Sunday, March 10, 2024

Coven Life

A few weeks ago we got up ridiculously early and tootled up to the other end of the county to an auction because Mr BW desired an old engineering lathe (they don't make 'em new like they used to). It had a guide price of £80 - £100.

The auctioneer was only knocking down 90 lots an hour, and seemed to be spending far too much time on lots that went for £10 or remained unsold. But, eventually, we got to the desired lot number, although not before I had bought three lobster pots for £12. I've always wanted lobster pots and if I get bored of them in my objet displays, I can always drop them in the local burn and see what they trap. Rats, probably.

Mr BW dropped out when the lathe got to £260; it went for more than £300, and the auctioneer later told us that the eventual buyer (on a commission bid) would have paid up to £450 for it. Crazy, when buyer's permium was added, it would have cost them almost as much as a brand new one, and, something an absentee buyer would not have known, it did have a serious fault, albeit repaired at some long-distant time.

We've been making glass flowers for the garden (winter is long in the north and I love my flowers):

And chopping up Sunday Sherry bottles to make blue glass rings, for another arty installation:

It's been a lot of trial and error to work out the best way to get the blue rings to melt into a pleasing form:

The strelitzia has been flowering non-stop since my WitchDay:

What I hadn't realised until now is that flowers emerge from the horizontal green bit, and that the older the plant, the more individual flowers emerge.

We have destroyed two burning bins now:

It is really difficult to work out the most environmentally sensible way to dispose of unwanted burnable things (wood, paper, cardboard, not plastics). Burn them on site, or take them in a car on a 26 miles round trip to somewhere from where they will be taken by lorry to another plant, 50 miles away, to be burnt. Do car journeys plus lorry journeys equate to more environmental pollution than burning on site and then using the ashes as a garden fertiliser (potash), meaning we won't have to buy it in (with all its associated processing, packaging and transportation costs)?

Mr BW has been making a log box out of old pallets. Our existing one (in the background) was too small for the quantity of logs (for which read, old roof trusses and joiners' leftover cut-offs from the building works) that we get through on a cold day, and the cost of a decent new woven one is beyond our present means. As ever, we are future-proofing, so, for ease of future movement of firewood, it's on castors, repurposed from one of those 'dollys' that can be bought for £15 in Lidl or Aldi, if you are there at the right time. We 'misplaced' ours when we needed it (later found hiding in plain sight in the workshop - I reckon the Black Feline Familar was playing on it in the night) so had to buy another, then having too many, chopping one up was considerably cheaper than buying new good-quality castors on eBay:

And that strip of masking tape on the wall? Well, there's a shelf there now, made out of a piece of oak that we acquired from a local estate. It was meant to be for the kitchen, but was too heavy to install. Kitchen's loss is living room's gain.


Thursday, March 7, 2024


It's World Book Day. The day (almost) every parent/grandparent hates as they are required to produce a costume for their offspring to proudly wear to school.

I'd go as Patricia Coombs Blue Witch of course.

What about you?


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Supermarket Sweep

The weather has turned grey, misty and cold again after a couple of days of sunshine warm enough for b33s to fly. It's almost bad enough to send me back into hibernation.

I have a few superpowers.

One is perfect line: like perfect pitch, but involving the ability to see when things are not correctly aligned. No need for a spirit level, but distressing when things aren't hung or set straight.

Another is super-smelling, and my nose is usually as sensitive as a bloodhound's. That Witchy Power has been absent for 10 weeks now, until yesterday, when I realised it had finally returned from its holiday. Most useful for knowing when milk is on the turn well before it is otherwise detectable, when the dishwasher needs its filter cleaning, what spices are in a blend, or when there is a tiny fuel leak in a boiler, machine or vehicle. Or when there is an item of residual cat-kill decaying somewhere.

A third is being able to make things happen that should happen, under natural justice, without actually needing to do anything. A good example of that happened last time we went into not-very-local nearest town a couple of weeks ago.

We don't go there often, and only go when we have a long list of things we need to do or get. The majority of our grocery shopping is delivered, but there are a few things that can only be sourced in Waitrose, Aldi or Lidl, and hen food has to be collected from the feed merchants. By the time we have been round all of those places, I am usually very tired and strange things can happen.

We had bought about 20 items in Lidl, mostly pickled things in jars - the few things that we can't produce ourselves, that they do well and cheaper than other places: olives, gherkins, red peppers, baby pickled onions. Mr BW got to the tills before me, and, being red/green colour blind, did not realise that he had chosen a checkout with a red light behind its number-in-the-air rather than a green one. Most sensible supermarkets realise that 8 per cent of men (one in 12) and 0.5 per cent of women (one in 200) have such issues, so put a 'checkout closed' bar across the till belt, but not Lidl. By the time I arrived, Mr BW had most of the shopping on the belt, before the operative, still serving the customer before, noticed. "I'm closed, you'll have to go to another till!" he called out.

I could see several other customers heading down the aisles towards the tills, so thought better of wasting time remonstrating with him, muttered, "For fuck's sake!" under my breath but loud enough for him to hear, quickly picked up a few items and headed for the next door till to secure my place ahead of the descending hordes. Usually I'd have pointed out that people with colour blindness are not mind readers so cannot tell when particular tills are open or not and insisted he served us, but I was too tired, beginning to feel wobbly, and just wanted to get home.

I dumped my grabbed armful of purchases on the till belt and turned around to see where Mr BW and the other having-to-be-moved items had got to. As I did so, and I genuinely have no idea how, a jar of mini-pickled onions bit the dust. The woman in front of me, wearing trainers, stepped back and onto some of the glass shards, but didn't seem to notice. I nudged her arm and pointed to the floor, but she just shuffled ahead. There were 5 people between me and the cashier, and no-one had noticed, so I shouted out, "Broken glass, dropped jar!" and he looked over, left the till mid-transaction and started rolling the penny-sized spilled pickled onions about with his foot. "I'll get a mop in a minute!" he said, "You'd better go to the the next till." This till being, of course, the one we'd been made to move from. Off he ran, leaving the 3 customers in front of me waiting.

As we were unloading the items back onto the original till's belt, the same operative who'd sent us away reappeared.

I decided to assume Northern Style Dialogue rather than Southern Politieness, and pointed my Witchy finger straight at him. "This is all your fault!" I declared in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, "If you'd done the sensible thing and served us before, as we'd got most of the shopping already on the belt before you chose to tell us you were closing the till, rather than send us over there, then a glass jar wouldn't have got broken and lots of people's time wouldn't have been wasted!" he sensibly said nothing, probably because there was nothing he could have said.

It occurred to me that it would be very interesting to go around supermarkets dropping things, for fun, to see how much chaos one could create. Power, in a world where little people no longer seem to matter.

Posted at 10:08 AM | Comments (3)

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Hare today, gone tomorrow?

Sometime just before seven we were enjoying our first cup of tea of the day in bed, watching Countdown (a great way to start the day with an added benefit of providing a marker for how alive my brain is, and so what sort of a day I might have) when Mr BW noticed a hare sitting nonchalantly on top of the waist-high front drystone wall:

Meanwhile, in the workshop/garage just a few metres away, The Black Familiar was snoozing gently. She has a penchant for game, so this should provide some fun for her later.

I used to like hares.

That was before I learnt from unfortunate first-hand experience how very destructive they are.

We're having to repurpose some old electric hen netting to go around the new vegetable patch extension Mr BW has been creating in the orchard becasue of the number of hares and bunnies that seem to have descended recently.


Monday, March 4, 2024


We appear to be allergic to each other.

Since we were ill at the FOTCR, we have both been sneezing a lot. That is, sudden and explosive loud sneezing.

Last week, when we were at oppiste ends of the country neither of us sneezed at all.

Since Mr BW has been back, we have both been sneezing again.

Most odd.


Sunday, March 3, 2024

Gigabit cometh

The government decided to offer suppliers £7,000 per property to get remote rural homes connected to sensible broadband, rather than the £150 they were offering until recently, so, surprise surprise, it is now happening at some point quite soon.

It would be here by now, but there is the small problem of one saturated field of crops which the moling machines (large digger sized) can't get onto. They've done the ducting from both ends, there's just this one large field growing cooking oil a mile or so away that is keeping us from the future.

As soon as the sogginess abates, the crop will start to grow, so there is now the danger that the landowner won't allow the machines on his land until the crop is harvested in late summer. It seems unlikely that there will now be a frost hard enough to make the task possible without the machines churning up the ground and destroying the crop. The one saving grace may be that the farm manager's own new connection is also dependent on the fibre optic cable being able to cross that field.

Our speed is set to improve by a thousand times. Or perhaps it's not that simple? While we might then be able to stream TV and YouTube successfuly (the so-called Smart TV currently will connect to the router, but refuses to stream, probably because the connection is so slow), gone will be our excuse for not joining in online things. No more being at Zoom meetings with the camera and sound off to 'maintain the connection', but while also being in bed, and no-one knowing. Damn.

My bigger problem is that with the loss of the BT connection/account, I will instantly lose all my BT email addresses.

BT now no longer gives customers the abillity to use their webmail free of charge for up to a year after leaving, as used to be the case. The only option is to pay them £7.50 a month to keep using each current address. I have 5, so not an option with the current perilous financial position. And, having been a customer for many tens of years, I am appalled by this, so probably wouldn't avail myself of it even if money wasn't an object.

Emails from my own domains are currently redirected into these BT accounts, as I have several legacy domains - once bought and used for email, without needing to also buy server space for each - domains cannot be safely surrendered as whoever buys the domain next will then receive any emails sent to it. BT also allows email from these domains to be sent out over BT servers.

The new broadband provider is a CIC and doesn't have its own email facility.

Now, my question is, do any of the free email providers allow this these days?

Whatever I choose must have POP3 and IMAP as I pull all my email onto my own machines. Never trust your personal information to be safely stored in The Cloud is a sacred concept to me.

The main free email services seem to be Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo, but there are others.

Incredible as this may seem to most of you, I don't have a Google account, or an Outlook account (I think my Windows installations run through Mr BW's), as I have been able, thus far, to resist signing up to their commercial evils. I am also not keen to use any of the newer comers as they are liable to sell out to the big players or start charging at some point. People I know using Yahoo/Hotmail seem to get hacked with worrying regularity.

In short, this seems to mean the choice has to be between Gmail and Outlook.

I think that Gmail and Outlook both offer POP3 and IMAP, but do they allow email from other domains to be sent and received from a third party platform (Thunderbird) via their servers?
If not, has anyone any other ideas?

All hints and tips gratefully received.

Posted at 10:30 AM | Comments (8)

Saturday, March 2, 2024


How dare Sushi tell the country off for voting for George Galloway and lecture us from outside Number 10 on why we are bad people if we do not like what Israel is doing?

And then have the official version edited out to remove 'political content'. This absolutely epitomises all that is wrong with the government - if you don't like how what you do is reported, rewrite the source material of history. I only discovered that when looking for the text of the speech to link - I wonder if any journalists picked it up?


The People of Rochdale should be left to find out for themselves what the electorate from Bow and Bradford learnt the hard way, and Benjamin Netanyahu should be shot for genocide.

