Tuesday 30 December 2008

Just looking

Today we paid our first visit to Liverpool One, the recently opened shopping centre in Liverpool. We chose Liverpool for our post Christmas sales trip because we wanted to go to a John Lewis, which is sadly missing from our local shops. When we first moved up here from Surrey it was some time before we managed a trip to the John Lewis at the Trafford Centre and I was beginning to think that we had moved to the back of beyond, such is the lack of variety and choice offered by the local shops.

The shops at Liverpool One look attractive enough, but even the throngs of sale shoppers could not raise the temperature, from the just above freezing, in Liverpool today. We only go shopping, now, when we really need to buy something. I am no longer the shopaholic that I once was. As I spend most of my time decorating or gardening I do not need a wardrobe full of fancy clothes. Today we were looking for a duvet and pillows. As we approached the bedding department we were asked by at least two assistants if they could help us. Usually when you want help there is not an assistant anywhere in sight and unless I really need help my standard response is that I am just looking. I once said this to a friend who approached me in a shop! Then realised that she was not staff. We knew what we wanted and no salesperson was going to persuade us otherwise. Having secured our purchase of a duvet and four pillows we arranged for them to be taken to the collection point so that we did not need to carry them around with us. We then had a wander around the other shops with the aim of doing some window shopping and I managed to drag my husband into Debenhams and Marks and Spencer to see how they compared to the Chester stores. Shopping, with a bored and reluctant husband in tow, is hard work and if I want to do more than just look I need to shop on my own.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Getting in the festive mood

My work stint finished a week ago and it has taken me all of a week to catch up with things. I have covered for this colleague's pre-Christmas holiday for three or four years a now and I swear that he is taking the holiday later each year which means that I am working nearer to Christmas each year. Uncannily, or maybe it is cannily, he asks me if I can cover for him around June which is long enough away from last Christmas for me to have forgotten how pushed I was the previous year and well before I have started to think about the next Christmas. By the time that I finished work I was exhausted, way behind with my Christmas preparations and not really in the spirit of Christmas.

By Thursday, after a few decent nights' sleep I had managed to finished my present shopping and write my Christmas cards in time to catch the last post. Then with some reluctance on Thursday evening I went out to the Horticultural Society Christmas meeting, which was a buffet plus entertainment from the Chester Operatic Society, who sang a mixture of Christmas carols and Christmas songs, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have to admit that I was expecting that an operatic society would sing something more high brow. The two previous Christmas socials I had missed as an indirect result of working, leading me to the conclusion that too much work makes Cheshire Wife a dull girl. So, at last, on Thursday night I came home in the festive spirit.

Since then I have assembled and decorated our tree, which is artificial but drops needles as if it is real. The tree is really for the benefit of the neighbours so that they do not think that we are a couple of sad gits. It is unlikely that anyone will visit us over Christmas. On Christmas Day we will meet the neighbours for a drink at lunch time, in the local pub then after Christmas we shall be making a day trip to Northampton to visit my husband's family. Yet again, the distance between Chester and Northampton is less than the distance between Northampton and Chester. My family are too far away to try to attempt a Christmas get together. The two of us, my husband and I, will enjoy being together as we spend a lot of time apart. We will light a log fire and watch TV or one of the many programmes that we have videoed during the year and not managed to watch. If the weather is suitable we might go out for a walk.

The Christmas tree in the photograph is at the Cheshire Oaks Retail Outlet and is reputedly the biggest tree in the UK. In daylight, apart from the sheer size of it, it is nothing special but when darkness falls it is spectacular.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Monday 15 December 2008

Question Time

Originally posted Friday May 23, 2008

At the moment I am working more than usual and do not have the time to both post and visit. So I have decided to rerun some posts that I wrote before my blog was read.

Last night the BBC programme Question Time came from Chester and I was in the audience. I had never seen a television programme made, so was interested to see how it was done. The venue was a local school with facilities far better than anything that I remember from my school days. The audience was asked to arrive between 6.00 and 6.30 pm with the recording taking until 9.30 pm. I thought that we were going to be in for a long evening of takes, retakes and cuts but the hour long programme itself was recorded with no breaks from about 8.30 pm. On arrival the ladies' bags were searched and the men were frisked. Then we were offered tea or coffee and biscuits in exchange for writing a question a on a card. At about 6.45 pm a very suave looking David Dimbleby appeared and explained what was expected from the audience. Then at about 7.15 pm we were shepherded into the auditorium and once everybody was seated the floor manager chaired a dummy set using audience members as panellists. This allowed the crew to check that all the microphones and cameras etc were working and everything was correctly set up. While all this is going on the programme editor is sifting through all the questions to choose those that will actually be put to the panel.

Next came the moment that the audience had volunteered to be there for - those who had been selected to put their questions were announced. I was very surprised to find that I had been selected to ask a question. The questioners were asked to stand so that the recording crew could mark where they were in the auditorium then we were taken to a room off the auditorium. Our questions were returned to us so that we knew what we were to ask and we were advised to stay alert as the questions could be asked in any order or may not even be asked at all. By now it was about 8.15 pm and the real panel and chairman arrived. David Dimbleby announced them in the order that they sat around the Question Time table. Tony Hall, Hazel Blears, Francis Maude, Christina Odone and Simon Hughes. Hazel Blears is tiny. She is so small that they had to put a cushion on her chair so that she could see over the table and if we could have seen under the table I bet her feet did not touch the ground. Determined at least not to have a bad hair day she had been to the hairdressers. So recording time had nearly arrived but before it did the panel were asked a 'warm up' question. Then there were a few minor adjustments including powdering of noses and foreheads before the programme was underway.

The panel area was amazingly brightly lit whilst the auditorium was only dimly lit. During the recording an army of sound engineers and camera men dressed in black t-shirts and jeans silently glided around the auditorium and stage. The whole session was all very professional without any hitches. Once recorded we then had to wait a couple of minutes for it to be checked before we were allowed to go. By now it was 9.30 pm - one hour and five minutes before transmission. As we left the programme was being played back in the reception area of the school.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Back to basics

Originally posted March 12, 2008

For the next few weeks I am working more than usual and I know that I shall find it difficult to post and visit. So I have decided to rerun some posts that I wrote before my blog was read.

Last night something woke me up at about 1.40 am. As I lay half asleep, with the bedside light switched on, listening to the wind which, I thought, did not sound as bad as they had forecast, the bedside light flickered and went out. My heart sank and suddenly I was wide awake - the power had gone off. The bulb in the bedside light is one off the new low voltage light bulbs and has only been in use for a few weeks, so it should have a few more years of life in it. I had taken the precaution of taking a torch to bed with me, just in case the power should go off. So I got up and had a prowl around. There were lights on in the distance, but everywhere around was pitch black, as you would probably expect it to be at 1.50 am. In the study, the UPS had kicked in and was bleeping away keeping the computer going for now. I went downstairs to check the fuse box, nothing had tripped - so it was definitely a power cut. There was nothing else to do but to go back to bed and hopefully to sleep. Once back in bed my mind kept going over how awful things had been when gales had left us without power for nearly three days in January last year. There is no gas where we live so we are all electric apart from the oil fired central heating boiler. We had had to manage with candles for light, a log fire plus several layers of clothes for warmth and the generator, of a builder who was doing a small job for us, to boil the kettle.

Eventually, I slept and subsequently woke to a cold and powerless morning. At least the water was still hot, but breakfast was orange juice and cereal - no chance of the full English this morning. Contacting the power company to check that they knew that the power was off and to find out when it would be back on again was another minor trial. Our new fangled electric cordless phones do not work without power and my mobile phone needed charging. Luckily we still have a old corded phone. Then it was off to the camping section of a nearby garden centre to purchase a portable gas ring powered by bottled butane gas, so that I could make a warm drink. Power is wonderful when you have it and managing without it is a feat. I could only write this is my head until the power was back on again.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

The wrong week

Originally posted February 27, 2007

For the next few weeks I am working more than usual and I know that I shall find it difficult to post and visit. So I have decided to rerun some of the posts that I wrote before my blog was read.


