These last two days I've learned about humility, mostly - but in addition to that, I've also learned about understanding and about having empathy towards people who made do with what they had.
...which is basically a very long-winded way of saying that, guys, let's talk about the house.
It's what my life, to a large extent, consists of at the moment: the house.
I can be a fairly stuck-up, judgemental person and I am well aware of that. The same mechanism that makes me exceptionally efficient at certain jobs - I am a stickler for correctness, like things well organised and long-lasting, and it will probably make me a great quantity surveyor one day - is the thing that can also make me a pain in the a$$ when it comes to dealing with people.
I know that.
It's taken me many years to learn how to balance that, and will take many more to come.
The reason I am writing about it is because I want to explain something to you.
Wednesday evening when it occurred to me that 1) I had made a mistake in assuming there was brick under the roughcast of a house we wanted to buy, and 2) even worse, there was likely old, possibly damaged weatherboard instead - my first reaction was to say, "Sh*t!" and then my second reaction was to say, "No, I'm not buying that." I was angry both at the fact that we had got so deep into the house-buying process due to my mistake and also because covering untreated weatherboard with roughcast, in my head, was an insanity.
(To those of you wanting to know what roughcast and weatherboard means, and why I was so angry at it, here is a short explanation.
Roughcast is basically a mixture of sand, cement and lime - think plaster - and it's used for coating outside walls of buildings to make them more weatherproof. Weatherboard is a New Zealand word for wooden siding.
Now, both roughcast and weatherboard, on their own, are entirely reasonable and common ways of enclosing buildings and if you live anywhere that has houses from a variety or architectural eras, chances are you've seen both.
However, what I have a problem with, is this: in the old times timber didn't used to be treated. Old houses were built of wood that was just... well, cut from trees and put into houses, and there was no treatment applied to protect the wood from insects, or rot. Not that they wouldn't have wanted to - the technology just wasn't available back then.
As houses aged and walls, floors and ceilings were becoming increasingly saggy and creaky due to damage from rot and insects, parts were taken out and replaced with new wood in a never-ending cycle of working against nature, so to speak, and I understand all that.
But what I didn't realise, was this.
Sometime around the 1950's New Zealand there was a temporary solution - or let's call it what it is, a fad - to extending houses' lifespans by applying roughcast to already weathered (ie, damaged) houses' weatherboards.
Here, pay attention, because this is the important bit: applying roughcast to already damaged weatherboards.
That's the bit that I find somewhat insane. It's one thing to build a house with wooden framing and cover it with roughcast straight away, and the same for building houses with weatherboard full stop - it's an acceptable solution. Always has been.
But it's a different story to build a house with weatherboard, let it live its life for 60 years and then, as it's starting to look like it's not going to last much longer because, look, wood rots as most living things do - to then cover it with roughcast.)
I stayed awake half the night, thinking about it. "What are we going to do?" I kept asking myself and kept re-playing a variety of different scenarios in my head which, by nature, is f*ckin' excellent at re-playing a variety of different scenarios until I either find a solution or go consider living in a cave for the rest of my life.
Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but... I am really good at thinking about stuff. Obsessive, some would say.
The thing is, letting go didn't feel like an entirely acceptable solution because letting go would've meant finding something else acceptable and at the moment, we haven't got anything. There are a few houses for sale, yes, but none of them have been as good of a fit as this one. They've either been 1) sitting so low in terms of elevation and right on the riverbank that flooding or liquefaction wise, not a good place to go, 2) terrifically overpriced, 3) terrifically bad quality, as in, not even worth it to us.
We also can't rent the house we're in for winter, so either way we would've needed to find another place to move to, and soon.
Half the night I spent awake thinking about it - partially due to my daughter continually waking up due to stormy weather and me not being able to fall back asleep every time after re-settling her - until at about 4 am I had something I thought would work.
Buy the place anyway, the voice in my head said.
But don't keep this one. (Ie, this house.)
Build another one, in the back of the section.
Because that's the thing: the land is a quarter-acre. (It's over 1000 square metres, to those of you not familiar with English standards.) It is, at least in theory, easily subdividable and even if not subdivided, could get a permission from the council to ball the current house and build a replacement away from the road towards the back of the land.
And before anyone suggests, why don't you just buy land and build a new house on it straight away?, then the answer is: we can't. We haven't got enough money to do that - but we do have enough to buy an old house now, and then slowly tinker on building something new, of our own, on the side.
Yes, it's not an ideal solution - but it'll do.
Just like 60 years ago when someone decided to cover an already 60-year-old wooden house with roughcast, they also probably thought, "It'll do."
They, too, probably knew that it wasn't an ideal solution. They, too, probably would've done something better had they access to more money and were able to work towards something that was better for everyone in the long run.
But they didn't, and neither do we.
We make do with what we have, and we work towards our goals within the constraints of our lives, which is why I said in the beginning of this post that in the last two days I have learned a lot about humility, and empathy.
I have thought hard about why would someone enclose (probably) damaged wood in roughcast, therefore making it exceptionally difficult for me to even assess how f*ckin' screwed up the timber in this house may be, and why my initial reaction was to call them bastards to enclose old timber in roughcast in the first place.
But in the end, it may just have to do, and for the moment I will lose myself for another hour reading through architectural drawings and reports I got hold of at the council today, and when The Girlie wakes up from her nap we will continue our day and one day, I will have my own house.
But it's not today yet.
PS. As I am trawling through council records in search of solutions to what we're in at the moment, I am getting a real kick from reading stuff like this: handwritten notes and plans which explain what has been done to the house over the years, why, by whom.
A far cry from computer-run programs I'll be using this year to sketch house plans and run building expenses through Excel sheets.
A far cry.