Monday, October 19, 2020


Today has been damp, grey, and disappointing.

One of those frustrating days that take all your energy and leave you with nothing at their end.

The local small garage owner was supposed to pick up my car for service and MOT on his way to work. A story about lack of grandchild care and then another about a broken down school bus were trotted out to Mr BW when he rang to enquire as to his whereabouts at 10 o'clock and then 12 o'clock. Tomorrow, then. 7.15am.

I started clearing out and reorganising the garage. I found more wine than I thought we had (most unusual), and more bird food (I had to stop feeding the birds in late spring to protect the new garden I was making from death by pheasants scoffing what was dropped by litle birds and then moving on to the new unestablished plants).

Yesterday there was a wet patch on one of the 'tough' mats in the garage (which is at one end of the 'long house'). We couldn't work out how the hose or the tap had leaked. I was standing on that mat contemplating how to reorganise my plastic pot store using one of the old cupboards removed from the kitchen to make space when the Aga went in at the begining of the summer (thank goodness for that now, we'd be freezing without it), when a large splosh of water fell on my arm, and then another hit my cheek.

We had failed to consider 'up' yesterday. Water falling from above. On getting into the roof to investigate, after pushing aside rolls of old carpet and sheets of woefully inadequate insulation, and measuring where the water was gathering on the ceiling (which may or may not be asbestos, we have yet to find somewhere that can test a sample to ascertain) and measuring a similar distance into the roof, Mr BW discovered that there was a tiny hole in the copper pipe running through the roof from the oil boiler in the corner of the garage to the radiators at the front of the house. This also explains why the 'heat leak' towel rail in the main bathroom has constantly been cold at the top recently, and has frequently needed bleeding to remove the trapped air.

For once, this was not a leak that the plumber had caused while renewing pipework, and the radiator system, but seemingly caused by the copper pipe rubbing against the rafter it crossed as it was continually expanding and contracting as it heated and cooled. Could have been a disaster.

Fortunately we had the car, which hadn't gone off to the garage for the day, so Mr BW was able to get into the nearest market town and get the relevant supplies to replace the section of pipe to mend and then insulate it. Somewhere around £300 - £400 saved today by not needing an emergency plumber.

The new towel rail for the ensuite renovation arrived, damaged (sigh, yet again, almost nothing large arrives here intact, yet another saga of chasing suppliers to send replacements), and I knocked a bottle of beer out of the fridge which broke and exploded all over the kitchen floor.

The garage is a bit tidier, but I don't feel the energy expended today is worth the outcome.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Murdering the children, one by one, as they're old enough

Mr BW's spreadsheet of spend on renovations at Coven Nord is producing scary numbers. It does have all projects immediately planned in it as a provisional number that reduces as the definite spend goes in, but, nonetheless, it is a scary number.

And apparently it doesn't even have 'wine' or 'garden: plants/bulbs/seeds' as categories, as, I'm told, we would be spending that amount wherever we were. Apart from the 7 or 8 year old multi-stemmed silver birch tree that jumped in the trailer and accompanied us back up the A1 on Monday. Ahem. Had to replace the nasty shrubs/trees cut down with something, and I have always wanted one, and it will be a great feature specimen.

Still, better spent than saved, with interest rates being negligible on almost all accounts and falling by the day (literally: we both have ISAs with a particular small bank that were opened sequentially on the same day 5 years ago, and paying 2.55% in interest, but for some reason mine is now maturing one day before Mr BW's, and I was offered 1.44% fixed interest to reinvest for 5 years, whereas in his renewal letter that came one day later than mine, the interest rate offered was 1.19%. Luckily for them, we need the money out, as otherwise I would have raised a formal complaint).

Cashing in the Cash ISA family that I have lovingly nurtured and cared for since ISAs were introduced in April 1999 is quite sad. In fact, it feels like murdering the children. In the early years it was often quite hard to find the money to put in a full contribution to ISAs every year (but, we always managed it somehow), and reinvesting them at the best interest rates at the end of each fixed term period took many hours of research. I console myself with the fact that they were a means to an end, and that we wouldn't be where we are now were it not for prudence and compound interest. I also know that it would never be possible in today's negligible interest rate (and economic) climate. Plus, spending seems sensible right now as there is some talk of interest rates going negative next year, and a no-deal Brexit will make for short or medium term shortages of many items made or produced in Europe. .

Almost all deals on interest-bearing or 'reward' current accounts are gone too, and I look back fondly on the days when 7% interest rates on savings, and bonuses for playing banks silly games, was the norm, and allowed us to live comfortably without a huge income.

Which reminds me of something I heard on the radio a couple of days ago. I was only half-listening, and I think it was a comedy programme, but someone said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Do you know, the last group of people it's allowable to poke fun at is the white comfortably off!" Why?

In other news, on Wednesday two very mean looking rams (or 'tups' as they call them in these parts) were added to the flock in the field behind us and are currently attacking the poor ewes (known hereabouts as 'yows').

They're being a big nuisance and have used nearly all their yellow wax block on just two of the yows, who are now running away and into the midst of the others.

In human populations this would be called gang rape, wouldn't it?

Also, doesn't each ram usually have a differently coloured pigment in their raddle?


Saturday, October 17, 2020


Once upon a time we had a lovely piece of software on a CD that allowed us to print labels vey easily. It was called 'Labels Unlimited'. I believe that it was probably a pirate copy of something proprietary that Mr BW picked up at a market in China, while over there on business.

A bit like Coronavirus, but different. Less destructive, and more helpful, certainly.

This didn't work with Windows 7, let alone Windows 10.

We moved over to Avery (label manufacturer's) software, but that is a complete faff, that requires converting to PDF before printing. And, frankly, I can't remember all the steps needed to easily do that. One should not ned a list of instructions to use a piece of software. If it's not intuitive, then it's time to move on.

We have to alter the batch number on every production of h0ney (which requires re-saving the artwork, then converting to PDF, then saving, then printing), and I'm tired of handwriting labels for preserves. My hands don't work well anymore, and handwriting is a painful chore.

Does anyone know any good (cheap or free) software that would allow us to easily print labels?


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Missing information

There are now nearly 20,000 new coronavirus cases in the UK every day.

Here in the middle of ruraldom in the NE, being put into Tier 2 /'High Risk' means we are now allowed to meet people in our gardens under 'rule of 6'. Which is more than we've been able to do for many weeks now. After careful consideration, I have concluded that the reason the whole of Numberland is in Tier 2 is because the District Councils were all abolished about 10 or 12 years ago, and, with a single County system, there is now no easy way of differentiating between differently populated areas when setting restrictions. Interestingly, other rural councils (such as Dorset) have also recently adopted a similar administrative regime, so similar problems in differentiating between different levels of risk in city and in rural areas might also apply (although I am mystified as to why rates in the SW are comparatively low, considering the number of frequently travelling second home owners from London and the Home Counties).

Check your own tier and regulations here.

But, there is one huge thing that has been annoying me for weeks now, that is just not being mentioned in the media, that I think could make a huge difference.


While we were down south last week, I asked everyone I saw the above question.

Not one person gave me what I consider to be the correct answer.

Which is: I have lots of masks and I wear them just once before placing them in a sealed plastic bag until I get home, and then washing them on a hot machine wash with detergent.

The worst answer I heard involved lots of excuses, plus, "And the elastic has come off one side of the disposable mask, so I'll have to sew that back on before I can use it again."

While stopped for fuel on the A1 on Monday, I watched a man in a signwritten transit work van put on a disposable mask (by holding it flat in his palm and then struggling with the ear elastics), going in to the shop to pay, then returning, removing it, screwing it up in his hand and then lobbing it in the general direction of a bin.

Do people not understand how bacteria and viruses multiply on surfaces, particularly those that are warm and damp?

And isn't it trendy to have 'mental health' currently? There seem to be some words - not to mention understanding - missing here.

In other news, it is begining to be autumnal up here. Down south, Mrs Old Friend BW (70 this week!) and I agreed that it is 3-4 weeks ahead of normal.

Up here, it's still behind the south, in terms of trees changing colour. But it is cold, and wet, and I am jolly glad we prioritised installing the Aga, the wood burning stove, replacing the leaking downstairs central heating radiator system, and installing 4 new windows (to replace some of the 40 year old double glazed ones).

In more other news, the very expensive indestructible floor treatment paint that Mr BW painstakingly applied to the greenhouse base floor is peeling off. Bets are on about whether the supplying company actually do anything in response to our emails/photos or whether we end up going for a S75 refund from the credit card company.

One step forward and two back.

But please, wash your masks more, eh?

In yet more other news, Virgin Money appear to be the first 'bank' to move all their operations to an app, and are, so their email of today tells me, disabling their current online access in January. Presumably they haven't considered those of us unable to use smartphones. Not sure I have the inclination to fight this one, considering that I am busy closing all my fixed term accounts as they mature (the renovations on Coven Nord have to be paid for somehow, and savings rates are apparently destined to go negative sometime soon), but, if I do, the term 'reasonable adjustments' will apply. Why are all those who make decisions - such as this - too young to understand these days?


Sunday, October 11, 2020

In limbo

We've had a busy week down south.

Harvesting, cutting down, digging up plants for relocation, making compost (that we will probably never use ourselves), bottling and jarring up, freezing, visiting friends and family (all demanding to know how much longer we will be owning/visiting Coven Sud, even though we have no idea) , and thinking what we might need if we are stuck up north until the New Year.

Why FOTCR™ decorations and wrapping paper feature in what is in the trailer I have no idea.

Mr BW updated the satnav (the internet up north isn't up to the challenge of large updates) and changed 'home' to Coven Nord. I don't know how I feel about this.

I'm stil not taking my old wooden filing box of recipes up north, although I took my original typed-up recipe book (started when I was 18) up north on our first journey.

Who knows when we will be able to get back down south.

What a charade we are living.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

North to South

Left at 4pm yesterday, back at 9.20pm. Not bad for 300 miles - and with the trailer on the back - nothing on the roads again, bliss, just like during lockdown.

If this pandemic has taught the world anything it is that people do not need to travel as much as they do, technology can move methods of communication on faster than anyone ever thought possible, and people simply don't understand how to behave to keep themselves safe against viruses, bacteria, and other invisible threats. What have I missed?

Just as it was getting dusk (about half way) we ran into rain, and discovered the appalling state of the white lines and many missing cats eyes on the A1.

I rarely drive at night (and don't, by choice), as the repair to the detached retina I suffered back in 2000 has left me with poor night vision in that eye, which is also my dominant eye. But, as Mr BW had a Zoom presentation to give that lasted until 4pm, and couldn't then sensibly or safely drive all the way down, I was trying to get as far as I could driving the middle leg before leaving him to do the final couple of hours. We had a rather scary few minutes trying to find somewhere to stop as the rain/darkness combination left me floundering. I'm sure I'm not the only one who relies on the white lines in poor driving conditions.

It seems more autumnal down here than it is up north. But maybe that's because we have mostly evergreen trees in our view there, and new-this-year plants in the garden which are still growing and not yet dying back, whereas down here we have a mature (over-mature at the moment!) garden. Best get chopping...


Sunday, October 4, 2020


The trouble with having two high maintenance, highly productive, gardens, three hundred miles apart, is that one is constantly busy: planning, procuring, planting, pruning, processing.

Today we picked everything that is anywhere near ready here, and made it into lots of different delicious things for future consumption.

There are now:

  • 7 jars of damson gin plum mincemeat (Delia's cranberry mincemeat recipe with butter instead of suet and damsons strained out of the damson gin made a month ago but bottled yesterday instead of cranberries). You can never start your planning for the FOTCR™ early enough. *coughs*

  • A tray of roasted tomato puree cubes, frozen.

  • A large batch of roasted squash, tomato and pepper soup.

  • Baked apples stuffed with mincemeat (see above) - actually, we've eaten those already, they were delicious.

Tomorrow afternoon we journey south again. The b33s need attention, and there is a rinse and repeat to do on the garden produce down south.

It's only 2 weeks since Mr BW was there last, but 6 weeks since I was.

I cannot say I am looking forward to travelling into the past.


Friday, October 2, 2020

I understand the maths of today's date

It's one of those satisfying dates that if you like dates, you won't have missed.

But I really do not understand the maths of coronavirus.

As we are going down south again early next week, to ensure the b33s are safely tucked up for winter, and to begin to tidy up the grounds, I decided to look up the relative coronavirus numbers for Coven Nord (where, despite being in one of the most rural and most sparsely populated parts of England, we are on partial lockdown - no meeting anyone you know, anywhere, although if you put a room on AirBNB anyone can come and stay, and there is no restriction on the number of workmen who can be in your home), and Coven Sud (where who knows what rules currently apply, and if anyone is actually applying them anyway).

Here are the comparative figures:

Administrative area containing Coven Sud:

Population 90,000 in 640 km² (has District and County Councils).

35 cases per 100,000 people in the latest week 22 Sep-28 Sep.
(The average area in England had 29).

32 cases in the latest week 22 Sep-28 Sep (+13 compared with the previous week).

402 total cases to 01 Oct

63 coronavirus-related deaths registered to 18 Sep

Administrative area containing Coven Nord:

Popluation of 316,000 people in 5,013km² (has only County Council).

97% of its area classed as rural, the county is sparsely populated with 63 people per km².
Half of the county's population live in 3% of urban land found in the south-east of the county. 23.6% of residents are over 65 years old.

139 cases per 100,000 people in the latest week 22 Sep-28 Sep.
(The average area in England had 29).

447 cases in the latest week 22 Sep-28 Sep (+123 compared with the previous week)

2,653 total cases to 01 Oct

278 coronavirus-related deaths registered to 18-Sep

How does that work? And why? Why is the NE so comparatively grubby/virus ridden?

Not a workman in sight for nearly 2 weeks now. What a relief.

This week, Mr BW has been busy laying a new patio area in what was the inside of the herb garden outside the kitchen window, installing a new wooden field gate, masonry painting and commercial floor painting the inside of the greenhouse base (sadly we have failed to persuade the supplying company to move installation forward, so it is still a month before the top goes on), and doing a million other ongoing jobs, including continuing to strip off the malfunctioning plaster, replacing more of the rusted 40 year old sockets and light switches, and continuing to replace the rotten skirting board.

I've been busy gardening (over 1,000 bulbs, and the new garden area around the new patio area planted this week), ordering supplies (600 bathroom wall tiles arrived today), researching and sourcing items for the ensuite, which is our next big project (we thought that £7K was far far too much to pay a company for doing the complete job, so have decided to do the work ourselves - after all, I have previously designed and sourced 2 bathrooms down south, and love chipping off old tiles - and I'm sure we can do it for less than half that, with some help from our plumber and a recommended tiler).

Full (harvest) moon last night. Together with a hard frost; crunchy grass and the water in the bird bath frozen solid. The delivery driver who delivered the tiles shortly before 5pm told me that it hasn't been this cold at night in early October for many many years.

It seems that it's a year of firsts. Chaos theory.

As of 4pm we also now have 3 large 1100mm wide floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinets, made of ash wood, for the dining room end of the kitchen, currently awaiting installation.

Despite it being after October 1st, not a single pheasant has yet been killed by the overly-monied gun-possessing locals. Perhaps that is now banned too?

Another gorgeous sunset here tonight. Today's wild weather from the south is posed to hit us tomorrow.


Friday, September 25, 2020

November weather

I think I heard on the BBC weather that Wednesday night was the coldest on record for 30 (or maybe 40) years. It was 5.5°C here. Can anyone confirm?

Tonight it is going to be 2°C and down south 5°C overnight.

I need to wrap tender plants up. I have (100m x 2m) of 50gsm horticultural fleece (double as thick as normal), some fleece jackets (for plants) and plenty of stone (dug out with the soil removed for the greenhouse foundations) to hold it all down.

We also have 70 litres of masonry paint, primer, and floor paint to brush on.

So we're going out, as it's sunny (although only 10°C) today.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A day on the tiles

In our normal untrendy way, we want to use the same simple, square, white floor and wall tiles as we have in the bathroom and the shower room at Coven Sud, for our main bedroom en suite renovation here.

They look clean, and are easy to keep clean. Particularly as I am failing miserably to persuade Cleaner BW to move up here. Plus, they are visually 'invisible', and there is an unlimited colour palette - change the colour of the towels, and the room looks totally different.

We always over-purchase tiles, in case of accidents or the need to re-tile small areas for any reason. So we have spares from previous projects, and Mr BW brought a few up when he returned from warmer climes on Sunday afternoon, for matching purposes.

They are square tiles. Square tiles are no longer trendy. I like square, because I like symmetry, and I like floor tiles laid diagonally as it makes small rooms look much bigger.

On Monday I discovered that there are no longer any tile shops in our nearest market town, despite information to the contrary on the internet. I do now know all the industrial areas (such as they are) intimately, and discovered lots of small businesses making and selling obscure things that might just be useful one day.

But, I knew where I had bought the last tiles, in 2006, when we built The Studio at Coven Sud onto the existing single-storey bit (aside - looking for a particular product, we looked through the photos of that time - which was almost enough to put us off the idea of ever building an extension here) and assumed that they'd still sell such classic products. Following a trip down the A1 to the nearest Topps Tiles, we were dismayed to be told, "Oh yes, those - discontinued 6 months ago, all the stock from all our branches was withdrawn and went to ladfill!" Sadly she couldn't tell me which ladfill, because I'd have been down there...

We did manage to find the identical wall tiles in another tile chain, but there is no hope for the floor tiles. There are very few 'pure white' tiles around now, and those are either rectangular, or huge squares, and seem to have nasty surfaces that will be a pain to clean. Last time we couldn't find the tiles we wanted (when redoing the utility room down south) we made our own. Unfortunately, I don't know (or know of) anyone up here who has a pottery kiln, and while a local school might, it's undoubtedly not the time to be asking for favours.

I think we will wait until we're next down south - there are lots of small tile places on local trading estates, and one of them might just have 4 square metres of old-fashioned white tiles sitting around in a corner.

Driving around the nether regions of Gateshead and Team Valley, just off the side of the A1, in the area overlooked by the Angel of the North, where all the large out-of-town shopping estates are situated, we saw many 'side-of-the-road' food outlets. As it was lunchtime, most were surrounded by groups of 20 or 30 people, without masks, all inches from each other. Why is the message not getting through?


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Happy Equinox!

Meterological Autumn arrives today, and with it the last warm day for a while.

There are 100 days left in this year.

It's also National Elephant Appreciation Day. The 25th one. Who knew?

Here's Oliphant, that Mr BW appreciated carved a while ago. Currently down south, and now standing on a cast glass base (glacier mint anyone?). Must remember to bring him up next trip.

The rest of the country are following the NE's example tonight. No more visiting anyone else. Michael Gove resembles one of the Thunderbirds puppets more each time he is on TV.


Monday, September 21, 2020


Mr BW got back from Coven Sud yesterday in record time. Little on the roads, he said, and a fast trip. That would be because the spring hardenerers and the trailer were missing then. And the mpg was back to its usual nearly 70mpg. A 20mpg difference to recent trips.

I couldn'r believe what he'd managed to fit in. A true master of packing. All those years of business flying, having to fit personal luggage in with all the 'things forgotten from the shipped in advance items' finally pays off.

He clearly has much better spatial abilities than the builders, who seem, when Mr BW checked this morning, to have constructed a vital front/door opening measurement to 120mm rather than 210mm. To be fair, all their other measurements are spot on, to within the 5mm tolerance allowed by the greenhouse manufacturer. I suspect dyslexia. We've yet to hear from them in response to Mr BW's email. But then we've not paid the final payment either.

Beautiful golden late summer/ealy autumn sunshine here today, and nearly 20°C. I went out to gather supplies (construction, painting, gardening, alcoholic, and non-perishable groceries) in case of further lockdown measures soon.

All around here they are either taking and baling one final cut of hay (or maybe haylage), or sowing seed, having ploughed a couple of weeks ago. It's lovely to see 'proper farming' again, of a sort I've not seen since in I lived in the SW in the 1980s and ealy 1990s. Around Coven Sud it is harvest / add chemicals / seed on the surface. In short, "no dig" farming, which cannot be sustainable in the long term.

Mr BW said they sowed wheat in the field behind Coven Sud on Saturday. Here they were sowing wheat in the surrounding fields on Sunday. It will interesting to compare and contrast over time.

I was stopped by a farmer in a nearby lane on my way home. "Are yous in a hurry?" he asked. "If not, could yous wait a few minutes while my combines and discs comes down?" I assured him I could wait for his machinery to pass, and indeed was enjoying seeing proper land management again. "Aye!" he beamed, "Aye."

I popped into the local rural village garage (recommended by Plasterer BW) to enquire about the price of a service and MOT, which I need in the next few weeks. I met the owner (early 60s) and his grease monkey (only slightly younger), both looking like they'd done a shift down a mine, such was the grime on their hands and faces, "How's you be payin?" I was asked, "Cash, bank transfer, credit card?" "What's the difference in price?" I enquired. Turns out cash gets you half-price (which is a third of the price I've been paying down south). I can't quite work out how that works, in this day and age, with the contents of anyone's bank account, and every transaction being visible to The Powers That Be. But, he can pick my car up on his way in of a morning, and drop it off on the way back, and will stamp the service book.

He said he knew the 1970s owner of this house: their fathers worked together in haulage, and he hated the last owner, in common, he said, with most of the local populance. "I lives in the hamlet up from yous and I walks my dog past yous house!" he declared. "I've always liked yous house!"

I've not laughed so much for years as I did in the quarter of an hour I spend in his company. I was still laughing when I got home, 5 minutes later. He loves old cars, and seemed excited by my mention of Mi1dred. He told me where there was one of Mi1dred's sisters: in a barn 3 miles up the road, but untouched for 43 years. I enquired as to her colour. "A cross between red and brown!" he said. "Ah, totally rusted out then!" I correctly surmised. He laughed. "Quick on t'uptake, yous!"

Once again, I again felt like I was in a 40 year time warp. 1980s Somerset all over again.

And did I mention the gorgeous golden light?


Saturday, September 19, 2020

They've finished, HURRAH!

There have been 475 photos, or 2.31 GB of progress, since Mr BW went South on Monday morning.

It's been proved now, yet again, beyond any reasonable doubt, that all my photos are, in the fullness of time, useful.

Where does the wiring in the main bathroom at Coven Sud, put in during early 1997, run? Ah, ask BW's photos. Saved a lot of £££s for the investigative electrician. Who sadly proved he couldn't add up in multiples of his hourly rate, but we paid his bill fast, and he'll probably never be any the wiser. Money well spent, and Mr BW, following the guy around, upped his - already good - electrical knowledge to nearly 'electrician' level. I know that new knowledge will come in useful here. Sadly.

Despite my expectations, around 4.40pm, the builders proved that miracles do sometimes happen, and finished, cleared up, and reinstated the damage they'd caused to the field and the entranceway.

Rather too well: they took away all the pallets, including some that were here already (that we wanted), and all the empty dumpy bags, that we'd already said we wanted. Not deliberately, I think, but because they were unused to clients wanting the spoils, so didn't remember that we had already said that we wanted them, and we could find womble uses for them.

Soon after Chief Builder asked me whether I had any paracetemol as he'd run out and had had severe toothache for 2 weeks and couldn't get a dentist appointment for another two, and I provided (a) paracetemol, and (b) chocolate biscuits, I managed to get in that as all the stone, stone capping and aggregate left over had clearly been costed in to the job, it should remain on site. And so it did. Although the leftover bag of lime mortar stored in the garage did unfortunately disappear because I got distracted and failed to close the garage door in time.

Although they were very annoying - mostly because they failed to provide good enough itineraries to us, they did do a fantastic job, and their skills in laying random stone perfectly were truly amazing. Given that the oldest one was young enough to be my son, and the youngest my grandson, I think traditional skills in these parts (well, 60 miles away, from where they came each day) are in good hands. It's amazing that local Trades think that turning up at 11am is OK, but those from 60 miles away have mostly been here before 8.30am every day.

Provided their price is right, I've told the builders to hold a slot for our extension, at some point in the future when we have finally emptied and sold Coven Sud.

"That's better than most houses!" proclaimed Chief Builder. "Deeper foundations, better walls... perhaps you should turn it into a proper annex!" "Oh wait," I said, "we have 4 old windows, retained for cold frame tops... can you just put those in, and there's a load of old slate dumped in the corner of that field over there, that would do for the roof..." He looked alarmed. He hasn't yet quite worked out when I am joking and when I am being serious.

Now to await the top. Currently scheduled for 8 weeks time. In 8 weeks it will be cold, wet and blowing a gale up here daily . We hope to get the greenhouse company to move things forward.

Unfinished by Friday as promised, so I have Builders again today

The Builders - well, 3 of them anyway - arrived at 8.10am and 8.20am. When they arrive in 2 vans it invariably means that they - all or some - will disappear to another job part-way through the day, often without telling me.

And so it came to pass that at 10.45am I caught the 3 of them getting into one van.

"Tea break?" I enquired. "Aye, we's going to get a sandwich!" "To get a sandwich?" I said, raising my eyebrows. "I'm not sure where you'll find one of those round here, particularly on a Saturday! Probably a 20 mile round trip? I'd offer you something, but I only have gluten free rolls or gluten free fruit bread left, and I don't eat meat, so I doubt what's left in my cupboards in the sandwich line would suit your tastes?"

I wondered why they had come to a job in the middle of nowhere, on a Saturday, without bringing provisions.

And then I thought it was probably an excuse to escape to the other job for a couple of hours. Probably where the 4th member of the team is.

No doubt I now have the pleasure of their company tomorrow too, as they now can't possibly get done everything that is left to do today.

I just long for some peace and quiet. I was looking forward to having some time alone while Mr BW was down south, to recharge my batteries a bit.

Talking of recharging batteries... WHY do tradesmen not charge their batteries at home, overnight? Why do they always plug in as many chargers as they have, the minute they get to a job in the morning?

The plumber a couple of weeks ago had 6 batteries in different chargers, charging at one point. I pointed this out to Mr BW. "Oh, those rechargeable batteries don't last long on a charge!" he said. "Yes, but they've only just arrived!" I remonstrated.

The builders have used about 40 units of electricity this week. I'm counting. I'm intending to take £5 off the bill.

It's getting there though:
(these pics mostly for Mr BW's benefit as I can't get email with attachments out at the moment, and there's a couple of things he needs to see).

Posted at 11:30 AM | Comments (9)

Friday, September 18, 2020

Day 4 Home Alone

It was really misty here this morning - I couldn't see further than the hedge. I've never seen temperature inversion like that on a ridge - although we often see mist in the distance, down in the river valley, but not up here. Twas very spooky.

I didn't sleep well and was knackered. I decided to stay in bed all day. I kept enough curtains drawn that I could not be seen, and opened all the doors the builders might need open, so they didn't need to disturb me.

My plan to spend the day hibernating and hiding from them was working until an old black lab appeared in the drive, and apprentice builder knocked on the door. Insistently. I opened the front door and peered around, exposing as little dressing gown as possible.

The dog belongs to a chap in his 80s who walks a lot, but not very steadily. I was immediately concerned that something might had happened to him and the dog had come in search of help, but got distracted by the fun of helping to mix cement. I tried to ring Mr BW, who has the chap's mobile number in his phone. Mr BW was not answering - too busy running around at Coven Sud, harvesting, weeding, feeding, sorting the bees, cutting hedges, and packing the car for the return trip up here.

I wondered who else locally (whose number I did have) would have the dog's owner's phone number, but couldn't think of anyone. Then I vaguely remembered Mr BW forwarding me an email from him with an attached old map of this area, with his phone number at the bottom. 10 minutes of searching located the email, and I rang his home number with trepidation.

Fortunately he was OK, but the dog had escaped. Probably because they are releasing thousands of pheasants this week into all the local copses for overly-moneyed people to pay huge money to kill in a couple of weeks (this apparently is still going to be allowed, despite no-one in the NE being allowed to visit anyone else. You can tell the Colour of the government, can't you?). "I'll whistle her, can you point her in my direction?" he asked.

The dog would not leave the builders, so I had to go out, in my scruffy dressing gown, with bed hair, and pull her away, outside the gate to the drive, and close the gate (it's old, heavy, metal, 12 feet wide and hard to move, especially with a writhing dog's collar in one hand). "Go home!" I said in my sternest voice and pointed across the fields to where the dog lives.

10 minutes later the dog's owner rang me. "She's back, thank you!" he said. "But I didn't think that would work. How did you do it?" I explained about the stern, "Go home!" command and pointing, but shared that I had wondered whether the dog knew that command. "I didn't know she did either!" he admitted. "It must have been the way you said it!"


Thursday, September 17, 2020

A third thrilling daily episode of BW is solo at Coven North

7.05am That's better, waking up naturally, and, oh joy, it's a beautiful sunny morning. I instantly feel better.

Meanwhile, down South an early morning email tells me that Mr BW was woken by planes soon after 6am. The re-routing of flightpaths (on a technicality, without public consultation) was the major reason (but by no means the only reason) for us needing to escape that part of the country.

I did wake up to hear a 'mouse-like noise' in the lounge/bedroom/control room again in the night, but thought better of allowing The Black Familiar to become an indoor cat, something she has been angling for since 2012. I don't know where the rest of the bumper pack of 100 rat/mouse traps are, and decide that there is definitely more chance of me stepping on it or catching my fingers setting it than there is of catching a mouse. If I see 'tell-tale evidence' anywhere I shall change my mind of course.

7.45am: I take a stroll around outside to take some progress photos and video before the builders arrive. I just couldn't face it last night. I catch The Black Familar jumping off the roof onto the (disintegrating) coal bunker. A millisecond later and that would have been a fabulous flying cat shot.

I stand on the garage back steps and look at the progress on the greenhouse base and wonder how on earth they think it will ever be finished by the end of the week. This was a 9 or 10 day project and we're now half way through week 3.

I wander through the garden and come out at the top of the drive.

I am dismayed by the powdered concrete and wheelbarrow tracks all over the tarmaced drive (which is a huge area - big enough to park 30 cars) and, even more dismayed by the mess left just outside the entrance gate after yesterday's (lack of) work by the two who were here. We hadn't really expected that area (which we don't own or have access rights over) to be used at all, but when 15 bulk bags of aggregate, sand, cement and lime mortar appeared there one day we didn't really think about where it could lead. The apprentice was mixing mortar there yesterday. And apparently just tipped the remains of the cement mixer onto the grass at the end of the day. I stuck my finger into the mess and found it was 6" deep.

"The day is starting well!" I thought.

A sensible person would have thinned down the remaining concrete mix and tipped it onto the rough track where it could have soaked in and been useful when the wet weather comes. Ah... therein lies the problem, of course.

8.00am: I come up with a cunning plan to get the mess sorted in double quick time. I decide that, in the circumstances, lies are allowable.

It is at this moment that I remember that I left the bath upstairs running, 20 minutes ago.

I have a long history of doing this. Down South it doesn't matter too much as: (a) the bathroom is downstairs, (b) that part of the house has a concrete floor, and (c) the water is unmetered.

I run inside and upstairs.

I slip on the stairs.

I pick myself up.