Last week my husband took the week off work to do some 'serious decorating' - his words not mine. The trouble was it was the wrong week. We have lived in this Victorian cottage for nearly three years and as the third anniversary of our move here looms, on 30 April, I have set that date as a deadline by which the main rooms have to be decorated and carpeted. If the deadline is not met I am getting professionals in to do the decorating. We are currently trying to decorate the main bedroom and the dining room.


We could not do anything with the bedroom because we are waiting for it to be replastered. Initially, we couldn't contact the plasterer and when we eventually did manage to contact him found that he was ill. Consequently, decorating the bedroom is on hold and the fitted bedroom that should have been fitted by now, has had to be postponed.

The dining room we can barely get into, let alone decorate. Three weeks ago, we had a carpet fitted in the living room, after nearly three years of waiting - whilst we used the living room as a store room and all sorts of other things. The carpet which came from a well known (I think) carpet store, has a mark in front of the fireplace and several other faults. So the furniture from the living room is in the dining room whilst we wait for an independent carpet inspector to examine the carpet.

The inside of the cottage is like an obstacle course. It is actually two cottages knocked into one but at the moment it feels more like one cottage knocked into two, with the furniture from the rooms that are supposedly being decorated in the rooms that aren't being decorated. Instead of decorating we spent the week cutting up the tree, which the recent gales had blown on to my greenhouse, into fire wood.

This week my husband is back at work, away from home in his air-conditioned office, leaving me to juggle workmen and a part time job.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

The return of the garden gnome

Please read the links.

A few weeks ago the drain, that the Irish flag layer tinkered with back in July, blocked. It is my husbands' department to unblock drains so when he was unable to get the drain rods down the drain he contacted the Irish flag layer (aka the garden gnome) and asked him to return to sort out the problem with the drain. For about two weeks, until the Irish flag layer returned, we had food from the waste disposal strewn around the patio, that he had laid in August. Water would go down the drain in small quantities. Trying to put too much water down at one time resulted in the area around the drain being flooded. You are probably thinking that it serves us right for having a waste disposal. We live in the country. If food is put into the dustbin bag animals invariably sabotage it and we have the contents of our rubbish bag strewn around our drive and out into the lane. The alternative could be to put the food on the compost heap, but not all food is suitable for this method of disposal and putting food on the compost heap attracts animals to it. Consequently, a waste disposal is quite a sensible thing to have.

After several phone calls between the Irish flag layer and my husband, the Irish flag layer and me, my husband and the Irish flag layer and myself and the Irish flag layer, he phoned one morning to say that he was in the area and would be round shortly provided the weather was not 'too wet'. It wasn't when he phoned but not long afterwards I decided that it probably was and that he would not turn up. It was that very cold Tuesday, at the end of October, when it rained, snowed and sleeted. There was an unexpected (on my part) knock on the front door. I opened it to find two drowned rats - the Irish flag layer and a mate. I was asked if it was 'too wet' for me to open the side gate so that they could get round to the patio at the back. 'How wet is too wet?' I thought. OK, the path was flooded and the garden was very wet but I have a cagoule and a pair of wellington boots. So I dressed myself up for the wet weather and opened the gate for him then retreated indoors to kept an eye on things from the kitchen. As it happens the gutter above the drain is broken and it drips. I am sure that having icy water trickling down your neck concentrates the mind and there is a knack to removing the inner sleeve of the drain. He managed to clear the drain in a few minutes. No chance of a shirtless flag layer today. He was wearing an acid yellow, fluorescent jacket with a hood. The garden gnome had become a hoody!

Friday 21 November 2008

Knowing me knowing you

I was gifted this meme by imbeingheldhostage about ten days ago. I do not think that I can put off doing it any more. So here goes:

(A) Four places that I go over and over
  1. Tesco
    I go to three different stores depending on how the mood takes me. Does that count as three? I suppose not.
  2. My greenhouse at the end of our garden
    I go twice a day in the summer and once a week in the winter
  3. Charity shops
    To get rid of our junk but I usually come home with someone else's junk
  4. The gym
    I do not actually go but would if I had not had housemaid's knee on and off since June
(B) Four people who e-mail me regularly
  1. Friends reunited
  2. Able labels
  3. Amazon
  4. The National Lottery
(C) Four of my favourite places to eat
  1. Pizza Piazza, Dorking
    We regularly ate here when we lived in Surrey
  2. The Italian Taste, Surbiton
    We used to eat here when we visited my mother in law
  3. The Bunbury Arms, Stoak, Cheshire
  4. The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, Cheshire
    It would have been easier to have listed four places that are not worth returning to.
(D)Four places you would rather be
  1. On a beach on a desert island
  2. In our garden
  3. Anywhere by the sea
  4. Not at work
(E) Four TV shows you could watch over and over
  1. Silent Witness
  2. Coast/Britain from Above type documentaries
    They always seem to be filmed on a sunny day
  3. Gardeners World
    I didn't care for Monty Don but I think that Toby Buckland is rather sweet and he knows a thing or two about gardening
  4. Ten Years Younger
    I can dream

    And now for the four people who I think will respond - the dotterel, Maggie May, Moannie and Strawberry Jam Anne. I am not telling them. Let's just see if they read this and are up for it.

Monday 17 November 2008

On reflection

There has not been much to report on the renovation front recently. This is because we try to concentrate on the cottage in the winter and the garden in the summer. Also the small jobs, which we do ourselves, tend to be straight forward and incident free, but in the last few weeks not everything has gone to plan. We have been without a full length mirror in the bedroom since the old bedroom was taken out, about 18 months ago, if not longer. Well, one wet Saturday my husband decided that we would rectify this issue. So off we went to purchase a new mirror, which would need to be fixed inside one of the wardrobe doors. By the time we returned home with our new mirror and tube of mirror glue it was no longer wet and an afternoon in the garden beckoned. The mirror then hung around in a corner of the bedroom for a few weeks whilst we gardened.

Fast forward to last weekend, when it was wet and I charmed (threatened really) my husband into gluing the mirror onto the wardrobe door. This involved removing the wardrobe door and lying it flat on the carpet until the mirror glue had dried and it was safe to re fix the wardrobe door. My husband had applied the glue when he realised that the instructions did not state how long it took for the glue to dry and I noticed that the glue was ten days out of date. Yes, even glue has an expiry date these days! Too late, now, to take it back and complain. We left the mirror for an hour or so, to dry, which was probably not long enough, but my husband can be impatient. I helped him screw the wardrobe door back into place and we carefully shut it. He collected up his tools and I headed into another room. As my husband descended the stairs the was a thump. 'What could that be?' we both thought. Really it could only be one thing. I gently opened the wardrobe door to find that the mirror had slid off the door. There are advantages to having a wardrobe stuffed full of clothes. Luckily the mirror was unharmed. I then had to spend, I don't know how long, removing the glue from the inside of the wardrobe door and the back of he mirror. We now have another tube of mirror glue and will be repeating this exercise, with I hope more success, the next time we have a wet weekend. What is really annoying is that my husband has done this before, in our previous house, without any problems.

Update

November 23, 2008 - the mirror is now up. This time we used Evo-stik mirror adhesive. Last weekend we used some unbranded glue which was a complete waste of money.

Friday 14 November 2008

Being creative

I have been given me this pretty and unusual award by Mima. So it is a big thank you to her for being so kind. I have to list six things which make me happy then pass the award onto six blogs.
The six things that make me happy are:
  • having my husband home
  • our garden
  • seeing all our work on the cottage come to fruition
  • in the summer, a warm sunny day
  • sitting by a log fire in the winter
  • a relaxing bath after a hard day at work
I am passing the award onto three blogs that I have been reading for some time:

imbeingheldhostage - if I could only use one word to describe her blog it would be creative, so I can not, not give this award to her.
strawberry jam anne - for such a creative blog title
moments from suburbia - who always writes about something different

and three enjoyable blogs that I have recently started to read:

crystaljigsaw
millennium housewife
sandi mcbride

Tuesday 11 November 2008

A resting place in the sun

A few years ago whilst on holiday in Western Crete we visited the Souda Bay cemetery, which was gifted to the War Graves Commission by the Greek people after WWII. There are 1527 graves of service men who lost their lives in the Battle of Crete, which took place between May 20 to 31, 1941. Most of those buried there are British but there are 447 New Zealanders and 197 Australians. Some are unknown. Most of them were late teens or early twenties. So young.

