“Home is wherever I’m with you”

It’s happened.

After 8 months in a caravan, 1 long weekend wrestling with boxes and several hours of arranging, re-arranging and adjusting, we are finally in our brand new house. Thistledown is once again a house of brick and stands proudly in its entirity, filled with all our stuff!

Before we move on to our finished product, here’s a little bit about what’s been going on over the past few weeks…

Here is the moment of truth when the hot tub ascended onto the balcony. A bit of a nail biting moment, to say the least!

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And of course our trusty palm tree had to go up too!

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There have been lots of finishing touches happening over the past month, from outside paving, to installation of very high tech Apple TV and music system (which we are all mostly clueless as to how to use)

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But now we are in, so here are the photos (I know that’s what your all waiting to see, you nosey lot!) Obviously there are still pieces of furniture that need buying to complete rooms, and finishing touches are still missing in places, but overall we are just extremely pleased to be in our lovely new home.

Here’s the kitchen – we got the green bar stools to break up the white in the room. Were really pleased with the colour it brings to the kitchen. It’s all very high tech in here – we have a Neff cooker thing that uses magnets to heat the saucepans, iPads controlling the TV and music system and a microwave with 6 different settings. Who’d have thought?! All a bit of a learning curve.

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Here’s Mum and Dad’s bedroom complete with walk in wardrobe and upper ensuite. One of the best things about moving in has been waking up to the stunning views and being able to see them from our beds through the balcony doors. It’s an absolute pleasure to be surrounded by natural beauty.

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And here’s my room. I am so in love with it I don’t ever want to leave! Mum and I had so much fun designing it and it’s everything I wanted it to be – light, feminine and luxurious! And there’s so much room for activities!

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Although unpacking endless amounts of boxes has been tiring, it does have its upsides. I was able to get all my favourite books out again. Best thing ever! (This is only a very small sample of my books by the way. The rest are on my tall bookcase by my door)

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The lounge and dining room area are working really well. Dare I say it, I am looking forward to winter when we can use our log burner and curl up watching endless amounts of films.

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Here’s some general areas (hall, staircase, spare room)

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Milo found the move a bit stressful and was never far from our ankles throughout. He’s a sensitive soul. However, he has now settled in to his new surroundings and has continued with his role in the family as “lazy dog that sleeps all day”.

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Despite his laziness, he has begun the huge task of leaving his scent everywhere by rubbing himself all over floor surfaces and furniture.

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One of Milo’s fave things to do is to survey his land. He sits and stares all day, scaring away squirrels/foxes/children/Girl Scouts. And he loves to sit and watch Dad working away in the garden. He still hasn’t quite figured out why dad chases that big bit of machinery up and down the garden, but each to their own!

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It’s fair to say this has been a very testing process, especially for my Dad who has worked super hard to get this house ready as quickly as possible for us.

Here are the boots that built our house. They have well and truly had it!

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Last Sunday we had our very first visitors and these happened to be pretty special visitors indeed. Around 20 Columbians piled into our house to have a look around. These people were of course Natasha’s family – it was a pleasure to meet them and although the language barrier prevented us from having any proper conversation, it was clear that they are a lovely bunch of people. We can’t wait to visit them in Columbia in the future!

These photos are curtesy of Lyn & Pete – hope you don’t mind!

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It has been one heck of a journey and a crazy 8 months in the caravan. There’s no doubt that we have grown closer together as a family owing to the build of our new home. It has been a pleasure sharing our adventures with you through the blog, and I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the Withrington Build.

Here’s me signing off with a song on my uke. It’s a cover of ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

“Home. Let me come home. Home is wherever I’m with you”

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So heres to our new house and to many happy hot tubbing evenings!

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Oh, and Milo says bye. For now anyways…

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New Year, New House.

First of all, a big, fat Happy New Year from myself, Milo and the rest of the family!

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Spending Christmas Day round Scott and Tash’s gave us a taste of the luxuries of living in a house once again – brick walls, central heating and space, space, SPACE! Not long now and we will once again have these beautiful amenities in our lives. Dad took the shortest of breaks over Christmas and then the hard work continued. All the walls have been plastered throughout the house and the difficult decision of choosing paint colours has begun.