Luckily the bath is still only half full. The plumber (last week) told me that he hated the new taps I had purchased (levers rather than the existing rounds, which my failing hands couldn't grip or turn) as they were only 10mm and he had to reduce the 15mm pipe into their 10mm pipe, which would make the water flow very slow. I thanked my lucky stars that I had chosen wisely.

8.25am: I was loitering with intent near the gate when the builders turned up. By the time I got to them, they'd already stopped and were looking at the mess. I gestured to them to put down the van window. I heard a muttered, "Uh oh...trouble..." as Deputy Chief Builder zipped down the window.

"Lovely morning!" I said, "You must have had stunning views coming down!" "Ay, we did!" said Chief Builder. "Unfortunately, we have a bit of a problem... [I paused for effect, and to get the lie straight in my head before uttering it] ... I've had a very terse text at 11pm last night - which woke me up, so I wasn't very happy - from the Farm Manager who is VERY unhappy about the mess you're making. He's been up on his ATV [aside - what the locals call what I'd call a 'quad bike') every night when you've gone home surveying what's gone on. Now, I don't want to fall out with him as he controls the water supply. And the minds of most of the locals. So...."

"Ay, we stopped here because we saws the mess!" said Chief Builder. "The lads'll sort it pronto, sorrys like, we needs to be cleaner, it wouldn't have happened if I'd been here yesterday!" "You're making it worse..." I smiled sweetly, "in my experience, when in a hole it's really best to stop digging! And, it's like walking on the moon crossing this driveway..." "Ay, the lads'll brush that up too. Sorrys luv."

9.30am: I had an inspiration. All the mess could be solved if they mixed their concrete near to where they were working, at the far end of the drive, in the farmer's field, but on the land we have rights of access over, at the base of the existing oil tank, on the spot where the new oil tank is to be installed in a few months.

I went out to tell Chief Builder. "Ay, if that's what yous wants luv, that's what wes'll do."

"No, it's not what I want, it's what makes sense for us all, surely, and it gets the Farm Manager off all our backs, and saves a lot of clearing up at the end of the day!"

"Ay, but the sand's still up the drive!"

"Yes, but, given that the lime mortar bags are in the garage, the water source comes from the tap in the garage, you're using the mortar down here, and if something has to be barrowed across the tarmac, isn't it better that it is sand rather than wet mixed cement?"

"Ay, you's got a point luv."

The voice in my head says, "It must be dangerous to have a brain." The voice from my mouth says, "Yes, well, let me just point out exactly where the cement mixer can go, and can you use some of those empty dumpy bags to put under it too, please?" I lead him to a flat grassy spot just off the end of the house. I point assertively. "There, OK, and nowhere else, OK? Right, I'll pop back later to see how you're doing."

10.00am: I'm sitting at my computer, typing away, when my nose detects an odour. I check the bottom of my flip flops. Nothing. I look around, nothing. The odour is very close. I take off my flip flops and sniff. Hmmm. The area where I stood when I was telling them where they could mix concrete has clearly been the place they have been using as a urinal. I sigh, drop them in a bowl outside the back door, add a good splash of bleach and leave them to have a good soak.

No wonder Chief Builder was so reticent to use that spot for concrete mixing.

Sometime around mid-day: I left my phone unattended for an hour. This was unwise.

In this time, Mr BW called twice, to say that the very expensive electrician he'd had to call out as he couldn't track down the electrical fault (first tradesperson needed at Coven Sud for 14 years), needed to know where certain wiring rang, and could I remember what year we re-did the main bathroom as that was where the fault was likely to be, and we had photos of the wiring routes, if only we knew what year, and Dave called and texted several times.

I'd just sorted Mr BW out: categorically it was 1997, just as he'd got to that era in the photo albums anyway, when Dave rang again. "BW, BW," he said, "have you heard that Numberland is on lockdown again, no two households can meet, as of mid-night?" I hadn't. These days I ignore news unless Mr BW force-feeds it to me, so when he is absent, so is my world knowledge.

Dave and Darren (now our nearest blog readers - I hope!) have been threatening to visit for the past 6 months. "It's today or not for ages!" I learnt.

And so it came to pass that no more recountable tales were able to happen, because I was otherwise engaged all afternoon.

Otherwise engaged maybe, but I did put the 'eye on the workmen' that the lovely Ambermoggie (second nearest blog reader now I think, and our first real-life visitor, a couple of months ago) made and sent to me some weeks ago now, on guard, in the corner of the window.

We didn't ask the builders to turn down the radio, because we could then talk about them, and they couldn't hear. The builders stayed three quarters of an hour beyond their usual finishing time, and I was informed that 3 of the 4 of them qualified as 'eye candy'. I'm still trying to work out which one didn't.

I told Dave that he has to write another guest post, along the lines of that from - was it 2004? - which was one of the funniest things that has ever appeared on BW. But, it remains to be seen whether it appears. Does anyone remember that?

And Dave heard and then saw our first robin. I am so happy that we have a robin again. The only major bird type to be missing up to now.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Another day in the life of BW alone at Coven Nord

Just for Tim then (*nods to comments on last post*) I shall continue relating the sagas.

It may also amuse Dave, who, despite being a native himself, is having a similar issue with getting 'staff' in Numberland, and in getting them to use the agreed materials, in the agreed timescale. I think I may have been less than sympathetic last night when I replied to his last text on that subject with, "Welcome to my world, almost every day for the past 6 months now!" Ooops.

Firstly, it seems the sagas are spreading to Coven Sud, where Mr BW is having huge problems locating a fault in one of the lighting circuits: best guess is that the MCD protecting that circuit is now itself faulty having tripped so many times.

Never before, in over 25 years, has a problem there outwitted Mr BW, and, unlike this house, things there were done properly as the person who lived there before us was a Master Carpenter, who had his Master Craftsmen workmates help him renovate the house properly when he inherited it from his merchant seaman uncle in the mid 70s. Down there they used 6" nails where 3" would have done; up here they used panel pins. You get the picture I'm sure.

Before 6am: My day started early again, when it was still dark. I heard a noise that sounded remarkably like a mouse. I couldn't decide whether it was one of the thin plastic dustsheets that still wrapped the world surrounding my bed moving by itself, or moving because a mouse was running under or over it. Other than a few in traps in the loft when we first moved in, I haven't seen any recent evidence of mice other than being carried in The Black Feline's mouth, or dead partials on the garage floor.

Once awake and staring at the sheets of insulating plasterboard put up yesterday, I suddenly realised why it was 8.5 cm from the concrete of the wall at the top: Plasterer's Mate (NBD - actually NBVVVD) had forgotten to cut the insulation from the plasterboard where it went over the top of the thick plywood panels the plumber had asked Mr BW to put on the wall for hanging the large new 4-column radiator. The wall is bowed, and curved, so it was always going to stick out a bit, but 8cm - how the hell is a curtain pole going to be hung? I tried to send Mr BW some photos, but the email wasn't sending out, yet again.

6.45am: I looked at Security Central screens online and noticed the bedroom curtains were open at Coven Sud, so guessed that Mr BW was awake. I rang him. He didn't answer. Repeatedly. I decided that he must have died in the night.

I'd forgotten that he never hears his phone as he leaves it charging in the kitchen overnight.

15 minutes later he rang me back. 30 minutes later, after we'd gone through all the measurements, he texted Chief Plasterer. Chief Plasterer replied, failing to answer the, "Your mate did remember to cut away the insulating board over the plywood panels, didn't he?" question (probably becuase he wasn't here, so didn't know, and didn't want to find out lest we should demand the plasterboard be removed and redone properly as we had specified).

8am: As I showered I noticed that the shower tray in the en suite was filling and not draining. The saniflow is working OK for the the sink and toilet, so I have no idea what it is. There's no obvious drain trap to clear. I sigh and think that the ensuite remodelling/replacement project is now going to have to move forward a few weeks.

8.10am: I notice that the kitchen tap is now dripping half a washing up bowl of water every 4 hours. We have the Franke Triflow we removed from Coven Sud up here (they are now £973 RRP and we had two, one in the kitchen and one in the utility - which cost less than £400 for the two, ten years ago - so replaced the utility one with a cheapie lookalike, and so saved £900) but Mr BW hasn't had time to fit it.

8.15am: I notice that both ends of the towel rail in the downstairs cloakroom are leaking - a mushroom container each in 24 hours. This was put on the new system by the plumber last week. By the time he finished at 9pm (because he didn't arrive until 11am) he didn't check round properly. Yes, it was an unpressurised system, and is now pressurised, so leakage from the joints unused to pressure was likely, as there is no limescale to plug small gaps up here, but honestly, Chief Plumber did that work himself so can't blame the lads this time. We'll wait to get his last bill before telling him, or he'll just add on the time to come out to fix it, when it should be done for free as it wasn't done properly the first time.

8.16am: I notice that the spare loo roll I left on the windowsill in the cloakroom yesterday morning has disappeared. Also, despite 7 different people using that facility yesterday (we insist everyone who comes in the house washes their hands when they arrive), not one of the single-use hand towels (ie flannels, which I hot-wash) has been used, so the bin on the floor is empty. I've even put a note in the bin to direct said used hand towels to said bin, as both Mr BW and I have found them either hanging on the towel rail or thrown in a corner (and here's hoping no-one has flushed one down the loo which is a very old septic tank system). I sigh and do my daily clean down of everything with 99.9% alcohol.

Mr BW later suggests that maybe such single-use hand towels have not yet reached these parts, and that I should put a notice by the pile of flannels/hand towels next to the sink to explain that they are a 'single-use anti-Covid measure to protect us all'. I wonder if I should make the notice in pictures (and if so, what pictures to use).

8.45am: Chief Plasterer and his mate turned up, evaded my questions on the 'cut away or not' subject, told me 3" screws would get into the wood OK for the curtain poles, even though it is 8.5cm from the concrete covering the old stone wall to the front of the plasterboard, and Chief Plasterer buggered off again - I stood in the doorway, ostensibly holding the door, but didn't let him out until he told me where he was working. "I'm still on the sick, y'knows that..."

Eventually he shared that he and some others are doing the foundations for a controversial new building in the nearest small village, 4 miles away. I said nothing, but know all about the controversy and how it had split the community, because, well, I talk to the local people who pass through.

9am: I notice that either the plasterers or the builders have buggered the end of the hose. It's now bulging and leaking. I can't mend it. I sigh and fetch an old paint tub for it to leak into. Our metered water (from a private supply) is very very expensive.

9.05am: Chief Builder and one of the 2 lads turned up. Apparently that's it for today. The atmosphere was frosty. I didn't offer coffee. If they say anything I'm going to say the milk's gone off, and without a car I can't go to get any more. I have 3 lots of 2 pints in the freezer and 10 cartons of longlife (future lockdown / Brexit / being snowed in planning), as well as 5 pints that are well in date in the fridge, but they don't know that.

11.00am: Plasterer's mate turns off the radio. I sigh again, this time with relief. I go to look. He's done a good job. And a good job of plastering every bit of the expensive wooden floor that wasn't 100% covered up, despite what I said yesterday. He clearly hasn't noticed.

I chat to him while he waits to be picked up. Turns out his mum and Chief Plasterer used to be an item 20 years ago, when we was a teenager, and Chief Plasterer was like a dad to him, and really still is. He lives in a 2-bed house with his mum, who had 2 strokes during lockdown, and his sister and her 3 girls (9, 11, 13) moved in at lockdown and haven't gone home since. He told me that the 5 women are driving him nuts, and he'd love to get his own place, but all the houses or flats he could once have afforded to rent on his own are now being bought up as second homes or turned into holiday lets. I feel guilty for having 2 houses currently, even though it is a necessary process to get everything in order here before being able to move everything up. I also have a huge sense of déjà vu, as exactly the same thing was happening when I moved to the south-west at the beginning of the 1980s. A 40 year time-warp.

11.30am: I realise that I am acquiring local knowledge much faster than the two builders are laying blocks and stone.

1pm: I notice that the builders have substandard kit today, plugged into the electricity rather than running on diesel. The big stuff is clearly on The Other Job. Noting that Deputy Chief Builder was busily engaged laying stone, I wandered up to where Apprentice Builder, "He goes to university on Fridays [laughter from the bosses]" was mixing lime mortar outside the front gate. I notice there is a lot slopped around and think that the farmer isn't going to be best pleased. I ignore that matter as it seems trivial in the overall bad picture.

Choosing one of Cleaner BW's favourite phrases (her son and ex- are builders, so I thought it might translate), "You've got a face like a slapped arse. Is everything OK? How's it going?" He grimaced. "I can't tell you. I can't say, or you'll tell Mr BW and he'll tell the boss and I'll get the sack." "Ah, so, all is not well. Let me guess... you'll not be here the reest of the week." His eyes darted, then dropped. "Ay, I can't say. I'll lose me job. Sorrys."

1.10pm: I approach Deputy Chief Builder (DCB), still playing with his stones, and, probably over-cheerfully, say, "Looking good, Deputy Chief Builder. How are things going?" "Ay!" he says, without looking up. I cave on the coffee front, having nothing else to offer in an attempt to elicit a response. By the time I've made it he's sitting in his van, pinching the apprentice's crisps, apparently with no food of his own. Apprentice's mum has clearly done him proud, but not DCB's wife. He takes it without even a thank you. "You're welcome!" I say sarcastically, and catch apprentice's eye, which he rolls heavenwards, in an "I told you so, even though I couldn't!" sort of way.

1.45pm: "The Merchant" finally appears with a 38T truck with half a pallet of blocks on. God knows how he's got a 38T truck down the lane. He shouldn't have. DCB runs past where I am sitting in Conservatory Central and across the top part of the garden, which they've all been asked not to do (rain and soggy grass = a mess if they constantly walk up and down on it, plus, well, privacy). I scowl at him and shake my head. He ignores me, and directs the 38T lorry onto the tarmac of the drive, then disappears. I go out. "Afternoon!" I say to the truck wagon driver. "I hears yous been kicking up merry hells about us not getting up here before now like, to swap the wrong blocks!" he says to me. "Sorry?" I say, "What?" "Yous builder [gesturing into the distance] says yous mad at us!" I raise my eyebrows and shake my head. "I think he's used me as an excuse for his own piss-poor time management. I'm just the poor cow who's making the coffees, paying the bills and being treated like a mushroom." "Ah, kept in the dark and fed shit, eh?" he smiled. "Yeah luv, builders does that to us a lot, pretends it's the client, not them getting annoyed." I store up this info for use at a later date, and return to thinking about how to get the plaster off the expensive wood floor.

4.20pm: Builders haven't gone home by 4pm as they normally do. Deputy Chief Builder and the Apprentice had a HUGE row about half an hour ago. Shouting, arms flailing, fingers pointing, the works. DCB then barrowed blocks for the first time, Apprentice kicked a block he'd just laid and it fell off and I thought DCB was going to hit him. Apprentice stormed off. I walked by, in one door and out of another (we have 6 doors plus the garage door, it's a longhouse, and it needs a hell of a lot of door mats, indoors and outdoors), pretending to shake a towel I'd been using to wash the floor. "Deputy Chief Builder, remember you were young once!" I said calmly. No response, of course.

All fun and games here. No way will they be finished this week as Chief Builder promised, even if they all work Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which I don't see happening.

Ah - the Apprentice just knocked on the door. "Thanks for what yous said!" he smiled, unplugged his electric cable, and said, "Sees yous tomorrow then!" Nowt so queer as folk.

5.05pm: Just had the (4,16,4) delivery man grovelling to me about yet another delivery that went to a house with quite a similar name but a completely different postcode, 4 miles away, yesterday, and was rejected by them so registered as me 'not in'. He said 'the system' would not let him then bring the parcel to me that day, even though he knew where we were. He said he's going to sit down with his boss and sort out the 3 glitches in address/locations in his area tomorrow, before he goes on holiday. "This is the 5th failed (4,16,4) delivery in 6 months!" I wailed. "3 have been left at the other postcode (and sorted out between ourselves and the postie), one has vanished into thin air, and this one is a day late on an express overnight delivery that should have been here by lunchtime yesterday." "I know," he agreed, "it's because your postcode is mapped to 'similar sounding house name with different postcode' by the software." Nearly as good as another delivery company not being able to deliver a parcel as they were 2 minutes early...

5.20pm: On opening the parcel (which contained a couple of extra shelves and door bins to make more space in the fridge/freezer I bought in a big hurry when we moved in, nearing lockdown, which is just not big enough for our needs, particularly since the 20 year old integrated under-counter fridge left in the kitchen failed a couple of weekend ago) I found they'd sent me the wrong front trim for the shelf. Right number on pack, 2" too short, and different to the front strips on the existing shelves.

I emailed the supplier, suggesting someone check the whole batch against a shelf for fit before sending out the replacement because it was unlikely to be just one incorrect item.

I look forward to receiving another incorrect replacement item in a few days, and a day after it should be delivered.

5.40pm: I discover that the new plasterboard has been put on top of the sheets of carboard that were protecting the floor nearest the wall, and could not be pulled out. And also that not all the spilled and trampled in plaster, and most of the masking tape holding down the 'roll and stroll' protecting the expensive wooden floor, will come off said floor. I swear. And look forward to at least another hour of careful scraping tomorrow. I realise that this calls for a degree of patience that I no longer possess, or care to possess, and I think that I might just leave it until Mr BW returns on Sunday. Sorry Mr BW.

6pm: I went in the fridge to see what I fancied for dinner. The plastic box of boozy plums left over after straining out the plum gin fell out and broke.

I was delighted because it was one of the boxes with a ridiculous silicone-edged lid that just does not fit, especially when you have non-cooperating hands most of the time.

I put the plums in a glass bowl, eating several in the process, covered the bowl, put it back in the fridge, gave up on dinner and poured a glass of wine.

Perhaps tomorrow will be better?

It's cold (12°C), overcast and windy here. At Coven Sud it has been 25°C. I'm waiting for the next thing to go wrong. Rest assured you will be the first to hear about it.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Day in the life of BW on her own at Coven Nord

5.59am: I was rudely awoken by a distant but loud and insistent high-pitched bleeping sound. I kicked my leg over to Mr BW's side of the bed, saying, "What's that?" then, when my leg met no resistance, remembered that he was 300 miles away at Coven Sud trying to fix a faulty electric circuit, mind the bees, and pick marrows (once courgettes). "Bugger," I thought, "can't delegate the search and rescue function today."

It wasn't the carbon monoxide alarm in the garage as I'd assumed. Not the old oil boiler killing The Black Familiar then. 30 minutes later I finally tracked it down to a fire alarm in a wine box where said non-poisoned by odourless gas cat seems to have knocked it, then sat on the top of the box, so depressing the 'test' button. She looked sheepish. I got to see the sun rise. Red sky in the morning. "Hmmm," I thought, "shepherd's warning." I hope this isn't a bad omen for today.

7am: I made tea, yoghurt with home-made lemon curd and grapes (sorry Mr BW, I was saving that box for you to take south, then forgot to put it in your provisons cool bag yesterday morning), and 3 slices of gluten-free toast (I can already tell it's going to be 'that kind of a day' so need all the energy I can get), having cut the mould off the bread. I only opened that loaf on Sunday!

7.15am: I surgically cling-wrapped and dust-sheeted the lounge (currently our bedroom and the nerve centre of the restoration operation) against all eventualities. One tiny bit of the 'wall with fallen-off plaster' is being insulated with plasterboard and skimmed today, so we can get the last radiator onto the new system before the cold weather arrives. It has become clear that we're not going to be able to move upstairs any time soon, because of the need to replace the en suite in its entirety before the carpet is fitted and the door goes back on.

8.20am: Three Builders arrive, 20 minutes after they said, and one lad down. I asked why and they looked shiftily at each other and didn't reply. This is not the lad who had the hangover last week, but came and carried on regardless. I can only think, "Good, that's at least 4 cups less coffee to make today then!".

The 1/2 pallet of blocks dumped on the field edge at the end of the lane by a big lorry at the end of last week when no-one was here turn out to be the wrong size and 'The Merchants' claim to Chief Builder that, (a) they have none the right size, and (b) they couldn't get them up here until at least Wednesday even if they had some. He says some rude words to them on the phone.

"What is it with this place?" asks Chief Builder. I didn't dare say, "You tell me, you're the native!"

9am: Chief Builder says, "It must have rained lots after we poured that top cement on Friday afternoon, it's taken the top surface off!" "Yes, it did," I replied, "that was what the weather forecast was predicting, and why Mr BW was keen for you to cover it up... And, I think Mr BW sent you an email with a photo of the swimming pool over the weekend and you replied saying it was the fall you'd carefully put in..." "Hmmm, well, the fall, as we made it, went to the back drainage channel, and now the rain has taken the surface off and made it go the wrong way."

"You're the Builder!" the voice from my mouth said, smiling sweetly, "I'm sure you'll be able to fix it." But the voice in my head was saying, "For fuck's sake, we told you so, why the hell didn't you cover it up on Friday as we suggested, rather than being delighted to have a POETS Day? And now what are you going to bloody well do - leave us with a fall the wrong way forever, so that every time we wash the greenhouse floor down we have to sweep it into the drain in the opposite corner?"

9.20am: Chief Plasterer arrived - he was due between 8.30am - 8.45am. He left his mate here. That's the one who thinks it is OK to cut plasterboard and mix plaster inside. I'm not having any of that. "Now, before you start, let's get one thing clear... no cutting, sawing or mixing in this room, no exceptions, because I'm in charge today, and I'm not as nice as Mr BW, especially when there is a mess. Plus, this lovely wooden through floor cost £7.5K - I saw the last people's receipt - and I'll get Chief Plasterer to deduct it from your wages if you mess it up - so, no wages for about 10 years then, eh?" Chief Plasterer has gone off to do another job, involving "other lads and a cement mixer" and will be back, "In aboot an hour, mebbees less." On past experience, 3pm this afternoon, then.

He's the one who had a 'hart attack' last month, and is now looking as rough as hell (looks like he hasn't shaved for a week and is very red eyed - looks like a bender to me... he was told to give up the booze...) and not in a good mood.

I didn't dare say, "You're supposed to be taking it easy..."

11am -11.35: The Builders are all sitting outside in their vans. 3 Builders, 2 vans. Not sure why that is necessary, especially as they come from over an hour away. There seem to be a lot of phone calls going on, and a lot of discussion. Not that many blocks have been laid.

I note their radio is louder than last week when Mr BW was here. I wonder whether our 30-odd year old Technics sound system (donated by Mr BW's Mum) could broadcast Radio 4 louder than their Builders' Set-Up is broadcasting whatever commercial radio station they are polluting my normal silence with. I decide it's probably not a good battle to fight, but manage to find the 'off button' on theirs. When it goes back on when they return from sitting around, I note it is quieter. "That made the point nicely," I thought.

11am: Chief Plasterer returns. Mate is outside cutting. "You're not looking so good today?" I venture. "Ay, well, y'nose, I'm bored sitting around at home..." I fetch him a chair. he collapses onto it. "That board is a long way off the wall?" I note. "I know we said to straighten the wall up, but a radiator does have to be hung from it, and Mr BW's wooden radiator hanging panel is now a good inch and a half behind your board!" "Ay that's learn the plumber for making rude remarks about plasterers!" Came the reply. That had me puzzling for a moment, and then I remembered the reference. "That's not dot and dab, that's scoop and throw!" I say.

11.48am: Chief Plasterer comes around the outside of the house and into the conservatory where I am sitting in an attempt to hide from all the workmen, and where I can still get a good enough wifi signal to watch what they are all doing on the CCTV cameras. By 'they', I include Mr BW at Coven Sud.

"I'll be back in the morning, bright and early!" he says. "Erm... but you've not skimmed the boards yet..." I point out. "Ay, but, the dot and dab is scoop and throw, as you said, so it needs time to set before we skim it, else it will pop off when we put pressure on, so, sees you in the morning then!" I wonder whether I will unwrap all the cling wrap around the lounge/bedroom/nerve centre or whether I will simply sleep in Bri@n tonight. I sigh. Despite what was planned and promised, they are clearly off to another job. You just can't get the staff.

12.15pm: On Sunday, the door mechanism on the less than 5 years old UPVC back door to the garage went wrong. The door is now locked shut. The builders need to get in there to access water and their lime mortar. Mr BW was unable to fix it, but, we have a 10 year transferable warranty, that is insurance backed. Yesterday I rang the company. Person who deals with repairs is on holiday until today, but will ring me back 'first thing'. Hadn't heard, so rang him. Apparently the company was bought out of administration 2 years ago, and despite having all the same trading details, has no intention whatsoever of honouring any warranties. And of course because the last owner didn't pay the "£25 within 30 days of house sale" to transfer the insurance to us (and it's in miniscule writing on the back of page 5 of the insurance document that we, and our, hugely thorough, solicitor missed in the 4" pile of such paperwork passed on to us) we have no cover. Yet more unexpected expense. If/when I find someone who can fix it...

1pm: From my hidey hole in the conservatory, Security Central shows me the 3 builders are out the front, apparently packing up. I go out. "Everything OK?" I enquire. They look at each other. "Merchants sent the wrong blocks, can't change them until tomorrow!" said Chief Builder. "But you've masses of stone, can't you do that instead, around the bits where you've laid blocks already?" "Ay, no, we need to leave it until the morning!" I scowled. "Ah... right... so I guess you're off to wherever Builder 4 is, now?" Pregnant pause. They did have the grace to look uncomfortable. "When is this job going to be finished? You said 9 or 10 days, and we're now into week 3." "Ay, but we're only on working day 7 or thereabouts." "Yes, that's my issue!" I said. "So, are we talking Friday... or when...?" "Maybees we'll be working Saturday..." I sighed and didn't try to conceal it this time. "Well, have a good afternoon then. And what time will you be here in the morning?" "Not before 9, maybe later..." "Mr BW isn't going to be happy at all!" I said, shaking my head, and shut the door. I don't normally even think about threatening people with 'my husband', but this world of workmen is not a world I am used to, and I don't have the skills to deal with that much testosterone.

1.15pm: the electricty goes off.

Amongst the skills for "living in the middle of nowhere, in an only partly-renovated house with more faults that we know about, with no car, and no Mr BW" that I now realise I don't have is knowing how the generator works. I do have 15 litres of petrol, but I'll bet the instruction book isn't with the generator. And there's no way I can pull the cord hard enough to start it. I realise the shepherd's warning was correct and wonder what else the day is going to come up with.

1.26pm: the electricty comes back on. The router doesn't. Half an hour later and on the 8th attempt at rebooting it finally comes back up. The landline handset has ceased to function. I know how it feels and wonder if it's too early for a glass of wine.

1.35pm: Unexpected phone call from unknown mobile number. Man's voice, telling me he has been contacted by the man I'd spoken to at 'bought out of administration' double glazing/door company who was worried about my security (I'd laid it on rather thickly while telling him how appalled I was with his company not honouring warranties, and that said company could now kiss goodbye to any future business from us, ever), and could he help with my door lock problem. I quickly Googled the displayed mobile number and it came up as the company he claimed, and they were on 'trusted and vetted' with lots of 5 star reviews (yeah, I know, I know). He reassured me that there would be no call-out charge, even though he was coming from N'castle, that he'd give me an estimate before doing anything, and that he was pretty certain he could fix the problem on the spot. Said his last appointment was 5.30pm, but he'd ring me if that didn't take too long and come out then, or, failing that, in the morning. I hid a long kitchen knife near the front main garage door, where I planned to stand when he arrived, 'just in case'.

2.50pm: Man from window company rang again - he'd done some juggling and would be here in 45 minutes. I checked the position of my knife, and moved a sledge hammer, and an axe, and a strong garden fork, from near the faulty garage back door. Just in case.

3.42pm: Man arrived, in a sign-written van, with an apprentice who wielded a battery-powered screwdriver with rather too much gusto and was told to, "Go gently with the screws man!" I decided I could take on the pair of them even without my concealed weapons. 19 minutes later they'd fixed the problem, changed the part, realigned the door, sprayed the seals with silicone spray ("You should do that regularly, luv, so your doors stay nice and lubricated and can swing freely!") and were on their way. £132, "We'll send the bill in the post luv, and you can pay when you can!" "Where I've come from they don't leave your house until you've paid, mostly demanding cash..." I said. They looked shocked, and departed, with a, "You knows where we are if you needs us again luv, just phone!"

I felt bad about the knife, the axe, the sledge hammer and the fork. Ah, the north/south divide. At least there was one firm who exceeded my expectations today.

But, I now know how unbelievably easy it is to get into a house through a locked muti-point composite door, with just a screwdriver. This scares me.

4.30pm: I've been speaking to Mr BW on and off all day, so that he could share my misery to keep him updated. He sent the following email to Chief Builder soon after they left:

"Hi Chief Builder

Just been speaking to BW.

I am worried to hear that the top of the concrete base was washed off. When I was talking to Deputy Chief Builder on Friday when it was being poured and it was both raining and forecast to rain hard for the rest of the day, I offered some coverings. He explained that you had black plastic and would be putting up a tent like structure to protect the surface. But this never happened and it was left open to the rain.

Why wasn’t this put up as Deputy Chief Builder said it would be and what is the remedial work required now?

I understand that, having missed yesterday, we only had you for half a day’s work today.

I am worried that, after a great start to the job, it is at risk of now slowing to a crawl.

Appreciating you have had issues with the blocks today, please reassure me that from tomorrow you will be back on our job first thing for full working days to get it completed this week.

Mr BW"

Chief Builder replied with some guff, full of typos and mistakes, about delays having been caused by having to dig 60cm rather than 30cm foundations due to the depth of good soil before hitting substrate, and having lost a track off the hired digger. All these events were in Week 1. More guff about there now being rain marks in thea concrete, but they would 'brush these out'.

Mr BW replied:

"Thanks for the update Chief Builder and I am reassured to hear that there won’t be any ongoing problems with the base.

I am sure it will all come together to the excellent standard we have seen so far."

It does have to be said that the next 'staged payment' is not going to be paid anywhere near as quickly as the last. In fact, I can feel a 'bank issue with making Faster Payments' that is going to last for several days, coming on. Also a distinct lack of tea and coffee. S/He who holds the purse strings/beverage cups has the last laugh, eh?

5.00pm: I look out of the window to discover the hired dumper truck being loaded onto a non-sign-written low loader (or 'wagon' as anything larger than a Mini seems to be called up here). Chief Builder didn't tell me that his last remaining hired toy, "here for a week", two weeks ago, was being collected today. Frankly I couldn't be bothered to go and check it was kosher. I look forward to seeing them have to barrow the blocks and concrete tomorrow rather than noisily play with their diesel-powered toy. And if has been nicked, well, not my problem. It's been made amply clear to me today that they perceive me as just 'the woman of the house'. How wrong they are.

5.40pm: I look in the Aga oven to get out my baked potatoes for dinner. They weren't there. What? I know I put it them in over an hour ago; they should have been done by now. The thought of that gorgeous crispy skin and fluffy middle is all that has kept me going today. Bemused, I check the bottom (simmering) oven. There they are, alongside the anti-slug drying-off eggshells.

I'm sure I didn't put them there. Why would I? Anyone for an exorcism? Or a glass of bubbly rosé? Will I even still be awake when the baked potatoes are finally done?