Souda Bay is a horse shoe shaped bay to the east of Chania. The cemetery, which is surrounded by eucalyptus trees, lies at the bottom of the horse shoe facing out into the bay. The setting is quiet and almost beautiful. The sea, which was like a mill pond that day, gently lapped the nearby shore. The cemetery is immaculate with rows of white head stones, neatly mown grass and tidy flower beds. There was not a weed, dead flower head or piece of litter to be seen. The cemetery is protected by the hills on its' northern side and the White Mountains to the south. These cast a shadow over the sea and give a slightly eerie feel. But the overwhelming impression is of a very peaceful, tranquil and serene location, making it very difficult to contemplate the bloody battle which took place not far away. I did not want to leave and there are not words adequate to describe what I saw.

Thursday 6 November 2008

A game of tag

I have been tagged by Gill to reveal six interesting things about myself. I only visited her blog to look at a recipe and and I got tagged! Her blog is worth visiting for the recipes alone, but seriously she does write some interesting posts. I have had to have a long hard think about this as I do not think that I am very interesting. Anyway, here goes.
  1. I was born and brought up in East Yorkshire. I have arrive in Cheshire via Bath, Oxford, London and Surrey.
  2. I met my husband on holiday, on a Greek island.
  3. I am a keen gardener and would spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week out in the garden if I could.
  4. At school I was a sprinter and played left wing for the school hockey team.
  5. Peppers and chillies do not like me and the smell of a dog can give me a migraine.
  6. I used to be a civil servant.
I am passing the tag on to the following six bloggers:

blog that mama
Denise - an English girl rambles
dottie
gone back south
imbeingheldhostage
millennium housewife

Sunday 2 November 2008

Everything he does

Last Thursday night we went to see the Canadian rocker, Bryan Adams, at the MEN Arena in Manchester. We arrived in good time so as not to miss any of the concert. At 7.30 pm we found ourselves sitting in a half empty arena as the support band took to the stage unannounced. We haven't a clue who they were. They were instantly forgettable and too loud to hear properly - I know that sounds like a contradiction but really they just seemed to be making a noise. After their half hour warm up slot they left the stage and it was another half an hour before Bryan Adams made his appearance, by which time any warmth that the warm up act had generated had risen up to the rafters, whilst the audience sat in a slightly chilly arena. Had we realised that the concert would not really start until 8.30 pm, my husband could have had another hour at work or we need not have bolted our meal then driven hell for leather down the motorway. What was also slightly disconcerting was that in the area where the stalls would normally be, the seats had been removed and the audience there were standing. The audience continued to make their way to this area and to fill up the other half of the seats during the warm up act and the following half an hour. For the duration of the concert people were milling around at he back of the standing area, and I felt as if I were watching from Picadilly Circus or Waterloo Station, as we were sitting at the back of the standing area. By the time Bryan Adams appeared the arena looked to be just about full, but I would not say that it was a sell out.

In the darkness it was difficult to see exactly what was going on, but we could see Bryan Adams on the screens either side of the stage. Then we realised that he was making his way, through the audience to a small stage in the middle of the standing area. From where we were sitting we had a pretty good view of his first two numbers, which he performed acoustically from this small stage. At the start of his third number his band came to life on the main stage and he made his way through the audience, back to the main stage. I am sure that most pop stars would not even try such a thing for fear of being mobbed. Now we were into a rock concert, albeit soft rock. It was raw, noisy and loud with a multitude of brightly coloured lights. At times the sound was so loud it was distorted. Bryan Adams performance could not be faulted, as he belted out his repertoire of hits for over two hours, bouncing around the stage as he sang. Strangely there was very little atmosphere in the area. Even the enormously popular Everything I Do, I Do It For You failed to rouse the audience. At last, and I mean at last as it was his final number, the guitar twanging Run to You had the audience on their feet. Then he was gone, returning a few minutes later to do a five number encore. By the time he eventually left the stage it was nearly 11.00 pm and time to head back down the motorway.

Monday 27 October 2008

Turning back the clock

This weekend in the UK we have turned our clocks back an hour and are now on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). For me this weekend has coincided with reminiscences of the area that I grew up in, which has been prompted by the recent success of Hull City football club, who are at present the talk of English football. On Saturday evening, after a fairytale beginning to their first season in the Premier League, they were equal on points with Chelsea and Liverpool.

I was born and brought up in East Yorkshire. Hull, or to give it its' full name Kingston upon Hull, was the nearest town. It is not a city - it does not have a cathedral. The centre of Hull was badly bombed in World War II and rebuilt in utility mode so was never very exciting. Now, after the demise of its' trawler fleet and the decline of the docks, Hull is being regenerated.


Each year in the second or third week in October, Hull Fair takes place. It always used to be the week of my birthday and I used to think how lucky I was to go to Hull Fair as a birthday treat, not realising that every other child also went, regardless of when their birthday was.




The gateway to Hull is the Humber Bridge which when it was built was the longest single span bridge in the world.





The landscape to the east of Hull is flat but to the west and north there is some stunning countryside. In recent years the Yorkshire born painter David Hockney has exhibited a series of water colour paintings of the Yorkshire countryside, which are instantly recognisable to anyone who knows the area. Going north from Hull you come to the attractive Georgian market town of Beverley then it is off to the coast to Bridlington - a fishing port which is as attractive as any in Devon or Cornwall but unfortuneately does not have the weather. Further up the coast is Scarborough which has a beach to rival any in the world but again is let down by the weather. Further up the coast again, is the pretty fising village or Whitby and the picturesque Robin Hood's Bay. Then going inland there are the Yorkshire Moors.

This is just a taste of what the area has to offer.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Living in someone else's house

When we moved to Chester we were only able to spend two weekends house hunting, before we were due to move, so decided to rent, initially, rather than buy. Renting, we felt, would give us a better feel for the area. After viewing a handful of properties we settled on a small four bed roomed detached house, on an estate built just outside Chester, about 20 years ago. A detached house makes it sound rather grand but it was a shoe box really, as were all the houses on that estate. The fourth bedroom was only big enough for a bed, a small cupboard and a chair. What we were renting was a black and white, half timbered, mock Tudor house, in the aptly named Tudor Way. When giving the address to some one over the phone they said how grand it sounded. They were probably in a call centre in India and were just making conversation.

The business of renting itself was a bit of a culture shock to us. We had both owned property, albeit with a mortgage, for about 20 years. For me it was a bit like being a student again but my husband had never rented before, having lived at home until he moved into his flat. Any problems, and there were several, had to be channelled through the letting agent who would then contact the landlord, who was living abroad. We had been used to fixing things and sorting out problems ourselves. In a way it was nice to have someone else sorting out the workmen and paying for the repairs but it meant that we were not in control of things and some problems took longer than we would have liked to get fixed. Then there was always the possibility that we may have been responsible for the damage rather than it being wear and tear.

The first morning there my husband went off to work, leaving me to have a bit of a lie in before setting about organising the kitchen. About the first thing that happened was when I pulled back the shower room curtains and the pole fell down. The agents got it fixed but after that I do not think that I pulled those curtains over again. A week later I had gone outside to put some washing on the clothes line when the back door shut behind me and locked itself. I was locked out. Luckily one of the neighbours was at home and let me phone my husband who had to come home from work to unlock the house for me. The neighbours were very nice about it. They had had the same problem themselves when they first moved in. The locks were a bit flaky. Not long after that the front door lock became so stiff that we could not unlock the door. Again the agents got it fixed but they took their time about it.

