Our shower caught fire! Total DIY bathroom renovation

We renovated our whole bathroom including doing the plumbing. Here’s what we did and how we did it, so you too can DIY renovate your bathroom!

Navigation:

Introduction

Complications

Removal of the shower enclosure

Removing two layers of tiles

Removing the plastic strip from enclosure

Removing the damaged wall

Change of plans

Removing the shower base

Putting a cupboard above the stairs

Repairing the damaged wall

Installing a new shower

Replacing a tiny bath with a bigger one

Redefining the bathroom

Making an upcycled X-shaped towel store

Flooring

Result

What I learned

Introduction

At our first house, we discovered a significant issue with the bathroom. The people who had the house before we did were experts at DIY bodge jobs. We found this out when we replaced the shower after it caught fire while I was getting ready for work one morning.

I kid you not, the shower LITERALLY caught fire. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that situation but there’s this terrifying moment of “Whaaa?? There’s water pouring out of something that’s on fire?!” It was like a bad dream. It was also the first day of my new job, barely four weeks after my mother died (and not long after I started this blog) in the dark ages of 2015.

When it stopped burning, I didn’t know if we needed to call a plumber or an electrician. We went with an electrician. He cut the wire to the shower from the fuse box to make it safe. We were left in the difficult situation of having no money to fix this. Add to that, we found out the bathtub was actually child size and my husband looked like a beached whale in it. He is not overweight. With no functioning bathroom, I did what any sensible person would, and attempted to get three quotes from plumbers.

I got a quote from a plumber and he reckoned £2500 to do it.

I tried to get another quote from a second plumber but he never even turned up so that was a waste of time. A third plumber came and looked at the bathroom then didn’t bother emailing us the quote. So that was our three quotes.

Stumped (and with no shower) we knew we had to do something, so we took on the huge job of doing a DIY bathroom renovation.

The entire shower enclosure was in a bad state, the white plastic parts were stained orange from years of iron-rich water being poured on it. The shower tray was chipped, revealing dark patches, and also stained. There was disgusting black mold underneath the shower enclosure door and the whole unit was very dated and falling apart with cracked plastic. The wood around the shower tray had gone rotten in places and the floor-to-ceiling plain white square tiles looked like they belonged in a prison.

We had known about some of these issues when we bought the house, but we had put every penny into our deposit and couldn’t even afford a sofa for over a year after we moved in. So it wasn’t until the shower caught fire that we were able to give ourselves permission to do something about this (also, we were finally both working by this point, where we’d just had 18 months of one then the other of us getting short contracts, never at the same time as each other). Ahh… buying a house in your twenties. It’s an adventure.

We also weren’t happy with the lack of an airing cupboard (hot press in Ireland, linen closet in America) in our house. So I spent hours and hours looking online for inspiration, and jotting down ideas. After about a week of this, I started to get a coherent plan for how to completely renovate our bathroom space.

It took about two years for us to complete this project while we were working full-time. My husband did all the plumbing work (he is not a plumber). Here, finally, is a write-up of what we did.

We started out by measuring everything and drawing a plan of the existing bathroom. From this, we could see the space we had to work with and also what complications there might be.

Complications

We discovered several issues that were going to limit our bathroom renovation.

First, the wall to the right of the bath is not an original brick wall finished in wet plaster, it’s a plasterboard (drywall) one. These are more susceptible to damp permeating the outer layers in a bathroom.

Second, the sewage stack (the black square between the sink and toilet) was unmovable without paying a plumber. We had already had problems getting a plumber, so this had to stay where it was. That meant the bath couldn’t be placed anywhere else.

In my original idea for the bathroom, I’d hoped to get a larger bath (this one didn’t fit adults in it) or a double-width shower enclosure and put it in the space where there was currently a shower and a toilet. Due to the sewage stack we had to put the new bath where the old one was.

The third complication was the unusable space over the stairs, especially with the radiator hanging in front of it, because it rendered the space in front of it completely unusable, too, as that was where the door arc was. Bathrooms are steamy and have to have a door.

There was a floor to ceiling wall between that unusable space and the shower, and two very dated plywood cupboard doors on the front, creating what should have been an airing cupboard, but it was so high off the ground, and the radiator prevented you from standing in front of it, so no one could put anything at the back of the cavernous, flat first shelf, never mind getting anything on the second shelf! This was also where the shower wiring and off switch were situated. It was so much dead space!

The fourth complication was the wiring for the bathroom light. It ran from the switch beside the door to the light, which was partly above the bathtub. Building regs state the minimum distance between an electric light and a shower (this same building regulation also meant the way the old shower was installed was dangerous and caused the fire), and this meant we couldn’t put a shower over the bath due to fire safety.

The fifth complication, not clear in my diagram, was that this 1930s house had a sloping ceiling on all external walls. The wall where the original shower was, and the wall with the window by the toilet, were both external walls, so we had two feet of sloping ceiling around those walls, which reduced the height of the walls, limiting things like where to hang a shower curtain rail or the height of any shower enclosure or glass panel.

