Friday 30 January 2009

Our ideal home

We moved to Chester in August 2003. As we were only able to spend two weekends house hunting, before we were due to move to Chester, we decided to rent, initially, rather than buy. Renting, we felt, would give us a better feel for the area. The only property that we had been tempted to look at was called Blue Pig Cottage. We both liked it but we both also had reservations about it. It did not quite tick all the boxes and rather than saddle ourselves with a property which we might later regret buying we decided that Blue Pig Cottage was not for us. We made the right decision as I have never regretted not buying Blue Pig Cottage. Having found a suitable house to rent, we settled ourselves into it, had a holiday then set about looking for a house to buy. Here is our wish list of what we wanted from our new home:
  • An older property with character - this we managed to achieve buying a late Victorian cottage. The previous owners have artexed some or the ceilings and put up beams. Neither of these features are Victorian but we can not afford to remove them. The beams do feel as if they have added character even if they are out of place.
  • Detached - this was an essential as I have had enough of noise from the neighbours. So the cottage is detached. It was originally two semi-detached farm workers cottages that have now been knocked into one cottage, by a previous owner.
  • A garage -yes, the cottage had a garage but it was largely made of asbestos and had to be demolished and rebuilt before we had use of it, which meant that we had no garage and had to buy a shed to house our garage items. Four years after the garage was built the shed still stands on what should be our vegetable garden.
  • In a village with a pub within walking distance - we are on the outskirts of a village and the nearest pub must be forty five minutes walk away along an unlit road with no pavement. I think that we failed on that one.
  • Property in need of decoration but not building work - the decoration was old and not to our taste so we were alright there but the minor building job which the estate agent suggested turned out to be a major project.
  • A reasonable size garden - this we have achieved, although when we moved here it was more a plot of land being mainly lawn and trees.
  • Two separate reception rooms -I would rather have to two smaller rooms than one large room. Easier to heat in the winter.
  • Four bedrooms -one room to use as a study. If husband's junk is not contained in one room it ends up all over the house. That leaves us with three bedrooms. Our intention was that the family could come to stay with us. How wrong could we be? If you move from south to north the family do not come to visit you. You have to visit them.
  • Two bathrooms - one for us and one for the visitors. What visitors?
  • Handy for shops and conveniences but a quiet location - there is no shop in the village. It probably isn't really a village. It is a long walk to anywhere including a bus stop. I have to admit that we are quite isolated, but most of the time it is quiet apart from the hum of farm machinery. You do need a car to live where we do. Both Chester and Ellesmere Port are only a few miles away and we are on the door step of the Wirral and Wales.
The only item on our wish list that we did not mange to achieve was the location. I would like to be able to walk to shops etc but it took six months of looking to find the cottage by which time we were both thoroughly fed up with the rented house and we realised that we were going to have to compromise on something.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

The winds of change

This photograph of the neighbour's leafless cherry tree is the fourth photograph from my fourth folder of photographs.

French Fancy has tagged me to post and write about the fourth photograph in my fourth folder. I am afraid that it is nowhere near as attractive a photo, as the one that she posted herself.

I am now, not quite sure why I took this photo, but I do remember that I took it with the intention that it would be viewed along side the photo below left, which is of the same tree taken when the leaves had started to turn but before they had started to drop. The photo of the tree in leaf was taken last Autumn, just one week earlier. In between the two photos we had a couple of very windy days which made all the difference and as usual all of the leaves were blown onto our patio. Likewise in the Spring all of the pink blossom gets blown onto our patio.

Now I need to pass the tag onto four bloggers, who are as follows:


fat frumpy & fifty

strawberry jam anne

the dotterel

Friday 23 January 2009

Cheshire Life

What do you think of when Cheshire is mentioned? A Cheshire cat, Cheshire cheese or something else? There does not appear to be anything typical or distinctive about Cheshire. Perhaps this is because in the past the county has been re-arranged with towns added and taken away. So when a move to Chester was mooted I did not know what to expect. It was one place that I had never been to. My husband started work in Chester in April 2003, commuting weekly, from Surrey, and staying in a B&B. By June he had found himself a flat and I was able to pay my first visit to Chester. It was early evening when I caught my first glimpse of Chester. The day's shoppers had gone home and the evening's pubbers and clubbers were yet to come out. It seemed very pleasant with its' sandstone cathedral, Roman ruins, ancient walls and mock Tudor buildings - built by the Victorians actually. At the time I was really a visitor and Chester is really a city for visitors. I see things differently now that it is my home.

