Monday, 31 December 2012

Water, water, everywhere ...

The rainfall total for 2012:

It's really the total for 11 months of the year because I did not record January but over four feet of rainfall is quite enough, thank you.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Log supply and log store

We seem to run the wood burner from about September until April/May, so the end of December is mid-way through eight months of burning. We're half way through the big logs and a quarter of the way through the smaller ones but if we're going to get a really cold spell (and use more wood) it will come in the next couple of months.

There's something very elemental, almost primitive, and deeply satisfying about seeing full log baskets and a good, dry supply outside.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Daisy returns to Sale Fell

Same walk but in the opposite direction.  Daisy's new coat is working well because she seemed unconcerned by a brief shower shortly after we set off.  More 'zoomies' as she enjoyed the close, cropped grass underfoot. The summit area is surprisingly dry, thankfully this is not a 'boggy' fell.

Daisy certainly seems to like Sale Fell and I confess to having forgotten just how much I enjoy it.  Only 15 minutes away,  infinitely variable in terms of the number of routes in such a small space, great views from the top (and visible from the house) what not to like?  Quite possible we will be here at least once a week!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day, and Daisy's first visit to the seaside

Well, not so much seaside as sand dunes on the Solway Coast.  A cold walk on a dull and windy day but Daisy enjoyed trotting along close to us whilst off the lead with a couple of experimental zoomies as she showed her whippet heritage.

An uneventful walk apart from finding a lost and rather worried little black Cocker Spaniel.  I had brief visions of returning home with two rescue dogs ...

We found the owner fairly quickly.  Bloody stupid woman - she'd had the spaniel for just two weeks on 'try out' from a breeder who no longer wanted her.  No tag on the collar so she let the dog off its lead and didn't pay close attention to where it went.  We found the spaniel nearly a mile from where the woman was looking; obviously very shaken up, perhaps she'll be a bit more careful in future.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas: Cleverness and confusion

The cleverest gift received this holiday must be from my lovely friend Flummery (who has the cheek to tease me about how much I do when she crams more into one week than most people think about in a month).

They arrived in a cute tin which Daisy has adopted as her car-based 'emergency biscuit supply'.  Despite pleading eyes and a bit of dribbling, the hand-crafted marzipan fruits are staying on the two-legs' table!

The Christmas confusion comes from this lovely card which is unsigned.  I thought it was only me who did daft things like this.  If you recognise the sheep or the handwriting, much appreciated but cannot thank you personally!

Happy Christmas, and Daisy's first fell

Christmas blessings to all, I do hope that the holiday is whatever you want it to be.  I'm just delighted that Management and I eventually worked out that my computer problem wasn't an iMac hardware fault but the house ...

Some months ago we realised that despite a booster unit, the WiFi signal did not satisfactorily reach my study.  We reverted to the Devolo units which had served us well in Hampshire by routing the broadband through our electric mains.  This worked, sort of, but has been getting increasingly unreliable; unfortunately Bag End is not a simple building that doesn't have straightforward mains wiring.   Our holiday fix is 25m of Ethernet cable laid in best trip-hazard style through the house until we can get it fixed permanently and safely.  I now have a much speedier connection which is reliable and consistent!  Happy Day, maybe the 127 messages in my Inbox might actually get answered now?

But probably not today.  Christmas Day has been quiet and thoroughly satisfying so far.  A late start was followed by the decision to take Daisy on her first fell walk.  It was always going to be either Rannerdale or Sale Fell and suspect weather had us choose the nearer of the two hills.  Although it was murky and we had no views from the top the rain held off until we got back to the car.

A gentle walk, Daisy was a complete star and we felt able to let her off the lead for much of the time.  A small bag of kibble in my pocket meant she came back every time I called her, whether she was 10 yards away or 50. This is the first time she has been off the lead in an environment where things could have gone horribly wrong but our little dog behaved perfectly.  She ran around a bit, but at no time tried to streak off into the distance.  Such a joy - if she continues to be this good off-piste then walking her will be a delight.  There were no sheep on the fellside so we still have to find out if mobile lamb chops are going to be an issue but she's so smart, so eager to please and learns so quickly that fingers are crossed we won't have a problem.

We don't seem to have exhausted her but she's currently crashed out in her favourite evening place - as close to the woodburner as she can get.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Normal service will be resumed . . .


I've been blaming productivity and connectivity problems on rural broadband.  Sadly, the problem might be my lovely, shiny, much-loved iMac.  Much-loved, that is, until it goes wrong.  At which point I hanker back to the days of a 'normal' PC where I can get out a screwdriver, take off the cover, remove the offending component and slot in a new one.

