Monday, 17 March 2008

Expressing preferences

On Saturday local government elections were held. Elections around here mean a family trip down to the local school, the kids playing on the swings and fort and pointing out their work in the classroom and catching up with friends and acquaintances.

Fortunately a local election also usually means a fairly straightforward task in the ballot box. Keeping the handful of how-to-vote guides that I had been loaded with on the way in was more of a chore than voting. There were three choices for mayor and three for local councillor. You didn’t even have to vote preferentially. If you just wanted to vote for one, or two that was fine. For the first time, I knew someone handing out information for each of the candidates. Either I’ve been here a while or I have friends across the political spectrum. In fact, the spectrum is not very wide for local elections. For the record, at the last update, the incumbent mayor swept back into office with 82% of the vote and the incumbent councillor (17 years and counting) is on 51%. People really don’t like change unless the alternatives just seem too attractive.

Accepting an information card from a neighbour, I was queried about whether we had found a builder yet (“We know about the plum jam, but what about the builder?”) And the couple running the booth wanted to know the details of the house. They have one of the most direct views of the “big house” we’ve moved here. As owners of the biggest barn in the neighbourhood, they know big, but I wasn’t too sympathetic to their recollections of how sweet the little house is. I too think our house charming, rather than sweet, but my plan is to enhance the charm with a little space.

Hence the issue of the builder. Perhaps I’m being just too particular about it, but I want to work with someone who while practical, can also share a vision of what we want and be excited about doing it. It’s probably a pretentious middle-class thing, but I don’t want someone who likes and builds brick kit houses whacking together some generic solution. We spent two hours a couple of weekends ago talking to someone who has done work for us in the past and have great hopes that he’ll work with us on this. He’s already come up with an ingenious solution to convert the second bedroom space into laundry/closet/ensuite and has suggested some great ideas for stairs, moving doorways and converting the kitchen to a bedroom. We’re waiting for him to get back from a trip and confirm details with us.

Meanwhile the stumping should be finished tomorrow. We spent the weekend gutting the old bathroom and ripping lino and mouldy carpet out of the house. The children have proved very good at removing tacks from the floor so we had a great time cleaning the place out. It was hugely satisfying and really felt like we were taking ownership of the house. It already seems like a different place. And it will be more different yet. I’m already thinking though that we will have to have a “wrap party” to satisfy everyone’s curiousity.

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