Holy god(s), the man was rambling and deluded. How can Sushi not see that he is the problem? But, sadly, there are no credible alternatives, no charismatic conciliatory 'statesmen' with brains.

It now seems unlikely that I will be wrong with my prediction several years ago that Trump will be back. If you're not well stocked up with basics, best get on with it methinks.

Steve Wright died at 69, Hairy Biker Dave Myers died at 66.

February was the warmest and wettest on record.

Is it surprising I didn't post anything for the whole of last month?


Friday, March 1, 2024

Marching on

It's been a long wet dreary miserable winter.

We haven't had a holiday for more than 4 years, not even a night away from homes. I haven't even had a night away from Coven Nord since early September 2022. I miss winter sun.

The housing market down south goes from bad to worse, and we are still juggling money like mad to keep 2 houses going and to stay solvent. It's not easy.

I have been seedling sitting this week, while Mr BW has yet another trip down south to keep the garden under control and sort out all those little niggles that occur in an unsold house. And estate agents who promise the world and then fail to deliver on any of it. He really doesn't need to keep having to make a 600 mile return trip on his own and spending a week away every month. We just want to get on with our lives, and finally have some money to finish off the things that need doing to our new (4 years ago nearly!) home. Oh, and to buy a new car, because ours are now in their 11th and 12th year and getting to the stage of being both costly and potentially unreliable. We don't need 2 cars these days, but there is no point in selling one of them now, because it is worth almost nothing, and at least if one goes wrong we have a backup, although it might be 300 miles away from where we need it. At least Car 2 makes Coven Sud look inhabited.

It has been a week of extreme frustration: deliveries damaged, late, disappeared; online supermarket deliveries early, missing things, and with damaged or rotten items; banks being ridiculous in the name of 'fraud prevention'.

Here's a story that started on Tuesday, when I attempted to pay off an expiring 0% balance transfer offer on one of Mr BW's credit cards from one of our joint bank accounts.

I set up and made the payment, and thought all was well as the money showed as having left the bank account, leaving it with 16p. It was going to be lucky that this was a short month and no payments were due between Tuesday and Friday, but ouch, that was tight.

Mr BW then sent me a message that the bank had tried to contact him, but he had missed their call as he was 10 foot up a ladder with a powerful jetwash in his hand at the time. I have no idea why they were calling him, because it is my phone number that is the prime contact number, and I was using my account login. I phoned him to discuss, and while we were on the phone another text message arrived on his phone and an email arrived in my inbox addressed to me. This advised me that, "To protect your money, we have put a temporary block onto your account. While the block is in place, you will not be able to use your card, online banking, or mobile banking. Please call [number] to discuss."

I rang the given number, having checked online that it was a real number for that bank. I was on hold for 15 minutes before being answered by a woman with very poor English, clearly in a foreign call centre.

Why do so many banks (who proudly advertise themselves as having UK call centres now) have their fraud prevention facilities in south-east Asia? Isn't that where most fraud originates?

She asked a few questsions, then advised me that it would take 24 hours to unblock the account and for the payment I was making to go through. I told her that was utterly ridiculous and demanded to speak to the person in charge. After another long wait, an extremely patronising woman came on the line.

"I just need to take you through security," she said. "I've done that twice already, once on my telephone keypad and once to your previous agent." I sighed audibly. "Yes, but we all have to be sure, we are fraud prevention team after all." "What is your needle name?" she asked. "What ARE you talking about?" I asked, fast running out of patience.

"Your needle name, you know, the name in the needle of your name!" "Oh, MIDDLE name!" I replied. Your English is very poor. It's 'middle' with a 'm' 'i' 'mi', not 'n' and 'e'. Say it after me, 'middle'." She had 3 tries before she got it right. Once a teacher, always a teacher. I don't see why I should have to give free English lessons to call centre operatives, but hopefully it will help the next person in a similar situation.

I went on to explain that it was unacceptable that my account and payment had been frozen for 24 hours. She told me that the previous agent had not been convinced by my explanation of what I had been doing, so they were giving 'the account holder' 24 hours to think about what they were doing.

I explained again that I had been making a payment to my husband's credit card from our joint account, and I was perfectly entitled to do that. She told me that it was very unusual for wives to pay off their husbands cards. At that I laughed loudly. I've never understood how people in long-term relationships want to keep their money separate. I told her that I was not prepared to wait 24 hours for 'the account holder', who was me anyway, to decide that they were being coerced into paying something they didn't want to pay, when they weren't anyway, and demanded that the account be unfrozen and the payment be made by them, immediately.

I pointed out that I was calling from the registered telephone number on the account, I had the incident reference number given in an email they had sent to my registered email address, I had a paper statment of the payees details in front of me, and I hadn't received any requests to divulge passcodes or help out friends who had lost their phones and money on holiday.

I then discovered that it takes an inquisition by 3 separate people, which takes over half an hour, to lift an imposed account ban before 24 hours are up. Each of the 3 had to be sure I hadn't been duped by asking their own questions, and I had to agree that the bank wouldn't be responsible if it did turn out to be a scam. I finally got each of the 3 to agree that paying off a credit card balance in the name of a peson named on a joint account is not a fraud. FFS it was £5,300, not £50K!!!

As I said to them, we were planning on making that account our main banking account, but we won't be now.

I asked for a goodwill payment for my wasted hour and the woman told me I should be grateful that they were looking out for my interests! "If you'd like to think that, then you think that, but I can assure you I don't see it in the same way as you!" I said and hung up.

Later that day I received an emailed 'survey of customer satisfaction after your telephone contact with us'. I usually ignore all such requests, but on this occasion I gave them the benefit of my wisdom.

I thought nothing more of it. Until yesterday, when my phone rang.

Yet another foreign call centre operative from the bank's fraud department. Not calling to apologise for my inconvenience, but to berate me for having used their survey to tell them what I thought of their fraud service which involved having to speak to 4 different people who all asked the same questions before they unblocked a 24 hour block on our joint current account and let my £5K payment to my husband's credit card go through.

After I had declined to disclose my personal details to the woman, "Isn't that what fraud departments always tell people, not to give pesonal details out to people who call out of the blue, no matter how convincing they are?" she decided she wanted to have a go at me anyway.

"You have to understand, it was for your own good, and we have to be especially careful where older people are involved!"

"Who's the older person involved?" I asked.

"You are!" I was told.

"I'm 61," I said, "are you sure you are reading your screen correctly?"

"Well, you are over 60 and you do have a physical secure key rather than using a digital one."

"So, because I use an actual gadget rather than a smartphone, because my fingers don't work smartphones, I'm gaga at 61 am I? Keep digging and you'll get to Australia!" She didn't understand that. I declined to elucidate.

"Do you realise that age is a protected characteristic in the UK? You are being ageist, and that is exactly the same as if I called you some racist name, under UK law. You really need to think about how you are interacting with customers, goodbye, and unless you or your manager are calling to apologise, don't bother calling me again."

And this is before we let AI properly loose...

Posted at 11:18 AM | Comments (15)

Monday, January 22, 2024

Another storm, another power cut

Storm Isha is considerably more whooshy than Storm Arwen was. Very very scary. The strongest winds I have ever experienced anywhere in the world. Probably 90 or 100mph. Kept me awake most of the night, although Mr BW, who is totally nerve in one ear, just put that ear up and slept through. The storm was much louder than his snoring, which is saying something!

The power went off sometime around 10.45pm last night, and there is no time for restoration. The fault is on a high voltage overhead line a few miles away, so, I'm told, "Until the wind drops, the guys can't get up the poles." Days, probably, as there are close to 1,500 reported incidents in the county, and these are areas not individual properties..

Unsurprising though, as there have been years of under-investment (for which read 'no investment') in the infrastructure. Back in the early autumn we had written notification of a day of no power while they changed some local transformers. In the eventuality the power didn't go off as the wrong parts had been provided, so the work couldn't happen, but, 4 months on, it still hasn't been rescheduled. We had to make a big fuss to get our 50+ year old sparked-in-the-dark pole transformer (which counts as a sub-station in these rural parts) replaced at the same time as we were made (by dint of unertaking building work) to pay a huge amount of money to them to have the overhead power line from the pole by the gate to our house put underground.

At least this time the external temperature is 10°C rather than below zero, and there is a nearly-full moon, rather than a new moon.

And of course we now have a small petrol generator and generator port, so we can plug the generator into the house and do most things that take under 2kWh, including running the central heating controls, and keeping the freezer and hen protection netting powered. Just no washing or dishwashing, but, we were prepared and are up-to-date on both.

No point getting up, so I shall stay in bed and do some more rows on my crochet blanket. When creative inspiration fails to strike, there are always useful things to make when you're a crafter.

Now begins the daily 26 mile return trip to fetch fuel to keep the generator supplied.

How are things where you are?

Posted at 10:11 AM | Comments (7)

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Bulbs, cabinets, house history

Every year I buy a red amaryllis. The past few years I've not been very happy with them: lots of leaves and not many heads. This year I bought one in Waitrose, which was double the price of those I'd seen elsewhere. It had two flower spikes and a limited amount of short, subservient foliage. The first spike had two flowers, and then, when those began to droop, another 3 opened on the same spike, and the second spike then opened 4 buds.

Is 9 flowers from one amaryllis a record?

And doesn't that Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' that you can see between the flowers and the right hand window edge look wonderful in the late afternoon sunlight? I must remember to root some pieces when we cut it back.

The h0ney pot cabinet that Mr BW made was finished before the FOTCR™, largely because the glass shelves were ready on 19th December, rather than "after the 9th January" as we were originally told. The wood plus the eight glass shelves were just two-thirds of the price that the glass shelves alone would have been, had I not discovered that the glass manufacturers actually sell direct to the public. Happy days.

And for those wanting to know what the Little Donkey H0ney Pot that I previously mentioned looks like:

A handy hint for you: if you ever want to buy a very old house and then research its history, and the lives of the people who have lived there over the centuries, make sure you buy a house with a number (rather than a name which has been spelt in different ways over the years) in a named street, in an area where there haven't been boundary or parish changes, and where the house hasn't been owned, on and off, by various Estates. It will save you a lot of frustration.


Thursday, January 4, 2024

Twelfth Night

Is tonight.

"No!" I hear you say, "It's not, it's tomorrow!"

Or even Saturday.

That Twelfth Night might be, but our Twelfth Night is tonight.

Twelve nights and eleven days of nasty virus. The days have merged into each other, every little thing we tried to do causing a relapse, and the greyness and constant rain matching our malaise and mood.

The New Year started badly, with a water pipe inexplicably detaching from the filter tap in the kitchen in the afternoon and flooding the floor. Had we been well we would have been out with Mi1dred, as we usually are on 1st January, and had I been home alone I wouldn't have heard it (so many loud gigs then, so little hearing now), so the damage would have been much much worse: a flooded house, rather than just 20 extra large towels' worth of water and an awful lot of laundry and drying off to do. Avoiding this disaster is absolutely the only good thing about having been ill.

Various significant anniversaries have flashed past, uncelebrated and almost unnoticed.