For a few weeks everything went smoothly until one evening when I was grilling pork chops for our supper. Suddenly there was a bang and a flash and the house was in darkness. The grill element had fused all the electrics in the house and the oven no longer worked. I think that we had to go out to eat for a few days until the agents got a new oven sorted out for us. Thinking that we had had a hand in the demise of the grill element the suspicious landlord insisted that he old oven was left in the garage for him to inspect!

Not long before we moved out the curtain rail fell down in the living room when I pulled the curtains over. Really the whole house needed an overhaul. Nothing much had been done to it in the 20 years since it had been built, apart from the occasional coat of paint.

One problem that we did not manage to get sorted was the central heating boiler which heated the water up almost to boiling point and guzzled gas like there was no tomorrow. Even when it was switched off the boiler used gas. We had the biggest gas bills that we have ever had while we were living in this small rented house. I was just grateful that no elderly relatives or young children visited us whilst we were living there as I was afraid that they might scald themselves on the hot water.

We lived in the rented house for eight months until we moved into the cottage that we are now living in. And guess what - the cottage had been rented out before we bought it.

Addendum



As requested by imbeingheldhostage. Here is a photograph of the house that we rented. I think that she will be disappointed as it is more of a folly than the black and white, half timbered, mock Tudor house that I described but I can not think of any other way to describe it. The landlord had the outside painted a few weeks after we moved in which improved its' appearance.

Friday 17 October 2008

21 again

According to my reckoning today is my birthday. To be honest I am not keen on birthdays and I would be happy to give the whole thing a miss but usually I am not allowed to.

When the subject came up a few weeks ago my elderly mother managed to get the date right but admitted that she could not remember how old I am. So I told her that I was 21 and that seemed to satisfy her although I am sure that she knows that I am more than 21. I thought that dementia, which she has, affected the short term memory. I would have expected her to remember the birth of her first born even though it was 21 plus years ago. Never mind, I know my place. My brother is the blue eyed boy I am the green eyed monster. Yes, I do have green eyes.

At the beginning of October my husband's bachelor uncle died. Once it had been established that he had made a will, but not given any directions regarding a funeral, my husband and his sister arranged the funeral for today. When I was told of the arrangements I said to my husband - 'doesn't that date ring a bell?' ' No' he said. I then reminded him that it was my birthday and he would have to re-arrange the funeral as I was not going to it on my birthday. So after much deliberation the funeral has been re-arranged.

No sign of a present yet, which is not surprising as I have not decided what I would like, but my husband has suggested a pair of secateurs. He ran the lawn mower over my last pair and after we had fished the remains of them out of the innards of the mower, they ended up in the dustbin.

Sunday 12 October 2008

A walk down memory lane



We have had a lovely sunny day here today. Similar to the warm weather that we enjoyed two weeks ago, which was probably the nearest that we are going to get to an Indian summer, or even a summer at all. It has reminded me of the autumn that I started university. The mature pale sun in the baby blue sky was generating the same pleasant autumnal heat that I remember so well from those first few weeks in Bath. The trees are turning and the atmosphere felt just as it did then. It is almost impossible to put the feeling into words. When Keats wrote the phrase 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' he should have won an Oscar or a Nobel prize, but I doubt that he got anything. That phrase is probably the best description ever of warm early autumn weather and can not, nor will not ever be improved on.

After the drive from East Yorkshire to Bath, which had taken the best part of a day, my parents deposited me at the university campus, where I had been allocated a room in one of the halls of residence. I was left to do some unpacking while my parents went to check into their hotel for the night, before driving back to Yorkshire the next day. Then they were coming back to collect me to take me out for a meal. In the mean time a mist had descended and my father had difficulty finding the university campus. There were no mobile phones or satellite navigation in those days. I just had to wait and hope that I had not been abandoned.

We do not have a pub in our village so about once a month a bar is set up, for the evening, in the village hall. It is a chance to meet the neighbours. The surroundings are basic and the drink is cheap. It's almost like being back in the union bar.

Do I want to turn the clock back? I am not sure. Probably not.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Postcard from France


At noon on Monday, we drove off the ferry at Cherbourg and into a traffic jam and queue for passport control. Armed guards stood around at the actual control point, but they did not look very threatening, just a bit off putting. We had a comfortable first night in a converted stone mill in a small town just outside Rennes. This unusual sculpture was on display in the hotel garden.

The next morning we set off for Poitiers, via Vouvray, where we made a detour to a wine cave (shop) which we had found last year. Our hotel, near Poitiers, had seen better days, but when built was no doubt state of the art. We had requested a quiet room. The room that we were offered was next to the lift which we pointed out was probably not very quiet. Reluctantly we were offered another room which we took. The hotel was a bit like Fawlty Towers. The service was appalling but we did have English speaking TV in the bedroom.



On the only sunny day of our holiday we went to Cognac, which is a lovely old town with a lot of history to it. After lunch, not far from where this photo was taken, we to the Hennessy brandy distillery for a guided tour. Hennessy was founded in 1765 by Richard Hennessy, an Irishman who settled in that area of France. Initially we were taken across the River Charente by boat, then we were taken into the original cellars where the cognac is matured. First we were shown a film about the growing and harvesting of the grapes, then we were shown the equipment used for the vinification and distillation processes and the art of cooperage. Even the oak casks have to be old before the cognac can be stored in them. What we saw was actually a museum. The grapes are now processed in a larger and more up to date facility then moved, once stored in the barrel, to the second, silent cellar that we went into, where the brandy is allowed to mature. The most valuable brandies are stored behind bars. After the tour it was back across the river for a tasting and a chance to buy some Hennessy cognac. All the brandy houses in Cognac put on these tours. We went to the Hennessy tour because the timing of it suited us best.



The next day we found, Chateau Guillame, a pretty little chateau in a hamlet down several miles of single track road. The chateau was built by Guillame X, father of Eleanor of Aquitane and here may have been her birthplace.




Next it was off to Perigueux, the historic and attractive county capital of the Dordogne. Our hotel was a chateau but we were staying in the Orangerie - an unattractive annex recently built in the grounds to house the package holiday tourists. The annex resembled a prison. Inside the floor and walls were grey with dark wooden doors. Our room was like a cell - small and uncomfortable. The only concession to luxury was the satellite TV with 30 French speaking channels. Not even one of English.

From here we had a day trip to Bordeaux, which was a two hour drive plus one hour in slow moving traffic, from the out skirts of Bordeaux into the centre. Whilst trying to find somewhere to park we attempted to drive the wrong way down a one way street which prompted much tooting of French horns. We just managed to eat our lunch outside, before the heavens opened. Bordeaux is a beautiful city of 18th century architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our visit was spoilt by the weather and traffic. So there are no photos, but I would like to go back to have a better look.

On our way back to Perigueux, we drove through the vineyards of St Emilion, stopping at the wine cave in the village to buy some wine. This photo was taken just before the heavens opened and we dashed to the wine cave for cover. St Emilion is an attractive old village, but again the weather spoilt our visit.



Our last day trip, on yet another grey day, was a drive through the beautiful Dordogne countryside to Bergerac, the home town of Cyrano de Bergerac, the French novelist, but we are probably more familiar with the Jersey detective played by John Nettles. It was a Sunday, when we visited and almost everything was closed which was disappointing, but we did manage to find a wine cave that was open.

The following day we began our journey home, stopping overnight in a village near Le Mans. At last we had found a gem. The hotel was pretty, quiet and comfortable with a good restaurant. It was everything that we could want after a hard day's driving. We plan to return next time we visit France.

I shall remember this holiday for the many fields of sunflowers that we drove past, the exotically planted tubs of dahlias, verbena bonariensis and pelargoniums which we saw almost everywhere we went, the French countryside which is wonderful and especially the picturesque villages with window boxes and front gardens planted with busy lizzies, marigolds and begonias and finally for the number of variations on current fashion that we saw flaunted by the young French girls. Even the young in France look elegant.


authorblog Post of the Day nomination 8 October 2008. Thank you David.

Sunday 28 September 2008

Bald panic

After a two week holiday and a few days of basking in the glory or awards I have now got down to writing a proper post. This incident happened, three weeks ago, the day before we set off for France.