7.40pm: Yes I was, sadly, as that meant the day was lengthened. I think that I am now officially an ex-Archers fan. Having listened on and off since 1979, and full time for the past 20 (at least) years, I am now joining Mr BW in the 'where did that go so wrong?' camp.

to be continued... No-one is reading, or cares anyway, so that's quite enough of that, goodnight. Tomorrow is another day, no doubt a 'rinse and repeat'.


Friday, September 11, 2020

26 or 44

Yesterday, here at Coven Nord, we finally became legal.

The necessary documents to allow us to live here legally, with the 'on the ground', but off our land, locations for our non-mains services, were finally officially agreed and registered with the Land Registry. 44 weeks since our offer for this house was accepted.

44 weeks.

Cash buyers. 44 weeks.

Today is 26 weeks, or 6 months, or half a year, since we completed and moved in. 10 days before Lockdown.

Had we not had the inspiration to suggest completing without agreed paperwork, but with a £30K withhold 'just in case' the neighbouring Estate Landowner and the Trust attached to it refused to play ball, and ratify what has been the 'on the ground position' for 46 years, we would still be sitting in Coven Sud being very frustrated.

Had the legalities not completed, the £30K would have allowed us to move said services onto our own land, but it would have been difficult.

The Coven Sud to Coven Nord move was originally a 3 year plan.

With the Coronavirus lockdown, in 6 months we have done so much... and it has become very apparent that we could never have done it in 3 years in the way we had planned, because of all the unexpected work that been uncovered as necessay as time went on.

All I will say is never trust a full structural survey.

As of 9pm last night, we have (almost) full central heating. The plumbers finally (nearly) finished our new system. We finally have warmth downstairs, and in the entrance lobby (no more mouldy shoes or damp mail when we return from a week at Coven Sud, hurrah!), and I went to the nearest town (which is isn't actually very near at all) and bought 4 big rolls of glass fibre insulation, to top off the process, earlier.

As of 2pm today we have a greenhouse base, on which the builders will construct the supporting stone wall next week. It's better than most house foundations.

People and plants warm for the winter.

What could be better?

Mr BW has to be down south next week for pre-existing commitments, and to solve an electrical problem that emerged earlier this week. Someone needs to be here to oversee the builders finishing the greenhouse base.

As there are only 2 of us, that person seems to be me.

It will be my first time here alone, and our first week apart for... I dont know how long - maybe 65 months since he retired? It will be very odd, particularly as I will have no car, and our nearest neighbour, a quarter of a mile away, is currently walking the SW Coast path for 6 weeks, so not available to help out.

I am hoping to find time to sort out my soft textiles room, and maybe do some spinning. And maybe even post some progress photos here!

For the past 26 weeks, it has been non-stop, and when I haven't been actually doing things, I have been asleep, sub-consciously Project Managing, and waking up in the night to order 'necessary things' online. Nearly 200 deliveries from Amazon Prime in 6 months, and many more from other places.

But, we are geting there.

It's frustrating to me that most of what Mr BW does (the physical, practical, stuff) is very visible, but most of what I do (the planning, ordering, feeding, watering, supplying, envisaging) is invisible.

But, as I said above, we are geting there.

And it's going to be wonderful when it's done.

As I said to my Patchy Ladies when we met up (outdoors, distanced) when we were last down south a few weeks ago, these days I'm modelling myself on Vera.

"Ay, maybe, but I hope your accent doesn't slip as often as hers!" replied the Patchy Lady who spent her first 20 years in South Shields.

The Matriarchy is alive and well in the north east, and I'm milking it. Any lad in his 20s or 30s can be effortlessly enslaved by my BWitchy Charms [Commands]. Fetching, Carrying, and otherwise Ministering. I'm loving it.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday Update - and a Friday Question

The fire burnt for a night and a day, and it looks a lot less like, but not completely less like, Steptoe's Yard round here now. It's amazing how happy £25 spent on an incinerator has made me.

I enjoyed feeding it for 2 hours in the dark and rain the other night. Luckily I had on a cotton dressing gown and wellingtons. Probably not the best of ideas after 2 sherries and half a bottle of wine, but I enjoyed myself while Mr BW snored. And I had to get it done before the wind changed direction. An unlit military helicopter circulated overhead for ages while I was out there in the dark. I'm glad I added to the fun of their covert training operation.

Despite the cold, rainy and windy weather all week, Mr BW has just about finished chopping down the overgrown leylandii hedge now. The industrial diesel chipper from the hire shop arrives tomorrow to make short work of the small bits of wood and green leafy bits, and 10 empty builders bags have just arrived to store it all in. More fun. It's amazing how much more light (and space) the garden now has, although I am glad the wind is in the east at the moment, because once it turns to the normal south-westerly, it is going to be very blowy on our ridge until the greenhouse arrives to fill most of the space in a few weeks.

This nest was found in the cut down leylandii branches. Any ideas about the breed of its maker?

We have the normal plasterer's two mates (very broad Northumbri@n - not Geordie, I have been corrected - and almost incomprehensible) here today putting up insulated plasterboard on the interior walls where the new downstairs radiators are to be fitted the week after next. He appeared with them first thing, to issue instructions and set them up for the day, despite having only been discharged from hospital the day before yesterday after his 'hart attack' and insertion of a stent, with doctor's orders for bed rest. Mr BW suggested he was taken home. Later it transpired that he'd loaded a 20kg bag of cement onto the trailer just before he got here.

"Ay man, tis 'is own fault, he drinks too much!" said Oppo 1. The Hermes man (an 80 year old local who works with his children - or maybe grandchildren) just delivered a parcel. "Ay, tis 'is own fault mind, if yous drinks 10 pints a night, yous gets what's cummin!'"

Small communities, eh?!

And for those interested - the 4 new windows are now perfect in every way, after another 6 hours work in total from the two company owners yesterday. They were clearly trying very hard to make amends, and even re-pointed some bits of the stone around other windows, and put end-caps on other of the old windowsills that were missing them.

It is amazing how good modern A+ double glazed windows are (thermal bar and argon filled, about an inch between the panes of glass), both in terms of heat retention and sound insulation. I couldn't even hear Mr BW chainsawing outside from the kitchen, with the new windows in there shut. What frustrates me is learning that replacement windows for housing association properties are still being specified as only 'C' rated (which, I was told, was 'A' rating until 5 years ago). With the huge government push on energy efficiency, and new government grant schemes for thermal improvement measures starting any day now, why oh why are social housing landlords being allowed to save £20 per window by fitting inferior products in homes that are lived in by those least able to afford large heating bills?


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What a difference 24 hours makes

20 years ago I seriously thought about moving to France. France is the only country, other than England, where I would ever consider living.

Although I speak quite fluent French, having spent 6 months there in the late 70s as an au pair to a teaching family with 4 children of 2, 4, 8 and 10, I eventually concluded that I would never be happy enough somewhere where I did not have total command of the language.

Having the ability to manipulate thought with words was, this morning, once again proved to us to be the essential skill to get things done in this world.

At 9.07am Mr BW received an unexpected reply from the double glazing company.

Clearly their minds had been focused by our email (see the post just below) and it had gone from, "At least 2 weeks, maybe up to 6," for the replacement window frame and glass window panel, when they left at 3.30pm, to, "We have spoken to our suppliers who are remanufacturing the faulty units, and we can come to complete the outstanding work on Thursday morning, if that suits you?"

Plasterer BW is recovering well from his "hart attack" and, having been assured that we will have lots of work for him when he is up to working again, has arranged, from his hospital bed, for someone he has worked with here before to come over on Friday to start the necessary replastering for the plumber to fit the radiators to the first fix pipework the week after next, and so save us from a very cold autumn.

Undeterred by the torrential rain, our builders are adamant that they will be here first thing on Tuesday to start the groundwork for our big greenhouse. Some workmen below 50, and some eye candy, at last!

Mr BW has chopped down another third of the overgrown and mostly dead 40 year old leylandii hedge, and I have taken delivery of a 125 litre incinerator and tried to have a big bonfire of all the assorted wood that we have removed from various parts of the house. Tried, because it is all rather too wet after recent downpours. Smoke signals rather than flames. To get a skip up here costs £400, the local tip charges £2.50 per black bag of building refuse, "Or maybe a bit less if you pay cash love!" (yeah, right in your pocket pal), so sod the environment. I can see why people fly tip.

Must make time tomorrow to look through the kitchen brochures before the cheap bespoke lady visits late afternoon. I have 50 or so images of what I want, but no time to put them into any kind of order.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

I hope this is the only place online that I will be needing to publish this...

Boss Window Fitter

We are writing to say how very disappointed we are with your replacement of our 4 windows.

Firstly, about changing the fitting date at an hour's notice at 8am yesterday morning, which caused us a lot of inconvenience in rescheduling other tasks and people, and certainly has left us a lot of mess to clean up after you today because of the inclement weather (which we did tell you, when you rang yesterday, was expected). Yes, we understand that you are a small business (which is the only reason we gave you the work as you were actually the most expensive of the 4 quotes we had), but, respectfully, small businesses who rely on workers being available do need to have contingency plans to cover unplanned absences.

Secondly, BW noticed when she was outside that one of the old windows had been left in the frame and was in your van, and told you. You then told the man who was doing the cementing etc to take it off and leave it with the others outside the front of the house. When I rang you ten minutes after you left, and told you that you had gone off with it, despite BW already having pointed it out to you, I really would have expected you to bring it back, particularly given the hassles we had already had. PLEASE DO NOT LOSE THIS WINDOW. WE NEED THIS WINDOW (AND NOT ANY OTHER WINDOW YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE AROUND) BACK as we are making a garden cold frame to take these 4 matching windows.

Thirdly, you told us when you visited to quote that you had been in the business since you left school As such, we would have hoped you would have noticed the problem with the window frame in the centre bedroom being a good 6mm out of square. Both BW and I noticed it with a cursory glance. Also, why does nobody check the window glass for faults when they come in to you? This would have avoided the fault in the opening window glass now in the ensuite, and needing to be replaced. And how did you not notice the lack of the specified hinges on the windows (we thought they were specified on all windows (as per my earlier email to you); you said they were only to be on the upstairs, and hadn't noticed they weren't as you were fitting them?). To us, the customer, you are the supplier, it is your product, rather than you simply being a window fitter, happy to blame others for poor/incorrectly supplied product. It all reflects on you.

Fourthly, given that we made you aware of today's expected weather yesterday when you had to change the fitting date, we were both quite amazed that you didn't have any materials to protect the new cement around the downstairs windows. Luckily we had suitable materials, but are both now soaked to the skin having had to reposition the original two, and add two others, and attach them more firmly as the wind is now in the opposite direction, and the rain even more torrential than it was earlier.

You left with such haste, literally running out of the door, that we were left to try to protect your work from the rain.

There are already several cracks in the cement in various places.

The window in the dining room is leaking in the lower right corner. The wet patch is currently up to 21cm. See attached picture. I have no idea how our plasterer can now plaster this area later this week.

Fifthly, there were tiny bits of hard plastic left all over the tarmac outside, and 5 of the red glass protecting squares. As you can see on the attached picture there were also a handful of self tapping screws mixed in with the plastic. It is difficult not to conclude they were from your van, as I don’t have any, and it has been 2 weeks since the last tradesmen were here and there is no way I would not have seen them lying around. We have had many contractors here over the past 24 weeks since we moved in, some of them doing much messier jobs, and no-one has ever left such (indeed any) mess. I may have missed some screws in the rain. I hope no-one suffers a costly puncture.

Sixthly, when we have had new windows fitted before, the contractors have always left the windows sparkling clean. Neither inside nor outside is clean on any of them, and there are dirty hand marks on many of the plastic surrounds. Additionally, the windowsills in the dining room and the central bedroom were covered in bits, and the central bedroom one filthy - if you'd just spent another 10 or 15 minutes cleaning up, rather than leaving in a hurry, it would have been much better. As it is, we now have a couple of hours work to do cleaning windows and window frames, as well as floors. This is not acceptable.

Seventhly, when we have had windows fitted before, the contractors have always made good any damage on the inside. The damage to the plaster on the RHS of the central bedroom window really needed filling. I did make clear that this was the only room that was decoratively 'finished', so I would have hoped that you would have left it in the state you found it. I can repair it, but I shouldn't have to. This was the reason that BW asked you to remove the trims from that window, as the damage certainly couldn't have been rectified had they been left on. See attached picture.

Eighthly, the 3 strips you left in the garage for me to complete the finishing work around the windows are filthy, and very scratched. They are not acceptable.

Ninthly, we found a triangle of the roofing material from our dormer windows on the garage floor. Where did this come from and why was it removed? We are worried that it may now cause a leak. Picture attached.

And finally, given the messes we found as we walked around when you'd left, and that the window frame in the central bedroom is going to have to come out again, it is clear that we cannot have the new, very pale coloured, carpet laid in the central bedroom next week as planned.

As we told you, because of previous changes we have made to carpet fitting dates for other reasons, there is a £300 refitting charge that we will now have to pay. We will expect this to be deducted from your bill. This will also significantly delay our other scheduled plans, and is very frustrating.

To summarise, the outstanding work, to be completed at your earliest convenience, is:

1. Replace broken glass in ensuite opening window.

2. Replace non-square window frame in central bedroom.

3. Fit the hinges specified in our original order confirmation email.

4. Make dining room window watertight in lower right corner.

5. Repair any rain-damage to any of the external cement rendering, as becomes obvious once it has stopped raining.

6. Return our window removed from site.

7. Replace strips of trim left for me to complete the internal window work.

8. Roofing material to dormer window?

9. Tiny pieces of hard plastic left all over the tarmac near your van?

I hope that you will agree that all this is unacceptable, and not your usual standard.

We await your advice on timescales for the above.



Monday, August 24, 2020

We're busy

7.55am: Mr BW's phone rings. It's the four new windows (to replace four 40 year old failing windows) window fitters' boss. "Comrade A has had D&V all night and has just phoned in sick. So we can't come today before 9am as agreed. But we'll be there tomorrow."

That will be the wettest day of the summer in the NE then. 99% certainty of rain from 9 -6.

7.55pm: Mr BW's phone receives a text message. "can't come on thursday sori i'm in the hospital with a hart attack but i'll be there in 3 weeks if you can wait. sori [Plasterer BW]"

That'll be the plumber fitting the downstairs radiators so we aren't cold this winter and the posh kitchen designer offering bespoke made-to-measure kitchens to fit yourself at IKEA prices who won't be coming then.

*deep sigh*

Someone hates us.

"I'm sure I didn't have half of that bottle of wine?!" said Mr BW a little while ago.
It's not my fault. Really.

Meanwhile, we are saving ourselves between £3K and £6K (depending whose quote you believe) by removing an overgrown 40 year old line of unmanaged leylandii so that the greenhouse base constructors (less than half the price of the most expensive, and using real stone rather than cladding) can start work next week.

Our (extensive) drive is currently half-covered in cut off conifer branches, the rotting former dog kennel and run is full of logs that will be ready to burn in 2023, and an industrial strength chipper is coming for the weekend.

Never a dull day.

Oh, and, Mummy Mr BW had a great time, although we are glad that we are no longer entertaining and feeding two year old twins. Who knew that ladies in their 80s outside their own environments were so demanding and time-consuming?


Thursday, August 6, 2020

We're all going on a summer holiday

We've decided to take Mummy Mr BW, who has been very good at staying in to keep safe, and only seeing a very small number of her long-term friends of a similar age, according to Regulations, on a week's holiday.

Staying in when you live on your own and are usually very active and very sociable is hard. Plus, all the holidays and outings with friends that she had booked have been cancelled, so she needs a break.

We've managed to find a nice house, in glorious countryside, in the middle of nowhere, that is peaceful and perfect for a holiday for us all.

It is a bit of a building site, and the current lack of anything more that essential furniture for two means that I will have to sleep in Bri@n, and Mr BW will have to share a 6' bed (which is actually two x 3' beds) currently situated in the lounge, with his Mum, which he thinks is weird, but, if I have to put up with his snoring, why shouldn't she? He also doesn't have any pyjamas, so that will be interesting. I keep telling him that he should have some, in case of emergency hospital admission, but he still doesn't have any. Perhaps Amazon Prime have some.

Anyway, as I'm sure you've worked out by now, we going to be taking Mummy Mr BW back up north with us on Sunday. It will be the perfect length break for her, as we can only stay at Coven Nord for a week this time, due to needing to be down here again the week after for my dental appointment and various other necessary Southern things. Apart from carpet fitting of one room on Tuesday, we have a workmen-free week (rejoice). And besides, she currently owns over a third of it anyway, in actuality, if not on paper, so deserves to see the property she has enabled.

The A1 northbound on a Sunday is truly awful, as we have found in recent journeys. Tailgating and other aggressive and dangerous driving now seems to be the norm. The problem is that much of it is only two lanes.

We have to pick Mummy Mr BW up from her house early on Sunday morning, and it is just as easy, from there, for us to use the M1 on this trip, and vary the journey. Being three-lane, it will either be a better journey, or more of a traffic jam, with fewer options for getting off and finding an alternative route if the road gets shut. However, you pays your money and you takes your chance I think, especially in these strange times.

We have avoided services in recent journeys up and down, for CV-19 reasons, and those on the A1 are often a long way off the road, or involve lots of walking to reach the toilet facitilies.

In non-pandemic times, on long journeys usually, we often find a National Trust or English Heritage place just off the route where we stop to have a picnic and use the facilities. Being members, it is free, and we don't feel the need to spend hours looking round to get Value for our admission fee.

But, we cannot expect a lady in her 80s to either (a) cross her legs for a 6 hour journey, or (b) use the bushes in obscure and hidden places en route that we have carefully mapped out over the course of all our journeys, like we do, if we have to. NT and ET places are currently only open by pre-booking, and we can't guarantee to reach them within the hour that you have to arrive to be admitted, so that won't work either.

So, my question is, can anyone who has used the M1 recently recommend any good services, (either north- or south- bound as we will probably come back the same way), without too much walking, where the toilets are well-maintained, please?

Or, indeed, any of the services to avoid completely?


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train

It got to 33°C up here on Friday, the hottest day of the year, but there was a lovely breeze across the ridge the house sits on, so it wasn't too bad.

Also on Friday, we heard that the application for 200 new houses half a mile up the road from Coven Sud had been refused on Appeal... but, the Inspector said, only because of the presence of a Grade 2 listed building and the importance of it remaining in its original field landscape, not for sensible reasons like traffic and inappropriate location. The Appeal was held virtually a few weeks ago, and Mr BW now has the accolade of being the first member of the public to have spoken at the first ever online Appeal.

We have had a very very very busy week, but we feel like we are finally conquering the house, and should be able to get it waterproof and warm in the next 6-8 weeks, before it gets cold up here. Thankfully.

The plumbers - minus the one who bodged things causing the water damage that happened while we were at Coven Sud last time - were here all week. They were excellent and have modernised and made sense of a complete mess of years of add-on plumbing, rehung all the new radiators properly upstairs and cut off the leaking underfloor pipes for the downstairs radiator system, which allowed us to move two radiators to more sensible places.

Only we could have been testing a new central heating system on the hottest day of the year, and the third hottest day ever.

The plumbers also did first fix on the replacement radiators downstairs (modern thin plastic pipe run off upstairs system copper piping), and cut off the old and leaking underground radiator pipe system. We don't have much plaster left on the walls now - it was all as bad as that upstairs. Still, at least we can now put in appropriate modern insulation as we re-plaster.

Boss Plumber is now our new best friend, and has put us on to lots of good tradesmen we hadn't managed to find ourselves.

We were going to go down south today (we have h0ney to extract and crops to harvest, as well as more things to bring back up) , but instead we are going to be leaving early tomorrow as I was too tired to drive at all today, and Mr BW is also tired so didn't feel he wanted to do all the driving.

We have to be back up here after next weekend for carpet fitting (only one bedroom instead of the planned 3 though, due to other things that now need doing first - so many things, for example new windows, as some are of 1980 vintage, keep appearing that need sorting properly, so putting out our plans - luckily the carpet man is very understanding!).

It is very complicated trying to juggle dates for everything that needs doing, north and south.

As Mr BW says, it feels like we are rescuing Coven Nord, step by step, from its lack of care over the last 20 years. Putting in the Aga was a stroke of genius, as it has already dried out so much of the damp that had built up in recent years. Plus, it has made my life much easier. No longer do I need to think about cooking - it just happens. Today I made the first ever Coven Nord jam, with plums from Coven Sud.

There are fewer sheep now: almost all the lambs have gone to be dinners (if you buy M&S lamb, chances are I saw it when it was alive, and Mr BW talked to it). I am glad that I have been vegetarian for more than 50 years. But, living next to a field of depressed deprived mothers, rather than a field of happy sheep, is hard.


Friday, July 31, 2020

How do they know?

We don't have Alexa. We will never have Alexa, or any other snoop device. I have as many browser controls set to 'private' as I can find, but still, straight after making yesterday's post, when I checked the delivery status of my awaited Amazon orders, this was displayed.

How do they know we have plumbers here this week? How?

I've no idea what the video is about, but surely we should have got past this kind of sexism in images a long time ago? It wouldn't be acceptable to have an image of a golliwog, so why is this image acceptable?

Oh, I was right about one of the previous comedy pair, who caused the water leak that damaged the newly replastered ceiling, and then pretended to be sick on Monday and Tuesday so he didn't have to face us. By Wednesday Chief Plumber had realised he was pulling a fast one and sent him elsewhere, but says he's getting The Big Bag later today. Is there a list of cowboy plumbers that I can add him to, because he'll still be out there working?


Thursday, July 30, 2020

If there's a system that can be played...

We have finally discovered (from a visiting salesman yesterday) why it is taking so long for companies to supply quotations after visiting to see whatever it is we are needing to replace, and why lead times are so long.

We were told that lots of people are using the money they are getting back from holiday or event refunds, the money they have received from the taxpayer for self-employed support or business bounceback loans, or the money they have saved while furloughed to carry out home improvements. So these companies are very very busy.

Good for them, but not for us, who have to do projects in order, so cannot proceed with the next stage until the previous is finished. For example, carpets cannot go down upstairs until plumbing is finished and the urgent replacement windows are installed, and until we have carpets, we cannot move the bedroom out of the lounge, and until we have done that we cannot remove the loose plaster (yes, even more 1970s vintage loose plaster) that has become apparent during the plumbing pipe wall chasing this week, and until we have done that we cannot book the plasterer again.

Also, the stove installer told me that businesses are applying for BBLs, even if they don't need them, because it is very cheap credit, interest free for the first year, and can be repaid without penalty at any time. Accountants are advising all eligible clients to use BBLs to boost cashflow. And the scams/fraud on BBLs is staggering. The latest thing for those miscreants moving on from engaging in PPI scams, I guess.

Are you missing out?


Monday, July 27, 2020


There is a lot less plaster on 5 walls downstairs tonight.

Remember what happened in the main bedroom when Mr BW stripped off the wallpaper?

Well, it happened again on three of the five chases.

Never mind, the plasterer is a nice guy, and the best value and most reliable of the tradespeople we've had here.

Plus, we can then insulate the walls on the inside, so improving the energy efficiency of the house. Aren't there supposed to be lots of new grants for retro-insulating houses starting sometime soon?

As the radiators are being replaced and will now run off the existing upstairs central heating pipework, we're taking the opportunity to move 2 of the 5 downstairs radiators into more sensible positions (actually, there are also 2 we're not doing yet, as we may, once we've sold Coven Sud, extend out and knock down the protrusion where those two, and the wonky loo, currently are).

Thanks for all your survey votes and thoughts on how to deal with the water damage situation. Lots of good points made. Mr BW has it all on an email chain, and Chief Plumber is falling over himself to make things right and ensure everything is now done cleanly and properly going forward, and that we are happy. He even turned up with a dozen brand new dust sheets today, and we've wrapped absolutely everything in those thin plastic dust sheets that you can get now. I've given up on trying to avoid plastic - my tiny contribution is dwarfed by the millions of masks, plastic online shopping bags and disposable aprons and gloves being used every single day. At least around here they do burn it for energy generation.

Anyway, your votes (apart from the 'other') were exactly equally split between hold some money back, and don't pay anything until it's all resolved.

As Mr BW prefers to do the work himself (it will then be done properly), I think it should be less than £200 if Plan A works (the simple one: see if it can dry out and be stain-blocked - there is some stuff the National Trust use that has been recommended to us - and repainted without it being visible, with new insulation between the floor and ceiling boards as necessary), but potentially £500 if it doesn't and the ceiling needs cutting out, reboarding, taping and reskimming.

We do need the plumber to come back to put the new radiators on, once everything is replastered and painted, as he is the best one around (yes, you can tell how bad the others are), so I think that we can't upset him too much by not paying him anything.

I'm thinking we will suggest a £500 withhold until it is clear that Plan A has worked. Which may not be for several months. But, I think we will wait until he's finished first fix on this lot, before telling him. We've repeatedly told him this work must be finished by the weekend, but given that today was only 5 hours long, and that tomorrow they're leaving by 2.30pm, and that they are a man down, I'm not holding my breath. In which case we won't be paying anything...

Rainy Monday

I finally scored a Sainsbury's delivery slot again. There are 'free from' things that I can ony get in Waitrose or Sainsbury's, and Waitrose won't deliver here any more (despite being the only company that would deliver here pre- CV-19), so they will be getting less of our money henceforth. I like the Sainsbury's online portal as you can set up dietary preferences, and a warning comes up if you order items containing whatever you are avoiding.

I wasn't ordering flowers (I've got plenty in the garden) but this was 'pushed' at me during the checkout process.

Contains wheat? Really?

In other news, the Sinning Plumbers eventually turned up at 10.50am, without the one who failed to tighten and blank off pipes properly last time, who had apparently called in sick, so the other two first had to go and get the young chap's tools from the sick one's van.

We reckon it's going to be a 5 day bug. And Chief Plumber had clearly 'had words' with him.

Chief Plumber (who wasn't here last time) and the young one, turned up full of apologies and with a bunch of flowers for me to say sorry for the 'hygiene problems' and water leak problems last time. I took them with good grace, but we have workmen-proofed the facilities The 'NO!" is written in permanent marker on a sheet of loo roll in the upstairs facilities that they should not be using.

I'm currently sitting in the conservatory away from their noisy wall chasing for the new pipework for the new downstairs radiators. This is having to drop off the pipework for the upstairs radiators, as our exisiting under-floor-downstairs pipework, dating from the early 1970s, is low-quality unwrapped copper which is corroded and probably leaking, judging by the many patches of unexplained damp, and is being drained, disconnected, and blanked off. Mr BW is 'holding the vacuum cleaner' while they chase down, so that it's not too dusty, and so that he can have input to the process to ensure they don't do anything stupid this time. He has made clear his professional engineering credentials, just so they know that he does know what he is talking about.

It is chucking it down with rain and, according to the weather forecast, will be all day. The only consolation is, I can see from the CCTV cameras and solar generation portal, that it is exactly the same weather at Coven Sud.

Posted at 11:51 AM | Comments (3)

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Does anyone have any idea of the current hourly rate of a painter and decorator?

We don't need one, just to know the going rate.

Thanks for all the thoughts on the water damage situation.
This question is related to that, of course.
I'll summarise responses tomorrow, so there's still chance to share your wisdom in the survey/comments box below.

Meanwhile, today, we are hoping the wood burning stove will finally be finished. That's 3 days taken out of our lives by the fitters rather than the one day that it should have been. And of course there is a tale to tell. Not quite as good as the plumber one, because that would take a lot of beating.

But, it involves the fitters squirting blobs of silicone mastic under the tiles for the hearth and then immediately laying a 100kg stove onto the tiles, and then being surprised when the tiles went in all directions and we hit the roof. It wasn't as if we hadn't supplied tile adhesive as previously agreed...


Friday, July 24, 2020

Mr BW and I are having a difference of opinion over how to handle the water leak damage situation.

Your input/thoughts might help him come round to my way of thinking.

Ooops, did I really say that out loud? ;).

I couldn't make the 'done' button appear on the page, so please use the scroll box to the RHS of the question box to scroll down to click 'done'.

Create your own user feedback survey

Thank you, and I'll post the results over the weekend.

Posted at 11:24 AM | Comments (5)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The pattern continues

Bloke here today doing the bits of the wood burner installation that Mr BW can no longer legally do. Mr BW is perfectly capable of fitting a woodburner to all the current legal standards (as he has previously proved at Coven Sud), and is much better qualified than those who do, but is no longer allowed to so do.

Said Blokey arrived, 5 minutes early (made a change) and immediately said, "Oh - I've forgotten my vacuum cleaner!". Mr BW said, "Never mind, you can use my construction one." Oh yes, my Dyson is only for non-boy-projects. He seemed rather put out, but carried on, slowly.

He was here for 2 hours then said he's got 'a crisis at home' and had to go (despite having not had any phone calls - I know, I was on my computer beyond the glass door, out of sight, but watching). He left all his tools. Said he'd ring in an hour and telling us he'd be back when he could. It's 7 hours later.

Mr BW sent an email, "Hope all is OK - please tell us who will be here tomorrow, and at what time."

His tools are going on ebay shortly ;)


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

When enough is enough

Reposted from February 2010, at Tim's request (see comments below)... and it seems particularly apposite, for our current times:

I've probably posted this before, I don't recall now. I'm sure that many of you will have read it elsewhere anyway, but, as I've just dug it out to send to an acquaintance, I'll post it again.

It's one of my favourite motivational tales, and. the reason why, despite the opportunity being there, and despite having all the skills (or access to them from Mr BW) I don't run a successful large company, employing many other people, and making lots of money.

I just wish that more people would understand what it means, without having to learn the hard way.

The Greek Fisherman

A boat docked in a tiny Greek village. An American tourist complimented the Greek fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long," answered the Greek.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Greek explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, dance a little, play the bouzouki, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you."

"You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Athens, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

“How long would that take?" asked the Greek.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

“And after that?"

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"

“Millions? Really? And after that?"

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings singing, dancing and playing the bouzouki with your friends."

- Author unknown


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

No more Nice Mrs BW

I've decided to be blunt and direct with companies and people who have let us down.

I got a very rude reply to my polite email enquiry to a well-known company about 'where are my blinds?' No apology and basically saying that they had lots of orders and were not wanting to drop their high quality standards so it would be another couple of weeks yet. I sent the following reply:

"Yes, OK, but it would have been good if you'd bothered to let me know!

Incidentally, I ordered blinds from one of your competitors at exactly the same time. They came 15 days ago - and were cheaper!

Promotions only work if you don't annoy your customers by under-delivering.



I love that use of 'best'. It can only ever mean FOAD, can't it?

Chief Plumber is falling over himself to make sure everything is put right to our complete satisfaction next week.

Apparently the water leaks were caused by his men 'having a brain fart' and not remembering how to do plumbing after so many weeks off during lockdown. Given that the younger one apparently spent last week doing a Gas Safe certificate, I am seriously concerned. I'm glad that we don't have gas that he will be playing with. Chief Plumber has told us that Tom and Jerry are 'seriously embarrassed' by the standards of their work and personal hygiene, and that if we will allow them back on the premises (apparently the only way that all the work can be done in a week) he will be watching them like a hawk. Which has absolutely nothing on how closely we will be watching all of them, all of the time. And there will be no chocolate biscuits next week, and we have already made laminated signs for the doors of the facilties.