A corner on the road to recovery seems to have been turned today, and we are hopeful that the end might be in sight. Several people have told me that 12 days is the point at which you stop needing to sleep and rest almost non-stop.

Today is 21 years since Blue Witch was born.

21 years is a long time: almost a third of my life. It used to be much more interesting than it is these days, because there was much less other information and opinion about back then.

BW was born a year before Facebook, 3 years before Twitter, 2 years before YouTube and four and a half years before the first iPhone.

I had more time and more enthusiasm back then, and it saddens me that the archive is not accessible now, except to me via the search function in the CMS (posting screen). The template is crumbling and has been for many years, and I daren't change anything in case it finally does making everything totally inaccessible. I don't have the knowledge or skills to do anything about it, and I would be scared to allow anyone else to try. Knowing that it could all disappear at any time makes me loath to spend much time on it, particuarly as there are so many things I still need to do and sort out at Coven Nord.

I have no interest in any other social media as I am not a willing self-publicist, or an over-consumer, and I am intolerant of bad quality information of dubious/untraceable origin. I don't belong in this technological age, and it is less and less accessible to me as my fingers now do not work screens or small keys. But, I shall plod on, posting things here from time to time, for as long as I can.

Thank you to anyone and everyone who has read, commented and supported at any point during the last 21 years. As I've always said, a blog without comments is just a website.

And finally, a rather belated Happy New Year to you all.


Thursday, December 28, 2023


We both feel like Flat Stanley, although rather than being flattened by a board we seem to have been run over by the biggest steamroller in the world, at least twice, if not thrice.

We have been totally free of bugs since the awful one we had at this time last year. We knew where we got that, but this one is a mystery.

It started after dinner on 24th with feeling very hot and then very cold and slightly nauseous, and my first thought was that is was food poisoning, but given that we had only eaten home-made prawn and mango curry, and that we'd eaten prawns from the same frozen bag earlier in the week, and that we weren't actually sick, I quickly dscounted that.

Since then we have felt constantly on the edge of having a cold and having a cough, but nothing has developed, and we are left with unbelievable fatigue, aching in every area, and a constant headache. Neither paracetemol nor ibuprofen are touching either the pain or the headache, and used as I am to living with permanent fatigue, this is on another scale entirely.

I managed to have a bath this morning for the first time in 5 days, and to strip the bed and get the bed linen into the washing machine. Mr BW managed to remake the bed, but even putting on the duvet cover had me needing to lie down for half an hour to recover.

We are taking it in turns to make food, of sorts. Thankfully I had prepared everything well ahead and had a fridge and freezer full of home-made goodies that could simply be popped into the oven to reheat.

The constant wind and rain isn't improving the mood either. The hens must think they are ducks, but Mr BW assures me they haven't started quacking, yet. What has happened to bird flu? I have had no notifications of new outbreaks from APHA for weeks. How can something that has been so prevalent in recent years suddenly just disappear?

Oh, and, the drinks fridge went wrong. Discovering warm white wine and fizz on FOTCR™ Day was not what I needed to lift my spirits. It might have been the 5 power cuts on 24th, totalling 7 hours out of 17, that caused it, but it seems unlikely as we have now have very advanced electrical systems and control boards that should protect everything from any power surges, including when we run the generator.

Mr BW has managed to track down the fault and fix it. Ten minutes of investigation, then half an hour of sitting down, over 2 days, until the fault was fixed. Luckily we have an identical fridge that can be cannibalised for spares. We acquired this in mid-2020 when the first one we bought developed a fault and the manufacturers decided to send a new one rather than a repair technician, and refused to collect the faulty one due to 'covid risks'. Given that we have only drunk 2 bottles of wine between us in 5 days, it hasn't really mattered as much as it might normally.

Hopefully your festivities have been less virus-ridden and uneventful?

Has anyone heard of/had this virus?


Monday, December 25, 2023


Hoping you have an enjoyable day, whatever you are doing, and thinking of those experiencing current troubles and tribulations or the effects of past festive-time sadness.


Sunday, December 24, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 1

Just what we need for FOTCR™ Eve, no power, twice in the past 7 hours.

It took them nearly 2 hours to get it back on around midnight, and it's been off for well over an hour now. At least with 287 houses (which is a huge area, many tens of square miles) off there might be some chance of it getting restored sooner rather than later.

There's also an intermittent fault on the broadband which isn't being helped by all these power outages repeatedly upsetting the router.

Not so much 'Ho Ho Ho' round here. more 'Ho Hum'.


Saturday, December 23, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 2

Right then, who's ready?

Well, I was, but...

It now transpires that all the honey pots were packed without being washed. These are decorative honeypots from our extensive collection (somewhere over 150 of them), not honey jars. They used to live on top of a run of wall cabinets in the kitchen down south, but our ceilings are lower here, so the kitchen wall cabinets go right up to the top, meaning another home for the pots was needed.

Absolutely everything else was washed before it came up (free electricity and unmetered water there), so how these weren't is a mystery.

It may be that my trained-in-museum-curation-and-preservation friend who helped me pack all the breakables decreed that, being intricate, and time being short, they wouldn't dry off well enough to stay packed away for many months (or nearly 4 years as it turned out, how well she knows me).

This matters because Mr BW has been making a made-to-measure pine display cabinet with glass shelves for a perfect 'exhibition space' on the upstairs landing. If you wondered why he was sawing in the living room the other day, or what the glass shelves were for, now you know.

The cabinet is nearly finished - just needs a bit more sanding and some Briwaxing - so it needs to be filled. Today will therefore be hand-washing and carefully drying all the delicate china (much of it old and some of it valuable) that was unwrapped yesterday. Ugggghhhh.

If you hear me singing "Little Donkey..." it's not that I suddenly find myself liking festive carols, it's just that we have lost the donkey with honey paniers pot and I intend to track it down.

The festive Radio Times starts today, hurrah! Anyone else still have one? I am also looking for all my old editions pre-1999 as they seem to have disappeared in transit. Or perhaps 'been disappeared' would be more appropriate phraseology. Hmmm.

Posted at 10:00 AM | Comments (2)

Friday, December 22, 2023


If it was good enough for James T Kirk, it's good enough for me.

We watched "70s supermarket at FOTCR™" yesterday.

Other than a very annoying 'guest chef' and several errors that were definitely not 70s (I know, I was there) I am frustrated not to be able to remember what brand of 70s pâté came in plastic sausages with ends crimped tightly into metal ties.

Plumsted, Mathiesson, something & something, no, none of those... it has been driving me mad, nagging away in my subconscious, all day.

Someone help me out, please....

FOTCR™ minus 3

Happy Winter Solstice!

A day later than often, officially at 3.27am.

Time to make mince pies, with nicely matured sweet mincemeat from last year. The non-sausage rolls and smoked salmon mini quiches are already made, part-cooked and in the freezer, and the cranberry cheese twists just need assembling and baking.

The wind has dropped a bit at present, but it was fairly breezy yesterday.

Rather than a partridge in a pear tree we currently have a sheet of bubble wrap in a plum tree.
Where the sheet of bubble wrap came from is a mystery.
So is how it is going to get down.


Thursday, December 21, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 4

"Would you like me to clean the living room?" asked Cleaner BW (Nord) earlier.
"Oh good," I thought, "she's noticed how few boxes are in there now and that it is actually finally possible to see some floor to clean and get to the bookshelves to dust.

"Yes please, do what you can," I replied to her.

She looked a bit doubtful.

"It's just that, um, your husband is, um, sawing wood in there..."

I am delighted to see that local councils are to be banned from charging households to dispose of any sort of household or DIY waste from the begining of 2024.

Ours currently charge up to £6 per black rubbish bag (equivalent) for most DIY waste and rubble, and £8 per sheet of plasterboard (equivalent). With skips £600 each in these rural parts (and not always available), we have often taken building rubbish down south in the trailer as it is at least free to use the facilities there (and empty trailers are anyway harder to tow with a small car). And they wonder why people fly tip.

Now, if only tips could be made to accept rubbish when people turn up with it, rather than make people book a specific time, using a badly-designed online form, at least 24 hours, and no more than 48 hours, ahead. And also allow people who don't have cars to walk or cycle in to recycle or dispose of their waste.

And let people like me take home things that others have disposed off that could be usefully reused or repurposed.


Wednesday, December 20, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 5

An old friend sent me some flowers and chocolates from M&S for my birthday. She was a year out, but they were appreciated more in the calm and warm of this year than they would have been in the chaos, wet plaster and cold of last year.

The gift arrived on Friday. Unfortunately we did not find it until yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, when Mr BW went to put some recycling in the bins. The Yodel operative had left the big cardboard box in the bin 400 metres from the house, out on the road. Why anyone would think this is a good idea I do not know, although we discovered today that Nice Nearest Neighbour had also had a parcel left just inside her gate, by (but not actually in) her bins, on the same day.

Needless to say after 4 days in a wheelie bin, the plant's blooms were brown and the buds and leaves were falling off, and the truffles were damp.

M&S do not give a number on the enclosed gift message card to call in case of problems, so one is forced to look up a number on line and then go through their tortuous system.

As I was not the sender, I did not know the order number to put into the automated system, and nor did I know the card number that had been used to pay for the order. Now, I appreciate that as the recipient, strictly speaking I had no legal rights, but no-one who has sent a gift wants to hear from the recipient that it has arrived in poor condition and then have to try to pass on information about the problems that they have only heard second hand.

Eventually, after 40 minutes of talking to three separate people, all in Foreign, with varying degrees of proficieny in English, one of whom was insistent that the package had been "left as authorised by you" (erm, no, I didn't even know it was coming, and even if I had, I would never think that leaving a perishable and cold-sensitive package in a rubbish bin 400 metres from my front door would be a good idea), I finally got them to agree to replace the package. They were out of stock of what I had been sent, and initially said they could only refund the sender, then that they would send me an e-gift card (to cover the cost of the gift but not the delivery charge!), but finally agreed I could have an alternative floral choice.

It was meant to arrive today. It was also sent 'not Yodel' but it is still not here.

It is very windy outside. How are storms up to 'Pia' already this year?


Tuesday, December 19, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 6

Today the government reached a new low in telling education profesionals how they must deal with confused children: "Schools in England should "take a very cautious approach" if pupils want to use a new name, pronouns or uniform."

One can only wonder what the government think teachers have been doing for the last x years since this social media driven phonomenon exploded.

Also today the following question appeared on one of the education lists I read: "Can anyone point me in the direction of any research around children and young people identifying as non human (cat, for example)?"

I cannot wait to see what the government decree teachers should do about therians. “Therian” being short for “therianthrope”, which, according to one source, means a person who identifies integrally as a nonhuman being, such as a wolf, polar bear, or even earthworm, and according to another source is an individual with the mythological ability or affliction of being able to metamorphose into animals or hybrids by means of shapeshifting.

I'm looking forward to charting the rise of this phenomenon as it sweeps into youth culture. And to seeing how many PhDs it generates. When trans is no longer enough in the playground...


Monday, December 18, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 7

As the embargo on trees and cards and lights is now lifted, my WitchDay having passed, Mr BW has been busy decorating.

