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10 Jun 2009

Ah the days before the property crash, when everyone was still smiling... the good old days eh?! Though, prior to re-looking at these old pics, I hadn't noticed that great glaring physical chasm between Sarah and I which did reflect our differing views on property development :-)
This was filming in Chortton, Manchester for Property Ladder 2002, the last day's shoot. I hadn't seen the show, so I still liked Sarah at this point ;-)
When tv shows could afford make-up artists on location and there was time for a laugh in between takes.....

And I still maintain that breakfast bar was a GREAT idea for £120 :-)

Hello to Jamie from Magpie Films in Birmingham, oh ye of the lovely camera angles and soft lenses! I will never forget you getting that bloody camera nicked in Chorlton, and then us getting it back on the promise of a reward which the thick thieves failed to collect!

Sarah Beeny's Property Snakes and Ladders

No longer do we have plain old Property Ladder, but as per market conditions, we now have the new and brutal Property Snakes and Ladders
As Sarah herself says, this series has issues which are "bigger and meaner and nastier than the first series. There's more money involved and you can’t tweak the figures – we’re talking about people losing hundreds of thousands of pounds."

I feel rather outdated!! As a contributor to the first (or was it second? not sure, anyway) series, my risk was far lower, on a Manchester property bought at £102k, with refurb and financing costs of £24k, and a resale of £180k. And Sarah gave me an absolute roasting. I really didn't like her for a while, you know, throwing stuff at the telly whenever she came on and making disparaging remarks about her in the press :-) Then we did a re-visit in 2005, and they were far nicer, so I stopped throwing stuff at the telly.

But this series, whoah!!! The bank of mum and dad.... have these people no shame? Risking their parents' savings and homes on a property dream, blimey, that takes some hard-faced single-mindedness. I feel quite proud that I only risked mine and the bank's money! 

I did howl at some of the figures quoted last night.... £176,000 and 8 months to do up a 4 bed terrace, was Rick Dickinson deranged??! You can build a three bed house for less than that. How come Sarah never questions the build costs - they are insane. I know it was Battersea, but still, it'd be cheaper to fly in a team of Polish builders from Gdasnk and have them live on site for 4 months, which is how long it should have taken. But at least he's got the coolest trainee electrician's bachelor pad in London, eh?

£105,000 for Natasha Durr's 3 bed bungalow with extension, still very expensive. I think I might have to put my quotes to clients up based on these figures. Triple them, in fact:-) She had a great can do attitude  and I liked the fact that she was constantly pushing the builders, but I wonder if she'd have been quite so gung ho if it wasn't her mum's money she was spending, but her own and the banks? You don't fear failure at 21, especially when the person doing the lending is as laid back as Natasha's lovely mum. I hope she doesn't give up on her dream of making her million in property and rides out these difficult years, then starts again with a better project and lower build costs. The Mirror calls her hoity-toity this morning - I think if we encouraged more go getters and determined young people like Natasha, instead of mocking them and willing them to fail, this pitiful excuse for an economy we have at the moment might have a better future. 

Whatever happens to them, I can guarantee they will have people quoting their Property Ladder quotes and appearances to them forever, as I've had, and the endless repeats on More 4 will ensure their local notoriety! In everything I do, people still ask me about my episode and that was in 2002 for goodness sake. Think I might post some archive pics in a bit.....

And Sarah!! After all the stick you gave me in 2001 about knocking through a pokey kitchen to make a fabulous open plan kitchen diner opening out onto the garden - under no circumstances knock that wall down you said, even getting in structural engineers and agents to tell me what a mistake it was..... and last night you were saying this idea was an absolute must as it's what every buyer wants. Hmmmmmm, glad I taught you something ;-)

7 Jun 2009

Tempted by Tempus?

