Monday, May 16, 2022

Buzzing

After a cold and windy week last week, The Buzzy Familiars decided that Unexpecedly Warm and Sunny Saturday was the ideal day to leave home without permission. Ungrateful insects.

Luckily Mr BW was outside at the same time, and noticed, so we were able to successfully recover one lot from a nearby hawthorn tree and another from the surrounding hexagonal hedge struture we are growing around their hives.

Totally our fault, of course, as we had failed to find a day that we were here when it was warm enough (above 13°C), with no wind (or it will chill - so kill - the brood), to look at them. Usually they need looking at every week to 10 days from early in April, but there had not been a single suitable day when we were here.

I have only ever seen b33s in such a state a couple of times before: and certainly never ours!

They have built up much faster than we could possibly ever have imagined - probably as fast as in an average year down south, which is amazing given the cool weather we have had this spring. It appears that b33keeping in the NE isn't going to be as difficult as we thought! Given the unexpectedly large harvest we might now predict, we may need to look for some new outlets as we lose our regular 'passing trade' as soon as we sell Coven Sud.

The disorder is all remedied now: we split some colonies, and gave others new frames to give them more space, but it took 4 hours. I'm just glad we are now in our 26th year because it took every bit of knowledge we have gained along the way to work out what was going on and come up with ways to stay one step ahead of them.

There are probably around half a million b33s in the orchard currently.

We have a river flowing up to our house now. Strange that, given that we live on top of a ridge, but the 75cm deep trench for the new underground electric supply cable left open across the sloping tarmac drive since Friday has filled with water with the rain overnight and earlier today.

The electricity goes off at 9am tomorrow, until sometime on Wednesday morning. After what happened when we had no electricity for 11 days last November/December, every scrap of washing and washing up is done, every last appliance is charged (plus all the battery packs we have), and we have the generators ready to be switched on to keep the fridges, freezers and the hens' protective electric netting running, and lots of petrol. Luckily it is now light from 5am to 9.40pm, so there is no need for lighting or heating, and the Aga can run on manual, so we are OK for cooking too.

Fingers and toes crossed that all goes to plan and everyone turns up when they should...


One question - after all the rain, we seem to have a billion, if not a trillion, slugs. Nematodes have been ordered to attempt to control them. I am not a violent person, and I have been vegetarian for more than 50 years, but I make an exception for slugs. I pick an appropriate piece of stone that might be a prehistoric or Roman tool or axe head and chop slugs into several pieces. If I leave those pieces of decapitated slime out, will the eggs inside any that have eggs hatch into more slugs?

Posted at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)
 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Friday 13th comes late

Well, the digger blokes were brilliant and could not have been more helpful.

We now know exactly where all our services run underground (they managed to avoid them all), and they even put in the ducting we'd bought for fibre optic cable installation (at some point in the long-off future, it's all community projects here, dig-it-yourself from your boundary, so we are 17 metres ahead of the game now for if and when it ever happens; in the meantime we trundle on not really being able to access the modern world with copper broadband that runs at 1 point something MB on a good day).

Tuesday is when the next fun happens (unless a delivery driver falls in the open 75cm deep trench in the meantime): electricity off, overhead cable taken out, underground cable connected in and new fuse and new pole transformer. Then no electricity until Wednesday when the supply company put on the new meter (supposedly first call at 8am but we'll see) and the builder's electricians connect it all up indoors. Those generators from Storm Arwen days will be getting another outing.

Contrary to expectations, the power distribution company have not directly caused any issues so far.

But indirectly... probably as a result of everyone's feedback about their poor communicaitons during and after the various storms last winter, they keep phoning us and sending emails and text messages 'reminding' us of the planned power cut on Tuesday.

I don't usually get text messages at 8am on a Saturday, and we were watching Beechgrove while drinking tea in bed (a much better gardening programme than Gardeners' World these days, and great to finally see it on BBC2 this year), so when the phone buzzed and I read yet another message from them, I sighed, and put the phone back on the bedside table.

Except that rather than going onto the surface, I accidentally dipped the phone in the cup of tea. We turned it off and took the battery out quickly and it is currently in an airtight contianer of rice in the sun.

I have been meaning to write a blog post about those pesky one-time-passwords that almost every retailer, service provider and bank insists on sending to your phone before they let you use their services these days. "What happens if you lose your phone or it stops working?" was going to be one of my major points.

I'm about to find out....

Except that, fortuitously, I do have a new spare phone. As I don't have a smartphone (as my fingers don't work screens), it was a sensible use of £20 back in 2020 when we moved up here. Although the same brand of dumbphone, and the same 'basic' model, annoyingly it's much larger than the last one, but at least it seems to work and is now charging. Now, how to turn off all those pesky sounds and irritating features I hate...

Anyone know the percentage chance of the old phone drying out and still working? It was only the top inch that had a quick unwelcome drink (but unfortunately that inch has the charging hole and the headphone hole). The tea was quite cool and we did get it turned it off, patted dry on a tissue, and the battery out quite quickly.

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (4)
 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Friday 13th

Digger blokes here bulldozing across the tarmac drive to make the new route for the electric cable we are being made to put underground as we need to move the entry point of the supply into the house ready for the last building phase.

So far they have managed to avoid the phone/broadband line but there is still the water pipe for them to find and then to dig under the drystone wall (400 years old, no foundations) to get the new cable to the existing pole.

It's Friday 13th.

Just discovered the powergrid project engineer is going to the the Scottish Islands on holiday next week (he was meant to be here supervising the overhead to underground switchover and the replacement of the original 1974 transformer on the pole on Tuesday) and our builder is also away on holiday next week.

Never a dull moment here...

Posted at 10:39 AM | Comments (4)
 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Tree problems

Down south we have been alarmed that our 90 year old oak tree and our 20 year old silver birch tree have really tiny leaves this year. The oak's leaves are perhaps a third of their normal size, but there is good coverage, and they seem to be the usual pale green for this time of year.

They are not near each other, and the only thing we can think of that might be causing this is 'drought'. The whole garden is absolutely parched, without us there constantly watering. Having to struggle so much to keep plants alive is something we will not miss.

Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon, or have any other theories about what is happening here?

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A question of taste

As light sleepers, with far too many complicated projects currently proceeding in parallel to worry about in the wee small hours, and ageing such that night visits become more frequent of necessity (which wakes us up even when we - occasionally - have all the project plates spinning nicely), we often need to resort to hot chocolate to send us back to sleep.

We've always bought Green & Black's Organic Hot Chocolate since it started in the early 1990s, and make it up with skimmed organic milk. In recent months I think the manufacturers (G&B was bought out by Cadbury's in 2005, and then by Kraft in 2010) must have changed the recipe as it is now overwhelmingly sweet. Far, far too sweet for me, even made up with a fraction of the recommended dose of powder in a mug. Mr BW, a sweet-toothed chocoholic, still loves it, but I'm sure his teeth and blood sugar spikes don't.

Mr BW noticed that the texture of the dry product in the tub has changed from small granules to a fine powder. I noticed that the design on the cardboard tub has changed 3 or 4 times in recent years; not hugely, and it is still basically rich brown and gold, but the positioning and size of the lettering and the overall layout is subtly different.

In times when manufacturers are being officially asked to reduce the sugar (and salt) content of maufactured products, this does not make any kind of sense.

The ingredients, as given on the Sainsbury's online shopping website (which seems to be pulled directly from the G&B website, where they are cleverly hidden behind a '+' a long way down the page), are extremely unclear, but, adding up the given percentages, and accepting that ingredients lists legally have to be written in descending weights of constituent parts, a significant proportion of the product would now seem to be sugar in various forms:

Ingredients

Icing Sugar # (Sugar #, Tapioca Starch #), Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder # (31 %) (Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder #, Acidity Regulator (Potassium Carbonates)), Chocolate # (11%) (Cocoa Mass #, Cane Sugar #, Cocoa Powder #, Vanilla Extract #, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins #)), # = Certified Organic, Organic Chocolate: Minimum Cocoa Solids 60 %, Fairtrade Sugar, Cocoa and Vanilla may be mixed with non-certified Sugar, Cocoa and Vanilla on a mass balance basis, total 96 %

but elsewhere the ingredients are given as:

Ingredients: Organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa powder(28.6%), organic dark chocolate (16.3%) (organic cocoa mass, organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, emulsifier: soya lecithin, organic vanilla.

I don't have an old tub of G&B's hot chocolate to hand, so can't compare the ingredients lists, but my taste buds tell me the sugar content has gone up significantly.

I dislike the taste of hot milk (or cold milk, come to that, probably as a result of being forced to drink quarter pints of the tepid stuff at school breaktimes as a small child), so, looking round for alternatives, re-found Ovaltine, which I used to love as a child, and ordered some with this week's grocery delivery.

And guess what? That has changed its taste too!

Although less sweet than the G&B hot chocolate, it no longer has the distinctive malty taste that it used to, and is now totally nondescript. I'm pretty sure it is not my palate that has changed, as these tastes are 'once tasted never forgotten' type substances.

Either I am going to have to take up brewing-up home-grown herbal leaf concoctions, in true Witch stylee, or mixing up spice blends to add to hot milk with honey for my nocturnal slumber-inducing beverages.

Why does nothing good ever stay the same?

Posted at 10:46 AM | Comments (8)
 

Monday, May 9, 2022

To print or not to print

We have two identical HP all-in-one (print/scan/copy) OfficeJet printers, one Nord and one currently Sud. This is for historical reasons - we bought one as a spare when there was an incredibly good offer on somewhere about 5 years ago and HP were doing £50 cashback, which made the second one about a tenner. The second one (still in its box) was brought north hastily when we bought Coven Nord just before the first lockdown, and has been indispensable.

My netbook will print wirelessly on the Sud one, but for the past few weeks has been giving an 'error printing' message whenever I try to print on the Nord one. There isn't a printer cable port on the netbook, so I can't connect directly to print that way. Nothing that I can think of changed between when I could print and when I couldn't. Mr BW can still print from his laptop and I can still print from the desktop.

Switching both printer and netbook off and on again (in various permutations), reloading the printer driver and threatening the printer with a trip through the window have all failed to solve the problem.

If anyone has any ideas on how to restore printing functionality, I would be very happy to hear them.


As with all HP printers, the ink cartridges for these ones have gone up in price enormously after about year 2 (a set of 4 XL cartridges that were around £60 five years ago are now £150, and rarely on offer anywhere), presumably to force owners to buy new printers. This is the third time that this has happened, and consequently, although I love the quality of print and (initial) good value printing, I shall not be buying HP printers again.

I'm wondering whether an Epson Ecotank model (again, an all-in-one print/scan/copy, must be wifi) might be my next purchase? In some places, the base model printer, with inks, is cheaper than a new set of HP cartridges! Does anyone have any experience of those? I need to get away from the high cost - financial and environmental - of inkjet cartridges.

Posted at 10:05 AM | Comments (18)

6.15am: First pair of swallows, Nord.

 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

7am: First cuckoo, Sud.

 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Air quality

On our last trip south the M11 was closed between junctions 10 and 11 (just south of Cambridge) so we had to find an alternative route. Knowing the area well after so many years, we took a cross-country route, and were horrified to see how many new 'identikit' housing developments have been thrown up in in the last 2 years in what was previously open countryside in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.

I say 'thrown up' advisedly, as I often get chatting to our workmen about new developments they work on (over near the NE coast) and am regaled by tales of the very low standards attained or expected, despite all the supposed exacting building regulations these days.

Perhaps because of these southern developments, or perhaps because Coven Sud was on the Tour de France route in 2014, so becoming general knowledge as a rat-run, together with a general increase in journeys by car as there is absolutley no public transport to support all this development (sustainability, in planning terms having been repeatedly ignored), there has been a huge increase in vehicle traffic past Coven Sud.

What was, 27 years ago when we moved there, a country lane with a few vehicles passing every day, now has a regular stream of vehicles at all times of day, and enough traffic at night to repeatedly wake me when I am down there (I am a very light sleeper). Depending on the wind direction, there is also sometimes traffic noise from Small Local Town by-pass built 20 years ago, and the noise of overflying planes from where airport flight paths were re-routed in 2016 on an historic technicality not requiring a formal consultation process.

After two years of living in near-silence in clean air, the atmosphere down there just seems 'heavy'. Breathing is noticeably harder.

I stumbled across a website the other day that will calculate the air pollution at every address.

Coven Sud has 53% air pollution.

Where I lived from 0 to 5 (then a rural area of Berkshire) now has 92%.

Where I lived from age 5 to age 16 (then a very rural area of Buckinghamshire) now has 79%.

Where I lived for 2 years as a student in central London in the early 1980s now has 99%.

Where I spent a post-grad year in Cambridge in the mid 1980s now has 57%.

Where I lived in the south west in the late 1980s now has 21%.

Coven Nord has 1%.

What is the air pollution where you live?

That website has some great incredibly accurate location photos of each property you enter, so if you want to easily find what somewhere you once lived now looks like, that's your site!

 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Electric matters

Mr BW has just informed me that we probably won't have electricity today or tonight as it is a 2-day job for 2 electricians to re-route all the cables into a new consumer unit in a new location and then put in a temporary cable back to the old meter/main fuse position. Nice to have been given warning...

At least we have 2 generators, which is the only good thing to have come out of Storm Arwen. Although whether we have enough fresh petrol for them is another matter.

We've always been very frugal with electricity, never leaving things on standby, always switching unnecessary lights off, and always buying the lowest energy appliances available. Therefore, none of the 'energy saving hints' being trotted out by the media are going to help us in the current energy pricing 'crisis'.

One thing that we have found (quite by accident) recently that I've not seen mentioned anywhere is that if you are using an electrically pumped gas, oil, or LPG boiler to heat hot water which is then stored in a tank, you may be using more energy than you need.

If you have a hot water tank with an immersion heater, using it, on a timer, to directly heat water might work out cheaper than using your boiler, if your boiler has electric pumps. Electric pumps use a lot of energy as they do a lot of work, and the electricity they use, plus the oil/gas/LPG, might work out considerably more expensive than just using an immersion heater.

We live in a 30m long house, as I've said before, and our oil boiler is downstairs at one end and our hot water tank is upstairs in the middle. There was no way to modify this arrangement when we renewed them last year, and no greener heating/water heating source that could provide the output we need, so we rely on electric system pumps to move water about, and our set-up is probably as extreme as it gets in a domestic situation.

Nevertheless, when we turned off the oil boiler a few weeks back as we refused to pay what the oil companies are demanding per litre (over 4 times the usual price at this time of year), and started using the immersion heater to directly heat water, I was amazed that the daily electric consumption rate did not noticeably increase. Probably a saving over using oil of at least £20 a week, at current prices.

We do have a brand new hot water tank that has no perceptible heat loss, so the perfect system for directly heating water with an immersion heater, but it might just be worth considering if you want/need to save money and use a boiler and have stored hot water.

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Peewit

We have 3 lapwings swooping and calling (shrill and wailing, like part of a dial-up modem's sound) across the fields, with their fat rounded black wings and white flashes.

It took us a while to work out what they were, but now, once seen, never forgotten. Impossible to photograph though.

Do you know what a group of lapwings is called?

Same script, different cast

We came north again on Sunday, leaving at 7.30am and there was much less on the roads, for once. Maybe because it was the middle of a bank holiday weekend, or maybe because of the price of fuel. Brent crude oil is back up again, to $110 a barrel (but nowhere near its $139 high), and heating oil was 93.5ppl this weekend, so heating and hot water continue to be off. Diesel on the A1 is still roughly the same price as it was 3 weeks ago Most expensive 196.9ppl, 'cheapest', 167.5ppl. Why is diesel 14 to 18 pence per litre more than petrol?

We got a lot done last week: Mr BW's Mum's house, where she lived for 64 years, is now (almost) empty, spic and span, and ready for the estate agent to market from tomorrow, with a bookings-only Open Day 10 days after. Note to anyone reading who has chidren: please move from the house your children grew up in before dying; it will be much less emotionally draining for them eventually.

We now have another van load ready to come up (largely in the workshop), so will be going down for a quick van loading weekend within the next 3 weeks, as soon as building work here allows. We then have to go down again at the end of the month for Mr BW's Aunt's funeral, and for Mi1dred to be collected for her journey north (we finally found somewhere who could do it for a reasonable price).

Hopefully we'll get Coven Sud on the market by the end of June. Hopefully. Unless something else crops up in the meantime...

Coven Nord is now all masked/sheeted up ready for two big bits of ceiling to come down today so that the internal wiring can be re-routed in preparation for the officially-required moving underground of the electricity supply from the pole outside our boundary to the house.

This is happening in stages over the next 3 weeks, and involves the builder, the power grid company, the sub-contractor trenching company, the electricity supply company and the electricians, all of whom have to be here in the right combinations at exactly the right times. What could possibly go wrong? ;)

 

Saturday, April 30, 2022


Info.
Hypocrisy - or just 'Follow My Leader'?

 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

For better or for worse

Today we get to be 28 on 28th and celebrate by...

Going to yet another funeral (at the same place, so difficult), clearing out and packing yet more boxes in two houses, watching goods on pallets that shouldn't have been delivered until next Tuesday being delivered 300 miles away, trying to catch Feline Sud to move her North on Sunday (but she's disappeared), attempting to redesign the layout of the new Coven Nord entranceway before it's too late and steels are ordered (because we've just worked out how to do what the not-an-architect couldn't), extract refunds from companies who can't now provide services for which we have already paid, and generally being overwhelmingly sad.

That's me being sad; Mr BW is being his usual lovely positive supportive self, and sitting with me to help me do all my jobs (that I am too unfocused to accomplish) as well as his own, despite everything he's been through in the last few months. That, of course, is why I married him, 28 years ago today.

It's just a shame that 28 on the 28th, which is our last 'x on x' date, can't be spent in a happier way, but at least we can spend it together.

 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Delivery company Hermes have turned into Evri.

It is unfortunate that they employed a company who did not do their research before renaming them.

There is a biological boost product for septic tanks called Envii.

The title of this post is far too obvious, so I'm leaving it nameless.

 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

2 weeks on

After 2 hectic weeks up NORTH (that's how the road signs on the A1 are written, I've noticed), in which time Mr BW has been insanely busy busy and has almost completely fitted out the new garage/workshop (give or take some non-arriving ordered box shelving) and moved everything out of the new bedroom, but the builders have still failed to finish up and clear up properly (no problem, that delays the next staged payment being due by at least 2 weeks, so interest money saved) , and the electricians have still failed to finish the electrics ("Oh the lights have still not come in!" says Junior Electrician Who Loves His Phone Much Than His Work, Allocated To Us, erm, yes, we say, that will be because they haven't been ordered by your Boss, despite him having had Mr BW's exacting spec for 3 months and having been re-sent it three weeks ago; not a good idea for said Boss to tell Mr BW that he can't have the lights that he wants as they don't exist - oh yes they do - and that we have under-spec'd them anyway - which we haven't, Mr BW's understanding, education, and experience in the fundamentals of physics is undoutedly better than yours - particularly when he thinks it's a running cost thing, claiming electricity "is only 17p a unit". FFS, we're paying 29p and 50p per day as a daily standing charge, because that is what the price cap is at, and we have now been with 4 failed electricy suppliers between Coven Nord and Coven Sud.).