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Milo found the stilt walking plasterer a bit of a shock, and declared him an enemy. There was a lot of barking and pacing around the caravan that day. Milo doesn’t like tall people. This is part of a very long list of things Milo doesn’t like:
Umbrellas, foxes, thunder, people on bikes, people with hats, people sitting in his space on the sofa.…The list is endless.

Once the plastering dried out, the painting could begin! I have chosen blue for my feature wall, and Mum has chosen grey for their bedroom. The decorators are very quickly making their way round the whole house. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy who painted the whole utility room only for Mum to come in and say “mmmmm this looks too lavender. I think we’ll go with a different colour, the nutmeg white” – poor guy!

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With all this paint around, Milo felt it was super important to keep his beautiful fur coat clean, so he’s invested in some overalls. This way, he doesn’t get too dirty and he doesn’t have to bath quite as often. He could have gone for the blue suit, but Milo thought the red brings out his deep brown eyes. He also thinks it’s quite slimming. So win, win all round!

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As well as the painting, the floor has also been laid and concreted now. Scott popped round to help out on this one – the house build really is a family affair!

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The really exciting thing is that all ensuits have now been tiled! I have chosen beautiful large white tiles, with a feature strip of shimmery white that remind me of fish scales. Mum and Dad have gone for grey tiles in their rooftop bathroom. The photo of theirs isn’t great as the tilers were still in doing their ‘thang’ so I didn’t want to interrupt. The tiles at the bottom are the ones were using for the downstairs toilet.

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Mum and I have been out buying various things for the house which is great fun. Shopping is what we do best after all! Here’s a collection of things I’ve bought for my room. I’m very much enjoying playing the role of interior designer. Fun, fun fun.

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So that's where we're at right now! It takes a few weeks for the house to dry out after all the plastering and painting, but we are on a mission to keep things rolling. The hot tub has arrived, the second fix will start in a few weeks and the fireplace is being fitted next week. It’s all go, go go! Dad and Milo are very tired from all the work. I find them sleeping everywhere I go.

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Mum, Dad and Milo have been for a long walk today. The wind doesn’t agree with Milo’s face. His ‘Tash blew wild the whole walk. This didn’t help with Milo’s ongoing plan to make friends – the other doggies thought he was funny looking.

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Oh, and by the way, Milo wanted me to let you all know – he’s had a haircut. He saw this new look in a magazine and thought he’d go for it. Apparently it’s all the rage in Paris. We miss his shaggy coat though. He looks less like a gorilla now and more like a meerkat. Mum calls him her pretty little lamb. Bless him.

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Just to finish this post, the whole Withrington clan would like to wish our friend Mick Sepple a speedy recovery – we hope you are feeling better very soon.

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There’s No Place Like Home

It’s Christmas. The decorations are up in the caravan, the presents are wrapped and we have windows. Life is good. Not many people can say they’re having a house custom built for Christmas. That’s a pretty epic present.

So let me update you with the latest news. The caravan is now one person lighter – that’s right, my big old brother has got his own place now and has jumped ship. Over the past six months he’s been doing up a house for himself and his girlfriend (with the help of dad and a troop of workers) and on the 23rd November they moved into their own home.

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This is great news! Not only because they have a beautiful new home, but it means that I have now moved into Scott’s old room in the caravan which sports a giant double bed. I now don’t go to sleep in fear of rolling out the bed if I move an inch. The double bed also has an electric blanket which makes it incredibly difficult to get up for work in the morning because it’s so toasty. We’ve now converted my old room in the caravan into a dressing room/hair and make up salon. There’s so much room for activities!

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House wise, we now have all windows and glass in. My window for my room was a bit delayed and as you can see below, was the only one not fitted. When I asked Dad why this was, he told me that my rent had to go up before I earn it. Ha ha ha… They are now all fitted now, without the rising of any rent, thank goodness! The windows are cream sash, and are in keeping with the traditional style we’re going for.

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The double story feature window, the balcony doors and the bi-fold doors are all now installed. This is in contrast to the front, giving the back a modern twist. As you can see from below, Milo was with us on this photo taking tour. He insisted on wearing his Christmas jumper for the shoot, despite the fact that we told him he should save it for special occasions. He just can’t get enough of it!