If Tom and Jerry turn up on Monday morning and fail to apologise for the appalling standard of their previous work, I fully intend to say in a very patronising voice, just as you would to a five year old, "Don't you have something to say to us?" Mr BW reckons I won't. I reckon he is wrong. Actually, thinking, maybe he said that I shouldn't not that I won't...

But, there is some good news story amidst the tales of indifference and incompetence.

By chance we seem to have found ourselves a couple of young lads (who might be brothers), one a joiner and one a plumber, starting a small business selling tiles and bathrooms from a small unit on an out-of-the-way industrial estate. We only wanted 3 whole 60cm square tiles and 3 half-size ones, as a hearth for the log burner. For such a small order, they went to a lot of trouble, spent a lot of time talking to us, and lent us a sample tile without wanting either name and address details, or a deposit - I hope their blind trust doesn't get abused too soon in their entrepreneurial lives.

Then, when we went to pick the tiles up this morning, they gave us some matching grout, left over from another job, and a part-bag of quick setting adhesive they had in the shop, in case it was hard to find in the current times. They refused any payment. As a result we have asked them to come round to see if they can help revamp the en suite. We were going to leave this for a while, but, in current circumstances, it seemed a good idea.

The builder we had lined up to build the greenhouse base has vanished into thin air. He has failed to respond to emails, phonecalls or text messages for nearly a week now. He was really keen, even coming out to see us on a Sunday, and he's had lots of good ideas since. He even produced a written quotation - even though it was handwritten with wobbly drawings and bad spelling on a bit of plain A4 paper. We're hoping he hasn't got coronavirus, but, we can't be doing with silence. As we need a builder urgently, he's now lost his chance. A throwaway comment made by the man fitting the wood burner on Thursday has now given us another lead. It really shouldn't be this difficult.


Monday, July 20, 2020

Blue Monday

The good thing is that, living in the middle of nowhere, if you have (another) bad day, you can stand outside and scream ilke a toddler, for 2 minutes, and no-one notices.

The sheep stand looking at you, chewing like teenagers, totally nonplussed. No-one else either hears, or gives a damn.

The new mirrored wardrobe doors arrived, a month after ordering, damaged. The company failed to give me a new delivery date for the replacements in a timely manner. Until we have wardrobe doors we can't have upstairs carpets. FFS.

2 blinds, ordered over a month ago, fail to materialise, and Customer Services fail to respond to polite prodding. FFS.

The skirting board arrived, after a 3 week delay, damaged, and short of 2 packs. Customer Services repeatedly failed to answer the phone. FFS.

Yet another plant delivery turns up needing CPR and I really can't be bothered. Customer Services still haven't replied to my first complaint email about the first problem delivery, 16 days ago. FFS.

The Morrisons' order arrived early, short of lots of things, yet again with short dates on the fresh items, and with ridicuous substitutions, which we rejected. 25 minute delay to speak to Customer Services - I didn't bother. FFS.

One of the delivery drivers, of the 6 deliveries today, assured me that, "It will get better soon!"

I didn't believe it.

It has occurred to me that the only company that has always delivered on time, resolved problems in a timely manner, and refunded problems immediately, is Amazon. It's good to know that my complaints to them back in their 1990s early days paid off. But will they please pay their UK tax?

None of the 6 delivery drivers had/was using PPE; I had to tell 2 of them not to get too close to me, and it all felt very sloppy. I really felt at risk. For me, as someone who has been so careful, for so long, at not inconsiderable financial cost, I felt disappointed, to put it mildly.

So, I'm still screaming like a toddler.

Helll, I'm here, trying to prop up the British economy by spending spending spending, but no-one is delivering!


Sunday, July 19, 2020

That was the week that was

We had a lovely 6 days down at Coven Sud catching up with friends, sorting out the buzzers (one naughty colony, lots of h0ney to be extracted on our next trip south as there are, unexpectedly, hundreds of acres of borage directly behind us), and taming the garden (I love it as overgrown and untamed as it was, but Mr BW doesn't, and nor, presumably, will the spurred-on-by-the-restrictions-of-lockdown Townies/Cityies who are likely to buy it in the not-too-distant future), and packing up more stuff to transport north.

They say misfortunes come in threes.

Misfortune 1: The power supply for my netbook stopped working. 4 days without a computer when one is micro-managing money, deliveries, and tradesmen is not good. As a non-smartphone user, why oh why do I not know all my passwords, which would allow me to use Mr BW's laptop in such circumstances? Why did the supplier of the replacement power supply claim 'delivery by first class' which turned out to be 'Royal Mail tracked 48', which is definitely not first class!?

Misfortune 2: A large lump of filling fell out of my upper left molar on Monday as we were coming down the M11. I blame grapes. Razor sharp sides remained which lacerated my tongue in minutes. Blood is not my favourite taste, but has been my accompaniment this week. First available dentist appointment - but only for 'assessment': Friday late morning. First available appointment for remediation - 4.5 weeks time. Given that this is a private dentist, to whom Mr BW and I have given tens of thousands of pounds over the past 27 years, I am unimpressed. And, guess what? Our dentist is going on holiday next week! How many weeks have they just had off? Toothypeg now has a temporary filling, stuck on over the exposed bit, onto which he first squirted some antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Total cost - £47 more than our new wood burning stove that is due to be fitted on Thursday. Jeez. "The temporary filling probably won't last a month, but don't worry, ring up and you can pop in and one of the other dentists will pop another one on." Great, when you are 300 miles away. A friend I was talking to on the phone told me about the temporary filling material you can get online or in Boots. Apparently it's the same as dentists use, so I've ordered some from Amazon for £4.99, just in case. And there is 'Orajel' recommended by the pharmacist in Boots, sent out by the counter assistant to see if I deserved to be able to buy co-codamol for tooth pain. Anyone got any thoughts about NHS dentists, in the north-east? And is it normal these days for a private dentistry tooth reconstruction to cost £1,306, or is it just mine, trying to make up their annual shortfall in income due to covid factors? The thing that annoys me most is that I told him, when I last saw him last November, that that tooth felt 'odd' and perhaps needed sorting out more than the one giving me no trouble, that he insisted need a ceramic onlay. And how did I never know about purchasable temporary filling materials and Orajel, given the number of weeks I have spent in SA over the past 9 years?

Misfortune 3: We left Coven Sud at midday. The traffic on the A1 was bad. I have rarely seen so much bad driving. Several serious accidents, and a scary incident that we will be reporting to the police if I can find the place to send dashcam footage to. On arriving back at Coven Nord, I noticed paint flakes by the kitchen sink, and, on looking up, a soaked, brand new ceilling, edge. We already knew we had no hot water, and had already got Chief Plumber lined up to advise Mr BW by telephone on how to sort it out on our return. Chief Plumber was here within an hour (Mr BW's opening words to him were, "I hope your insurance cover is good!"), and he was left in no doubt about out feelings. Apparently Tom and Jerry (only one of which is their real name), the pair he left here unsupervised 10 days ago, are both fully qualified plumbers. As ever, talking to him allowed him to hang himself: one hasn't been working for him for long, the other, a 24 year old, has a love of partying, and, "Has to be chased around his friends to find out where he needs picking up on a Monday morning after a weekend's drinking... but he's a really good worker, although he often falls asleep on the job." 2 hours and 20 minutes later, the leaks sealed, other bits blanked off, where they should already have been so done, and the airlock removed from our hot water system, he agreed to pay for all damages to the new ceiling and neighbouring room walls, to put in a new remedial venting system for free, and to always be on site for the remainder of the plumbing works. It was clear that Chief Plumber hadn't really appreciated just how bad Tom & Jerry's antics had been, despite out photos, until he saw for himself tonight. "I gather it's really hard to get good staff round here? But, it is your good name they are trashing...!" I ventured. I have a feeling that at least one of Tom and Jerry will get The Big Bag in the morning.

It will be interesting to see how things go on...

It was good to see the ISS passing over again tonight. All is well when the ISS circles over you.

Posted at 11:51 PM | Comments (6)

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Down memory lane without trying

Z was talking about evening classes over here.

It's amazing where memory jogs come from - I'd completely forgotten about this, as I described:

"I too did a car maintenance evening class the year I moved to Somerset from Cambridge. 1985 I think. Largely because it was the only class that would fit into my week, and every teacher they employed got a free evening class course every year from the County Council. I was the only female and remember being severely patronised, until I came up with several correct answers to very technical questions.

I had been helping my Dad with cars since I was tiny, and had learnt a lot.

The next year I did calligraphy, and the year after glass engraving."

This eryngium is just the right colour for me. Not sure which it is, but it's pretty, if in the wrong place. I'll move it somewhere more convenient when we are here for a few weeks and I can keep an eye on it. Not sure when they are supposed to be moved, but convention has never yet stopped me doing anything I wanted.

In Plumber News, Mr BW received a very grovellingly apologetic email in response to his carefully constructed but politely pointed email of complaint. I think we will get better service in future, and we have a promise that Boss Man will always be on site to direct and oversee work. Were it not for the fact that Farmer Friend assures us that there is no-one better, they would have been off the job by now. I am going to print out and laminate a sign that says, "Plumbers: Please Point Percy Prettily, and ONLY use the downstairs cloakroom."

Boss Plumber said in his email that he'd never had complaints about his workers' hygiene practices before. Next time I see him, I am going to have to have to have a word in his ear to explain to him that while that may be true, it is only likely to be true because most people wouldn't feel comfortable telling him that his workers didn't lift toilet seats, shut doors before using the facilities, or wash their hands afterwards. Good job Mr BW cleaned up their mess before my camera got busy.

Yesterday Bri@n was one, and tomorrow Mi1dred is 87. Clever how we have engineered the birthdays of our Metal Children to coincide, isn't it?

We're going south in the morning to help her celebrate. This might involve taking her out for the first time since January 1st.

We seem to finally be getting on top of watering plants and packing up ready to go. Probably only because we are going via a kitchen manufacturing place en route to get some ideas, so have to be away earlier in the morning than we have managed previously.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Saturday update

Having had workmen here for 3 long days this week, my nerves are nearly shredded.

But, we do now have a working new Aga (Tuesday and Wednesday - hurrah, finally, cookability and warmth and ironed tea towels!), 4 new radiators upstairs (yesterday - but not working yet as the boss unexpectedly disappeared off after an hour so they didn't have the manpower to get finished as planned), a wood burning stove (delivered yesterday) that is being fitted the week after next, and a lot of postponed things (eg new upstairs carpet fitting, boxing in of Aga flue in upstairs Museum Room) due to knock-on from other delays. But, we are still probably a year ahead of where we hoped to be by now I suppose.

I'm not good at coping with workmen turning up at 10 or half ten and then spending lots of time on their phones rather than getting on with the job. And these are the best workmen the area has to offer...

It's been rather grey and raining on and off here all week, but, with all the workmen here I haven't noticed amidst the trying not to scream very very loudly. Talk abour heavy footed and dirty handed!!!

Still, Farmer Friend BW who we've known for 15 years, assures us the plumbers are the best around and that he wouldn't use anyone else (and he's tried them all in the 18 years he's been up here!).

I don't know what you think about these images of the radiators 'installed'?:

We think they are examples of very, very bad workmanship, and have sent an email to the disappearing boss man saying they are totally unacceptable, and that we didn't appreciate the filthy handmarks left on every newly-painted white wall upstairs (even where they weren't working) and the, ahem, 'mess' left in every single bathroom that necessitated donning of rubber gloves and application of copious quanties of bleach and isopropyl alcohol. At any time this would be totally unacceptable, but in these Covid Times...

I could have done better with my left hand, and I'm right handed and have not done any serious DIY for nearly 28 years now, since meeting Mr BW. We only employ people for tasks that Mr BW doesn't feel competent to tackle, but, having seen this bodge, I honestly wonder what years of plumbers' college taught this pair.

Luckily, we've not yet given them a penny, and I suspect it might stay that way. Luckily I have taken over 800 photos of works in progress this week.

Plus, it looks like the copper pipes for the heating system under the concrete in the ground floor from the 1970s have corroded and are leaking (hence some of the damp that we couldn't work out where it was coming from), due to bodges in the past plumbing and things that our surveyor said should be done at Vendors' expense not having been done/investigated properly, despite paperwork to the contrary. Very frustrating. So that's £6K more expense than expected, and more things that have to be done much much sooner than we either wanted, expected, or have money for. Bloody hell! And where do we now find a competent plumber?

Black Feline Familiar has bunny and mouse as her preferred food options. I almost stepped on a headless baby bunny on the floor in front of the washing machine in the garage yesterday morning... a perfect start to the day.

I do hope that your week has been rather less frustrating?


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Black on Blue Crime

The new dark blue Aga looks black. I hate black. Looks like they either mixed the enamel incorrectly or 'dark blue' in 2020 has changed from the 'dark blue' they made in 2000. The enamel is also more matt and less shiny.

I hope to be able to bring it back to blue with some careful use of other coloured bits, when we eventually do the kitchen. But for now, it looks black, and that's in a very light, south facing kitchen. And I hate black. I can't say I like any of the other colours any better though. Baby blue does not appeal. So there's not a lot that can be done.

The double-walled flue pipe (6" in diameter), which has to go up through what will be the Museum Room, and the loft, and out through the roof, looks like it might not be able to go where it is supposed to. That makes a problem for what I'm planning for display cabinets. Given that the soil pipe currently runs through the inside wall of the kitchen, it's a hotch potch. "Why did they do it like that?" asked one of the fitters. We've been wondering that about lots of things.

Soon a whole lot of noise and lots of dust and mess will happen as they drill out walls, floorboards, slate roof etc etc.

I am not a Happy Witch today.

Addendum, 12:45pm: I've just been downloading some photos. Now onto the eleventh thousand since the end of January.

It is definitely blue from some angles, just not the ones I look from (which might explain why Mr BW, who is 6" taller than me is claiming it is blue).

These photo are all as 'out of the camera', and the only thing I've done is change the size:

If it's a light thing, I suspect it can be sorted. It might also be to do with the existing black worktops, which will be disappearing in time.

It seems as if the flue can be made to go where I want to after all. They've taken up the floor and are currently taking out 3' of wall that was once the external wall but is now under the upstairs floorboards.

And they've changed the badge on the front as I don't like the old script ones (as in the photo). That's improved the look already, even if it is still black from my vantage point.

Posted at 10:53 AM | Comments (12)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

It's a sign!

I opened my netbook to do my daily check on the bank accounts while Mr BW made tea.

It happened to be on the solar panel monitoring page. That is one of my favourite pages on the internet. In the last quarter, our electricity bill for supply from the grid for Coven Sud was £4.85 (it's a tariff with no standing charges). 5.4p per day. With 6.5kWh of battery, the house is self-sufficient in electricity when we're not there, and, provided that we're careful when we put on power-guzzlers (dishwasher, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, glass kiln, power tools) when we are there, this time of year we can be energy self-sufficient all the time. Despite being on the penultimate quarter of the feed-in tarrifs (which were a tenth of the original FIT rates handed out), over a year our generation income is almost the same as our electricity bill. Result.

However, that digression wasn't the point of this, but explains why I noticed the date and the time:

Haircut and Aga Fitting Day 1 (of 2) today. Finally!

Our original plan was to get an Aga in to get the damp in Coven Nord dried out, and provide a constant background warmth to prevent it ever coming back, once we'd got some interior wall insulation installed. The feasibility survey was done on the morning of March 23rd, just before we set off down south for a 4-day trip in a hired Luton that turned into a mad 24 hours to get loaded and get back up here as lockdown was announced that evening.

As it turned out, stripping off the vinyl wallpaper (and with it the plaster in many cases) in all rooms, particularly where there were obvious damp/black mould patches, and the hot weather in the spring solved the problem, but the current unseasonably cold, grey and windy weather has made us reaslise just what a good idea the constant background warmth was.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Creased not smoothed

It is now 120 days since anything was last ironed in either Coven Nord or Coven Sud.

I think that I can no longer tolerate unironed tea towels and unironed pillowcases.

I have an iron up here at Coven Nord.

Actually, I think we might have two, as I brought up my textile iron in the first Luton Load, and we bought a new iron somewhere just before lockdown as it was cheap and we thought we could do with a new one as the Sud one is on its last legs so may never make the long journey north.

I don't have an ironing board here.

There are two at Coven Sud, but neither has yet been allocated a weight allowance for the trip north (the car can only tow 300kg in the trailer - and if we get it wrong and inadvertently overload, the engine management light comes on somewhere between Doncaster and Newcastle, and stays on until the next trip out without the trailer - and when the choice is plants or the ironing board, the plants win every time).

I do have a small double sided cutting/seam pressing board that I use for patchwork.

I also now have 8 pints of dehumidifier water from the plaster drying exercise (saved in two reused 4 pint milk containers, which I have labelled with a black Sharpie) which is almost as good as distilled water, so great for steam irons.

I can no longer tolerate unironed tea towels and unironed pillowcases.

However, I don't do ironing (other than seam pressing on patchwork pieces, and it was January when I last had a chance to do any of that).

And Mr BW doesn't have a phobia of unironed tea towels and pillowcases, and he is very busy painting the kitchen ceiling three times.

It's been a busy week. Two days of plastering, lots of planting relocated specimens from Coven Sud to fill up the large new corner border, lots of painting (almost 50 - or it might be 60, we can't remember - litres of brilliant white emulsion have now been rolled on by Mr BW since 24th March, and we're almost out of paint now, but have no intention of risking death by going to seek more, now that the mad and irresponsible have been let out again), a day off on Thursday, when we went to Cragside via The dreaded R-place (approached from a different direction to any direction we've ever come in before), drove around the 6 mile Carriage Drive and admired the digitalis and remnants of the rhododendrons and azaleas, as there wasn't much else to do there, other than walk, for which we had insufficient energy or inclination, as the formal garden and house are still closed.

The wind is gusting constantly at over 60 miles per hour currently, although the sun is now out and the rain has finally stopped. A line of bed linen and towels dried in 15 minutes (quadruple pegged, no kidding). I've been up since 5am as the wind was howling and the rain was beating. The only thing I might have any energy left for is sitting on a garden chair and washing plant pots but that's not sensible with wind like that. Luckily I have already prepared the Sunday dinner, so the electric oven can cook its Last Supper later. Tomorrow Mr BW will disconnect it and by Wednesday night it will (hopefully) be replaced by the blue Aga twin of Coven Sud. Just 20 years younger. And I shall breathe a huge sigh of relief as electric cooking has been a huge chore and a great challenge, rather than a pleasure.

Replacing the rest of the kitchen can wait, as long as I have my Aga (which would have been the first thing to go in, had it not been for The Nasty Virus).

Time for Sunday sherry, Gardeners' Question Time and Johnnie Walker, then dinner, methinks.

Gosh, that went on a bit, didn't it?!

Tell me your tales and observations of lockdown release near you...

Posted at 12:35 PM | Comments (12)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

It is the 4th of July

Yesterday it poured with rain all day and was 14°C.

The air is super-saturated with moisture.

We have an oil filled radiator on at maximum in the kitchen.
And a dehumidifier.

We have the open fire blazing away in the lounge.
It has been for 24 hours now.

The house is still cold.

On Monday and Tuesday the kitchen ceiling and upstairs landing were partly re-made and completely re-plastered and they need to be dry enough to paint by tomorrow, or all the carefully arranged and carefully sequenced other projects will not work.

Normally, in this house, as we've found before, a wall or ceiling re-skim would be completely dry and ready to paint within 36-48 hours.

It's great weather for planting (and I've done plenty of that lately), but not good for plaster drying.

We can't put the central heating on to help as we currently have 3 upstairs radiators off the system (so the walls could be cleaned and painted behind before the new radiators arrive next Friday). Because of past Bodgit and Coverit antics/reticence to do jobs properly, and cowboy plumbers, the blanking valves don't do a perfect job, so they are oozing water, despite PTFE tape, sealant, more sealant, old bath towels and black plastic bags. Fine for a non-working system, but put some pressure behind circulating water and they could turn into fountains.

The TV weatherman said it was like autumn weather.

It is the 4th of July.

Posted at 10:50 AM | Comments (3)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

That was a Wednesday to Sunday trip to Coven Sud.

The bees were fine. There is a now field of borage just behind us, that we had been led to believe was to be sunflowers, but, we've got used to disappointments of late.

Controlling bees from 300 miles when there is that much forage so near is going to be interesting, to say the least. Let's hope the black feline familiar comes up with the right ingredients for the necessary spells.

I have never been so hot as we were on the journey south. 3 days of mad hot, humid weather, then back to 17°C when we left south home at 10am, 20°C somewhere around Grantham on the A1, and 12°C when we got to the Doncaster turnoff. A bit warmer, but drizzly and overcast when we got to north home.

Yesterday I spoke to Hairdresser BW, who has cut my hair since 1991, firstly in a salon, then at her home (when she was on maternity leave), and then as a mobile hairdresser. "I'm so, so, sorry, BW, but I have decided, for the sake of my health, that I won't be getting back to hairdressing..." she said. She has been very unwell for at least the past 5 years. I suspect the culprits are a lifetime's exposure to hair treatment chemicals (there has to be a reason hairdressers in Greece are state-funded to retire at 50), the 'Cambridge Diet' (to which she was addicted for many years), a cheating first husband, a paedophile second husband, and a daughter brutally raped by the son of the CEO of one of Britain's top 200 companies (and an unbelievable police mess-up over the case, which may or may not be related to the scariness of the top QCs engaged by the accused's parents) are responsible. I am so glad that she finally took my advice to see what she might be entitled to... and whether she could retire... after 34 years in hairdressing... but she was in tears as she told me the horrid messages she had received via text and on social media from more recent clients. How could her clients put their 'hair needs' above her health needs? I made the right sort of noises, promised to keep in touch, and thought that that had been an easy way out.

On the way up the A1 I asked Mr BW if he thought he might be able to attempt a hair cut for me. He has great cutting abilities on wood and stone, and topiary, after all. I admit that I did feel rather nervous when he expressed enthusiasm.

We'd been home for 2 hours when nearest neighbour rang. "The mobile hairdresser I mentioned before can come to us on 7th July BW, are you still interested?"

Ah, there is a god after all.

We have KC minus 13 hours and AF minus 8 days.

I cant wait!


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Seemingly Normal for Numberland? But Elsewhere?

The Greenhouse Project requires removal of an out-of-control 46 year old unmanaged and mostly dead in the middle leylandii hedge, digging deep foundations (40cm), laying a concrete base, and the building of a substantial wall for it to sit on.

Quotes are now coming in.

Just like the plasterer, who provided a 'quote' in a two line message from his phone, and an 'invoice', when I requested it, in a similar format, with the addition of the words, 'completed plastering' (don't worry, he didn't require paying in cash, and anyone who does is going to be met with a grimmace and a, "Ohhh, I wish you hadn't said that: I used to work for HMRC..." then a pause while I let the info sink in) they seem to think it is acceptable to provide a brief email with a number. No detail, no company details, no nothing except a pound sign and a number.

The local Carpet Baron was even better - just a phone call with a number, and no demand for any money until the work is finished and we are happy. "It's how we work round here, we've all been here for years, everyone knows everyone else, so no-one's worried!" Except me, it seems.

It's 14 years since we required any tradesmen for building work. Then, we had itemised quotes on headed notepaper, and some extra info. But then, they didn't have websites with all their details etc.

Is this now normal practice for elsewhere, or is it a northern special?


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Back at Coven Sud

I wish Coven Nord had magical cleaning powers like Coven Sud. Clean floors and dust-free surfaces are such a treat. Indeed anything without plaster dust and a lingering smell of old dogs is a treat...

Cleaner BW is doing an excellent job at caretaking and watering everywhere to top up the auto-watering system as necessary. I just wish I could persuade her to move 300 miles north with us. After more than 20 years of working for us, I shall miss her when we finally go. Before lockdown, we did have a new Cleaner BW lined up for us by our Farmer Friend who we have stayed with every year for the past 15 years, but she is not yet working again. And, given that she wanted to bring all her own products and appliances, I was never really convinced. Like reusable coffee cups, taking stuff between cleaning jobs leaves me cold. But then I've sat through far too many Food Safety Training courses in my time, so know far too much about bacterial spread.

It was 24°C on our ridge when we left t'north at 10.30am, and then 31 to 33°C all the way down the A1. It felt like our travelling days between stops in South Africa. But with less good aircon. And more traffic than on previous trips south, although no delays at all.

It is really too hot here - even with a fan on. With doubtless more of this coming through climate change, I'm glad we're moving (have moved?) north. Have moved, almost. We've noticed that we have stopped referring to 'Coven Sud' as 'home', and now call the two properties by their names.

We're back up on Sunday, as the plasterer is meant to be doing the ktichen ceiling on Monday. But, we'd best give him Tuesday too, judging by recent experience.

Because the trailer bounces around without a load, so is more difficult to tow, we again brought some bags of old plaster down with us as ballast. Cleaner BW has been putting two bags a fortnight into the black bin, as we have, into our bins up north, but we decided to detour via the tip on our way back. It's now moved to the far end of an industrial estate. There were yellow temporary signs along the long road in saying '3 hour wait from here', '2 hour wait from here', '1 hour wait from here'. It was one in and one out, and we were the second of the vehicles waiting. Usually you'd get the third degree from the operatives if you went in with a trailer, but we offloaded the bags and an old bin full of plaster with no problem and no questions. But, I was wondering, who would wait 3 hours to access a tip?

Has fly tipping increased? If there is a long queue at the tip on our next trip down south, it will be very tempting to dump the trailer load of old plaster onto the verge outside Coven Sud, then ring the Council to report fly tipping, and then they have to collect within a specified timescale. If we have to pay council tax on two houses, we might as well get our money's worth ;)

Is it hot where you are?


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Of mirrors, daleks, wee, compost and washing

We have only two mirrors at Coven Nord.

One is in the downstairs cloakroom, and one is in the upstairs ensuite shower room. Those were so bolted down that Bodgit and Coverit (previous owners) failed to manage to remove them.

I do not venture willingly into either place.

The ensuite is filled with paint rollers, paint trays, and other boy stuff and probably hasn't been cleaned since we got here as I don't do cleaning, and Mr BW doesn't notice the dust and decorating detritus. So best avoided as I don't want cholera.

The downstairs cloakroom is off the entrance hall and coat/meter cupboard, in a bolt-on blob to the front of the house (visible on the 1711 map), and is on the piss. Who, other than Bodgit and Coverite (previous owners) would have allowed a toilet to be installed that was not perpendicular to the floor?

The floor was on a slope in the 18th century, but screeding and levelling compounds hadn't been invented then. Even if B&C liked a sloping floor, whoever installed the new cloakroom would, surely, have added some packing under the base to level the toilet up? That's why, when we ring any tradespeople, the first thing we say is, "We've just moved in. Have you ever worked at Coven Nord before?" If they answer in the affirmative, we say, "Right, thanks then, bye!" and put the phone down.

I cannot cope with a side-leaning toilet, and most of the time I am like a first generation dalek and can't manage to get up the stairs to the bathroom umpteen times a day as I just don't have the energy.

(Please excuse the gratuitous inclusion of my favourite strip cartoon of all time.)

So, I have invented my own solution. An outside composting toilet. Only without a cubicle. So, I have to check that Farmer Bernard isn't around before I use it. Although, as I said to Mr BW when he expressed concern about my modesty, Bernard is a farmer, and spends the entirety of March and April with his arms up ewes' nether regions 24/7 (I still hate that expression), so I really have no qualms.

Recycling at its best. Although I do wonder how much wee one compost dalek can take? We've nearly filled our 3rd compost dalek with vegetable matter, grass, hen papers, and shredded paper and cardboard since we got here (15 weeks on Friday), and most of the removed-shrub shreddings are in separate bags. Anyone know how long compost daleks take to rot down? Never having had to use them before, it's a bit of a mystery, but I have been careful to fill it with very thin layers of different materials, rather than 'bung it all on and leave it a year then use it' as we usually do with our multiple metre-cubed compost heaps down south.

Oh yes - getting back to the point of the opening mirror line - it's lucky there are only two and both are inaccessible to me, as it saves me having to look at my Dougally state. I wasn't brave enough to cut it myself, and it is beyond control now. As I've never had to control/style long hair (it's 4" long rather than 1"), I have no idea what to do with it. I'm hoping that Hairdresser BW may be able to visit soon. Either that or I shall be ripping up some of the decorating sheets and looking for online tutorials on how to tie a turban. It's too hot to wear a wooly hat, and I don't want to get a repuation as the Queen by appearing in a headscarf.

Are there any chemists reading? There is lots of iron in our spring water (and I'm told that there might be a leak somewhere in the 3 miles of pipe between the spring and us as it is often quite brown, so oxidised), and there are orange patches about the size of a 10p piece appearing on various white clothes and bedlinens. Now, I know that iron can be used as a mordant, or even to dye cotton, as I've done it from time to time. So, are the orange patches being caused by the fact that I use washing soda rather than Vanish and white vinegar rather than fabric conditioner? I don't know/can't remember enough chemistry to work out whether my hypothesis is sound.

I've never had any problem with this before now, and I don't want to have to revert to the fragrance-laden products that fill the supermarket shelves these days as the smell of them makes me feel queasy. The orange patches don't seem to be totally removable through repeated washing, although they do fade a bit, and hanging out in the sun seems to fade them further.

Talking of washing... if anyone needs a new washing machine, I can thoroughly recommend the Samsung Eco-Bubble ones. We usually buy Siemens or Bosch, but I am extremely impressed with the Samsung one we had delivered as we moved in, and I would certainly buy one again.


Monday, June 22, 2020

The good and the bad

Having been awake at 3am last Friday, Mr BW remembered that the National Trust booking system opened for the next week's ticket allocation on Fridays. We struck lucky and got a pair of tickets for opening time at our favourite NT place in the whole country. Which also happens to be our nearest, now.

We've been itching to go there as they have a superb walled garden. We want to see what is in flower and growing now, only ever having been there once at this time of year, as we have usually visited in November.

After that we are going to my most feared place in the UK.

The fear may be grounded this time as we have very little diesel left in the car, and both 5 litre spare cans have already been put in. We may or may not make it to a fuel station afterwards, and there isn't one in R-town, or indeed anywhere close.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

That was the week that was

It's him, me and the black feline familiar (yeah, sure, black lives matter).

Picture taken yesterday, late afternoon, after I'd spent all day planting a new border to match the hedge (green privet and maroon berberis) and landscape shapes beyond (my £100, 12m long border, because most of the plants were relocated from other places here, from Coven Sud, or from Mummy Mr BW's garden, with a few key specimens from the one-third-normal-price nursery local to Coven Sud, which I shall miss enormously), Chelsea-stylee, and Mr BW had spent all day filling, painting, and replacing sockets, switches and lights in the current Bedroom 1, which will be the guest room in due course.