We thought these were all of the complicating factors when we planned our bathroom renovation. In reality, that was just the start of our problems. As work began, we realized the true extent of the issues we were dealing with.

Removal of the shower enclosure

The first task we needed to accomplish was to get rid of the entire old shower enclosure. Aside from being very old and damaged, it was really tiny, at 75cm square, and our original plan was to replace it with a more modern 90cm squared shower, with room for elbows.

The glass enclosure had plastic around the sides and this was attached to the wall then filled in with lots and lots of sealant. The internet said there would be nails to remove with the back of a claw hammer. This was not the case. We actually couldn’t figure out how this was attached because it was nothing like anything I could find a tutorial for on the Internet.

Taking it apart bit-by-bit, first, we removed the aluminium frame from around the top of the glass. With a crowbar we lifted the glass shower enclosure away from the wall and off the shower base. The sealant was really solid, so we used a kitchen knife to cut it away (a Stanley knife wasn’t long enough to reach) while applying pressure with the crowbar.

The glass was put in the back of my car and taken to the recycling centre. I hope it became ketchup bottles or something.

The plastic strip that held the glass to the wall was attached with screws, we finally learned once the glass was out. Unfortunately, we couldn’t remove this tall plastic strip from the wall because the previous owners had tiled over the sides of the plastic strip so it was impossible to remove until the tiles were off the wall.

Before tackling the shower base, the next job was to remove the tiles because they had also attached the tiles to the shower base using shower grout. Crazy, crazy people.

Removing two layers of tiles

This should have been a relatively simple job for a careful person with a chisel, hammer and some goggles. If the tiles had been put on properly. How does someone put tiles on wrong? Oh, boy, I’m glad you asked.

See, when they tiled the shower enclosure, there were already tiles there. Instead of removing these, as any sensible person would do, they tiled over them. There were two layers of tiles (which didn’t have edges in the same places) for us to remove.

That’s a cream tile beneath a white one.

Wait, I hear you say, tiles have a really smooth surface, they wouldn’t give a good surface to stick another tile to.

Yup. The previous owners of the house figured that out, too. But instead of thinking, “let’s just remove the old tiles” like sensible people, they used an almost-solid layer of tile grout to attach the second layer of tiles to the first.

Because of what they had done, we had to chip the top layer of tiles off the wall in tiny pieces that shattered and flew everywhere. This took us weeks because doing this at ceiling height is exhausting.

Once we had the top layer off, we started on the layer underneath. These were relatively easy, and had definitely been put in properly, with little blobs of tile grout behind them. However, removing them left us with a wall full of holes in the plaster where the plaster came off along with the grout. This is fairly normal for removing tiles.

Looking at the extreme damage, I thought we were going to have to admit defeat at this point and call in a plasterer to remove and replaster the entire wall.

It got even worse. The tiles on the left hand wall turned out to be on a fake plasterboard wall. When we removed the electric shower unit, we found a huge 8-inch hole behind it, where someone had ham-fistedly made the hole for the plumbing and electric wire. When we removed the tiles from this wall, we found out they hadn’t put in a waterproof membrane behind them. A waterproof membrane is essential to protect the plasterboard from water damage. The wooden joints holding up the single layer of drywall were black and completely rotten and the drywall was soaked so the paper on the outside had disintegrated.

Between the hole, the water damage and the rotten wooden frame, the wall was so bad, it had to come out. At this point, we were deeply worried about whether water had gotten down to the floor level, in case the floorboards needed replacing beneath the shower tray.

Unfortunately the only photo I have of this is a bit out of focus. I thought it was worth including anyway to show the extent of that hole in the wall. Where the wood touches the wall, it’s black and rotten. It’s also black in other places such as immediately to the right of the hole, and the plasterboard was badly damaged too.

We ultimately removed the entire wall on that side, floor-to-ceiling, even the part that was an enclosure for the top of the stairs.

Removing the plastic strip from enclosure

Now the tiles were gone, we could finally remove this plastic strip which had been quite a nuisance while trying to get the tiles out because it got in the way of the chisel.

It just unscrewed, which was a bit anticlimactic after all the work I’d done to excavate it from under the two layers of tiles, but I was happy to take the win.

Removing the damaged wall

When we finished removing the tiles from the left hand wall, we discovered that the tiles were attached straight to the plasterboard (no waterproof membrane down here, either) which meant the bottom half of the plaster wall came away with the tiles. The top half came away with careful application of a crowbar and once the plasterboard was gone, we could take out the wooden joints carefully. Finally, we had completely removed the wall. It hadn’t been on our original plan, but sometimes DIY is like that.

We were amazed when we discovered what was behind the wall.

Change of plans

See, we had thought that the reason this boxy enclosure next to the shower was taking up so much space in our bathroom was because it had thick joists behind it, holding up the house structurally. We were surprised to find out it was basically an empty space and that none of it was needed to protect the diagonal staircase ceiling.