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As well as this, the stairs from my parents bedroom up to their ensuite are now in. Milo is particularly pleased about this because he despises being carried up and down ladders – he is distinctly afraid of heights. However, the main staircase isn’t due to be installed until the very last minute to avoid being damaged. So he will have to cope with that for a little while longer yet.

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Milo has asked me to ask you guys if you think his Christmas jumper makes him look porky? He insists that it is only his fur coat, and certainly has nothing to do with all the gourmet meals Mums been giving him.

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One of the main features of the house, the roof lantern in the lounge, is now fitted. Much of the house has now also been dry lined with plasterboard which gives a really good idea of how the rooms will look finished.

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This is the technical hub of the house. I feel sorry for the poor guy who I’ve seen spending a rather long time sorting all these wires out. A job not for the faint hearted!

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The balcony is calling for me and Milo to spend long sunny days upon it, me sipping juice and catching a tan, Milo munching on gravy bones and barking at birds. It’s hard to see in the photos with the cold wet weather, but I can assure you that this will be my most favourite place in the house.

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So it is all going rather smoothly and looking really great. However, there's still plenty to do inside and outside. Here's the piping of the rain water being fitted. And here's the front driveway which still has plenty of work to be done.

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The fitting of the inside has already begun and will carry on for a good two months. The caravan has continued to be cosy and comfy, so no complaints there. Milo’s favourite days are when both Dad and Trev are working on site, and then him and Ruby can hang out together in the caravan wrestling and comparing paw size.

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After Christmas we are into the FINAL COUNTDOWN. Only about 2 months to go and we’ll once again be house dwellers. Next blog update I’ll hopefully be able to show some photos of the inside decor. So Seasons Greetings from Thistledown and a very Happy New Year.

Oh, and Milo says Merry Christmas too. He wishes he was a reindeer

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A Mans Home is his Castle

Our house has two floors, one chimney and most importantly – a roof. After a manic few weeks of willing the roof to be completed before too much rain gets into our lovely house, it is on! All tiled and looking lovely. I think that this officially makes it a house now. Hurrah.

It’s only looking back at my last post that I realise how much has changed since I last wrote. Living on site means there are constant changes to our surroundings everyday, and sometimes it is quite difficult to keep up with it all. So here’s some photos to give you up an update…

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As you can see above, the roof is on and the top windows in the dormers have been installed. The triangular middle section, the peak (you can see more closely below) will eventually be completely glass. This is where the staircase, which spans two floors, will come up. It makes a beautiful centre piece for the house and really brings the whole design together. Below you can see the view from inside through this central glass ‘peak’.

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The rendering (the cream bit around the windows!) has now been finished, giving us the first signs of a ‘finished house’. Here are a few photos of the front of the house. Unfortunately, it is difficult to capture this as I can’t get far enough back to take a full scale photo (the fence is in the way). I am trying to get my hands on one of those snazzy lenses that allows you to fit loads into one picture, but until then, these photos will have to do. They give a quite good idea of how the front is progressing…

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Today we’ve been having a good old clean up outside and Milo is the first to help, with bundles of enthusiasm. Here he is overseeing the sweeping up with Mum, and checking Dad has put the correct materials in the wheelbarrow. And of course, health and safety is very important for Milo…

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Last time I posted, I explained about Milo’s distress when we all go up the ladder to the first and second floor. Well today, he was lucky enough to make his first trip up the ladder. He had a good old explore, checking out the best places for him to take his 8 hour naps during the day.

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After hours and hours of outside fun today, he is now curled up beside me taking a nice long nap and resting his paws. He’s actually snoring too. Here’s some interior photos of the first and second floor. These first one is taken in Mum and Dad’s room showing my room in the background. The second shows where my ensuite sits at the front of the house. The last photo is where my double doors will lead out onto my balcony. I know, lucky me! I’m going to have a cute little table and chairs out there too – It will be as though I’m in some sort of French film. I’ll sit out there in the summer writing love letters and drinking white wine. It will be divine!

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These next few photos are of the interior of the second floor. This consists of my parents ensuite (which is accessed by stairs from their bedroom) and the guest bedroom and bathroom. It’s actually a really sweet space with its sloping ceilings and the little windows in the dormas. The last photo shows the top point of the ‘peak’ which can be seen from the back of the house.