Having been at Coven Sud last week, and extracted enough h0ney to pay for the new wood burner in the lounge (if we can ever find anyone to fit it, because, trust me, Mr BW will not be getting on the roof to feed that flue down the chimney, as he did 20 years ago at Coven Sud) we returned to Coven Nord so that Plasterer Man could finish off Bedroom 1. On his 4th visit. He wasn't happy that I insisted some gaps be filled with his 'pink foam' at floor level: "What's the point in 34mm of insulating plasterboard and a plaster skim, that has taken you 4 visits to finish, if there are some gaps at floor level that go right back to Robbie's 1974 concrete, eh? Room for cold spots and black mould I think..."

It amuses me greatly that he didn't recognise a towel that belongs to him that he was using to rub the walls down and left behind on a previous visit, because I washed it. I left it out, he failed to recognise it and reclaim it. It does have to be said that it went from brown, seriously brown, to orange/brown/white, oh so 70s. So, I added it to my pile of 'old towels for grubby purposes'.

He returns with a friend in 8 days time to skim the kitchen ceiling before the Aga is fitted in 2 weeks time. Luckily Aldi have lifted the restriction on the number of bottles of wine that one can order, so there are another 24 on the way. I shall need them.

A groundworker/builder visited to quote at lunchtime. Built like a rugby player, he clearly knew his stuff, and had a lot of good ideas to add to ours. He didn't speak 'Geordie so the Southerners haven't a hope of understanding me', in which most of the locals seem to delight. He also passed The Questions (thanks for all the ideas). Provided his quote is reasonable (and we know what it should be, as we were rude enough to ask the people whose similar greenhouse we visited on our way up the A1 last trip), he's got the job, as far as I am concerned. And, we will have 50 tonnes / 28 cubic metres of topsoil dug out for our next projects. Fab.

So, the border - from this:

to this (just add mushroom compost, half a tonne of sand, quarter a tonne of gravel, and some 'acquired' stone from the surrounding fields):

to this:

Dark reds, multi-shades of green, texture, form, pops of white and silver (all very hardy: phormium, heucheras, geraniums, ajuga, campaulas, persicaria, lupins, gladioli, with dahlias to add in later, and echinaceas to add in once the mail-order plug plants have grown a bit).

Yeah, I'm really pleased with our last week's work.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Questions for builders

After a bad start when a builder, who'd initially seemed keen, failed to turn up on Wednesday to quote for doing the greenhouse groundwork, base, and structural walls, and then didn't respond to phone messages or emails, we finally had to resort to one of the 'find a tradesman' type websites.

Not the way I'd prefer to work, but, we live in strange times, and there aren't too many tradesmen around here. And those there are, while good, work at snail's pace and can't be tied down to a schedule. Or turning up when they say, or actually staying a whole day. We've exhausted the 'local knowledge' for reliable workmen of those few people we know around here.

Having done some due diligence on those builders who expressed an interest (looking up their websites, looking up their financial records at Companies House, Googling 'problems + company name', Googling the company directors' names and financial records - to see if they have dissolved previous companies and whether there are any stories online about them) we've narrowed it down to 4 contenders. We've emailed each some exact specifications and requirements, and they will be visiting to inspect the site to discuss the job, and then quote, over the next couple of days.

We're hoping that if we manage to select the right person, we will then have our builder for the extension project (in due course, once we have sold Coven Sud and have some money again).

We don't usually need to employ tradesmen, as we can turn our hands to most things between us, but this job is just too big for us, and we have plenty of other smaller renovation projects to be doing here right now.

So, knowing that 'hive mind' is better than my addled brain cells (it's been a very up and down week, but more of that another time), and that I know several of you reading have experience of builders can you suggest the questions that we should be asking the builders who visit to quote? And anything we need to be aware of / watch out for?

All ideas welcomed, however obvious they may seem. Thanks!

Another reason for hating Amazon: security leaks

I've just forwarded a phishing email to Action Fraud (using

It had taken all the Amazon logos and exact footer security messages and informed me that:

"We have placed a hold on your Amazon account and all pending orders.
We took this action because the billing information you provided did not match the information on file with the card issuer.
To resolve this issue, please verify now with the billing name, address, and telephone number registered to your payment card. if you have recently moved, you may need to update this information with the card issuer.
If we are unable to complete the verification process within 3 days, all pending orders will be cancelled. You will not be able to access your account until this process has been completed.

We ask that you not open new accounts as any new order you place may be delayed.

We appreciate your patience with our security measures."

The last line didn't seem to be in 'Amazon style' and it gave itself away by coming from .com not The 'CLICK HERE' (when hovered over) went some gobbledegook address.

BUT it went to an email address that I only use for Amazon orders.

I am sure that it would have fooled many people.

How did the scammer know that email address, and that I had recently moved and that the billing/delivery address doesn't yet match on some of my registered cards? No point asking Amazon methinks, as I know the reply I will get.

Just one of the reasons I hate Amazon (despite it being very useful in our current situation).


Monday, June 15, 2020

Many Happy Returns

In my BW email box this morning I found something other than several hundred copies of 'Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender' (some Italian git has been sending spam using my spoofed email address, and I don't think there is any way of stopping this?) and the usual dose of processed luncheon meat.

It was a message from Commentator Tim: "According to your blog post on 4 January, today you are 3,000 weeks old! You asked for a reminder, so here it is."

It's good that someone bothered to remember, because, amidst all the 'excitement' of late I had, of course, forgotten, and also failed to put it on the calendar. Thank you Tim!

I shall have to buy myself a present.

I have the perfect thing in mind.

A rather large greenhouse.

Just have to work out how to remove a 46 year old line of unmaintained leylandii, currently 15' wide and 35' foot tall (with only 2cm of green fronds over a lot of brown dead wood, which won't regenerate if cut back) which acts as a windbreak across the ridge.

In other news, some cows are coming to join the sheep soon.


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Of sheep, plaster and kitchens

We've now been here for 13 weeks and 2 days.

Had it not been for a countrywide lack of plaster (which wasn't just an excuse for repeated invisibility, I checked with the local builders' merchants, and with the son of a friend who is a builder) we would be a lot further forward than we are.

That notwithstanding, we're probably ten times further forward than most people doing a similar renovation would be, because we're doing anything we can do ourselves, because we can. Or rather, Mr BW can, and I can have ideas and project manage and obtain supplies.

I find if you talk to people they usually drop themselves in it eventually, and the plasterer accidentally admitted to me on his third visit to insulate and skim the walls of one averagely sized, if rather strangely shaped, bedroom, that he has too much work on and tries to keep all the people happy by appearing for a couple of hours, doing a bit then disappearing, claiming that he has run out of/can't get whatever material he thinks will be most convincing at the time.

I've tried sarcasm, but these Geordies just think it's banter, so that doesn't work. I've found that I can understand Geordie-bordering-on-Scots better than I thought, although Mr BW can't. If I can't understand, I just say, "What's that in English, then?" and laugh, whereas Mr BW just nods and then asks me to go and find out what was actually said to him.

Mind you, he can speak sheep, which I can't. And I can't tell whether a sheep noise is him, or a real one. Of the two skills, in this area, I'm not sure if it's more useful to speak sheep or local.

I keep getting nasty flashbacks to The Studio Project in 2006 (the wettest April on record when we had the roof off, and the hottest July, when the tilers and plasterers were turning up at 4am to attempt to do some work before it got too hot). If you've been reading for a long time, you might remember.

The Aga factory has finally re-opened, and our identikit Aga to that in Coven Sud, ordered on the morning that lockdown started, will be here in three weeks. Thankfully. We have an installation date! The house will then have constant background heat, and, together with the upstairs wall insulation, will have a permanent warmth. And I'll be able to enjoy cooking again.

The permanent background warmth is important in an old stone house. When we arrived back here on Thursday late afternoon, after a week away, the letters on the doormat were damp, and so was the toilet paper in the downstairs cloakroom. Just like when we arrived. Except that Bodgit and Coverit (the previous owners) hadn't left any toilet paper to go damp.

After leaving in a heatwave, we returned to cold rain, and grey skies, and have even had to resort to the open fire. It's been 5°C overnight on a couple of nights. In the middle of June! Before anyone says that's a north-eastern problem, it was only 8°C overnight down south, and, in our week away, it was actually 1.8°C hotter (as a maximum temperature) up here than down there.

Open fires are messy and dirty. Hopefully the wood burner fitters will be working again soon. Mr BW could do that job, and did put one in at Coven Sud, but regulations no longer allow self-fit (although you can still buy all the necessary bits yourself). And the chimney is considerably further off the ground here, and he is 20 years older (despite his continuing denial of that problem).

Yesterday morning, still being tired from running around down south, extracting honey (very very gloopy, only just rescued in time before it became impossible to centrifuge out), sorting out the food crops, digging up more plants to bring north, packing the trailer, we decided to just see how easily the pelmet came off the top of the kitchen cupboards.

6 hours later, almost everything that needed to move or be dismantled or removed before the ceiling is skimmed before the Aga goes in, had been done. We just can't stop ourselves.

We haven't even started properly investigating how we are going to source/make a new kitchen... and we've got to make sure that absolutely everything we order can be paid for with a credit card. Not because of cash-flow problems on our part, but because of the danger of companies going bust in the current economic climate. Payment by credit card gives Section 75 Protection, or Chargeback Protection, and a way of getting your money back, if there are any problems.


Thursday, June 11, 2020

You cannot rewrite history 2

Another comment reprint from elsewhere, but, I make no apology, as saving today's zeitgeist for posterity is important.

On the taking down of statues and renaming of pubic buildings and roads:

As a middle aged white woman, who has spent my professional life working with the educationally disadvantaged (of many backgrounds and ethnicities), and advising and training those who work with them on a daily basis, I believe I have a good understanding of the many issues here.

And I am totally offended by what is being done to my country's history, without proper consideration, or proper consultation.

Had these events happened at a different time, I doubt the knee-jerk instant reactions that have transpired would have happened.

Those in power are doing all they can to remove flash points - with many people unemployed, about to be unemployed, or furloughed, it is essential that flash points are avoided, or widespread civil unrest could follow.

I can see why it's being done, but I am offended.

As is my right.

Too many people currently have too much time on their hands, and have too much anger about current CV-19 restrictions and curtailed freedoms, that has nowhere to focus. When suddenly a 'cause' with which they identify appears, they flock about it. And Dominic Cummings is absolutely delighted.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

You cannot rewrite history

I haven't the time or brainpower right now to write down my thoughts about current issues. So, I'm going to recycle comments I've made elsewhere. For example, concerning the current outcry and protests about slave trading and slavery, as protests against a death in the US:

Each era has its dirty secrets.

Anyone who has an iPhone or buys clothing in Primark is buying into the current era's mass exploitation of people.

There are undoubtedly thousands of other examples too, but most people choose not to think about the fact that if something is cheap, someone somewhere has been exploited.

That nice bottle of wine from South Africa? The grapes were picked in the very early morning by black farmworkers (usually men) earning R18 an hour (less than a pound), in a country where food is now more expensive than in the UK.

The hypocrisy being shown by many media commentators/bandwagon jump-er-on-ers in the current situation astounds me.

Does humankind never learn from the past?

I'd say not, given that the current CV-19 situation is being propped/mopped up by those on minimum wage (cleaners, delivery people, care staff, supermarket workers) - earning £8.72 an hour if they are over 25, and £6.25 if they are 18-20.

Worth some thought, perhaps.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Direction of travel

"You haven't been here for long enough to qualify for a pass to go down south!" said the postie when I let him know that we'd be away for a week, sorting out the bees and bringing back some more stuff. I haven't quite got used to his sense of humour. Some days I find him quite cold and am not sure how he reads us, and other days he gives me positive messages like that (well, I took it as a positive message?).

He also said that the 28°C temperatures and brilliant sun (I got burnt for the first time in 20 years, despite factor 30 and a base tan from a month in SA in February - luckily Amazon consider aftersun an 'essential', so I got it in less than 12 hours) experienced in the last week were "unknown in living memory", which has been confirmed by other delivery drivers who I've quizzed. The thermometer - in the shade - actually got above 30°C, but the nights were only around 9°C.

The Hermes delivery man, who is at least 80, and works with his daughter, who drives and helps with really heavy parcels, and lives in the nearest small village, told Mr BW yesterday that he nearly bought this house when it was for sale the last time - 20 years ago. Instead he bought a plot of land and built on it, but he still regrets that choice. I'm all for keeping delivery drivers in work, particularly at the moment, but making them jealous every time they roll up is not good.

So, that's one garden extended/made in the last week. It involved 8,000 cubic litres of compost, sand and grit, and about a tonne of 'borrowed' stone from the fields around for the edging. I am nearly dead, despite having spent more time sitting and supervising, rather than doing the hard work. After extracting honey at the weekend I will be totally dead

Then we come back up, with another trailer load of mostly plants, to create another bit of garden, with another 4,000 litres of compost being delivered. It wasn't meant to be like this, this was a 3 year project!!!

I either have time/energy to do stuff, or write stuff, so sorry, the doing has been winning out.

With perfect timing for the new garden and all the relocated and brought up from Coven Sud plants, it's been raining all night, and much more is forecast for the next few days. My spells are working (but Mr BW has rigged up an auto-watering system for the seed trays and small plants, and for the tomatoes in the 3 mini-greenhouses, just in case)!


Sunday, May 24, 2020

The bees at Coven Sud gave us a sign

The sign was....

"We do not need you BW and MrBW. You did not need to journey 300 miles south, to inspect us, clutching your 'permission to travel to care for livestock' documents.."

"We have managed quite well without you for 130 million years, and we will be here long after you and your kind have sent themselves into extinction (PS your kind's current direction ain't too great... remind us, who said that a total of 40,000 would die in the UK, because they seem to be short-counting?)."

I know there are a couple of readers who know about bees. This hex was on an outside frame, in the middle of a frame of stores (ie honey). We've never seen a brood pattern in an exact hexagon, let alone on an outside frame. Bees base their cell formation on a hexagon, but not their brood patterns, which are usually oval or round. Brood rarely reaches the outside frames (and MrBW had put 3 supers on each colony on March 24th, weeks before they were needed, just in case, which, as it turned out, was a stroke of genius, as most of them were full).

Despite our predictions, only one colony had swarmed, and most (if not all) of those bees had gone into the bait hive MrBW had sensibly left out (that is, an empty hive, ready for any naughty swarmy bees to occupy). There didn't seem to be any bees missing from anywhere else.

So, we now have 9 strong colonies. We usually like 6. Any more than that is too much work.

We will have to go south again to extract h0ney in a couple of weeks, or it will all set, as it contains a proportion of oil seed rape, which crystallises very quickly. If you don't catch it in time, the only way to remove the honey is to crush the comb, which you don't want to do as it takes seven times the amount of nectar to make wax as it takes to make honey.

Let's hope that our next return trip is less tiring than this last. We got back on Tuesday evening and it's only today that I have been able to do anything again. Given the number of plants that we dug up from the garden of Coven Sud, and just popped into large tubs of water for the journey north, which only got put into soil today, that may not be good. We'll see.

"There's lots of strangers round here!" declared Farmer Bernard, when we say him today. "Strangers have been seen in the lanes. People we don't know. It's not good!" We seem to have passed the first residence test, then. But, I hear it takes 3 generation before you're considered a local, so we haven't a chance.

And did the plasterer arrive on Wednesday as planned? What do you think?


Friday, May 15, 2020

How long does it take for a garden nurtured for almost 25 years to turn wild?

52 days apparently.

We got up soon after 6am, and left Coven Nord at 8.30am. There was a lot to sort out before we left, and it was the first time we'd set everything up to work without us for a few days, so it took longer than we'd intended, but we got back to Coven Sud at 1.40pm. We stopped to change drivers 4 times and to eat some rolls for 15 minutes. So, less than 5 hours. A truly amazingly fast 300 mile journey. This is a journey that has taken 8 hours in the past, but probably 6.5 hours on average, over the past 15 years that we've been doing it.

Almost nothing on the road (and those people who were driving were being very sensible and sedate), only one police car seen - on a side-of-the-road perch, the weather was sunny and warm, the A1 into A14 section has been totally finished during lockdown (finally, but 7 months ahead of schedule, apparently) and it was a pleasure to drive down. Why the government hasn't make more of all the infrastructure upgrading projects for roads and rail that have been miraculously completed while there has been little traffic and few passengers using them amazes me. The first I heard of it was during last night's bulletin by Grant Shapps, but, as I've said before, I've almost given up on them, so maybe there have been previous announcements that I've missed?

The trailer wasn't noticeable, except on fuel consumption, where it took the average from 64mpg+ down to just over 50mpg. Still better than the majority of cars. But, I'm glad we'd got used to towing micro-caravan Bri@n in the last year. Bri@n has been so useful - he's lent us most of his kit over the past couple of months, he provides some extra freezer space, and he could be a dormitory if/when we ever get any builders in, or when anyone comes to stay before the extension building work is done.

On arriving, we were planning on checking around the garden here, and then having a rest.

But, as anyone who loves their garden will tell you, when things need doing, you just get on with them, and time passes. Other than the apricot, peach and nectarine trees on the balcony (where the watering system seems to have woefully underperformed), not too much seems to have perished. Cleaner BW has tried hard, but she's no gardener, and has never looked after the garden at this time of year (as we've never dared be away at this time of year before by choice).

At least two hives of b33s have swarmed (no surprise, as we haven't been able to look at them since the beginning of March): the bait hive we left out was full (so, one swarm reeled in and caught) and there was a large swarm on a post in the raspberry bed and a tiny swarm on a branch on one of the apple trees. Tomorrow we will discover the worst, or the best, and do a full inspection. All hives had lots of b33s flying, but it was over 20°C, so it is hard to judge, as bees fly lots at that sort of temperature. While we've been away, the highest temperature was 29.8°C and the lowest 1°C.

We finally stopped around 8.30pm. 12 hours done in the garden between us, but you almost can't see what we've done. I might live to regret that amount of energy expenditure in one day, although I was trying to be sensible and do sitting down gardening.

3 days left to work out what plants to take up next, to sort out the greenhouses and polytunnel, to plant out everything edible brought down today, as well as everything left growing here, to set up and check more auto-watering systems, and get the overgrown hedges, grass and beds back into some sort of shape.

Wish us luck.

It's like a time-warp here: the distant dual carriageway road noise and the frequent overflying aeroplane noise have gone, the dogs have stopped barking (as they are no longer left on their own all day), the air is noticeably fresher, and there is almost no passing traffic. Just like the old days, when we loved living here. It's nice to experience it again, here, even if only ephemerally.

Posted at 10:35 PM | Comments (5)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

An everyday story of country folk

How can it be a whole week since I last wrote anything here? How?

Missing in action, just like the other country folk. Is anyone actually listening to the repeats? I can think of little more insensitive in the current situation than re-broadcasting Joe Grundy's funeral, as they did last Friday.

Here's one of the local hares at the top of the track a couple of days ago.

He likes salt - being used to kill the grass in the tarmac. I don't expect hares have high blood pressure, so it's probably OK. Not a great picture, as it was taken hastily, through a window.

Mr BW had to rescue a pair of house martins from the kitchen. They flew in as I went out.

We've been busy. Doing lots. Have got as much done as we'd probably have got done by the FOTCR™ (is that the earliest ever mention in the year of that?). Because - well, what else have we had to do?

Day 50 of not going out at all, but having it all brought to us.

We haven't yet found anything that can't be delivered, other than shopping for the first few weeks, but it's OK now. Morrisons pop by every 10 days, and bring our groceries from Scotland. From a store 50 miles away, which is an hour and a half each way by road, even though there is a large store that does online less than half this distance from us. The delivery men tell me that they are all furloughed from a 'manufacturing plant' there, and are 'making up their money' by driving round the countryside in rented freezer vans. I have no idea why the cheapest slots are at 9 - 10pm, when they have then to get back to Scotland, clean out the van, and be ready to start at 7am again. But, that's how it is. They're happy, and I'm happy, so all is well.

I'm not sure that people should be able to take the taxpayers' 80% furlough money and work another paid job though.

Not the normal standard of grocery delivery, everything is all muddled up in the bags, and it's often one item per plastic bag, which they're not currently charging for (so we have built up our stocks again, most useful, but I wouldn't choose to have them, or pay for them), and the temporary delivery men have little idea of safe distancing, but it's food. And drink. And it doesn't involve any effort, or any risk. Mind you, our grocery bill is probably double what it normally is when I shop in my usual haunts of Aldi, Waitrose, and Costco.

The Amazon delivery man yesterday tentatively enquired if he could ask me something. I looked a bit surprised. "I hope you don't mind, but the lads in the depot want to know if you've won the lottery or something... all these parcels we're delivering to you...?" I explained that we'd moved in 10 days before lockdown and had just 2 van loads of stuff to our name, and a whole house to renovate and a garden to redesign.

I resisted the temptation to tell him that the single pack of 100 treasury tags that had been delivered on a recent Saturday, and the one rubber wedge doorstop that had been delivered at 8.48pm last Sunday night were not what *I* would call 'essential' items, but, if Prime say they are, and will send someone to bring them 30 miles from the nearest depot, on a weekend, then I'm not going to argue.

I have no idea how they define 'essential', but the delivery of other items is getting slower and slower. Often stuff not dispatched by Amazon is coming much more quickly. If you use Amazon Prime, is it the same where you are?

Anyway, now that we can get down south again - actually, we could have before, as we have a special 'movement to tend to livestock' permit as b33keepers, but we didn't want the potential hassle of being stopped and questioned - we're off at the end of the week. Just for a few days as we have decided to turn our 2 - 3 year Move North Project into a much quicker one, and so spend more time up here. And we have hopefully got the plasterer coming mid-week next week to put some walls back on upstairs, and add some internal wall insulation.

Everything that Mr BW does has been cancelled or can be done remotely, and my groups and other ventures probably won't start again any time soon. It's been so lovely to be away from the ever-increasing road noise (a by-pass built a mile away has got much busier, so noisier, over the 20 years since it was built), aeroplane noise (runways were re-routed over us on a technicality, so without the need for formal consultation, 4 years ago), pollution, noisy/sweary newish neighbours, constantly barking dogs, and the constant threat of developers (of gypsy origin, so you can imagine the rest) on our doorstep, that there is little point in prolonging The Southern Chapter. It was once a rural idyll, but it has fast become full of selfish moneyed escapees from London who haven't a clue about country life or country values.

Our major delivery for today was a proper farmers' trailer. Seven feet by four feet. With livestock sides. Which will pay for itself in the first 4 times we don't hire a van, and can be towed by the Blue Broom, which has a tow bar as it is used to towing Bri@n. And we'll have it to use forever afterwards.

We looked at cheaper ones, but, to be proper country folk we need the proper - branded - kit.

No, you don't believe that of me, do you? :)

So, rather, there was a suitable trailer available immediately within Bernard The Farmer's recommended agricultural suppliers' group (although they had to fetch it from their Scottish branch), whereas anything cheaper has yet to be built, and would be at least 8 weeks. And it was fetched and towed to our door for us by the depot manager (pictured).

"I blame the Chinese for all this nonsense!" he said. So, that's him, Donald Trump, and me, then. Amazing how the rest of the world aren't asking enough questions. Chris Patten (last British Governor of Hong Kong) had some very sensible things to say on that subject when interviewed on Radio 4 this morning.

I've given up following the subject in any detail. I'd rather be putting my limited energies into working on this house than into a politician and media-managed charade. Brexit Mach 2. I only catch little snippets of news, and no longer religiously listen to broadcasts. The rest of the world is laughing at us. Matt Hancock seems to have been left to be the public face. But, where's Priti Vacant? And where's Govey Govey Govey? And where's Boris 'Won't Use a Condom' Johnson? Perhaps he has some kind of post-viral syndrome? That's a huge ticking time bomb that no-one has thought about yet.

I check all my facts here now, and that, together with their regular emails, summarises all the nonsense that is being spouted/spread on social media, and what is and isn't factually correct.

The tomato plants that came up here as tiny inch high seedlings 7 weeks ago have enjoyed being in the conservatory so much that they are now 18" tall (some even have flowers), and half of them need to go back south, together with some of the peppers, chillis, squash and courgettes. We have auto-watering systems at Coven Sud, so everything can grow away in the greenhouses and polytunnels while we are working up here, and be harvested when we go down to bring up some more stuff.

Odd picture, but it wasn't taken for display, just for posterity! The back of my spinning chair (carved by Mr BW several years ago), some paperwork, the new hen drinker in the background outside - why do things always break at the least opportune moment?

What news from your corner of the world?


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Sunny and warm

We are currently surrounded on all sides by fields of bright yellow oil seed rape. It's a pity the bees aren't here yet as they'd be loving it. This is looking down the driveway towards the main road (I say 'main', but it is a rural, windy, twisty and narrow 'C' class road):

This field, to the east, slopes downhill, and you can see where the seed was washed away in the winter floods.

The Black Familiar watches patiently to see where her next meal will emerge from:

I just wish she'd eat it all up. Today I found a mouse, half a rabbit, and what looked like a hamster (noting that I wasn't looking very closely), in the garage, behind our pile of brown cardboard packaging that is being gradually repurposed for decorating purposes.

Our C3 is wonderful.

It takes us to lots of places.

It tows Brian.

It even acts as a ladder support to save me standing at the bottom of the long ladder all day while Mr BW sorts out the security lights (replacing 500W 20 year old models, with new 24W LEDs) and the new CCTV system.

I promised I wouldn't send this to his mum.

I didn't promise I wouldn't put it up here though.

Instead I was able to spend the day of glorious sunshine outside planting even more seeds, replanting plants from this 'bed' that is to be cleared (it will turn into a herb and salad garden, with a lavender hedge, if we can ever get back to Coven Sud to rescue the trough of lavender babies that didn't quite make the second van trip north), and taking bits of aubretia, sempervivums, London pride and similar and resettling them into cracks in the dry stone walls, in the hope that they will grow.

The three water butts here were almost filled by one evening/night of sporadic rain a couple of days ago. Hurrah, free water!

Full moon rising:

Sun setting on the opposite horizon:


Tuesday, May 5, 2020


Monday, May 4, 2020

For years people have been wanting to see a picture of me.

Here it is:
It's 10 weeks today since I had my hair cut.

Given that it is short, fine, and usually cut at least every 5 weeks, it is feeling rather long and heavy.

So heavy that my head actually hurts with the weight.

Actually, it is still mostly brown, rather than grey, so that straggly mop picture isn't quite right.

Mr BW is lucky: I grabbed the clippers in The Great North Decamp as lockdown started. He's already had one haircut. I'm quite good at haircuts with clippers, as it is 18 years since I started doing Mr BW's. We've saved several thousand pounds in barber costs in that time. I learnt from sitting at the traffic lights in Southern County Town (now City) outside a barbers', and watching (in the days before the internet provided).

Yesterday he said that my hair was 'catweazleish'. I was offended by this, as I do have a pair of tweezers with me, and a supply of disposable razors, and it is only my head hair that is overgrown.

I do have some 'castle scissors' (thinning scissors) that my usual hairdresser bought for me from the Hairdresser Supplies Store, again in days before the internet provided.

I could have a chop at the top myself. And I could let Mr BW do the sides.

I am undecided as to the way forward.


Anyone else having similar problems?


Saturday, May 2, 2020

"The test is in the post": AKA "Of lies and men"

[A guest post by Mr BW who has torn himself away from the upstairs renovations for long enough to write it:]

On Thursday BW posted a piece about the Government's handing of Coronavirus.

To a few positive and negative comments from others I commented:

"In my opinion it is a curate’s egg. The answer is never a simple one, but the Govt does seem to risk losing its grip on the situation and reverting to good old fashioned political numbers. We can achieve 100,000 tests a day, but are they the right tests for the right people (that seems less important than the target).

I do accept that the numbers of deaths is unreliable across countries and that in the long term, at least across Europe, the current relatively small differences are likely to even out.

The Govt started out on the back foot, not least because the 2016 Cygnus exercise report into pandemic readiness wasn’t implemented because it wasn’t sexy enough or vote winning enough in political minds.

The Govt appeared to lack decisive decision making by switching from herd immunity to lockdown. But some credit due for being willing to change their mind when it is often seen as political weakness.

Then the Govt appeared to do the right things by quickly introducing financial support for employees (needed lots of tweaks but no surprise and no real criticism of the Govt here). The grip and leadership felt strong.

The Hospital response appeared solid, capacity was efficiently increased, the army did their thing. But people needing hip replacements, let alone cancer treatment, suffered.

Then it all seems to be going a bit wrong with the Govt telling us we can’t go out for other than essential reasons but B&Q can open to sell us paint and plants, but a garden centres can’t open to sell the same plants. But are we allowed to drive to B&Q anyway?

Then it starts to feel a little like the Govt has crossed the line over listening to scientists into abdication and planting the decision making at their door (we’re only doing what the scientists tell us to do).

Then scientists start breaking the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ ranks and saying that the Govt really isn’t doing the best thing.

The Government continues to claim that care homes are getting all the PPE they need, when the care homes are all saying that they aren’t getting it.

Then the Government are back to searching for political headline numbers (how can we make the numbers look as good as we can, I know when counting PPE, instead of worrying about masks and visors let’s get a box of 1000 plastic gloves and add them all up into the biggest number we can get).

For me, the Government and the Public Services have the most difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs. But, it does just feel as if, rather than gaining confidence and control at a time when it is incredibly important to manage the slow release of the lockdown, it just feels like control could slip away whilst they focus on achieving the wrong headline numbers."

Today the Goverment demonstrated my point absolutely perfectly.

In chasing the headline of 100,000 tests a day, on Friday Matt Hancock proclaimed success, having ‘provided 120,000 tests on Thursday’.

Today it became obvious why the word ‘provided’ was used, since it has been revealed that some 40,000 are in the post on their way to be used. The actually number of tests carried out was only around 80,000.

Now, why did they lie/mislead/misquote/bullshit us?

During Brexit, they did the same to get the highest number possible for money to the EU, coming up with £350M a week, rather than the actual number of £170M a week. Did they not think we would find that suitably high?

During the election the Government declared that their policies would result in 50,000 more nurses. It turned out that it was actually 30,000 additional nurses, plus 20,000 who they guessed might have left but who now wouldn’t!

Now they are at it again.

Do they truly believe we are all so stupid as to not understand the real numbers?

Do their number providers not realise that their search for the largest numbers possible will always be analysed and their deception/sleight of hand/lies will be revealed?

At the election I spoilt my vote. This was because I valued my vote but thought none of the candidates worthy of it. In broad terms I could not think of a country worse than under Corbin and I was infuriated by the Conservative manipulation of numbers and apparent belief that we were all too stupid to notice.

Right now Mr Johnson, you are throwing away every opportunity to secure credibility, right when the Country needs you to be credible and honest.

Just stop it. Tell us the real facts as they come. If you have carried out 80,000 tests but have also posted out 40,000 then tell us. We will accept that as truth and move on. But, you stupid man, you just couldn’t risk the political loss of face, so you found a way to add up all you could to get over the promised 100,000 tests a day by the end of April: you bullshitted us, yet again…

Shame on you for proving my comment right, and for what it does to the credibility of the Government.


Friday, May 1, 2020

May Day, May Day, May Day

Today is Day 38 of not having left the property boundaries at all.

I'm glad we have plenty of space and plenty to do though.