My initial impressions of the countryside around Chester were of its' flatness by comparison with the undulating North Downs area of Surrey that we lived in. Yes, the west of Cheshire is flat whereas the east is hilly. In between is the stunning Cheshire Plain. A typical Cheshire house is built of the local, red and black Cheshire brick, with a Welsh slate roof. There are a number of old black and white 'Tudor' style houses around the county and sandstone was an equally popular choice of building material.

There is a glossy monthly magazine published here called Cheshire Life - cover photo is to the right. When we first moved here I subscribed to it but soon found that it contained more articles about the high life of Cheshire's socialites photographed in DJs and evening dresses and adverts for expensive houses than it did articles and features about the towns and villages of Cheshire.

You can not live in this area without realising that you are on the edge of WAG land. For those of you that do not live in the UK a WAG is the term used to describe the wives and girlfriends of sportsmen. It was first coined to described the wives and girlfriends of football players. Football is a way of life here. Our immediate neighbours support Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United, which are all not far away. I quietly support my own team - Hull City. Surrey is devoid of top flight professional football teams. The big teams are all up in London.

In general the shops and stores here were smaller than their cousins down south, when we first moved here, but some have been enlarged and new shopping centres opened in the time that we have been living here. I had never seen the discount shops T K Maxx, Matalan or Poundland until we moved to Chester. Such shops simply did not exist in Surrey when we lived there and I rarely shop in them. There are one or two shops from the Surrey area that I miss but I have learnt to live without them.

The accent is a softer form of Scouse. Thanks to the Beatles I can understand it, but I do sometimes have problems with some of the colloquialisms. And there were times, when we were renting, that I felt as if I had moved to a foreign country.

One of the nice things about Cheshire is its love of gardens. The climate, which benefits from Cheshire's western location, is gentle enough to allow most plants to grow outdoors in the summer although they may need protection in the winter. There are several gardens in Cheshire that are open to the public and we have our very own flower show at Tatton Park.

Monday 19 January 2009

Righting a wrong

We have been decorating the snug/dining room. One end of the room is a small living room, which we use mainly in the winter, hence the name the snug and the other end is the dining room. Yes, I know we only did two years ago but unfortunately we painted it the wrong colour. The room was a bit dark so we tried to make the room as light as possible by painting the walls beige, which looked alright initially but by the time we had added predominantly beige curtains and a beige sofa, I decided that the overall effect was a bit insipid. The carpet is green and the curtains have some pink and green in them. My first thoughts were to injection some colour into the room by having the sofa re-covered in a pink fabric. I soon realised that this was a rather expensive solution to the problem and decided that a less expensive option would be to paint the walls pink. That would be easy, I thought. No need to worry about the ceiling or the woodwork. But I have still had to pack away all the glasses and china that we keep in the unit in the dining room together with all of the ornaments. Remove bits and pieces (clutter) which find their way into which ever room we are using at the time and take down the curtains plus the curtain pole. All of which took several hours last week. This weekend we have concentrated on the snug end of the room.

When I say we have been decorating I am using the royal 'we' as although the painting itself is a joint effort. My husband paints the walls with a roller and I paint the tops and bottoms of the walls plus the fiddly bits, which takes me about four times as long as it takes my husband. I seem to have drawn the short straw, as usual but at 5' 4" to his 6' 1" I am vertically challenged where using a paint roller is concerned. So really, I have been decorating. And whilst I was busy with a paint brush my husband occupied himself fixing draught excluders to the front and back doors in an attempt to keep out the pesky mice. The room has now been transformed to a delicate shade of pink (similar to the pink of the butterfly below) and I have spent this afternoon cleaning it up and putting things back. It does look better. The room now seems to have more character as we have left the chimney breast beige.