In the early hours of Saturday morning I had a dream that my husband's car had bald tyres. I am not sure where we were, still in England or over the channel in France. As I moved from dreaming into consciousness I made a mental note to check the tyres on my husband's car, then returned to sleep. It as not until early Saturday afternoon, when I was doing some jobs outside, that I remembered that I needed to check the tyres on my husband's car. The front tyres did not seem to have much tread on them and I could not even find a tread bar. I was not even sure what I was looking at as the tyres on my husband's car are totally different from the tyres on my car. So I had a look at the rear tyres. They had inches of tread on them. By comparison, the front tyres were virtually bald! I marched indoors and ran upstairs to the study where my husband was fiddling around and told him in no uncertain terms that unless he changed the front tyres on his car, I was going nowhere in it and the holiday would be off. He had a look at the tyres and begrudgingly agreed with me. As it happens the car needs to be MOT'd in a few weeks and would not pass with the front tyres in the state that they were in. Luckily he managed to find a tyre replacement place which stocked the correct tyres for his car. The middle of a Saturday afternoon is not the best time to need to replace car tyres as some places only open for the morning.

Up till now I had managed the pre-holiday stress pretty well, but now I could feel myself becoming stressed and my blood pressure rising. Also, while my husband was out getting the new tyres fitted I became annoyed at his cavalier attitude to our safety. The previous day had been the wettest day that I can ever remember and more rain was forecast. In my book, bald tyres and wet road equal disaster. If I were about to drive my car two thousand miles, in a foreign country I would check things like oil, wash bottle and tyres. As far as the holiday was concerned all my husband needed to do was make sure that his car was up to the trip and pack his suitcase. I had done everything else.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Another award

Dottie has given me the Arte Y Pico award. I am amazed and thrilled to receive another award. So a big thank you to Dottie who mistaken thinks that I know everything about renovating houses which could not be further from the truth, but I am learning. If I did know everything about renovating a house I think that our cottage would have been finished a long time ago, with a lot less hassle and I would not have so much to blog about.

The rules of Arte Y Pico are that it is passed onto five blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting comment, or for contributing to the blogging community, whatever language. Each award winner has to show the award on their blog and link their blog to the blog that has given them the award.

I am giving this award to the following:
  • Akelamalu - who may tell you everything or nothing
  • Denise - an English girl living in America
  • Gill - a British woman living in Canada
Each of the above blogs is creative, different and interesting in its' own way.

Monday 22 September 2008

An award


I was given this award by Denise - An English Girl Rambles just before we went on holiday, and I did not have the time to do the honours with it. I hope that, that is alright as I am sure that you all, and Denise, understand how frantic things become just before a holiday. I would like to say a big and belated thank you to Denise for this award, which I was surprised and delighted to receive. The rules that go with the award are that you:
  • put the logo on your blog
  • add a link to the person who awarded you
  • nominate at least seven other blogs
  • add links to those blogs on yours
  • leave a message for your nominees on their blogs
It has been difficult to select seven blogs to pass this award onto and I have had two weeks to think about which is probably too long. Now, for the nominees which are as follows:

Dottie's lot -life in rural Scotland with three young children plus studying at the OU

Gone Back South - life back in the south after living in Cheshire

Maggie May - who writes so eloquently about the current turmoil in her family

Mima's doings - who has had a hard time recently

Rural Villager - life in rural Wiltshire

Suburbia - sociology in the suburbs

Working Mum - who juggles a young daughter, working and doing up her house

Saturday 6 September 2008

Au revoir



We are off to France to restock the wine cellar or too be more accurate the wine rack that I bought my husband for his birthday last month, which is still in the box and needs to be assembled. Tomorrow we drive to Portsmouth. Then on Monday morning we get the ferry to Cherbourg. Yesterday it was almost wet enough here, to get the ferry from our front door.

Back in about two weeks.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Designer shopping

On Sunday we went to the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet with the intention of buying some clothes for my husband. He hates clothes shopping. I am not sure whether it is the spending of money or deciding what to buy that he hates - probably both. But a visit to B&Q or PC World is a different matter - he will happily spend ages in either shop. Also I am not sure where the designer fits into Cheshire Oaks as most of the clothes that they sell are a season or two old or are seconds, but there is plenty of free parking there and it is only about five miles from where we live. Since we moved to Chester, five years ago now, we have only been shopping together in Chester, once. The reason for this is that the car parking in Chester is in short supply and costs an arm and a leg. The alternative is to use the Park & Ride, which for two of us is equally expensive. As I would not trust my husband to shop on his own, I now buy some of his clothes such as shirts, jumpers and trousers, myself. Usually I buy things from Marks and Spencer so they can easily be returned if they are not right. He really does not care, too much, what he wears, but he will not wear anything that he considers as the latest fashion. I suppose that, in some ways, I should be grateful for this. At least he does not look like the male equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb.

The clothes that I cannot buy are suits and shoes, both of which he needs to try on. We/he bought a suit earlier this year. On Sunday we were looking for shirts and shoes. First we went to Marks & Spencer who did not have what we were looking for so we headed for the Clarks shop. When we got there it was only about 20 minutes after the shops opened and the shop was heaving, mainly with children. And there I was, with my big child, looking for a new pair of shoes which we easily found, thank goodness. Then we had to join the queue of about ten people to pay. I had never seen this shop so busy, even I was glad to get out.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Coffee Morning

My husband looked at the calendar last weekend and was surprised to see that I was going to a coffee morning, because his mother went to work to avoid having to go to coffee mornings. Well I am not his mother - I am his wife and I am happy to go to the occasional coffee morning. This one was in aid of the flower club that I go to. The day started with a clear blue sky and glorious sunshine but by the time I was ready to go out, to the coffee morning, it was grey and cold. Nevertheless, we still managed to sit outside in the garden which backed onto one of the local golf clubs. We had looked at a house in this road, but considered the road too busy, so I was interested to see what life could have been like. In addition it was a chance to have a look at an established garden and pick up some ideas, as we are still struggling with our garden. I bought a plant for 50 pence from the plant stall and a small ornament from the bring and buy stall but managed to resist the cake stall and had no luck with the raffle. Also I met two ladies who live in the next village to us. Anything that helps with the cottage and garden and also expands my social life can not be bad. And I managed to work the late shift in the afternoon/evening. I am not trying to have it all. I just want a good balance of social life and work.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Taking stock

In the spring I sowed some stock seeds (Matthiola incana) in a seed tray in our utility room. The utility room tends to be the only room in our house which maintains a constant temperature so I have found it useful for germinating seeds. Once they had germinated, I moved them into the conservatory which has more light and some heating. There, with tlc, the heat of the warming sun and light from the lengthening days, I grew the seedlings on into small plants. When I thought that the weather was warm enough, I moved the plants into our unheated greenhouse until they were ready to go out into the garden. About June, I planted out the most advanced of the stock plants in the garden. Within two days, all of the flower heads had disappeared. At the time a family of rabbits were regular visitors to our garden and I reckoned that they had eaten the flowers. The only other plant that had been affected was a red pelargonium and as this had never happened before and we had not been bothered by rabbits before, I though that it was only reasonable to assume that the rabbits were the culprits. I lifted the stock plants and put them back in the greenhouse in the hope that they would recover. In the meantime, I did some research, on the Internet, on the sort of garden plants that rabbits do not like. Luckily most of the plants in our garden are plants that rabbits tend to avoid. So I planted the remaining stock plants amongst plants which rabbits avoid and the plants kept their flowers. Thinking that I had the situation under control, I put back into the garden the stock plants that I had lifted, watched them carefully and they were doing alright, although I would not say that they were flourishing.

A few weeks ago, late one afternoon I heard what sounded like several shots from a gun and thought that maybe one of the local farmers had decided to have rabbit stew for his supper. Since that afternoon until this weekend I had not seen a rabbit in our garden. But now the rabbits are back and my stock plants have lost their flowers again.

