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We got the keys to the building on 28th March, and started work straight away.


When my dad first saw the premises for the first time, he was horrified at the idea I wanted to be ready to open in just 5 weeks. When my husband, Alan, came to see the place he had to sit down! In fact, almost everyone who was there at the start seemed to think that the amount of work needing done was overwhelming, and that we could never do it in the timescale. There was much shaking of heads and sucking of teeth! Meanwhile, I already had the paintbrushes out!



Before we could even start, we had to strip out all the old, smelly carpets. The building had been unoccupied for a few years, and so needed a good clean! There was a big awkward reception area built in the hall, which would have blocked the waiting room entrance, so it had to be pulled out. Underneath  a carpet in the hall, we found some marble tiles, but carpet-gripper rods had been nailed into them, cracking many, and carpet had been glued on top of them, so unfortunately we weren’t able to revive them. Similarly, vinyl had been glued onto the little black and white tiles in the entrance porch, and it took me 3 hours of scrubbing to get the glue and paint off.



Nearly all the walls were a dirty yellow/ magnolia, while, as you can just about see in the “before” shot of the hall, the surrounds were royal blue! Everywhere needed painted, and this was one of the first jobs. Uncle Jim and I took on this mammoth task. As you can see, the place is lovely and spacious, which is fantastic. But not so fantastic when you have to paint it all, and every wall needs at least two coats! The painting took almost two weeks, not helped by the fact that I decided to change the colour of the consulting and waiting rooms after they were painted. I wasn’t terribly popular with my loyal work force that day!


So, yes, the walls were bad enough, but the glossing and woodwork were an ever more daunting prospect. All credit to Alan and Jim, who uncomplainingly (?!) toiled over every window, panel, door, frame and skirting board- I’ll bet neither of them will ever want to look at a pot of white gloss again!!


And as for the covings and ceilings, poor Alan got drafted in again for them!



One of the most pressing problems we had was how to bring water to the rooms where we needed it. None of the rooms, bar the disabled toilet, had any kind of a water supply, so how to get the sinks we needed for scrubbing up and washing, and the washing machine installed where we needed them?


This was my dad’s giant project! We have a staff kitchen down in the basement, and the water came from there, via a beautifully constructed but complicated frame of pipe-work.


The first step was to get the water upstairs. The second step was to get it into the rooms we required it, and this was not always easy! There was much cursing at this point, but eventually the pipes were through, and dad was proud to announce that he had done his job, and there was now pipe work ready for a sink in the operating room. Unfortunately the kitchen units hadn’t arrived by this point, so the sink couldn’t be installed immediately. Not liking to see my poor dad at a loose end, when the rest of us were hogging all the painting jobs, I suggested he might like to fit a sink for me in the consulting room…


Some more murmuring, measuring and sawing later, ta-da! I had a sink in the consulting room. But still no kitchen units for the sink in the operating theatre….so I tentatively floated the idea of a sink AND washing machine in the kennel room. My poor father looked incredulously at me, but got to work. My poor Uncle Jim was his gofer throughout, and was up and down to the plumber’s merchant about 5 times a day, at this point!! But again, I got my wish, with running water everywhere I could want, and no leaks!


When the kitchen units arrived, dad finally got to fit the double sink in the operating theatre, which was further complicated by the need to install a water heater. An intricate meccano construction was required to accommodate all these items- I’m sure if you look under the sink, you will be impressed! It was no mean feat, especially as dad is not a plumber by trade- huge thanks to him!



When it came to flooring, I did quite a bit of research. The tiles you are standing on are non-slip, water resistant, ecologically sound and very tough and durable- they can be used in loading bays etc, so I think they should stand up to the job! They also require no special cleaning, and are relatively easy to keep clean.


Confident that they would be easy to install, I ordered 120 square metres. As soon as the painting was done, Alan and I set to work, and yes, the tiles themselves were simple to lay, but making the cuts for edges/ doorways/ fireplaces (of which we seem to have an inordinate amount!) was no fun! I was making templates with newspaper, then transferring to the tile, which Alan would then have to cut to shape! It was laborious and time-consuming. At this point, we were working until midnight most nights, with dad coming back to mind the children. But it was coming along….


Until we ran out of tiles!! I had to order another fifteen square metres- grrrr! But finally (finally!) it was finished!!



The kitchen units for the preparation area, which should have arrived in the first week, didn’t. After a few heated phone calls, we finally managed to get them delivered the next week, minus doors. The guys installed them, happy that all they needed to do was screw the doors and drawer fronts on when they arrived.


But when they arrived, it became apparent that none of the doors or drawers was pre-drilled! This was met with great groans and sighs by my dad, Jim and Alan, and much head-scratching ensued. (I am blaming Al- I said to him that I could have the doors fitted before delivery for an extra cost of £XX. He assured me it was no trouble to screw on a few kitchen doors…..!!) To drill the doors for the hinges involved complicated templates, special drill bits and the purchase of no less than 2 routers! At this point my dad’s friend Ian joined the happy team and between them he and my dad managed to get the job done in “jig” time (pun intended, dad!)


Meantime, Jim wrestled with the drawer fronts, with much measuring and muttering. I understand that these were the “worst kitchen units- ever!”


But they do look nice!



Meanwhile, lots of exciting items were arriving. Unfortunately, many of these items required assembly, so, armed with an assortment of Allen keys, a few screwdrivers and instructions written in what appeared to be Swahili, we all set to work. When we were simultaneously assembling an identical piece of furniture or equipment, it seemed to become a little bit like The Generation Game, as we compared the results at the end! I always had the added advantage over the guys because, having two “X” chromosomes, I am not too proud to read instructions. I understand having a Y chromosome renders this impossible, so you might think that the only way is to drill a random hole in a very expensive piece of equipment while actually, if you turn the piece that doesn’t fit round (as shown in the diagram!!) abracadabra, it fits perfectly.


Oh, much fun was had! Someday I’d like to meet the inventor of flat-pack furniture, divide him into 36 random small pieces and put him in a small, flat box with an Allen key and some mysterious screws…



We seemed to be almost there- we had painted, laid flooring, plumbed, tiled and built.


Then the computers arrived. It seemed as though the old building, which had been offices before, was previously networked, and all we needed to do was find the point where all the wires converged……


We hunted and probed, but no such point could be found. After a few days of fruitless searching, the decision was made to install a new network- this with 4 days to go before opening! My dad stepped up again, and, along with his other brother, Pete, they ran cables and installed the illusive “patch panel” (your guess is as good as mine) that would allow the system to function. I can’t explain how they did it, as every time they tried to explain the intricacies of the job my brain started to scramble! My hat goes off to them!



We didn’t quite get our walk-in kennel finished, but it shouldn’t take too long. Thanks to my husband Alan and our friend David for all their hard work!


Also to my dad’s friend Tom, who did an excellent boxing-in job for us! I am fortunate to have access to such fine joiners.



So everything was done, right? Wrong! All this sawing and painting and drilling creates a huge amount of mess, so someone had to clean it all up. That would be me and my lovely friend, Laura, who even brought her own cleaning gear!


Thanks, Laura. I always suspected we would end up a pair of scrubbers!!!