So, finishing-wise, all is still in limbo, so we are SOUTH (that's how the road signs on the A1 are written, I've noticed), having given all the plants and seedlings copious drinks, and crossing our fingers and toes that they wil be OK for the next week. If they're not, our food supply for the next year fails, but we do have Another Funeral To Go To on Thursday, which also happens to be our wedding anniversary.

We are almost out of essentials down SOUTH (that's how the road signs on the A1 are written, I've noticed), and it seems that we also have very limited supplies of pants, socks and t-shirts remaining down here. Who has relocated them all I don't know, it wasn't me. I think I managed to bring down enough food and drink (milk, alcohol, orange juice) supplies for the next 7 days, but, we'll see.

I made a list of all the questions that occured to me while we were on the A1 today. But, this post is long enough already, so I'll save that for next time.

Spring has really sprung in the past 14 days, all is green, and new, and pretty.

Ah, time to breathe.... at least until we go NORTH (yes, I know, you know by now) again in a week's time, to cope with the officially required move of the overground electricity line to underground, which necessitates the taking down of portions of two ceilings in the house to get the cables to the new location of the fuse box/consumer unit (in the airing cupboard, next to the hot water tank, who would have thought that was even allowed).

 

Friday, April 15, 2022

The race is on...

Will Mr BW get his stuff and doohdahs out of the new bedroom and the new Studio in time for New Cleaner BW's second visit on Tuesday?

I've just thought of a way to make sure he tidies it all properly before he puts it on the new shelving he's been putting up... hide his Easter chocolate amongst it all!

I might need to number each tiny egg though, and make a record sheet, or it will attract mice if he doesn't find it. Could take more time than I have. I know, I'll pretend I've hidden the tiny individual eggs amongst it all. Good plan BW, good plan.

Meanwhile, I shall be spending the long weekend tidying the greenhouse and transferring tools and equipment to the top shed, once the garage/workshop things have relocated from the top shed to the garage, so that seeds, cuttings and plug plants can take their rightful places.

I also need to cut the grass (once it has dried out), and go on another thistle hunt in the new orchard. 4 large black plastic sacks worth already dug out with my trusty daisy grubber, which is truly one of the best tools we own. Hopefully if I do it thoroughly this year, while I can, I won't be needing to do it again when I can't.

Oh, and, once the cement mixer comes out of the bottom shed (the b33shed) and is relocated to the workshop, we will be able to get to the supers (h0ney boxes) to get them out to put on the b33hives, because there seems to be more OSR flowering within wing-flap than we were expecting from the usual rotation.

Ah, I almost forgot, the big chest freezer also needs moving into the workshop, so that will need emptying and reorganising. Might as well defrost it at the same time. And I might as well rearrange the freezer part of the fridge freezer too, while I am about it. Plus, the wine rack needs to be moved from under the stairs (soon to be demolished) to the garage.

Erm... we are supposed to be going down south on Thursday to empty the last of everything that isn't big furniture from Coven Sud, and the rest of what we want from Mr BW's Mum's house, before The Pictures are taken...

Hope your plans for the weekend are less exhausting?


I also have two questions:

1. Why do large rocks (used as border edgings) sink into the ground at a rate of 4-6" per year when drystone walls (which are just stacked-up rocks after all) don't sink?

2. Despite the opening sides of our UPVC windows being installed in the correct direction to account for the prevailing wind, they keep being blown forcibly open when the wind gusts around or changes direction suddenly. This will not do them any good over time. Never having needed kiddie safety locks for windows, I have no idea what is around, or what works well. Any ideas?

Posted at 10:05 AM | Comments (6)
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Nearly there...

Tonight we finally have a secure house, with all the doors and windows now in the new garage/workshop. Finally, a secure house again. Two years on.

While we investigated all the garage door manufacturers recommended when I asked a few months ago (thank you to those of you who made suggestions), we eventually went with the German manufacturer and local company who had installed the decade-old sectional door that we inherited and took out during Phase 1 (the 4 sections, separated, have been doing a sterling job clearing down areas of grass in the field for planting with wild flowers and the motor is awaiting another future project). Never have 2 young lads spent a whole day doing less work than those two. The one held together with tattoos hid in the van and lardy Apple fan boy, with the 'PlayStation' sweatshirt, who'd only been doing the job for 5 months was left running around and trying to answer our awkward questions. The finished door does look good and operates smoothly though.

Back in October, when the garage/workshop base was laid and the two Chief Builders first broke the news that there was a hold-up at the quarry with the supply of the natural stone for the walls, I jokingly said, "So we're talking Easter not Christmas for completion, then?" and, despite not-our-Chief-Builder's protestations that it would be January or February, I am sad to be proved correct.

Tomorrow we have: electricians doing the sockets and lights, builders finishing off and filling in the gaps, tarmac-ers filling in other gaps around the drainage channels, door men refitting the malfunctioning Studio to garage lock and the fire door closer, the mobile library (we get house calls, don't ask how), a grocery delivery, and my mobile hairdresser, although we do not currently have a space that is large enough for her to work in.

The only rooms that are tidy are the bathrooms (but not the cloakroom in the 'blob' on the front that is the final/next bit to be demolished, as that is no longer in use as it is full of potatoes chitting, and lots of buckets of h0ney). Everywhere else has an assortment of boxes and items that move around, Rubik's cube stylee, several times a week. I cannot wait until the weekend when the concrete garage floor can be sealed and all Mr BW's workshop paraphernalia and doodahs can finally be moved out there and we can do some more shuffling.

And then the madness all starts again in a couple of months. But first, in 4 weeks time, the overhead electricity line has to be put underground (not our choice), a new meter installed, and the consumer unit moved to a temporary position, so that The Blob can be demolished.

Oh, and, we are now officially in Temporary Poverty, as, barring some 0% credit cards (quite a few actually, luckily), The Spreadsheet informs us that we are in negative equity. That is, that we currently have no money left anywhere. With the news today that inflation is currently running at 7% (and reportedly set to be 9% in a month's time), the highest since 1992, it is worth us continuing to juggle money to get things done for much less cost than we would pay in the future. It also concertinas the grief, while at the same time increasing it.

Living in the moment has definitely become the only way to get through.

 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Next phase

We now finally have a garage that is completed, apart from the replacement tarmac around the drainage channels, a few tweaks to the windows and the door to the Studio, some remedial pointing to the original stonework and sorting out of the field surface at the back, the big automatic front door, that is hopefully being fitted next Wednesday, and the electrics that are being put in next Thursday.

The new cleaner's first visit went OK: she worked hard and accomplished a goodly amount, but sadly (and probably unsurprisingly) she will never be Cleaner Sud, as she lacks any sense of humour and is rather needy and demanding in terms of praise and reassurance. She also complained (the next day, and after she admitted she had been shopping and parked in a big town car park) that the builders had damaged the side of her car while she was here, but luckily our CCTV earned its keep once again. Mr BW used his best 'yes but no' skills to diffuse that situation. We'll see, but I'm not holding my breath. And, if not, at least the cleanliness factor has increased in the short-term, and without huge effort from me.

Mr BW's (only) Aunt died this morning. That makes one mother, two aunts and three family friends (the ones we of a certain generation called 'auntie' when we were children) dead since December, none of them of or with covid, but all of them to shortcomings and 'failure to diagnose and treat in a timely manner' by the NHS. Very sad, and I'm wondering who is going to be left to send me a 60th birthday card at the end of the year. I think I'll buy a few to send to myself, just to feel loved.

We've spent the chilly, grey, drizzly week filling pots and trays with compost, sowing seeds, sieving dug-out-for-foundations soil for the new raised beds, painting the inside of the garage/workshop, putting boarding into the garage rafters, sorting out the finances at the end of the financial year (which involved higher order financial skills and sleepless nights of the sort not used since 2006 when I used an offset mortgage and 0% no fee balance transfers to pay off our mortgage 20 years early), ordering the next round of essential items for the ongoing renovations/extensions, and working out the logistics for moving our electricity supply, water supply and phone line to enable the front entrance 'blob' to be demolished in a couple of months time, ready for the last phase of the renovations, oh, and completing the three billion forms now required to apply for probate.

Tomorrow we are off down south for another quick 3-day Luton van trip to move another pre-packed load up. This is the trip delayed from a couple of weeks ago when we found ourselves utterly exhausted after the funeral trip, saw sense, and called a temporary halt. It is, as yet, unclear what the fuel situation is down there - a couple of days ago there was no fuel at any local fuel station, due to the supplying refineries on the coast being closed by Extinction Rebellion 'protestors'. We have several cans of diesel that we are taking down, just in case, but will not have enough to get us home. We seem to have developed advanced skills in overcoming adversity, so hopefully they will see us through...

And today it is 7 years since Mr BW left working for an employer, having done nearly 34 years. I say retired, he says taking the gap year that he never had. The principles of compound interest seem to be applying to that gap year, but had he not done it, we'd not be here now.

 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Where we are up to

11 days of near-summer temperatures (23°C on the in-shade thermometer, 34°C on the in-sun wall thermometer on Sunday), followed by waking up to 3" of unexpected snow this morning (now melted, although snow flurries and/or hail continue, intermittently).

Tiny sheeplets in the field behind us, born into a summer world at the weekend, could not work out what happened overnight.

Given that heating oil is still over £1 a litre, thanks to Putin and his desire to destabilise the West, we have turned off all heating and are managing with thermals and jumpers, and the multi-fuel stove down one end of the longhouse.

It's still jolly cold.

We now have a new garage/workshop structure that is stoned, joisted, and slated, but minus doors, windows, electrics, and drainage channels. All that will be hopefully be resolved before Easter.

We have also ordered a home lift. Better than a stair-lift for future proofing, and (surprisingly) not that much more expensive. Subject to technical survey (in a couple of weeks) it will rise from the far end of the long lounge to the office upstairs, and will be finished before Phase 2b (new entrance and stairs) starts in late June/early July, so enabling us to still get upstairs after the existing stairs are removed to be resited perpendicularly to their current unsuitable position (which blocks more than half of the passageway). Before ordering we went to see a similar set-up at what turned out to be the downsized-to-cottage from Grade 1 listed manor house home of a local titled dignitary. She was very pleasant, and we wouldn't have known had I not recognised her surname and Googled her.

We have spent the day clearing up and cleaning up. New Hairdresser BW has (hopefully) found us a new Cleaner BW, and she starts in the morning.

2 years and 2 weeks without a Cleaner BW has probably been the most challenging thing to face us since we moved north.

Other challenges of geography, regularly travelling 300 miles up and down the A1 between two houses, builders, lockdown, ill and then dying parents and other relatives, and constantly needing to research and source things and services have left me too physically and mentally exhausted to keep properly on top of domestic cleaning things, and Mr BW has been working flat-out on practical house projects that take all of his time.

I have to concede that I am totally useless at tidying up and clearing up in the absence of any external force. Not having done cleaning since 1991 (when I first discovered the delights of paying someone else to do tasks that I utterly despise), I have been increasingly stressed and distressed by mounting cobwebs, crumbs, hand-prints, and dust. We don't currently have any 'real money' to pay her, but there are devious ways of achieving cash-flow at little or no cost, to pay cleaners and builders, until Coven Sud is sold. Although I admit they are requiring a lot of thought and babysitting, and are keeping me awake at night...

She seems to be someone who desires direction, so I hope she doesn't run away crying when she sees my list of things to do.

 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Another week flies past


We have finally managed to get a strelitzia to flower: summer in the conservatory, winter in the lounge by the door into the conservatory, and lots of neglect. We've missed winter sun this year, so this clolourful glimpse of South Africa has brightened up the grey days..

We have also successully grown a canna from a rediscovered seed that we saved from one of our own plants about 5 years ago. We soaked it for 48 hours before planting and it quickly germinated in a pot on the kitchen windowsill, and proceeded to grow very rapidly. Unlike most seedlings, it was identifiable immediately as a canna as it did not have seed leaves and just produced miniature leaves marked and shaped exactly like a mature specimen.

The garage is progressing. Here it is a week ago, from the back. Give the stone 10 years of weathering and it will be the same colour as the original. Actually, given that this side gets the full force of the prevailing wind, perhaps only 5 years. And the building is already a wonderful windbreak, so it's now possible to open the front door without getting blown away, or getting contact lenses full of grit.

Here is the front of the building this afternoon, with Mr BW's sign that is hopefully worth nearly £1,000.

12 days ago we ordered 750 litres of heating oil through the local oil buying group, to top up the tank, in response to the current world situation. Oil is usually somewhere between 40 and 60 pence per litre as it has no duty and only 5% VAT. At the time of ordering, it had already risen to 69.75ppl, 22p per litre more than the last fill 6 weeks ago.

On Thursday the price had risen to 174.9 ppl. Four times the usual price, and almost as much as road diesel (seen locally at 191ppl, but much of that is fuel duty and VAT at 20%), so, pure profiteering by the heating oil supply companies.

Our oil delivery should have been here by now, and we are assured that they will be honouring the price at the time of order (nearly a thousand pounds less than today's scary price), but, given that the gate to the field where the tank is located is currently blocked by scaffolding, it would be very easy for the delivery driver to decide that he could not deliver, while we are down south for the next week, hence the sign.

This is the final stone lintel (or 'head' as they call them up here) being manhandled into position in front of the structural steel lintel on Thursday. Each weighs more than 100kg:

And yesterday, a small miracle happened, when the the roof trusses - which were on a 3 week lead time (from when they could measure, which was only the Friday before), meaning all work on the workshop/garage had had to stop until Monday 28th - arrived unexpectedly. There were no builders on site, so Mr BW had to help unload the 14 sections, but, hopefully they will now be able to get on with the roof.

Today we were notified of another frustrating delay: the 4m sectional garage door, promised for the end of the month, now isn't arriving from Germany until the middle of April.

Back down south tomorrow for another thrilling week: more sorting, more shredding, more filling of boxes, more garden tidying, then the funeral at the end of the week (that's been the longest 8 weeks ever), then back up north for a few days before another van trip, with everything packed up this coming week, the next weekend. That should be the penultimate van trip, and should clear enough for the photos to be taken so the house can go on the market, and should leave only the contents of the garage for us to move, and we can't do that until the new garage is secure (now pushed back 2 weeks by the door delay). That should then leave just the final large items of furniture that need to be professionally moved once they have served their house-selling purposes.

And yes, it is all as manic as it sounds.

Now, do we get a removal firm from North or from South? And if from North, how will they quote if they can't visit to assess? Any removal tips gratefully received.


I haven't forgotten about recounting the spooky things, but this post is too long already.

 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Mopping up

Very spooky things have been happening the past couple of days. Very spooky indeed. Haven't got time to write about them now as I am meant to be shredding and packing while Mr BW interviews estate agents to sell his Mum's house twelve miles away.

Yesterday's similar interviews here went well and all 3 would be suitable, which wasn't at all what we were expecting. Despite Coven Sud being a very quirky individual house, with very flexible accommodation, so no easy comparisons for price, all 3 of them came up with exactly the same figure to start at, which was also exactly the figure I had in mind, having studied the local market extensively and forensically for the last 27 years. I don't often feel smug (when I correctly predict the builders' next blunder I just want to scream rather than feel smug, and, actually, on one occasion, I did), but I am currently revelling in it. Now, how to decide between the three?

Quick question - can anyone recommend a good mop?

For many years I used to buy refills from Costco - which were a very large and very dense sponge, which worked brilliantly with the metal handle which also rung them out when a lever was pulled. Since they have discontinued these, I have bought a succession of other types of mop but none has lasted or been as good. Some of them (eg Vileda strips) have been utterly useless. I need a big headed mop as there is a lot of hard floor to clean in Coven Nord.

I bought a steam mop a while ago and am not impressed by it, mainly because the pull on velcro-close mop head covers soon shrink in even a cool wash (which is similar to many of the manual mops I've purchased).

Perhaps the perfect reusable mop doesn't exist any more and people just buy those throw-away wet-wip type pads these days, but my environmental conscience won't allow me to do that.

Posted at 12:41 PM | Comments (10)
 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

My biggest achievement of the last 2 years

In a few days we'll have had Coven Nord for two years.

For most people the past two years have been about surviving covid.

For us they have been about designing, planning, doing, sourcing items before they were needed and actually getting them delivered, persuading people to do things they don't want to do in timescales that they don't want to abide to, plus juggling money around to pay for it all without bankrupting ourselves or paying any money in interest. We have been largely successful, despite all the trials and tribulations, as regular readers will know.

The invaluable regular readers, a small but select and knowledgeable band, have helped out so many times when I haven't got the time and/or energy to research things I didn't immediately know about, or where to find, and I thank you all enormously for sharing your knowledge and expertise. A few days ago I discovered that the BW email had stopped autoforwarding from the server that hosts BW sometime before the FOTCR™, and there were several emails from regular readers with more detailed and helpful information than had been shared in the comments box sitting undelivered to me on the server. You know who you are, and I apologise for not acknowledging and thanking you by replying individually before. I hope you didn't think I was being ungrateful. I think I have now sorted the issue.

A few days ago I was looking through the thousands of photos I have taken in the past 2 years (searching for photos of pipework and wiring now hidden by plasterboard so that Mr BW could safely put up banks of shelves in the new Studio) and got to thinking what my biggest achievement has been.

And I came to the conclusion that it was mastering a brown packing tape dispenser.

Years ago, when Mr BW first started selling b33 products online, I bought a posh tape dispenser - as used in warehouses - to help, but neither of us managed to make it work. When I ordered the last 6 rolls of brown packing tape, they came with a very basic 'free' dispenser, which I again completely failed to master, but which Mr BW quickly worked out, and I eventually got the hang of it too, and then went on to work out an even better way of using it. Then, when we were sorting out the 'boot sale box' at Coven Sud last time we were down there, we re-discovered the original commercial-grade dispenser I'd bought and despaired of. And now the rubber wheel, the part that always mystified me, makes sense! Lots of things have come out of that box and made their way North. It's amazing how items not needed in one situation, and nearly discarded, suddenly become useful in another.

What is your greatest achievement of the past 2 years?

