February 10, 2016

Renovation - # 2 - The chirping sound

What lies behind the walls!

Not a thing of beauty

Before I tell you about the spooky chirping sound from last week, let me just say that renovating a house that’s 3 years younger than I am is quite an adventure. The house, without its wooden wall panels, and without wallpaper is not a thing of beauty. If a surgeon peeled back my skin and teeth and took a close look underneath, would she be as horrified as we are at our findings?
New walls, new life!

New walls!

Today, as I entered the house, having missed a visit yesterday, I realized that a few things had changed. It seemed a little fuller – and I thought it was just the extra new doors downstairs - but it turned out that it was also the new 60 cm wall that I had asked for, and the frame for the ceiling that would be lowered downstairs.

Happy to see this rapid development, I bounded upstairs, only to be confronted by a cloud of rapidly descending dust.  I covered my mouth with my scarf and kept moving. The bathroom tiles were being removed (cough, cough), and a slit was being carved into the floor to accommodate some new pipes.

It’s true that the new door frames in the attic overlapped, but really, what’s a few centimeters among friends? Without losing our cool, we figured out a workable solution so both doors can open and close without blocking each other. 

A mysterious sound

Back to the chirp. Last week, I found myself alone in the house, after the workers had left.  Since the radiators had been dismantled, it was pointless to keep the heating on and half of the light fixtures were missing, so it wasn’t too light there either. I had some measuring to do, and planned to draw a new sketch for one of the rooms. I was wearing my coat and working quickly to get it done before I’d have to put on my gloves as well.

As the silence descended, I noticed the sounds from around me. I could hear the neighbor's footsteps going up the stairs. I could hear a rattling sound from upstairs – that must be the spin cycle on their washing machine. And an unidentified chirp. Every few minutes. At random intervals, it seemed. It sounded like a living thing. Perhaps a cricket, stuck beneath the house?

I texted Theo. “Do you know what the chirping sound is?” “Oh yes, I think it’s the oven,” he replied. So, I contacted the previous owner. “Why does the oven beep?” I asked her. She replied, after a few minutes, “It’s the smoke alarm – battery dead – maybe your handy husband can replace it?”

The goose chase

I searched high and low, but could not find the smoke alarm, since the ceiling had been removed. The kitchen is covered in a thin sheet of half transparent plastic, so it was hard to see what’s what there. I crept around the kitchen, which is very dimly lit, in the dusk, searching for the damn smoke alarm. That day, I didn’t find it. The next morning, in the light, after careful listening, Theo found it on the kitchen counter.

I picked it up, with 2 fingers, almost afraid it would cause, rather than prevent fire. In small writing, on the back, it had an expiry date, which was more than a year away. And imprinted on the plastic was this sentence: Battery cannot be replaced. Funnily enough, all the time I had it in my hand, it refused to chirp.

All's well that ends well

View from our new bedroom! A good omen!
The day after that, I picked it up again from the shelf in the pantry. It chirped right away. “Into the container with you!” I shouted angrily at the round plastic object, and ran outside to the container with all our old tiles and rotten wood and sheets of wallpaper and I threw it in, as far away from me as I could. “Good riddance, horrible thing!”

It must have been the right thing to do, because, as I was about the leave the house today, this beautiful rainbow appeared through our new window!  

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