He is now sweeping the chimney.

I am noticing that many cards are no longer postmarked at all (does a stamp's barcode really tell usage and details of an envelope's travels or is that a myth?) and those that are franked now have much more generic 'mail centre' ink. 'Gatwick Mail Centre', 'Mount Pleasant Mail Centre', 'South East Hertfordshire Mail Centre', 'South East Anglia Mail Centre', 'Chester & West Wales', 'Lancashire & Lakes', being amongst today's offerings.

I wonder how many mail centres there are now, and what they are called?

Wikipedia tells me that there were 37 in 2019. I wonder if they all frank mail with their names? Add any you know of in the comments, and we'll see what we can come up with. Unless anyone can find a definitive list?


Sunday, December 17, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 8

It's my WitchDay!

It started with red sky in the morning and is continuing with 47mph winds until lunchtime, at which point it is set to rain non-stop until tomorrow afternoon. Maximum 11°C, minimum 10°C, according to the online weather forecast. It's not normal! Or perhaps it is, now.

Today we are going to make some flowers to brighten up the garden.

Now then, how about some virtual bithday presents? What do you think I might like?


Saturday, December 16, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 9

I made clementine marmalade and washed our pebbles.

It was 12.8°C and the b33s were flying from every colony. This is not normal in December.

Mr BW cut the wood for a unit to display his h0neypot collection. If you can't find what you want in the shops, make your own.

We were both amazed that the place we bought glass shelves from at the beginning of the year proved to be well over 3 times more expensive than the place that actually manufactures them. We only found this out because the first place referred us to the second place to obtain load calculations and I happened to ask the manufacturer whether they sold to individuals.

Over £300 saved and 12 miles on the collection journey.

Which leads me to wonder, what is a fair mark up?


Friday, December 15, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 10

Potatoes, crabs, rocky beach (pebbles), most northerly town (junk shops and charity shops), fabulous sunset, wonderful scenery. Almost no-one anywhere!

Delicious dinner from first two with home grown salad and garlic mayo.

Doesn't get much better than this.


Thursday, December 14, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 11

Blimey, I must have been a Good Witch.

Santa is bringing us the second best FOTCR™ present.

But not until the New Year, although activities are already, totally unexpectedly, underway in the field beyond.

Thank you government for the £7,000. Amazing what can be done when the offer is upped from £150 to £7,000.


Wednesday, December 13, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 12

The Big Coincidence continues...

We left the story on Sunday evening when it had become apparent that Mr BW and one of the other guests at a local neighbours' soiree had spent the first 18 years of their lives living 500 yards apart, but without knowing each other.

Or so we thought then...

This morning the host sent Mr BW a text message giving said man's surname. For some reason we hadn't asked it on Sunday (such was the amazement), and Mr BW had asked the host if he knew it. He didn't, but has since found it out.

I was in the middle of having my hair cut this morning when Mr BW received the requested information. Mr BW immediately recognised the surname, and sent a couple of messages to confirm his suspicions.

Turns out that Mr BW was the best man at the man's sister's first wedding (Mr BW and the first husband being best friends at the time).

And then... I was sorting through my archive boxes of old birthday and FOTCR™ cards and had a few rubber-banded piles that didn't have dates on them. The first card I pulled from the first undated pile (of around 80 cards) was from said sister and her second husband (also a schoolfriend of Mr BW), then with one child.

Half an hour later, I looked at the second un-dated pile, pulled out a first card and once again it was from the same sister of our new acquaintance. We lost touch with her after she got divorced for the second time, but I have a suspicion that we might be meeting up again at some point!

I'm not easily spooked, but...


Tuesday, December 12, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 13

There is one product that is causing us a lot of issues.


We try to use rechargeables for everyday things, like the lights that turn on when you open cupboards, or decorative lights and candles.

However, there are some critical things, things that need a lot of power quickly, or things that operate across a wide temperature range, that need better batteries: for instance, powered pepper grinders and the hens automatic opening and closing door.

Many batteries these days have a 'best before' date that is 8 or 10 years away. But, we've even had batteries leak that are still in the packet, and several years within the given date.

I thought it was because we've been buying Costco Kirkland batteries as they are a quarter of the price of Duracells. We decided to try Duracell batteries for a while to see how they performed. But, the other day I took batteries out of one of the spice grinders and found they had leaked, and they were Duracells that were only purchased a few months ago and had an expiry date of 2029.

Now, the insides of the item where the alkaline batteries have leaked can often be cleaned up with a cotton bud, some white vinegar and some fine sandpaper, but there probably aren't too many people who do that, so an awful lot of perfectly good items must meet a premature end at the hands of incontinent batteries.

I had quite a collection of leaked Costco batteries, and took them back. Costco have a policy of refunding any item that a customer is ever unhappy with, although it does have to be said that the sighs of the refund desk staff are more audible in northern branches than they were in the southern branches we used to frequent.

Is anyone else having more problems than they used to with leaking AA and AAA batteries?

Posted at 10:09 AM | Comments (4)

Monday, December 11, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 14

We were invited to an early evening drinks and canapes soirée. The neighbours (as ever, half a mile away by road) who invited us moved from abroad about the same time we moved up, although they had owned their house for some time before and had much work done on it before they moved in.

It was the first time in well over 4 years that we have been to a social event involving more than 4 people, the first time in over 4 years that we have eaten out (the promised canapes had turned into a full buffet with delicious home-made food of exactly the sort I would serve - that is, not involving mainly meat and wheat) , and the first time that I have dressed up and put on make-up in even longer.

There were 11 people there in total, of whom we already knew all but 4 (and one of those we knew by sight). During the evening it transpired that none of us were born and bred in this area (and only 2 were even northerners by birth), although one's late husband had been a local. 6 of us had been teachers at some point in our lives.

A chance remark led to the revelation that Mr BW and one of the men we didn't previously know attended the same infant and junior schools, 315 miles away (albeit 3 school years apart). They lived 500 yards from each other for the first 18 years of their lives, although they don't seem to have known each other, which is strange as Mr BW's aunt and uncle lived in the same road as him. Both have also recently sold a lifelong parental home within 2 miles of each other. What are the chances of that?

Towards the end of the evening, one of the women said that she often parks her car at the end of our access track while she takes her dogs for a walk. I have spent the past three and a half years trying to find out who that person is as they put their dog poo bags in our bins (which the Council insist live there, 400 metres from our front door).

Nice Nearest Neighbour shares my disgust at people who contaminate others' bins (she has had past similar experiences) and we just looked at each other in open-eyed amazement. Last Wednesday we had spent more than 10 minutes discussing the subject, and jokingly considering what would be a suitable punishment, if and when the identity of the person ever became apparent (yeah, I know, I know, but not much happens round here). How neither she nor I burst out laughing, and I how I didn't suggest to DogPooFiesta (as they were previously known to us) that she put her dogs' poo in her own bin in future, I will never know. Interestingly, DPF was the only person in the room that I hadn't warmed to, even before the revelation. Something about unshared standards and practices I think.


Sunday, December 10, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 15

I'm wondering if Royal Mail's management have a deliberate policy of losing mail and failing deliveries (or collections) so that the government eventually allows them to abandon all the conditions that were attached when they were denationalised.

They have now 'lost' the third parcel we have sent out in recent months, and we never get 6 days of deliveries in a week. Granted our regular postie is off long-term sick, but that's not a surprise to them and should have been planned for. More than one of the reliefs have told me that there aren't enough staff to cover rest days and sickness at the best of times, so covering long-term sick depends on others being prepared to do overtime.

We're not requiring the number of deliveries we did when we were building and renovating, so my knowledge of good delivery services is not as robust as it was a couple of months back.

But, here's our local run-down:

Evri (was Hermes) seem to be used by almost no-one now (since RM reduced their parcel prices, many senders seem to now be using them); DPD is always reliable and often even delivers earlier than expected and even on Sundays (I suspect because it's mainly a franchised business and owner-operators have more invested in being reliable); Parcel Farce is reliable and always early in the day but the driver is grumpy; DHL use every excuse under the sun not to deliver on the due day (including one parcel being 'too heavy' for the female driver to move so we needed to do a 60 mile return journey to collect it ourselves from their depot!) and are often late; Yodel are a joke and the worst delivery company by far; FedEx are always a day late irrespective of which service a sender uses and parcels often arrive damaged.

There is one company who are always reliable and on time... anything that comes from Amazon. I don't like their business model and I know that they are reliable only because of the pressures they put on their freelance end-point drivers, and try to use them as little as possible, but sometimes needs must. If there is a problem it is usually easy to solve, provided that one uses the well-hidden telephone service.

As an ardent recycler and composter, Amazon also seem to be doing more than most to be environmentally conscious these days. I am able to reuse or shred and compost almost all of their packaging.

Many companies that used to use cardboard and internal packaging now seem to be putting items, unwrapped, into oversize plastic bag wrappings. Given the cost of cardboard packing boxes, my theory is that the cost to the sender of replacing the odd damaged item is less than that of sending everything out in traditional packaging.

Plus, in most areas, plastic packaging can only go to landfill (or incineration). And what to do with the adress labels stuck onto the plastic? They don't peel off, so they can't be shredded. I cut them into tiny pieces with sharp scissors, but it's a complete pain. What do you do with plastic packaging and its stuck tight labels?

Posted at 11:06 AM | Comments (5)

Saturday, December 9, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 16

Has anyone seen any of those new Charles III coins?
Or any CIII stamps?

Actually, on peering closely at the 2 pictorial festive stamps that I have received to date, I note that the silhouette is just slightly more mail male than last year's.

I have several hundred EII stamps that I received from the Royal Mail swap-out (stamps being a better investment than banks for many years), and haven't received any letters with the new CIII stamps, so haven't seen any 'in the paper'.

We rarely go shopping and don't pay with cash, so haven't seen any of the new coins either. If indeed any are yet in circulation? Internet sources seem to be confused about the issue dates.


Friday, December 8, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 17

Mr BW took the opportunity of being South to meet up with his sister earlier this week, and they went together to see Mummy Mr BW's best friend, now in her late 80s. Despite being the illest of a group of friends who have known each other from the late 1950s when they all moved into a brand new housing estate as newly-weds at the same time, brought up their families together, and never moved, she is almost the last one standing. Which must be a very strange position to be in.

As the only person we now know who still has a daily paper, we are always glad to receive her old copies, as we need newspapers to line the hens' accommodation, and then enrich and speed up the compost heaps. We probably have 3 or 4 year's worth stocked up now, but what we will do when she is no longer with us, I don't know. There are only so many copies of Waitrose's weekly rag that one can stuff into one's bag, and they keep them under close control in the North. Plus we hardly ever go in Waitrose these days (they no longer send vouchers that make the stuff the same price as other supermarkets), and when we do it is often Not Free Paper Day.

Anyway, getting to the point of this story... the three of them were sitting having a cup of tea together, reminiscing about the old days, and bemoaning the decline in standards, the rise of consumerism, the increase in population, the ceaseless desecration of almost every green space by new housing, and our increasingly disposable society. Well, I am assuming that is what they were talking about as the script rarely varies during such encounters.

