When my nan and grandad bought their own house after the war, money was tight and so they got stuck into anything that needed doing on the house…
‘When we went to Ashcombe Road, we had had little experience of DIY so it was very new territory. The garage was a tumble down do-it-yourself affair so Les set to make it a bit more substantial. It was originally crudely constructed of breeze blocks with a corrugated asbestos roof, which stayed as it was. The walls, however, were replaced with large brick coloured blocks. We didn’t have a car then, but Les’s brother Doug garaged his car in it. The idea was for us to use the car occasionally in exchange for garaging it, but it didn’t happen that often and Doug definitely did better out of the deal. There was also some argy-bargy with the Ashcombe estates about altering the garage without building permission, even though the building had been improved. However, things were settled satisfactorily and the garage stayed up for many years.
Other attempts at DIY included the very first go at wallpapering. The third bedroom, which was like a glorified cupboard really, was just big enough to take a cot, a chest of drawers and a chair. We chose a very cheap thin paper (there wasn’t much to choose from after the war) – quite pretty though – pale yellow with a small pattern on it. The first piece of paper was hung by the door with difficulty by the two of us – the second piece was ready and put on the wall and whilst patting it into place, Les’s hip and side of his bottom was rubbing against the first piece, which resulted in it being half rubbed off! Fortunately, we had enough paper to replace the first piece.
We got the rest of the paper on in a fashion and the paintwork done – so we had to do something with the floor. We could only afford to stain it and one could get varnish stain, which would give it a finish. In the process of staining the floor, Les knocked the pot over and as it was quick drying, the pair of us spread the spilt varnish as fast as we could using three brushes. The final result wasn’t too bad and with one of the rag mats by the cot, it was quite reasonable.
Another amusing episode was when we were going to sell the house before moving to Bexhill in 1956. Les got his friend George to help him paint the outside of the house. The colours were dark red and pale fawn, and the paint was divided between the tin and jars held together with string. When Les was doing the bedroom window over the front door, the string on his jar became loose, tilting the jar so the paint tipped out, making a large puddle of red paint directly outside the front door. Of course, this had to be mopped up and I have no idea how long the red paint graced the concrete path outside!