Mum and Dad are firm believers in the tradition of First Footing a house, letting the old year out the back door and the new year in the front. They thought it might be even more appropriate where there are 15 or so old years queueing up at the back door to be let out, years of neglect, cold, damp and some tragic and difficult times. So even though it would be the 3rd January when we got there, we were determined to do a good job as the first people who would cross the threshold in 2012. In our version at least, your first footer should be a tall, dark and handsome man. Dad says "Two out of three ain't bad!" We also believe that you should arrive with whiskey (representing good cheer). coin (financial prosperity), bread (food), salt(flavour) and a lump of coal (warmth). Dad had the coin and the salt was already in the car. We shopped in Castlerea for the drink and bread. We added champagne so that our good cheer would be bubbly!
You are meant to let the old year out first, so on arrival, Mum nipped round the back to open the back door, then came back round the front via grabbing a coal lump from the coal pile to unlock and let Dad in. It was a breezy day - we had to smile when a draught blew through the house slamming the back door as we came in the front! 15 years well and truly gone! Happy New Year, new house!
This week's major job was to rip up the floor of the downstairs living room. This floor has suffered most from the neglect mainly because the air bricks front and back were badly positioned and blocked anyway. It has holes where Mum and Dad have crunched through with their rigger-boot heels and feels, anyway, very springy and weak. We are told that most people simply rip them out and lay, instead, a modern insulated concrete floor covered with the covering of your choice (tiles. laminate, boards, parquet etc). Dad had thought there might be a chance that some of it was recoverable. We thought this might be a full day job, not only crow-barring up the floor boards, but then potentially having to saw through joists to get them out of the slots either end in two halves.
No such problems in fact. The boards proved to be riddled with woodworm so that most came up in short lengths, breaking at every joist, and the joists themselves were in poor condition. Sometimes, as Dad went to prise the boards up off the joist the joist would instead crunch downwards like a weetabix, almost hollow inside where the woodworm have eaten the structure away. No wonder the floor was springy!. The floor took much less time than expected as a result of this. It generated nothing for the salvage or firewood piles, but a good old stack for the bonfire heap, which is where 99% of it ended up.
With the job done much quicker than expected, we are left inside the house while Mum and Dad head for Castlerea where they need to set up an account in Euros from which to pay builders and contractors and to do a bit of shopping. There is also time to fit in a bit of gardening just for relaxation purposes. It's fairly wild gardening at this stage, clearing brambles, sawing down some elder and ash saplings growing where they are not wanted (in the cattle-yard for one). We are also on the phone to the water board people of County Roscommon, trying to get ourselves reconnected. In the excitement driving up the drive we did not even notice that the pile of scrap had vanished. Aerial Keith had come to claim it as promised. We'd been thanking Mike the Cows for pulling the old VW out of the brambles and keeping it, and the scrap. for him as first refusal, but he was happy, in fact, for us to give it to Aerial Keith.
AK is another character in our "play" having dropped by, interested in the car as a project restoration, in a big blue van with big ladders on the roof. Dad spotted these and, finding that AK was in the aerials business, asked him to take down the floppy TV aerial loosely lashed to our western chimney and looking like it would finally blow down and impale the roof any minute. Keith came back with van, took down the aerial in minutes, accepted coffee, offered to (and did) clear all the gutters, and then charged us nothing "if I can have the car". Everyone's a winner. His sons play GAA (Gaelic Football) for a local team, which raises funds by collecting and selling scrap metal, so we were happy to oblige - they took cookers, fridge, the olde washing machine, copper tank and pipes, angle iron, old oil drums, assorted farm implement bits etc; a fine olde load. As I say, we failed to notice all this vanish till AK returned with a big 4 by 4 hoping to tow away the Volkswagen. The VW, though, has all 4 wheels seized and would not budge to the tarmac-tyre shod "Chelsea Tractor" poseur 4x4. They will come back with a tractor and lift the car onto a trailer.
Surely enough for this one