"I'm glad to pass on my old newspapers, and glad they will be useful to you!" said BFMBW. Everyone just throws everything away these days... for example, take darning socks, who darns socks now?"

Mr BW stretched out his besocked feet towards her... "Erm... us!" She peered closely and looked slightly amazed. I had told Mr BW to be sure to take socks without holes with him down south, but I forgot to specify, "socks without holes or darns".

I didn't used to darn socks, but times are hard, they don't recycle waste textiles up here, and Mr BW can make holes in any pair of socks in just a few days. Darning is quick, easy, and something useful I can do when I don't have the energy for anything else.

I suspect I am the only one here who is still darning socks, re-sewing underpants when they pull away from their elastic tops because they were so poorly made to start with, stitching buttons back on, and reworking unravelling hems or seams? But, I do have a separate "sewing room", where the sewing machine is always out and supplies are plentiful and easy to get to. If I didn't, I probably wouldn't, IYSWIM.

Just thinking, when Mr BW is able to mend household objects or appliances that break, fall apart or otherwise cease to function, most people would think that is great and admire his skills. When I mend textile things in similar state, I suspect that people are most likely to think that I am slightly eccentric. Why?

In similar vein, yesterday Little Mobile Library Van Man handed me the library books I had requested with a wry smile: 'Live your best life', 'Move to the middle of nowhere to thrive', 'Eat weeds', 'How to renovate your tumbledown animal barn into a house in a weekend', 'Resilience in the face of political madness and war', 'Brave Old World', 'Preparing for Armageddon', 'How to live on 50p a week' and 'How to be free'. Some of these may be made up.

"I've no idea why you need these, you could write them!"

I smirked back, "Yeah, but it's more fun seeing what others do, or suggest, and thinking what amateurs they are in comparison!" He shook his head. "You two are amazing, what you have achieved here..."

I showed him the recently finished kitchen, with built in poppadum rack (to fill an unused wasted space above the 'magic corner' unit), a full-length cup shelf made out of an offcut of kick-board, a built-in rack for rolls of foil and baking parchment, a beam over the Aga made from a piece of distressed timber rescued from the skip last year, and an edge strip at the back of the sink so washed chopping boards and trays can stand to drain behind the tap. All planned, designed, sourced and done by us.

"You're one of only two people besides us who has seen the transformation of this old house, over the past three and a half years, fortnight by fortnight, as it happened," I said. "And listened to all the trials and tribulations, so thank you for all your support, even the time when the front was out of the house and you said it was more of a bombsite than Afghanistan on your second tour!"

"There was one thing that always struck me," he said, "and that was however much was going wrong, however many of your trades were not turning up when they should, and however frustrated you were with all their excuses, all their shortcomings, all their claimed lack of materials, and all the times when you had no water, or orange water, or no electricity, and the constant mess everywhere, and the amount of perfectly good stuff the builders were wasting, or how many of your coffee mugs they were breaking or losing, you always kept the faith and always believed in the project and that it would be OK in the end."

And that's true.

"What's your secret?" he asked.

"What do you think?" I replied.

He looked thoughtful. "Honestly... I don't know."

"It's Mr BW!" I said.

(Talking of whom, he says he will post the number of bags of leaves he's collected in Wednesday's comments below just as soon as he's patched up the pipe on the old Dyson that has just fallen apart as he was cleaning up ready to leave tomorrow).

For comparison, here's a picture of the original kitchen (then 20 years old) 3 weeks and 3 van loads after we moved in:

You can't really see how battered and grotty it was. By the time we removed it in September, it was literally falling off the walls.


Thursday, December 7, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 18

So, almost no-one (ie fewer than 1% of visitors here today) wants to guess how many bags of leaves Mr BW will collect. *nods down*. I guess times move on. Simple things no longer cut the mustard. Sorry I am so boring and uninspiring, but hey, that is the life we lead, and I wouldn't change it for anything.

It has been raining non-stop all day. Rain always nakes me feel soggy, even if I am not actually rained on by it.

Nice Nearest Neighbour came round for a tea and a whinge this afternoon. She arrived a quarter of an hour early, which had me stuffing my half-eaten lunch in a cupboard, to be polite, stayed two hours, and, 5 minutes after she had left, I then had ex-Hairdresser BW Sud (400% better than Hairdresser BW Nord) on the phone for 2 hours and 21 minutes, which left Mr BW unable to get through, sending me emergency texts, emails, and even ringing the landline (to which only one other living person knows the number and which we never use) in an attempt to see if I was OK .

So, I am now exhausted and all I have for you today is a link to a site that is alleged to be able to tell whether or not an image is AI generated.

I know not. What do you think?

If someone has a link to a site that can tell me whether content is AI generated, I shall be very pleased to receive it.

I do not like the way the world is going.


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 19

Today's post is rather later than planned, but blame the lemon curd that took aaages to be ready to jar. Note to self: making quantity plus a half because you have lots of lemons that need using up is not a good idea; two smaller batches would have been much quicker.

So, we're obviously not playing the 'How many boxes did BW sort today?" game then, because it is quite clear what the answer would be. Although I did spend lots of time sorting several bags of winter clothes and doing washing, and turning out and resorting the tea towel and kitchen cloth drawers, as well as putting away the grocery delivery, and defrosting the hens, which took a long time as all the water butts are frozen solid and all the taps and hoses are winterised (meaning unusable), so all water needs to be carried.

But, 300 miles south, Mr BW is very busy vacuuming leaves with a cordless vacuum, very cheap in 2020 from Aldi, but not really up to the job. The Echo ones we had when we lived down south died from overwork. Here's hoping this little one lives to return to the north where its work is much less onerus.

The leaves are very late in falling this year, but luckily the extreme cold of the past few days has hastened their demise and downward trajectory.

Here is some idea of the scale of the problem:

One advantage of now living on a windy ridge is that there is very little leaf sucking necessary. However, the perils of a large oak tree, lots of fruit trees and a tall hawthorn perimeter hedge, plus all the neighbouring trees, when the wind is in the wrong direction, are sadly still with us for another autumn as the local property market is still dead.

Here is an area, and the leaves collected from it on a blue tarpaulin. I think this counts as 2 black bags' worth.

So... how many standard black rubbish bag equivalents will Mr BW collect in total?

(I say 'equivalents' because he isn't collecting them in plastic bags, but it is an easy measure that he can count and you can guess.)

Oh... and, the gutters (cleared in late October) are also full, I am told, and they count too.

Faites vos jeux:


Tuesday, December 5, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 20

Now then, with all the festive stuff under control, and all the building and renovation works complete, what is left for me to do?

Oh dear, yes, a whole large double bedroom worth of boxes to sort out.

Plus a third of a conservatory full of boxes of old papers and documents to go through and burn, and some boxes in the living room too.

But, I can't sort documents until I can take them straight out to the field to burn, and I can't do that until it isn't raining. If they sit about I will change my mind and decide to keep them.

It's 4 years now since there was last order in my life...

It is all a bit overwhelming (or even a lot overwhelming), but I shall have to pretend to be Mr BW, Master of Getting Things Done, who unknowingly invented Pomodoro Technique before it had even become a thing, let alone a trendy thing. So, I must pick one thing and start somewhere. Now, which thing to pick?


Monday, December 4, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 21

On the fifth day, the snow disappeared, thanks to a 3 degree rise in temperature and some rain.

Which was lucky, because Mr BW went south again to collect leaves. A journey that can be done in 5 hours on a clear road with two drivers swopping over in laybys rather than service areas, took 7 hours. Despite the rain and traffic jams without obvious cause, he reported that people were all driving sensibly, for a change.

Perhaps it's the calming effect of premature lighting? We don't go out much, but FOTCR™ lights have been visible in some houses since the beginning of November, and the town in the far distance in the valley, which is usually invisible, is now glowing dimly when it is dark. I'm glad I'm not paying their electricity bills.

We never put decorations up until after my Witchday, and I usually don't wrap Mr BW's presents (bought when seen, throughout the year - only little things, nothing expensive) until the last minute because I hate wrapping presents so delay until it is unavoidable.

However... I am happy to report that they are all wrapped already. After Mr BW had departed as it was getting light, I cleared up the left-behind mess (getting pre-prepared food for the week out of the fridge and freezer and into insulated bags, and heating home-made soup and pasties for lunch in just the time it takes him to have a shower doesn't allow for clearing up as I go, as I usually do), then decided I hadn't much energy left, so settled on wrapping as the least demanding task on my long list.

We gave up buying gifts for other people years ago, although we do still send cards. Which all went out with the postman at lunchtime, even the ones going to Foreign, for which one can now buy postage online. They would have gone out on Saturday as they were all designed, written, printed, enveloped, stamped and addressed ready, but the postie failed to materialise. Our postie is still off sick having had an operation which no-one will name (the mind boggles), so deliveries are currently rather unpredictable as apparently there aren't enough relief staff to cover all the vacancies and all the absences every day.

I have also concluded the online grocery orders until the new year.

The mincemeat for the mince pies is made (a year ago - there seem to be enough jars for at least the next 4 years) and the food for both my Witchday and FOTCR™ Day is already safely in the freezer or growing in the garden and greenhouse.

All before the festive Radio Times has dropped through the letter box.

Posted at 10:35 PM | Comments (3)

Sunday, December 3, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 22

I've had at least 4 ideas for something to write today.

Hw many can I remember now?

None, of course.

Tell me what you want to hear about tomorrow.

I got very frustrated by the number of companies who sent out daily messages for the month before so-called 'Black Friday'. So much so that I unsubscribed from most of them. There is now a definite lack of email. I can't decide whether this is due to my actions, or whether we are in a marketing lull?


Saturday, December 2, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 23

Looking back through photos, as I downloaded them from camera to portable hard drive, as I just was (yes, I am still that old fashioned), I am amazed at how quickly the weather has gone from 'late summer' to 'mid-winter'.

I am glad I take hundreds of photos, as it is the only way I have of keeping track of time these days. Such as lot has happened, and yet I have few external 'pegs' (reference points) to hang events from, as almost everything goes on within Coven and grounds.

Having had a bad b33 winter last year, I had already made each colony a sheep's fleece filled calico pillow, which went under the lid, to keep the warmth in, a few weeks ago.

Sheep's fleece is very breathable, and does not absorb water or go mouldy. And yes, for the fibre artists amongst you, the fleece was straight from my overly-large stash and most of it was my lovingingly hand-washed and hand-processed! People locally say that they use fleece straight from their sheep for this purpose, but given that almost all sheep are treated against unwanted insect infestations, it doesn't make any sense to me to run the risk of putting fleece with insecticide residue in a hive.

This year, for the first time in this country, b33keeping equipment manufacturers have started selling 'wraps' for the outside, for between £25 and £45 each. Presumably due to the colony losses almost everyone sustained in the very cold winter last year. We have our doubts about these as they claim to be waterproof, which, in our opinion, will stop condensation produced by the overwintering cluster from evaporating. We were always taught that it isn't cold that kills b33s but wet.