We have had probably 150 deliveries in that time though... but I haven't been wiping them down with anti-bac spray (because it's anti-bacteria, and COVID-19 is a virus and no anti-virus products have actually been tested against it anyway, so that's a fairly pointless exercise). Nor have I been leaving parcels for 24 or even 48 hours before opening them, because, well that's just plain ridiculous.

I remain unconvinced that anything more than washing hands afterwards is necessary when coping with incoming mail and parcels. But, each to their own beliefs, and I shall look carefully at any definitive evidence that shows COVID-19 can, or has, been caught from parcels.

I can confirm that there is now officially more disintegrating old plaster in black bags in the garage awaiting being smuggled into the landfill rubbish collection (2 or 3 bags at a time, every other week, sandwiched between 'real' rubbish), the council tip re-opening, or the availability of skips again, than exisits on our upstairs walls.

Mr BW is having such a lovely time chipping it off. "Dinner in 10 minutes!" I shout. "Coming!" he replies, then I hear some more banging and crashing, and know that yet more 1970s plaster is hitting the deck.

That yellow paint is so lovely. I've even kept a chunk of 'plaster + yellow paint' to put in my Museum Room, along with the bits of wallpaper from past decades. I love old house history.

Roll on the plasterer being able to get more supplies and getting round here to repair the damage, and insulate the exterior walls, internally.

The doors in the background have been taken off their hinges and are being sanded down and given several coats of clear Briwax. Despite being hung years ago, Bodgit and Coverit (previous owners) never got round to finishing the doors off. They look beautiful now, and surprisingly similar to those in Coven Sud.

Mr BW has also discovered that the best way to put new brass hinges onto old doors is to do one hinge at a time, with the door in situ, then take the door off. Replacing hinges is not something one does every day, of course, so one wouldn't know this unless one had ever taken a door off, refitted new higes, then tried to re-hang the door. I hope that this tip saves someone some time at some point in the future.

Yesterday I was able to move my sewing machine, rolls of curtain material, and several other bags of textile stuff that I grabbed in the rapid decampment up here on 24th March, out of the conservatory, where they have been slowly bleaching in the sun, into the newly repainted and newly re-skirting-boarded Bouncy Room (ie Soft Materials/Textiles Room - that used to be Bedroom 2) upstairs. I also ordered the vertical blind. It's a lovely sunny room, and looks huge now it is white, and I can't wait to have the time to actually get in there and do something creative.

I was delighted to find two cans of compressed air amongst the bags I unpacked. That will come in very useful, and was nearly as good as finding 2 elastic bands around the asparagus in the Morrisons delivery. When you have not very much of your usual 'stuff' around you it is great to find something reusable.

What have you been doing this week?


Thursday, April 30, 2020

This is Ground Control to Colonel Tom

Never have Boris et al been so pleased to have a distraction from last night's deadly revelation that over 26,000 have died from COVID-19 in the UK.

BBC Breakfast outdid themselves this morning in not mentioning much other than 100 year old Tom's great feat in raising more for the NHS than all the celebrities and BBC put together.

Various banners and subtitles on the programme managed to mis-spell Marston Moretaine, the village of Tom's residence today; I know, because I nearly bought a house there in August 1989 (it was a new house, on a new estate, of the genre I deplore now, under a pylon, which I equally much deplore now as it's manifestly not safe, and I imagine those houses are looking fairly shabby today, given the way they were throwing them up then), but was saved from the pylon at the 11th hour by successfully getting another job (in Dorset) so I had to phone up to explain why I wouldn't be starting a job working for Bedfordshire LEA the next week.

"I'm afraid we can't accept your resignation for at least a term," said my now non-prospective new boss, triumphantly, "you've signed the contract!" "I haven't," I said, "I can't have done, as I haven't even been issued with one yet... in fact, I've chased Personnel every day for the last 2 weeks about it, and I've left three messages for you, asking if you'd chase from your end, and you haven't returned any of my calls." Never has there been a more nuanced silence on the other end of a phone. "Hello...?" I said after 30 seconds or so. "Or perhaps good-bye would be better?"

I hadn't actually wanted to go to work in Bedfordshire (far too far from the coast for my liking), but, it was that or working in the Wirrall, which was the other place where I'd been offered a job on completing my professional training. I still thank the Senior on the interviewing panel there, who came out to call me back in to tell me I'd been successful. "We're going to offer you the job," he whispered as he led me slowly back to the interview room, "but, please don't accept it, this really isn't the place for a bright young thing like you, at the start of their career." I met him again at a Conference a few years later, and thanked him for his wise counsel. He looked relieved, and bought me a drink. I still think it would have been his difficulty and not mine, had I said yes.

The 'Death by Coronarius' official website didn't update yesterday from Monday's figures, and still hadn't until nealry 2pm today. Why?

Oh Colonel Captain, the government thanks you for distracting the nation from the true facts of their utter and ongoing incompetence.

Thank goodness we still have some un-common wo/men around.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I am starting a One Witch Campaign...

... to replace the phrase "social distancing" with the phrase "safe distancing".

It is clearer, and, in the future, once lockdown is relaxed, it better communicates the message of how 'the new normal' will have to be.

Day 36 of not going beyond our property boundary here.

And finally, an hour ago, we had 7 minutes of light rain! The first for 7 weeks. I doubt it even managed to trickle down the roof into the water butts.

The delivery drivers and postie have been telling us they have never seen anything like it in the spring - they say that all the farm tracks are dusty and great clouds of dust are swirling around farm buildings every time the wind blows (which is several times a day, at least, most days).

There are now a total of 26,097 dead of coronovirus in the UK (hospitals + care homes + other settings, but it only includes those who have tested positive), and more Americans have died of it (58,365) than died in combat in Vietnam (58,220). The US now has a third of the global cases and a quarter of total deaths.

We are now only slightly behind Italy, which is second only to the US.

It seems likely that we will end up with the worst death rate in Europe.

I've asked this before, and I'll say it again, no doubt, how can that be?

We have a free at the point of delivery National Health Service. Is the treatment being used here correct/the best treatment there is? There must be some reason that our death toll is so high, and we have the third worst death rate in the world.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Who would have thought

A year ago today, we were celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary at a watermill in Suffolk.

After an abortive attempt to move north two years previoulsy, we'd all but given up on escaping the increasing urbanisation of our once-rural quiet idyll backwater that had become increasingly noisy, polluted, and full of urban refugees with no idea of the countryside or its lores and charms; and seemingly no understanding of anything other than money and what it could buy, or who it could buy off.

Who would have thought that a year on we'd have unexpectedly found another version of paradise and be locked down in a rural idyll with no-one but sheep and pheasants for neighbours.

The revolution starts now, in your own backyard, in your own home town...

More true now than ever.

Write your own future.

Hope everyone is keeping well and enjoying the new version of their life?


Monday, April 27, 2020


Are vegetable and flower seeds like flour for baking?

That is, people who were never going to use them (for gardening or baking, because they've never previously done either, although they've probably watched a few gardening and cookery programmes in their time) panic-bought them, making them unavailable to those who would have used them, and the unsown packets will languish in cupboards until they eventually get thrown out.

But, I will be delighted if people do try to grow or bake their own food during these strange times and then continue afterwards.

I have always been convinced that much food waste happens because people do not value the work, time, or skill that has gone into producing it. If they learn about this first hand, then hopefully they will be more mindful of not wasting food in the future.

I'm really impressed by how both Gardeners' World on TV and Gardeners' Question Time on Radio 4 are adapting to cater for both their old faithful audiences, and the new enthusiastic viewers and listeners they are attracting during lockdown, without making either group feel that the programme is not relevant to them.

However, I am appalled at those companies who are currently trying to take advantage of the newbie gardeners.

Top of my list of con-companies is Thompson and Morgan, who sent me an email last week offering "Grow Your Own Veg - limited stocks available!":

One bean plant for £6.99. In other times found in trays of 6 at the DIY sheds for £3 tops, so 50p each.

And then we have 12 jumbo lettuce plants for £9.99. 83.25p each for a lettuce?!!!

And I've had some of T&M's 'jumbo plugs' in the past too. They weren't what I would call a jumbo plug. It would take weeks to grow these into something sensibly edible.

Then there are the jumbo plug carrots at the same price, 83.25pence each. One tiny carrot, that you have to grow on yourself, for probably 3 months, will cost you nearly a pound. For one carrot! And that's if you don't get carrot root fly, or forget to water it.

Lastly, one tomato plant in a 3" pot for ten quid, or one tomato plant in a 3" pot for £8. What a bargain.

They might be 'grafted', but, really, that's not necessary. If humankind hadn't been messing about with nature, perhaps the world wouldn't be in the at-the-mercy-of-a-nasty-virus mess we are in now.

All those prices are plus a £4.95 delivery charge. Outrageous.

Anyone else noticed any companies profiteering?

These are our indoor veg plants, grown from seed:

Tomatoes, peppers, chillis, courgettes, pumpkins, and a few other things I've forgotten.

Some have been started since we got here, and some came north as tiny plants and have grown and been potted on.

Here is a tray of ghost pumpkin plantlets (those are the big white pumpkins) that are 9 days old in the picture.

I took the seeds out of one of our remaining last year's huge pumpkins that has been sustaining us in the absence of a supermarket delivery slot (aside: yes it did all arrive last night, and we do now have fresh food, and tonic and lemonade to go with the bottle of gin and two bottles of Pimms that have been tantalisingly lacking mixers for the past 34 days).

We've never had a conservatory before, and it does make an excellent temporary greenhouse, as we currently lack a greenhouse or a polytunnel. We have many more plantlets outside (herbs, beans, peas, brassicas, annual flowers etc etc), either hardening off under fleece, or planted out.

At T&M prices for veg plants we've probably about two, if not three, grand's worth...


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Traumatised and happy

The Black Familiar has found where we are sleeping (in the lounge) and is now competing with the birds to act as an alarm clock, from the wall outside the window, sometime soon after dawn:

On Friday evening Mr BW was flicking around the TV channels, for a reason known only to Mr BW as he has a perfectly good copy of the Radio Times - actually, he has two copies, as they have cocked up the change of address and are sending us old region and new region, both to Coven Nord - when he stumbled on the end of a repeated episode of George Clarke's "Old house new home". It was the Peak District and [somewhere else that I can't now recall] episode, but I don't seem to be able to find it on their website. [edit: it was Leamington Spa, and I've now found it]

We gave up watching this sort of programme after our 2006 Studio extension at Coven Sud builders told us we should go on Grand Designs (the programme was in its early days then, before it got pretentious, and they didn't seem to get that one had to apply in advance).

Anyway, I made Mr BW find it on +1 so we watched it again from the start. There were two old houses, both of which had a lot in common with this house.

I was traumatised by noting that one of the properties had a kitchen exactly like that here.

Exactly. Even the layout was the same.

Although ours trumps theirs as it has black worktops. Great for losing every camera, phone and black gadget and black charger cable you have, for days on end sometimes. The two kitchens must have come straight from a turn of the millennium brochure/salesman's design plan.

I was even more traumatised to note that one house was being painted all white. Oh no, I seem to be accidentally inadvertently trendy again.

In the 45 days we have been here, we seem to have got to know more locals than the last occupants did in the entirety of their 20.5 years here. One of the dog walkers we've befriended with a friendly wave and an 'at ten feet conversation' was able to put us in (telephone) touch with the last-but-one owners, who turned it from a derelict small cottage and two linearly attached barns, into today's form, in the early 70s. The lady couldn't remember paiting the upstairs landing walls yellow, although she did say, "Oh probably, I did have a thing about yellow at one time... and you've made me bring back some very happy memories with your questions this afternoon. It's a very happy house."

We have the promise of a proper meeting, and some old photos (including of her great-grandparents who also, unbeknown to her and her husband when they bought it from the local Estate, lived here around the turn of the century) at some post-COVID point.

Being a great lover of social history, and old house history, this make me very happy.

We've had to install a movement sensor on the right hand gatepost (which I don't think you can actually see on the photo, which was taken from an upstairs front window - but it's on the left hand top of the wooden fence on the RHS, ) as people keep managing to creep in unheard. The plasterer managed to get round the back, in the back door, and into the hall, before I noticed!

It makes a very loud 'bing bong' noise, which is just as well as we have a Morrisons delivery scheduled for tonight between 9pm and 10pm (the only slot there was 3 weeks ago when I grabbed it). Our first food purchase/delivery since 20th March (give or take 6 fresh items a kindly older neighbour got for us two weeks ago) . Let's hope not too much is out of stock. And that they can find our isolated location in the dark.

All that is left in the fridge is alcohol and eggs.

Renovations - on Sunday afternoons, wallpaper stripping on the upstairs landing, fuelled by Johnnie Walker, his Sounds of the 70s on Radio 2, and Aldi's Cream Sherry, followed by a roast dinner.

What are we like?


Friday, April 24, 2020

Day 31 of not going out at all

It's been 21°C here and very clear and sunny today. No wind at all. Sensational. The best weather day so far. But still not a drop of rain.

Mr BW has been replacing plug sockets (I now have 9 holes for plugs), light switches and ceiling bulb holders in The Bouncy Room (what he now calls what was initially 'The Soft Materials Room' (ie textiles - sewing, spinning, knitting, crochet etc etc), as apparently that is too much of a mouthful). Now all white, with new skirting boards, all it needs is a new carpet (which seemingly won't be happening any time soon) and a new blind. The window is too odd a shape for curtains - all they will do is block the light.

Anyone have any recommendations for vertical blind manufacturers? I can't remember who I used when last I bought one. It was somewhere online, and it was good, but more than that I have no idea, and the email records currently accessible to me don't go back that far.

Mr BW spoke to a local supplier this morning to see how things were looking for installation: he said that the A1 around Gateshead and the Metro Centre was as busy as ever today. I can see the continual glinting of many car windscreens in the mid-distance (perhaps 10 miles away) on the road that runs along Hadrian's Wall.

Clearly people are getting bored at home. More than 20,000 already dead in the UK alone: only another 20,000 to go, if some predictions are to be believed. Which bit of, "It's not worth dying for a tomato [insert other desired item of choice]!" are people still not understanding?

Cleaner BW told me yesterday that construction sites in the south and east are re-opening, and the 'casualty admission rate' seen (at least in the nearest hospital to Coven Sud, where she also works) is half of what was being expected/planned for.

I spent the day attempting to sort out matters financial, and dealing with the paperwork for running two houses. I can now give a rank order of how banks and building societies are coping with people who have maturing products but aren't at home with access to all their account details and passwords, so can't transact online. Best: Shawbrook (by far), followed by Coventry BS. Worst: Nationwide and Virgin. Interestingly, in chatting to the members of staff taking the calls, the former two made positive comments about their employers treating them well, and being flexible about working places, expectations and patterns, whereas the others were clearly still fighting 'management' and poorly thought through contingency planning, to attempt to help the customer on the line.

Right, I'm now off to inhale some Dettol, and drink some Cillit Bang, as recommended by President Orange Trump.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Happy St George's Day everyone in England.

And to everyone in Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia too.

Perhaps we will get England back to being a great nation again, a manufacturing nation, a nation that has all its own call centres within its own country, a nation where our scientists and engineers are taken seriously, once this current mess has been sorted?

I was half-listening to an older lady scientist on R4 at lunchtime talking about how, last year, she was involved in preparing the UK's action plan for tackling coronavirus. It was then shared with (sold to?) Singapore. As the interviewer said, "So Singapore adopted it, and it has worked, and we didn't?" "Yes," came the reply, drily.

Why politicians constantly commission advice, often at great expense, and then disregard it, thinking they know better, is beyond my understanding.

More identification advice sought...

Can anyone tell me if this is friend or foe please?

There are lots of them, both buried in the garden soil an inch or so down, and I've also found a few inside (there are currently plenty of holes in the pointing of the stonework for them to get through).

They curl up into a perfect, very tight flat spiral if you disturb them, and otherwise travel very straight and fast. Lots of tiny legs and 2 prominent antennae.

I'm thinking millipede? But they are much darker (some are even black) and longer than any I have ever seen before. We didn't have these down south! Or, indeed, anywhere else I've ever lived.

I bought two new large general seed feeders (expensive, good quality) that seem to be useless as they empty in 12 hours - two thirds on the floor and one third in the birds.

Some of it is the fussy tits who select out the wheat and toss it out (my new bag of seed feed is now the sort without wheat), but it seems to auto-dispense too fast for the birds to eat. Anyone know any better kinds of seed feeder?

The goldfinches keep spilling all their niger seed too, so they are on short rations. In fact, they've decided they do now eat peanuts, something I've not seen before (but maybe that is because they prefer niger seeds, and there are usually niger seeds).


Wednesday, April 22, 2020


There are four words that I always mis-type.

You may have noticed them creep in occasionally.

Now that I have largely got rid of my RSI, I touch-typed (the best skill I ever learnt, as a teenager, at evening classes, on a manual typewriter) and once a pattern has been accidentally incorrectly programmed, it is near-impossible to relearn it.

1. alwyas (always)
2. form (from)
3. particulalry (particularly)
4. acocunt (account)

I often notice that I have mis-typed the last of these shortly after I have pressed 'send' on an email of complaint to a bank.

I did it twice today. I'm not sure if it's a Freudian slip or something else entirely.

Why are banks making it so hard for customers to complete simple transactions online, in the current situation, when they are begging people to use online channels?

Yes, I know we're not on the electoral roll here yet. We have an official letter from the county council telling us that, due to current admin staff shortages owing to COVID-19, we can't be added until 1st May, but that really shouldn't stop banks changing our account addresses now: except that they say they can't as there is a Royal Mail redirection on our old address and we're not listed on the electoral roll of the new address. And they can't accept that in a secure message, we have to ring up, individually, and each wait two hours in a queue to speak to a person to tell them that orally. And we can't close or open accounts either, as there is a Royal Mail redirection on the address that the accounts are currently registered to. Really?

Who knew that banks check for the existence of Royal Mail redirections these days, when you try to open or close both cheque and savings accounts?

In other news:

Mr BW has discovered that he didn't like the airless paint sprayer any more than he said he was going to when I bought it telling him that it would save him hours of time, and his neck, back and shoulders.

But, as expected, completely white rooms look amazing. Huge, light and blank canvas-y. The walls almost disappear into the natural light.

Tomorrow the excess of paint that emanated from the sprayer may have dried enough to remove the masking, the now white cardboard, and the now white tarpaulins off the floor. Perhaps.

Said machine is currently sitting in disgrace by the front door awaiting tomorrow's courier to arrive to return it for a refund. It took me two hours to clean the utilised buckets, ear defenders, safety goggles, shoes and clothes. It may take rather longer for the paint to wear off Mr BW's face, arms, and hair.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Things that are occupying my mind

1. Is anyone planning for the huge numbers of people there will be who will have post-viral syndromes, PTSD, and associated issues, after having COVID-19?

2. How did the last major SARS/COVID 2 outbreak in 2003 not spread worldwide?

3. Where would we be now if the doctor in China (now dead, or disappeared) hadn't spoken out back in December? Why did the Chinese attempt to keep the problem from the rest of the world?

4. Is the current rudderless political situation and gross incompetence of our elected 'leaders' turning into 'Brexit Mark II' (or maybe 'Brexit Plus')?

5. How can we in the UK, with a National Health Service, and free healthcare for all, have such an appalling prognosis to this crisis? 24,000 more to die apparently...

6. Why are the lives of the people who die outside of hospitals not included in the official daily death statistics? Are their lives not considered important enough for them to count?

7. Why do employed people, furloughed on 80% of their wages keep moaning about their lot? Take off travel to work, work events, work clothes, work collections, work food, tax, NI, pension, and they're actually probably mostly better off anyway - and they're not having to do anything for their money. Plus the rest of us will be picking up the tab!

8. How many self-employed people and small businesses (particularly those that weren't very profitable, or were in debt, before) will bother/be able to get their services, shops, pubs, restaurants and companies up and running again? How will things run in future with only large companies providing essential services?

9. Why are so many groups of workers being overlooked in the Praise and Glory coming from all quarters? Many, including teachers, and education support staff (many of whom have been working relentlessly, without normal holidays, to fulfil government expectations) have not received even a mention. Why is it only NHS staff who get 'golden hours' for shopping and all sorts of freebies and recognition from many sources? If it weren't for teachers' contribution, many of the NHS workers wouldn't be able to go to work. Many teachers are currently providing a huge amount of online learning resource to their students, which is taking many many hours to make and put online, well beyond even their normal working commitment. Many teachers are having to support their vulnerable pupils/families where social services and welfare services are not available. There is occasional mention of delivery drivers and retail workers, but I haven't heard a single word of praise for education staff. Undervalued as normal then.

10. What will happen to house prices in future? A return to the negative equity of the 1990s?

11. Will there be lots of people looking to move out of urban areas when this crisis is 'over' (the next health crisis is just around the corner - you cannot mess with the world/natural order the way humankind has and not reap the consequences)?

12. If the mail for this area is (as the postie claims) all being held up in N'castle, because there aren't any drivers to bring it up to the local depot, why doesn't one of the posties from this area go and get it? And will the postie ever remember it's now letters through the new letter box in the door?

13. Why would you simply fill leaks in guttering with a lump of squeezy silicone rather than pulling out the previous fixative from the leaking joint, cleaning back and fixing the problem properly?

14. If a local plumbing company carries out a complete boiler service, oil tank inspection, and overhauls the radiator system, charging the previous occupants nearly £600, should the oil filter going to the boiler not also be cleaned?

15. Does everyone who lives in a non-hard water area have leaking radiators and joints? Does the calcium carbonate in hard water areas actually stop the tiny leaks?

16. Why would you put non-porous wallpaper over old plaster, and then paint over it, in a 400 year old house? And why would you re-point on the outside with concrete mortar rather than lime? Old stone needs to breathe.

17. Why would you not open the windows (and indeed clean around the edges of the UPVC windows and the inside of the frames, and oil/adjust the hinges) every now and then, so ensuring that condensation does its worst?

18. Why would you pay a cleaner £90 for 4 hours every week (yeah, £22.50 per hour) and still have a filthy house? The further we look, the worse it is.

19. Does anyone actually manage to cook using all electricity? So far - 3 burnt pans and I am really not enjoying cooking at all any more. Aga survey done just before lockdown, deposit paid - but who knows when/if it will ever get fitted. I may resort to using the 2-ring gas stove out of Bri@n soon, as it would be less annoying.

20. Not having been out since 24th March (Day 28 now) what percentage of my Morrisons order (slot gained as the first available, over 2 weeks ago, and there haven't been any more slots available since) will we actually get between 9pm and 10pm on Sunday night? We're almost out of fresh veg and as for fruit - we have just 8 white grapes left - but we have had our first harvest from the new garden: lettuce seedlings Mr BW dug up from the polytunnel as we fled north last month. They've done surprisingly well under a fleece coat.

21. Why are there so many wild bees and bumble bees here?

22. Why are there so many queen wasps here and will I be able to decease more than the six I have currently?

23. Why do some people have such awful taste in 'water features' (made of fibreglass):

At least another part of it (together with a left-behind filthy plant saucer that I cleaned up and some lumps of stone from the field) has come in useful for making a bee and bird watering station:

And why when I hate this tree are there two of them in this garden (I thought they were Kilmarnock willows, but, having just looked them up, there are no catkins)?

24. Is this (one of a pair) a white wagtail? It seems much lighter than the normal pied wagtails we occasionally get down south. They are either on the ground, picking up seeds the tits and finches have spilt, or on the roof.

25. Why has it not rained a single drop since 24th March? Mr BW has installed 6 water butts, and, being on a private water supply (at rates above the local water company's), we need to harvest lots of free water for the garden.

Any answers?


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

IDs sought, please

West facing:

I'm delighted that we haven't lost our amazing sunsets (but, oh my, it's going to be cold again tonight!):

There are two or sometimes three geese that often fly in around dusk.

I'm not sure what variety they are?

This is also a not-often-spotted-at-a-residential-property species in the current climate:

Most people won't be seeing them before June 30th now (last time we heard - sometime last week - it was 1st June - clearly, in the interim, they have been told something about the length of likely lockdown that the rest of us haven't). Make enough fuss, and pull enough trump cards from the deck (hundreds of hours of unpaid community service by Mr BW over the past 6 years now pays dividends), and they will come. And spend half a day with you. Albeit at 6 feet and mostly through an open window. No coffees allowed or sought either (although we did give him half a dozen eggs - the latest in high currency goods we understand - for going above and beyond).

Broadband now slightly more understood in this locale. Nice Engineer traced the routing of our cable, confirmed that we veer off before the cabinet (3 miles away), so nothing between us and the 'exchange' ("a hidden shack, between two garages on a council estate, you'd never know unless someone told you, near where the chip van stops every week") more than 4 miles away. Connection now more stable (0.4MB doesn't work for anyone, but nearer 3MB might, just, and that was better than we got at Coven Sud, despite being a mile from a FTTC point, before December 2019).

But, from which era is the wallpaper (4 or 5 layers, this is the top one) behind where the replaced box and ancient junction box were?


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter!

I didn't have time to sort out Mr BW's spring chocolate fix, amidst all the mad dashing around a month ago, after 18 weeks of inaction by those selling and their legal representatives.

I apologised to him for this. "Oh, don't worry," he smiled, "I have 6 Terry's chocolate oranges in my secret supply!"

All's well that ends well then.

Except that we finished all the buns over 2 weeks ago. No time to mess around making hot non-cross buns either: there are seeds to sow, plantlets to nurture, borders to weed and redefine, new veg areas to carve out of the grass, walls to strip, skirting boards to prise off, electrical fittings to renew (anyone for filthy 1970s switches and sockets?), surfaces to wash. We're being held up by supplies despatched ages ago but stuck in transit and not being delivered now, which is frustrating. Understandable, of course, but still frustrating.

Still, plenty of sheep antics to watch. And hares, lots of hares. Not managed a good photo yet as they move too fast.


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Source of 3% figure (early figures suggested mortality rate is 15% for those admitted to hospital).

UK figures not looking good.

(and yes, there are differences between countries in how data is being collected and collated, and in how many people are being tested, but even so, and particularly considering that we have free healthcare and a national health service, that is available to all, it is now very clear that our government made very poor decisions early on and didn't do enough advance planning and advanced provisioning. Their game seems to be 'blame the people' or 'blame NHS staff for using too much PPE', rather than blame their complete lack of understanding and co-ordination, and wasting the 3 month lead-in period they had).



Friday, April 10, 2020

Of gardening, crafts, and isolation

Glorious weather here today: we've been in the garden all day.

Part of the second lawn is now a potato patch (we grabbed the seed potatoes that were chitting as we made our mad return dash to Coven Sud on 23rd), and the strip border along the front of that lawn is now a fruit garden. Plus all the left-behind garden pots etc are now all emptied, washed, and sterilised.

We also have 6 water butts and 2 compost bins, thanks to the Numberland council purchasing scheme, which is considerably better/cheaper than that of Coven Sud county. One of the compost bins is nearly full already. Use of compost daleks is only temporary, as down south we have 3 huge compost bins of about 2 cubic metres each. How anyone can have a large garden without either water butts, or compost bins, is beyond me.

Now we have Ed Miliband in the shadow cabinet and also as the Chancellor. Well, the Chancellor sounds remarkably like him anyway (I noticed it first, and more, on radio).

For anyone who likes crafts, arts, cooking, and many other things, Bluprint (were Craftsy) are offering unlimited free classes - until 16th April currently, but it's been extended once already, so may be again. I think you have to sign up, but no payment method is required, and you can always unsubscribe from their emails once the free classes finish. Some of their classes (particularly the older ones - especially the quilting, sewing, and spinning ones, and some of the drawing and painting ones - produced before Craftsy sold out) are excellent. Mr BW watched a couple of the wood working ones when they were last free, and found them informative. There are also classes for children, if you have some to keep entertained.

Yesterday five plastic redirection of mail packages arrived, along with 4 or 5 single readdressed items. At last. It took me most of the day to deal with the contents. Good job we had low cloud and 10 degrees here, rather than the 20 or so degrees down south (watching the solar panel generation portal tells me exactly what the weather is at the other Coven). Aldi wine is the only company getting orders here in a timely manner now (and really, if one has wine, what else is important?). Amazon Prime is taking up to a week now (is it the same in other places?), so there is no point continuing after the 30 day trial ends on Tuesday.

I thought that the only supermarket that delivered here was Waitrose, and there are no slots as far ahead as their system goes (currently 4th July), for either delivery or collection (which is quite ridiculous). But, on a whim, earlier I tried Morrisons, found they do deliver here, and got a slot between 9pm and 10pm on Sunday 26th April. So, in 16 days we will have groceries again. The nearest neighbour got a few bits (milk, potatoes, grapes, tomatoes, bananas) for us last Monday, as she was going into the nearest town, and we still have plenty of other things in stock, so we'll be OK until 26th.

Mr BW is part of the Parish Emergency Planning Team down south (and is often online or on a conference call doing things for it - they've not yet twigged that he is 300 miles away), and I am finding the differences between down there and up here very odd.

Everyone and every need is catered for there, and here... nothing at all. I registered online for Council Tax and to go on the Electoral Register a couple of weeks ago, after the stay-at-home edict. Both departments replied by post immediately, but there was no enclosed note telling us of emergency arrangements or contacts. In fact, if we hadn't made contact with our nearest neighbour when we were up here last November, we would have seen no-one and nobody, other than Farmer Bernard (who has been lambing 300 ewes, so currently has the better part of 1,000 sheep, and is undergoing cancer treatment, so not in a position to help anyone). There is nothing on any of the local Parish Council websites, and the only group I can find offering help is county-wide, and based around the more populated areas.

We don't (currently, and I'm touching wood here) need help, but I am staggered that there is apparently nothing around, if one did need it. I can't help but wonder how many people there must be who need help who don't have access to any, or know where to find any.

We haven't been out since 24th March: 17 days without venturing out. And no intention of going out at all: one encounter with a life-changing virus in 1991 has forever put me off meeting any others when they can be avoided.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020


It's been rather busy at the end of the drive in the past couple of days.

The sheep have learnt to escape from their field.

Numbers 14, 17 and 42 are the worst mothers, from Farmer Bernard's point of view, but the best mothers from mine. I haven't yet told him that we're not going to be wanting their flesh.

The boldest ones even came in, and were bleating at the front door:

While we're at that location, here is our nice electricity/telephone pole, and my nice glass insulators. It's all ours, as we are absolutely the end of that line:

4 beautiful old glass insulators:

I shall put a note on the pole saying, "If you have arrived here to change the glass insulators, please knock on the house door first." That should guarantee I get to keep them, because they do change them sometimes, and have done so along many stretches over to the west from here.

Talking of notes on things, the post box now has the following message:

Unfortunately, it has only been heeded once as there was no post on Monday and none today, and no deliveries at all since Sunday (when the DPD man arrived in a small removal van).

The delivery system is clearly grinding to a halt, as we know there are lots of each expected, and we haven't had anything in the redirection since last Friday.

Does anyone know how often Royal Mail forward letters subject to redirection, in normal times? We have on average probably 8 to 10 pieces of mail a day, and so far we have had just 3 plastic wrappers of redirection in 3 weeks. I know that it isn't being delivered at Coven Sud, so it is obviously hiding somewhere.