I have also chosen floor tiles for the conservatory and booked the tiler, and looked at floor tiles, units and counter tops for the utility room.

Now on a different note Moments from Suburbia has kindly given me this pretty award. Thank you Suburbia. Do visit her blog and leave a comment. This is the blurb that goes with it and needs to be posted alongside the award on your blog.

Blogs who receive this award are 'exceedingly charming' say it's authors. This award is a fine one because it focuses not on the glory and fanfare of blogging, but on the proximity to one another through this online world. 'This blog invests and believes in the proximity - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must chose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award.'

It is difficult to choose eight blogs to give the award to as I think that you all deserve it. So I am going to award it to the first eight that leave a comment. Hope that that is alright. Brain has become too tired and confused choosing tiles and counter tops!

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Uninvited visitors

On Saturday the casserole for that evening's meal was in the oven and everything else was under control so I thought that I could treat myself to a bit of blogging. I was sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop when I heard a rustling noise. The noise appeared to be coming from the lobby between the kitchen and the utility room. This is a small square room that the kitchen door opens onto, as does the utility room door and the back door opens off it. I went to investigate. In the dark I saw something move amongst the rubbish, that I had earlier decided it was too cold to put in the dustbin. Quick as a flash I was upstairs to my husband. He was quickly downstairs and into the kitchen. We both stood there listening. Yes, there was definitely something happening in the lobby. My husband opened the kitchen door but couldn't see what was making the noise, so opened the utility room door and as he did, a small dark brown creature scuttled into the utility room. Now we had lost it as the utility room is quite big. We moved things around but it had gone to ground and was silent. I think that it was probably a mouse, but the question is how had it got in? It was three and a half hours since the back door had been opened. Surely, if a mouse had been in the lobby for that length of time we would have heard it sooner.

We have not heard or seen it since, so either it has found its way out or is still in the utility room. Since this incident I have insisted that we keep all the doors, both internal and external, shut at all times to try to prevent the mouse getting into the house. It is amazing the number of doors that we have in the downstairs of the cottage. Each room has at least two doors. It is a bit like a rabbit warren.

Later in the evening I remembered the windfall cooking apples that I had left on the utility room floor. Recently I had noticed that some of them looked as if they were being eaten but as I could not think what could be eating them, I had assumed, that as they were now old and going rotten, that they were self decomposing. I realised that the mouse had probably been in and out for a few weeks helping itself to our unwanted apples. The apples have now been thrown away and we are planning on having the utility room refitted.

Then last night just as I was about to drift off to sleep I was aroused by some animal doing a clog dance in the loft. It wasn't a mouse. It made too much noise. Two minutes of Strictly Come Dancing in the loft and I was wide awake for the next three hours! We need to have some repair work done to the barge boards, soffits and gutters and hopefully any holes into the roof will be filled in.

Friday 9 January 2009

Thank you for listening

I am very pleased to have been given this unusual award of Van Gogh's Ear Award by Akelamalu. The award has been created by Roger of Idaho Photo who wrote on his blog:

'Every year I like to make up an award and hand it out to people that make a difference in the blogsphere. I like to make it an award for all to enjoy and pass out if one so wants to, I just ask if you are going to give it out to link it back to me as the creator of the Van Gogh's Ear Award.'

The inspiration of the Van Gogh's Ear Award:

'You may know the story of Vincent Van Gogh - a well known artist in history. Although a brilliant painter, in his later years went quite insane. He received the nickname of fou roux ("the redheaded man"). The most bizarre a of Vincent's behaviour is when he cut off the lower part of his own left ear lobe, which he wrapped in newspaper and gave to a prostitute named Rachel in her local brothel, asking her to "keep this object carefully". After this he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide on July 29, 1890 when he was 37 years old. His works of art are priceless.'

The point of this award:

'We are all artists in are own way be it art, photography, writing, philosophy, comedy, blogging and we all go a little crazy sometimes. But if you ever feel so crazy to cut off your ear and give it to a prostitute "Seek help"!'

Always remember you're unique.
Just like everyone else.