 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Progress

The builders were here at 8.25am this morning. Usually it's about 10 before they get here on a Monday, so I am amazed. Plus there are 3 of them today, all of whom are qualified and experienced, not just the assorted child labourers pulled off the streets when they are trying to run/cover too many jobs at once. Chief Builder knows we're not happy with the rate of progress. They were dodging the weather rather last week (cold, wind, wind chill, snow, rain) and on Friday he told me, "We're about 3 weeks behind because of the weather!" "But you only started on the 14th which is 2 working weeks, and we have 9 courses of cement blocks, so half the built structure, so how can you be 3 weeks behind?" I asked. "That's not how it works!" he said. I'm glad I don't live in his world; it would be far too confusing. So, very slow but the natural stone being built up in front of the blockwork is looking good. Plus we have the new garage door ordered now.

Yesterday was sunny and warm enough for some of our b33s to be flying (always an encouraging sight, although it does mean the crocuses don't last long as they flop as soon as they have been pollinated). Conventional wisdom is that h0neyb33s will only fly above 13°C, but they were out and about at 10.9°C. They still have plenty of stored food, so my conclusion is that they think they are Northern B33s now and have toughened up accordingly. We moved the long hive up a year ago this week (the Garden Record Book says so), but the standard hives only came up at the end of last August (the end of their year), so it hasn't taken them long to acclimatise.

We spent time outside planting another 14 trees in the field, and 3 rambling roses to cover the new bee shed. These were small bareroot saplings as bigger 'trees' are too expensive for the number we need, and smaller saplings establish better in cold exposed situations anyway. 2 small-leaved lime, 2 sycamore, 4 wild crab apple, 1 walnut, 3 weeping silver birch, and 1 horse chestnut to add to all those we planted last year. The former and the latter planted particularly for their early pollen for the b33s. I just have one more specific larger fruit tree to find now then the planting is finished, barring tree deaths or disease. I did have it on order but then had an email saying the quality was not good enough to be sent out.

We have an infestation of rabbits and moles currently. The Black Familiar isn't doing very well at controlling them: I have a suspicion that a large rabbit got the better of her so she's avoiding rabbits (even little ones) now. Going soft in her old age.

There seem to be larger than normal quanities of molehills this year. There are molehills in the field behind us that are - no exaggeration - half the size of sheep (and those sheep are 2 weeks off producing twins), and every time we go down south, we return to molehills on the lawn. Annoying, but it is such excellent soil that Mr BW scoops them up and pops them into the new raised vegetable beds. Is the mole glut a national problem?

Another down on Thursday back up on Sunday trip coming up this week, with a diversion to pick up a trailer for Mi1dred on the way. We have 3 sets of valuers/estate agents coming to assess Coven Sud on Friday, and 3 sets for Mr BW's Mum's house on Saturday. We have a long list of questions to ask them, but it is such a long time since we last sold a house (27 years) that we might be missing some important things. Any pointers from those who have experience of moving more recently will be very gratefully received.

Right, best get on with something constructive. So many choices it's often simpler to do nothing... but I do need to get everything set out ready for the arrival of 15 metres of curtain material tomorrow. Two sets of two, double-width, curtains for the new bedroom to make, ready for when we can finally get in there when the garage is finished and all Mr BW's workshop equipment can finally leave the house. Very thick fabric, as sold in John Lewis (as a so-called 'John Lewis Exclusive') for £48.50 a metre, but sourced from a known corner of the internet at a quarter of the price. I don't enjoy hand hemming, but can manage an awful lot of it when making a saving of that size!

Posted at 11:29 AM | Comments (5)
 

Friday, February 25, 2022

You know the world is ending when...

... John Lewis ends its Never Knowingly Undersold pledge.


It's the worst it's been since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
And that was when I was still in utero.

My provision stores are high, and Mr BW has planted lots of seeds this week, and some new kits for new raised beds have arrived.

But it doesn't stop me being very, very apprehensive.

The Chinese released "China Virus" on the world (the only thing Trump and I agree over) 2 years ago.

The Russians released who knows what on Ukraine this week.

The Russian and the Chinese leaders talked face to face at the Winter Olympics, and the rest of the world teeters on the brink.

It really can't get much worse.

Meanwhile anyone in the UK with any sense stocks up on Covid tests before they become very very expensive.

Because, really, what else can you do?

 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Weather, oil and inflation

Commiserations to anyone who has suffered any damage during the three successive recent storms.

Up to last night it was still very windy here, but with sun, rain, and, where they coincided - which was quite often - rainbows. There's a light dusting of snow this morning, which is only the second this winter, but it seems to be the sort that will melt quickly, so we're not telling the builders, who snuck off at lunchtime once again yesterday without telling us.

We went out for the first time since early December yesterday (other than for 8 single 300 mile legs (me) and 10 single 300 mile legs (Mr BW) to visit Coven Sud to check up, pack up and bring up, and to visit Mr BW's Mum before she died), but only to look at garage doors and sink units over near the coast.

We drove the scenic route on tiny roads across wild areas, and I was shocked to see how many trees and post and barbed wire field fences had come down.

Notably, almost all of the uprooted trees were non-native (usually tall fir) species. There were branches off old gnarled native trees, predominantly hawthorn, but these mostly didn't affect the look of the trees, which had seen, and suffered, it all before.

We found the 'cheapest' filling station and spent over £100 (USD135; Euro120) on diesel for the first time ever (empty car tank plus 2 cans, 66 litres in total, which is 17 US gallons, or 14 imperial gallons), which was very scary. I wonder how much petrol and diesel are in other countries right now?

This year already we have spent more than £2,000 on heating oil (for 2 houses, although we only run whichever one we are not in warm enough to prevent freezing) and diesel for cars and vans. I almost had a panic attack just typing that. In our current property-rich-cash-poor situation, I thank goodness for 0% purchase credit cards, but I have no idea how many people must be feeling, let alone coping, right now. The new electricity tariffs for 1st April to September landed in my in-box overnight: I will make a separate post of that as it is very interesting how the 54% price increase is being applied.

I read somewhere recently that, with the current rate of inflation, and the continuing pittance being paid by banks on cash savings accounts, any money people have put away will (effectively) halve in value in 16 years. I hadn't copied the link, but thought I'd left the page open, but it seems to have self-closed and disappeared. The joy of reverse compound interest.

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

22 02 2022: a once in a lifetime date...

... but only if you are alive at the right time.

We finally have a death certificate for Mr BW's Mum (that says exactly what Mr BW told the police and paramedics 4 weeks ago when it happened). I don't want to talk at length about the sheer and utter incompetence of the NHS, particularly, but not only, her GP practice, now part of an impersonal and uncaring multi-practice consortium staffed by young inexperienced locum teflon foreign so-called 'doctors' who totally and utterly failed her in the last 15 months of her life, and a system of private medicine - that one is forced to fall back on - who are only interested in you while you are alive to pay their bills. And now another 4 week wait for a crematorium slot, 8 weeks from death to funeral. Never live in an area where building of new houses outstrips provision of essential services.

The builders are progressing slowly, between storms. There is no way they will be finished before the end of March, as they promised. I have given up being concerned. Nothing I can do or say or think will make the tiniest bit of difference to the time at which they turn up, go home, or the excuses they come up with for all shortcomings, so I might as well save myself the angst of being annoyed. I do however have misgivings about the soaking wet state of the mineral wool insulation going between the concrete block internal skin and the stone external skin. And, given that they failed to say thank you for the home-made soup that I kindly made for them on a cold day last week, there will be no further silmilar generosity.

And as for current events in the wider world... I have no words. Other than to say:

(1) If ever there was better proof of what I have been saying for years, that people are merely 'economic units' to our government, then I've yet to see it,

(2) Thank your god that it is not Trump in charge of the red button tonight (and well done to Mr BW for correctly predicting the date of the invasion, after the main Winter Olympics; Putin didn't want to detract from His Chum China's party)

(3) The sheer folly of past governments allowing oligarchs to buy up Britain and allowing our utilities to be sold off to foreign powers while also failing to continue to explore and exploit the natural resources in the North Sea, so leaving us wide open and vulnerable to the impact of world events, of which there will undoutedly be more in future, has never been more evident.

Such an auspicious date should have more future promise. Sadly I don't see it, and I am only glad that, going forward, we are now very well positioned, geographically and self-sufficiently, to live sustainably on the periphery, because, frankly, I no longer want to try to engage with such a selfish mad consumeristic social-media-driven tribal world. The constant pursuit of 'economic growth' at any cost can only ever end one way.

 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Delivery Day

"Heads are arriving at 8.30am, we'll be there at 8 to put the mats out!" the builder promised Mr BW yesterday. "They won't be, they won't change the habits of a build time!" I said. Mr BW intimated that I was being uncharitable.

And so it came to pass that we were ready with car, trailer and thermos packed ready to leave for another trip down south by 8am, the stone wagon turned up at 8.25am with the first load comprising 5 stone lintels, and the builder eventually turned up at 8.50am with some story about having to drop some lads off at another site on the way and then there was traffic on the A1, a road in totally the opposite direction to our house, starting from where they are based. Well, quelle surprise, traffic on the A1 during rush hour! Who'd have thought? The stone man and I were equally unimpressed, and he's well versed in builders' tall tales.

I made it quite clear to the builder that they were to be on site working all day every day from Monday, and that their tardiness and failure to have the garage/workshop finished by the end of last year is now causing us great difficulties, particularly as we now have them to oversee and two houses to clear and get on the market.

"We'll be OK on our own, if you need to stay down south!" he attempted to reassure us. In my head I said something extremely rude, but which boiled down to, not on your bloody life pal, if you can't be trusted to turn up on time for a delivery from a quarry that was due in October, holding up 3 people from getting on with their day, then what will happen if we aren't here, eh? Look at the stupidities that went on with the last phase when you left your lads on site alone! Scaffolding poles put on top of disintegrating old coal bunkers, old roof structure nearly collapsing on top of lads who didn't have the correct tools for the demolition job (so Mr BW had to help out with his chain saw, for safety's sake), holes for rooflights constructed in the wrong places, timber partitions and windowsills not straight, the lovely old rounded tops of the drystone wall nearly mixed up with the side stone during someone's over-eagerness to use the bulldozer (which would have made it nearly impossible to rebuild the wall a couple of metres away afterwards as we plan), windows and doors incorrectly fitted, boiler incorrectly installed, flue not installed to building regs, ceiling downlighters installed in the wrong places, downpipes not installed correctly, surface of new steps ruined, gateway surfaces not filled in, drainage holes dug in the wrong place, repointing not done properly... Every single one of these things I noticed and caught in time to avoid disaster (I say 'I' because Mr BW unfortunately had to spend a lot of time down south alone between May and December, because a 15 week build took 26 weeks to get finished, because time and supplies were not 'of the essence').

And that is just what I can easily recall in spite of my attempts at self-amnesia.

"Why on earth," I hear you ask, "are they still working for you?" Well, the simple answer is, if we could find anyone else better, we would have by now. But we can't, living in the middle of nowhere as we do, and, errors aside, so far they have done excellent work, eventually. Plus they have kept to their quoted prices.

The 15.5 tonnes of wall stone arrived sometime shortly before 1pm, and, true to his word, the driver who delivered the plinths earlier managed to get the second wagon load exactly where we had asked. However, the pile is still waiting for the builders to return to sheet it up as they promised they would.

Here's a partial section shot from the CCTV. Rather grainy, but it seems to be a good match for the colour of the old original stone of the main house (on the RHS), and there are lots of big lumps, as requested, so it can be random rather than coursed:

It was 8.9°C overnight and 15°C for much of the way down. This day last year it was -5.9°C all day with thick hard frozen snow. 21 degrees C difference between the same day in 2 consecutive years.

We are told by the old sages of the area that last year was colder than living memory, and this year is windier than living memory. Next year more people might finally begin to believe in climate change.

Fingers crossed

The stone that has been delaying the building since October is finally arriving this morning.

 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Week ending

Tonight we are back North again (have I mentioned how I hate the A1, especially in grey rainy February?) and we now have up here:

- The wine rack (empty, to be relocated to the garage, once it is constructed, give or take 6 or 7 weeks, if Builder BW's rhetoric is to be believed) and there sadly weren't enough bottles in the cardboard cartons previously occupying that area, under the stairs, to fill it.

- 2 wooden carver chairs (the rest of the chairs and tables, that we have lived with for nearly 2 years now, are plastic, and mostly foldable)

- All my books

- All my craft materials

- A male mannequin

- A 12 year old "champion" quince tree (fingers crossed)

I have also realised that with Mr BW's Mum's death 2 weeks ago (sadly, no progress on a death certificate) we now have absolutely no reason to visit the area around Coven Sud again once we have sold Coven Sud. I can't say I am unhappy about that, given how the area has changed: native hedges replaced by post and rail fencing, total darkness replaced by as many light bulbs as can be fitted into a garden, manners replaced by some form of social-one-upmanship, and community by some form of 'how much development one can get away with before it has to become the subject of a S73 application'. Truly galling, and truly unbelieveable.

Tonight there are fewer empy areas here, but I have a much better sense of relocation. We are getting there.

 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Which decade?

Rises in interest rates, energy prices, taxation (National Insurance), the price of food...

The Bank of England predicting inflation will hit 7% by Easter - and it's already 7% in the US.

Are we living in the 1970s or the 1980s?

The Base Rate doubles to 0.5%.

We can remember when mortgage rates were over 18% in 1981.

It could get worse.

And probably will.

Of course, there are so many more 'essential' demands on income now.

And so many more unrealistic 'expectations' and 'aspirations'.

I do wonder whether people have the practical skills and abilities to cope with the road ahead.

It really has been too good for too long.

 

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Levelling up

I'm wondering whether it's just us who no longer get supermarket coupons through the post?

Down south we used to get regular coupons from Waitrose and Sainsbury's, despite never shopping very much in either. Despite reregistering with both up north and having had the occasional delivery from both over the past couple of years, I haven't received any coupons from them at all. I have, though, recived two lots of Waitrose coupons down south, despite not having purchased anything from them since November 2019.

Have supermarkets and Nectar given up postal coupons everywhere?

I've given up Wordle. It's sold out. I can't be bothered with it any more.

Nice date today.

 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Something is underway

The A1 North was as untrafficked as we have seen it since the last lockdown.

The A1 South was busier, in particular with large amounts of army kit. Last time I saw that much defence equipment on the move was around Bovington in Dorset on one weekend in autumn 1990, just before the first Gulf War. I have a bad feeling about this. I hope I am wrong.

It is very very windy again at Coven Nord. Lots of things have blown around or blown over in our absence, despite us having - we thought - secured everything movable. In the 12 days we have been away, the adjoining arable fields have been ploughed and there has been a great deal of muck spreading.

Rather like The Met and the Department of Health and Social Care’s annual report disclosing (on page 199) that it has incurred £8.7bn of losses on £12.1bn of PPE bought in 2020/21. As at the present time, and having been listening to Radio 2 and Radio 4 news since 7am this morning, not willingly, while driving up, I have heard nothing on the BBC about this. Why?

That is a huge, huge, huge amount of wasted money, on top of what has previously been uncovered. I do think that someone also needs to look at how much NHS PPE has gone out of the back door with staff to be used for non-work based uses and/or given to family members and friends to use. Just a personal observation there...

 

Monday, January 31, 2022

Bewildering

Despite the latest gales' best efforts, and, fingers crossed, there is still power at Coven Nord, according to the CCTV. Most useful that system, for so many more uses than is obvious. So glad that Mr BW got it installed the first week we were there.

The hen house, however, blew over, leaving kind hen sitting neighbour with the puzzle of what to do. Apparently, and miraculously, no hens were squashed or otherwise harmed in the process. Goodness only knows how it happened, as it never has before and the house was held down by a heavy duty metal stake in the ground, driven down to the bedrock, and umpteen bungee cords.

The electricity supply company who failed so supremely at communicating properly in late November/early December clearly decided to hedge their bets this time and have sent us somewhere between 20 and 30 text messages and emails, and woke us up last night, twice, ringing to see if we were OK, despite the fact that we had not lost supply. They even offered us free hot food yesterday morning at a point 32 miles from Coven Nord. Even I draw the line at driving 350 miles for a free meal.

It was heartening to hear on the radio that we are not the only ones still waiting for them to pay out what they owe us in compensation and reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses for the last 11 days without power debacle. They paid us (and the other 17 homes affected last time) too little in statutory payment, and cut our claim for necessary purchases in half, despite everything being carefully documented and fully receipted, and they have since ignored our repeated requests for a full breakdown of their calculations. Needless to say, we won't be letting that one go, because, as Mr BW says, if people don't claim, the shareholders will never get the message that lack of investment in infrastructure over many decades has a cost to profit and therefore to their dividends.

We continue to be able to do absolutely nothing to sort Mr BW's Mum's affairs, as we still don't have a death certificate and it will be weeks before that happens. Mr BW's sister can't even get post redirected without one so will be making a 120 mile round trip every few days to get any post there is so she can pay the notifications of monies owing due to bouncing direct debits. Companies won't close accounts and stop trying to take direct debits until there is a death certificate to prove death, and, although the bank account is frozen, it is impossible to set up an executors' account to access funds to pay necessary bills without a death certificate. Utter nightmare. Plus, even though Mr BW and his sister both have accounts with the same banking group where their Mum banked, and where the executor account wil be held, they still have to both go into a branch with full ID to be allowed to open the account.

They give you a certificate of collection when they collect a parcel but not a body - and then can't tell you for sure where that body is other than somewhere in some backlog, maybe in the morgue at the hospital, maybe at some other undertakers' who handle their 'overspill' - and the body needn't be there either if the coroner's office would only make one phone call to the GP or specialist now, but no, it's all done in turn, no common sense is applied, and we have to wait 15 working days (3 weeks) until the case is even allocated to a coroner's officer to begin looking at. There is then a backlog of at least 4 weeks at the crematorium after that, so probably another 8 weeks minimum before there can be a funeral, unless they decide to do a PM, in which case it could be months, as the specialist is going away for a month before 'allocation day', so won't be around to supply the needed medical evidence that the death was expected. You really couldn't make this stuff up.

And who wants a funeral with 100s of people (which, given that Mr BW's Mum had over 100 80th birthday cards a few years ago, and that she lived in her house since 1958, so knew everyone, there will be) and a wake with buffet afterwards with covid as it is? What to do about that?

Anyway, we are going back up north early tomorrow with car+trailer, and back down again with a van (to take up what we have packed this week - have given up trying to sort as planned as not enough head space, and no charity or book shops want anything, and I can't bear to put books in landfill, so have been just throwing all but the obvious junk in boxes and taping them up) on Friday, leaving again early Sunday, quickly unpacking, then coming back down here to do more sorting for the remaining time until 14th when the builders are supposedly going to start building again. We are both totally exhausted already, but there is just no other way of getting it all done, with all Mr BW's Mum's stuff to sort out and her house to get on the market too.