Michael and I were dispatched to film today at Tempus Tower, just a stone's throw from Harvey Nics in Manchester, and it was definitely one of the more luxurious apartments we've filmed over the months!
We headed up to the 19th floor, I love hearing the word Penthouse :-)
The development consists of a mill conversion, which you can see in the foreground, and the tower to the left, and we were right up on the top!

The view from the apartment was stunning, you could see No1 Deansgate, the Hilton, the MEN wheel, and the rest of the city to the south, and miles and miles into the distance, all from your dining room table. Pretty impressive view, and beats my bird table. Hmmmm.
As you can see from the pics, the inside was pretty cool too; roomy, big balconies, a great party space, and we had the lovely Michaela giving us a guided tour.
The bedrooms were lovely, calm and cool, with sophisticated pale blues, creams and silvers, and a fantastic feature wall with a huge diamond above the bed. Plus the diamond bedroom had a hot tub on the balcony right outside the sliding doors. Decadent or what.
The kitchen / living / dining area was totally different, with a bold monochrome wall, black and red kitchen,  leaning towards retro furniture and mirrored shelving / pillar - not a totally cohesive interiors scheme as it was so different to the bedrooms, but I'm a fuddy duddy and like my rooms to flow. Someone has snapped this one up, so they are doing something right :)
Most of the apartments have sold, just 4 penthouses left, so if you've any spare cash and fancy a gorgeous pad in the city, get yourself down there or click on
 I liked this view of the MEN wheel, you could gaze at it whilst you are nibbling on a sophisticated city centre pad type brioche thingy for your breakfast ;-)

Break in V Breakdown

Bloody nora, the new tenants only moved in yesterday and were woken early this Sunday morning by Manchester's Finest telling them there has been a break in the flat below them, window smashed and did they hear anything? Jesus, and there's me saying, oh yes, it's a great development, in 8yrs we've never had any problems, I don't even put a lock on the storage cupboard............
Is this Sod's Law working hard to put my new tenants at ease in their new home?! 

Lunch time update. It wasn't a break in at all. Well, it was but only by the sozzled tenant who'd been locked out and decided to break a window to get in?! Then  collapsed unconscious inside and didn't wake even when the police were there looking at the window to his bedroom. The sozzled tenant who now has a pissed off management company, letting agent and landlord gunning for him. 
At least I can go back to my claims to tenants that it's a perfectly respectable development, with the exception of their alcoholic neighbours below of course.

Sunday working - shouldn't be allowed!

Lots to do today - a mountain of paperwork with so many new tenancies, and the govt doesn't help piling on the bureaucracy with deposit protection etc, as if there isn't enough to do. And I'll head over to Project Deano to make a list for the builders to get on with, all the rip out is done, and work has commenced proper now. Plus meeting a friend to help her pick a bathroom for her little Project Shabby-Chic!
Unusually for early on a Sunday, all bright and breezy, no alcohol consumed last night, a) due to the new regime of credit crunch induced household budgeting boo hiss and b) it was Charlie's football presentation last night - his team were Under 10's league champions, cup champions, team of the year, and with 35 goals since christmas he was manager's player of the year and player's player of the year. Blimey! What a star, he was totally on a high, quite possibly due to all the e-numbers and rola cola consumed :-) A great night for Urmston Town. They've worked so hard, and improved so much this year, and won their very own Double! 
All the player's mums n dads were there, so a shame that such an amazing night for him was missed by his mother. She hates his dad and I so much that she refuses to have anything to do with his football, as his dad organises it, so he missed out on having her there on his big night. So different to Alex's footy, where we all go together with Al's mum, and we all get on famously. Kids benefit so much when their divorced parents aren't still feuding and fighting and hating. I had all that negative crap from mine, and it sucks. When will adults learn, eh?! Never! 
I read Katie Price's comments about getting a new male role model for her son Harvey now PA won't be around so much. So despite him being such a great step father to Harvey, she's going to airbrush him out of their lives and use contact as an emotional weapon. How utterly bizarre. Why do some women think this, think that their kids don't need the man who was in their lives, just cause the women don't anymore? Anger? Bitterness? One-up-manship? Baffles me.

