Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Small legs, big sticks

Experiencing a walk in the snow differs according to which dog is with me. The whirling, bouncing, leggy labrador would stay outdoors in joyful celebration of sticks in the snow till we both froze. She would freeze but not notice, of course. I come home when I can't feel my feet any more.

For Tosca, with her short legs, it's not so much fun. She does like to go out, and skips along for a while, but.....

Four doors down: can we go and see Auntie Lesley now? No, we're going for a walk.

Five doors down: can we see Auntie Suzy then? No....

Ok. A walk it is. Quite nice, really, this walk. Well-trodden snow.

Round the corner.... and students are throwing snowballs.

Flossie would like to join in. Tosca wouldn't. We cut up the back lane to avoid them, past the dustbins. The snow is deeper here.

The beloved giant stick is getting heavier with snow, but it has to come home with us.

Tosca's tummy doesn't clear the snow here.

Oh, it's our own back lane! Can we go home now? Yes. Off you go.  Run! Hop! Plod!

We reach home, and let Tosca in to thaw out her undercarriage in the warm house. She's had her walk for this afternoon, thank you.

But Flossie and I turn round again, and go out  for a proper walk, one where we can come home frozen, foot-numb, but still bouncing and joyful, still wielding the giant stick.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Getting worse before it gets better

While this (to Flossie's utter delight but the despair of many stuck drivers slithering on the hill) is still going on outside:

this is what's happening inside:

I stripped the walls yesterday, and can report that an hour with a steam wallpaper stripper does wonders for a hacking cough, better than any linctus or pastille.

The attic looks very small. Holes are appearing everywhere.

This will become an extractor fan:

And these will become the hot and cold feeds for the walk-in shower:

A regulation-compliant bathroom light fitting will be installed.

Sturdy Edwardian skirting boards and floorboards have had to be disturbed to accommodate the pipework.

Light switches will now be on the outside of the room.

Meantime, somewhere on a lorry in the snows of East Yorkshire, the said walk-in shower, along with basin, taps, toilet and all sorts of gubbins to go with them, are failing to reach us. Snow stops play. Richie and Ryan have gone home early, unable to proceed until the goods arrive.

We can encourage ourselves by looking at the catalogue pictures though:

The toilet and basin are not what I ordered; they are a replacement for the damaged (and now discontinued) less fussy model I first chose. Other alternatives were worse, or expensive; I remind myself that this is a pocket-money shower room, and not a sybaritic spa.

The chosen bathroom light fitting sits uneasily between the modernity of the shower and the dubious retro of the rest. But it's directional, and functional, and affordable.

A neutral tile has been chosen for the shower; colour will be added via towels and accessories.

Radiator and light should be delivered tomorrow. My bathroom on a budget is coming together, despite the delays caused by the weather, and I've saved enough through careful online shopping to afford decent floor covering. Once I can get out in the car to go and choose it, of course.

Nothing left to do today but go out to play again. C'mon, Florence, grab your giant stick, we're going to play outside!

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Will I go out for a walk with them?

Licks nose thoughtfully...

Considers carefully...


No, thank you, I'm off home!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Soil pipe and local radio

Richie and son have arrived to start work on the attic bathroom. Installing the soil pipe is the first task.

The new apprentice is ready for anything.

The radio is on, loudly. From anywhere in the house I can hear adverts, traffic updates, music by bands I have never heard of.

Tea and biscuits are ferried up the stairs at regular intervals. Nothing is a problem; everyone is cheerful. Millie is Chief Inspector of Works.

The attic has been cleared, and the insulation in the eaves thoroughly disrupted. Cats will disperse the itchy fibres all over the house for the next few days.

The old familiar mantra is being intoned gently, under my breath:

"It will all be worth it when it's finished...."

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Six month mark

Last June, I did this. And you all know the highs and lows of the tragi-comedy that occurred thereafter, and the earnestness with which I tried to maintain a terrifyingly clean and tidy house in case of a viewer turning into a buyer. All, all in vain. Viewers, voyeurs, same difference; lots of lovely feedback, no further offers. An exhausting six months.

Earlier this month, the house on which I had made an offer, the lovely house and garden in a Somerset village, and the beautiful beech tree by the little stream, was sold to someone else. I gritted my teeth, and felt mostly relieved, glad that I could let it go, and only have one house to worry about, although now and again, l think longingly of that beech tree.

My own house had its final viewing tonight. (A dispiriting experience, really. No, we have enough student houses round here, thank you, and I'm not cancelling my new bathroom in order to preserve a small fourth bedroom to make even more money for a landlord.)

The For Sale board came down of its own accord a while ago in the gales, and as of tonight I am no longer a Vendor, open for business on demand, ready to show strangers round the rarely-glimpsed recesses of my home and to answer dull but worthy/downright daft questions about wiring and insulation and is there a garden?

So that's that. No more viewings; the house is off the market until such time as I'm ready to try again.The bathroom work starts on Friday. The sainted Richie (of whom more in due course) says not to worry about the room still being full of boxes because I've been too unwell to clear it; he will help me, no probs. Splendid, reassuring chap.

I now have freedom to relax a bit till Spring. Unnatural tidiness begone! Tatty slippers on show and clumps of cat hair on the stair carpet no longer a source of shame, unco-ordinated towels in the bathroom no longer the mark of a clueless Vendor, but an ordinary person who is a bit thrifty with household linens. The cats, the dogs, their toys and their gnarly stumps of soggy chews can lie about anywhere till Spring; the windows can have festive nose marks. We don't care! It's our home, after all, not just 'a property'.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Not quite so much vim and vigour

A discouraging and swear-wordy start to the day, the always-tricky curtain rail falling off as I opened the sitting room curtains. But despite this, I felt convalescent enough to walk the dogs through the park this morning, slowly, breathlessly, with several pauses for dramatic coughing, during a rare hour when it wasn't drizzling in the curiously persistent and depressing way that is a November speciality here.