When we found this, it inspired us to change our plans a bit, because we realized we had all this unused space.

We sat down and talked about what we might do with this space. First, I wondered about removing the boxy area completely, only, that would mean our radiator would need to be moved, and there was nowhere to move it to because the wall opposite it was a plasterboard DIY job, and given the quality of the work these clowns had done around the shower, I didn’t want to move the radiator and discover that wall was actually a portal to another dimension or something.

I had an idea to put a floor-to-ceiling cupboard in on the side of the space that went almost to floor level, but we decided not to because the access to the cupboard would be blocked by the shower enclosure, rendering it totally unusable.

All the same, I really wanted to use this awesome empty space we had found. It seemed insane to just put drywall back over it.

Removing the shower base

Next we had to remove the shower base, which was hard because it obviously had a drain attached at the bottom and we didn’t want to pour icky drainwater through the ceiling below. I didn’t know that shower bases are made of concrete covered in fibreglass (it makes sense, so it doesn’t move around when you stand in it, but I didn’t know).

This one was also surrounded by wooden skirting (which was partly rotten). We removed the wooden skirting with a crowbar and my husband eased out the shower tray, disconnecting its plumbing as he went.

When we removed the shower tray, we found this amazing newspaper article that dated the shower tray installation to September 14 1984!

Putting a cupboard above the stairs

I had this crazy idea that maybe we could cut a hole in the diagonal ceiling of the staircase and install a storage area that was fixed inside this big empty space, accessible from the stairs. I looked up houses with hidden storage but nothing was even vaguely close to what I wanted to do.

My husband understood what I was imagining, and he promptly measured and cut a perfect rectangle. He drilled a hole in one side then used a jigsaw to cut the rectangle.

This led to a hilarious but slightly embarrassing few days when we had a 2 foot square hole between the bathroom and the staircase while my husband sourced the wood and made the custom cupboard insert to put in the hole. Thankfully, none of our visitors at that time needed to use our loo!

what to do with dead space above the stairs

The view from the staircase :O

After the cupboard insert was made, however, the problem we had was the space was obstructed by the third diagonal piece of wood (in the centre of the last pic) and the cupboard couldn’t go in. We had planned to wiggle it in past the beam and use that beam as the centre of two cupboard doors, but alas it wasn’t to be.

The diagonal beams hadn’t looked very thick from the bathroom side, especially when compared with the horizontal and vertical beams, but when we looked more closely, we were concerned that the diagonal beams might be holding up the ceiling above our front door and supporting the wall above the hole we had cut. We didn’t want these to fall down but we really wanted our cupboard, so we did some careful structural work to make this happen.

My husband ensured the middle beam was still supportive by attaching the top and bottom of it to the two other wooden beams either side of the hole using horizontal pieces of wood. Once it was supported like this, he cut out the middle so we could get the cupboard in.

We put the cupboard in and anchored it to the thick beams. I sadly never took a photo of this because we shifted our focus to the rest of the bathroom almost immediately. I always thought we were going to finish it with some doors (or hide it behind a painting) but we decided to leave it open and then moved to China in 2017.

Repairing the ruined wall

To repair the ruined wall, I used spackle (Polyfilla, although I didn’t use that brand). I actually had a lot of fun filling the holes in. You have to do the deeper holes in thin layers of under 5mm of spackle at a time and leave them for about 12 hours, sand them flat, then add the next layer. Some of the holes took three or four layers to repair (I know they don’t look that deep in the photos, I was learning how to use my first-ever DSLR and I really struggled to show depth in these pictures). It took about two weeks to fill all the holes (bearing in mind I was doing other things, too, like going to work).

How to repair a damaged wall without replastering spackle on a wall polyfiller

Once all the holes were filled, the next job was to sand them flat with the rest of the wall. This is important so the paint or wallpaper has a smooth surface to adhere to, otherwise you will end up with lumps and bumps.

Then, we covered the wall with liner paper and painted it all. We didn’t want to paint dozens of coats (remember, this whole time we had no shower and an inadequate bath with no shower attachment) as this was where we were going to install the new shower. The previous owners had painted this room an obnoxious fluorescent yellow which was showing through the liner paper (as were the white patches of spackle, which are making the wall look lumpy in the picture below when it was actually smooth). We painted over everything with a cute lemon yellow.

repaired wall after tile removal DIY bathroom renovation

Installing a new shower

We decided for our new shower that one of the fully-enclosed units from Better Bathrooms would be best. It has glass panels on all the sides (except the doors) so there’s no need for tiling or other wall-work like plumbing. There were several reasons we chose one like this.

First, it was cheaper than buying all the components like tiles, shower enclosure etc. Second, it was going to save us a lot of time because I hadn’t tiled before and so it was going to take me a while to learn. My husband hadn’t tiled, either, but he was adamantly against doing it. Third, the self-contained shower unit would minimize the chance of water leaking into the house beams ever again, something I was now concerned about with a regular shower. Fourth, we wouldn’t need to work out how to hide the pipework going up to the shower control unit.