6 Jun 2009

Get the Mosst out of your showering experience

From a little surf on the web, Swiss designer Nguyen La Chanh's shower mat made from ball, island and forest moss is the bathroom equivalent of Marmite - some people love it for it's green credentials, soft underfoot feel and total originality, other freak out at stepping onto a living something after they've gotten all clean in the shower, and are unconvinced as to the mat's cleanliness and durability. 
I adore it, and the designer is adamant there is no soil or dirt required, just water. I reckon if you care for it as you would any other living plant in your house, it'd feel fab to step out onto after a shower, like walking on soft grass.
Not so sure if you have heavy footed boys in the house - maybe it should be confined to a luxury ensuite ;-)
She's estimating it'll be around £220 if she can get it mass produced, so you'd better have green fingers, or toes, and make sure you look after it - a £2.99 fern from Ikea it ain't!

Loving his very compact and stylish herb wheel, the Tasty Frame too.

Dreaming of a weekend off....

Signed in and up the boys for Project BB last night, contracts, inventory, bills (utility companies, the bane of my life). They were delighted to find out that the gas meter does not turn, and therefore their bill will be ridiculously low. I have given NPower this information on a number of occasions, but they seem unwilling, unable, incapable of understanding me. To the point where an engineer came out, looked at the meter, and told me it was fine. Ok, fine it is. it does register usage, but if that means it's fine, so be it. Idiots.

Need to get an extra set of keys, the builder's gone off to Spain for a week with the third set, the swine. This week has also been filled with bed escapades. One of the new tenants at BB has his own bed. As had one of the previous tenants who moved out and took her bed with her, and this would have been ok had the new tenant mentioned that he also had a bed, but of course he didn't. So this week M brought a dismantled metal frame bed from the cellar at another building, searched an hour for the right alan key, built it all up, and got a mattress. And now the tenant wants it all dismantling again and moving out.  
This is on top of another tenant moving out last weekend from Project Copper and deciding the oversized Ikea oak framed bed he had bought and installed didn't fit where he was going so he left it. But he had built it so ineptly that M (without telling me) rebuilt it and glued it, and bracketed it. Before I told him I didn't really want it in there, and the new tenant wanted a normal sized bed. So he had to dismantle it all again, take it back to the cellar at another building and move a normal 4'6" bed in. 

Moral of tale, never let tenants move furniture around and buy new stuff which doesn't fit!

And always keep beer in fridge to keep bed-building-man unhappy with bed traumas happy.

No boys this week due to work ( a very rare occurence) and it's been weird, always miss them when they don't visit for whatever reason. 
But have got a huge amount done. How do people cope/work full time when they have children there 24/7? I'm not surprised women are at least realising it's bleedin impossible to have it all and still remain sane. I have 4 different careers, have a relationship to work at, am only a weekly step mum, and try and have a life too, and I am frazzled!

5 Jun 2009

A bird in the hand....

The lovely 1 bed Project Lime has been empty for a couple of weeks, its gorgeous, I love it, but it isn't massive. Compact, in estate agent's parlance.

But last night I had a viewing and the call this morning said they wanted to take it. But not until the end of June. What do you do? It's only the 5th and that seems like ages away, with no rent coming in until they move in. Do you say no, but risk no-one else taking it, and then being stuck with no-one. Or yes, and kiss rent for June goodbye? And I have more viewings booked in over the weekend.
I suggested a compromise to the would-be tenant.... would they be willing to move the date forward slightly to secure the flat, and I would take it off the market? And they agreed, and we shook on the 20th June. Only 2 weeks away, and I have the security of an incoming tenant. 
Hence a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. 

Vicky the letting agent made a really useful point too - when signing 6 month tenancies in June/ July, be aware that just before Xmas is a bad time to get new tenants - try and extend the tenancy to end Jan, to give you that good month when lots of people look to move.