Plus, we don't have £450 to spend on commercial 'wraps'. But, the other day I saw some windscreen protectors in Lidl's made of the same sort of material for £2.99 each. For £30, rather than £450, it seemed worth a punt, and the fact that they are not fully 'fitted' just folded in half and secured with a bungee cord, means there is still space for the hive to breathe through the exposed wood. Plus, if we have a few nice days with higher temperatures than the current zero by day and minus 5 by night, they can be quickly and easily removed.

Let's hope they work.

And yes, you do see old cupboard doors removed during the renovations doing service as wind-breaks. Why throw things away if they can be useful?


Friday, December 1, 2023

FOTCR™ minus 24

The snow:

It was minus 3.3°C in a sheltered spot last night, and not much warmer today, although the sun has been out.

In the middle of that picture you will see a hawthorn tree, unintentionally framed by Mr BW's relocation of the climbing bean frame for next year. Here's a close up:

This is the view from the toilet in our bedroom ensuite.

I won't call it 'Hawthorn Gap' because some nutter might come and chop it down.

It's a lovely date today, isn't it? 011223


Thursday, November 30, 2023

November is a going out

It snowed.
We received our first FOTCR™ card.
Neither of these things is normal.


Saturday, November 4, 2023

A question of taste


Friday, November 3, 2023


And finally, Tim managed to guess the new addition to the household.

He is rewarded with a look at Mr BW's WitchDay cake:

Sorry it's only a look, but the last slice was consumed yesterday evening. That must be a record... 4 days it lasted, and that was with Nice Nearest Neighbour having a piece (medium) and me having 3 pieces (small). It was 10.5" in diameter and it was slathered in 900ml of whipped double cream (*shudders* but it is what he wanted).

Note the "9" candle that was cut and rewaxed from a "0" candle. I nearly kept it for next year, but realised that a used "0" and an unused "6" would look odd. So, 9 years on it got a second usage, and in another 10 it will reappear. Provided Mr BW hasn't thrown it out in the meantime when I'm not looking. He and NNN are plotting on that front.

Now, while most things are getting smaller (packs of butter and cheese, I am particularly looking at you) Cadbury's Buttons are getting bigger. They no longer fit nicely on a cream blob, so had to be stuck on the side. I deliberately didn't buy the 'giant' ones, but these standard sized ones are now too large to be useful. Good job I only buy them once a year.


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

All Saints Day

Yesterday we went out to collect a new member of the household.

We had the choice of collecting him from 30 miles north of here, or 30 miles south.

We chose the former, as we could then all visit the Ladybird Exhibition (due to close next week, but moving on to other places), the cheese shop, the potato farm, and our favourite seaside.

He sighed a bit when he saw how small the Blue Broom is (he is 2.4m tall), and sighed even more when we spilt home-made soup on his white attire at lunchtime. He had to breathe in at the potato farm when we plonked a sack of spuds on the seat next to him.

He enjoyed the autumn colours along the way, as the scenery reminded him of home:

He wasn't keen on the Ladybird Books, although we loved them.

The exhibition was much more about the writers and illustrators and had many more original documents than the one we saw back in 2015 at the De La Warr Pavillion. This critique of the draft of one of the history books made me laugh, largely because I could just imagine myself writing it:

He enjoyed the seasonal crochet atop the post box outside the cheese shop in Wooler:

He insisted on staying in the car at the seaside, because he said he'd get lost in the snow, which, on closer inspection turned out to be not snow at all but the likely evidence that one of the tankers visible on the horizon had been naughtily washing out their tanks with detergent.

He bucked up a bit after we got home, but this morning Mr BW told me he was rather cut up after his experiences yesterday. I went to see him, but, in reality, he is really rather stuck up.


Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Flying Tonight

Halloween at The Coven
What will you be doing?


Saturday, October 28, 2023

Happy Witchday!

It's been raining hard for most of the night.
The garage hasn't leaked.

The mice in the wall behind the bed have 'gone'.

The kickboards are on in the kitchen.
We need 3 short bits of skirting board to finish off the kitchen, and there are definitely enough leftovers somewhere, but we still can't find where they are hiding.

But, that search can continue another day as it's a day off today as it's Mr BW's Witchday!

He gets a whole day off for good behaviour and working very hard.

In fact, he has a whole hour extra today.
I wondered how many times that had happened in his life, but I couldn't work it out.

This is a picture of us celebrating.
I've decided that my true role in life is that of a Soup Dragon rather than Mother Clanger.

I'm off now to make a chocolate cake... as it's a fat-less sponge (to make up for the pint of double cream in the filling and topping as it is to be a black forest gateau) it doesn't keep that well, so I decided to make it as late as possible.


Friday, October 27, 2023

Working hard

We have lost the skirting board.

We have not yet filled the new kitchen cabinets, but I have been trying hard for most of the week.

Almost all the kitchen-related boxes that have arrived here in dribs and drabs over the past 43 months have now been rehomed. Mr BW is not enjoying playing "guess where X is now" although it is all now in the most sensible place it will fit.

It's his Witchday Weekend.

We have promised ourselves that we are going to spend all day in bed on Sunday (the actual Day). Watching TV (mostly recorded, as the hard drive is now nearly full as we never have enough hours in the day to watch the TV we do record), of course, because we are old now, although I am forever 22 months older than him, so he is still just in his 6th decade.

We need a rest as we are exhausted.

I have apparently failed as I still have unplanted bulbs. I nearly managed it this afternoon, but rain stopped play. There is lots of rain currently, although the leaves on the trees are only just turning - another sign of climate change as when we came up here on holiday every year this week for 16 years prior to 4 years ago, all the leaves were long gone.

We have nearly recovered from last weekend's flooding. Nearly.


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Incursions and infestations

The towels used to soak up the rainwater that got into the garage during the storm are still drying around the house. Mr BW has constructed some 'edges' to the raised rubber strip that already runs across the floor at the base of the garage door. The gaps in the sides were only small, but it is amazing how much water got through them.

Rain very rarely comes from that direction, and even more rarely horizontally, but we live in uncertain climatic times, so no doubt this will be the first event of many, and better safe than sorry. A repeat of that experience I do not want ever again. We deliberately chose to live on the top of a ridge, but even that was not enough in these times!

The sheet materials that got wet have dried off in the adjacent craft room, and, give or take a few edges, are still usable. I have ordered a 'trolley' similar to those found in some DIY stores for handling sheet materials, which will keep them off the floor and out of danger in the future, and make them easily moveable around the garage/workshop. The Planners made us trim 2m off the originally proposed length of the garage which has made it rather cramped compared with how it should have been. In retrospect, we should have just had it built to how we wanted it, as no-one ever checked. It always amazes me that Building Control only ever check that things are built to Building Regulations, and not to the actual plans agreed by the Planning Department. I wonder what proportion of buildings are actually built to what is agreed?

A couple of weeks ago, when Mr BW was down South for the week, winterising the house, I was kept awake at nights by the unmistakable pitter patter of tiny feet and scratching in the wall behind my head.

All old houses suffer from mice, and we usually just set traps in the lofts. So that the mice die happy, we bait them with peanut butter, and we use very heavy duty traps that kill instantly, as you only need to have once seen a mouse suffering and not dead in a cheap flimsy trap to never use that sort again.

However, our new bedroom is in the single-storey part of the Longhouse that was originally the animal barn, and the walls are over 2 feet thick, and the ceiling is now vaulted, so there is no loft, and no access to anything.

The original walls are comprised of two separate walls of thick stone blocks, with the gap between filled with stone dust and rubble. To bring it up to modern regulations for insulation and energy efficiency, wooden battening was added, then a green plastic vapour membrane, and 4" thick foam board sheets backed with silver foil, which were then plasterboarded, then plaster skimmed.

The water pipes and electricity cables run through holes drilled in the wooden battening, and, as with all modern piping runs, they are plastic. Mice just love munching on plastic. It also sounded like they were having a jolly good munch on the insulation. There was no way that we could make big enough holes in the plasterboard and insulation materials to fit mouse traps. If we'd thought about it, we could have had some access holes built in just in case, but I'd never even heard of people having problems with mice in converted structures.

Anyway, we now have two holes bored in the plasterboard, with two rings of very tough wire with bait blocks threaded on inserted into them, and wire ends protruding out, so that the little devils can't carry the posion away to store (which they do with loose grain-based poison). They are very well sealed, and, as both holes are on my side of the bed, they also have an extra strip of tape so I can be ultra-sure that the meecies haven't escaped the void and come to visit.

I hate using poison, but there is absolutely no option in this situation. I have instructed The Black Familiar not to eat any mice for a while, but, having researched, secondary poisoning seems to be fairly rare, and her taste is more for rabbits (of which there are abundant warrens full at present) and Felix sachets anyway.

There has been fewer mice noises the last couple of nights and 3 bait blocks have already been munched. However, once mice have got in, my experience is that they continue forever. Now, how can I make two wire loops protruding from the wall look sexy?


Saturday, October 21, 2023


I woke in the night and the wind and rain were still ferocious.

I went to inspect the garage floor and the many towels and old rags that we'd put against the garage door were too wet to absorb any more water, and the floor mats were also saturated.

Inspiration came to me and I realised we could use the old-fashioned tub spin dryer, that I use to spin water out of fleece and yarn when I dye, it to remove the water from the towels so they could be re-used. Towels dry best when they are very slightly damp after all. There followed an hour of trudging backwards and forwards to the spin dryer lugging cold wet soggy textiles. Just what I wanted to be doing at 1am.

This morning the dehumidifier has mostly dried out the wet-edged sheets of wood and plasterboard that we moved into the craft room from the adjacent garage. My huge store of corks (from bottles - I never throw them away) came in very useful in keeping the stacked vertically sheets of wood wedged apart to allow air to circulate. Some edges might need to be cut off, but at least the majority is salvageable, which is more than it would have been had we not moved it.

The wind has now dropped, and is supposed to spin round by early afternoon, and although there are intermittent sploshes of rain, without the wind, it is no longer hitting the garage door horizontally and running straight down and in, so bypassing the gridded drainage channel across the front. There is already a 2" rubber strip across the width of the garage door opening, so it's probably just a case of finding a way to shore up the two sides effectively. There is only a very small gap each side, but it is staggering how much water managed to get in, and how far it ran across the concrete floor.

At least it provides an opportunity to properly clean out and re-order the garage/workshop, and ensure that in future everything is on (leftover) concrete blocks, covered with (saved from packaging for repurposing) plastic sheeting, off the floor, in case of further future water incursions. A chance to logically sort a year's worth of stuff piled on top of stuff because we had no time to sort it properly with everything else that has gone on in that time.

I did buy some 'sandbag outers' when Lidls had them last year, but they would have been absolutely no use in these freak weather conditions.

Now to wash and get dry all the towels and mats. Probabaly 5 or 6 machine loads full.

A sobering experience, because we'd always believed that we'd be immune from flooding due to weather, being on top of a windy ridge.

Posted at 10:12 AM | Comments (9)

Friday, October 20, 2023

Future imperfect

Well, the storm came from the NE and not the SE as the BBC weather forecast suggested. This is very unusual. Despite being on a ridge, on a slope, and not near any water courses, our drive and land slope NE to SW.