I am so angry with the bloody builders for not having finished the workshop/garage by the end of last year as they should have. It has made it utterly impossible now, and if we don't get this house cleared and on the market by Easter, it won't have sold/completed by March next year, and then we will lose the many many thousands of pounds of 'second home' stamp duty we had to pay as it can only be reclaimed if you sell your primary residence and relocate within 3 years.

Nothing is easy and I keep wondering when this nightmare will ever end. Two houses to clear and sell, more building work to supervise, the previous phase of building still needing many things to be sourced, ordered and fitted, new vegetable and fruit beds desperately needing to be made... There is absolutely nothing that can be left for the present, and just not enough hours in the day, or personal energy, to get everything done.

 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...

I cannot remember a time when I felt so despondent about the lack of leadership, strategy and planning (in every sense of the word) in the UK. And, indeed about the quality of any of these.

I find the quality of mainstream 'journalism' so bad that I no longer watch TV news or current affairs programmes or listen to radio news programmes. We live in a time when politics and news are driven by Twitter, which is neither rational nor desirable.

I cannot believe that The Mop-Topped One Whose Personal Pronouns are 'My' and 'Mine' is still employed. Contrast this with the rapid downfall of our two women prime ministers, once their male colleagues set against them, and one can only shake one's head and wonder once again about gender inequality within male dominated institutions and establishments, and why the current shenanigans are being tolerated.

The last prime minister to come anywhere close to the level of incompetence and lying currently being displayed recently got a knighthood, of the highest level, which can only be agreed by the Queen, despite taking the country into an illegal war. The amount she relied on the counsel of Prince Philip shows in this very misguided decision I think. There is still time for The Mop-Topped One Whose Personal Pronouns are 'My' and 'Mine' to also drag us into another pointless war though, before finally going and getting his knighthood too. Oh what a broken, broken system.

I've been reading a most interesting book recently. Who Owns England? If you've ever looked into the planning system in this country, that book tells you all you need to know to answer everything you've ever wondered about. Hint: no-one knows who owns 17%, only 5% is owned by householders, and 18% is in the control of corporate structures and offshore companies, many of them opaque. There is a website too.

Given the amount of farmland that is about to be taken out of agricultural use and turned over to tree planting, due to new environmental subsidies from governments (central and regional) and demands from industrial polluters to simply pay to plant trees to offset their dubious activities, rather than effect real change in their polluting practices, to meet the new carbon emission targets. Applications are already going in for planning consideration. Thousands and thousands of acres near us at Coven Nord, much of it to be planted with non-native species, which will be rubber stamped without question, because, well, we have to get to net zero somehow, don't we? Even if it is a fake net zero. Trees cannot undo the harm being done by people.

Given that the south will soon be covered in high-density badly constructed housing and solar farms (where the developers have repeatedly failed to get permission to build houses), and the north and other upland areas with non-native but lucrative trees, where is the food for the future going to be grown?

I've been saying this since well before this blog started 20 years ago: stemming population growth is the only green way forward.

Posted at 10:00 AM | Comments (4)
 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Technical questions

Firstly, can anyone tell me how many wifi signal boosters you can have on one copper line broadband system?

We currently have a BT Hub in the centre of the longhouse, plugged into the main new-style installed last year phone socket (so no external plug-in microfilters), and one electric plug socket upstairs, at the current main bedroom end, that has a built-in permanently-on wifi booster which works well.

Can we also add a plug-in wifi signal booster in the new craft room at the other end of the house? We had to have a RF thermostat for the new boiler as the wifi signal down there is non-existent (and the walls are so thick that even that doesn't work as it was promised it should).

Given that there is a possibility that our current pathetic 1 - 2 MB speed on BT will be trumped by a rural area local fibre network in the next year or so (had the government not changed the rules last year, we should have had it already), we don't want to have to get into the only offered option of £60 per month BT provided EE mobile broadband deals (on a 2 year contract), particularly as BT prices are rising by up to 9.3% (December's CPI of 5.4%, plus the allowed annual 3.9% increase) on March 31st.

Second question: does anyone know anything about permanent water filters (not water softeners, water filters) that can be installed just after the main stopcock into the house?

Our water comes from a convoluted private supply and tastes beautiful, but has a very high iron content, which, especially after rain, often means that white washing comes out orange-hued (even when using colour catcher sheets), glasses of water look beige, the kettle contains flakes of dark 'rust' once the water has been boiled, and bathwater leaves an orange ring.

We initially thought it was air getting into the water supply pipe somewhere, and causing oxidisation, but, having now seen the local brook (bright burnt orange sludge after rain) realise that it is a geological artefact, and the only solution is going to be to put a filter into the new system, when we eventually do the final stage of the building work. We have a Franke tri-flow water filtering tap already in the kitchen (or will have, once we have done the kitchen), but this new filter I am looking for is something for the whole water system, because I don't like orange sheets, towels and and t-shirts. I can only find sand-based systems with built-in UV for initial treatment and purification of borehole water, but it's not bad enough to need that level of system (which is huge and usually needs an external pumphouse to house it).

Thanks for any thoughts, leads or info.

 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Things I have learnt in the past couple of days

Do not die at home on a Sunday morning when a private carer is present, before an ambulance arrives, because there are no GPs to ring to determine if a death is sudden or unexpected (which it wasn't), because the police will then be called to attend by the paramedics, and you (as the family member who turns up minutes after) will then totally lose any control over the ensuing process, even when the police determine (after questioning you and the carer and 'investigating' the environs of death for half an hour) that there are no 'suspicious circumstances' and that 'foul play' is not suspected (Harold Shipman has a lot to answer for). How to make an awful situation a dreadful situation and the stuff of nightmares, or at the very least, ensure a sense of surrealism and wondering if it even really happened for the family member involved.

Do not die in an area of the country where building has outstripped supply of services, because you will then have to wait at least 3 weeks before a coroner's clerk will even be allocated to your case, and then 'x ' weeks after that to gather medical evidence, then 'y' weeks to know whether a post mortem will be required. At the end of this process, you will then have to wait a minimum of 4 weeks for a crematorium date. In short, do not think that a funeral wil be able to be held until at least 8-10 weeks have elapsed. In the meantime you will not know for sure where your deceased loved one's body is being held, because the dim girls who answer the phones in the coroner's office just don't give a shit and don't listen to what you are asking, but just repeatedly parrot general information . And, a death certificate, even an interim one, will not be issued until at least the end of week 3, so you can't even begin to do anything official until then. All the deceased's assets/money are frozen and can't be touched from the moment of death, ongoing house bills still have to be paid (and accounts cannot be stopped at the originating company until one has a death certificate), but there is no way of accessing the deceased's funds to pay them, and the originating companies don't want to know, so will issue threatening notices when direct debits fail.

Do not assume that anyone involved in the process is going to make any part of this easy for you.

Do not attempt to declutter/shred/recycle years' worth of your life (that you hadn't got rid of previously because it was too raw) while also trying to support your husband in trying to deal with the death of his mother through the above, because you will end up in a molten directionless mess, no matter how hard you try not to.

When stressed by the above factors, your ability to complete Wordle drops to 'in 5' for 2 days in a row.

 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Just to let you know, Mr BW's Mum died sometime around 8.30am this morning.

The carers got there at 8am as usual, and she was breathless, they helped her to the toilet, she got back, sat on the bed gasping for breath, the carer called an ambulance, the care company called Mr BW's sister, who called us, Mr BW dashed out of the door to drive the 10 miles there, the carer helped her back into bed, and she went.

It's what she would have wanted, and so much better than weeks petering out, increasingly sedated.

Mr BW spoke to her yesterday and she was cheerful and fine, apart from a little breathless.

At least we were down here and not 300 miles away... I do wonder if she waited until we were here...

We now have 2 houses to clear... and the realisation that we are now both orphans...

 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

My eyes are dim I cannot see

Apart from it being significantly warmer up north than it is down south currently, it is also much brighter up there. Outside, because that is what happens when you live on a ridge with nothing to obstruct views and light, but also inside.

I noticed it first when we were down in the first week of January. After dark, everywhere seemed gloomy. The Inner Coven was particularly dim after sunset, so dim that I couldn't read any of the papers I was trying to shred, so we brought back down some new LED GU10 bulbs, which we no longer need up there as all the inherited downlighters at Coven Nord have now been replaced with new ultra low-energy ones, which are sold as complete units (what a waste) rather than as fitting plus replaceable bulb. Rather like many car headlights where a new unit now costs over £100 (plus in many cases an hour or so of garage labour to fit, such is the complexity) rather than £10 for a bulb that can be fitted by almost anyone at home.

I always write the dates on bulbs that I replace, and those from Inner Coven were from 2011. Despite being over 10 years old, they were very infrequently used, as I was rarely in the Inner Coven after dark, and they had not been used at all (until recently) for the past 2 years. Maybe an hour a week maximum for 8 years, so 400 hours of use in total. For bulbs that were sold as good for 30,000 hours, for them to deteriorate this quickly isn't impressive.

Most of the low energy bulbs in other light fittings seem to be having similar lack of brightness problems.

Has anyone else noticed this?

 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Life is a lemon and I want my money back

That I’m overblown, pompous, melodramatic, self-indulgent. I’ve heard it a million times. And the first person to describe me like that was me. It’s supposed to be overblown. It’s a fucking comedy. The entire history of rock’n’roll is a comedy … Rock’n’roll was never meant to answer the questions of the universe. It’s a laugh. I’m a laugh. So laugh at me if you like. I have no problem with that.”

- Meat Loaf RIP and thanks for all the songs

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)
 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

On the move, again

We left just before 12 and got back in under 5.5 hours, despite the M1 south being completely closed in Yorkshire so everything being pushed over onto on the A1.

But why, oh why, do so many people who overtake cut back in front of you with less than one car's length of space? It's something we've been increasingly noticing in recent trips. No wonder there are so many accidents resulting in road closures for many hours.

It was so lovely to come back to clean floors, done washing and made bed. We miss Cleaner BW up north, but she has failed repeatedly to manage to clone herself. And sadly there aren't any obvious replacements.

Tomorrow and subsequent days will be sorting, shredding and packing. Ad infinitum.

 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Motoring on

We're almost all tidied and sorted away here (miracles happen sometimes, especially when Mr BW is doing most of the work), so will be going south again tomorrow to do some more decluttering and relocating in a northerly direction.

I will be there until at least Monday 31st. It's not quite clear yet what Mr BW will be doing, maybe a quick up and down in between, but his Mum sadly seems to be deteriorating, so who knows.

The Coven Nord Silver Dyson died, but had open heart surgery and is now living again. Thank goodness, as I failed totally in my quest to find a sensibly-priced, powerful, replacement that has good reviews.

It's amazing the difference that new clutch belts and beater bar make. I don't think that anyone not very good at DIY would want to try that one though, even with YouTube guidance, as it was rather a challenge! Nevertheless, a quick push round afterwards elicited two whole dust bins full of detritus for the compost bin, so, despite Mr BW's interim efforts with his workshop vac, the house was fairly grubby.

I have ordered a similar kit for the (even older) Turquoise Dyson that currently resides at Coven Sud so hopefully that will improve it too.

I think the biggest amazement to me was that Silver Dyson's beater bar bristles had worn down to half of their original length in the 15 years we've had it. No wonder it didn't pick up properly, even before the drive belt snapped. Obvious when you think about it, but not something I'd ever realised happened.

We summonsed the builder again: he arrived mid-afternoon, and promised faithfully that the garage/workshop would definitely be finished by the end of March, even though the stone isn't coming from the quarry for another 3 weeks yet. He is very aware that we are more than a bit displeased by all the delays, and was quite grovelly and trying hard to redeem himself. He has even worked out how to get round the ongoing window glass and timber roof truss shortages. If he wasn't such an excellent stonemason and such a nice bloke he would have been gone a long time ago and he knows it. We'll see if he can manage to deliver this time... if not he won't be doing the final phase (new entrance) once we have sold Coven Sud and can afford to do it.

We ate our last home-grown pointy pepper for dinner. We ate our last tomatoes on New Year's Eve, and we are still eating potatoes (luckily the ground isn't frozen). There is still plenty of kale and cabbage, and we even still have lots of garlic left.

We've now planned out the raised bed project, but decided that what we really want is for them to be made out of stone, of which there will be plenty more once the 'porch that is a badly built and cold blob on the front of the building' comes down. Therefore we are into interim measures, involving using the old roof trusses. It's one step up from removing the grass from the soil and planting directly, as we have until now. There's no point making permanent beds from wood as it will rot within very few years and it is now horrendously expensive.

 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sharp things

I spent the afternoon pulling two huge black bin liners full of thistle rosettes out of the orchard. A daisy grubber is a wonderful thing. No soil left on any of them, but the 2 bags weighed well over 40kg between them.

My arms ache tonight, but it was lovely sitting pulling out thistles in the sun, watched by one black feline and about 100 increasingly bulging ewes. Cool but eerily still - the sort of silence that makes your ears hurt because there is no noise at all to hear.

I don't know what type the thistles are, but some of the rosettes were a foot across and all were very flat and very spiky. I think that thistles are biennials, so, along with all the taller thistle plants I removed last summer before they seeded, I hope now to have nearly seen the back of them. Interestingly, neither sheep nor cows will eat thistles.

I am reminded once more of how the area around Coven Sud is rapidly 'deteriorating': in the village centre there is now a temporary 'knife bin' where all bladed items that people do not want or should not have can be disposed of safely and without fear of prosecution. I was shocked that 'the most sought after village in the county' (in estate agent, and also Sunday Times, speak) should have apparently fallen to such depths.

Better buy a stab vest for the next trip down...

 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sunday's Best

I did Wordle in 3 today. My usual 2 starter words (sorry to spoil it if you hadn't already worked out the secret, I have a photo, but it would then ruin it for you; you need to work out your own starter words) yielded 5 correct letters, of which one was in the correct place. Oh joy. I really wish I hadn't discovered Absurdle, because the allocated 2-4 minutes of my day's brainpower to be expended on Wordle can then turn into as many minutes' procrastination as is required to avoid/delay/postpone almost any task, under the guise of preventing dementia, although, despite Absurdle invariably cheating (as it is meant to do), I can usually get that in 6 or 7.

The idea of Bob Harris standing in for JW on SOTS today did not fill me with delight, although the reality was rather better than the idea, largely due to the playlist rather than the presenter's contribution. Mr BW ran down to the bins at the 4 o'clock news, in order to fill the wheelies at the end of the track before tomorrow's collection. He returned rather later than the allocated 3 minutes before the next record, and I asked why.

"I was looking at the Moon!" he declared. It was rather lovely, being almost full, and up early. 'Jolene' by Dolly Parton was then played, which proved ideal for him to howl at the Moon, despite only having had 2 small Sunday afternoon sherries. He obviously took umbrage at my observation on that as shortly afterwards I was upstairs ordering something online. "They're playing your song BW!" he shouted up the stairs. That would be Dr Feelgood's 'Milk and Alcohol' then...

It's been a low alcohol week though as I haven't been at my best. I took some ibuprofen to cope with the pain from the pulled muscles. I can react to almost any medication, but, until now, I've been OK with ibuprofen, although not always with paracetemol, so I tend to avoid them. This week, the ibuprofen I had to take to function on Tuesday and Wednesday caused me horrible lower left abdominal pain. It's taken until today for it to become less than constantly aggravating. I really am Big Pharma's worst nightmare.

Today, a year ago, there was 6" of snow on the ground and that scary snowman (*nods down a few posts*) was constructed. Today, it was sunny and 11.8° at best, and we cut back all the dead foliage in the borders, and redistributed the seedheads that the birds hadn't eaten around the edges of the orchard in the hope that they would grow into new pollen-rich food for the b33s, which have been flying today, despite it being a couple of degrees below the temperatures the books claim necessary for such outings. Never trust a book I say. Although most of them are more reliable than the internet.

It's 10 years since we've been in the country at this time of year (last year aside). I can't say that I am relishing remembering what we have been missing. Please add the missing 20 plus degrees, someone.

 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Patience is a virtue I do not have

Oh dear. I clearly overdid the box and furniture shifting on Monday. I rarely do any lifting at all these days, but I needed the van to be unpacked and everything to be sorted into its correct position pronto, so I pitched in, and I think I have pulled some muscles.

I have a squeezy pain in the top middle of my chest, which gets worse if I bend over or cough, and pain all over my upper back, especially behind my shoulder blades.

Either that or I've been having a heart attack for the past 3 days, which seems unlikely as I have no other symptoms and the pain has not changed at all.

Sorting continues: the soft materials room upstairs (Bedroom 2) and the office/museum room (Bedroom 3) now have almost all their furniture relocated from down south, and the former now has all its contents.

The new craft room downstairs will be fine, once the new chest freezer and Mr BW's tool chest can be moved out so that the back wall where they currently reside can accommodate the plan chest and baker's table, and the haberdashery unit can go... erm, somewhere, when they finally arrive (with the removal men). Must get the sink, cupboard and worktop for the garden side of the craft room decided and ordered this week.

On paper, Coven Nord has more square footage than Coven Sud, but the fact that it is a long house means that a lot of the space is wasted thoroughfare, and I'm begining to think that not everything is going to fit in. I have been applying the, "If I saw this [thing] in a charity shop/junk shop/car boot sale would I buy it again? If yes, do not discard, move it!" rule and it may not be working.

We are getting very frustrated with the builder. He has been playing the 'small quarry can't cut the stone yet' card since the beginning of October. It was 'November,' then 'December,' then 'middle of January, no more slippage,' then today, 'sometime in the week of 7th February the stone will be delivered and we'll start work again sometime in the week of 14th February.' This for a job meant to be finished by the end of 2021, and for which the foundations were finished in October. Until the garage/workshop are built there isn't much more we can bring up, and it delays (yet again) getting Coven Sud tidy, emptied, and on the market.

With this latest messing about, Phase 3 (demolition of the old dilapidated porch and cloakroom, construction of a new entranceway, moving of the stairs by 90° and new cloakroom and storeroom) is definitely going out to tender now. But, is it better the devil you know, even though you know he isn't the fastest, and we suspect is sometimes 'economical with the truth' over the reason for delays (blaming availability of supplies, or specialist tradesmen, rather than his own over-committed workforce due to him running too many projects concurrently)? In his favour he is a bloody good stone mason, and hasn't messed us around with pricing, and we know will do a good job eventually. If we go with someone more local, there are even more unknowns, and we've already experienced some of the locals' (bad) workmanship back in 2020... and several other people we know or have met have also had delays from their more local builders. Oh this is all too complicated and frustrating. Oh for a magic wand to get it all over and finished.