First newsletter for

The first newsletter for Rich's site   is about to be published and sent to all the landlords and property sellers on their database. I'm writing a monthly column for them about general landlord traumas and tips, and fielding questions - if they come in!

4 Jun 2009

Plastic grass? An artificial lawn?! No half naked men!?

What a perfectly hideous idea!
Why on earth would you? Why would anyone buy an artificial lawn for a space where a real one would grow. Oh, yes, laziness and a complete disregard for nature. Only allowed for football pitches, completely shaded areas and event stands!

Not would they stop any birds or wildlife coming to your garden, but they are quite possibly toxic and dangerous...

Why would anyone want to stop this sort of visitor, a mistle thrush listening for his dinner.....

But of course, far worse is that if you don't have a lawn, then you can't instruct your other half to mow it half naked. And thats a crime.

Ikea hackers feature my sticker madness

Went a bit mad with Ikea stickers for Project Cathedral, see earlier posts and the great has featured them on their blog and site - cool!

Red Magazine update

The article last year was so fab, great pr, I am keeping my fingers crossed for another one. It's up to the editor, but they got great feedback after last year's, and they want to see how the 4 women featured have fared in the property crash. It's hit us all, the journalist said, one woman has had to go back to working FT whilst still managing her houses, another is working abroad, and she though the fact that one of my mortgage companies is in administration was brilliant (?!)

I would be lying if I said it wasn't incredibly flattering to be featured in a national mag, lots of people saw it. The strangest was an evil letter I got from M's ex-wife in which she told me I didn't have a maternal bone in my body as I cared more for bricks than children, attempting to quote the Red article's headline but twisting it (and the knife!). Oh, the joys of being a step mum....

3 Jun 2009

Project Deano

The guys have started on Project Deano today and the rip out commenced on time, well, after we'd tracked down an errant labourer. M was half way thru the Ok we'll see you tomorrow then sentence when I grabbed the phone and barked in a Debra from the Apprentice type fashion that M would be round for him in twenty minutes. I'll post some befores tomorrow, it was truly horrendous, as well as slightly illegal in lots of electrical and structural ways. Nothing scary and unfixable though. That's often no reflection on the landlord either, as the rules and regs change so bloody often these days (grasping government taxing bx!/x!*ds) that by the time you've done some work, it's illegal. It's ridiculous more like.
This is a picture of a bowing, warping bit of timber which seems to be holding up a rear elevation, it so should be metal, and will be by the time we've finished:
And there was a wall here, but I have a penchant for taking walls down. Here the bathroom will be far better with a centrally opening door, and the wall wasn't load bearing, so down it came. I love open plan, but even I would draw the line at looking at the loo every time I got to the top of the stairs.

The green shoots of Homesmine recovery may well be poking though, in that developers are starting to book episodes again so we can go out and film their developments. Next week's episode will be two apartment blocks, one new build in Old Trafford and a mill conversion in Manchester city centre, and we did the links today. Sadly I got most excited about the map application on my new iPhone, finding where we were going and then locating ourselves thru the GPS... felt like a Will Smith film, highly amusing, I must be old. 

Karchering - hold it like a machine gun!

It's how you hold it, don't you know.....

2 Jun 2009

Chandelier a go go

The hairy lair is now spotless, repainted, and ready to let again, though I've had to reduce the rent. It's so competitive, rents are definitely heading south. I was chatting with Rich, a friend who runs, an online estate and lettings agency:
His experience is much the same, though his view was that if landlords hold firm, and don't all rush to drop rents, they will maintain value. True, but only if there is some element of co-operation, and landlords aren't desperate for rents, as many are at the moment. This flat is tiny with a capital T so a slight drop in rent will shift it. She said confidently.
Project Cathedral's chandelier has eventually come into stock and was fitted today. Lush lush lush. And about ten times nicer than the lights in my own house. Hmmm, there is something going wrong around here....