Thursday 21 August 2008

No smoke, no fire

I was woken at 4.45 yesterday morning by two high pitched beeps. I knew instantly where they were coming from, but I buried my head under the bed clothes and hoped that it would not happen again. I did not want to be awake at 4.45 am - I had to work until 9.00 pm last night. I went back to sleep and was woken again at 6.45 am by two more high pitched bleeps. This time I got up and tried to silence the culprit, without any luck.

This has happened before and initially it was not obvious to me what it was. There are now so many gadgets in what was once two Victorian cottages, that it was difficult to know where to start looking for the culprit. How did the Victorans manage without all these gadgets? Quite easily, because they had not been invented. Could it be the computer - it often beeps if there is a power cut or if its' temperature gets too high. Could it be the burglar alarm - it's sometimes temperamental. Or is it something else? Could it be from outside? Is it coming from the neighbours? No, it was none of these. It was coming from one of the smoke alarms, which are wired into an electrical circuit and there was no smoke and no fire. So what was the problem? The smoke alarms have batteries in them which should be replaced every twelve months. The electrician probably told me this when he fitted the smoke alarms, but twelve months after the alarms were fitted we were gearing up for a builder to demolish the garage and semi gut the upstairs of the house. Changing batteries which were still working was not on our agenda at the time. I read the smoke alarm information leaflet, switched off the electricity as instructed and tried to take the cover off the amoke alarm to get the battery out. It wouldn't budge and after several attempts I thought that the whole thing was going to come off the ceiling. I phoned the electrician who told me to do what the information leaflet said but still the cover wouldn't come off. Eventually my husband realised that the smoke alarm didn't have a cover - it was in two pieces and you slide it apart. And there seems to be a knack to doing it, which I don't have. More than likely it is brute force and ignorance. Now, I just need that man with the knack or brute force and ignorance to sort out the problem.

Monday 18 August 2008

Party, party

We hadn't been invited to a party for ages and then we get invited to two in one weekend. So not much got done, this weekend, in the house or garden. In fact nothing much has been done for about a week as I, unexpectedly, had to work on Thursday and Friday last week. The parties were planned in the expectation that it would be high summer when they were held and both were scheduled to be held outside.

Saturday's party was a birthday party at the neighbours. My first problem was to buy a suitable present as the neighbours have absolutely everything, and I mean everything. I happened to see some silk flower arrangements which I thought would be to the neighbour's taste and that I had solved the problem but no, I had not thought about wrapping it, which proved to be a challenge. My husband carried it round next door. I didn't pay much attention to how he was carrying it. Fortunately he managed to get it to the door before it fell through the wrapping, as he handed it to her. Luckily it was not damaged - she just didn't need to unwrap it. The birthday girl does not actually have her birthday until November but decided that she would like a summer birthday party, in the hope that it could be held outside. Despite her best efforts, it seems that the weather thought that it was November, even though according to the calender it is August. On Friday her husband gave up on the idea of an outdoor party and organised a marquee. The whole thing including floor, carpet, starry roof, tables and chairs was put up in less than a day and the outside flood light. When these neighbours have a party they do not do things by halves. They had organised waitresses to look after the food and a cabaret act for entertainment. The marquee proved to be a very good idea as about seven o'clock the heavens opened and a gusty wind started to blow. The guests were kept dry, if a little cold and when I got to the point that I had, had enough of being cold I nipped home to get a cardigan. One advantage of a party at the neighbour's. Another advantage being that we did not need to worry about drinking and driving. We do not see much of our neighbours so it was an opportunity to catch up with them. Del boy, who has recently blotted his copybook, like Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, decided that it would be wise to have a prior engagement.

Sunday's party was a more sedate tea party held in a garden on the banks of the River Dee, in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind. No present required for this one. I made a chocolate cake for the raffle. They were lucky with the weather. During the morning it had poured with rain but the in the afternoon the sun did show itself for a time as we enjoyed sandwiches and home made cakes and drank tea from bone china cups. We then admired the half acre terraced garden, which is quite steep and must be a challenge to manage and maintain.

A warm and sunny weekend would have made so much difference to these occasions.

Monday 11 August 2008

Mr Bingley's gravel walk


I have decide to re read Pride and Prejudice. I have read it umpteen times before and it is one of my favorite books, but I find that each time that I read it, I take in some incident that I have not appreciated before. As I was dosing off in bed on last Wednesday night, Mrs Bennet was admiring the gravel walk at Netherfield and it set me thinking about our gravel walk which goes through what will be our gravel garden. The patio has now been laid and the gravel garden will be at the side. The flag layer has put down the membrane and the gravel. It is up to us to create the garden. In the mean time we can admire the new sandstone patio.

Last Monday afternoon the flag layer told me that there was one day's work left and he should finish on Tuesday. As it turned out it was one and a half day's work and they did not finish until Friday lunchtime. Tuesday was wet and the patio layers did not turn up because they need a dry day to finish the job. Wednesday was supposed to be wet but wasn't, however, the didn't turn up again. They could not be working anywhere else because all their tools were here. Over the weekend, we had to remove then from the various flowerbeds that they had left them in, so that we could do some gardening. On Thursday morning I was not expecting them, so did not get up early as I have been doing, but was woken up by their arrival and hopefully I got myself up, without them realising that I had been in bed when they arrived. The last I had heard from the Irish flag layer was that he would be coming on Friday as the weather forecast for Friday was good. If he decided to come on Thursday he would let me know. When I got downstairs the first thing that I saw out of the kitchen window, was a shirtless flag layer. Not a pretty sight at eight o'clock in the morning. The shirt was on and off during the day and I noticed that when he was cutting up paving stones he wore a mask and a red bobble hat. He looked a bit like a large garden gnome. I wonder what Mr Darcy would have made of a garden gnome?

Saturday 9 August 2008

Computer apoplexy

At the end of June I went on a half day course in connection with work. In the interests of saving paper, the planet and reducing global warming the PCT (Primary Care Trust) who were running the course had decided that instead of producing handouts relevant to the course at the time that they would e-mail the participants, at a later date. The information has since been sent to me as attachments to several e-mails. They are only reducing their paper bill. If everybody that attended the course prints out the documents, the paper still has to be used. On Wednesday I tried to print out the first document which ran to over one hundred pages. Our printer seized up after 85 pages and my computer has been having spasms and tantrums ever since. My husband and I have spent the morning fiddling with my computer and I now hope that it is alright. The bad news is that there are some more of these documents to print out. The good news is that my husband is home, so hopefully he can sort out any further problems .

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Trapped

I quite like the warmer weather. It is nice to be able go out without a coat or umbrella and know that you are not going to end up cold or wet. But as with everything in life there is a down side. We have, and have had, every year since we moved here four years ago, birds nesting on the house. Each years there seem to be more nests. This year we have a total of twelve, and that does not include the three partly built nests that were taken down. It may sound cruel taking down partly built nests, but it is allowed as long as there are no birds in the nest. One warm afternoon, about two months ago, when the birds were building their nests, we were sitting outside trying to enjoy a drink, during our afternoon break from gardening and the air was thick with birds flying around. It was like a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds. Bird droppings make an awful mess of the windows and window ledges and now they have built a nest above the conservatory which really is the last straw. They say that bird droppings bring you luck. Well by my reckoning we ought to be winning the Lottery jackpot every week, but we aren't. Since we moved here we have managed to have the windows cleaned only twice, earlier this year. The window cleaner said not to worry about the birds nests - he would take them down. His lad came round to do just that at the beginning of June. He took one look at the nests and said that he would be back with a ladder and I am still waiting for him to come back!

Then when we are in the house, there is the problem that we dare not have the windows open in case a bird flies in. I have got around that by opening the windows as much as I dare, in the evening, and pulling over the curtains. That, at least, allows some air to circulate and for the upstairs, which warms up as the day goes on, to cool down. At times I almost feel like a prisoner, trapped, in my own house.