 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Question for today

A lovely sunny day (albeit only 8°C). Sorting and finding new places for things continues.

I'm rather tired of every other item on the radio being about transgender people.

I cannot help thinking, every single time, something that I have never heard discussed anywhere, ever. Maybe I've missed it as I am not part of the Twitter Face Gram Tok App movement, but...

If men had started wearing dreses and skirts at the same time as women started wearing trousers, would this 'transgender' thing have ever happened?

 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Before sparrow fart

Up at 5.45am and left in the dark just before 7am. Despite a 6°C grey murk all the way the rain held off and we were back here at 12.40pm, having had to go the long way as the A1 was totally closed for several hours at Durham due to a three-car accident.

2 hours to unload what had taken Mr BW part of Saturday afternoon (between him arriving from the north with the van and it starting to rain) and most of Sunday to load. How he manages to fit it all in and stop it all moving I do not know, although we are on our third set of bungee cords. He certainly has expert packing skills and 3D imaginative abilities. He does have rubbish cognitive mapping skills though, so proving that a friend who wrote her dissertation in the 1980s on the disconnect between spatial abilities and cognitive mapping abilites, only to be criticised by the external examiner, was correct after all.

Mr BW had the van back at the hire company by 3.30pm and we were totally knackered, achey, and in bed with a nice dinner and a bottle of red by 5.30pm.

The labelled-with-the-room-where-they-needed-to-go boxes are all in the correct places, although they may not have been had I stayed down south to continue the decluttering and packing as I sort-of thought about.

The new craft room at the far end of the single storey part of the longhouse is full of craft stuff, plus lots of b33 equipment that needs to go to the bottom shed. It can't go there until we have emptied all the empty hive boxes out of that shed so that it is light enough for us to push it back onto its concrete base. Despite weighing over 280kg and containing over 300kg of wood, it moved 6" off the side at one end in the big storm (which we didn't notice for several days afterwards). We brought up at least the same amount again of equipment (in weight), so hopefully it will be heavy enough to withstand any future freak weather events.

Now all we have to do is find places to fit everything into temporarily as we don't yet have any of our large pieces of furniture or all of our storage units up here (and it could be a year before they are here as they won't move until the professional removers clear the house once it has sold), and the craft room has yet to have the new units for the side with the sink ordered. Or indeed the sink, come to that.

Fortunately I do have a detailed master list of exactly what is in each numbered box, and there is also a brief list on the box label. I have also noted on the boxes which need to be opened immediately.

Not many people can claim to have a genuine Royal Mail red postbox in their bedroom.

Once the majority is unpacked, it's back down south again to sort some more... and we have trees and shrubs to dig up to move while they are dormant too.

 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Sunny Sunday

Mr BW had it all planned out. When he saw Nosey Neighbour, who was bound to ask what he was doing loading yet another large van, he was going to feed her beliefs and say, "But it's all BW's stuff!" and let a little tear trickle down his face.

Sad to say, he did see her, and all she said was, "Hello!"

Mr BW has fitted more into this van than into any of the previous ones, but unfortunately this one, although it is less than a year old and has fewer than 11,000 miles on the clock, is a Peugeot Luton rather than a Ford Luton (who even knew the former existed; but they are exactly the same body shell) and Mr BW says that it went like a constipated duck empty, so we are expecting a top speed of 45mph all the way home. I think he was warmed up to this by the owner of the hire company who said, "I'll be interested to hear what you think of it, compared to the other, 19 plate, one you've had before!"

We are leaving by 7am (apparently) as we need to get there, get unloaded, which involves taking the duck tape and plastic off the outside of the craft room to not-yet-built garage door (it's defective, it leaks, but will be replaced once the garage is built), and get the van back to its home 12 miles away before 5.30pm.

It's going to be a long day...

 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Communication

I purchased my first mobile phone (a Sony 'Mars Bar' CM-H333) in the first half of 1993. It cost £299 to buy, and £17.50 per month for connection to Cellnet (which would be just over £30 now), plus 38 pence per minute for outgoing calls. Text messaging had not yet come into general UK use at that time.

I still know the number, and I still have the phone, although I've not yet uncovered it in my sorting, clearing and packing. Not that it will ever work again, as the analogue network was switched off years ago.

But, I still consider it a beautiful piece of phone engineering, and, could it be converted to work on the digital network, I would still happily use it today, albeit not in a retro chic way. Because I don't do retro, or chic.

I was happy to be ahead of the curve then as it was very useful to me in the days when I was travelling the country reviewing the progress of youngsters in hugely expensive out-of-county school placements. I often left home before dawn and returned after dark, and it was a nice security blanket. I don't remember how much it cost to phone a mobile phone in those days, but I do remember that the Assistant Director of Education became involved in an investigation into why the Local Education Office that I worked out of had such large telephone bills. Two of us had mobile phones and the secretaries used to love ringing us just because they could. Soon after that he got a mobile phone too and the County Hall phone bill also increased exponentially.

These days I'm happy to be a dinosaur.

I have a lovely old fashioned Doro 2G 'old person's phone' with pushy buttons (so old it is not even listed as a model now, although the battery still lasts a week between charges). It does less than any other phone I have ever owned (I think that is 9 altogether in 29 years: I shall know for sure in the next few weeks as I do still have all of them, and they will be appearing in my new museum), and I have never owned a smart phone as my fingers just do not operate the screen, and I choose not to live in an always-on world, or to engage with social media (this blog aside).

I've been using GiffGaff as a network (it piggybacks on O2) since Orange became EE in 2012. At that time it was the best value network, but it isn't now. However, I have never had a problem, and I like they way they operate. They take £6 per month from my credit card which gives me 3p in cashback (cashback isn't what it used to be!), so it costs me £5.97 a month. For that I get unlimited texts and phone calls, and 1GB data, of which I use precisely none.

Today they told me that in the last year I have sent 47 text messages (not even one a week, and I am very surprised that it is actually that many, I think they must have mis-calculated) and spent 3,687 minutes on the phone. That sounds a lot, but in reality is only 10 minutes a day. The majority of which have been to Mr BW when we have been at opposite ends of the country and trying to sort out all the various issues that have arisen. Oh, and, given that Coven Sud is 30 metres long, the stone walls are very thick, Mr BW is now totally deaf in one ear (do not even begin to hope that the NHS will investigate such an issue during a pandemic), and the grounds are extensive and windy, my old school hand-bell is no longer sufficient to summon Mr BW when I/someone else needs him, so there have been a lot of ten second phone calls too.

Disregarding the text messages, I think that works out as half a penny per minute for phone calls.

I have absolutely no idea why anyone stil uses a landline to make phone calls, given the rates they charge.

I'm also intrigued by the number of people I know who are either cutting down or completely withdrawing from social media. I don't understand this either.

My preferred dinosaur is a stegosaurus as I have said before.

 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Thought for the day

"Nobody can bring you peace but yourself."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Hypothetical questions

We have struggled to understand why our extremely nosey new-ish next-door-but-one neighbour has never asked why we have been coming and going from Coven Sud, removing trailer and van loads of stuff every few weeks, for nearly 2 years now.

She moved in over 4 years ago and successfully lowered the tone of the area. 2 yappy dogs, but more annoying than that was her constant loud, "Shut the fuck up!" in Basildon tones, every time they made their din. Before we finally leave, but after everyone has signed on the dotted line, I shall be shouting that phrase back to her every single time she utters it. I have been practising the appropriate accent.

Mr BW knows her 'dog walking times' and avoids being out front then. Nevertheless, she has occasionally trapped him. But she has never asked if we are moving, or what we are doing.

My textiley friend who helped out with some wrapping and packing on Tuesday shared her theory about this with us: Nosey Neighbour thinks we are splitting up, and, apparently, in those circumstances, people don't know what to say, so don't. This idea amuses me muchly, and fits the facts as she perceives them.

Tonight it is raining at Coven Sud and the snow is almost melted at Coven Nord. Mr BW assures me that all hens are still present and correct, in case any of you were worried.

I had a bit of shock around lunchtime while inspecting the Coven Nord CCTV cameras. I saw a man walking about!

But then I realised that Mr BW had rung me 20 minutes before to say he'd got there safely, with little more than snow at Scotch Corner to delay him. I am beginning to wonder about myself...

 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Cold and bitter

Minus 5 tonight, north and south. Bitterly cold.

Snow persists up north (CCTV is very useful), with more forecast.

Our northern hen sitter does not understand hens, even though, when she had a farm, at one point she had some hens. She is lovely and well meaning but rather dippy. Apparently she went round to check on them yesterday, but said that they were inside making 'such sweet clucky noises' that she didn't go into their run as she didn't want to disturb them. That probably means didn't want to have to use the anti-avian-flu boot dip.

These noises were because the hens were trapped inside as the automatic door opener had failed to open when it got light. And she didn't notice. This is the new 2 weeks ago very expensive and far too ovelry complicated door opener that we had to buy as the 15 year old nice and simple hitherto reliable one suddenly stopped working and proved irrepairable. This morning, on the end of a phone to Mr BW, she managed to prop the door open and Mr BW will be back tomorrow to sort it out. I just hope she gave them fresh water rather than thinking they can eat ice and snow.

The ornaments and objets from most corners of Coven Sud are washed, wrapped, and packed, but there is still an overwhelmingly large amount of paperwork needing sorting. At least it is confined to the Inner Coven. I have 3 days to do it while Mr BW is taking car plus trailer north then bringing hire van south, ready for us to go back up together with a lot of boxes, and some smaller pieces of office and craft room furniture. Snow permitting, of course.

I can't remember whether this is Luton 5 or Luton 6. Mr BW reckons there are probably 4 more van loads, before the final large furniture professional removal. I'm hoping rather less. At least two thirds of it has been garden plants, pots and equipment, and b33 and hen equipment, and we haven't really started on Mr BW's workshop contents, because their new home is still just foundations.

We never meant to move, of course. But then we never expected the pace of development all around and overhead. From the paperwork I'm uncovering as I sort through, 2013 was definitely the turning point. It just took us 7 years to realise that we would never be able to stop the relentless pace of change (although we did have some great victories along the way) and to find the right place to relocate. 9 years on now, it feels like 7 years wasted: although nothing we have learnt along the way will ever be wasted I'm sure. Knowledge and experience are future power. I hope.

 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Now in my 20th year

If it's the 4th of January, then it's my 19th Blogday.

Much less interesting and much less pictureful than I used to be, I am at least just about still here.

Mr BW has finally sourced a Luton van with tail lift for the weekend, so on with Operation Move North. I have a textiley friend coming round later to help pack up the (extensive) h0ney pot collection and other breakables. At one time she worked in china conservation, so probably the best person for the job.

 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Transporting the past to the future

Decluttering and packing up continues.

Slowly by me, as I have a mound of accumulateds in the Inner Coven, mostly papers and leaflets, all in boxes, and some of it has been there since we did the extension here in 2006 and moved it out of what was the walk-in loft in the roof of the original then single-storey bit. I've discovered that if I sort quickly into piles of similar subjects, doing the initial easy discards, I can then go through each pile again a few days later, and keep less the second time. I've also found that where I waiver (should it stay or should it go) if I take a photo it is OK for it to go.

My problem is that I have a lot of very old and very interesting written official information (well, interesting to me, or to someone who likes social history, local history, old transport information, old tourist information, old recipes, old education documents and resources), and then there are documents from the many projects I've been involved with, that I am loath to part with. And I am sentimental. Many things could be loved by other people, if only I could find those other people. But I don't know them, and haven't time to find them, even if they haven't all become minimalists anyway.

Mr BW on the other hand can do packing up at the rate of professionals. Actually, faster than that. He cleaned and boxed up most of the remaining books and materials from The Studio yesterday, and there is now a huge pile in the centre of the floor, awaiting the next van load up. We haven't yet worked out the storage for the new craft room, largely because some of the existing storage we have here is too large and too heavy for us to move, so will have to await the final removal company load, so it will continue to be piles of boxes, albeit up north, for a while yet. Plus ca change.

On the subject of vans, up north it is now rare to get a delivery in a sign-written van. I think that DHL are the only company who still always arrive in a company liveried vehicle. Everyone else is using nondescript white vans or hire vans from both national chains and small local companies.

Which is probably why we are having trouble finding a van to hire this week.

Is this use of unidentifiable delivery vehicles the same everywhere?

 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The New Year continues in the same vein as the Old Year

Mi1dred was a very naughty automobile. Despite running well once given fresh petrol on NYE, she decided she didn't want to go out after all and refused to run properly once started. Mr BW decided to see if she would settle down if given a quick run round the block and ended up pushing her back from 200 yards up the road. Oh the joys of being 88.

She is now in disgrace and will be staying in until her new home is eventually finished (who knows when the stone will get cut from the quarry, or indeed whether the apparent delays there are real or simply a builders' delaying tactic) and she makes the long trip up the A1 on Willie's Trailer.

Plans for our last run with Mi1dred's sisters, cousins and their current custodians abandoned, we then spent the day washing and sorting things to take north later in the week, and then, after using a couple from our LFT stash, went to see Mummy Mr BW, who remains cheerful, despite how poorly she is.

Off now for another enthralling day of sorting, throwing out, packing up and wondering how it will ever all get done... Hope your plans for the day will be more enjoyable?

 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Starting the New Year Grumpily

The fireworks woke us up at midnight.

Some went on for twenty minutes.

Really loud and multi-coloured.

All like 'professional' fireworks used to be.

I have not seen fireworks like it since 2000.

Clearly people have too much money to burn.

I didn't really get back to sleep properly after that.

 

Friday, December 31, 2021

It's OK, the Bogey Men didn't get us after all

It snowed on Boxing Day morning. Just for a couple of hours, and no more than a light covering was emitted, but snow nonetheless, before it turned to sleet and then rain. Today has been 16°C (the warmest NYE on record, so since 1850) and it was 10.8°C overnight.

FOTCR™ decorations came out on the 18th and went away yesterday. I also managed to avoid FOTCR™ songs on CD, usually forcibly played to me by Mr BW. He has been listening to Radio 2 while decorating and plumbing the converted rooms and new bathroom, and they have been playing such songs since (seemingly) the end of October, so I suspect that even he was sick of them.

Mr BW managed to do nothing (except eat too much chocolate) on 25th or 26th, which must be a record for him, and was lovely. We don't normally have time to sit in armchairs in front of the fire and watch TV.

Due to the ongoing dismal grey rain wind and low light levels, we decided to do a trip down south to get some more sorting out done and yet more plants dug up and divided, as we need to get Coven Sud on the market in the next couple of months (and certainly by Easter). Hence the early FOTCR™ un-decorating as the thought of returning next week to Northern Baubles did not appeal. Plus we've had enough trauma and bad luck this year to not want to gamble on leaving decs up after January 5th (Twelfth Night).

We had a good run down: lockdown levels of traffic all the way to Lincolnshire, then it got slightly busier, but still only 5 and a quarter hours for 298 miles, as ever towing a sheep trailer. Just after noon, somewhere north of Peterborough we were suddenly surrounded by dozens of grey Amazon Transits, with turquiose 'Prime' flashes, which was very surreal. All 21 or 71 plates, and all being driven at well over the speed limit.

Does anyone else think that the official published covid figures simply don't add up?

There are now almost 94 weeks since a pandemic was declared, and, given that there are still an awful ot of us who have managed to avoid it (crosses Witchy fingers and toes, having first sprayed copious quantities of sanitiser) for there now to apparently be at least 1 in 25 people with it, after all the other similarly high figures recently, unless some grubby grubby people have had it 20 times, this simply does not make sense. Just one thing of many that doesn't add up, of course. Best not think too much or ask too many questions methinks.

We're hoping to take Mi1dred out to see her sisters and cousins tomorrow. The first time she has been on a proper run since January 1st 2020. Mr BW had to polish her points, decoke her spark plugs, and grease her nipples when we got here, but hopefully she will behave and we can enjoy a final southern run before she gets relocated as soon as the new garage/workshop is finished.

I have totally lost track of time. I hear that tomorrow is the first day of a New Year. I hope it will be a happy, healthy and fulfilling one for you, and wish you all that you wish for yourself.

Thanks for reading, and for commenting, throughout 2021. As I always say, a blog without comments is just a website.

 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Happy FOTCR™


Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, winter solstice holiday, practised within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all.

And, hey I didn't write this bolx, I nicked it from somewhere I've now forgotten, but you no doubt get my drift...

We woz robbed, until the middle of the week we were having another white FOTCR™ but then we weren't, so this snow person, from this time last year (constructed from the depths of Mr BW's brain, within the limits of the small amount of 'stuff' we then had available to us up here), will have to suffice, and we will have to make do with damp dismal murky cool grey outside, but at least our walls inside are painted with (currently) more than 80 litres of Dulux Trade Pure Brilliant White emulsion. And just imagine how much smaller that amount of paint has made our house.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, may you have the best time possible, within whatever parameters you currently exist.

Posted at 12:01 AM | Comments (8)
 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

In case the Bogey Men get us...

The new bright yellow bungee cords that hold our wheelie bins to the wooden fence at the end of the access track (and so prevent them being blown into the road) disappeared between Monday 12.30pm and Tuesday 12.30pm. The old restraining cords that we inherited had perished, so we had replaced them a couple of weeks ago.

Today 3 penny-sized blobs of pillar box red paint have appeared on the new steps to the garden from the new craft room. We do not have any pillar box red paint in this house.

...so just putting this here in case we do not get to see the FOTCR™ and we are eventually found murdered in our beds.

Very very spooky.

 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Shortest Day

Happy Winter Solstice to you all.

Mr BW, having finished the decorating and plumbing for the conversion, is 'tidyng'.

Fortunately his huge tool chest (almost as tall as me) has now left the kitchen/dining room after several months. A lot of practical stuff has also left the living room. Sadly the garage/workshop is not yet finished, as it should be by now, or actually even anything more than foundations.

As a result, the 'practical stuff' is now filling the conversion rather than it being filled with us.

Mr BW also put up FOTCR™ decorations on 18th December.

This is against the BW Law.

This morning we tried out the new shower in the en suite for the first time. It was excellent. We saved £7,000 by doing it ourselves (ie I researched and ordered the stuff and Mr BW fitted and plumbed it), rather than have a specialist company do the whole job. Rejoice.

I have been busy remembering how lovely it is to have a big freezer again, and cooking things to fill it. After 21 months with just 3.5 very small fridge/freezer baskets, it is fabulous to have room to make things in bulk to freeze without having to eat something to make space to freeze something else first. I must remember not to fill it completely, because there is still rather a lot of frozen stuff living 300 miles away that needs to be relocated sometime soon. I even put the ice machine on to make several hundred ice cubes, just because I now have space for their little frozen hearts to exist. I cannot tell you how happy this has made me. Normality is closer to returning.

