Thursday, 23 January 2014

There's a Hole in my Bucket...

H was tidying up her bedroom.  A total eclipse must have aligned with a leap year and pigs were mysteriously sailing past the attic windows.  She decided that it would be romantic to burn her old love letters.  She'd read about people doing this in novels.  Of course, the writers of these novels had obviously failed to mention that if you choose to burn them in a bucket, it should be metal, not plastic.  It wasn't quite so romantic when my favourite bucket (I don't get out much) started to melt.

Dog Shaming

Our little dog, Sprocket, is a bundle of delight and everything that I've always wanted in a dog.  I've always liked Jack Russells.  They're funny and full of character  He is half Jack Russell and half Yorkshire Terrier, so has the cute hairy face and long hair of the latter but the size and colour of the former.  He is sweet natured around the house but getting barkier as he gains in confidence.  He will delicately take treats from your fingers, careful not to nip.  He likes humans, but wants to kill squirrels, cats and other dogs.  And probably most other creatures if he met them.  He is undeterred by the size of said creature.  I admire his chutzpah and wish that I had some of it.  He loves to play, liking nothing better than being chased around the sofa while we try to retrieve a ball or one of his other toys.  And he is naughty.  Not too naughty but naughty enough to make us laugh.  And to join in the fun of 'dog shaming', as seen on Twitter and Facebook, when he misbehaves.

Pet Dog (Stuffed) Bought to Make him Feel Secure; Now a Pile of Rags
My artfully arranged 'knitting basket' was in the sitting room.  Untouched for three years although the half finished jumper is lovely.  Sprocket had been showing interest in it for some time and, while we were out, he decided to practice his knitting.  This photo is taken in my mum's sitting room.  The wool was wound five times round her table...

...then lead through the hall back to the sitting room...

...where it was wound three times round the sofa.  Later, another clump was found upstairs in my study.

The supermarket delivery came and was left in hall while bags were carried to the kitchen.

The ham was vacuum packed in plastic.  It proved no deterrent to a determined Sprocket.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Christmas at the Old Rectory

Yes, it seems an age ago now since it was Christmas but here are some pictures of the house, all dressed up for the celebrations.

"Don't Look Back"

This is what he was saying to her as they walked away because he knew that his friend, Vin, was taking the photograph.  But it's a good motto too.

My mum and dad, Blackpool, Easter 1949.

It would have been their anniversary today.  They were married on 21st January 1950.

Review of the Year, 2013

It's been a while since I last reported on our revival of the Old Rectory and, much to my delight and amazement, some people have noticed!  And not only that, some of my more deranged readers have actually asked for further instalments.  Well, to be honest, it was only one person but it was enough to encourage me.  So, to my reader, apologies for not writing regularly.  Life is so hectic that there is rarely time to sit back and to spend some time reflecting and reporting on what we have been doing.  However, since S's i-Pad became so last year that he had to replace it, I have acquired both it and a cute little keyboard.  This should give me fewer excuses for not writing things up as I am now mobile, not tied to my study, my desk and the PC, but able to report from wherever I am around the house - providing the broadband can reach and it does struggle through some of the thicker walls.  It's amazing how necessary everyone seems to think it is to have internet access in the kitchen, by the way.

Since I last wrote, the house and I have had our anniversary.  It hardly seems possible that we have been here for over a year now, having moved at the end of October, 2012.  It feels like we haven't done much but I guess that in writing this 'annual report' it will suddenly turn out that we have done loads.

First up was the bathroom.  If you remember, we had to have a bathroom in order to get a mortgage.  A house, it turns out, is considered uninhabitable without a bathroom.  This has not been our greatest success.  We did it at speed and made some bad decisions.  I will be reporting on our third attempt at getting this room right another day but, suffice to say for now, I think that we are almost there and the bathroom has gone from this:

To this:

Sticking with the interior, the dining room has been decorated.  More on this too when we finally finish it.  It has gone from this:

To this:

To this:

These are the only rooms that we have decorated so far.  (And I'm cheating slightly as we didn't actually finish decorating them until Christmas.  And, needless to say, there are still bits to do.)

We moved and we settled into the house more or less as it was.  But we have done more in the garden.  The first bed to be tackled was the one by the gin terrace.  It started off looking like this:

 And ended up looking like this:

Still lots to do on this bed but, I hope that you will agree that some improvement has been made.

We also cleared the log shed of its ivy cladding:

And the wall to the side of it:

And then the wall that retains the churchyard fell down.  And that took lots of money, which prevented us from making further progress in the house.  It went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

And the overgrown garden below that wall has now been cleared:

We even found the Rector's steps:

I painted the north door that leads to Cuffer's Lobby, in fond memory of our poor old cat, Cuffer, who died just after we moved in.  That went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

We started work on the kitchen garden i.e. bought a raised bed.  It went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

We also planted three apple trees and a plum tree in the 'orchard':

And re-roofed the shed:

In May, we got our little dog, Sprocket, from the local Blue Cross.  He turned out to be an escapologist, which necessitated bringing forward our plan to section off areas of the garden and to erect the dog-proof fence.  So the area to the north of the house went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

We've now seen the house in the snow, in the wind, in the rain, frost, fog, snow and everything else that the weather has chucked at us.

We've had leaks of water and honey.  We've pulled out miles of ivy, network and telephone cable - and, no, not all from the garden!  We've had skips and trucks to take away the rubbish.  We've probably done far more than I've been able to remember here.  Not a bad record for a year, I think.  Because, of course, in the midst of it all, we also had a wedding.  Complete with scaffolding and safety barriers in the background, which must surely be excellent props for ensuring that we live happily ever after!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Season of Mists*

It's an obvious title for this post but few have described the magic of autumn better than Keats.  I took you, dear reader, for a walk in the local meadows in early summer.  Now, let's put on our thick socks and boots, a jumper and an anorak and head over the fields beyond the golf course.  It's a lovely autumnal day, almost warm.  Usually, Sprocket, the dog, and I head out as the light is just starting to fade.  Not simply because we're a romantic pair but because Sprocket hates other dogs so we do our best to avoid them.  I went out earlier than usual this afternoon, when the light was still bright, because I wanted to take these photographs.  Even so, as we walked back, a chill was rising from the damp ground and the skin on my face began to tighten and burn with the cold.  The air was slightly misty and as always, it seems, on an autumn evening, there was the smell of wood smoke in the air.  It was Sunday but so much nicer if it had been Saturday and I was heading back to a beautiful, clean and tidy home where a stew bubbles gently in the oven, the smell of fresh bread fills the house, a rich, fruity red wine breaths in the background and a roaring log fire warms the sitting room where Strictly is about to start on the television.  This is how my life is in my dreams.  Of course, I arrived home to none of this.  The bread that I'd tried to make earlier has refused to rise.  S has had to go to work so the grate is grey with unswept ash.  There are leftovers for dinner and last night's open bottle of wine.  And it's the dance off tonight and work tomorrow.  Nothing is ever perfect.

If you look carefully, there are strings of cobwebs illuminated in the sun.  You had to be there.

A carpet of apples


These hedges must have been carefully laid at some point

To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees

Red apples

Pink apples

Impressionist apples - but photographed whilst being dragged along at speed by impatient dog

Why does she keep ruddy well stopping???

Bee hives in the distance

Holly ready for Christmas

But a trace of summer still survives

Autumn Allotments

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours

*  To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; 
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease, 
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells. 

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find 
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep, 
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook 
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: 
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
Or by a cider-press, with patient look, 
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours. 

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? 
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-- 
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; 
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
Among the river sallows, borne aloft 
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; A
nd full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft 
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft, 
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.