Hallway Makeover

Home projects have a way of snowballing and spiraling.  As I have explained before, much of our house had not been renovated or even redecorated since it was built in 1968.  The staircase banister was starting to show its age in a terrifying manner as it was rickety and wobbly and threatening to pull away from the wall any time any of my boys leaned on it.  Pretty terrifying.  It, therefore, jumped up to the very top of the list of home improvement priorities.  But removing and replacing a banister was going to damage the carpeting and the walls.  And if we were going to repaint all the walls then we were best to replace the tiles in the downstairs hall.  And if we were going to replace the floor tiles then we should do that at the same time as pulling out the old downstairs loo.  So that one problem with the wobbly banister Hulked out and became a major project.

I forgot to take Before photos.  However, these images show what the hallway and downstairs WC looked like when we moved in to our house in August 2014.  Not much had changed since then.  I was not going to miss those “crazy paving” vinyl tiles.

Before Downstairs Hall 1

Before Downstairs Hall 2

Before Downstairs WC

I don’t do well with chaos so the period of the project was something I endured rather than enjoyed.  As much as I knew the final outcome would make it all worthwhile, constantly having other people in my house when I got home from work, having building materials stowed in our living room, and just the mess and disruption made it all quite stressful.  There were three peak incidents of stress: the contractor ripped out the old banister early on in the project but did not install the new one until the very end which meant living for weeks without any barrier whatsoever on the staircase – and you can imagine that my sons took full advantage of that opportunity to freak out their mother; the second was that the same period coincided with some of our worst weather of the winter which led to snow days and the kids being home while the work was underway and, on one such day, the floor was retiled while the kids were trapped upstairs – with the bathrooms – while I was trapped downstairs – with no bathroom – for several hours; the third peak stress moment was the absolute worst and involved the stair carpet still being installed after 10pm – installation having started at 1.30pm – partly because the carpet fitter stapled his own finger and had to be taken to the ER by an extremely jet-lagged Mr Pict.

During Hall 1

During Hall 2

In the end, however, we are happy with the results.  We now have a much sturdier and much more secure banister, dove grey walls, dark grey floor tiles, very plush and soft carpet for the stairs and upstairs hall, and a fresh and more modern looking downstairs WC.  Now we can start to personalise the space by pulling out framed art that hasn’t been on display since we emigrated and some pieces that need to be framed and getting those up on the walls.

After Hall 2

After Hall 1

After Downstairs WC 2

Who am I and why am I here?

The title is not an indication that this first post (or blog indeed) will be full of existential angst.  Quite literally I thought I ought to explain who I am and why I am here.

So the title of my blog is “A Pict in PA”.  The latter part is easy to explain: I live in Pennsylvania – PA for short.  I have done for precisely a week.  Indeed, I have lived in America for precisely one week.  That segues me into the Pict part which is a little tricker to explain.  Partly I opted for Pict because I love alliteration.  I actually alliterate without thinking about it because it is a compulsive thing for me.  I am, however, from Fife in Scotland – the Pictish Kingdom of Fife.  And I am pretty confident that, short of a DNA test to prove it, I have Pict blood coursing through my veins: I am short, dark and hairy and very feisty.  So I am a Pict in PA.  Simple really.

And why am I in PA?  Well what do you do when your husband of many years, the father of your four children, starts a late night conversation with the phrase, “What would you think about us moving to America?”  Option one is to smother him with a pillow but I happen to love my husband so I heard him out and actually a lot of what he said made sense.  That in itself was kind of remarkable.  So my husband, who is a dual US/UK national who had not lived in the US for 20 years, set to researching and investigating how we could possibly relocate our family to the US.  It’s impossible to precis the saga that followed so to cut that epic short – just over a year on from that initial conversation, after a lot of immigration hooha at the London Embassy, a great deal of soul-searching and very difficult goodbyes, and a period of the kids and I living apart from my husband – our family of six took up residence in Pennsylvania.

So the purpose of this blog is to record my experience, as an immigrant mother, relocating family life from one side of the Atlantic to the other.  The intention is for it to be a journal of sorts, help me process my responses to new experiences and opportunities by typing it out and perhaps even provide family and friends with some insight into what we are doing as a family hundreds of miles away.