And if that lot wasn't enough for one day, the lads moved out of one of the two beds. Bless them, they had left it in a lovely state, roping in mum to help, apparently. So on the hottest day of the year so far, a full day of shifting, clearing, touching up of paint, and snagging ready for the girls downstairs to move upstairs. Well, they'd taken one look at the gorgeous south facing terrace and took first dibs on it when the lads moved out. 
Karchering the Lime tree sap off the slate tiles was a bit of a chore, especially as it has become increasingly obvious that there is zero slope on it for water to run away. Time to get the builders back. Karchering is one of my most favourite things, high water pressure jetting in the sunshine is a great stress reliever. 

Red Magazine has been on, I did an interview with them last year for a property article, and they are doing a follow up. Great magazine, great pr opportunity, very sweet of Stephanie the journalist to get back in touch.

And Property Ladder called the other day, maybe interested in doing a Revisit again. Like the don't show the old one on E4 enough??!!

29 May 2009

No more boy tenants with long hair. Ever.

There is not a cat in hell's chance I am ever again renting a flat to a boy with long dark hair, who owns any type of musical instruments. Over the years you kind of get to know types, and how they will be, clean, fussy, easy going, annoying....
Computer geeks are great, and never bother you, but have so much stuff the carpets get wrecked from boxes from internet gaming companies on the floor all the time. And they never use the oven, so its always spotless. Nurses cause lots of condensation from cleaning their uniforms, but are clean. Doctors are mucky. Irish girls have lots of lovely stuff and keep the flats in a lovely state. Etc.
But boys with long hair and musical leanings. NEVER AGAIN. There have been 3 of them, all in different flats, over the years, and they have all been nightmares. The flats are always filthy, with long dark hairs stuck to everything from the ice in the freezer to the bathroom light, how is this possible? They must just never brush their hair. It's weird, because I've got girl tenants with flowing locks, and their flats aren't full of hair. Do these boys not own combs? Are they incapable of using a hoover?
They do not know the meaning of the words 'tenants responsibility to clean the flat'. Of all the flats over the years, the two worst have been lived in and left by hairy musicians. I though the doctors were bad the other week, but this flat this week, the bloody bathroom has to be regrouted there is so much black mould. As we stood in the bathroom doorway on the inspection, and my jaw hit the floor at the state of it, the tenant said to me "I think there's a difference in our standards, it must be a boy girl thing." The toilet actually looked like it had a toupee, there were so many of his hairs stuck to it.
Plus there are always money issues, in that they never have any, so the whole deposit issue is always that, a big issue. 2 of the 3 didn't get any deposit back at all, and I hate reducing deposits. 
So that is it. No more of them. They will be turned away at the door and can lay their guitar strummin leather clad moulty heads elsewhere.

27 May 2009

Gathering ideas for Project Home

I'm not sure why I am even writing this, because the chances of ever getting round to renovating my home, with each passing credit crunched day, are slim to remote.... but I am nonetheless  starting to gather inspiration for Project Brook.
How lovely are these images posted by My Sweet Savannah? 

And perfect in style for Brook, with its oversized rooms, quirky features and monochrome vibe going on. Oh yes, these will definitely be popped in the scrap book for when we start the renovations in 2018..... 

Rain rain go away, sleepover boys want to play

So of course, we have a boys sleepover, and it bloody rains. So, no nets up in the garden, and 3 10yr olds now so full of energy and bored of playing Buzz. 
I'm going to have to let them out. 
My lawn is going to be a mud bath, like last time, see below. Buggar.
Bear in mind this was green before. Lushly green. Like a lawn should be.
The particularly barren patch to the left is the goal. Clearly.

26 May 2009

Do boys ever stop eating?

Si's caf is open for business.
Half term. 
Football sleepover....

