Friday 20 January 2012

When renovation becomes maintenance

We have been living in the cottage for nearly eight years now and the renovation ought to be finished, but it isn't. There is still one bedroom left to do plus some odd jobs. We have put the bedroom off a few times as we could not face the upheaval involved. Eight years is the longest that we have lived anywhere during our married life and we are now having to redecorate the cottage which is something that we have not had to do to any of our previous houses. At the moment we are redecorating the kitchen which was the first room that we decorated after we moved in. Here is the ceiling with the beams taped up and ready for a fresh coat of paint.

I know that the Victorians did not have beams in their ceilings, neither did they have artexed ceilings. They are the legacy of the previous owners and would cost a small fortune to remove and change. So we have left them. Even if they are not authentic, they give the cottage character and are only in the downstairs rooms. Anyway, the Victorians did not have electric lights or central heating, but we would not think of living without such facilities today.

When we moved in the kitchen was usable but desperately dark and dated. There was a fitted freezer which did not work and a fitted oven which heated up even when it was switched off! We eventually found that the wiring to the oven was faulty. I do not think that anything had been done  to the kitchen for about 25 years. We started by having the kitchen rewired and new lights fitted. Then we had to have some plastering done. The dust, upheaval and general mess is now becoming a blur and this was the second new kitchen that we had had fitted as we had had one put into our previous house after extending it. Consequently we had learnt from some of the mistakes that we made the first time. One thing that I insisted on was that we ate our main meal out. Trying to cook a meal in a microwave is a nightmare. The only problem that I have never forgotten was that at the beginning of the fitting of the kitchen in the previous house, the electrician had said to me that he had never worked on a kitchen that did not have something missing.  I confidently said that maybe this would be a first, but it wasn't. We had everything but the hob! How did they manage to leave that out?

This time all that is needed is a good clean and a fresh coat of paint.  We are keeping the same colour scheme albeit with the walls a slightly different shade of green.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Magical Mystery Tour

The Monday before Christmas husband and I escaped, to a concert at the MEN arena in Manchester, for some much needed pre-Christmas cheer. I had bought the tickets on a wet afternoon in October and was really looking forward to this concert which was going to be one of the highlights of my year but recent events overshadowed it and we could easily have forgotten to go. I had previously seen the Beatles about 1964 at the Hull ABC. I had pestered my parents so much to go to see them that my father had queued up for tickets for a friend and I. Didn't I have the best father in the world and December 19, the day of the concert, would have been his birthday. I am sure that he would have approved.  We arrived at the arena later than we would have liked courtesy of an accident on the motorway and roadworks once we hit Manchester itself. There were only 20 minutes to go until the concert was due to start and it seemed as if the entire audience was still outside trying to get through the doors. There was no way that the concert was going to start on time and it did not.

We had seats in the lower tier with a good view of the stage and the screens on either side of it. These were the most expensive concert tickets that we have ever bought, but they were worth it! Twenty minutes later than advertised the arena lights were dimmed then without any announcement or fanfare the man that we had all come to see and his band walked on stage. There he was, Paul McCartney looking slim and fit in a dark blue/grey suit with the familiar Nehru jacket and his equally familiar bass guitar. Within seconds the stage was lit by psychedelic lights and the Magical Mystery Tour had started.  After the fourth number he removed his jacket, with a flourish, revealing the pink lining, then tossed it aside as a multimillionaire can.

He played songs that had been hits for the Beatles, for Wings and for other artists - all written by him. Some I had not realised that he had written, but now that I know, I can see the McCartney stamp. We had a sing along to Ob la di, Ob la da then Hey Jude with McCartney on  a psychedelically painted piano. While for other numbers he retreated to a grand piano at the back of the stage. One of the highlights was the Bond theme Live and Let Die accompanied by fireworks.