I hope that I am not going mad but it is certainly a trial living here. Thank you Akelamalu for giving the award to me. I am going to pass it on to the following bloggers:

blog that mama
french fancy
ladybird world mother

Akelamalu has also kindly given this You stand out from the crowd! award to those that commented on her blog during December. I have decided to pass this award onto those bloggers who commented on my Out with the old post. The comments on that post were much appreciated. Thank you to those bloggers who commented.

I am sorry I can not get the links to work.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Sad bastards' New Year

Twas the Sunday after Christmas. All was peaceful and quiet. The neighbours had gone away. How did we know that they had gone away? The infernal flashing red lights, that had adorned the front of their house since the beginning of December, had been turned off and their car was gone from the drive. Normally at this time of the year they go somewhere warm for two weeks. The peace and quiet was broken on Tuesday by their Alsatian dog's incessant barking. We put up with it for so long, then at 9 pm phoned the Police, who took our details and passed them on to the RSPCA, who then phoned us and advised us to contact the local Environmental Health office the next day.

On Wednesday morning (New Year's Eve) my husband phoned Environmental Health, who took our details and said that they would send out some forms to us and the neighbour and we were to keep a record of when the dog barked. We felt that we were going round in circles and not really getting anywhere. I decided that we would have another go phoning the RSPCA. This time my call was registered as a complaint and passed onto an inspector for possible investigation. On Wednesday afternoon my husband saw an RSPCA van outside the neighbour's house. The dog, of course, was not barking but we felt that our complaint was being taken seriously. I again contacted the RSPCA to find out what was going on. They said that we would be contacted when their investigation was completed. During the evening of New Year's Eve the dog barked non stop for five hours!

When these neighbours first got this Alsatian dog it went into kennels when they went away. Then they started to leave it 'home alone' when they went away for a few days. Neighbours or friends come round to feed the dog but its' only exercise is walking around the garden which is no more than medium size. Until November, the dog was well behaved and they got away with it. When they were away at the beginning of November the dog barked non stop for two successive evenings and for another hour starting at 4 am one morning and 2 am on the other morning. My husband complained to the neighbour and got a very casual response. I expected, rather naively, that the problem would not arise again and that the dog would in future go into kennels, when they go away. The dog lives in a kennel, in the garden, which looks like a giant rabbit hutch. It is such an attractive thing to look at from our bedroom window. I wonder what Prince Charles would think of it? Apparently there is no mattress, duvet or blanket etc for the dog. He has to sleep on a cold concrete floor. Recently the outside temperature here has gone as low as minus four degrees centigrade. The neighbour has, no doubt, been sunning himself somewhere tropical while the unfortunate dog shivers back here.

On New Year's Day we were out all day returning home about 7 pm. About an hour later our phone rang. My husband answered the phone. It was the neighbour. We assumed that he must be back home. He was aware that the RSPCA had called and assumed that it was us that had contacted the RSPCA. My husband will not tell me exactly what the neighbour had to say but he called him a sad bastard and told him to get a life. As it was me that phoned the RSPCA I suppose that I am also a sad bastard who needs to get a life. Oh and he is never going to speak to us again. We can live with that. The next morning we realised that he was not home. So either someone has contacted him to say that the RSPCA had been round or he has been viewing the recordings of the CCTV cameras on his house while on holiday. How sad is that?

On Friday I phoned the Police and asked for the community police officer for our village to call round which he did the following day. He was very understanding but no one seems to have the power to remove a barking dog that has been left alone.

The neighbours are now back and we await the outcome of the RSPCA's investigation.

Friday 2 January 2009

Out with the old

The last week or so have been the biggest non-event as far as my husband and I are concerned. On Christmas Eve I received from my brother his Christmas present, of a nasty e-mail. So much for the season of goodwill to all men. It obviously does not apply to sisters. The Christmas that we had planned was ruined. Instead of being relaxed and contented I was tense and twitchy. Then to make sure that our Christmas cake was well and truly iced our neighbours have gone away leaving 'home alone' their barking Alsatian dog. On New Year's Eve my mother in law, who has not been well, was admitted to hospital and yesterday was spent travelling down to Northampton and back to see her. We can only hope that things will get better.

Happy New Year to bloggers everywhere.