We have never had so many birds, of so many different sorts, anywhere either of us have lived. A bullfinch was eating the buds off one of the old plum trees. Naughty bullfinch. This shot taken in haste, through a window:

The only bird missing is a robin. Which is quite an omission, so I'm keeping the bird feeders filled (2 whole large feeders of mixed seed are being consumed every day, plus peanuts, niger seeds and fat balls), and hoping one or two may chance along.

Today has been gloriously hot and sunny, which makes up for Sunday, when the rest of the UK seems to have had sun - while it was sunny first thing, we then had strong winds.

Today Mr BW cleared some rather nasty plants out of a strip of soil along what will be the vegetable garden, and we've temporarily heeled in the 50 raspberry canes that arrived 2 weeks earlier than I expected, from notes on the suppliers website.

I've been sorting out the area where Bodgit and Coverit (the previous owners) once had a stone built-in BBQ area. An awful lot of old rubbish, but also some good pots (clay and plastic), and piles of crock, sacks of old charcoal, a large tub of bonemeal (wet, but tip off the water and the rest should do for nourishing something), and various other useful metal shelving and grid-work. Amongst everything, a preserved peacock butterfly wing, which perfectly matches the house's stonework, with a bit of bright BW blue thrown in:

It's a sign, I tell you, a sign. Of what, I've no idea, but it's definitely a sign.

Wasn't the super moon last night wonderful?

This taken through the conservatory glass, at around 5am. It was almost as light as a dull day.

We have realised that The Black Feline Familiar, fearless in the face of squirrels, mice, and foot-long rats, is scared of sheep, and lambs. Given the 390 fluffy neighbours, she'd love to be kept in. But, as a life-long outdoor cat, now in the most rural area imaginable, it's just not going to happen.


Monday, April 6, 2020

Preparing to kill the elephant

In between other tasks (mostly me needing assistance with things I'm doing), being unable to work on the bedroom where the wall ended up on the floor, Mr BW has been working on what the estate agent described as 'Bedroom 2' but I describe as 'Soft Textiles Room'.

Mr BW probably calls this endeavour, 'getting this room done so BW's 2 cubic metres of prepared fleece can get out of the room next to the garage/workshop so BW stops going on about it taking on the smell of old dog (which persists even after 4 shampoos with special pet odour removal shampoo), despite it being wrapped in polythene storage bags'. And yes, it really is 2 cubic metres of sheep fur, as the plastic bags are sitting inside two of those builders' bags that are made to hold a cubic metre of sand or aggregate.

This room is currently painted a colour known as 'Elephant's Breath'. Much as we like elephants, we don't like that colour. At all. And it makes the room look dark, and grubby.

The skirting boards were also nasty and thin, and covered in drips of Elephant's Breath emulsion by the previous owners, Bodgit and Coverit (who, for once, unfortunately appear to have done - tried to do - the job themselves, rather than pay someone else to).

So the skirting boards came off. Along with a couple of inches of carpet all the way round (the nasty brown carpet will be replaced once one can buy carpet again, and will then become weed suppressant in the garden, but for now has to stay for insulatory and dust-prevention purposes), and the carpet gripper. The floorboards underneath aren't even, and why would anyone lay a good quality carpet on good quality underlay, without first boarding the floor, to make it even? Given that they definitely weren't on a budget, Bodgit and Coverit Logic is beyond me.

The room that had the wall on the floor now doesn't (my Dyson was saved by some quick online searching for a 'workshop vacuum cleaner', which was not only cheap, and arrived the next day, but Mr BW says is excellent), and Mr BW is using it to paint the lengths of skirting board before attaching them to the wall.

Luckily we used Luton Van Trip North 1 (about the 12th of March I think, so well before 'lockdown', but, having been closely watching docujournalism of the lockdown in China, I had a Witchy Feeling where things were going) to visit a DIY shed and pick up lots of long and bulky necessary things.

And here is a piece of the new skirting board, more in keeping with the age of this house, in situ.

Things have advanced more since these pictures - including single electric sockets being doubled, and phone points being moved to get rid of miles of nasty old wiring - but I don't have any more up-to-date photos, and I'm posting from 'Bed in the Lounge' (as I'm absolutely knackered), so they will have to wait.

Oh, and the radiator will eventually be changing too as this is an original 1974 one which is beyond salvation.

I keep hearing on the news about people being bored and at a loss for things to do. I wish I was those people...

Posted at 10:08 AM | Comments (3)

Sunday, April 5, 2020

News from t'North

We're loving the news coverage right now.

At last, we have some real people, who are experts in their field, and not the usual media monkeys (def: those who have undergone extensive media training and have learnt how to convincingly not answer a straight question, and to say exactly what they came on to say, irrespective of the questions asked by the interviewer). And also, lots of inspirational good news stories, that one rarely sees. Very refeshing.

It's also interesting to see what the various correspondents and journalists are choosing as their 'backgounds' when they are broadcasting from their own homes. Bookcases seem to be the choice of many, and we're enjoyiing playing 'Spot the Billy!" Our TV definition isn't good enough to see what the actual books are, but if it was we'd be playing bingo with various titles.

I'm sure that in future, journalists and others will deliberately 'style' an area of their homes to broadcast from, to future-proof. It is difficult if you haven't planned: a couple of years ago, Mr BW was asked to do a piece on a local issue, from home, but we couldn't find anywhere 'suitable' (there are lots of no-nos, not near windows being one, and both Covens have lots of those as I require large windows and lots of light at all times) so in the end he took the journalist/cameraman to the Council Offices. He'd done a previous article for them on the same subject from outside, where there are plenty of suitable backdrops (in this case, the runner bean forest, as I recall), but to find a suitable area inside was much more challenging.

Glimpsing inside lots of homes at the same time as we watch the news is giving us lots of good ideas as we try to work out how we're developing this old house. Interestingly, given that most Councils are severely restricting services, the Planning Departments of the Councils I've checked are still operating. I think that probably tells people all they need to know about where the world is heading.

Also, the Sunday moring A to Z of TV Cooking (available on iPlayer here, if you are in the UK) is great for kitchen design ideas. One just has to see past John Torode... although, in this case, at least he's only doing the links.

Anyone else finding anything good in the present 'interesting' situation?


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Missing the Buzzy Familiars

While Mr BW was putting in the letter box a couple of days ago, I saved a Queen Bumbler who was seemingly dead on her back on the conservatory floor.

At this time of year, it is very easy for bees to get chilled when they fly. Bumblers will fly at much lower temperature than honeybees (who rarely fly below 13°C), so are much more vulnerable if the temperature suddenly drops, or they get trapped somewhere and can't fly back to their nests.

A tiny bit of honey, diluted 1 to 4 with warm water, and fed off a shiny spoon (for warmth and because bees like seeing other bees, even if the other bee is themself):

And then 20 minutes of hand warmth, followed by a bit more diluted honey:

After half an hour, I put her outside on a warm rock, and she soon flew away. I hope I'll see her offspring all summer.


Friday, April 3, 2020

Spot the difference

If you ever wondered what is inside a UPVC door, here you are:

Cuts like butter, with the right power tool.

Why anyone would have a front door without a letter box beats me. There was (is) a black cast mail box to the RHS of the door, with a key always in it so that the postie could leave larger items. Not very secure!

Now, all we need to do is train the postie to put stuff through the letter box. Today is Day 4 of the door having a letterbox, and he still hasn't noticed! Habits of a lifetime...

"Zoom is malware"

...says an article from yesterday's Guardian newspaper.

" researchers have called Zoom “a privacy disaster” and “fundamentally corrupt” as allegations of the company mishandling user data snowball.

On Monday, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, sent a letter to the company asking it to outline the measures it had taken to address security concerns and accommodate the rise in users.

In the letter, James said Zoom had been slow to address security vulnerabilities “that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams”."


"A number of security flaws affecting Zoom have been reported in the past and as recently as this week. In 2019, it was revealed Zoom had quietly installed a hidden web server on user devices that could allow the user to be added to a call without their permission. And a bug discovered this week would enable hackers to take over a Zoom user’s Mac, including tapping into the webcam and hacking the microphone."

The basic problem seems to be that there is no end-to-end encryption (and Zoom lied about this, when promoting its product).

BBC News' version of the story.

More disturbing info on where your meetings could end up.

Don't forget the piece of tape over your device's webcam, when you're not using it...


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Future imperfect

Has anyone thought about how soon we are going to run out of non-food essentials in this country?

We've been ordering a lot of stuff online the last 20 days.

A lot.

Mr BW is doing a lot of projects, and I am forward planning and resourcing. I'm predicting that this lockdown will be at least 12 weeks.

We have had more than 60 deliveries. The local delivery men are loving us. We are keeping them in work.

But, over the past couple of days, the delivery times, and the range of product available online have hugely increased/deceased. Some stores now have 'virtual queues' whereby you have to wait up to half an hour to actually get to the front of the queue to even be allowed onto their website.

Much of our 'stuff' in the UK is currently made in China. China has been on lockdown for many weeks, so goods have not been made. The goods are shipped here, in containers, on cargo boats, and much freight has stopped, for lack of crew, or for other reasons.

Many of the 'spare parts' we use in the UK come through Europe, and most flights have now stopped (and a significant amount of freight comes into the UK on passenger flights).

It won't be long before not only can you not get a tradesman/technician, but, even if you can, they won't be able to get the parts needed to mend basic appliances such as boilers, cookers, washing machines and similar.

Now, remind me, why was it that all those British manufacturers and engineers went out of business?


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

This sheeplet knows the answer


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Of broadband, greens, and death

You can always rely on BT to cock things up.

Yesterday we officially took over the phone and broadband line here (although it's a new phone number and, unfortunately, a different line) - the moving date having been changed so many times and their systems being so bad and so incapable of being changed, that we had to have 4 separate orders, and each has its own minimum time scales. We also had the joy of over 14 hours on the phone to them. Great service, huh?!

The previous owners don't yet know that they have been paying for our service for the past 18 days, because they couldn't be bothered to do their own cease process on the line (money's clearly rather easy-come easy-go to them, as we have discovered with many other things, a subject I will no doubt return to in the future), but, given the filthy state of the house when we moved in, if they dare say anything, or demand repayment, they will be treated to a BW Special Speech, and a few Home Truths.

And so it is that we went from a previously stable 2.65MB line (slow but adequate) to a highly unstable 0.8MB line (frustratingly inadequate). I have been through solving this problem so many times at Coven Sud (where we had similarly slow speeds until December 2019 when going onto 'superfast fibre' gave us a whole 6MB), that I know exactly what it takes to solve the issue. However, BT technicians are now only working at their own exchanges, and at their own area cabinets, and not in people's homes until after June 1st, at the earliest. Imagine the backlog of 'problems requiring home visits' by then!

If there was anyone other than BT who could provide service here, I'd be with them. The Government's Gigabytes for Rural Areas programme has now been put on hold indefinitely, so no hope for a quick fix there either.

I've already lost half a post this evening. For posterity, I update the cases/deaths figures in the 11th March post, "Some BW-checked facts" most days, and the connection dropped half way through reposting, and I lost the second half of the post in the process. Luckily, Mr BW still had an unrefreshed tab of BW open, so we were able to salvage it, and I've re-inserted the links. But that took the better part of an hour. ctrl/c, ctrl/v always used to be my friend, so it's back to that again.

Today has been a day of Mr BW ripping off more plaster and skirting boards, planting seeds (yep, we grabbed all the seeds and seedlings Mr BW had already sown as we locusted Coven Sud to get stuff up here a week ago), burying our first deceased at Coven Nord Familiar (an old brown hen, who had been sad and droopy for ages, who we didn't expect to see when we returned from SA, let alone to even make it up here), and lots of small but important other jobs.

Found a nice swiss chard, chickpea and mushroom curry recipe online earlier: I had a found at the back of a Coven Sud cupboard, last week, half packet of 'well out of date but still tasting fine' cashew nuts (well, OK, they were actually sell by October 2016), that got fried up with the mushrooms and added in too. I doubled all the spices, and the garlic, and used turmeric instead of garam masala (which I don't have up here), and it was yummy.

Before we left Coven Sud, I went round all the greenery beds and polytunnel and chopped all the carefully-nurtured, for eating about now, chard, kale, cabbage and brocolli/purple sprouting down almost to the ground and put the removed leaves into 6 huge poly bags. All are still fine in the fridges, and should last several more weeks yet. I couldn't bear to think of them all going to seed during our enforced absence, after all the work that had gone into getting them to this stage.


Monday, March 30, 2020

I knew before

The Black Feline Familiar decided that she missed sitting in the road outside The Coven, so spent an hour on guard in the gateway. In that time she saw precisely no passing traffic.

Don't you just love my very old glass insulators? Not a very good picture of them, there, though. I'll see if I can get a better one for those who like such things.

While I was attending to the paperwork that has built up, Mr BW decided it was the day to strip the backing of the vinyl wallpaper off the walls in the biggest bedroom. I had been putting off getting round to this, because I knew how this game ends. I chose not to enlighten Mr BW, though, as I thought he deserved a surprise.

Back in 1985, I did up a farm cottage in Somerset, and, on several occasions stripped wallpaper.

And then the top layer of plaster skim, where the steam of the wallpaper stripper makes it pop away from the sub layer.

And then the lower plaster layer starts falling off. And before you know it, the whole wall is on the floor.

And you think, "Shit, why did I start this job?" Especially when the local tips are closed and plasterers aren't working.

At least this time there was the reward of discovering the name of the original plasterer - Robbie - and the date - 1974 - which fits with what we already knew of when the property was purchased as a wreck, from the local Estate (we suspect that it was sold to pay death duties) and renovated by the previous but one owner.

There are other things written, but I think a wax crayon and a large sheet of paper will be required to read them. I have the paper but probably not the wax crayon.

Luckily we don't have any buzzy familiars up here yet, as this (which is very partial to b33 larvae) spent half an hour banging its head against fat balls. Which no other bird seems to like.

However, as buzzy familiar keepers, we are now the fortunate owners of a movement permit. Whether or not it will work to allow us to travel 300 miles south to tend to them we don't yet know, but it does say we have the right.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday snowday

On Wednesday and Thursday it was 18°C and I was wishing my shorts weren't 300 miles away.

Today it snowed. Thank goodness I planned ahead and ordered half a tonne of coal and 1200 litres of heating oil as we moved in. It's still bloody cold though, and I can't wait until we can make this place more environmentally friendly, and better insulated.

I now know the name of the CEO of every company I have ever ordered from.
Some of them are more literate and empathetic than others.

A couple of weeks ago Mummy Mr BW told us that she was having trouble getting shopping as the Co-Op down the road, where she has been a faithful regular shopper since 1957, was being locusted by people who had never shopped there before in their lives. It has taken her (over 80) until today to get a supermarket delivery slot: and then she's shopping for 3 other friends too (all over 80, but unable to procure their own slots). Why?

Now, I find myself in the same positon. Aldi Wines has been locusted by every wine-drinking person in the UK, such that absolutely nothing is now in stock. Half an hour ago, they still had the £16+ range, and champagne, in stock, but now, nothing at all.

I've been buying from Aldi wines since they started (tipped off about the Quality and Value by Mr Old Friend BW who worked in the industry)... but, do I get preference? No. I totally understand how Mummy Mr BW feels about her local Co-Op now (and yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I type this).

Here's a picture of another of the 360° views from Coven Nord - this time, from the 'drive' - Brian used to fill a quarter of our drive in the south, now he just looks an insignificant spec (and this is from half-way down the tarmac area, which will soon be under attack by Mr BW's new kango-hammer).

It's a half mile return trip to where our bins are, out on the main (minor) road (single track with a few passing places if you don't mind taking your chance on boggy verges). Bin Day is Monday, and Mr BW had just taken the rubbish down when I remembered we'd forgotten the vinyl wallpaper we stripped/peeled off the biggest bedroom walls, a couple of days after we moved in, on a whim, in the 7 minutes before The Archers started. Cue another trip down to the bins.

But, seriously, who'd put vinyl wallpaper on the walls of a 300+ year old house? And they wondered why there was a damp problem...

And no, that's not Hadrian's Wall, just a bit of drystone.

Today has been a bit of admin: registering online for the Electoral Roll, Council Tax, and TV Licensing, plus a bit more cleaning, reorg and unpacking.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Sheep, cats and cupboards

Yesterday Mr BW was moaning that Roger the Farmer had put a big white bucket just the other side of our hedge, right in the way of his panoramic photos.

Today he had changed his mind.

"Do you think," he wondered, "that he put the bucket there so we could watch the lambs?"

Meanwhile, having seemingly got over her initial fear of the sound of ewe baa noises and lamb bleatings, the Black Feline Familiar has ventured out of the garage through her new cat-flap, and is making out that she owns the place. In between attempting to be a house cat, and creeping in every time the connecting door is accidentally left open, which is quite often.

I'd rather she started sorting out the extensive bunny population, and indeed bunny was her favourite food down south (she left just the skin connecting the legs and sometimes the tail), but she seems to suddenly prefer cat food.

Today we've been doing some higher order sorting: rearranging the kitchen cupboards, putting stuff back into Brian, putting away laundry etc etc. It's got much colder again, but there is always different weather on each of the four horizons, so if we don't like one sort, there are three others to choose from, if we just do a quarter turn.


Friday, March 27, 2020

14 days on

Tonight we are thanking our lucky stars that we found a way to break the deadlock in our house-buying process, and get moving, after 18 weeks of dithering by the legal teams working for the vendors: we've been here for two weeks now.

Today the housing market has been officially closed down by the government for an indefinite period (no-one is allowed to move house) so our push to ‘just get it done’ proved the only way.

Coven Nord is over 300 years old (we have a map of 1711 where it is shown, but don’t yet know how much earlier it actually is), and so has a few quirks to get used to, not least the arrow slits in the walls to fight off invaders, which might prove useful in the coming weeks, as I am amazed at the amount of useful supplies we managed to get up here in one small hatchback car + Brian load, and two Luton van loads. Mr BW's skill at packing stuff into vans is unsurpassed.

We undoubtedly have more food, materials and equipment for renovations than anyone else for miles around (no 'panic buying', my stocks are always very high, due to living in the south-west, 23 miles from a supermarket, in my 20s), and definitely enough to enable us to remain totally isolated and busy for a couple of months if necessary. I've just found another 5 x litre UHT skimmed milk tetra-pak containers in one of the boxes that we brought up from Coven Sud on Tuesday too, so non-milk tea day has moved forward another couple of weeks. Addiitionally, we have pelleted hen food for 12 weeks, and 16kg of rice (Costco only had 10kg bags last week, so that is what we had to have) which could become hen food if necessary after that, so a ready supply of fresh eggs.

We are literally in the middle of nowhere. Totally quiet. And 17 miles from a supermarket.

Looking down the valley this morning (you can see for about 50 miles we're told):

Looking back towards the house:

Although the last two weeks have been nothing like the start to the leisurely 'year to two years' of ‘gradual move and renovation’ process we were planning, at least we are getting things done, and not having to hack up and down the A1 on a weekly basis, travelling between existing commitments in the south and renovations in the north.

The only things keeping us awake now are the bleating new lambs in the adjoining field and the need to look up at the clear night skies looking down the valley towards Yorkshire.

This all seems very distant and surreal:

Hope everyone is staying well, and keeping usefully occupied?


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Nutty day

Today has been another gloriously sunny and warm true spring day, and we have had 7 visits from separate delivery companies.

We now have 3 sets of caster cups, 6 water butts, 2 compost bins, 12 bottles of wine, a laundry basket, 2 sets of printer ink, a spindle of 50 DVD+Rs, and some other things I can't currently recall, more than we did at 10am. We're trying to keep online businesses going!

The internet has been our saviour for the last 13 days, and every single delivery has been on (or ahead of) time, polite, and friendly. And clearly they have 'local jobs for local people' around here. More than we ever got down south. And, the postie gets here, the middle of absolutely nowhere, 2 to 3 hours before our southern one. How?

The van was reclaimed by the Bolton office - what a long way for 2 people to come, but, apparently it is standard practice to share/reclaim vehicles between offices.

One delivery man rang and politely asked if we'd mind if he delayed our delivery until tomorrow as he was delayed by hospital deliveries. "Of course it's OK, no problem, why would there be?" said Mr BW, and the man sounded relieved. "You'd be amazed how many people have said I need to get there today!" he said. "Let's hope they're not those who'll need those hospitals soon!" replied Mr BW.

The Black Familiar was petrified of leaving the safety of the garage yesterday, and spent most of today 20 foot up a conifer, pretending she couldn't get down. Meanwhile, there are large and small bunnies that she needs to catch and eat, before they decimate our crops.

And tonight, we found that we have a nuthatch, to add to the long list of other birds that visit. My heart is happy.

We have a real bed tonight, for the first time in nearly two weeks. Rejoice.

How are you?

Bed situation

We had intended the Coven Nord/Sud project to last for around 2 years, with us being down south for Mr BW's Council and speaking/experience day commitments, and to care for the bees (who need looking at every 9 or 10 days all through the summer months), and up here to carry out renovation/development projects in between. We knew we had 3 years to stage and sell Coven Sud, in order to get our 'second home' stamp duty back. We had it all planned.

We have Brian up here, and intended to camp out in him when we couldn't sleep indoors for project reasons (there's a lot to do!). And, we had enough equipment in him to be able to survive for a few days up here on the first trip. He is incredibly well (if lightly) equipped, because micro-caravans have to be as they can't carry much weight. And, he does have a solar panel and a freezer box!

And then everything changed.

Everything Mr BW had in the diary was cancelled at a stroke, so we thought, hell, we might as well be happy but safe and busy in the north as unhappy and unsafe in the south. We hadn't intended to take our comfy beds from Coven Sud northwards until the removal men take the huge things out and up after we've sold.

But, quick rethink, and it became obvious that we wouldn't be able to get new beds delivered up here, as we'd intended (and these would have eventually been guest beds) in the current climate, so we took those we had.

Our comfy beds are still in the van outside. We hadn't got the strength to unload them yesterday.

We had to sleep on the floor again last night. Well, in my case, evening and night, as I was asleep by 5.45pm. Brian's memory foam mattress bits, which slot together to make a bed, are comfy, but rolling off/out of them isn't.

Mr BW's knees are at breaking point, and although I have offered him some of my special therapy support tape, he doesn't like the idea of having to shave his legs to use it. The whole of my body is screaming, "No, no more!" and I can't straighten my hands or fingers this morning.

We've only got until 2pm to get the remaining half van load off...


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Ladybird Book of COVID-19

In these sorts of situations, if you don't laugh you cry.

Can't credit whoever dreamt this up as the car forum where MrBW found it did not give the source.

Up and down

And we're back at Coven Nord again.

What was intended to be a down on Monday afternoon, fill the Luton van on Tuesday and finish off on Wednesday morning, back up late Wednesday, unload Thursday, before the van was collected from us at 2pm Thursday, leisurely jaunt turned into a mad, mad, 'let's not get detained down south, there'll probably be a 24 hour window before they're restricting movement' after the compulsory lock-down announced at 8.30pm on Monday night, just before we reached Coven Sud.

9pm Monday: arrived Coven Sud.

5.30am Tuesday: woke up, got up, started the mammoth task of cramming whatever we might need for an unspecified enforced northern sojourn/restoration project into crates, boxes and trays.

During day: in addition to packing, Mr BW watered greenhouses, polytunnels, planted out whatever seedlings would survive, and I gathered whatever gardening tools, trugs, wheelbarrow, seed trays, grow-bag trays, fleece, plant pots, seeds, seedlings and spare plants I could find - whatever would give us most food most quickly.

5pm: loaded 9 hens into hastily-improvised crates with plastic mesh lids (the plastic mesh was once fish pond covering), and put them on the top of the crates, wedged against the van's roll-up door. At the last minute, we decided to put their heavy metal mesh mini-run over the top, as it will be useful until we know whether all the Mr Bushies have been 'accidentally' killed by the local non-hunting hunt. Cleaner BW was looking after livestock while we were not at Coven Sud, and passes our house twice every day on here way to and from work, but, as she works in the NHS now, we decided it was completly unfair to expect her to be a hen-keeper as well as cope with all the pressures at the hospital now.

6.20pm: left Coven Sud. The only things missed out were half a tray of broad bean plants and a galvanised bucket of fully-grown carrots. They just could not be safely squeezed in.

11.45pm: it would have been the quickest trip up ever (5 hours), but for the detour around the arse end of the Metro Centre due to the A1N being closed. A surprising number of night-time closures for roadworks, and an abnormally high number of vehicles (including many camper vans - no idea where they are going, given all caravan sites are closed) all the way to Darlington, then it thinnned out a bit. With the limit on lorry drivers' hours temporarily lifted, there were a lot of very tired drivers around (as evidenced by trucks wandering all over the road, and trucks stopped on the hard shoulder with their cab curtains drawn, where clearly the driver couldn't go any further, even to the next rest area). All I will say, on the subject of driving while tired, is that it's amazing how many more miles per gallon a loaded Luton does travelling at 60 than 70mph, and it's surprising how much quicker it is to swap drivers and have a wee at the side of the road than in a service area.

Anyone who knows us will know that we are pretty good at being able to work together and get everything done, without explicit discussion, but this was truly the most amazing operation we have ever undertaken. We even, somehow, managed to load our beds, as, although Brian's memory foam bed is very comfy, getting up off the floor is not.

There are hens to unload, so must away...

(after unloading, we're having a rest/sleep/energy crash for a few days, so I should be able to get some pictures up: Mr BW tells me that we are up to 117 ewes with lambs now, and I have never seen so many different bird varieties in one place).


Monday, March 23, 2020


This morning I had a Witchy premonition. Sadly it has proved to be correct.

We are now at Coven Sud again, with the same large van we had last week. The plan was to fill it up with essentials to last us until the crisis is over, and return to Coven Nord on Wednesday afternoon. The original plan was to come down by car on Saturday, stay a week, then go up again.

Just before we got home we heard on the radio that we probably can't do that. We managed to fill up with diesel without queueing, but as we pulled away from the filling station, the queues were starting to form.

So, we'll just have to load up quickly tomorrow and get going again. At least we have solicitor paperwork to show our new address. Otherwise, having a rental van for several months, that we are unable to use, could be very expensive. We were told that the van would be collected from us at Coven Nord on Thursday afternoon, as the company (a large national one) were shutting many of their offices (including the one we used) tonight or tomorrow.

How do you choose what to take for an indefinite stay?



Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday roundup

The current virus situation all seems very surreal, up here in the middle of nowhere. The latest new regulations are here, in case anyone is interested. We have provisions and alcohol aplenty, but stocks are no higher than I usually have them, particularly now that we are 14 miles from the nearest shop.

We were meant to be returning down south next weekend, to attend to some business matters, and collect some further stuff to bring north, but who knows what will be officially allowed by then. We have plenty of decorating to be getting on with anyway, and Mr BW struggled to load 9 x 100 litre bales of compost (on a 3 for 2 deal) into the hired van while we were at Costco on Friday, so we have plenty for sowing seeds and filling pots.

It's been a gloriously sunny weekend, with the sound of small sheeplets talking to their fleecy mummies filling the air. Aside of this, it is so quiet that it hurts your ears. There are a few daffodils just beginning to burst, whereas down south, the daffs have been out for a month now.

It took 16 buckets of Flash + bleach, and 6 different microfibre mop heads, and two and a half hours during Johnnie Walker, to clean the kitchen/dining room floor. I thought that the tiles had a rather rough surface, but it turns out it was just dirt and dog hair. Mr BW cleaned most of the kitchen cabinets, and they were equally nasty. But not as bad as the fridge, which was the first thing cleaned, 9 days ago, when we got here. How is it 9 days already? I really cannot believe that professional people could leave a house so filthy. Or that, until recently, they paid someone £22.50 an hour to clean here. I thought the tiles were brown/grey. It turns out that they are actually blue/grey.

It's going to be cold tonight. There should be stars, for the first night since we arrived. Mr BW has set up my telescope. My observatory is currently the conservatory. I rather fancy one of those domed ones with slidey roofs in the garden. One day, if we can ever sell Coven Sud, and free up some money.

The black feline familar is being very cute. I've never heard her purr before, in all her 7 or 8 years (we can't quite remember) so she must be happy, despite still being confined to barracks. Mr BW has put a cat-flap into the back door of the garage, so tomorrow might be the day she discovers sheep. And space.

Hope everyone is staying safe, and finding interesting things to occupy any unexpected free time.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Thoughts from an isolated, but not in isolation, house

Kenny Rogers dead and cononavirus madness. And people thought it couldn't get worse than Brexit.

I'm not seeing any element of 'normal death rates from flu/winter ailments + vulnerable people' in all the stats being bandied around. Baselines, we need baselines, for any of this mortality rate stuff to make sense.

There are now 4 confirmed cases in Numberland. Mr BW has helpfully pointed out that if people are eventually banned from travelling except 'home', we'll still be OK, whether we are travelling northwards or southwards when we are stopped and questioned. There has to be an upside to the slump in housing prices that will inevitably follow and will leave us out-of-pocket in both places.

Waitrose in Hexham was completely empty of all fresh fruit and veg (except for 10 packs of organic garlic and 3 chinese leaf cabbages), flour, frozen veg (except Birds Eye petit pois and Essential sweetcorn), soup, canned veg, water, all skimmed milk, all long-life milk and any paper products (including paper serviettes) at 4pm yesterday, when we popped in after we had we returned the van. The last time I saw this kind of emptiness was in 1991 in Romania, shortly after the end of the Romanian Revolution and the death of Ceaușescu.

And for those of you who doubt that Rothbury is an evil place, I give you further proof.

Why hasn't any mention of coronavirus been dropped into The Archers? The scriptwriters are usually very good at topical inserts, but they seem to have thought that their current explosive storyline shouldn't be diluted. Production has now been halted. I'm not sure how many weeks ahead they work, but they'll run out of episodes before the country runs out of cases I think.

Posted at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

Friday, March 20, 2020

How I spent the first day of spring

Hard frost overnight and a glorious sunny morning, and breeze-less day, where temperatures didn't rise above 8°C all day.

Mr BW was concerned that several of the tiny new-born lambs seemed not to be with their similarly numbered mummies. "Did you," I asked, "never go to tea at a friend's house when you were young?" And I choose not to think any more about this analogy ;)

It took two and a half hours to unload the van. We started at 8am and were finished by 10.30am. Most things are now in their place, and it's beginning to come together.

We then took the van off to Costco (we are now nearer than previously to a Costco) to buy some more provisions (only one per for each item) and to get a large roll-y tool chest for Mr BW. £70 cheaper to buy instore than to get it delivered from online. He has a small such chest at Coven Sud, but it was either spend some Witchy Pennies or have a dining room coated in tools for the next 2 years. We also got 9 x 100 litre bales of compost (on a buy 3 get 1 free deal). Yes, this garden has it all to do, depsite one of the previous owners having once been director of a botanic garden, and despite us having been told they were leaving all the plants, they clearly haven't.

We got home to find had delivered out new fridge freezer. Apparently they have had a 600% increase in sales this week, compared to a normal March week.

I've eaten so many ibuprofen to numb my aches, pains and ripped shoulder muscle that I feel spaced out. Especially when combined with a couple of bottles of cider.

Has anyone ever moved a pussycat a long distance?