Until such time as either I get the iMac fixed or swear loudly and buy a desktop PC, my internet life will stumble along courtesy of a laptop that I've never bonded with that has a crap screen which makes my eyeballs hurt and Google Mail ....

The 'old' Google cookie problem of not allowing blog comments even when signed in seems to be a perpetual issue on this machine, despite clearing cookies ad nauseum and right now I can't even reply to comments on my own blog.   Grrrr.  Frustration.  So much for a relaxing Christmas catching on on computer stuff.

You're probably all used to never getting replies to your emails or blog comments so won't notice any difference.

Happy Crimble to all.

and if I was on the Mac right now there would be a pretty little smiley with some seasonal holly to end this post, but this is Windows so there isn't :{

Friday, 14 December 2012

Week two

(Catching up belatedly ...)

Wild and windy, anything not very heavy or bolted down on the patio is likely to be upended.

Despite the bitter cold LP continued to remove more of the horrible concrete plinth, and another skip is ready to depart.

Daisy is unphased by the noise and mess and on occasions even ventured out minus her coat!

Very slowly the kitchen starts to take shape - exactly as I envisaged rather than how the plonker of a Kitchen Fitter wanted it to be.  Not to labour the point (oh, go on then ...)

Thursday, 13 December 2012


I've always loved sunrise more than sunset, something primal and uplifting about witnessing the dawn of a new day in such glory.

A friend died today, not sure what time and I certainly didn't know when I took the pictures.  She won't see any more sunrises  ....  bye bye Ali, rest in peace sweetie.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

It's a dog's life

Three weeks into our new life together.

Daisy feels the cold quite badly.  Although she loves her little night-time 'cave' it gets chilly in the middle of the night at which point the warmest alternative is jumping up onto me at 3.00am.  I thought I'd solved that problem by giving her a hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket.  This worked well until the HWB cooled down, so Daisy did the sensible thing - jumped up onto me at 4.00am.  A chance conversation with a friend, half an hour on the internet, and Daisy now has her own electric blanket.

A 'pet heat pad' operating at a very low voltage and putting out just enough heat to keep Little Miss Perfect warm all night.  So warm that she's in no hurry to get up in the mornings.


When she does finally deign to get up I'm "teaching" her that the car is not a terrifying place by driving half a mile down to the river.  Won't be long before we trust each other enough that she can go off the lead.

Much of the afternoon is spent on a memory foam mattress watching the world go by.  Being so underweight she has very little 'natural padding' and does like to lay on something comfy.

As soon as the wood burner goes on, Her Ladyship expects her bed to be moved in front of the fire.  Just the right place to spend the evening until it's time to return to her heated 'pod' and start the cycle all over again.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Day five, not derailed just in the sidings

A very good day, once we got over the bumpy bit.  Kitchen Fitter turned up with a replacement sink.  Not surprisingly, it wasn't suitable and Hobbit decided enough was enough.  To KF's disgust I refused to accept it, told him to take it away along with his tools and that I would phone him as and when I wanted him back.

At lunchtime I learned that he had phoned our builder and continued to lay down the law about what the other trades could do and when. By this time I had sourced a sink which Management and I both liked and confirmed with Andrew, our plumber, that he could get it from a local supplier by the end of next week. A brief phone call and KF was gently and politely relieved of any more involvement with this project.  In fact, I was so polite and gentle that I'm not sure he even realises he's been sacked - not even when I told him to invoice me for all the work done to date.  Hey ho.  He's gone and everyone else is much happier, and happy builders, plumbers and electricians are A Good Thing!  

It means the kitchen won't be finished until the end of next week at the earliest, rather than today, but it's worth the delay.  Sacking the Kitchen Fitter midway through a significant refit might seem like a mad thing to do but it actually felt like the most sane thing I've done all week. Much plastering and finishing up today, most of which I forgot to photograph - it's been a long and tiring week.

(The thistlebond was applied on Sunday when the rough-coat had dried a bit, the joy of non-chronological blogging).

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Day Four, problems and solutions

Foul weather and whilst a storm raged outside most of the day, tempers had to be held in check as the unsettled conditions moved inside.

The Kitchen Fitter (KF) nearly got himself thrown out of the house and off the job this morning, the only thing that saved him was the inability of Wayne, Keith and myself to decide which one of us would have the pleasure of bodily throwing him down the stairs.  He'd got a bee in his bonnet about an aspect of the project with which he is not involved with and started laying down the law about how something should be done.  He was irritating the hell out of me but I'd managed to keep quiet; when I discovered that he was pissing off everyone else on the team I stopped keeping quiet.  There were no raised voices, no swearing and no ultimatums.  I told him very firmly in words of one syllable that the half-wall partition behind the sink was being built to MY specification seeing as I was the person who would be living with it and That. Was. The. End. Of. The. Debate

Life was much easier after that, KF behaved himself and even started clearing up the mess he was making, all the other trades were happy and I had a splitting headache.

