welcome to emmas housethought

building update. not.

Many of you will have forgotten that I am building a house. I understand how you feel. I tried to forget it myself, but as anyone who has built a house knows, you are reminded of how much there is to do EVERY TIME YOU STEP OUT THE DOOR.


This is probably just the right moment to remind the doubters out there (not you, dear reader, I’m sure you’re all with me… oh.. I see…ok, maybe some of you are with me) that this is not a RACE and I have had a MIGRAINE for the last six months, not to mention there’s been a GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS, which has forced some of us to take it SLOWLY OR DIE FROM STARVATION. OH-KAY-EY?


I’m going to say this once, just so we are all clear. YOU CANNOT BUILD A HOUSE BY YOURSELF. That’s right, YES, I know that. And YES, I will be getting the crew in sometime soon. As soon as this headache goes away and the winter is over and I find that last 50 grand I left somewhere. So BACK OFF, or I’ll get the chainsaw out again.


Along with the billions of common frustrations that come with building a house there is the less famous annoyance called not building a house. I had my hands on some stones the other day (was covering the ruin walls to stop them from ruining some more) and felt that dotted line of joy just to be near them again. The craving just to get on with it is driving me loco.

gate iron lace

But – there is some news – I did have the angle grinder out. Eons ago I went on a hunt for gates (actually I can look up the blog to when the great search for gates began… it was August. As I said – Eons ago). One gate was needed for the last garden stone wall to be finished and the other for the bathroom stone wall. Couldn’t build the walls without knowing the width of the gates, you see. And unlike new stuff, you can’t rely on a standard size with an antique, or an old-piece-of-crap velharia anyway.

Long story short, found gates in next village, great colour excellent price. Going to be gorgeous. Trust me.

iron lace

Needed to remove the old hinges and bits before handing them over to the serralheiro to fix new ones, so out came the angle grinder. Just as I was thinking that I really don’t like metalwork much, nor do I like the blunt and rather vicious instrument that is the angle grinder, I became hypnotized. Rather than just saw off the hinges, I cleaned them up like you’d never know the hinges had existed, then I moved onto the rust and old paint. It must have been the extreme noise that ushered me into the 8th state of consciousness you can only get with power tools. It’s not entirely unlike an MRI scan at 3am in a foreign hospital with a migraine. You can really lose yourself in there.


YES earplugs, YES I WAS thankyou, doubter. Now piss off or I’ll GRIND you.

Now that the gates are sitting somewhere waiting for new hinges, I might actually be planning some wall building. Now that it’s sub-15 degrees. And raining. Oh hang on, there’s snow forecast for tonight. Brilliant. Er, I doubt it.

my gates


  1. Adam December 18, 2009 1:14 pm Reply

    Photo 2 is the pair of gates I aspire to one day… but your one is beautiful too (final photo, right?). Look forward to seeing it swinging on a new hinge. x

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    Emma   Reply: December 19th, 2009 at 7:40 am

    #2 is funky huh? I get a bit of gate envy everywhere I go here – but I’m mighty pleased with my find, there are 3 of them, the others are tall… x

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  2. Derek December 18, 2009 8:40 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, Building a house can be very hard on the mind, you need to focus on the finished house, picture yourself swinging on thoses gates on a sunny day, just make sure you weld the hinges on correctly,
    stay strong and it will all come together……..your doing a great job…keep up the good work……

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  3. PSilva December 19, 2009 1:03 am Reply

    Hi Emma.

    So…powertools eh?… I feel you girl 😉

    For most of my lifetime i called other people to do those “hard” jobs in the house, until i tried my first B&D (remember their “do it your self” tips and manuals?)….
    Now i’m addicted to it, i even have friends who now call me to do those “jobs” in their houses.

    Anyway, can’t wait to see those gates placed. I never told you but i have a house up there, near Oliveira do Hospital, in the Rio Alva valley (still Coimbra district). We did some work there and now we’re “refueling” our finances 🙂

    Next time i go there i’ll take some shots to send you. The gates are not there also because we didn’t find ” the ones ” yet.

    I now finished reading all your blog and let me thank you. No Portuguese could explain so well the bads and goods of living here. You should be doing our tourism marketing 🙂 🙂

    Next time i’ll try to pass you some real good recipies. Traditional ones.


    Paulo Silva

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  4. rick December 19, 2009 7:17 am Reply

    Hi emma,

    you can do it on your own, it just takes longer, and its way more fatiguing. it can save you money in some ways if you have the knowledge, equipment, resources and ability to do it yourself, however if you make mistakes that someone else has to remedy its often more expensive for them to remedy your mistake than to have got them to have done the job in the first place. take heart, everyone who looks at your website thinks you are doing a great job.

    i spent six weeks this summer digging rock with a pick and shovel, and a braking bar, trying to clear a section of the oversite, at that time there was no alternative but to dig by hand. i probably got out only about 20m3 of rock in all that time, now i have a great big hole, and about the same again to remove, and nowhere to put the rubble and reclaimed rock that isn’t either in my way or too far to carry. sometimes it feels endless, but i know the days of braking rocks are numbered.

    what happens when you do something like this is either of two things, you give up, or your dig deep and try and find something inside that gives you the strength and tenacity to continue.

    there is a huge list of jobs to attend to when you build a house, i’ve spent 20 years building, and the only way i have ever gotten thru it is to think “what have i got to do today”. that’s all it comes down to, because its so easy to become daunted by the enormity of what lies ahead. when you brake it down into bitesized chunks it becomes manageable.

    there is nothing to be learnt from things being easy, its only thru adversity and hard work that you ever get to understand anything. good for you for having a go.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 31st, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I think I’m keeping the wrong company. I need to hang out with some properly clever people like you… that’s it, I’m off to your blog for some inspiration…

    [Reply to comment]

    sarah and rick Whitehead   Reply: December 31st, 2009 at 9:51 am

    fancy a cup of tea?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: January 14th, 2010 at 6:52 am


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  5. tNb December 19, 2009 9:30 pm Reply

    Finished is overrated. Consider it a lifelong work in progress … 😉

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  6. Christine Osmond December 20, 2009 9:30 am Reply

    I get tired cutting toast. Admittedly, there’s a lot of it. Toast with jam, toast with peanut butter, toast with vegemite, toast with nothing, toast with mould, toast with crusts off, toast triangles, toast soldiers, toast left whole, frozen toast, untoasted toast, her slice is bigger than mine toast, I asked for it but now I don’t really want it toast, toast just before we leave the house toast, peanut butter on one side and honey on the other toast, spreads not allowed to touch toast, 3yr year old girl toast, and her sister toast. So tired cutting toast I can’t imagine getting out a power tool. Em you inspire me to greater things. Maybe I’ll git myself an electric knife for Christmas, make toast of all that toast.

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  7. monicauk March 5, 2010 8:34 pm Reply

    These photograph are so beautiful. I like them.

    [Reply to comment]


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