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. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Third Time Lucky?

The third go at the bathroom, which has been causing me much distress every time I use it or clean it.  Relatively speaking, of course.  We must keep perspective and not act spoiled.  At least we have a bathroom and at least we are able to keep clean.  It was just that the boxing around the piping was so ugly and bulky.  There was a plastic pipe sticking out halfway up the pedestal for the sink.  I'm not pleased with the tiles and wish we hadn't made such a rushed decision.

I've been thinking hard over the months about what to do about it.  Of course, we should have just painted it and got on with other things, coming back to it in due course.  But we couldn't paint because of the leak and the damp patch on the ceiling.  So, after a couple of discussions with S and the builder, we came up with a solution.  Which was to panel with what we call 'butt 'n' bead' panelling, which would stick out from the wall about four inches.  This would hide the pipes but also give a shelf around the room.  The radiator could then come back on the floor.  Previously, it was on top of the boxing.  And we would move the loo back to where it was originally, under the window, in order to reduce the boxing required to cover the much wider pipe.

So, the plan was put into action.  We still haven't painted because of the damp patch and the gaping hole, which still needs to be plastered.  And that can't be plastered until we put the light up by the mirror because the position of the wiring needs to be moved and then that will have to be patched up too.  The only problem is that the light we have ordered doesn't have a switch...

Anyhow, we will paint it this time and I am sure that will make all the difference.  But I think it looks better already.  I hadn't realised that there are no pictures of what it looked like when the tiles came off the boxing and were replaced by skirting board.  But the story so far.  What do you think?  The bathroom journey is shown graphically below.  More pictures to follow when we finally decorate it.

The Original Ladies' and Gents'

Ladies' Sinks

Gents' on the Left

In the Lobby Between the Ladies' and Gents'

In the Gents' Loo
In the Ladies' Loo
Black Tiled Boxing.  Not Good.
Still Not Good 

In the Process of Moving the Loo and Doing the Panelling

Loo and Sink in Position

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Ceiling Wax

There has been a damp patch in the corner of the bathroom ever since we first saw the house.  It is a flat roof and they are notorious for untraceable and annoying leaks.  When we were putting in our hasty bathroom between exchange and completion, the roofer came to investigate the problem - the real roofer, that is, not he of shed roofing fame.  However, like the shed roofer, he sent his lad up on the roof to do the hard and dangerous bits.  Various things were re-arranged and re-adjusted but to no effect.

S then went up and swept off the leaves and debris of many a year, adjusting a gutter as he went.  Again, it was to no avail. With the next iteration of the bathroom, we asked the builder to have another go at it.  There was a dark stain on the ceiling plaster and we didn't want to simply paint over it without knowing that the leak had finally been stopped.

The roofer came in again but could find nothing wrong.  The builder then decided that they would go in from the inside, cutting out a section of ceiling to reveal the problem.  S and I had a sleepless night or two about it: what if it was the piping to the shower and there was a major problem?  What if it was something horribly expensive?  What if the excavation revealed that there was an extensive problem?  Our fears escalated the more we thought about it.

On the Friday morning, the builders went in.  And it turned out that it wasn't water at all.  It was honey.  There was an abandoned bees' nest but they had left behind a honeycomb, which was then leaking honey through our ceiling.  Sadly, I didn't get to see it as the builders had removed it before I got home.   The corpses of a few bees littered the bathroom.  And it smelt lovely.  Poor bees.  But, in many ways, it was a relief that it was a defunct nest and not live.

A quick google reveals that honey bees often live in roof or wall cavities so I don't think we're unique.  However, the builders had never seen anything like it before.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Good News and Bad News

Finally, the stone around the wrought iron gate at the side of the house has been repointed and the coping stones refixed.  To my biased and prejudiced eyes, it looks wonderful.  I rang S to tell him the good news and to explain that, after admiring the stonework on both sides, I closed the gate firmly fell off.

"Of course it did," he replied, wearily.