The fifth reason? The shower unit we had fallen in love with had an overhead drench head as well as a regular shower head and six body jets, as well as a thermostatic control. And it required no electricity, something I really liked to save money on our electric bill which had mysteriously been through the roof since we moved into this house until the moment the shower caught fire. We were paying double in electricity what we had paid at any of our old houses and this house was only half the size of our last place – a badly-insulated Victorian townhouse spread over three huge floors.

So we were very excited to get one of these. It cost £300, which was a lot less than the cost for the enclosure, shower tray, pipework, boxes of tiles, tile grout and electric shower unit if we had bought it all separately, even without using a professional tiler.

Our excitement sputtered a bit when it arrived in six ginormous and very heavy boxes. We hefted them up the stairs and read the instructions. Putting this shower together was possibly the hardest DIY job I have ever done.

After we put it together, the first time we used it, it leaked through the ceiling downstairs. It turned out that a normal amount of sealant was nowhere near enough to stop the water escaping and we had to put so many layers on, it started to look like the bottom joints of the shower enclosure had survived a collision with a Vaseline factory. It was still leaking. Arrgh.

At one point, we were catching the water in old margarine tubs and emptying them down the toilet after showering. We tried sealing it one more time and we were out of clear sealant, so we used white stuff this time. Guess what? White sealant is (for some bizarre reason) better than clear sealant. It stopped the water getting out and finally our shower was trouble free.

Replacing a tiny bath with a bigger one

The next job for our bathroom renovation was to remove the tiny old bath (in a stylish 80s cream colour) and replace it with a normal-sized bath. We had gone to five local bathroom showrooms and at every single one, I climbed into the baths I liked, to see whether they were big enough. We settled on a great model with the taps and drainage in the centre. It was 1700 long where our old one was 1200 long, so we had to take care that it would fit.

Removing the old bath while leaving the cream tiles in situ was less of a mission than we thought. My father-in-law came up one weekend and he and my husband took out the old bath tub and fixed the new one in place. We had used modern plastic pipes to plumb the shower unit in, so we decided to use these to do the bath, too. My father-in-law didn’t like this idea but my husband had researched all the options extensively beforehand so we went with it anyway and guess what? It was cheaper than copper, easier to work with, quieter when the pressure changed, and it caused no problems at all.

Re-defining the bathroom

The end of the new bath lined up precisely with the end of the big boxy area that covered the ceiling of the stairs. I wanted an airing cupboard (linen closet, hot press) and storage that wasn’t going to get damp when the bathroom was in use. It needed to not be in the bathroom. No one wants moldy bedding.

We decided to build a thin plywood wall at the end of the bath and cover it in vinyl to make it splashproof. We built another wall stretching to the ceiling where we had removed the damp, rotten wall. Between the two, we put a wooden lintel and above this, some frosted perspex to allow light to get to the new airing cupboard storage space which was also an atrium between the bathroom and the landing.

Beneath the perspex, we hung a thin folding door, which we found on sale for £20 at a local DIY store because one of the landlords of one of York’s many student rentals had ordered it then decided he didn’t want it. It was a custom size of 60cm which was exactly the width between the two new walls. We could have left it open without building a wall and effectively making our bathroom smaller but it was worth it for that extra storage space.

By doing this, we were able to remove the original bathroom door, maximising the storage space in this new area of the house.

My husband built shelves up the wall that was closest to the original bathroom doorway. There was 6 inches between the door frame and the wall, and beneath it, we put the laundry basket (for dirty clothes) and this wooden storage thingy his dad had made for us.

On the other side, above the big boxy area, we added a shelf at a height of 160cm. It didn’t come all the way to the front of the space, to make it hard for anything to get lost in there. It was made of wooden planks for air circulation.

Making an upcycled X-shaped towel store

Beneath that, using some MDF we had salvaged from an old shelving unit we had found under the stairs when we bought the house, we made an X-shaped towel store in which towels could be rolled up and stored. We took the sides off the storage unit to use as the main X-shaped part of the towel storage rack. There were four quadrants, and we used two for bath towels, one for hand towels and one for tea towels, so we could always find the right type of towel.

Before, we’d had the towels all folded flat and stacked on top of each other which meant playing a guessing game of unfolding towels and folding them up again to find the right size towel for any given thing.

Our new X-shaped towel store was efficient and it also meant we didn’t need to ever reach the back of that big cavernous space, because we could slide the towels in horizontally and pull them out from the front. I got the idea from some kind of supermarket magazine and between us, we reverse-engineered how to build our own, but I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

Here’s a drawing of how I designed it (imagine the grey things are towels sitting in an X-shaped rack). Wood sizes were length 50cm, width 80cm, depth 15mm (the depth of your wood is the exact same size the cut needs to be):

DIY how to make a towel rack X shaped

In front of the X-shaped towel store, we attached storage containers to the walls for cosmetics and we had a nice shelf made of more wooden slats. This was a great spot for mixing hair dyes which was really important to me at the time as this blog covered a lot of hair tutorials back in 2015 and I was Youtubing new hair videos every week as well.