I am concerned that if I stand around for long enough I wil be tidied away too.

 

Friday, December 17, 2021

WitchDay

Today beginneth the last year of my sixth decade.

A maximum of 23 years left, given that my paternal grandmother died two years before the age I now am, and my maternal grandmother, mother, and my oldest maternal aunt died (last Sunday) at 82.

In other news, every room in the house except the original bathrooms, is a mess, but Mr BW has been working very hard on finishing off the conversion.

The decoration, wardrobes, flooring, skirting and ensuite plumbing are finished, so the conversion is almost complete. As of yesterday, we finally have a commissioned, safe boiler. It was put in 3 months ago by a gas boiler engineer who hadn't the faintest idea about oil (not our choice, but perfectly legal), and, as we discovered yesterday, the only thing he did correctly was put the boiler in the corner (and that was only because Mr BW told him where it was going).

Mr BW managed to get to 57 before putting together any IKEA furniture. In the past he has built cupboards and the insides of sliding-door wardrobes from scratch, but it was cheaper and easier to buy IKEA wardrobe insides. I'd made up lots of MFI and IKEA flatpacks back in my student days and pre-Mr BW life, and was amazed at how much they've improved. There is even a little plastic tool to ensure you get the nails for securing the backing to the sides in the correct place!

We were going to our favourite seaside today (we've not been since the end of October 2020), and it is a lovely crisp, sunny day, but the tides are in the wrong place, and we feel like being lazy.

Just 3 fruit trees to plant and stake, the hens to clean out, the washing machine to connect to its new plumbing (hurrah, after 7 months it has finally left its temporary residence in the downstairs cloakroom), and a new hedge (from cuttings from that we removed from across the garden back in the spring) to be considered and maybe planted, then. Yep, truly a rest day.

At least all cards and presents for that season we don't mention until after today are written and packed, and all food procured or ordered for delivery next week. Hurrah!

Posted at 10:35 AM | Comments (11)
 

Monday, December 13, 2021


 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Many a true word spoken in jest


Credit.

Love the comment under it too: "An alternative would be you keep opening windows until you get to the one where Boris resigns."
Although sadly I doubt that "'I want to be World King' Johnson" will ever do that.

I can't remember how late it was cancelled last year?

Posted at 10:10 AM | Comments (4)
 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Water hardness

Having always lived in areas with hard water, I was looking forward to living with soft water, and not needing white vinegar or Viakal any more. And not needing to use so much cleaning product in the washing machine and dishwasher.

I noticed when we came on holidays up here that baths and sinks got much 'scummier' after bathing or washing, so needed cleaning round more often, but just assumed that was the particular place we stayed.

It wasn't. Well, I assume it wasn't as we have the same problem here, although I suppose that that might be because we are only 8 miles from there and the underlying terroir is the same.

Does anyone have any experience of soft water, and know any good ways or products for keeping the scumminess away?

I'm thinking that somewhere like Lakeland might do some magic product that you rub on that lasts ages and stops things congealing around the high water mark, particularly on acrylic baths and sinks? Or something to revive the shiny surface of old acrylic baths?

I did take a photo of the bath water after I had been in it on Tuesday after the 10 powerless and hot waterless days. I looked at it just now and have decided that it breaks the boundaries of blog decency, even for me, with all the extreme things I have posted pictures of in blog past. I have only ever seen such dirty bathwater after use on one previous occasion and I was 12 then and had returned from a week long International Guide Camp. But you can imagine, I'm sure...

Posted at 11:04 AM | Comments (6)
 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Fall Out

I still feel exhausted, shaky, wobbly, and 'wired'. I cannot get the adrenaline built up over the last 10 days out of my body.

I have a headache, pain behind my eyes, neck pain, feel physically sick and sick in the pit of my stomach, and have a deep sense of unease that this could happen again soon... although the next (named) storm and heavy snow that was due in at lunchtime has, so far, only been a couple of hours of the usual windy blow and rain up on this ridge, thankfully.

One would hope that if the electricity goes off again in this storm, they will prioritise power restoration for those of us who had longest off, but in my heart of hearts I know it won't happen.

I do however now have the personal mobile phone number of a very senior person in the grid company, who brought forward our local power restoration by 2 days, such was the fuss I kicked up on Sunday. He'll probably change his number now, of course, but he certainly heard what we told him, and now understands the predicament of isolated rural properties, and he did bother to call us himself when repairs went beyond his 'worst case' restoration time of 6pm last night.

Chief Builder arrived at 5.30am yesterday morning to sort out the new external fire door that was made 2" too high because the fitter measured incorrectly. He failed. He took it back to the manufacturer (50 miles away) for 7am so they could modify it before they began their week's production, only to be told that it had been fitted the wrong way round so water had got into the door in all the storms and then frozen and split the door so it now needs completely replacing. £3,000's worth. This was the door that we waited 18 weeks for, with a lump of plywood stuffed in the door opening in the mean time. The ruined door was brought back at 11am yesterday, refitted, foamed in, and taped shut. Apparently it will be replaced when they can finally build the garage onto the foundations and joining roof 'hip' that have already been constructed. Which is good for us as we are refusing to pay the next staged payment until it is finally sorted, as per our contractural rights.

We were always very clear that the garage/workshop/forge extension had to be finished by the end of the year. Due to the quarry still not having yet cut the stone, and the weather now, it will probably be Easter before it is finished. Which totally scuppers our plans to get the rest of Coven Sud up here and get it on the market in early January so that we have some money again and can pay off debts, and get the rest of the renovations and rebuilding done.

Chief Builder couldn't believe that there were no power grid vans around in this area, no clean-up contractors, no nobody helping us, and no no-one bringing us the supplies we had repeatedly told officialdom that we needed. "The rest of the County is crawling with vans and action!" he proclaimed. We just shook our heads.

We told him some of the problems we'd had, the complete lack of caring or action from anyone official, and that the army had arrived at 3pm on Sunday with just a leaflet which Mr BW had dismissed with a, "And what are we meant to do with that, burn it on the fire to keep warm?"

Chief Builder clearly didn't believe us until an army vehicle turned up with 2 officers, who - rather than bringing petrol for the generators as we'd asked from everyone including the previous day's squaddie - were 'making a list' of what people needed, 'to feed back'.

Chief Builder was probably pleased to witness that he wasn't the only one that I have shouted at recently in complete and utter frustration and disbelief.

We feel as if we have lost 10 days of our lives and all we have done is survive: feed the wood burner (every two hours), feed the generators (every 4 hours), charge vital communication aids (in turn), try to get vital survival things such as nightlights delivered before we ran out of those we had already stockpiled 'just in case', stop the Aga (running on manual) overheating by constantly checking when it was running in the red on the gauge and opening lids and doors, keep the hens alive without their protective electric fencing, spend hours preparing meals as we had no chopping/mixing/stirring/quick heating gadgets to help us, then another hour washing up. Plus constantly boiling large pans of water for everything.

I have a theory about why so many people (even those who have good cooking skills) spend so much money eating out and ordering take-away: is it because they don't have a dishwasher and gadgets to help with cooking?

Washing dishes is my most hated activity, probably because I am fanatical about food hygiene/cleanliness, and have very sensitive skin so react to all cleaning products. Plus I have always prioritised a dshwasher above everything else.

Other than in my five university years, I have never not had a dishwasher. Back in blog history I am sure is the tale of when the person I nearly married at 24 had to move out of my house and took the table, the chairs, the washing machine and the dishwasher, and I replaced the dishwasher first, as I could sit on the floor and use the launderette until I could save up for the others. And then, when I bought a tiny 2-bed terraced new build when I moved to East Anglia from the West Country in 1991 (all I could afford, such was the differential in price, then), I did so on condition that I would only buy the house if the developers removed a kitchen base cupboard and put in plumbing for a dishwasher. They agreed, then unforeseen physical practicalities meant they would need to rip out all the base units and worktops, and then replace the flooring in the kitchen, to achieve this. "That's an extra £2,000 Miss Blue Witch" they said. "I'm walking away!" I bluffed. Needless to say, it was done FOC in order to secure the sale.

Now, how are we going to get 12 loads of washing dry in this weather? Most unusually, we had an 8-day build up of dirty washing because I'd not felt well for much of the week before the power cut. Usually there is at most one load of washing waiting to be done as I like to keep on top of things. I have already managed to get 9 through since the power was restored. Make hay while the sun shines.

In other news, while the power was out, Mr BW was putting the finishing touches to our annual FOTCR™ card (at least 4 people we know claim to have a complete set of the ?20 or so we have now produced, which is probably more than we do).

We are now trying to print it. Mr BW can print it on the 'properties' of Coven Sud's printer, but not on those of Coven Nord's. They are identical printers. I am now printing it, via an emailed PDF, one sheet at a time, from my little netbook, as that seems to have different printer set-up properties.

I apologise to those of you who receive it: there are 2 errant commas, one misplaced, and one missing, and Mr BW has refused point blank to alter them (which would involve change original, change PDF, email to me) , saying that *I* am the only person who will ever notice/care. I know for a fact that that is incorrect. And, our envelope label generation database seems to have skipped back to 2005 in the migration between all the required replacement IT this year. How we are going to find the changed addresses of so many people that we send to, I have absolutely no idea.

Still, at least we still have power.
*crosses Witchy fingers and toes extremely tightly*

Hope you are all surviving these strange times in which we exist?

RIP Power Cut

21:40 Friday 26th November - Monday 6th December 19:22

Too utterly utterly exhausted, adrenaline filled and wobbly to write more.

Plus there are 12 loads of washing to do, floors to vacuum, and piles of glass and broken things to deal with where I've fallen and/or had accidents in those 10 days and 10 nights of powerlessness.

 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

10th night without power or practical support

Mr BW and I have spent another day still rattling cages in an attempt to get real practical help for people in isolated rural areas.

All the senior elected officials, the CEO of the County Council, everyone else we can possibly think of. All we got was a couple of vacuous replies saying that everyone was working really really hard and we had to be patient until our supplies were restored. Next Wednesday 10pm apparently, nearly 2 weeks on.

A soldier from Yorkshire in an army landrover from just knocked the door - with a leaflet, the same one we already have, the one with all the info about how to get help - all the addresses we have tried in vain and who have, between them, provided just 5 litres of petrol at 6pm on Friday night. Not even the logs promised for mid-morning yesterday.

We (and others with generators) need 20 litres minimum a day. And not to have to drive 27 miles through snow to get it ourselves. And those without generators probably need hospitals or mortuaries by now.

The soldier confirmed he can provide nothing and cannot ask for help, or get supplies for people himself.

Army barracks must have millions of jerrycans and thousands of soldiers sitting around playing on their phones or out on pointless exercises.

Using soldiers to knock doors is ridiculous. We know that, he knew that, but those who can make a difference don't, apparently.

I have no idea why they refuse to ask the army for real practical help for us and others in similar positions. That is what the army do best!

I have asked them why, of course. And how many people have to die before they do.

I am not expecting a response.

I am still waitiing for a call back from the regional power grid company promised at 10:30m this morning when I was called by someone at the Customer Service Manager's personal request. I did have rather a rant at them last night. She went off to seek info from him and promised to call me straight back. She still hasn't.

Greta Thunberg is right. It's all just 'Blah blah blah!' isn't it?

 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Update and help sought please

Dark, grey and raining here today. Need candles and head torches to see even by day.

"Oh, it's unprecedented!" say the locals, "Never happened before!" They've said that every single time anything out of the ordinary has happened in the 21 months we have been here.

If only the power grid company had been honest about timescales (see my previous posts and comments), people could have planned accordingly.

Our outage of 18 properties over ten square miles is on the very last date to have power restored currently listed: Wednesday 8th at 10pm. Goodness knows how that works because there are several people on the so-called 'priority services register', and we are the youngest people bar one family who have young children. Ho hum.

The worst thing is that the power grid company have not provided the councy council support services with a list of affected properties, so it is being left to locals who do have contact with such people to let them know addresses so they can check if help is needed. Even when they do have an address, data protection doesn't let them pull phone numbers from other systems that may have them, so it is a case of people who don't know the area trying to find remote farms (and the entrances aren't always as marked on OS maps). They could ask the posties or delivery companies to help, but I think their brains must be too small to think of that. It's easy for welfare workers to knock doors in towns, where the power is mostly restored now, but they don't seem to be thinking logically about how they could reach people in remote affected areas. We have been quizzing the postie and delivery drivers for info about vulnerable people they have encountered and feeding it back into the system.

I am so concerned that, among the 9,000 properties in the NE and Scotland still off, there are people with no power and no phones (so no way of calling for help) lying injured, ill or dead.

People who live in remote areas choose to do so for a reason, and therefore don't necessarily have support networks, or know who to call for help. We're doing all we can to feed things in as we discover them, as we do have a good contact councillor contact into the system.


Now, I wonder if there are any of you with any spare time who could help me with a couple of things, please? I just don't have the time and brain-space right now to research them - it's a full-time job feeding the wood-burner and generator, boiling water to wash, wash up and wash socks and underwear, and trying to keep everything in turn charged up as we can't run the generator 24 hours a day.

1. Can anyone tell me for definite what time HIGNFY was on the Friday before last (26th November)? The time of the programme often moves a bit and our Radio Times went in the recycling bin which has now been collected.

We know that the power went off ten minutes into the programme, but not what time that was.

2. Large chest freezers that will work in unheated outhouses.

There is now a Covid outbreak where we have our freezer contents stored (7 or 8 miles away), so we cannot sensibly go to get them. We have been managing for the past 21 months with an upright fridge-freezer (4 baskets) which was enough for our original plans. Then came Covid, Lockdowns 1, 2, and 3, and an unfinished-by-the-end-of-the-year-as-it-should-have-been garage/workshop building project, so we haven't yet researched and sourced a new big chest freezer. The one down south is so old now (and therefore very power inefficient too), and grubby from being in Mr BW's workshop for 10+ years that it is not worth bringing up.

Errant builders, door supply companies who can't measure, and power failures notwithstanding, we do now almost have the new downstairs craft room finished, which has a door into the garage-to-be, so it will be easy to move a new chest freezer in eventually, and so purchasing now would therefore seem sensible, and give us more flexibility in future (and until the power comes back on if we can get it here quickly).

Requirements are:

  1. Must be large (commercial size, bigger than domestic, can't remember the capacity of the old one, but it has 5 or 6 baskets across the width, can't quite picture it, don't mind if it is bigger than the existing one).

  2. Able to run in an outbuilding so potentially at around or below zero degrees in winter (NB normal domestic ones will not run in this temperature range).

  3. As energy efficent as possible.

  4. Old one was a 'Vestafrost' commercial make - and I guess all the extra baskets we bought at great expense for the old one might still fit a new one if Vestafrost still exist. Unfortunately I can't get the measurements of the old one at present.

Thanks for any and all help, ideas etc etc...

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (7)
 

Friday, December 3, 2021

8th night no power

For those who aren't as bored with this saga as they were with the building saga...


Today we seriously rattled some cages. Well, tried to. Emails, phone calls, text messages to anyone whose details we could find, or had had in the past for other reasons.

I emailed our Nice Blue Fat Rich Johnson-Arse-Licking MP. It was quite an emotive email, in which I detailed all our problems and frustrations. Some half an hour later I got an email back from one of his minions. Not an auto-responder. "Nice Blue Fat Rich Johnson-Arse-Licking MP thanks you for your message. In the midst of this global pandemic we trust you will understand that he is unable to respond immediately to you. He will aim to reply within 14 working days."

Luckily the County Council were more responsive. Not. A senior fire officer turned up at soon after 6pm saying he'd been sent to check on our welfare and help us out - with 5 litres of petrol. Said he'd tried to find us yesterday, but couldn't. That bodes well for if/when we have a fire, doesn't it?! No understanding that 5 litres of petrol will last our generator less than 5 hours, and that getting any more involves us in a 26 mile round trip.

Apparently they are sending us some logs tomorrow. 3, probably, or maybe 4. Perhaps 5, if we are very lucky?

The differently coloured county councillor who Mr BW knows personally has been fighting his Fat Rich Blue Colleagues to get things done. They seem to have finally declared 'an incident' now, on a Friday afternoon, a whole week on. No-one seems to know what that means, or whether it will push anything further forward, or when. He kindly offered us his landlady's washing machine and to fetch us some petrol. He lives 20 miles away. We thanked him but declined. We haven't stopped trying to make a point though.

Zero degrees out. It actually got up to 12 degrees in some parts of our house today.

Our whole life in the past week has been about basic survival. I know that there are undoubtedly lots more people in a much worse position than us that they don't even know about. Probably because The Authorities, who are supposed to be door knocking, can't even find their houses.

The Emergency Plan for this area will be much better, the next time round, if it kills us to force them to make it so.

 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Update... 7th night of no power

I finally had a call from someone from the grid company just before 2pm (this was the call I was promised between 10 and 11am yesterday).

"I can guarantee your power will be back on by 10pm!"

I then spent the next 20 minutes explaining to the empathetic woman (who wasn't from the CS team, rather the Smart Meter Team, and had been begging to help since Saturday, but had only just been drafted in to contact people) exactly why that was impossible: the job wasn't allocated, it could only be worked by local linesmen, and in the light, and there was only an hour and a half of that left.

I also explained how I had fallen over in the dark several times, including falling with a candle in a jar and ruining a carpet with wax and burning myself.

She has just sent me a text message agreeing that I was right.

I think she probably has PTSD after her contact with me.

If not, she should have. In her favour, she is the only person I have spoken to who has actually bothered to follow up though...

We currently have a County Councillor, the Rural Communities Team, and Social Services chasing this.

We still have no power.

We do now have 2 generators (the one ordered for next day delivery on Monday finally turned up: delivery man said, "Oh, you look cold!" "Well, I wouldn't be, had that generator been delivered by your company in the timescale paid for!" I replied, but, of course, we still have no heating or hot water or any lights other than candles. After some research, Mr BW has discovered there is a way of getting a 'generator port' built into the house electrics (so that the electric flows round sockets, not just to things plugged into the generator directly), and we will now do that when Phase 3 is eventually built (when we have sold Coven Sud so have some money again).

Today I have found 105 normal 'tealights' in a cupboard and another 20 citronella ones (which normally smell disgusting).

I cannot tell you how happy that has made me.

Aberdeenshire have called out the army. Have our county? There are more RAF and army bases around here than almost anywhere else in the country. Millions of pounds worth of national defence hardware fly over here practising every week.

Have they been asked to help?

Have they hell.

I am now beyond angry.

 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Powerless

We lost power totally on Sunday night. Not unsurprising, really. We had managed to get everything chargeable fully charged while we still had just low voltage, including some power banks, but they don't last long.