Sandra came too, her cough almost a match for mine; we pondered on what pre-aspirin/paper tissues/centrally-heated life in winter might have sounded like, for example in the damp and insanitary Middle Ages - lots of public coughing, hawking and spitting, we thought, and everyone's clothes permanently sodden with mud and nasal secretions. (Our standards of thinking and conversation were a bit limited today; post-viral brain decay combined with too much daytime tv.)

Then home - the drizzle starting up again just as we reached the back door -  to make a simple soup from some of the fridge's untouched food mountain, and while it simmered, to notice and vacuum up an unfeasibly-dense layer of dog hair from the kitchen and hall floors (why isn't Flossie bald? She's shed at least one puppy's-worth of hair since Margery was here last week).

The dogs love soup, and had some with their dried kibble for dinner. I had mine without the kibble. Sandra's tall husband came round and fixed the curtain rail, thus eliminating the student-house look of the bay window. Then I sat dazedly on the sofa and recovered from all that unaccustomed fresh air, exercise, food and hoovering. It felt like a full and busy day, and I'm quite worn out now. Maybe a thimbleful of that French tonic wine after all.....

Oh, and I have at least one viewing this week - Wednesday afternoon - and perhaps another  - one that I cancelled earlier, due to being busy with my near-death viral experience - will be rescheduled. Viewings? you may ask. Isn't the house off the market now? Aren't you about to start work on the attic/bathroom conversion? Yes, yes, and yes. No, I can't explain it either, and I can't find it in me to care much, but I'll let you know what, if anything, happens.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


How I'm feeling this evening.

Believe me, this is better. Tomorrow the feet.....

(Thank you for all your good wishes.) 

Friday, 19 November 2010

If visiting, please bring grapes

Knock loudly.

And dress appropriately.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sofa day

Sleepless night, raw, painful chest, rasping throat, agonising headache, skin hurts, sinuses throb, hot, cold, hot; waves of misery and self-pity. Digital radio saves me from hurling myself from the roof in despair at 4 a.m.

A high-speed flu-type monster descends.

Lesley takes the dogs out through the park first thing, Flossie too excited by lead and street auntie to notice that I'm not going with them.

I settle on the sofa with an old duvet, a young cat, a good book, and gallons of hot water and sliced lemon, the only drink that doesn't induce nausea.

A short walk later in the afternoon is pleasant, but leaves me exhausted. Sofa calls, cats await. Dogs seem happy to sleep in the quiet warmth.

A day with a book is a delight, coughing or no coughing.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Message from above

Out walking yesterday with busy friend Lesley, the great putter-off of things that should/must/ought to be done now. We talked of the need to make lists. Lesley was much taken by the sunbeams through the trees, and captured them on her Blackberry. (Meantime I was helping a frantic labrador find her lost ball on the river bank.)

Lesley commented on the Biblical nature of the sight - prophets ascending in chariots, and so on. And behind her, a voice intoned solemnly "Procrastination is the thief of time, Lesley."

Well, I'm no prophet, but I know her weak spots......

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Monday, 15 November 2010

Playing hookey

My friend Lynn decided to take the afternoon off from work today, and off we went into the wilds of Northumberland to Matfen Hall's Christmas Fair. Despite Lynn being the boss in her organisation, owed a lifetime's-worth of lieu time, as well as being contactable by iPhone, we felt slightly naughty, as though we were playing truant from school. Much more fun that way!

En route, we noticed a vehicle creeping along the road, hazard lights flashing. Cows? we thought. Dutifully, we stopped.

No; sheep, ambling along in a relaxed fashion, no dogs to make them pick up their pace. We sat and watched, and a small queue of cars formed behind us.

And then on we went. We chatted, and agreed to support each other in losing some weight before Christmas. No more chocolate! No more cake! No more bread! Or all the good things that go with bread, chief amongst them butter.....

The Fair's final afternoon was quiet; plenty of space in which to park.

The grounds are beautiful.

The interior is pretty impressive too. We shopped; I bought some Christmas presents, which of course I can't show you. We sampled handmade chocolates. I spent what cash I had on me; some of these small stalls were not geared up for bank cards.

Lynn admired a bag. Later, I asked her "Did you like it enough to want it for Christmas, from me?" Yes, she did. "Did you like it enough to want it for Christmas, from me, and to lend me the money to go and get it for you now?" Yes, she did, and hooray! that's one of my more challenging presents sorted, with just a few little surprise odds and ends to add to it later. 

We wandered through to the conservatory for tea and coffee, admiring this little anteroom with its slightly bonkers decor.

We chose a window table. In the distance, (far left) on the edge of the golf course, two swans and their cygnets settled down on the grass.

We could have had a game of outdoor draughts, but we were engrossed elsewhere.

An assortment of little scones (3 each! and all delicious, although Lynn elected to have only cheese ones) with thick balls of clotted cream and cherry conserve for mine. Did we eat them all? Of course we did. Did we remember our earlier weight loss resolutions? Of course we didn't.

But we failed to make much of a dent in the cream and jam - we do have a modicum of self-restraint, you know.

We looked at the Christmas brochure, and resolved to have my birthday lunch here at Matfen Hall next month.

And then we meandered home through the country lanes, through little villages that seemed (but weren't) dozens of miles from the city. Lynn faced a three-hour motorway journey to her head office, and I faced the realisation yet again that the war on excess weight is not won by brave words alone. 

But they were exceptionally nice little scones....

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