Out of Focus

Not just out of focus photographs this time, but a lack of focus in terms of our project for the week.  We were on leave and started the weekend by planning to decorate the dining room.  Our rationale for this was that it looked like quite a quick job, particularly as we could leave the windows, given that they need to be repaired in due course.  However, we then decided to include the windows as who knows when we will be in a financial position to get them sorted out.  So, then it became a bit more of an effort, taking into account the shutters and the window frames.  S fettled the wiring at the far end of the room, the bit that was plastered weeks (well, months!) ago, while I set to sanding by hand on the delicate areas and then by machine on the bigger expanses. 

We're going to replace the lights on the walls.  We had half moon uplighters originally but are going to drop them down  to where the square is below the cream semi-circle on the picture below, the one with the wires protruding that was previously covered with a plastic box, which you can now see on the half moon bit.  We are going to replace the uplighters with picture lights, we think, perhaps.  We also need to source suitable chandeliers to replace the chrome pendants (seen in the picture above) but are struggling to visualise what should be there and to source something that will help us with that visualisation.

We're undecided on the colour but are trying to match it to the three bird pictures from Indonesia that normally hang in this room (see previous blog entitled 'Ephemera').  The middle one in the picture below is too close to the colour of the picture mount and the one on the right, Parma Grey by Farrow and Ball, is too blue.  In fact, we quite like the current wall colour so might just get that mixed up.  But we're still dithering about that.  So paints and lights, what to do?

We might also use wallpaper.  But on which wall?  We don't want it above the dado because we think it will be too much with the bird pictures.  We could put it on the newly plastered wall, which was previously a 'feature' wall with black Miss Whiplash wallpaper, as S called it.  Or perhaps either side of, and between, the windows, to act like curtains.  Or on the chimney breast.  More dithering.  We like this wallpaper but will it be too much in terms of both pattern and expense?

Ipek Damask by Lewis and Wood: Inspired by the work of Pugin, here is a vibrant, colourful pattern with a wonderful free-flowing movement from the decorative painter Adam Calkin.  A bold statement for any room this is a wallpaper that demands an entrance!

But then the sun came out.  And off we went outside, bored with sanding.  S then decided to re-roof the shed instead of painting the dining room.  Which meant replacing the boards as well as the felt.  It had to be done properly and thoroughly.  D is here so he was able to help lift the heavy boards up on to the roof and sit up there precariously banging in nails.

Now, why did I come up here???

And I did a bit of gardening, planting the two Rambling Rector roses next to the new fence, having given them a bit of a trim.



Then I thought I'd have another go at the corner bed.  Mainly because I love using the mattock!

However, I got so far and then got distracted by picking damsons from the tree.  Except I decided that they aren't damsons but are, in fact, some other kind of plum.  Not sure what.  They're not very big but they taste very nice.  Then we realised that we have one spindly tree with three trunks, which may be runners (if plum trees have runners - note to self, find out...) from the main tree, which was engulfed by a lilac bush grown to tree-like dimensions.  We decided that, if we chopped back the lilac, the tree might not have to struggle for light and would fill out to produce a good crop of plums.  So we attacked the lilac, the debris joining the shed roof on the gravel.

It was then all hands on deck to try to tidy up the bits of tree.

What did you want me to do?

Sprocket, hard at work.

Mum enlisted to make kindling

The Director

Great British Workmen

One side re-roofed

The other side to be finished

A total eclipse of the sun

Full moon over the Old Rectory

Artistic pile of sticks

Are you sure I can't help?

A quick lie down

Work in progress

A scene of devastation

Boarding on
 Of course, they began the re-roofing without emptying the shed.  Which then looked like this:

Roofer's lad in action

A job for a lad and not for a roofer

Roofer's lad, undaunted

Keen to earn his wage

Almost done

Beautiful new roofing felt

On both sides!

Shed tidied up

The mark of the artist

Even the window got cleaned - have never seen this view before
And the dining room still looks like this...