6th night now without usable power. That is very difficult. Really very difficult.

No promised updates from the supply company, and not for want of trying on our part. We have been given several definite times of supply restoration, that have come and gone. One lady admitted to me that, "Some of my colleagues will say anything to get people off the line!" We hear from elsewhere that it may be Friday (a week on) before they even start to look at the fault, and the linesmen being drafted in from elsewhere cannot work faults in the outlying areas (such as here) as the routings and ancient infrastructure are beyond anything but local knowledge. Our fault is affecting 18 properties, spread over about 10 square miles. It is very clear that those in call centres have no idea that such areas actually exist, let alone what it is like to be in one.

The generator we brought north started first pull, but then an important part sheered off, and that part is now obsolete and so irreplaceable.

Mr BW has spent 2 days doing nothing but trying to fix that, and chasing and collecting old generators from others, and then finding similar problems. All those hours of tinkering with Mi1dred's old engine came in very useful, but sadly to no avail.

Obviously no generators are to be found for hire or sale locally. We ordered one from South Wales for guaranteed delivery today, but, as ever, DHL let us down. Following another lead from another person locally we found one in a shop 35 miles away, and Mr BW dashed off to fetch it, and it is now churning out 1800W allowing us to take the old super-king duvet, leftover carpet underlay, 20m of clothes-quality fleece, unused thermal curtains and towels off the fridge freezer, which eventually restarted.

We did decant our 4 freezer drawers into the ice cream freezer of a closed-for-the-winter caravan park 7 or 8 miles away first thing, before we found the generator for sale, and they were (amazingly) still frozen solid. Luckily, as not having our home-produced fruit, chillis and cooked-ahead meals for the winter would have been so hard, and a huge financial cost.

If you can find and listen to Radio 4 (we have a wind-up radio) at around 5.30pm tonight, you will hear what rural communities around here are facing. One farmer wondered why the infrastructure had not been replaced and why the army has not been called in. They have generators, expertise, and all the things farms and remote rural properties need. "Would people still have no electricity supply after 6 nights if it were Basingstoke?" he mused. Rhetorical question, of course.

So many properties also have no water and no sewage as both borehole pumps and newer septic tanks rely on electric power to function. And as for farmers with no water and animals housed for the winter: I cannot imagine how hard it must be. The fire brigade have been helping some out, apparently.

So... after 6 nights we have done nothing except survive and attempt to keep warm. No clean clothes left, almost no candles... But, we do now have 1800w of power and 40 litres of petrol (that will last less than a day), so we will have to turn the generator off later and put the layers back on the fridge to keep it cold overnight. It's amazing how useful our camping things out of Bri@n have been.

But... we have had to spend over a thousand pounds on generators so far (only invertors can safely recharge electricals these days).

With fuel for a day for one generator (1.5 litres per hour at over £1.50 a litre - and that involves travelling a 34 mile round trip to collect) being well over £50 per day, this has cost us a lot of money that we just don't have right now (thank goodness there are still some 0% on purchases credit cards around).

"Oh, go and stay in a hotel, and order in hot meals, we'll cover the costs!" say the supply company. Yeah right, like Covid's not rife, Deliveroo don't deliver round here... and don't forget we have a half-built house and livestock that we can't leave... And would one actually ever see the reimbursement?

It has proved one thing though... the Official Emergency Plans round here are rubbish.

We could decant to Coven Sud, but we can't leave the hens and cat and can't bring them all down as we have no netting/food/bedding etc for them there now, and we can't really leave the house. There is absolutely no way that we can ask anyone around us to look after things, as they have enough to do just surviving without power themselves.

Even a generator can't power the central heating, hot water and lighting, as it can only work on things that don't pull more than 1800W and can plug into it. Oil boiler and Aga controls and immersion heaters are hard-wired. Although, if this goes on much longer, they might just cease to be so...

Good job we have plenty of survival skills and lots of resilience.

 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Still no usable power...

... more than 56 hours on.

And still no information about when supply might eventuallly be restored. Not for want of trying, on my part, either.

It is very cold, inside and outside.

We have a dusting of settled snow overnight: like icing sugar on top of a sponge. Purists might say that you should only sprinkle caster sugar on a sponge, but I am not a purist, and neither am I a fan of cake.

Despite everything, we have managed to get the hen pen back up and fully netted, so we are fully compliant with regulations. Has anyone heard recent information on mainstream media about avian influenza control measures?

 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

35 hours and counting...

Mr BW has measured the power coming into the house and it is 123W rather than 230-240W.

We think that things like laptops are phone chargers are working as they are made to be portable and work around the world, including in the US which runs on 110W.

I can understand why the washing machine and dishwasher won't work (they pull a lot of energy to heat and pump), and why a 20 year old strip light under a kitchen cupboard won't illuminate (replacing the kitchen has become the last project, because (a) we still can't decide what we want, (b) we haven't found a company that sells decent quality items, and (c) the mess from building work will ruin anything new, so best to wait until the end) as it has a high-demand 'starter', but why all the brand new low-energy downlighters (3W each), the new 7W outdoor security lights, and the new boiler controls won't work I have no idea. Must be fancy electronics that need a boost to start. But... the new low-energy downlighters we put into the kitchen ceiling are fine, along with the low-energy ceiling lights Mr BW has installed everywhere else. Hmmm... the electrician-installed downlighters in the three recently-converted rooms are on a new RCD protected circuit (with a dedicated new consumer unit), whereas the rest are on the old 1974 electrics which still have fuse-wire fuses. Maybe that has something to do with it?

We've just been told that at least one of the nearest farms to us has no power at all. Outside buckets of water are frozen solid, and a rubber boot tray that was outside being washed is now a skating rink for a cat. Inside temperatures are in single digits, despite the woodburner having been burning all night. Historic stone houses are wonderful, but very hard to keep warm, even with the huge amount of insulating work we have done (many tens of thousands of pounds, no grants are available). From experience of no heating for the past day and a half, I doubt it is possible to ever maintain a differential of more than 10 degrees between inside and outside winter temperatures in such properties. Therefore, heat pumps can never work here: as I have always suspected, a conclusion even endorsed by our Green Party Councillor. If gas boilers are being banned, and oil is frowned on, I wonder what the many people who live in such houses are meant to be doing in future? Particularly those who don't have money for improvements, or who live in rental properties with reluctant landlords. I heard the other day that all rental properties have to achieve EPC 'C' or above by 2025. Unless they are going to change the algorithm for calculating EPC numbers, that would seem to be an impossible figure.

It's now 11.30am. 11.15am was the grid company's estimated time of restoration of full power. It doesn't seem to have happened...

And snowflakes the size of cotton wool balls are now falling.

Posted at 11:30 AM | Comments (8)
 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Red weather alert

100mph winds overnight quite near here. Still very windy and gusting up to 50mph.

Our nearest neighbour from half a mile away popped round: she's never known it like this before. On her walk round she saw lots of trees down, although we can't see any from here. She said that the farmers have already cleared the trees that had fallen on the roads. And the postie has managed to get through.

Today it has sleeted, snowed but not settled, and is now sunny but zero degrees outside, and falling to -4°C overnight.

We'd battened down the hatches as much as we could yesterday so not much has blown around.

A few plants in pots have fallen over, and the orange plastic safety barrier to stop people falling into the foundations for the new garage/workshop/forge has blown over, despite being weighted down with 8 x 25kg bags of sand and a dozen large concrete blocks. The netted hen enclosure has also come down. If the wind doesn't drop before tomorrow night we won't be able to put it back up again, with even more guy ropes, so will be illegal hen keepers. Probably the least of our worries.

There's a lot of water come through (round, under) the new craft room to (eventual new) garage fire door as it is 2" too long (don't ask, nothing has gone right for months) so doesn't fit, and so hasn't been sealed in. It is apparently being taken out, taken back to its factory, cut off, brought back and reinstalled on Wednesday. Apparently. For the time being we have installed even more black plastic, duck tape and towels.

55,000 people in the north-east are without power: we currently do have power but at a greatly reduced voltage. Some lights work, some don't (weird as they are all new very low energy ones), the fridges are working, the router works but not the printer, the TVs and radios all work, but not the fan, the microwave turntable turns slowly but doesn't heat, the (1200W) vacuum cleaner works, but the electronics on the new oil central heating boiler don't, so we have no heat or hot water. It's currently 8°C indoors. We have a petrol generator, but the boiler is hard-wired in, so can't be connected to it. Hmmm, there must be something we can do about that, for the future?

Luckily we installed a wood burner and an oil Aga that has a 'manual' setting (and we switched to it around midnight before the temperature dropped too far, when we realised what was happening) so can carry on working without electricity for the control panel. We also have several duvets and more wine than most corner shops, so we'll be fine.

Once analogue landline phones are turned off and everyone has to drive electric, and warm with heat pumps, the world clearly isn't going to work, is it? Even if enough power can be generated to meet future demand, the ageing network infrastructure is far too fragile to be reliable, particularly in more rural areas, where overhead power lines predominate.

How are things where you are? Hope everyone is safe.

 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Bird flu, again, just for a change

In September, there were no instances of Avian Influenza in this country.

There are now 3 outbreaks (2 in Wales and 1 in Scotland), of H5N1 which is apparently highly contagious and will transmit to humans.

As at 3pm yesterday, 'enhanced biosecurity' is demanded. This basically means foot dip at entrances, not allowing anyone to enter the area unless they have to for welfare purposes, and only feeding under cover.

It's probably 5 days off 'requirement to house indoors', judging by last year, I think.

The email said:

"Dear Stakeholder

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone has come into force across Great Britain as of 5pm on 3 November 2021. This means it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures to protect their birds from avian influenza.

For more information see
GOV.​UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu#AIPZ,
GOV.SCOT: https://www.gov.scot/publications/avian-influenza-outbreaks/ and
GOV.WALES: https://gov.wales/avian-influenza-bird-flu-latest-update

APHA, Level H1 County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester, WR5 2NP"


With Mr BW still down south for an indeterminate time, and completely occupied with constantly 'fighting the utterly inept and uncaring GPs (now a 3-practice conglomerate which could not be making it harder) to get access to the already malfunctioning system' to get appropriate end-of-life at-home care for his Mum, I shall have to try to enlist some help from our nearest nighbour half a mile away, and/or the farmer's grandsons, to put up and connect the 2m square metal framed mesh panels that we used down south last time a few years ago (that we luckily already brought up here) as the hens cannot go in the greenhouse (as they did last year) as it is too full of plants and equipment that have nowhere else to go. Plus, I don't think that being in an enclosed greenhouse is a good place for hens to spend what is likely to be an extended period (probably until early summer, again judging by last year).

All those people who 'got a few hens' during the lockdowns last year are unlikely to be signed up to the email alerts service, and will therefore do nothing, so adding to the problem.

Last year, I didn't ever see or hear the 'requirement to house hens' mentioned on TV or radio. If you hear any such mention this time round, can you let me know in the comments, please?

Bird flu, like novel coronaviruses, is undoubtedly here to stay.

Last winter we noticed that a couple of other local(ish) small-scale hen-keepers used netted greenhouse frames to contain their birds and keep out wild birds (who are the main disease vector - as they can't do hands/face/space, seemingly like many humans...).

Mr BW will bring up some gazebo frames when he comes (we have several old ones from all the 'summer social events' we used to stage for various organisations we belonged to), which we can buy strong UV-resistant small-mesh net to cover (pulled tight so wild birds don't get entangled), but in the longer term we might have to look for a netted polytunnel or similar structure, I think. With appropriate guying, that should stand up to the wind. Unless anyone has any other ideas?

 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

All Hallows' Eve


Coleus livingstonei - aka 'Blue Witch's Hat'.

From South Africa.
Looks to me like a cross between and lupin and a salvia.
How have I never heard about this until yesterday?
And where can I get one in the UK?

One of the joys of living in the middle of absolutely nowhere is that I can be assured that there will definitely not be any child beggars extorting treats with menaces.

 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Happy Birthday Mr BW!

Mr BW

Me

All my love and thinking of you Mr BW.

Sorry that sad circumstances mean we could only be together until 6.30am. Drive safely. The Black Familiar, The Hens and The B33s will look after me until you can come back, don't worry about me, don't hurry, and take as long as it needs. xxxxx

(pictures and prehistoric font size and colour use recycled from my post of 29.10.2003, and already re-used once on 29.10.19)

Posted at 10:29 AM | Comments (11)
 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Windows and fleece questions

We had Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons without builders.
And now a whole weekend.
Joy.
We'd almost forgotten what it was like to have the place to ourselves.

On Friday, finally, the glass for the windows was delivered and fitted. Hurray!

I can't remember how many weeks it is since the window frames were fitted and silvered insulation material put into them, temporarily. At least five, certainly. At least we now have the temporary panels to use as winter protection in the greenhouse. Yet more perfecty good material saved from the skip.

Glass is just one of the things currently on "world shortage". I have no idea what workmen would do if there were not Covid, Brexit, lack of delivery drivers, and world shipping problems, to use as justification for each and every delay.

But, we were rather perplexed that the installer refused to remove the sticky labels or clean the hand prints and grunge from the glass panels after fitting them. This is the sixth time in my life that I have had replacement windows fitted, and this is the first time that they have not been left sparkling. "Don't want to put window cleaners out of business!" he joked. I didn't find this funny, and said so. We have complained to Chief Builder, who is, strictly speaking, "The Client", but, I wonder, what is the experience of other people who have had windows replaced recently? When we had 4 done soon after we moved in last year, we did have to be insistent to get them cleaned properly, but there was no resistance, once we stated our position. To me, it's like buying a new car and finding it hasn't be valeted before collection. What do you think?

We've been busily lifting dahlias, that were blackened by the first frost a week ago. They will go in the new bottom shed, as, being plastic, I think it will have a more constant temperature than the greenhouse. Next year the tubers can live in the new garage, but, for this year, they will have to take their chances dried off for a week or so, then surrounded by vermiculite and covered with fleece. Down south we always had dahlias in pots and just left them in their pots, in the wooden potting shed, every winter. Up here it is a whole new learning experience. All tips and hints welcomed.

Talking of horticultural fleece, I mentioned back in the spring that we had had a lot of disintegraitng fleece, that broke into tiny flakes almost overnight. Grrrr. Microplastics. At that time, no-one else who reads here said that they had experienced this, but Mrs Good Friend BW mentioned, when she was up here last month, that she had also had such problems. Has anyone else now had disintegrating fleece?

 

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Friday Question

Not quite an 'old style' Friday question; those were more for entertainment value, whereas this is borne out of necessity... but, it's Friday, and it's a question, so...

Does anyone have any thoughts (information, experience, recommendations, dos or don'ts) on garage doors, please?

The opening is going to be around 4m x 2.1m and the door needs to be electric and automatic, as future-proofing and lack of effort are important considerations.

I have already attempted to do a lot of research, but am now having doubts, in light of a comment someone made the other day, so would welcome your input.

Posted at 10:33 AM | Comments (6)
 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

A rare afternoon off


 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Building up

It's drizzly and grey here today, but the CCTV at Coven Sud reassures me that it is just as bad down there.

The first frost of the year happened last Thursday/Friday overnight, although I am told that the first frost down south was two days earlier. I hate this time of year. No time to be melancholic though, although I might be if things weren't so non-stop here.

We're both well, if absolutely exhausted.

Phase 1 conversion is still going on... 3 weeks over schedule on a 15 week build, and they have been working in dribs and drabs 7 days a week for ages now, which gives us no time without people here to flop and recover from the need to be up and decent by 8am every day just in case anyone turns up, the constant tea/coffee making (close on 800 cups served to over 60 different trades and delivery drivers who have passed through), the rapid and incessant decision making required about everything, and the ongoing 'quality control' annoyances.

Mr BW has been fantastic at always being ready at 8am, keeping everyone happy, keeping on top of it all, and keeping his eye on the time for making cuppas. I notice the faults in things they are doing and tell him, and he tells them.

If it were left up to me, my sentences to them would start with, "For fuck's sake, what the hell did you do it like that for?!" whereas he has a rather more measured approach which ensures they stay on site and happily change whatever is offending me to however it should have been done.

Luckily Mr BW, as an engineer, has more skills than many of them, excellent spatial and 3D abilities, is talented at wood, stone and metal work, and has a fair knowledge of electrics and plumbing, so knows how things can/should be done. It also helps that he is male as building is a sexist world, especially in the north. If I go into a space where they are working, I often get a "Captain on the deck!" reaction, whereas if Mr BW arrives, they carry on working.

Once I get over all the hassles and stresses of late deliveries, wrong deliveries, bad workmanship, faulty items, and we finally get the window and door glass in, I will be able to appreciate just how wonderful it all is. For now I am just tired and sleep deprived.

We have had to made real nuisances of ourselves in the last couple of weeks to push the final things in Phase 1 along. Mr BW got to the stage of taking down the makeshift wooden dividing/security panel between the 2-storey house and the attached single-storey 'building site' bit under conversion, in order to make the point that 'snail's pace' was not acceptable, and to be able to get on with the bits of the conversion that he is doing. Given that Chief Builder told me ages ago that the final 'break through' is always his favourite part of any build, I was pleased that Mr BW removed that pleasure from him.

I had the biggest hissy fit I've had since 1997 last Wednesday as the plasterers (here patching up the mess the slow and incompetent electricians had made in the previously perfectly smooth vaulted ceiling by fitting the downlighters in the wrong places, because they didn't listen to what we told them) - who were told to only mix outside, claimed they couldn't, because it was windy (it wasn't) then left the downstairs doors open so there was plaster dust in every single room, including on all the books and photo albums in the new bookcase right down the other end of the longhouse. I seem to recall shouting something about, "If any of you ever make that much of a mess in my house again, then you will be leaving without gonads. Because that is a biological word you probably don't understand, I mean without your willies and balls. Now DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" Everyone have been so nice to us since then.

We finally got heating and hot water back last weekend after 17 weeks with no boiler. We shouldn't be using the boiler until it is commissioned, by an 'oil boiler expert' but he's apparently too busy to get here for ages yet, and the plumber who fitted it was excellent (but just doesn't have the right certificate now as it costs so much to renew them each year) so we decided that oil is not gas and is not inherently dangerous, so we'd just not turn it off when it had been run up for testing (all the issues, including a sticking brand new valve - that had to be replaced - were sorted then anyway). 400 year old stone houses get very cold and damp as soon as it gets autumnal, despite all the insulating we've done, so we weren't prepared to be cold and soggy because a rubber stamper couldn't get out here in a timely manner to sign it off.

