After work stretching over 12 years, Lancashire woman Claire Halk and her family have finally moved into the bare shell of their new Accrington home, ending their long ordeal living in a caravan.
'My wife's original concept for the house was fantastic,' said Stuart Halk, a construction engineer. 'I naturally assumed that I'd build her a dream home, but she went all 'I'm not incapable' on me and took over completely. It went downhill very quickly when she started getting her friends to help, but I just let her get on with it.'
'I'd seen Stuart working plenty of times and he made it look really easy,' explained Claire, a former secretary, 'but all I could really remember was that you held a screwdriver at the opposite end to the pointy bit. I tried learning what I could from DIY magazines, but they expect you to know the basics. I'm not the brightest and it took me ages to work out which end of a hammer was best for digging. I did find a place where I could get myself a pink hard hat though.'
'I knew I couldn't rely on my husband after my strop, so I got other people to help me out,' said Claire. 'The plans were drawn up by my best friend Fran, but with hindsight I probably should have hired an architect instead of a hairdresser -- she's not the best at knowing what constitutes 'just an inch'. And although it's hard to believe, you don't want to get your foundation from Readymix. It took me months of arguing to get them to deliver the colour she recommended for my skin tone.'
The building work progressed slowly, and had to stop completely after Claire fell pregnant in 2002. 'I realised I had to put it work hold for a bit when I was about 8 months gone. My bump got in the way of climbing ladders.'
'Once I got myself moving again it was just a matter of stacking brick on brick, but it all took an awfully long time. Martha's pram took up all of the boot space in my Fiesta. When I went to B&Q I was buying whatever I could fit in the pram's shopping net and bringing it home on the passenger seat.'
A further pregnancy in 2006 put the completion date back again. 'My bump came up much quicker second time around. It was nearly 6 months before I started building again, and lifting things really hurt the wound from my c-section, but I stubbornly refused to offer Stuart the blow-job he was demanding before he'd help.'
'Raising a family of four in a small caravan at the same time wasn't easy', said Claire, 'Stuart was grumpy as hell, telling me that not letting him do the work was 'my stupid idea' but I wanted to show him that I was perfectly capable of building a house. I did have to admit defeat with the electrics and got a professional in after the fire. Why call it electrical tape if it's not for joining cables?'
'I really wouldn't try doing it all again though,' she confessed. 'It's been 12 long years, but now I've proven my point and we have a roof over our heads which only leaks a little bit. All I have to do now is get the internal work done and my dream home will be finished. It shouldn't take me long now to do the plastering, kitchen, bathrooms and decorating. Well, not once I've got the floorboards down anyway.'