The power returned at lunch time, several hours before predicted, but we've left the generator out ready to go again as lights have been flickering ominously throughout the afternoon.

We have torrential rain as well as 50mph winds and some water is seeping into the garage. Despite there being a gridded drain right across the front of the electric door, rain is beating directly on the garage door and runing straight down, and in. Many old towels and cloths are nearly sufficient to absorb it, but we are going to have to work out a better solution for the future. And I have no idea how we are going to dry al the mats and towels that are now sopping wet.

I don't think it will breach the ledge into the main house from the garage, as I don't think it will get that bad, and there is a smoke resistant fire door between the garage and the living areas, which must surely also hold back water if it holds back smoke? If water does get in, it will be a total disaster, due to how the floor in the two adjoining rooms - the craft room and new ground floor bedroom - are constructed.

We currently have all the sheets of wood and plasterboard that were standing on the floor in the garage (mostly rescued from the skip during the building work, or leftover from previous projects, well over £1,000 worth at current prices) drying off in the house, and the 28 year old dehumidifier working, once again saving the day, as it did nearly 3 years ago when the Idiot First Plumber left us with floods (on three occasions).

In other news, we now have a fully functioning kitchen again. Worktops, sinks, and shelves in the cupboards, and knobs on the doors and drawers. And despite previously expresed fears (*nods down*) there is room under the sink for a full size bottle of Fairy!

Keep your fingers crossed that the rain stops soon, will you please?

And here's hoping it is less awful where you are.

Stormy times ahead

The worktops were fitted and finished in 3 hours yesterday. Cracking job, as they say in these parts.

Mr BW is now using his bumper bag of plastic plumbing bits to plumb in the 2 new sinks, the new filter tap, and neaten up the dishwasher plumbing. If I'm really lucky there may just be enough space left under the sink to put a bottle of Fairy, providing that it is a small size.

Mr BW managed to keep the old dishwasher running throughout the 7 weeks that Project Kitchen has been running, even if at times it was sat out in the middle of the floor with a huge stone block on top to counter-balance it (integrated dishwashers fall over when you open the door when they are no longer inbuilt, we discovered). I can cope without worktops or sinks, but not without a dishwasher.

The new dishwasher is wonderful. It's nice to have properly clean and properly dry items again. The very old, cheap-when-new, built-in and very noisy dishwasher we inherited was better than nothing, but I'm glad its time has passed.

The 'storm' has hit us. We are without power.

It went off somewhere around 7am, just as we were about to watch Countdown, and we were impressed to get a text message within 10 minutes from the electricity supply company telling us they knew there was a problem and they hoped to have it fixed by 9.15am. The hours I spent on the phone to the Head of Customer Relations during and after our 11 days without power during Storm Arwen two years ago, berating and bemoaning all their appalling communication and support shortcomings, seem to have paid off (and accepting that I wasn't the only one!).

However, half an hour later we received another text message saying the problem was more serious than they'd envisaged and restoration time is now 4pm. At least there are 290 houses affected this time (spread over probably 20 square miles), rather than just 11 as last time, so more effort is likely to be put into getting whatever has 'popped' fixed in a timely manner.

This storm is called Babet, apparently. Where do they get these names? At least it's not as cold as when Storm Arwen hit in November 2021 although the wind is in a similar SE direction, rather than the prevailing SW. Before reading this, I hadn't actually ever thought that,

"Impacts from the these gusts could be exacerbated by the fact the wind direction will be south-easterly. This is a less common wind direction for storms hitting the UK. The prevailing wind direction is a south-westerly so nature and infrastructure is built with this in mind. As a result, trees and some structures are more vulnerable in strong south-easterly winds. This is part of the reason why Storm Arwen in 2021 felled so many trees and brought a lot of disruption."

So, we are now using our generator plugged into the house via the generator port we had fitted as part of the building work. Great bit of future proofing BWs :) We only have a 2kW petrol generator currently, so can't run high-powered appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners, and we need to be careful not to run lots of low-power things concurrently, but at least we can charge things like head torches and phones, and run things like the heating system that depend on electricity to power pumps etc even though they are oil-powered.

One day, if we ever sell Coven Sud so have some money again (*deep sigh* the market is still comatose down there), we will buy a bigger diesel generator that will be powerful enough to run everything. That will also have the advantage that all farmers round here have agricultural diesel tanks, so we can pop round with cans, rather than have to do a 26 mile journey for petrol once a day.

Electric heating and electric cars in isolated rural parts where the power supply is so unstable in bad weather? No, I think not.

Posted at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 19, 2023

You cannot be serious

Trying to do one of the final 'changing address' jobs. Thwarted by HMG failing to run a 24 hour service on the internet. What's that about?

Today's the day when, after more than 7 weeks without worktops and 3 weeks without a kitchen sink, the new worktops are finally going to be fitted, after several false starts. Hopefully.

Outside it is blowing a gale with torrential rain. Because of the size of the worktop 'slabs' they may not be able to fit through the angles from the atrium down the passage and through the kitchen door. If that turns out to be the case, they will have to be carried right around the house to enter through the back door, which will be near-impossible in these meteorological conditions.

We have a decrepit old car with a puncture in the driveway: Little Garage Man swopped it for the Blue Broom yesterday morning, but the Blue Broom was not returned on his way back home as expected as it needs back brake discs and track rod end ball joints to pass the MOT and the parts supplier delivered the wrong parts. The decrepit car's wheel will need changing before it can be moved, which will be interesting in these meteorological conditions..

It's going to be a fun day. Not to mention expensive...


Friday, October 13, 2023

The world is an unsafer place tonight

I gave up on mainstream media news months ago.

I don't have any social media accounts, but I do read the 'whatever it is called today' feeds of several people I have known personally for a long time and trust to post intelligent and informed links and comment.

One such link, here (from where you can find the original source and follow-ons since) elicited later comments with which I totally concur: "I can't remember reading more sober or well-informed analysis of this conflict from a human perspective, ever" and "intelligent conversation on a very complex situation."

I started off reading wondering how many seconds it would be before I clicked away with a deep sigh, but I am very glad I stuck with it as it seems to present an informed explanation of the past and present, from all sides, and why no-one can win.

I particularly appreciated the way the ensuing dialogue was not allowed to degenerate into the usual SM style personally-directed diatribe, and how the writer was able to appreciate and respond proactively to others' views.

The author is Isaac Saul, who says, "I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA - one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news."

I may be the only one here who hadn't heard of him before, but, as I said at the beginning, I gave up on mainstream media news months ago and I don't have any social media accounts. If you read just one thing about the Israel-Palestine-Hamas situation, I'd suggest you make it this one.


Thursday, October 12, 2023

In this world, if you don't laugh, you'd cry

Today it has been fabulously sunny after a beautiful sunset last night, a very clear night (lots of stars and the Milky Way, better than it's been since last winter) and a light touch of frost this morning, albeit rather too early in the year for my liking.

Mr BW says it has been rather wet and cold down south, where he has been all week doing maintenance and winterproofing things on Coven Sud.

I am definitely much less amused in my older age than I used to be.

Nevertheless, from time to time, amusing things arise that make me smile for hours, days, if not weeks, every time I think of them.

Instance 1: It is Mrs Good Friend BW's birthday today. Last week Mr GF BW let us know that they would be spending it 'glamping'.

Now, The GF BWs are lovely, and have quite similar lifestyles and world views to us most of the time, but they do have, let's put it politely, rather different holiday requirements to us.

Whereas we are happiest away from it all, self catering, using whatever we can glean from local markets, and mingling with the locals in deepest darkest wherever, they prefer 5 star luxury and book and spend for the best of everything. Hence why we have only ever spent one night away anywhere with them in the whole 27 years we have known them.

When we bought Bri@n to enable us to get away from the increasing madness of over-development and noise in the south to the middle of nowhere (the spring before we found Coven Nord while not looking), they expressed quite a lot of amusement at our choice.

Now, even we who can rough out anything, as evidenced by the past three and a half years of Challenging Renovations and Workmen Hell, wouldn't think that camping for the first time in 50 years in mid-October was a good idea. Even if the bell tent in the middle of a field does have 2 log burners and a wood-fired heated bath, the lavvy is still outside.

The thought of them in their field with just a sheet of canvas between them and the pouring rain really shouldn't amuse me as much as it has.

Instance 2: The library van calls every 2 weeks. The librarian and I share both a sense of humour and a belief in the way that things should/could be done, and neither of us suffer fools gladly. Both of us believe that there is more than one way to skin a rabbit, and that those in Administrative Power generally haven't a clue that there is a rabbit to be skinned anyway, so it's best just to get on with reinventing things for the best locally, without troubling to trouble their tiny brains.

Ongoing ridiculous local situations give us much to talk about, and he has commiserated throughout our various long-drawn-out build processes, usually with, "Looks pretty much like Afghanistan at the end of my last tour!" type comments (he is ex-military, obviously).

Today he declared that even The Black Familiar, who always appears for a fuss when my library books are delivered, now miaows with a Northern accent.

"Ah, but she still has Southern Ways!" I retorted. "She killed a hare that was much larger than her the other day, and filleted it, removing both sides from the backbone, rather than just scarfing it down! And this week the pest control service has comprised 4 little bunnies, all of which she politely laid next to the internal door between the garage and the craft room, as presents, ready for me to stand on when I go to the freezer, although she has accepted them back and cleared them all up, save for a few giblets, when they have been thrown in the general direction of her food bowl."

A Northern-sounding cat, whatever next? That one is going to amuse me for a long time.


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Modern communication

I have a deep dislike of online chat and of 'business' emails from commercial organisations from people I don't know who start off with "I hope you are well?" and finish in a similar vacuous way, for example, "Have a lovely afternoon!"

I wish I could think of a suitable reply.

If they were writing a letter, I doubt they would be so intrusive and inappropriate. The laws of averages say that a goodly proportion of people in receipt of their unnecessary platitudes will not be well, or will be going through tough times.

Does anyone appreciate such expressions? And, if not, why are they used so widely?


Tuesday, October 10, 2023


For over 30 years I spouted the mantra "behaviour is a manifestation of unmet needs" to every teacher who ever referred a child (or sometimes a parent) with "behaviour problems".

Identify which basic need(s) are not being met, and you can (begin to) understand behaviour. Meet those needs and you change behaviour.

I often had to run through some basics, like Maslov, or Glasser, but sometimes they understood that before anyone ever gets to know anyone else they know certain things about them: their innate needs. All humans have a predictable group of needs: rather like each person's own personal “factory setting”.

But, it's failing me, right now, that mantra, in any attempt to understand the world and those attempting to seize/claim power within it.

Today a new delivery driver brought my groceries. One bag of potatoes had a large tear in its plastic bag, and, it being obvious that some were missing, I fetched my scales and discovered that it weighed 1693g rather than 2500g. Rather than just knocking it off the bill and telling me to keep it, as most experienced drivers would have, he had to ring his store. After 12 minutes his manager was finally located and, his phone being on speaker, I was treated to the full version of her staff management skills, "Don't be such a f***ing moron, just let her keep what is left and take it off the f***ing bill!"