Well on Saturday evening the tables were turned. I had intended to lock up the conservatory but it was still quite warm so I had left the windows slightly open. About an hour later I went back to lock up the conservatory and to my horror there was a bird in the conservatory. The wind had blown the windows wide open. Luckily the doors to the living room were shut so it hadn't had the chance to get into the house. The bird panicked when it saw me and I panicked when I saw the bird and I was quickly back into the living room. The bird kept flying into the windows almost knocking itself out. I decided that the best thing to do was to go outside and open the external conservatory doors, to give the bird a larger space to get out. This took some time as the bird was obviously tired and every time that it saw me it panicked and vice versa. Eventually the bird flew out, much to my relief. It was only a tiny thing and I hate to think what would have happened if it had got into the house. My husband watched from the bedroom window, not knowing what was going on, and commented that he wondered what I was doing, jumping around outside the conservatory.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Photo gallery

By popular request photographs have been added to the Chelsea comes to Cheshire post dated July 24, 2008 and the Going green post dated July 28, 2008.

Thursday 31 July 2008

That sinking feeling

Yesterday morning I went out for a time leaving the Irish workman, who describes himself as a flag layer, and his side kick sorting out the crates of sandstone paving. I returned about lunchtime and offered to make them a drink. Their mugs, from their mid-morning drink, needed washing, but before I could do that I needed to empty the water that had been left in the washing up bowl. I don't normally leave water in the washing up bowl but on this occasion it proved to have been fortuitous, that I had. So I emptied the water down the drain and just as I was thinking something here isn't quite right, the water, that I had emptied down the drain, came rushing under the door of the cupboard under the sink. I opened the cupboard door, to investigate, and yet more water flooded out. Now, as well as the cupboard being flooded the kitchen floor was too. The plastic pipe work under the sink was all over the place. The U-bend, that the sink should drain into, had twisted to the left and the connection from the waste disposal had twisted to the right. It looked as if it had been vandalized and I quickly worked out that the Irish flag layer and his partner in crime must have done something to the sink unit's waste pipe on the outside of the house. Immediately, I was out of the back door wanting to know what they had done. They had repositioned the outside waste pipe and the pressure that they had used had undone the joints under the sink.

No job in this cottage seems to be straight forward. This is the fourth time that we have had a water leak. When we had the building work done we had a leak through the snug ceiling and a flood through the dining room ceiling. Then the burglar alarm fitters managed to drill into not one, but two water pipes. I'll save the details of those incidents for another day.

Monday 28 July 2008

Going green


We had a brick red, black and beige tiled patio at the back of our house. It looked very nice when it was clean and the sun shone on it, but it was difficult to keep clean because these tiles were internal tiles. They had been out there for about 25 years and had lost their seal. As a result of the building work which was done nearly three years ago, we now have a larger patio, some of which is currently bare earth and weeds. We didn't think that we could match these tiles and I didn't particularly want to, so we decided to see if we could sell them to a reclaim yard. If we could get something towards the cost of the new patio, all well and good, and I don't like to throw away things that are still usable. We had never been to one of these places before and it was a real eye opener. They make Steptoe's yard look tame and you can buy almost anything there, except clothes and food. We could have spent hours wandering around them if we had been interested in old slates, bricks, railway sleepers, knobs,chimney pots, statues, fire place surrounds or even companion sets. Eventually we found one that was interested in buying the tiles from us and in the process discovered that we could buy new paving stones from them, for about half the price of what we had it in mind to pay. A deal was done and it was up to us to take up the old tiles. To be honest they are not giving us a lot for the old tiles, but everything helps.

My husband cadged some crates from one of the neighbours and set about lifting the tiles. Some came up easily, others were cemented down as if there was no tomorrow. It took most of Saturday and Sunday for the two of us to lift the tiles, ferry them round to the front of the house and stack them in the crates. By the time that we finished on Sunday we both were aching in places we didn't know existed and exhausted from working in a sun trap on the hottest day of the year. Now they are all ready for collection and it is good to think that they will be going to another home. Apparently the tiles were in Chester library before they were laid at the back of our cottage. I wonder how many lives does a tile have?

Thursday 24 July 2008

Chelsea comes to Cheshire



Yesterday, we left behind the flat area of west Cheshire that we live in and went over to the more attractive east side of Cheshire. There in the Knutsford area, large houses lie set back from the road in leafy green lanes reminiscent of the area of Surrey that we once lived in. We were off to Tatton Park Flower Show. As we are RHS members, my husband decided that we would go on members' day, then wondered why the tickets were so expensive. Determined to get our moneys worth we spent five hours walking around the show gardens, marquees and stands. It is not a place for the faint hearted. It took 15 minutes to walk from where we parked the car to the show entrance. The weather was kind yesterday. It was mainly light cloud with sunny intervals but my husband still managed to come home with a red face from the sun. Everywhere that we looked boxes on wheels stuffed with plants were being pulled around. We were very abstemious and bought only an automatic window opener for the greenhouse, to replace the broken one and a turtle mat, which is supposed to absorb all the dirt and wet, off shoes with one wipe. An essential if you live up a muddy lane, as we do and have a new hall carpet. I resisted the temptation to buy plants, instead noting down the names of the plants that caught my eye. I don't want to spend hours carrying around plants, worrying that stems might get broken and flowers squashed.

It was well worth the effort to spend a summer's day in garden heaven. The show gardens were all interesting and attractive. But the absolute star of the show was Chris Beardshaw's garden Celebrating Cheshire's Year of the Gardens 08, which won a gold medal and was Best in Show. He ( mr sex on legs) was there in the garden. I could have spent all day looking at his garden with its' informal planting, which included the white daisies and pink cranesbill geranium which would take over our garden, if we let them, and I would love to look out of my kitchen window onto it. Some of the other gardens were pleasant to look at but their more formal planting meant that as soon as a weed appeared or there was a dead flower head you would need to be out there tidying up.

The BBC was busy filming and we saw all three of their gardening show presenters around the show during our time there. There was Carol Klein having a bad hair day as usual and inappropriately dressed in a red coat on a hot day, Joe Swift not much hair wearing a hat and Rachel de Thame who looks even more attractive in the flesh than she does on television.

Today I am back to looking at our still under construction garden, with a lot more ideas.

Monday 21 July 2008

Turning five

This week my car has its fifth birthday. Recently it has been taking up a lot of my time and too much of my money. Last month it had to be taxed and this month it has be insured and to have an intermediate service and MOT before the five year warranty runs out.

The MOT and intermediate service were last week. It is very difficult taking the car into the garage and leaving it there all on its own. The fact that it was its third MOT didn't make things any easier. When my car is in the garage I feel as if I am missing something. It's like a child's first day at school. Earlier in the week, in preparation the service and MOT I gave the car, a Mini Cooper, a good clean inside and out. I spent hours vacuuming and rubbing away at it and I could have spent even longer because it still was not as clean as I would have liked. Living up a muddy lane is no real fun for a silver mini - it nearly always looks dirty. I was not going to let my baby down and take it into the swish BMW dealer, with its artificial plants and shiny chrome decoration, looking all dirty. It has scrubbed up really well and looks like a different car. If looks alone would get a car through its MOT mine would have sailed through. It passed the MOT but BMW managed to find a leak which needed sorting plus some other minor problems. I am afraid that I am not very technically minded when it comes to looking under the bonnet of a car so I can not tell you what the problem was.

As far as the insurance is concerned I have still to sort it out. Mini insurance, who it has been insured with, sent their renewal quote about a month ago and have phoned twice to try to get me to pay there and then, which has annoyed me. Consequently I have been online scouring the insurance companies to see if I could get a lower quotation, which I have, but I can not, now, log into the website of my new chosen insurer. So tomorrow morning I shall try again. I have saved over one hundred pounds but it has taken me I don't know how many hours to do so.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Black stick

Weekend wandering: How long since you tidied up a cupboard or room?

This weekend David McMahon at authorblog asked the question 'How long since you tidied a cupboard or a room?'