So far today it's produced:
Chicken and philly sandwiches, no salad
Chicken and mayonnaise, with tomato
Chicken and lancashire cheese sandwiches, full salad
Ham and sprouting seed salad (guess who)
Chicken burgers
Super noodles, bbq flavour
Ham and mayo sarnies
Ham and cheese toasties
Southern fried wedgies (homemade), 4lbs of
58 drinks

And now they want pudding. "The same one we had last time please Si, with the chocolate cake, ice-cream, marshmallows, bubblegum and chocolate sauce"

I may leave home.

Project BB - Tuscan Olive worktop

I loved the Duropal sample of this worktop, and when the actual top arrived I wasn't disappointed, looked great, and a radical overhaul from the dull beech woodblock one in there already. It wasn't 100% necessary, the old one looked ok and wasn't in bad condition, a bit warped and marked, but cost price was under £100 and when coupled with repainting the old doors in Rum Truffle, it now look a lot more contemporary. Well, I think so anyway! There were some large travertine tiles left over from a previous job, a little high for a splashback at 45omm but at least they will protect the walls if the next lot of tenants (3 boys) are as grubby as my last lot of dirty doctors :)
This is the new look kitchen, have none of the old look for comparisons so you'll have to take my word for it that it looks better.

Paint your laminate flooring, credit crunch style!

Project BB was looking a little tired, as well as filthy, and the living room laminate floor, which has seemed oh so funky in 2001, now looked like a battered old squash court. Time for a change, but no cash, in the attic or otherwise :)
So a Sian stylee makeover was needed, starting with the floor. Inspired by the gorgeous brilliant white floor in Project Cathedral, but lacking the new extra wide pine boards, a little experiment has been carried out. Laminate lightly sanded, oil based primer sponge-rollered on (don't use brushes as they leave lines and hairs), then get rid of all the dust and close all the windows, cause heaven only knows where all the dust, insects and bits of fluff come from.

After the primer, comes the two coats of diamond eggshell white paint - water based, not oil, as oil based gloss paint eventually yellows and looks hideous. Of course if you are using another colour, then this doesn't matter, though water based eggshell dries a zillion times quicker than gloss.
Then two coats of varnish, flooring hardness, I used Ronseal cause it does what it says etc etc :-)
And suddenly, the room was transformed, I was delighted with it. Blitzed the Ikea tables with gloss, new lights instead of the papery student ones, new hanging panels at the windows and a zippy Ikea print on the wall. Lo and behold the very next day, two lots of tenants fighting over it. Result.
Of course there was the obligatory disaster. Not mine, you understand, because I wouldn't have been stupid enough (like a man was) to move chocolate brown gloss paint (like a man did) and put it on the communal hallway carpet (like a man did) without ensuring the lid was properly on (like a man did)......

22 May 2009

Homesmine Summer Interiors special

features lots of great designs, products and people we've met at recent shows like Birmingham Interiors and 100%.

Above is the BRILLIANT invention the Snood, a magnetic halogen light revitaliser!,and an interview with the inventor  herself.

I also had a chat with the furniture designer Amy Vinn about her funky and fun award winning Allsorts furniture, admired by Bertie Bassett himself.

More young designers work which is pictured on the episode can be seen at :

Also featured on today's show is trend forecaster Victoria Renshaw from Scarlet Opus, who I've blogged about before on - Astley/blog/2009/feb/01/alice-in-wonderland/   
Now there's a woman who knows her industry; she's fascinating, interesting, and friendly to boot.

And last but not least Anna Ryder Richardson gave us a masterclass in dressing rooms to impress with a demo down at John Lewis. That lady is seriously enthusiastic. Whenever I see a bit of dippy hemming, I will think of her haha.

21 May 2009

Total result and new babies!

Well, what a great night. Project BB has been snapped up by a group of 3 lads, and I came home on a high. I glanced up at the bird box and felt a bit sad, only to look further down the garden and see two new visitors.... two baby squirrels chowing down on the melon I put out this morning. Soooo cute. They don't know us well enough yet, we've one lady squirrel who marches into the kitchen demanding nuts, so they scarpered when they saw me, but not before I got a snap.