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So there you have it. Our home is officially up. The scaffolding will now come down each floor, finishing the outside. Then all the work inside begins – fleshing out the skeleton with electricals, plumbing and all the lovely gadgets that will accompany the house. (Rumour has it our house is going to be completely controlled by iPads… This is worrying seeing as much finds it difficult to turn on the tv with a single remote!)

Tune in next time to see the finished look of the exterior and a glimpse of the inside coming together!

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Brick by brick by brick by brick

Firstly, I apologise for the ridiculously long time between posts. I admit, I am an infrequent blogger which makes me a terrible person. In my defence though, it has been a busy couple of weeks; graduating (hurrah!), new job (I’m no longer a student bum!) and hours of grooming matts out of Milos fur have kept me very busy (More about that later).

The exciting thing is that Thistledown now stands very proudly and almost in her entirety on the space outside our caravan. She is still only a brick skeleton, but every morning as we step outside she is a constant reminder that we will have a house to live in in a few months time. She is beautiful, solid and grand, in a modest sort of way, surrounded by natural beauty.

So the last time we left off, the downstairs walls were in and we were waiting for the next set of scaffolding to keep building up and up. We now have our upstairs floor and walls – I can even wander round my bedroom if I dare brave the terrifying journey up the ladder. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of our progress…

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So this is the day the steels arrived and were put in place, giving our house the strength it needs to uphold the first floor (upstairs). Two steels are also in place to take the weight of the hot tub which will sit on the balcony.

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Dad putting the steels in place…

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Once the steels went in, the first floor (upstairs) bricking up could start. The upstairs is comprised of my room and ensuite, my parents room and walk-in wardrobe and the large balcony that runs along the back of the house. It’s actually been discovered that my room is slightly larger than my parents (score!) – not quite sure how that one worked out. I must be the favourite!

Here’s my first trip up the ladder to the second floor…

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On our visit up the ladder to the upstairs rooms, Milo was obviously left behind. Milo’s lack of opposable thumbs makes it impossible for him to climb a ladder. He went a bit crazy with panic because he couldn’t reach us upstairs. In this state of worry he jumped up onto the window sill (which is quite far from the ground) and balanced on the sill trying to get to us. He barked and barked. If he spoke English, I imagine he’d be saying something like “HEY GUYS. GET DOWN FROM THERE. IT’S REALLY HIGH UP AND YOU MIGHT FALL.”

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The wooden area at the front with the criss cross pattern is the balcony area. And the hole that can be seen is where a large sky light will be placed which will let floods of natural light into the lounge.

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Here’s a short video that gives you a little tour of the downstairs…

On this particular day, we’d just been for a rather muddy walk in the woods. Milo then decided to roll in sawdust – in the picture below he looks quite happy with himself. As mentioned earlier, Milo’s adult fur coat has started to grow through now and it’s becoming impossible to keep him matt-free. Every time we take him to the groomers we are frowned upon despite the fact we attempt to brush him daily. We desperately try to explain that he’s a farmers dog, a builders dog! He spends most days rolling around in mud and wet grass, of course he’s going to be a little rough round the edges! Luckily Dad has installed a Milo size bath in the garage to try and keep him smelling like flowers.

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Not only is the first floor (upstairs) in, but its now possible to clamber up the ladder to the 2nd floor which will be in the roof space. This will hold the spare bedroom and ensuite, and my parents ensuite. We took a trip up there today, and I must say that I did rather well for someone that has a little fear of heights! From up there we were able to get a taste of Thistledown’s best views.

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So here’s what we have – the roof arrives tomorrow, and once the flooring goes down on the second floor the roof will be put in place. We will then have the shell of the house. Next to come will be the windows and doors. I can’t believe how quickly the past couple of months have gone. Before we know it we’ll be having Christmas in the caravan, awaiting the final stages of the house.

It’s funny how quickly we as humans adapt to our surroundings. I don’t think twice about squeezing onto the one, tiny sofa with my mum and dad to watch tv. I don’t jump anymore when my door crashes into my parents door as we both try to leave our miniature cupboard bedrooms. I certainly don’t think twice about trundling across the driveway in a only a towel to take a shower. I can’t imagine how it’s going to feel living in a house again – all that space! We won’t know what to do with ourselves!