It's mostly just odd bits that are waiting on supplies being available now. For instance glass for the windows (the frames are in but the 'panes' are currently made of insulated silver board) and the main outside door. To save cost, Mr BW is doing all the decorating and fitting the bathroom (currently in the living room in many large boxes) to the plumber's first-fix pipework. Our tiler (excellent local chap, clean, reliable, perfectionist, and reasonably priced, who tiled the upstairs ensuite for us this time last year) is currently putting up 35 square metres of 'bumpy white' tiles in the bathroom (a 3 day job). We are still waiting on the toilet cistern (but have the pan) and the towel rail coming into stock. Ordered in early July.

A week ago, the builders started the groundwork/foundations for Phase 2a, Mr BW's gigantic workshop and garage.

Aside of one young lad labourer who hides where he thinks he can't be seen (not very bright and doesn't realise those camera-shaped things up in the eaves are CCTV cameras and that just because I am not outside all the time doesn't mean I am not monitoring what is going on) and does one barrow load of whatever and then 5 minutes on his phone, it's all going well. Last Friday Chief Builder and his latest apprentice were even here digging and pouring concrete until 6.30pm - they're usually gone by 2.30pm latest on a Friday.

Every day seems to need a dozen decisions, from where the piles of dug-out soil will go (this 'spoil', saved from Chief Builder's desire to 'skip it', will fill the raised vegetable beds when we eventually have the time to get round to raising them rather than just digging planting holes in the grass), to major things like depth of foundations and design of drive slope to give us room for Bri@n to fit in (the architect got it wrong, just for a change, and Bri@n wouldn't have fitted into the height of the garage with his design, but luckily Chief Builder noticed early-on in the digging and was able to make an adaptation).

All being well, because of a delay in getting the sandstone blocks needed to build the garage external wall (the small local quarry cannot cut fast enough to keep up with current demand), the builders will have to pause a bit in a couple of weeks. So, we are hoping to finally get some time down at Coven Sud. This will be the first time I have been down since May, although Mr BW has been down on his own every few weeks, while I attempted to manage and water the workmen up here. There is so much still to do there before we can put the house on the market, and, now that we nearly have considerably more Northern space to move stuff into, we need to get more sorted and packed up ready for another Luton van trip up before the weather gets bad.

Right, that's it, that's where we are up to, no time to polish it, so you'll have to cope with my Woolfish stream-of-consciousness. I will add some pictures eventually.

Hope your last month has been less hectic than ours?

Posted at 11:33 AM | Comments (5)
 

Monday, October 4, 2021

For Tim

With much love and strength to Z.


 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Changing seasons

Last warm day today, they say.

We'll be outside making the most of it.

Our first workman-free day for ages, and our last for... several weeks to come!

Have had the maddest week yet... over 100 cups of tea and coffee made. Absolutely non-stop, men working all hours, and 'stuff' and people appearing constantly.

Roof finished, Veluxes in, windows in (but no glass until 19th October due to 'shortages'), scaffolding down, insulating and boarding done and plastering more than half done, should be finished by Tuesday evening, then electricians Thursday, joiner to hang doors next Saturday, plumbers next weekend, wet room specialist floor laying the Monday after, then Mr BW going down south on Tuesday 5th probably until the Sunday. Tiler at the end of that week, and I have to stay here to open and shut windows and doors so the plaster dries off ready for Mr BW to paint it all (60 litres of white emulsion all ready to roll), then fit very cheap temporary vinyl for floor (the quote for the floor we want, to match the rest of the downstairs came it at over £8K so will have to wait, possibly forever as that is silly money for flooring - if we had £8K spare, which we don't, we'd have done the kitchen by now, rather than having to leave it to the very end), do the skirting boards and, once our tiler has been, Mr BW has to fit the bathroom to the plumber's first-fix pipes.

One of the builder's lads (working for us on a Saturday for some pocket money his ex-wife couldn't touch), under Mr BW's supervision, laid a 15' x 9' concrete slab yesterday - 3 tonnes of aggregate, 18 bags of cement, all wheelbarrowed from the mixer 300 yards down the hill - for the new beeshed at the bottom of the orchard area which needs to be up before Mr BW goes down south (so that the stuff from the old shed in the drive can be moved into it as it has to go w/c 11th as they are starting to dig the foundations for the new garage and workshop then). I do wonder how these young lads get by - hard physical work all week, left here at 4.45pm, then had 'a date' on Friday night meaning he "woke up in Durham and realised it were over an hour away", then ran rather than walked to condense what would have been a full day's work into 8.30am to 1.45pm so that he could get home in time to see his 'bairn' for the rest of the weekend. I guess we did things like that once...

Dave and Darren are kindly coming over tomorrow to help Mr BW put up the new shed. That's the second shed they have helped with. I never did get round to writing about the first. Or putting up the photos of the garden they took and kindly sent me over (the PC crashed when I had them all open and ready to reduce in size to post, and photos don't re-open when it is switched back on). I only have time and energy to do things or to write about and picture them properly, rather than just throw together some brief words. One day...

 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Thought for the day

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.

Charles Bukowski

 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Weekend roundup

The two plumbers worked tirelessly from 7.50am to 5.30pm on Saturday, and from 8am to 5pm on Sunday, and somehow managed to get everything finished, to a high standard, without making mistakes. The lead plumber looked utterly exhausted when he left. Chief Builder came over twice to bring them required supplies (it is an hour and a half round trip from where he lives). I've no idea where he sourced what was required on Sunday as his usual suppliers only open to mid-day on Saturday.

It all looks much more complcated than I expected. Pipes everywhere. Goodness knows how they will manage to fit in the required insulation around them.

Two joiners, two window fitters, and seven builders will be here soon, in readiness for plasterers tomorrow. I hope they have also remembered to ask the Building Inspector to visit, as he said on his last visit that he wanted to see the wall and floor insulation before it was sealed. Covid soup in there today... just what was never meant to happen.

The Aga is malfunctioning, and won't stay at cooking temperature. Dinner was an hour and a half late last night, but yummy none the less.

And today there is a 9am to 4pm power cut so that the infrastructure company can replace the poles and fuses hit by lightning a couple of weeks ago.

Well, that will make it interesting.

We and The Good Friends BW seem to be failing to drink the supplies. Mr GFBW arrived with another 7 bottles of wine and we are definitely getting old as we haven't even managed to cover the bottom of the glass recycling bin with empties. And we all went to bed at 8.20pm last night.

 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Another week, another dimension

We started the week 19 days behind schedule.

We've ended the week maybe 7 days behind schedule, after 64 working days.

I am totally exhausted. Trying to stay ahead of their blunders, their inadvertent errors, and their refreshment needs has really drained my reserves.

We'll finish up maybe 5 days behind, on a 70 working day build.

A couple of weeks ago, Chief Builder declared, in writing, "Just because we are not on site doesn't mean we are behind!" Despite our concerns/hollow laughter at the time, he could have been correct...

Today we started the day with Not-An-Archtect-The-Architect calling in to deliver final versions of the plans for all phases, and having a nosey round. Mr BW decreed that he didn't like the fact that we knew better than him what we wanted, and have altered some parts of his designs, and not followed his advice on other things. I realised that I really don't like him, because he is smug and arrogant and has a need to always be correct. I'm glad that I pointed out a couple of his errors to him.

There have been a huge number of workmen on site this week. We had 3 roofers and 3 builders here today. Not a second was wasted (first day ever...). I doubt that any of them had more than 10 minutes for lunch and no tea breaks.

From the outset (14 weeks ago), we made it clear that the builders and/or any of their trades could work any weekend, but not the weekend of 18th - 19th September, as The Good Friends BW are coming up from Suffolk to celebrate Mr GFBW's 60th and, belatedly, thanks to covid, Mrs GFBW's 70th. So, what is happening? Yeah, 2 plumbers, all weekend, from 8am each day, with lots of noisy drilling to do. That due to the originally engaged plumbers declaring on Monday that the first-fix job they were supposed to complete on Tuesday/Wednesday was beyond them (why yes, we are very fussy about our concealed plumbing, but, do you know what, we've put up with sub-standard for all the rest of our lives, and this time, in our last home, it will be perfect). So.... a chap from Kent (6 years ago) came to our/Chief Builder's rescue and agreed to work the weekend to enable us to keep on track. Then, windows (but not glass, or doors - blame covid, brexit, lorry drivers' shortage and data protection *House! Bingo!*) and 7 builders on Monday, and plasterers on Tuesday for at least a week. Screeders on.... floorers on... final fix joiners on... final fix electricians on... not sure, lost track.... and we definitely won't have enough cups.

And, for the first time in 18 months, the whole house is clinically clean. It has taken both of us most of the week, mind. We really need a Cleaner BW up here... I've had a cleaner since 1991, and it's really hard having to do our own (as there are absolutely no available options here), especially when the builders make so much mess that comes into the house with every step... and old houses are naturally grubby at the best of times.

We have 19 bottles of excellent wine lined up for the Good Friends BW's 3-night stay.

We all need and deserve it.

And we are delighted with how it is all looking tonight.

 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

September 11th - A Guest Post by Mr BW

One hundred years ago today on 11th September 1921, Stanley Edge, a young engineer, was summoned to Lickey Grange to see Sir Herbert Austin, Chairman of Austin cars.

He was taken though the library into the billiard room. On the table were sketches and ideas drawn up by Sir Herbert.

The drawings were for a new model, a new small car, which had been rejected by the board at Austin, and so Sir Herbert took them home to work on.

The car went on to be the 'Austin Seven' and set in stone the story that the Austin 7 is so sized to fit perfectly 1 to 1 scale on a billiard table.

The car changed the history of motoring in the UK and around the world.

It was the first car made under licence by a new German company called BMW.

It was bought as a chassis and then coach built by the Swallow Sidecar company into a small luxury car. The company changed its name in the 30s (who wanted the initials SS then?) to Jaguar.

It was made under licence in France and the US and copied by a new company in Japan to start their car manufacturing. They were called Nissan.

It was built into a racing car and raced by Alec Issigonis (who went on to design the Morris Minor and the Mini).

It was the basis of the first racing car built by Colin Chapman, who then started Lotus sports cars.

It was the basis of the first racing car made by a certain Mr McLaren.

Happy Birthday Mi1dred's Kind!

Posted at 11:09 AM | Comments (6)

A question of distance

By Monday we need to have worked out exactly where all the plumbing has to go, and marked it up, ready for first fix plumbing (the plumber is visiting on Monday and meant to be doing the work on Wednesday).

This is difficult as the floors aren't yet at their final height, and are currently at levels of up to 120mm below where they will be finally (depending on which of the 3 rooms).

While there is a plan for this, drawn by Not-an-Architect-the-Architect, we, of course, have altered it to meet our needs rather than his, or those he imagines we have. We gave up paying him to do revisions when he took on an associate who did not share his attention to detail, so we were finding alterations we'd made in the past missing from new iterations of plans.

Anyway, my question is, does anyone have baths with taps that are concealed in the wall above the bath (so that just the spout and controls exit from the wall)? Or know how high above the bath such installations are normally placed? Google doesn't seem to know.

The room has a vaulted open ceiling, so there is all the room in the world. Ideally, I would place all the items, and do the placement by eye, but with an inch of muck currently on the floor in the new part (stone dust, sawdust, and cement dust, now rained on, so not easily cleaned), and the items currently being stacked in their huge boxes the living room at the other end of the long house, with no easy route to the new part, and me feeling too weak to help lift them, there's not much chance of that. While we do still have the brown paper item templates I wrote about before, these are not 3D!

 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Friday's exciting episode of Life at Coven Nord

"We finally know why stress turns your hair white!" proclaimed the article pushed at me when I turned my PC on this morning.

I really don't need them to have tortured rats to tell me that: I know already. It's called Builders. But, yet another example of how my PC is spying on me, without my consent.

Chief Builder may have finally got the message about us needing to be kept informed and needing to know who will be on site and when, as he rang Mr BW at the end of yesterday afternoon, with 20 minutes worth of updates. Including that our (more than) £3,000 of roof windows have been 'stuck on the A1' for 2 days, with a courier no-one has ever heard of, that apparently has no contact details. You'd think that a manufacturer would use a reputable delivery service, wouldn't you? Until those windows arrive the roof cannot be finished, and so the floor cannot be insulated and chipboarded as it's not watertight. The roofers won't come back to finish until they have these items as they have a whole day's work still to do, and only an hour they can do without the windows (which were ordered nearly 12 weeks ago). And so everything gets knocked back, yet again.

The electricians failed to turn up as planned this morning, and, after Mr BW's text message to Chief Builder, finally arrived just before 11am, clearly having been pulled off another job, but being evasive about what had happened. First fix in 2 rooms plus a bathroom was supposed to have taken 2 electricians 1.5 days each, so 3 days in total. To date we are at nearly 6 days total, and they are nowhere near finished. Some of this is to do with the fact that they failed to note our written onto the plan, and extra - very clear - oral instructions that the floor height would be 118mm above its current level as it was still to be insulated and boarded, and so have had to redo the heights of all the switches and sockets they did on Monday and Tuesday.

We had a power cut last night at 6pm. We were eating our dinner and watching TV in bed at the time. The electric bed head was therefore in the 'up' position. Short of getting out the large and heavy petrol generator, which is in the shed, in the middle of a thunderstorm, there was no way of putting the bed flat to sleep. There is currently not enough room on any floor to accommodate just the mattresses. I therefore went out to sleep in the micro-caravan and Mr BW slept across the flat ends of the two bed halves. The power finally came back on at 1.30am. Seven and a half hours with no power. Many people (luckily not us) also had no water as they are on boreholes, which require electric pump and sterilising systems. 73 houses are currently running off a big generator until they manage to solve the issue, at which point the power will go off again. 73 houses would be one street in many areas. Round here it is probably 12 square miles. I can confirm that the grid maintenance company in the north is very much better at keeping people informed, and apologising sincerely, than that in the south.

Our two new plastic sheds (to go in the field, for all the b33 equipment, which is mostly all still at Coven Sud as we have nowhere to put it here yet) were delivered just before 8am. Well, one shed was, and one of the two boxes had split open and looked like many of the parts had fallen out. The driver rang his head office and was told that there was no other shed in their delivery system, despite me having received delivery emails and text 'time of arrival' notifications.

Needing two identical sheds (and I only ordered two small ones in desperation as there is a country-wide shortage of larger sheds until at least October 22nd), I therefore rejected the damaged shipment and then spent the next 2 hours on the phone trying to get a refund. "We can refund the one you refused immediately, but we can't refund the other one that hasn't been delivered until we receive it back at the warehouse. Ring again if you haven't heard from us by 17th." I was told. "Which bit of, 'there is no other shed in the delivery system, so it will never be received back in your warehouse, so I will therefore never get a refund', do you not understand?" I asked. I've given up trying to be patient or polite with such idiocy. Fortunately I got the refund without needing to go to the credit card company for a S75 refund.

We use a different builders' merchant to Chief Builder, and Mr BW's 3 bulk bags of concrete mix aggregate and 18 bags of cement (for constructing the solid base for the shed(s)) arrived without problem around 8.30am, and were craned over the drystone wall into the field by the usual helpful driver. "That company costs more than those I use!" proclaimed Chief Builder when last we suggested he used them rather than the companies he does. We don't find it more expensive, and Mr BW has a trade account, so gets a discount. Our goods got here today... his didn't. What can I say?

 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Could do better...

That's the builders, the joiners, the electricians, and the roofers, and me writing about it all.

I am sick to death of them wanting to work weekends as they have failed to turn up when they should in the week, for very spurious reasons. Not long ago, while Mr BW was down south, I had 13 days of non-stop workmen, which is utterly exhausting. I need two days of peace and quiet at weekends to recover, and I am not getting it, so I am getting tireder and tireder and slower and slower.

Then, those workmen who actually are here are unsupervised by Chief Builder, who is off goodness knows where - and he doesn't seem to know where he's been either - so do everything wrong. Several times they've inadvertently worked off old versions of plans (from their phones as they've got the up-to-date paper ones they were provided with wet so rendering them illegible: if they'd bothered to tell us, we could have provided them with fresh copies). A joiner who can't measure and can't use a spirit level? A roofer who specifically promises they'll be here every day until the job's done, then appears once every 3 days if we are lucky? Excuses have included: "We need to grade the slates!" - which apparently took 3 men 2.5 days (yeah, right), and, yesterday, "The van's broke down!" (it's a 69 plate so less than 2 years old, so not very likely), so holding up everyone else who now can't start insulating and plasterboarding inside as the structure isn't watertight.

Since Monday morning, we have had three, eight foot tall, piles of 120mm thick huge sheets of insulation, and a pile of insulated plasterboard, stacked in the drive. They were delivered well before any workers turned up, so once again, we had to supervise and marshall an unexpected early-morning delivery. After a few scorchingly hot days (the hottest September days up here for 115 years I heard on the news), it has been pouring with rain since the early hours. Had we not covered the piles with our huge tarpaulins, most of it would now be unusuable, or sopping wet, which, if used wet, would be liable to create black mould under the floor or in the open-plan roof, in time.

Last Saturday we summoned Chief Builder here. We expected him at 8; he finally deigned to turn up at 11. We politely read him The Riot Act, as he is now 19 working days behind schedule after 11 weeks of a 15 week project, and the amount of dust, dirt, mess and debris everywhere (which is continually being blown, or unavoidably getting walked, into the main house) is disgraceful. Plus, certain of his trades have been taking the piss: I came back from going to the library van last Thursday to find the joiners and the roofers having a competition to see who could play their radio loudest (2 different radio stations within one area, when we banned radios from the outset) and the roofers' van parked in the field, with their 'working mess' spread all over one of my wildflower patches, having driven over and broken several paving slabs, kindly donated by nearest neighbour, waiting to be used. All vehicles, including our own, are banned from the field as it is a wildlife area. If you thought you heard thunder last Thursday, you didn't, it was me berating them all.

The Riot Act Reading worked, albeit for just the first 2 days of this week. On Monday we made 17 cups of tea or coffee, which, considering we only make 2 per person per day (for their breaks at 10am and 12.30pm) gives some indication of the numbers who were here.

I gave up counting refreshments made at the end of week 3, but it's definitely over 400 cups now. I'm still on the first pack of 240 Tetley tea bags, but now onto the third 200g jar of coffee and the fifth kilo bag of sugar. Oh, and the second batch of 12 cheap white cups.

It's now gone 9.30am. Who's turned up this morning?

Correct, absolutely no-one. It isn't often that I am at a loss to know what to do in any situation. Short of screaming, I have no ideas, and that would only work to give me a sore throat, rather than ameliorating the problem.

See why I haven't felt like writing about it?

Oh, and, has anyone heard of an 18 year old having had covid three times (another excuse that's been trotted out)? I think it's the lies that are being told about why things aren't happening, and the lack of information about when expected workmen won't be turning up that is most annoying.