Well this incident happened about two weeks ago and I had been intending to write a post about it but other events have got in the way. It was the middle of the afternoon and I was at a bit of a loose end wondering what to do with myself. I decided to make myself a cup of tea and have a think about things. So I put the kettle on and looked inside one of the kitchen cupboards while the kettle was boiling. A watched kettle doesn't boil so I had to do something. At first glance I didn't notice but then I looked again and thought something is wrong here. By now the kettle had boiled so I made myself the cup of tea then stuck my head back in the cupboard, to investigate.

Inside the cupboard, which is floor standing, has two shelves and goes round a corner, everything seemed to be standing in a sea of black. On the top shelf there had been a tin of black treacle standing on top of a tin of golden syrup. Now it wasn't standing on top of the golden syrup any more. It had fallen off and the lid had come off it. My baking ingredients were now standing in black treacle. I had known for some time that this cupboard needed a tidy up and now I could no longer put it off. Carefully I removed bags of raisins, sultanas, currants and packets of nuts, small bottles of essences and tins of cocoa and custard powder. I cleaned up what I could and transferred ingredients into plastic containers. Some were out of date so they just went out. Others had escaped unscathed as the black tide had not managed to spread itself over the whole shelf. I was thinking that I had caught this mishap before it found its way down to the bottom shelf but no I had not. Luckily the bags of flour were untouched but my packets of sugar were a real sticky mess. So I ended up with the sticky contents of both shelves around the kitchen sink and with a snake like trail of black treacle on the kitchen floor from the cupboard to the sink. Doing all of this, with my at the time housemaids knee which I could not bend, was no easy task. Having cleaned the inside of the cupboard, as best I could, with the shelf in situ, I then had to man handle the shelf out of the cupboard so that I could clean behind it. Initially I thought that the shelf had been fixed inside the cupboard before the outside had been put on but I did eventually manage to remove it. Once this was clean everything could go back. By now it was one and a half hours later and my cup of tea was cold.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Incommunicado

My computer started to run very slowly last weekend. I mentioned it to my husband who said that sometimes they do that and didn't show much interest. During the week it was just plain awkward and by Thursday it wouldn't connect to the Internet. No Internet connection means no blog, amongst other things. When my husband came home on Thursday evening he had no choice but to look at the computer for me. The computers are his department in the same way that the kitchen is my department. He didn't have time to do much on Thursday but on Friday commented that in two hours 500 attempts had been made to hack into my computer. Now I wouldn't mind if 500 people read my blog but I don't think that they do. What these hackers expected to find I don't know. Anyway my clever husband managed to fix it. He would not have been allowed to spend two days, in the study, swearing at a computer for any other reason. So last night he was in my good books but then he went and spoilt things by keeping me awake, snoring, early this morning.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Crowning glory

Today I did something that I don't really enjoy - I went to the hairdresser. Usually when I go to the hairdresser the weather is either wet, with optional wind to restyle your hair as soon as you step outside the hairdressers, or hot and sunny and the last place that you want to be is under a hair drier. True to form the weather today was wet, but there was no wind. This is the fifth hairdresser that I have been to since we moved here, nearly five years ago. In Surrey I had been going to the same hairdresser for 15 years. I think that says a lot about the state of hairdressing in Chester.

I didn't exactly see eye to eye with the first hairdresser that I tried. I nearly had a stand up fight with her when she said that she couldn't cut my hair the way I wanted it cut. She had a lop-sided hair cut and could only really see out of one eye which probably explains the lop-sided hair cuts she gave me. The price was extortionate but I decide not to show myself up by querying it. The second hairdresser was more reasonably priced but his hair cutting was no better than the first one. The hair cut was short and shapeless and I was tempted to cover it with a brown paper bag but I decided that as I knew virtually nobody it wouldn't matter. I ventured into Chester and was horrified to notice that people were staring at my hair. It really was as bad or worse than I thought. I went home and cried. It is not really any consolation that within a few weeks he was shut. Life seemed to be one long bad hair day. When I am happy with my hair I am happy with life. For two pins I would have packed my bags and gone back to Surrey. At this point I decided that I was going to grow my hair, and by hook or crook, I was some how going to go back to my hairdresser in Surrey for her to cut my hair back into shape.

The third hairdresser cuts a friends a hair and she has been going to him for a long time. He actually cut my hair alright. He cut it three times and I had three different hair cuts which I found annoying as I like it cut the same every time. He didn't quite understand what I was asking him to do as he is a bit deaf. My friend didn't tell me this until after he had cut it for the first time. I find it difficult enough to explain to a hairdresser with good hearing what I want done so I stand no chance with one who is a bit deaf. Maybe the problem is that all hairdressers are a bit deaf. I left him and tried a young girl who had set herself up in the next village. At first she was very good but when I pointed out that my hair had lost its shape she more or less said that getting it right was the luck of the draw. I persisted with her in the hope that she would get it right again but she never did. As time went on she became more unreliable and I moved on to hairdresser number five.

It seems to have been fifth time lucky. This hairdresser has not made a mess of it, although sometimes it has been cut too short and other times not enough has been cut off making it a bit difficult to plan regular hair cuts, which I really need to be able to do, to fit into my busy schedule of the house, garden, work and anything else that comes my way. I have been going to her now for about 20 months so I think that she has the job.

Monday 7 July 2008

An uplifting experience

We had the hall, stairs and landing carpeted about a month ago and as I predicted at the time would be necessary it came up today - or as they say in the trade uplifted, so that it could be refitted. There seems to be some sort of jinx on carpets in this cottage. Fortunately we do not have much furniture in the hall and most of what does live there, we had not put back. So getting ready for the carpet fitters did not involve too much work, on our part. Unlike last year, when by the time we got the living room straight, my husband and I could have got a job as removal men, because we had had to move the furniture in and out of the living room so many times. The carpet and the underlay had to be taken up on the landing so that the uneven floor boards could be boarded over. Considering what was being done, there was an awful lot of bumping and banging.I was doing some odd jobs in the room below and thought, at one point, that they were going to come through the ceiling, when a particularly loud bang had me jump out of my skin. Apparently the floor boards on our landing are a mixture of imperial and metric boards, which have different thicknesses. Imperial from when the cottage was built over a hundred years ago and metric from two and a half years ago when we had the builder - that is my assumption and I suppose that the EU is to blame for changing floor board sizes. Now the landing has been transformed, from a ploughed field into a bowling green if you imagine that it is green rather than beige or stone to give the carpet its' correct shade. The hall carpet also had a bit of a refit as it needed re-stretching. So now I am hoping that, that is that and it is on to the next job.

Thursday 3 July 2008

Location, location and location

This is the time of year when life comes to a standstill and I am at risk of getting square eyes. It is Wimbledon Fortnight. Somehow it just isn't the same now that Tim Henman has gone into long trousers and graduated from the tennis court to the commentary box. The tennis is not as riveting as it used to be and I really miss the silky smooth commentary of Jimmy Connors, but it still seems to be compulsive viewing.

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Wimbledon. I bought my first flat there, as soon as my salary was enough to support a mortgage and have many happy memories of my bachelor girl days in SW19. The flat was in the wrong part of Wimbledon - I could not afford the village or up the hill. It was about as far away from the All England Lawn Tennis Club as you can get and still be in the SW19 postcode. But the address and post code were Wimbledon SW19 and I was on the first rung of the property ladder. The flat had only one bedroom. The windows rattled in the wind and the bathroom had a damp patch, but it was mine. When I moved in I had a cooker, a bed, a stool and a portable television. Within a few years I had out grown the flat and moved. From the flat I used to go, to queue, to get in, to stand, to watch the tennis on Centre Court or the No 1 Court. The contrast between watching the tennis on my old black and white portable television and seeing it live in 3-D colour was amazing. Today television is so good that seeing someone in the flesh can be quite a let down.

Wimbledon itself became a different place during Wimbledon Fortnight. The area around the railway station was tidied up and smartened up with hanging baskets while a variety of stalls, appeared within the confines of the station, selling souvenirs. The roads were clogged up with cars and crowds thronged out of the station. It was almost like being on holiday.

Now, when the television camera pans across the London skyline then zooms in to the Southfields area, I am transported back to a green and purple period in my life.