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It really has been such a satisfying process so far. Living in the caravan has enabled us to witness a steady progression and transformation of our home-to-be. Despite not lifting a brick, I feel involved in the process of creating a house, which is exciting to say the least.

The next time you see a photo of Thistledown she’ll be watertight and looking sturdier than ever. And hopefully Milo will look a little tidier…

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Walls, walls and more walls

I am pleased to announce that Thistledown has walls – exterior and interior first floor walls, to be precise! The walls seemed to spring up overnight; one day there wasn’t any, the next there was. It all happened so quickly.This probably had something to do with the big team of workers my Dad roped in to work on the Bank Holiday Monday. By the time I returned that day the walls had begun to take shape, and by the end of the following day the walls were up.

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Below you can see the space where our lovely front door will go. In the bigger picture, you can make out where the back door will lead into the utility room. “Back door…” I hear you say? Yes, our back door appears to have ended up at the front of the house. Don’t ask me why. When I took this up with Mum and Dad they simply laughed. I cannot see the logic in it myself!

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We can now wander around the first floor of the house – Mum’s guided tours are a tad more exciting and people don’t have to use their imaginations quite so much. One of the details that I was happy to see was the open plan nature of the downstairs. The kitchen, the lounge and the dining room are completely open plan giving a spacious feel to the downstairs. The fireplace (as can be seen below) has been built in the dining room on this build, which along with the open plan feature, will push us to make use of the dining room space more.

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So this is where we are at now – the downstairs walls have been built, and the second height of scaffolding has gone in for the next level. Now we are seeing the building materialise, it seems a lot larger than the plans had led me to believe. As well as the large open plan kitchen/dining room/ lounge space, the utility room is huge. There is talk of putting in a large Milo cupboard for all his doggy things (bow tie, collars, comb, toys and of course his treats!) – what a lucky doggy! His gone from one drawer in the caravan, to a whole doggy wardrobe in the house! Here are some photos of the second lot of scaffolding, and Milo posing ever so nicely…

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One of the central features that I haven’t mentioned yet is the use of glass at the back of the house. The whole of the back will be bi-fold doors, and there will be a sky light in the lounge area, and panels of glass in the kitchen. This should give a light and open feel to the house, and enable us to appreciate the wonderful views outside. If you look at the photo below, the spaces that have been left give an idea of where all the glass will be going…

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The Great Flood…
So many of my readers are well aware, but for those who aren’t, on Saturday 24th we saw one months rain fall in a matter of four to six hours. This caused some of the worst localised flooding in years – Hockley and Southend were the worst hit areas. Thistledown sits right at the end of an unmade road, and the road slopes down towards us. So on Saturday afternoon, as I sat in my comfortable mobile home, I watched as a river tore down our road and into our driveway. Luckily, our caravan sits up quite high on its bricks, otherwise I feared that we may float off into the distance, renaming our caravan The Arc, and collecting animals as we go. Actually, that sounds like quite good fun.

One side of our plot transformed into a river which completely submerged our garden in a matter of hours. The gazebo, or as we liked to call it ‘Pam’s Caravan Cafe’ collapsed after the first few hours of rain. This was a sad day for us all!

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Since moving down here, I’ve turned into quite a country lass! I’ve begun growing my own vegetables and herbs, and this week I made use of our very own plum tree in the garden. Mum and I picked some plums from the garden and I proceeded to turn it into a yummy Plum and Ameretto Crumble. It was delicious.

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Talking of The Great Outside, the farmers have begun to harvest the crop around our plot. It was quite a strange one wandering outside and seeing this monster parked up there. As you can imagine, Milo wasn’t particularly pleased. In his eyes, a large unsightly creature was trespassing on his land. He proceeded to bark at it for a good amount of time before realising that the thing seemed to be quite calm and friendly, and perhaps they could be friends.

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So one last thing. I understand this is a ridiculously long blog post – I apologise, and promise I’ll write more frequently instead of saving up all these things to say.