Whooo hooooo Got some viewings

Off to do 3 viewings now, one on an empty 1 bed and 2 on Project BB, pleasepleaseprettyplease let one be let!! It's such a trauma when they are empty, in the good times I never thought about it, it was just a hazard of the job, having short vacant periods, but now it's like, gottta get them full, gotta get the cash in, gotta pay the mortgages, gotta STOP panicking :-) 
The lovely Brimelow Babes (and Matt!) are working hard to get viewings, but its so up and down. 
Have to give myself a break, only finished giving Project BB a facelift, well, not quite a facelift, more a bit of Botox and a new lipstick, yesterday.

Loyal Loot Collective and Livio de Marchi

The Loyal Loot Collective work out of Alberta, Canada, and comprise of four designers working both individually and collaboratively.

Their water based paint, gloss and reclaimed timber Log Bowls have featured heavily in design press but I only just saw these coat / wall hangers; they reminded me of the amazing Venetian timber artisan Livio de Marchi, though nowhere near as intricate. Some of his smaller works are bras and knickers carved out of wood, and it just sparked off my memory of stumbling across his workshop in Venice years ago and having a chat with the man himself. I was quite skint at the time, but stretched to buying a carved wine bottle and glass. And I still adore them. I couldn't quite manage finances for one of his full sized Ferraris.

No,I haven't been shopping, honest

Look, Mart,  I know I said I wasn't going to go shopping and I didn't go anywhere near the Trafford Centre. This old thing, christ, I've had its aaaaaages, since the 80's, can't you tell from the body con look?! 
Herve Leger? Is it heck. It's Top Shop! You've seen it on Net-a-porter? You've checked my email? How could you?!
What do you mean £6,546 is a bit excessive for a bank holiday weekend night out with the girls? Do you know nothing about fashion, about investment shopping? Don't you know it's a classic?
Yeh, yeh, I'm dreaming, I will be rocking the skinny jeans and top look as usual, and Cheryl will be pictured in this dress in Grazia in a few weeks. Bitch.

Green shoots?

Chatting with some Didsbury estate agents yesterday about the local property market and they are adamant things are getting better, though whether this is simply relative to how bad things were, I don't know. More sensible offers are being made, they say, not the unbelieveably cheeky ones they have seen over the last few months, and they think the real bargains have been had now. 

I remain unsure about that. Homeowners are still coming to the ends of their deals and facing nasty surprises when the value of their homes are revised for any new deal, landlords are facing increasing competition and static rents, and developers still cannot get any cash from the banks.

I hear day after day from people struggling to get by and hit by the uncertainty of the future, and that's the killer. You just can't plan anything right now, because the blinkin goal posts move every other day. I was adamantly going to refurb my own home, then that had to change to doing a new build, now I'm unsure whether to just sit tight. It's bloody annoying thats what it is.

And still my hands are full of is it Lyme isn't it Lyme lumps and bumps, 3 weeks of super strength antibiotics later.... this being even more irritating than the credit crunch.

Oak mantelpiece from reclaimed timber

I always have bits and pieces of timber lying around the cellar.... house.... garden.... well, anywhere really, and they come in useful when something unusual is called for. I get them from building sites, tree surgeons, all sorts of places. M whistles the theme from Steptoe and Son at me when I bring home another piece of treasure to save for a rainy day or dull wall. Even Sarah Beeny was very dismissive of my bits of salvaged timber but I think they are BEAUTIFUL!!

Used a chunky piece of oak this week to create a mantelpiece in Project BB, above a very sad looking hole which once housed a 1950's gas fire and now tenants pop in pebbles and tea lights. I sanded it down and brackets, hidden behind chiselled out plaster then filled over, support it so it looks like it's floating.