Flooring

We used wood-effect vinyl flooring in the bathroom because it was waterproof and easy to clean, which is ideal in a bathroom. We cut it to size and nailed it down to the floor.

Result

So that was how we finished it all off and this was the incredible result:

DIY renovations bathroom shower enclosure how to completely replace a shower
DIY renovations bathroom bathtub how to completely replace a bath
Our airing cupboard bathroom storage. The X-shaped towel store is on the far left.

What I learned

Bathroom renovations are hard work but they are the perfect opportunity to learn new skills and a great way to save a lot of money. You don’t need to rely on professionals if you do your research.

Total cost: Under £500.

DISCLAIMER: Don’t DIY electrics, we got a professional to disconnect the dangerous old electric shower. Mama Adventure is not liable for any injuries or losses arising from your inability to fully research or learn skills prior to taking on a big project like this. Turn your water off before doing any plumbing task and check it is definitely off!

11 words British people don’t actually say.

This article is about the “British” words and phrases we don’t actually use in Britain, so if you’re planning a holiday to England, Scotland or any other part of Britain, and trying to learn some colloquialisms, scratch these from your list – the consequences of saying some of them can be a fist to the face (which, curiously, we tend not to call “fisticuffs”). This article has occasional use of the f-word etc.

This article about British words came about after an American blogger mentioned how if he ever came to the UK he’d be sure to tip a bob to the waiter. That was shortly followed up with someone (also American) commenting on a page on dialects with some sense of authority that British people said “sitting room” or “parlour” instead of “living room” or “den.” If you’re writing a British character for a book, these words will throw up a big red flag that kills suspension of disbelief for anyone British reading the book, and if you’re coming to Britain for a trip or travel, you will be mocked for using these words.

So here’s the words and phrases we just don’t say (or very, very rarely) in the UK:

1. British Accent – we rarely classify ourselves as “British” as opposed to our individual countries. For example, I’m English, my mother was Irish (which ISN’T part of the UK), my father was Jamaican (we say Afro-Caribbean not Afro-British, BTW), the man on my birth certificate was Scottish, my best friend at uni was Welsh. So we would start by saying “English accent” or “Scottish accent.” Then we’d get more specific, such as “Northern accent” for people from the north of England.

2. Bob – we call it money or cash, we use the word quid to mean pounds, or p (pronounced “pee”) to mean pence (multiple of penny). If you say “pennies” (multiple of penny) to anyone from the UK who speaks Polish, they will laugh at you because that’s how you pronounce the word “penis” in Polish.

3. Ta – Nowhere do people in the UK say “ta” for goodbye. That’s an Americanism you have imposed on us. “Ta ta” might be said by a posh elderly aunt (or a young lady with adorably misguided aspirations) from time to time, and “tara” (pronounced ter-rah with a long a at the end) is another word for goodbye, but we don’t say “ta” to greet someone’s departure. Ta is an informal way of saying “thank-you” in the North of England (as in, ‘ta very much’).

4. Cheero – Nobody’s said this since the second world war. Cheerio is sometimes used by older people, but again it’s dying out and it’s considered more old fashioned than roast beef. The last time I heard it was in the lyrics to a song in Oliver Twist, in the context “so long fare thee well, pip pip cheerio…” and we also don’t say “thee,” so it shouldn’t be considered an accurate representation of our modern language (it was made in the 1960s, after all).

5. Codswallop – Another old-fashioned term, we tend to say “bullshit” “bull” or “crap” (crap has three meanings – excrement, something that is really terrible, or something that is untrue). Our favourite, however, is “bollocks” when we want to call out something as untrue. The only time in living memory that a British person’s said codswallop was when Hagrid says it in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (we call it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, BTW) – and that’s set in 1991 (if you do the math from the gravestones etc this adds up).

6. On your bike (actually, it was always “on yer bike”) – Very dated to the 1980s. We tend to say “fuck off” these days or, if we’re being polite, “sod off” or “get lost.”

7. Fitty – this isn’t a word. I’ve lived in Britain for 29 years, I’ve travelled all over, I’ve voraciously devoured literature, and nobody has ever used this word in any context. It’s made up. Some people would say someone is “fit” meaning attractive (or “she’s well fit” or “he’s dead fit”), and there’s the very outdated and generally offensive word “totty” which again no-one has used for a very long time, but we just don’t have the word “fitty.” It even sounds made up. Referring to someone as “fitty” will probably have people wondering whether you think they’re epileptic. If they buy into fear-of-rape culture, they might even use this opportunity to make a scene.

8. Rumpy Pumpy – if you suggest having some ‘rumpy pumpy’ to any woman under 45, she will tell you to fuck off. AVOID! Nobody’s used this word since 1995, and even then it was only in an ironic sense. Nobody actually uses this word to describe sex that they have had or are going to have.

