, but artificial grass is self maintaining; it requires no cutting, the colour remains vibrant and the grass blades are the perfect length.

    1. Thanks Cara. I can cope with artificial grass in public places and other people’s gardens but I don’t think I could bring myself to feature it in my own garden. To start with the spaces are too small and I know I’d consider it a cop-out even if it were labour saving. However I agree it’s come on in leaps and bounds and can look very realistic, so is great for those with kids who like to play sport or those that are not interested in mowing!

  12. Plants are gorgeous. πŸ™‚ I don’t do window construction or installation, but I paint like a professional. I’ve actually done an entire house by myself, and when we put it on the market, the first person who saw it bought it. Our furniture was in one state and I was living in another so I understand the bare essentials. But, the place looked so good even with patio furniture for the dining room, it still sold. I’m back from Ireland, so I’m free to visit. πŸ™‚

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