The black familiar, always an outdoor cat, who has probably never been kept in before, and may never have used a litter tray (I can't remember), appears not to have had a wee or poo since before we caught her, sometime yesterday morning. She has been eating and drinking, but I am a bit worried. She is also miaouwing pitifully to be let out of the garage. I've already told her that rabbits are fair game, but hares (of which I have already seen several) are not. I'm scared to let her out too soon lest she disappear and never return. We did scrabble her paws in the litter tray, when she first arrived, and several times since, but to no avail.


Thursday, March 19, 2020


We are safely up at Coven Nord again.

Another quick journey, although there were many more cars and perhaps double the number of lorries on the road as on Tuesday. Still not many branded supermarket lorries, mind.

We left at 12.30pm, and arrived around 6.15pm to a beautiful sunset. I am heartened that we have not lost our fabulous sunsets.

{insert picture sometime soon}

We left the A1 rather earlier than normal, and had a wonderful trip up the A68 from the top of County Durham to the end of our lane. The A68 is truly my favourite road in the whole country, and possibly the whole world (there are some mountainous stretches with amazingly coloured rock in South Africa that I love too). Where is your favourite road?

The black familiar moaned pitifully almost all the way up, but is now loving her new garage as it is warmer than her last one as the oil boiler is in there. Oh, and I bought her a pet bed - first time ever - usually feline familiars get bits of old duvet or old towels, and sat it on top of the boiler. I must be going soft in my old age.

We have enough provisions and DIY supplies for about 4 months, and I have just ordered another two dozen bottles of wine to go with the 18 that were waiting in the shed for our arrival. I also have 20 lemons and 10 jars of honey, together with probably 20 packs of assorted painkillers (I raided my stocks at Coven Sud, which were rather more extensive than expected), just in case. We know the important things in life.

So, once we have unloaded and returned the van tomorrow, we can safely isolate ourselves in our isolated rural house until we have finished the decorating and drawn up some plans for some extensions from all the photos we have taken of houses that have some features of what we are looking to do. Provided that our new fridge freezer gets delivered tomorrow as planned. Otherwise, it's a free-standing plug-in cool box, and plugging Brian into the mains and turning his cool box's thermostat down so that his cool box turns into a freezer.

Does anyone actually know anyone who has, or has had, corona virus?

The best infographic on differential identification that I have seen comes from Boots, adapted from WHO:

Another 'test' that I heard quoted from an Australian source is: breathe in for 10 seconds, hold your breath for a count of 4, then breathe out slowly for 10 seconds, and if you don't cough during the process, you don't have it.

Two tunes that keep going round in my mind are "Nineteen" by Paul Hardcastle, and "Germ Free Adolescents" by X-Ray Spex. I'm sure there are other appropriate tunes?


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Always up for a challenge, the BWs are about to move the first major load, and one black feline familiar, North, in the middle of an epidemic

The BWs have also spent rather a lot of Witchy Pennies in various DIY stores in the last two days. Have you seen the price of paint recently?!

DIY stores, like supermarkets, are very very busy. As Cleaner BW (who used to work in a supermarket and now works in the NHS) said this afternoon, most of those "self-isolating" are taking the piss. Or, seemingly, redecorating their homes with their employer paying for their labour to so do.

How is it that the entirety of a 7.5 Tonne Luton Van (loading capacity approximately 25-27 cubic metres) is full, and Coven Sud doesn't look any different (give or take the Office which is now minus its fleece which makes it seem huge again)?

Hope everyone is avoiding bugs?

Next report with be from Coven Nord, hopefully tomorrow, if the internet is still on (long story, but, basically BT has now proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that it is utterly incompetent... but, 1 GB broadband, paid for by the taxpayer, is coming soon, to our boundary, we discovered a couple of days ago).


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

I know why supermarket shelves are empty

We left Coven Nord at 8.05am and had the best run south we have ever had in maybe 60 journeys: largely because there was absolutely no traffic on the A1.

300 miles in just over 5 hours (including stopping briefly to change drivers every hour - note that there is absolutely no sign of extra hygiene measures, or advisory signage, in motorway services) had we not stopped to collect nearly £500 of DIY supplies in Wickes on the way home (oh shopping, I love you, why have I not worshipped at your holy grail for so many years now?). If we're going to be stuck somewhere on lockdown, we might as well have enough paint, filler, skirting board, low energy light bulbs, new plumbing bits etc etc to keep ourselves out of mischief.

I had a great sense of déjà vu as I last drove a hired Luton van with a tail lift in 1985 when, having finished my year of studies in Cambridge, I moved myself down to the West Country, to begin my career in the educaiton world. On that occasion only one petrol pump was slightly damaged when I came in rather close as I filled up with fuel just prior to returning the vehicle. The girl in the petrol station turned a blind eye, and there was no damage to the van. But I still remember the sound. Power steering has greatly improved the drive, and even though much larger than Bri@n, it was much easier to drive than car + micro-caravan. And lorry drivers are ever-so-helpful at alerting you to when you can pull back in, having overtaken them. There is a real sense of camaraderie: large vehicle driver v car driver. I'm not after any of their jobs though.

But... the complete lack of the normal quantity of lorries on the road astounded me. The only food lorries in 300 miles were: Fresh Lincs x4, Co-Op x2, and Morrisons x1. The A1 is usually full of many examples of Aldi, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, and Tesco's lorries, but there was not a single one. I also only saw 2 Eddie's, whereas normally there are many tens of examples..

One can only wonder why.
So, are the empty shelves a result of retail manipulation?

"Don't panic buy!" say Official Sources in one breath, but, "Soon you won't be able to go out for 12 weeks if you are over 70!" in the next. And it's all very well Them saying, "Shop for vulnerable neighbours!" but if you're only allowed to buy one or two of most items, how are you meant to do that?

Posted at 10:22 PM | Comments (4)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday night summary

We've now been here 3 days. It seems much longer.

We left Coven South with Brian in tow, full of (we thought) 'light but essentials' at 7.05am on Friday 13th, and arrived here, having had to detour via the estate agents 20 miles away to collect the keys, at 2.45pm. There was very little traffic on the road for a weekday. Our solicitor moved our money to their solicitor at 9.25am, but it took them until 1.18pm, just as we were passing Angel of the North at Gateshead, for their solicitor to confirm receipt, and for us to get a phone call. It seems they were just as slow checking their client bank account balance as they were at producing and collating paperwork. Thank goodness there wasn't a chain - if it had been a long chain, only two or three people would have moved in on Friday.

AOTN has always been our, "Ah, we're on holiday, now we can relax," marker on our journey up the A1, so the timing of the, 'It's all yours!" phone call was hugely significant, and slightly spooky. 18 weeks to the day since we first saw the place: 15 of them unnecessary and stressful.

Apart from the car's engine management light coming on 12 miles from here (we ignored it, it went away by the next morning) all was good. When we came to survey how much Mr BW had actually managed to cram into Brian and the car, it was no real surprise that the car had done 44mpg rather than its usual 64+mpg, and that it had thrown a hissy fit. It didn't feel heavy, but thank goodness we had new brake pads and discs put on the car when it was serviced last October.

I have no real desire to ever go back to Coven South. This feeling has surprised me a lot. We had planned to live between the two Covens for a year of so, clearing South (and removing and relocating hundreds of plants and shrubs) before painting and staging it to sell, but corona virus and my (probably our) desire to leave that stressful and increasingly unfulfilling life behind asap has overtaken our plans.

In the 3 days that we have been here, we have done more cleaning than I've done in the last 29 years (since I first found out the wonder of house cleaners), more shopping than we've done in the last 10 years (at least), and met some wonderfully kind and helpful people.

Carpets have been vacuumed and washed, floors have been de-grimed and steam-mopped, the garage has been cleaned to within a inch of its life (took me all afternoon and half a gallon of bleach and a bottle of caustic soda to unblock the butler sink), Mr BW has changed 5 sets of external door locks, and I've cleaned a lot of cupbaords and bathrooms.

I couldn't leave a house as dirty as this was as I'd worry what the new people would think of me. I shall write more on this at some point soon. They'd left the light bulbs (although some were dead, and not one was low energy), but no loo rolls. So, Textile Friend down south won half her bet. There was half a turd left floating in one of the toilets too. How hard is it to check that a toilet has flushed properly before you walk away?

On Saturday, our first visitors, at 9.30am were two men with a washing machine. "We don't need one of those yet!" said Mr BW when I ordered it last Wednesday as soon as we had finally exchanged contracts at 4.30pm." "Oh yes we do!" I replied, and, oh yes we have. Luckily the dishwasher, fridge and cooker are all integrated, so, other than all being filthy (like the rest of the house), saved us a lot of money, at least initially.

One of the delivery men informed us we didn't have to sign for the washing machine, "Due to corona virus, you're not allowed to touch the gadget's touch screen," and the other took one look at our car and said, "That got 4-wheel drive?" "No, not yet..." I replied. "Best get it soon then!" he advised. The lanes are narrow, twisty, muddy and flooded, but not, at present, and thankfully, icy. We've discussed getting a 4WD once we've sold Coven South: I fancy an old Landie, but Mr BW has his eye on a Duster. Nothing pretentious for us.

The dishwasher filter looked like it hadn't been cleaned out for 3 years at least. I do ours twice a week at home, but then I do have a nose like a bloodhound, and an Essential Food Hygiene Certificate. And let's not mention the fridge - so much accumulated food debris and black mould that I only managed to spray it with bleach solution before feeling so nauseous that I had to get Mr BW to wipe it out. You wouldn't believe that the previous owners were academic biologists. There were enough bacteria in the fridge, dishwasher, bath and shower traps, and around the toilet bowls to kill the entire population of Numberland.

Our nearest neighbour (over a quarter of a mile away), Brenda, hiked round with a rucksack with generous gifts of a bottle of red wine, some just-made flapjack, and some coffee (we hadn't any at the time and she only drinks coffee). "Oh, I'll just put the wine with the rest, then..." she said on seeing the 12 bottles already on the kitchen counter. Wine was about all there was left in Hexham Waitrose on Friday afternoon, as the locusts had descended, but there was 25% off, which makes it the same price as more normal supermarkets. In the absence of ibuprofen to buy in the shops, red wine will have to do to anaesthetise my aching and exhausted muscles and ripped shoulder muscle (a year of sports massage every 3 weeks had just about cured that, then I unwisely stretched up to unhook filthy curtains from their curtain pole, and owww, owwwwwww, owwwwww).

I bought a few bits in a local southern supermarket, on Thursday last week, before we left, and saw people pushing, shoving, grabbing and taking items from other people's trolleys. I went to the nearest Aldi (14 miles away from here) for 10am when they opened on Sunday, and everyone was good natured and making the best of things. "Must be some jolly good Sunday Specials today!" quipped one man, and everyone laughed.

I had quite a trolley full, as there were some good buys on garden and household equipment that we needed eventually. I was aware of people looking at me, and confided in the lady behind me, "I'm not one of those panic buyers you know, we've just move 300 miles north and have nothing in the house, which has been left filthy, and we've only come up with a car and a small caravan's worth of stuff, as a first trip... I'm really aware that people are staring..." "Ah, let them look, don't worry pet!" she reassured, doing a great impression of Vera.

I asked the Postie, Malcolm, whether he'd be able to take any outgoing letters when he delivered (earlier than our Southern Postie) and he said, "Why wouldn't I love?" as if the idea that Posties don't take outgoings as well as leave incomings was bizarre. It took me right back to living in the equally rural south west in the 1980s. It's a good job as I think that our nearest post box is 4 miles away, at the nearest post office.

Farmer Friend who we've stayed with for a week every autumn for the past 15 years has found us a cleaner (actually, sharing someone who already works for him in various roles), but sadly she can't start until Thursday week. I cannot tell you what a relief that is.

We've hired a Luton van with a tail lift and are off the 300 miles back down south early tomorrow. The plan is to fill the van, then come back up on Thursday afternoon, and some lovely Friends From The North, met through blogging when they lived in That London, have kindly agreed to come over to help us unload on Friday morning. Mostly plastic boxes, some very large bags of sheep fleece and my material, a couple of side tables, some folding tables, a garden bench, lots of garden cushions, some gardening stuff (mostly plastic pots), and 4 armchairs (Mr BW's Mum has just had a refit and we've got the old ones, which is great for now). They are already in pieces, so not heavy. It's mostly bulk, not weight. Most of it is going into the garage and the office (next to the garage) and the van can reverse right up to the garage door.

Now, must get some sleep; I'm feeling rather hyper-active, and no doubt the crash from over-exertion is only just around the corner. It's all good fun though.

One question - we have some lovely birds (despite the previous owners taking all the - old, plastic, nasty - bird feeders - how could anyone leave their birds hungy?) , including a wren (so I won't need to catch and transport our one from Coven South) and a nesting pair of things unknown and previously unseen - between a sparrow and a thrush in size, russet head, white ring aorund neck, several shades of brown and black feathers, very pretty and very defined markings. Spreads tail like a buzzard when landing with nest twigs in mouth. Must bring a bird book back up when we return...

Posted at 10:20 PM | Comments (6)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Proper Country Life

"The farmer has just delivered a sheep and two lambs!" exclaimed Mr BW, shortly after we arrived at 2.45pm yesterday (having left, with Brian in tow, at 7.05am, and having had to go via Hexham to pick up the keys from the estate agent, and to attempt to find provisions - clearly the Waitrose shoppers of Numberland have the same strategies as general shoppers down South: if it stores, buy it!).

"No, I think the ewe has just delivered two lambs!" I said, but to myself.
The farmer, and his son, on an enclosed quad bike, with trailer, had deposited a new mum and her offspring by the field gate.

I think that Mr BW might finally have become a full-time vegetarian, rather than just an 'at home' vegetarian.

I keep catching him outside, admiring the view, and the lamblets, with child-like wonder. I'd never thought that he's actually never lived in a livestock farming community before. They farm all around Coven South, but only wheat, oil seed rape, field beans, borage or echium, liberally and regularly dosed with lots of chemicals.

I'd lived in such communites, on and off, for much of my pre-Mr BW life. This feels totally like I have come home. Mr BW keeps saying, "I'm still not sure this is really ours... it feels like we are on holiday!"

Me, I feel completely and utterly at home. And, finally, after many years of increasing unease, and living in a state of hyper-vigilance ("What will happen next/while we are out/while we are away?) at peace. Now, I just want to magic everything up here, Coven South sold, and the hassles and nightmares of latterly moved-in developers and horrible new neighbours of South behind us.



Friday, March 13, 2020

And Northwards...


Wednesday, March 11, 2020


I noticed last week that our local Sainsbury's had hung out some flags from the ceiling by the tills. At that point they clearly knew something that I didn't.

After 17 weeks and 2 days of complete and utter hassle, frustration, cajoling, desperation, blood, sweat, tears, sleepness nights, swearing, and spells, we finally exchanged on the Numberland future home at 16:47 today.

It's been a horrible time recently - while we were on holiday in South Africa (with intermittent electricity, due to ongoing poor infrastructure planning by the ANC, and often poor internet connectivity) the Bastard Greedy Developer, who is buying up everything that comes on the market in our small hamlet, cut down the 3 acres of woodland 200 yards up the road from us (without permission or permits, and having been told several times by the District Council that he wasn't allowed to), and put up 6' metal fencing around the tiny, now empty bungalow next door to us (as our aged neighbour's 'family' - nieces and nephews - put him into care against his will and then sold his house to Bastard Greedy Developer who outbid everyone else, some of whom wanted to live in the house as it was), and removed the neighbour on the other side's tall hedge (their hedge), presumably to intimidate us all - because all his planning applications have all been refused and then turned down on Appeal to the Secretary of State. We live outside the village development zone, miles from facilities, so in an 'unsustainable' location, in an area where development has been officially planned against.

Yesterday I was standing in the road outside our house and Bastard Greedy Developer, who drives up and down the road, very slowly, numerous times a day (why?), came towards me in his £100K's worth of vulgar penis-extension car, accelerated (I'd say to nearly 60mph) and drove his car straight at me, swerving at the very last minute. I had my camera in my hand as I was taking photos of damage to the verges by over-sized lorries, for official purposes, but, unfortunately, I only got a slightly out-of-focus picture of the back of his car as it all happened so fast. I honestly thought I was dead, and I am still shaking at the thought, a day on.

Last night the vendor told us (by text) that he wasn't moving out. Well, it wasn't quite that politely put, but.

We concluded that he is a psychopath with an alcohol problem. Even our - very efficient and very measured - solicitor said, "I'm told he blows hot and cold..." which could only have come from the vendors' solicitor as it wasn't from us.

What we've learnt from this episode - never try to buy a house from a pair of Professors (particularly the male variety who is short, fat, and laughs nervously and overly-loudly at each of his many exaggerated/boastful utterances, and the female variety who has a serious clothes and shoe obsession - 43 pairs of designer footwear, in boxes, taking up the whole of a bedroom, and 4 wardrobes full of designer labels, mostly unworn and with purchase labels still attached): they just do not live in the real world, and have no grasp of the need to have proper documentation/regulatory certificates for alterations they have done to a dwelling, or for the siting of necessary facilities on land that they don't even own (hence the hold up as we are effectively cash buyers, and will sell later, or rent out, our current southern house, depending on how things go on).

We are moving in as scheduled (well, as scheduled for the 3rd time, the previous 18th December and 27th February dates having passed without discernible progress on the vendors' parts - we were ready to go after 3 weeks) on Friday 13th (that seems appropriate after all the hassle). *If* we can get organised in time. It's too late to hire a large van (none left to hire for the weekend) so we will take minimal and light stuff up in Brian and probably sleep in Brian if the house is dirty (as we fully expect), then leave the car up there, hire a van up there, come back Tuesday, load up again, then back up next Friday with more stuff.

No way can we now get a carpet cleaning company or even a cleaner to clean through, at a day's notice, so we will be busy... I have, however, managed to get a washing machine delivery for Saturday (thank you, and for the £30 off voucher that came through the letterbox with the post last week: that made up for the £30 price hike since I first looked at the machine online at the begining of the week ). And the weirdest thing - when I came to move on the date for the new house insurance while we were away, as it became apparent that the 27th February date wouldn't happen, I just spun the 'new date' wheel - and when I came to take the policy out tonight, I found that it had landed on 11th. Like Sainsbury's and their flags, someone clearly knew something that I didn't.

And yes, this time we really have hedged our bets. It is in a very rural, dark-sky area of 'High Landscape Value' where development won't be permitted. Just a few miles away from where we have stayed every autumn for the past 15 years, so we already know the area and have friends up there.

It's not the red blob, but rather the smaller blob to the NW. Our nearest neighbour is quarter of a mile away (and she's a lovely, interesting, retired lady who we have already befriended, and who has been 'spying' for us on whether the required items have been dealt with by the vendors).

It's on high ground, way above any burns or brooks, so no potential for flooding, 360° open rural views over stunning open countryside, with a south facing garden. It's 400m down a private tarmacked track off a minor road, with no overflying aircraft (or potential for future re-routing of same, as happened to us here, 4 years ago). And it has lots of potential. Lots. Enough to keep Mr BW out of mischief for several years.

But, we are back to a 1MB broadband connection - as of this week there is now 1GB available here. And the nearest supermarket is 13 miles away.

So, here begins the next chapter... and apologies for the cryptic comments in previous past posts and comments... I just didn't want to jinx things, after the debacle of our first attempted move north, 3 years ago.

Oh - and - it's got arrow slits, and appears on a 1710 map.

Posted at 10:14 PM | Comments (11)

Some BW-checked facts

I've just discovered that this year's "in'' colour (according to one source who pick a different colour to attempt to make trendy each year) is a variant of BW Blue:

I have no idea if this is feeding into the shops or not as I don't go to that sort of shop. But, it looks like I might be unintentionally trendy. Damn.

Looking at the list of 'Preoccupations of The Coven' that has been in the sidebar since early 2003, it seems the rest of the world are slowly coming to share my concerns. Except maybe the 'spelling' one, where things in the orthographic arena continue to deteriorate.

The rest of the world is having to come round to my way of thinking on hand washing too.

I wouldn't have wished the circumstances, let alone spelled them, but, I have long been horrified at the number of people who don't wash their hands after using the toilet, or touching their pets and then food, or not washing their hands before eating, or before putting food shopping away on returning home. People who get up in the morning and put the kettle on without washing their hands first also disgust me. Since 2012 when we first went to South Africa, I've always carried an anti-viral handspray in my pocket, and use it frequently when out, as there are fewer and fewer places to wash your hands. I've never willing kissed people socially either, as I've sat through far too many Environmental Health 'understanding bacterial spread' training films as I have to keep my Food Safety certificate updated.

I've been collecting links to websites of good factual quality as I am tired of the level of fakebook drivel that people are forwarding to me, 'Knowing you won't see this, thought I'd better pass the information on to you". I've given up replying other than with, "Do you really think this could be true? Here are some proper factual sources for you." All of my correspondents are older than me, most in their 70s, but it does worry me how easily they are duped. I'm actually quite disappointed that the hours I have spent discussing and questioning issues in their Crafty and Patchy company over the years has not led to an increase in their ability to critically appraise information. Perhaps it is the level of media-driven hysteria that is affecting their critical faculties.

I do think that the government were very slow off the mark in terms of providing information and biosecurity in UK airports. We came into Heathrow Terminal 5 on 21st February and there was absolutely no sign of either. Good Friends BW flew back into Heathrow Terminal 3 from Vietnam on 27th February and there was still nothing (they report having been temperature checked and health screened at every port and many public places in Cambodia and Vietnam from the time they arrived at the begining of February). Cleaner BW flew into Stansted from Tenerife on 9th March and there was still no screening and no information.

Number of cases of COVID-19:

As of 9am on 9 March 2020, 24,960 people have been tested in the UK, of which 24,641 were confirmed negative and 319 were confirmed as positive. Three patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 10 March 2020, 26,261 people have been tested in the UK, of which 25,888 were confirmed negative and 373 were confirmed as positive. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 11 March 2020, 27,476 people have been tested in the UK, of which 27,020 were confirmed negative and 456 were confirmed as positive. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 12 March 2020, 29,764 people have been tested in the UK, of which 29,174 were confirmed negative and 590 were confirmed as positive. Eight patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 14 March 2020, 37,746 people have been tested in the UK, of which 36,606 were confirmed negative and 1,140 were confirmed as positive. 21 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 17 March 2020, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative and 1,950 were confirmed as positive. The latest confirmed number of deaths will be announced later today.

As of 9am on 18 March 2020, 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, of which 53,595 were confirmed negative and 2,626 were confirmed positive. 103 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 19 March 2020, 64,621 people have been tested in the UK, of which 61,352 were confirmed negative and 3,269 were confirmed positive. As of 1pm 144 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 20 March 2020, 66,976 people have been tested in the UK, of which 62,993 were confirmed negative and 3,983 were confirmed positive. As of 1pm, 177 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 22 March 2020, 78,340 people have been tested in the UK, of which 72,657 were confirmed negative and 5,683 were confirmed positive. 281 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 24 March 2020, a total of 90,436 people have been tested, of which 82,359 were confirmed negative and 8,077 were confirmed positive. 422 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 25 March 2020, a total of 97,019 people have been tested, of which 87,490 were confirmed negative and 9,529 were confirmed positive. 463 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 5pm on 25 March 2020, 578 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 26 March 2020, a total of 104,866 people have been tested, of which 93,208 were confirmed negative and 11,658 were confirmed positive.

As of 9am on 27 March 2020, a total of 113,777 people have been tested, of which 99,234 were confirmed negative and 14,543 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 26 March 2020, 759 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

The figures for test results and for deaths are compiled from different sources. This is why the figures for deaths are reported from an earlier point in time than the figures for test results.

As of 9am on 28 March 2020, a total of 120,776 people have been tested, of which 103,687 were confirmed negative and 17,089 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 27 March 2020, 1,019 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 29 March 2020, a total of 127,737 people have been tested, of which 108,215 were confirmed negative and 19,522 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 28 March 2020, 1,228 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 30 March 2020, a total of 134,946 people have been tested, of which 112,805 were confirmed negative and 22,141 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 29 March 2020, 1,408 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 31 March 2020, a total of 143,186 people have been tested, of which 25,150 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 30 March 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK, 1,789 have died.

As of 9am on 1 April 2020, 152,979 people have been tested, of which 29,474 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 31 March 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 2,352 have died.

As of 9am on 2 April 2020, 163,194 people have been tested, of which 33,718 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 1 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 2,921 have died.

As of 9am on 4 April 2020, 183,190 people have been tested, of which 41,903 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 3 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 4,313 have died.

As of 9am on 5 April 2020, 195,524 people have been tested, of which 47,806 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 4 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 4,934 have died.

As of 9am on 7 April, 266,694 tests have concluded across the UK, with 14,006 tests carried out on 6 April. Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

213,181 people have been tested, of whom 55,242 tested positive. Today’s figure for people tested does not include Manchester and Leeds due to a data processing delay. The tests concluded figure excludes data from Northern Ireland.

As of 5pm on 6 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 6,159 have died.
As of 9am on 8 April, 282,074 tests have concluded across the UK, with 14,682 tests carried out on 7 April. Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

232,708 people have been tested, of whom 60,773 tested positive. Today’s figure for test data does not include Charing Cross and Southampton due to a data processing delay. The tests concluded figure excludes data from Northern Ireland.

As of 5pm on 7 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 7,097 have died.
As of 9am on 9 April, 298,169 tests have concluded across the UK, with 16,095 tests carried out on 8 April. Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

243,421 people have been tested, of whom 65,077 tested positive. The tests concluded figure excludes data from Northern Ireland.

As of 5pm on 8 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 7,978 have died.
As of 9am on 10 April, 316,836 tests have concluded across the UK, with 19,116 tests carried out on 9 April. Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

256,605 people have been tested, of whom 73,758 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 9 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 8,958 have died.
As of 9am on 11 April, 334,974 tests have concluded, with 18,091 tests carried out on 10 April.

269,598 people have been tested, of whom 78,991 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 10 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 9,875 have died.
As of 9am on 12 April, 350,575 tests have concluded, with 18,000 tests carried out on 11 April.

282,374 people have been tested, of whom 84,279 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 11 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 10,621 have died.
As of 9am on 13 April, 367,667 tests have concluded, with 14,506 tests carried out on 12 April.

290,720 people have been tested, of whom 88,621 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 12 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 11,329 have died.
As of 9am on 14 April, 382,650 tests have concluded, with 14,982 tests carried out on 13 April.

302,599 people have been tested, of whom 93,873 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 13 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 12,107 have died.
As of 9am on 15 April, 398,916 tests have concluded, with 15,994 tests carried out on 14 April.

313,769 people have been tested, of whom 98,476 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 14 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 12,868 have died.
As of 9am on 17 April, 438,991 tests have concluded, with 21,328 tests carried out on 16 April.

341,551 people have been tested, of whom 108,692 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 16 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 14,576 have died.
As of 9am 18 April, 460,437 tests have concluded, with 21,389 tests on 17 April.

357,023 people have been tested of which 114,217 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 17 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 15,464 have sadly died.
As of 9am 19 April, 482,063 tests have concluded, with 21,626 tests on 18 April.

372,967 people have been tested of which 120,067 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 18 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 16,060 have sadly died.
As of 9am 20 April, 501,379 tests have concluded, with 19,316 tests carried out on 19 April.

386,044 people have been tested, of whom 124,743 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 19 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 16,509 have died.
As of 9am 21 April, 535,342 tests have concluded, with 18,206 tests carried out on 20 April.

397,670 people have been tested, of whom 129,044 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 20 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 17,337 have died.
As of 9am on 23 April, 583,496 tests have concluded, with 23,560 tests carried out on 22 April.

425,821 people have been tested, of whom 138,078 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 22 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 18,738 have died.
As of 9am on 25 April, 640,792 tests have concluded, with 28,760 tests carried out on 24 April.

517,836 people have been tested, of whom 148,377 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 24 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 20,319 have died.
As of 9am on 26 April, 669,850 tests have concluded, with 29,058 tests carried out on 25 April.

543,413 people have been tested, of whom 152,840 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 25 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 20,732 have died.
As of 9am on 27 April, there have been 719,910 tests, with 37,024 tests on 26 April.

569,768 people have been tested, of whom 157,149 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 26 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 21,092 have died.
As of 9am on 28 April, there have been 763,387 tests, with 43,563 tests on 27 April.

599,339 people have been tested, of whom 161,145 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 27 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 21,678 have died.
No update on 29th. Update on 30th not posted until after 13:30:

As of 9am on 29 April, there have been 818,539 tests, with 52,429 tests on 28 April.

632,794 people have been tested, of whom 165,221 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 28 April, of those who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 26,097 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 22,286.
As of 9am on 1 May, there have been 1,023,824 tests, with 122,347 tests on 30 April.

762,279 people have been tested, of whom 177,454 have tested positive.

As of 5pm on 30 April, of those who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 27,510 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 23,229.
As of 9am on 2 May, there have been 1,129,907 tests, with 105,937 tests on 1 May.

825,946 people have been tested of which 182,260 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 1 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 28,131 have sadly died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 23,701.
As of 9am on 4 May, there have been 1,291,591 tests, with 85,186 tests on 3 May.

945,299 people have been tested, of whom 190,584 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 3 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 28,734 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 24,332.
As of 9am 6 May, there have been 1,448,010 tests. There were 69,463 tests on 5 May.

1,072,144 people have been tested and 201,101 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 5 May, of those who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 30,076 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 25,148.
As of 9am on 7 May, there have been 1,534,533 tests. There were 86,583 tests on 6 May.

1,139,626 people have been tested and 206,715 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 6 May, of those who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 30,615 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 25,646.
As of 9 am 8 May, there have been 1,631,561 tests. There were 97,029 tests on 7 May.

1,207,069 people have been tested and 211,364 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 7 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 31,241 have sadly died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 26,069.
As of 9am 9 May, there have been 1,728,443 tests, with 96,878 tests on 8 May.

1,270,408 people have been tested, of which 215,260 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 8 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 31,587 have sadly died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 26,339.
As of 9am on 11 May, there have been 1,921,770 tests, with 100,490 tests on 10 May.

1,400,107 people have been tested, of which 223,060 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 10 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 32,065 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 26,797.
As of 9am on 12 May, there have been 2,007,146 tests, with 85,293 tests on 11 May.

1,460,517 people have been tested, of which 226,463 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 11 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 32,692 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 27,171.
As of 9am on 13 May, there have been 2,094,209 tests, with 87,063 tests on 12 May.

1,522,258 people have been tested, of which 229,705 tested positive.

As of 5pm on 12 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 33,186 have died. This new figure includes deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals. The equivalent figure under the old measure would have been 27,496.
[to be continued]

BBC graphic of cases in Europe according to WHO as at 10.03.20:

UK Government guidance and case numbers.

UK Government regional figures for England.

OurWorldInData info from research.

WHO info.

BBC updates.

And if you really want to scare yourself, here is 37 minutes of docujournalism from Beijing:
Quarantine communist stylee.

And on other matters, erm, closer to home, no, no progress, so the exxxxtreme stress level of the past 5 weeks continues. Now into Week 18. You really couldn't make this stuff up.