Once we got to the two hour mark I kept thinking 'this must be the last number', then he would launch into another one. He actually played for three hours, including two encores, finishing at 11.20 pm. He seemed as if he could have gone on all night and I am sure that most of the audience would have stayed. There is no question about his versatility or his brilliance as a songwriter and performer. According to a review of this concert he played an amazing 39 songs.

Friday 6 January 2012

Deja vu

So the Christmas decorations are down and the festivities are over for another year. Here the festive spirit and goodwill to all men did not last very long at all. It did not even stretch into Christmas night. For us December had been hectic and we had hoped for a quiet Christmas. As it was starting to get dark on Christmas Day we heard the dulcet tones of the neighbour's barking dog. And by dulcet I mean angry, aggressive and annoyed. The neighbours had gone out and left the dog home alone. By the time that they returned we had had seven hours of intermittent barking. Hardly Silent Night!

The next few days were peaceful, but we were keeping an eye on activities at the neighbours as they often go away at Christmas and have never spent a New Year's Eve at home. We had come to the conclusion that this year they were not going away when we noticed that the house was in darkness and there was a car missing from their drive. By now it was 30 December. All was quiet. Maybe they had put the dog in kennels or taken him with them. That was wishful thinking on our part. At 8.15 pm the dog started to bark and went on until twenty past midnight. We have given up trying to go to bed early when this happens, so that was not too bad. The next day, New Year's Eve, we were not sure what to expect. We were not even sure that the neighbours were away. They could just have been out.

Here December 31 was mild and dry. Husband and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the garden in the afternoon, totally forgetting the events of the previous evening. At 6.15 pm the evening's entertainment, of a barking dog, started. Obviously there was nobody next door except the dog. Usually it takes the dog five hours to bark himself to sleep, but not tonight, after all it was New Year's Eve and he was going to stay up late. In fact he was going to stay up very late! At 2.15 am on New Year's Day husband had had enough of the dog barking and phoned the police who are not able to do anything about a barking dog, which is technically a noise nuisance and comes under the remit of the Environmental Health Department (EHD) at the local council. However, the officer that he spoke to referred him to the dog warden service. This is a service that we had not heard of and based on our previous experiences, of trying to get someone in authority to take this problem of the neighbour's barking dog seriously, we were pleasantly surprised by the response that we got. After taking husband's details he confirmed that he could hear the dog barking and that the level of barking constituted a noise nuisance and the incident would be passed on to the EHD of the council after the bank holiday. The dog went on to bark until 3.45 am. Husband and I were a bit the worse for wear on New Year's Day and we would not have minded if we had seen the new year in at some fabulous party. As it was we had watched the fireworks on TV at midnight and had been in bed by 1.00 am. However, there was no time for me to mope around, the in laws were coming the following day and I had cooking to do. About 5.45 pm, despite having on both the extractor fan and the radio, I noticed that the dog was once again on song and barking. We left it until after 11.00 pm to phone the dog warden as the noise nuisance legislation does not come into effect until that time. As had happened the previous evening he took husband's details, confirmed that the barking dog constituted a noise nuisance and that the incident would be passed onto the EHD the after the bank holiday. That night the dog stopped barking about 1.30 pm.

We have been complaining to the EHD, about the neighbours leaving the dog home alone to bark, for three years now and we have been lent on four occasions the equipment, photographed right, known as 'The Matron' to record the dog barking. On three of the occasions that we had the equipment the dog was not there and on the fourth when we did manage to record it barking, we were told that it was not loud enough to constitute a noise nuisance. In January of last year the EHD closed our case after admitting that they were aware of a problem with our neighbour, but they were not going to do anything about it. That prompted several irate letters to the chief executive of the council  as the problem continued and at one point our MP intervened on our behalf, but nothing changed. In a situation such as this I am like a dog with a bone and will not give up until I feel that justice has been done. We have now appealed to the Local Government Ombudsman.

At lunch time on January 3 the EHD of the local council phoned to ask for more information relating to these incidents. Now we have to wait and hope that they take action against our neighbour. They have buried their head in the sand for long enough.