Me and Mum visited the bathroom place this week to have a browse. And just as we stepped through the door, we saw the most beautiful sink unit known to man. (I know it seems rather strange to be so excited about a sink unit, but honestly, it was rather pretty). So the style I’m going for in my room is French/shabby chic/Laura Ashley-esq. And this is the sink unit we saw…

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Not only was it beautiful, but it was in the sale – reduced from £600 and something to £200 and something – BARGAIN! Mum and I love a good deal, as many of you may know 😉 We explained to the bathroom lady about the style we were looking for and she seemed just as excited as us. She drew out the bathroom plan, and she suggested an ottoman style seating area in front of the sash window and, wait for it, a CHANDELIERto complete the shabby/chic style. Dad wasn’t sold on the idea (obviously) but I think it sounds just delightful. Please comment below YAY or NAY for the chandelier idea. I’d like to see what you all think!

So now I’m going to stop writing, this is getting ridiculous. If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post you deserve a medal. The next post will be on the second floor of the house, so keep your eyes peeled!

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Thistledown rises from the ashes

Glancing out the window one morning two weeks ago I was pleased to see that Thistledown was beginning to rise from the ashes. Our new house has begun to materialise in the pancake-flattened space that was left by the demolition team, giving us the first hints of what our new house will be like.

Over the two weeks since the last post, the foundations have been dug and filled with concrete, the bricking up has started and the concrete floor has gone down. Rather a lot, I hear you say? Yes, my Daddy’s been busy. We now have a footprint of the house – Mum has already started giving guiding tours to visitors, despite the fact that there aren’t any walls.

First to happen was the trenching, followed by the concreting.

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And then the other day when I returned from work, I pulled onto the driveway and was met with the sight of towering piles of bricks. And thats when it began to sink in – this is going to be our house, the one we’ve been waiting to build for so long! The bricking up took place over the next couple of days, finally revealing the outline of our new home.

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Next to happen was the concrete floor. Each individual slab had to be laid one by one. This is no small job, and so Dad drafted in some unruly oiks from the pub on Friday night to help him out. On Saturday morning, the team queued up for their bacon sandwiches from Mums very own caravan cafe (Brian couldn’t work on an empty stomach) and then they completed the laying of the concrete floor.

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Everybody’s been working super hard to get this house up on its legs before the winter rolls in. The fields around us have changed from their beautiful purple colour to a golden brown, giving us a constant reminder of the autumn that will soon be upon us. As I sit writing this right now, the rain is lashing down upon our caravan roof making me feel as though I am back on a camping trip in Mersea all over again; those were the days.

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So here’s what we have right now – the base of our house.

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One little furry guy who is enjoying the house build just a little too much is Milo. He loves spending so much time outside and he sits and watches the machinery all day. If he was a human child, he would 100% want to be a builder when he grows up – he’s absolutely fascinated by the work. He’s especially pleased that there’s always a big old pile of sand to go and lay in.

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Caravan update: We are comfortable and happy in our little mobile home – in fact we might leave Mum in here when the house is done as she seems so content! Mum made a brilliant observation about our tiny bedrooms – it’s like we’re all living in wardrobes. When you close the wooden doors to the bedrooms, the hollowness of the caravan makes the sound of the closing of a wardrobe. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I could think if far worst places to live!

Night times are proving a little bit trying. For one, if anyone rolls over in their bed, the whole caravan groans and creaks. It doesn’t matter how light the person is, it sounds as though there is a twenty stone man rolling around in the bed next to you. Due to the paper walls it feels as though we are all in the same room constantly. There is no such thing as a private conversation in the caravan. And on top of this, Milo is finding it hard to sleep with Mr Fox creeping round the caravan after hours and waking him up with foxy-noises. Naturally, Milo feels the need to alert us at 3 o’clock in the morning of Mr Fox’s presence.

Apart from this, everything is a-okay. Mum’s been out to buy electric heaters for each room, and electric blankets for our beds. There’s talk of an awning going up and some kind of blocking underneath the caravan to prevent the wind whistling under there and giving us a chill. I feel we are preparing for the winter like ants with their food store, or squirrels with their nuts.

Tune in for the next instalment – the outer shell. The outer walls of the house will begin to go up quite quickly now, so stay tuned for photos and updates of the Withrington House Build!

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