After 46 years of living in this house, September will be remembered as the month we ‘updated’ our cellar.
Down an old wooden ladder into a broken stone floor surrounded by earth underneath the house, we noticed a never-to-be-seen-before damp area, which needed to be dealt with. The cellar, besides storing Tony’s art, had become a dumping ground for things not thrown out.
A cellar company was hired to renovate. Before work was started, the cellar had to be cleared, during which we noticed a strong smell of gas. The emergency gas board were called out and, sure enough, we had a leak, which was from an old damaged pipe in the cellar. Our gas had to be cut off immediately and we were without gas for two days. We continued to clear the cellar but became more than concerned when we noticed smelly water all over the far end of the cellar floor. Sorting out the water took some doing: we contacted the water board, but they couldn’t come for anything up to 3 days. Worried that the cellar company wouldn’t be able to start work till the flooding was cleared, we rang them and they sent out someone who would be working on our job to have a look. He instantly worked out it was a main drain in the front yard of our house, which he undid and to our horror what we know as a 30 foot deep drain was full and overflowing with gunge and sewage. We organised having a jet wash company come to clear it. Unfortunately, after a good hour, they were unable to clear it – apparently we were told, like many houses in London, it was probably down to fat/hair/baby wipes and sanitary products. Furious at such an accusation I informed them we sieved everything that could go down our sinks and bath and there had never been a baby in the house and certainly no sanitary products have gone down the drain for a considerable time! While this discussion was going on the water board turned up. Out from his van stepped a middle-aged man with gold chain around his neck saying he hoped the job wasn’t going to take long as it was Friday and the weekend started here. He then said there was an extremely strong smell, to which we explained it was a sewer drain. He said it wasn’t a job for him he was CLEAN Water, we needed WASTE Water. He also wanted to know who owned this drain – was it us or was it shared by other houses. We had no idea. He got his laptop which showed a map of all the drains in our area…he told us it was private and was our responsibility. The first jet wash company were still here and explained they hadn’t been able to clear it – that wasn’t a problem, Waste Water would come and they would shift it. But we asked that if the drain belonged to us and not the water board surely they wouldn’t clear it…..No worries, he said, they would. Off everyone went and half an hour later WASTE Water arrived and without any questions they coned off the street and a giant plunger was used on our drain and it was instantly cleared. We were so surprised and said how the previous company hadn’t managed to shift it…They were not pleased at hearing this, realising straight away our drain was private and that they shouldn’t have touched it, we should have got another private company to come. Off they went, and we could breathe again.
Next episode was the cellar company starting and digging out over 60 black bags of soil. This followed by various wall and floor coverings of cement and plaster. Eventually the cellar was fit for new shelves to be bought and fitted & after a big sort through various household items went back down. BUT not the art………
We decided it was time to consider renting a ‘lock-up’ for all our art. We were lucky to find a place just a 15 minute walk away, at a very reasonable cost especially as we wanted to rent it for at least a year, if not forever. Various trips to the lock-up were our next activity, with still more shelves to be bought and more art to be stored.
Sadly, because of the upheaval of the cellar, I haven’t been able to go to any exhibitions this month. At the beginning of September I did manage to set up a large board in my studio and start an abstract idea, concentrating on gestural brush strokes of colour and was starting to think of all the influences of imagery I had seen on our trip away as well as all the gallery visits I had made….but this was brought to a sharp stop when the cellar took over.
Hopefully next month I will continue.