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


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.