9. Sweet Fanny Adams – no, we say “fuck all” to mean the same thing. Nobody’s used “Fanny Adams” to mean “Fuck All” since World War II.

10. Toodle Pip – again, the only time this gets used is by people who are being ironic. It’s a joke. People are taking the piss when they say this.

11. Cack-handed – I got this claimed as “I’m not co-ordinated” from this page but actually it’s a derogatory term meaning left handed (the hand that you wipe your arse with if you’re right handed), from the days when schools were run by a certain type of nuns (and other pro-social psychopaths) who thought that left-handedness was a sign of the devil. There are plenty of British people out there who hate on lefties due to their subconscious cultural conditioning. Use it anywhere near a left-handed person and prepare to get bitch slapped. It’s as offensive to a left-handed person as the N-word is to most human beings.

12. Fisticuffs – another one from Oliver Twist, people tend to call a fight a “scrap” a “punch up” a “brawl” or a “fight.” Then they tend to call the police. Assault is a crime in Britain, and is defined as “any unwanted physical contact” but people still do it and the police are utterly arbitrary in whether they choose to enforce it or not, like most other things here. I know someone who got a criminal record for putting their hand on someone’s shoulder, and I know someone who got away with trying to kill their child after years of abuse. It varies.

Generally when looking at British words and phrases, when faced with the choice between a bigger or smaller word, we will use the smaller one. Water will always find it’s lowest level, and it’s the same with language – think about what the minimum is that you need to say to make yourself understood instead of trying to dress it up with loads of words or phrases that might be inaccurate. Communication is about understanding, and the only real rule of communication (at least, general communication, not specialized e.g. academia) is that if most people can’t understand you, you’re doing it wrong. I stated “most people” not “all” because you can’t please everyone and some people will just never understand you.

Doga: Dog Yoga for you and your dog

So I got this email today from someone who wondered if I would mind sharing this article about Doga.  I went to look up what doga is.  You probably guessed: It’s a portmanteau of “dog” and “yoga” so it’s yoga for dogs.  Or more specifically, for dogs and dog owners.

This article tells you all about it, and it really put a smile on my face.  I absolutely 100% guarantee it will make you giggle, and hey, if you have a dog, let me know if you’d try this!  I don’t have a dog, but I have 5 rabbits, and I could DEFINITELY see my older bunnies benefitting from pet yoga.  I’m not sure if rabbits would stay still long enough to get any benefit out of meditation though.

Here’s the article and infographic:  http://www.fix.com/blog/try-doing-doga-with-your-dog/

In other news, my shower is now one Z-joint away from being finished!!!!!!  Exciting times.  Then I just need to go on holiday and everything will be back to normal again.

A six week old beagle who was wandering around on wikipedia looking lost (I know I've used him before but he's so CUTE).
A six week old beagle who was wandering around on wikipedia looking lost (I know I’ve used him before but he’s so CUTE).

STILL not king…

1. We now have all the components to have an actual working shower in our bathroom.

2. Unfortunately it’s not done yet.

3. Our bath is full of paint.  This is also now on the walls (but only behind the shower).

4. Drilling through metal whilst standing in a 7 inch gap between a glass panel and a wall is really hard.

5. The rabbits have given up trying to “help”

6. We are supposed to be on holiday but instead we are assembling a bathroom.  It’s a holiday in Cambodia:

7. I’m not sure I can convey the quiet longing and hopelessness about this situation any better than this: http://www.ealasaid.com/misc/vsd/aragorn.html

Still not king.

Cluttered

I chose “cluttered” rather than “clutter” because it feels as if the objects are physically doing the cluttering, not just being inert clutter.  Clutter as a noun is inert, still, motionless, passive, benign (until stagnant).  Cluttered is an action word.  My objects have cluttered me.  The room feels cluttered.  The person’s life is cluttered with clutter that’s cluttering it up.

Have you ever noticed how the words “clutter” and “clatter” sound almost the same?  In some accents, they’re almost indistinguishable from one another.  I’m not an etymologist (someone who studies the origins of words; I’m also not an entymologist – they study bugs), so I don’t know whether the words ever began the same way.  I tried to find out, and discovered that the verb, “clutter” came from the word “clot” (like blood clot) in the 1400s.  And the noun “clutter” came from “litter” (like, trash) in the 1570s.  I enclose a screen shot because the definitions sound so perfectly descriptive.  We’ve become too desensitized to the word clutter, and accept it as part of our lives, but apparently we’ve been fighting it since the 1400s.  It’s particularly interesting that the verb developed before the noun, because I feel like the clutter is active, it is not passive, it is loud and noisy and it clatters along cluttering up the tiny amount of quiet space in my brain.  I feel verbally assaulted by clutter which is why I’m still on the journey towards a minimalist life.

The etymology of the word clutter.
The etymology of the word clutter.