The headache didn't go away as Wayne spent the afternoon sticking his head around the door and saying "you probably need to come and see something you don't want to see" as he uncovered more shoddy workmanship in the Boot Room.  It can all be fixed and I trust him to make the walls sound but it's rather unnerving to find what are obviously parts of an extension not properly tied into the original walls of the house ...  I knew our life in Cumbria would be very different to anything I'd experienced before but I never expected to learn quite so much about building, plastering, plumbing and electrics.

Talking of which, after Glen spent ages yesterday positioning the ceiling lights in the Boot Room it dawned on us (OK, Keith was the one who realised) that the wall cabinets we're putting up would foul the light fitting if we tried to open the doors!  Thankfully it didn't take long to move one of the cables - another new skill as our electrician wasn't here :}

Glen did have to make an emergency call at the end of the afternoon when an outside socket that he'd half-installed yesterday gave up the struggle against the rain and started shorting out.  Wayne is used to 'flashes' going off as I take photographs of the work but he found it a little worrying when there was a 'flash' and he knew I didn't have a camera to hand.  Of course, the ring which was shorting also held the central heating controller.

LP has gone down with the current flu/lurgy so he got sent home before he'd even arrived but as the job is now running at least two/three days behind so there's no hurry for him to finish the groundworks.

Daisy refused to put a foot in the garden other than for unavoidable toilet stops and spent the day inside.  I am deeply grateful to a friend who phoned and said "I cannot avoid going to the village shop and I bet you don't want to step outside, do you need more milk seeing as you've a house full of workmen?"  Bless her - we've got through nearly 8 pints since Monday and yes, I was going to have to make a dash to the shops before the end of the day.

(Thankfully, the missing freezer turned up before Wayne built his mini scaffolding in order to reach the ceiling.)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Day Three, (barely) controlled chaos

There was a distinct likelihood of a sense-of-humour failure today but not caused by any of our chaps.

Am thoroughly pissed off with Boots Kitchen Appliances.  Along with the new fridge we ordered a small chest freezer.  I only ordered from BKA because both units were in stock, and both would be delivered on Monday.  On Monday the fridge arrived, but no freezer.  Phone calls, irritation, be nice to chap in Call Centre, it's not his fault.  bla bla bla.  Promise of delivery for Wednesday (today), refund delivery charge.  Mid-morning found a voicemail message saying "sorry, no delivery, we have no stock, we don't know when we'll get any, it's all Zanussi's fault".  More phone calls.  Even more phone calls, irritation, tell stupid chap in Call Centre to put me through to his Manager. NOW.  Manager promises delivery for tomorrow.  ("No stock?   Our live system is showing 48 units in the warehouse . . ." ) and coughs up a discount as a goodwill gesture.  I didn't bother to tell them that by the time the freezer arrives tomorrow we'll have scaffolding in the Mud Room and it probably won't be possible to get into the house.

The rest of the day was flat-out busy but I'm throughly amazed by just how much is being achieved and how hard the team are working.

The usual crew were complemented by LP who arrived just after 8.00 with a large trailer of 'trimmings' from the timber yard.  He and I spent a pleasant hour or so sorting it into pieces big enough to support wind-break netting and the rest which will eventually end up in the log store.  Freezing cold so I was delighted to go indoors once that was done and let him carry on alone.

He then moved on to groundworks which are another of his many skills;  I trust him to dig out the ground at the back of the house and put it back the way it should be!  Of course, in true Bag End style he found cracked pipes under the concrete plinth and has ended up removing three times as much as we expected . . . but if it wasn't removed now he'd be digging it out next Spring anyway so it doesn't matter.  The pile of rubbish on the drive has got even bigger and I need to order another skip.

The kitchen floor didn't need much to finish it so Wayne & Keith had a half day and Glen made a glorious mess in the Boot Room (which yesterday was called the Mud Room, because it is no longer a 'Utility' and it's not a Hall, or an Entrance .... and tomorrow might be called something entirely different)

In the midst of making innumerable mugs of tea and answering endless questions, Daisy and I had a trip to the vet.  Clare is delighted with her progress.  I asked if 200g weight gain per week was about right and she admitted to not knowing . . . there probably is no right answer, every dog is different however she's heading towards being a very active little girl so we're going to increase her dry food by 10% and add some cod liver oil.