After two years of getting quotes and having various builders tell me that the renovations would cost anywhere between $3,000 and $20,000, I finally settled on the guy who built my parent’s house and I am so glad I did.
Now, I am partial to a tradie crush, but ladies, he’s taken both maritally and also as far as getting first dibs on him to do work. Not even I get that privilege, that goes to my mum who’s lining him up to finally install a door that separates their “powder room” from the hallway near the lounge room so you can use their bathroom without feeling like you’re basically sitting on the lap of whoever happens to be watching TV at the time.
Speaking of toilets, I had a bright blue portaloo in my front yard for six weeks in the middle of an Orange winter! Have you ever been rained on while going to the toilet? Probably, because unlike me, you’ve gone camping.
I haven’t gone camping, unless you count that one hotel in Seattle which was so horrendous that I just stood in the middle of the room with my bag on my back, spinning around in a circle, pointing at things and going, “Exposed live wires, possible blood on carpet, no running water, evidence of previous guest in the bathroom, bed bugs.”
My portaloo was nicer than that hotel room. It smelt great, which was slightly concerning because I was never able to figure out where the very sweet tropical scent was actually coming from and I’m pretty sure whatever the chemical was, it was strong enough that I got a contact high from it.
Also, someone, who has yet to own up to it, left me cat food in there on the first night! Some people would find that creepy, I loved it, so thank you, whoever you are!
The whole reason for the renovation was because whoever built the house decided that waterproofing the bathroom was excessive and that particle board, the most porous of all boards, was the best base for the tile bed.
Surprise! It wasn’t! The tile bed was the only thing holding parts of the floor together and although my builder said, “Oh no, you wouldn’t have gone through it!” … he went through it.
I came home early in the piece to a spooky looking barrier, which of course, because I’ve watched a lot of Scooby-Doo and was high on portaloo perfume, I decided to ignore.
Oh cool! Just where I was naked and at my most vulnerable for two years of my life!
The damage was extensive. The bathroom got gutted.
And then, it got put back together with so much waterproofing that in centuries, historians will point to it as the only remaining evidence of how middle-class spinsters lived in the early 21st century. Just kidding! We’ve ruined out planet, there won’t be historians for the 21st century!
Turns out they put water in the bath to hold it down while the silicon sets, one of many things I learnt about building. Other lessons included: Just leave the Italian tiler alone, he does not want to be friends, and plaster powder! You’ll be finding it for years!
Tiling was when I started to get excited. For someone who only wears black, my house is an absolute carnival of colour, but I decided to rein it in for the bathroom and when I came home and saw how good the white tiles looked, I started practicising saying, “Yeah, I’m like a Scandi minimalist?” to myself in the mirror, while flicking my hair and pretending to smoke a cigarette.
The tiles in the niche are the most genius thing I’ve ever done, including my thesis on feminist science fiction and Levinasian existentialism. These tiles are both better, and more interesting than that.
Finally, it was time to paint.
Have I ever mentioned I worked at Bunnings? I did, for most of the time I was at uni. I was known as “the goth girl at Bunnings” [author’s note: I’m not a goth, black clothes are just super chic and look good with a lot of really large silver jewellery, which is my fetish. I don’t wear black nail polish and I really don’t like The Cure, thus, not a goth].
Anyway, I worked at Bunnings for a long time and finally I got to be the person asking to colour match paint and buy sample pots and it turns out painting patches on the wall and writing on it is almost the same level of fun as roller-coasters.
Finally, my mum and my aunt came and painted the bathroom. They are absolute clowns, which only intensifies when they’re together in a small space with paint fumes, but they did an amazing job and I have told them I’m going to install a brass plaque to commemorate their generosity.
Later, I discovered my mum had left a message to the builder in part of the paint that he needed to go over, and when he saw it, he said, “Oh you mum’s a character!” and I said, “Love me! … I mean, yes, she is.”
Finally, the toilet went in. By this stage I was so addicted to portaloo perfume that I found myself twice that night putting on my gumboots to make the trek to the portaloo, forgetting that now I can go to the bathroom without needing protection from mud! And even in the middle of the night if I want to! And the neighbours don’t need to know about it! And people driving past won’t even see my pyjamas!
This account glosses over some of the more annoying parts of not having a bathroom, like sometimes making a 40km round trip to use my parent’s shower, or the time I came out of the shower at work and found the cleaner just standing there, holding up a rag like he has been waiting to polish me, or the fact that my nieces started to answer the door with, “Mu-um. It’s Julia. She’s here to have a show-er!” and then just running off to watch cartoons because seeing me stopped being a novelty. Even seeing me leave in my pyjamas with my hair up in a towel stopped being funny.
In the next installation, I’ll unveil the finished product and reveal the fact that a combination of PMS and relief made me cry like Tobias Fünke the first time I used the shower! See you then!