My shower caught fire on Friday, it was the perfect end to a crap week, really.  I was just lathering up my violet toner to keep my hair shiny white, and I started smelling burning hair; I checked the box with all the wires, and it had started smoking.  It wasn’t a huge surprise since the shower unit melted in February, then when we gaffer taped it, it seemed to stabilize.  Apparently not.  To make matters worse, the DIY disaster idiots who put the thing in (before we bought the house) stupidly put the isolator switch directly behind the shower, on a wall in the bathroom, and since it wasn’t a pull switch, I was trying to get it to turn off with soapy wet hands for what seemed like ages before it finally went.  I can now say in all seriousness, with no sense of hyperbole, that having white hair has saved my life.  If I hadn’t had white hair, I would have just used normal shampoo, and I would have just splortched it onto my hair, back to the shower, and lathered it in, then stood under the water for several minutes while it came back out again.

An electrician friend of a friend came and made the unit safe.  When he opened it up, I was horrified by how close I’d come to serious harm.  The exposed electrical wires which had been on fire were less than a millimetre away from burning away the insulation that was touching the water outlet pipe that takes water out through the shower head.  If you know your basic electronics, you’ll know that water always takes the shortest path back to the Earth, so it would have come straight out of the shower head and down through me.  What’s more, the fuse was so high (45A, standard shower fuse) that it hadn’t shorted out throughout this ordeal.  The whole thing (as I’d been saying since February) was an accident waiting to happen, but it was only last week that we actually got together a few hundred quid to get the bathroom sorted out, because we can’t be without a shower, because my OH doesn’t fit in the tub.

We were already in the process of trying to get someone to come and plumb our bathroom, since the shower had started melting in February, but the first quote we had was £1800 (for labour only, and it wasn’t itemized so I couldn’t see how they’d arrived at that figure, I think they didn’t want to do the job so thought if they put it high enough they’d either make a lot of money from something they didn’t want to do, or get out of doing it.  That plumber seemed to lose interest when I said I was keeping our current bathroom suite) so, after I had finished laughing at the absurdity that anyone would pay £1800 to NOT get a new bathroom put in, I had phoned someone else to come and quote me, literally minutes before I went into the shower.  He will be round on Thursday.  So I had to clear the bathroom of all the functional bottles, sponges etc that we use.

That was how I found out how quiet our bathroom is when there’s no clattering clutter cluttering it up.  When there is not one single bottle of shampoo on the side of the bath or in the floor of the shower cubicle, it is so serene that I was disappointed at the idea of changing the room.  You see, we don’t want to waste money (to buy or to run) on a new electric shower when we have literally no water pressure issues in our bathroom and no hot water issues with our boiler, so the whole cubicle may as well come out, and have an over the bath shower.  When we were first thinking about this back in February, we wanted a new bath, and to move the bath, toilet and sink around to make better use of the space.

We actually bought the house because I loved the bathroom so much.  The idea of having to change it is heartbreaking.  But my husband doesn’t actually fit in the bath because it’s designed for men who are my height and women who are shorter, and children.  It’s not intended for six footers.  I wrestled with the wastefulness of discarding the bath compared to keeping it.  I watched him struggle in the bath last night and I finally understood that we weren’t being wasteful in getting rid of the bath, it sadly wasn’t fit for purpose.

We will have to get a new bath.  But it won’t be the same serenity when the bathroom has been changed, because the suite we have now is one of those coloured ones from the 1970s (not avocado, ours is sunshine yellow), and the happy warm friendly yellow will have to be replaced by a stark, clinical white bathtub, in full size rather than extra small, which will be all the more obvious since we’re keeping the yellow sink (basin) and toilet.  But at least my husband will finally fit into the tub.

For now, it is the one room that is completely without clutter.  Just having that one room in the house that has been silenced feels like a big minimalist victory over the advancing agents of clutter.  It has spurred me on to get rid of more things today, things that have been waiting for a week or two to be removed from the house, and I felt so much better when I came back from the tip and the charity shop (thrift store) with a lighter car.  It’s the one room where I can hear my own thoughts.

Anything Can Happen Thursday: Terrible Houses

If you’re trying to sell your house, there’s lots of things you can do to spruce it up and get a better price, more views, a faster sale.  These people did none of these things.  I wish I could say they were aware enough to lower the prices into fixer-upper territory.  They did not:

At least you wouldn't be able to see all the toothpaste stains in the sink????
At least you wouldn’t be able to see all the toothpaste stains in the sink????

The above bathroom was accompanied by this kitchen, where you would have to be child-sized to actually open the cupboards and get anything out of them.  I've seen wider passages on boat galleys.
The above bathroom was accompanied by this kitchen, where you would have to be child-sized to actually open the ancient cupboards and get anything out of them. I’ve seen wider passages on boat galleys.  Also, Egads, the floor!

This next house didn’t quite measure up where it counted:

Another delicious bathroom design.
Another delicious bathroom design.  Let’s hope the new owners never need to fix the cistern.

In the same house as above, they should have used a spirit level at some point during the fitting of this kitchen...
In the same house as above, they should have used a spirit level at some point during the fitting of this kitchen…

...or a measuring tape.
…or a measuring tape.

Adding a few personal touches to this next home really helps potential buyers see themselves living here:

rghargrahg;rjhk  hwthrw ehwlhewl khwetglkweg kewlt
Where does that third window go?  Into the land of helpimdrowningunderallthisclutter!

The house also sports a psychedelic wall, for all you fans of LSD.
The house also sports a psychedelic wall of killer Yoda owls, for all you fans of LSD.

And who could forget the kid's bedroom, where you can pre-destine him/her to have PTSD before he/she even joins up.  Let's be fair, it's clearly a boy's room.
And who could forget the kid’s bedroom, where you can pre-destine him/her to have PTSD before he/she even joins up. Let’s be fair, it’s clearly a boy’s room.

Clearly the second child was NOT being pushed into being a soldier.  I sincerely hope they wanted him to DRIVE the train.  And yes, again, clearly a him.
Clearly the second child was NOT being pushed into being a soldier. I sincerely hope they wanted him to DRIVE the train. And yes, again, clearly a him.

This place could feature on some TV series about hoarders.
This place could feature on some TV series about hoarders.

These houses all had some features that really made them stand out – for all the wrong reasons:

This is a feature kitchen.  Like a feature wall, only under the stairs.  And probably wants covering up.  Or razing to the ground.
This is a feature kitchen. Like a feature wall, only under the stairs. And probably wants covering up. Or razing to the ground.

This kitchen is so embarrassed it's trying to blend in with the walls.
This kitchen is so embarrassed it’s trying to blend in with the walls.

Perhaps one of MC Escher's lesser known works, this bizarre split level bathroom makes no sense - you'd have to be six foot to comfortably use that sink, or three feet to enjoy the toilet.
Perhaps one of MC Escher’s lesser known works, this bizarre split level bathroom makes no sense – you’d have to be six foot to comfortably use that sink, or three feet to enjoy the toilet.

Yodelling? Bowling alley?  Room for a sneaky snooker table?  The real question is, what's the point of the second bath mat??  You can't get out of the bath there.  There's taps in the way.  And a window.  And why are the toilet and bath so close together when there's all this space?
Yodelling? Bowling alley? Room for a sneaky snooker table? The real question is, what’s the point of that second bath mat?? You can’t get out of the bath there. There’s taps in the way. And a window. And why are the toilet and bath so close together when there’s all this space?  So many questions!

This kitchen couldn't decide whether to be good retro (to the left) or cheapass falling apart retro (to the right).  Add to that a third possibility: White goods (at the back).  Are the bars there to prevent the cupboards from running away in shame, or because the owner was a *huge* fan of Prisoner: Cell Block H and wanted the ambience???
This kitchen couldn’t decide whether to be 60s retro (to the left) or 70s retro (to the right). Add to that a third possibility: White goods (at the back). Are the bars there to prevent the cupboards from running away in shame, or because the owner was a *huge* fan of Prisoner: Cell Block H and wanted the ambience???

I hope the arrows are pointing to the way out.  After all, who doesn't want a bedroom with three walls and two radiators and one seamless floor?
I hope the arrows are pointing to the way out. After all, who doesn’t want a bedroom with three walls and two radiators and one seamless floor?

This final house has to win the prize for the worst house ever:

Usually a wall like that separates a staircase.  And the ceiling thing looks a bit high to be a bed nook.  Mysterious.
Usually a wall like that separates a staircase. And the ceiling thing looks a bit high to be a bed nook. Mysterious.

The bath looks like a beached whale.  And why is the loo jammed in a corner when there's acres of space?
The bath looks like a beached whale. And why is the loo jammed in a corner when there’s acres of space?

This room is looking vaguely normal, but very dirty.
This room is looking vaguely normal, but very dirty and with the far right wall full of holes.

And the garden has the same floor as the kitchen.  Is it a failed extension, or did the walls fall off one of the downstairs rooms?
And the garden has the same floor as the lounge. Is it a failed extension, or did the walls fall off one of the downstairs rooms?  But the reason it gets the prize is the kitchen, below:

The sink is in the middle of the room, next to the back door.  The stairs are bizzarre, and if there were ever a house fire, the occupants would not be able to get out.  Also the walls are filthy.  You have to admire the optimism of the estate agent - this beaut was listed at around £80,000 in York.
The sink is in the middle of the room, next to the back door. The stairs are bizzarre, and if there were ever a house fire, the occupants would not be able to get out. Also the walls are filthy.  And that bed does not look like a nice place to sleep. You have to admire the optimism of the estate agent – this beaut was listed at around £80,000 in the north of England.

Doesn’t your house feel clean and well-planned now?  All those little foibles looking a bit tame?  I know mine does!  Let me know in the comments if you’re tempted to put an offer on any of these delightful habitats.

Note: I own none of these pictures.