At this point, I gestured to the delivery driver to put his phone near to me, and I let her know that I had heard what she said and was not impressed by the way she was speaking to a member of her staff.

Her reaction - that I should not have been listening - was truly shocking. Hopefully she will spend the next few days waiting for the fall out of the report I said I'd make.

Given that the driver told me he was about to hand in his notice and go off to drive buses, and that the order was partly funded by a £10 voucher from my last complaint (which followed 70 minutes on hold before getting through to a very unhelpful CSA), I might, for once, just let this one drop.

But, we all have unmet needs that make us behave as we do. Don't we?

One can only wonder what those of our so-called world leaders are.


Saturday, October 7, 2023

Future imperfect

Sounds like a US data company, Palantir, are about to get awarded lots of NHS contracts. Treatment by data algorithms. Probably by robots. Some of the striking doctors may wish they'd been rather less greedy....

Allowing a foreign company access to control over NHS patient data has huge implications. Why have mainstream media not been reporting this?


Saturday, September 30, 2023


Thursday, September 28, 2023

Strange happenings

I spent the afternoon on a Zoom call mini-conference hosted by an ex-colleague and friend. It was looking at ways of improving young people's mental health by immersing them in nature, with the hidden agenda of making them value natural and climatic resources more through this exposure. There was a lot more to it than that, but that was the gist.

Shortly before it started, I heard that an environmental vandal had been at work overnight quite close to here.

My first reaction to that was 'fake news spread by social media'; sadly, for once, this proved to not be the case. How a 16 year old can get to a place in the middle of nowhere, with a big chainsaw, then walk half a mile from the road to the famous site (the moon was quite bright last night, but the wind was 65mph and the rain was torrential), cut down a famous tree, and then go home is beyond me. It also tends to disprove the hypothesis of the mini-conference.

Why? "I don't like Wednesdays!" ?

Anyway, there were fewer than 30 people on the call, and one was someone that both my friend and I had worked with 30 years ago. In a senior role, he was a total sexual predator (particularly to trainees), who loved the sound of his own voice, didn't listen, talked over people, never arrived on time to any meeting (even if he'd called it) and always left early to some more important engagement. My friend, then at the start of her career, was the target of his unwanted advances (but bravely stood up to him and called him out), and he and I had words on several occasions about his unprofessional behaviour. Not someone I expected to ever see again, least of all at this sort of event.

The internet was running very slowly here today after the wild weather in recent times, so I was only using audio, and my name was my Zoom pseudonym. Luckily, in the circumstances. After this person turned up 20 minutes late, interrupted the person speaking to give his apologies, 3 times, and demand a recap of what he'd missed, I thought I was sending a personal message to my friend the meeting host, "He doesn't change, does he?" but oops, it appeared to everyone. I'm not sure that he saw it, unfortunately, and he left again after half an hour. A true Freudian technological slip, if such things exist.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

All the best made plans

The new kitchen worktops can't be made for fitting next Monday as planned because apparently the colour is no longer a stock item so has to be sent from foreign where it is made. It was a stock item back in June when we had the utility and craft room worktops made, but not now. The material should arrive in "2-3 weeks." Who knows exactly when. Thank goodness we haven't taken the sink out yet (the sink side was due to be templated next Monday when the first side were fitted and then fitted Monday 9th).

The manufacturer claims that he wasn't informed of the new stocking policy by the only distributor in the UK. Just in time delivery has a lot to answer for, but there is absolutely nothing we can do. They won't order material until they have templated, and they couldn't template until yesterday.

Added to this, the tiler isn't now available until the end of October and wants to charge far too much. probably because he knows this is the last job we have for him. Mr BW has therefore decided that he will do the tiling himself. He's done small areas before, and indeed the whole of the utility down south with our own made tiles (almost the same as those we have now found) so no doubt will manage admirably. He will then have done the whole of the kitchen himself.

When the tiler visted to see the job, he did tell us exactly how he would approach it, which will be useful. He also said that the thin protective net-like membrane on the tiles needed to be washed off and the tiles dried off, becauses otherwise it gets in the grout and makes a mess of the finish.

I have failed totally to find what this very thin, almost invisible, mesh membrane is made of.

Apparently it is only found on expensive tiles (hence why we'd not seen it before) and is used to protect them in transit. This is a wodge I picked off the top of the sink full of hot water that I used to float/rub it off the first two boxes. Each piece is very very fine.

Some of it seems to dissolve in the water, but not all. I hope it is a corn starch type product, but I fear it may be plastic. Not wanting to unleash handfuls of microplastic into the local environment via the septic tank, I need to know.

Anyone happen to know, or have better Google-Fu than me?


Sunday, September 24, 2023

A week to forget

It's 3 weeks off 15 years since I realised that eating wheat was causing me a lot of digestive and physiological problems.

There have been 3 occasions in the ensuing 15 years when I have inadvertently consumed something with wheat in it.

One of those was last Monday when, in extreme delight at having found some tiles that were exactly what we wanted for the kitchen (slightly smaller but almost exact versions of the ones we made ourselves last time we couldn't find the tiles we wanted, even down to the sort of clay they were made from), I drank 2 cups of hot chocolate from the tile shop's free vending machine. I am always suspicious of anything that I consume away from home, but I didn't check. I think it must have been the shock of the price. *whispers* £70 a square metre, but at least we got the 20% trade discount. They are very beautiful though, and, realistically, still only just over a pound a tile and undoubtedly still cheaper than making our own.

Eating wheat when you can't never ends well. The ensuing pain and digestive, excretory and bloatedness chaos have totally wiped me out all week.

The Army even sent 6 helicopters out on Monday night while Mr BW was at a meeting. Despite hedge hopping all around for half an hour, they still couldn't find me, and I couldn't get out of bed to make myself known to them.

Mr BW has been a star and has somehow still managed to get everything done that we needed to have done before they template the worktop for Phase 1 (LH side and peninsular) tomorrow afternoon.

Fortunately I feel a bit better today, but it is the first time I have ever had to make yoghurt, sundried tomato powder and Sunday dinner while a wall unit was fitted around me and water pipes hung over me.

Old units still visible in this picure.

And here:

Summation of the week: Knob Placement. It's not easy.


Sunday, September 17, 2023

The joys of old houses

The kitchen is 4" off square. This has given us a problem. The wall units are OK as the wall is straighter up there and they are only 30cm deep. The base units are fitted to square, but we have lost too much space, so, middle-of-the-night thinking and looking tells us that they need to be moved and rejigged.

I cannot find any tiles I like. I only like square matt tiles, or, at a push, slightly shiny with multi-dimensional slight undulations. "Sorry madam, they are not fashionable!" I refuse to have what is fashionable: brick shaped tiles, laid brick-stylee, most of which are shiny and large, as they look like they should be in an institution. Public toilet, school kitchen, prison... No, just no.

I had an epiphany at 2am a couple of nights ago, and spent an hour cutting sheets of A4 in half, and then blutcaking them to the walls in an inspired-by-years-of-patchwork-designs pattern. I loved it at 3am. I was unsure at 9am. I hated it at 3pm.

[insert picture later]

Last time we couldn't find tiles we liked we made them. There is a big difference between making 2 square metres of tiles and making 7 square metres. Particularly when you now live in an area where you don't know anyone who has a big-enough kiln to fire them.


Friday, September 15, 2023

Day Off

Yesterday looked as if it would be the last nice day of summer, so we went for a perambulation in Perambulation.

Today it is raining.

Which is just as well as Mr BW has just booked for the worktop to be templated on Monday week. Back to work...


Thursday, September 14, 2023

Fresh milk containers

The abolition of the differently coloured tops is very frustrating.

When in the freezer or on their side in the fridge it is impossible to tell which is which when you have more than one sort.

I re-use the empty bottles for all sorts of things: storing home-made soup in the freezer, storing dyestocks (red used to be for dyes for wool and blue used to be for dyes for cotton fabric), storing dry rice, pulses and beans (much lighter and easier to manage for dysfunctional hands than glass).

Even the labels look similar now, and (at least in Waitrose and Morrisons) the type of milk (skimmed/semi-skimmed/whole) seems to be in the smallest print - almost as if it is the most unimportant thing!


Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Gloriously sunny here again this morning - but it was only 6 degrees overnight. Very very dewy. The stars and the milky way were lovely though. Oh how I love living where there is no light pollution.

Back to the units now - and the mopping and wiping. Bits keep having to be chipped out of the not-square walls so the new units will line up. And hacking the wall means lots of dust, even using an industrial vacuum cleaner as we go. Yesterday was 11 cloths and 7 mop head covers. Let's hope today is less dusty.

Currently installed: top and bottom up to the soil pipe. I'm told that that Is the hardest bit as it involves the two corner units. The build quality and paint finsih is great - much the best we've seen anywhere we went (and we saw most of what is available in the 3 years we've been planning this!).

We ordered several units 'dry assembled' as we needed to be able to chop them about a bit to fit, so we can see much more of the construction than is normally visible. All the joints are dowelled and glued, and things like the adjustable legs are heavy duty and very easy to adjust when in place.

A question - how far (in mm) do your kitchen worktops overhang your units?


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Monday end of day

I can remember showing you a picture of the external main water feed (blue pipe) suspended in mid air when the front was out of the house this time last year.

This time it's the kitchen water feeds (RHS).

This will enable us to still have water to the sink for as long as the sink is there.

Once the sink and its nasty old falling apart units and offensive black worktop have gone, all the plumbing behind the units, which came up from the floor, will be rerouted properly via the channel already chiselled vertically into the wall, from the new overhead pipes. But, for now, this is as good as it gets. As long as the dishwasher can still work, I am happy. We have other sinks, but I so hate washing up by hand that even one day of not having a dishwasher fills me with dread.

Meanwhile, work continues on fittting wall cupboards on the LHS around the soil pipe:

This task would have been easier had Mr BW's multi-tool not given up the ghost part-way through. A new one has been ordered for delivery on Tuesday, and as the original was only a cheap Aldi special and is at least 7 years old and in constant use, it owes us nothing.

£102.98 for a new multi-tool against the £5-7K that it would have cost us to hire in a plumber, a plasterer, an electrician, a joiner and a tiler is excellent value in my book. And we certainly couldn't have done it bit-by-bit and still been able to use the kitchen while it was being done.

The preparatory bits that take all the time are now completed, and putting in the base units and the rest of the wall units will be much quicker.


Monday, September 11, 2023


Well, that's a novel way of delivering a pallet of bagged mushroom compost!

And yes, you do have to pick it all up and get it to where we want it. Somehow.


Sunday, September 10, 2023


After a very hot and humid morning, it's been raining since about 2pm; a bit of very quiet thunder, but no lightning.

It's still hot and humd though, and getting dark.

The kitchen is coming along nicely.

And I got two heaped washing-up bowls of runner beans blanched and into the freezer. Cooking or processing while fitting a kitchen is jeopardise.

Summer may be over.

No rest for the wicked

The first wall unit is up. That, I am told, was the hardest one. I am glad about that because it was very very heavy and a real pain to get to clip onto its fittings (two on one wall and one on.another, and the corner of the room wasn't square, although that wasn't initially apparent and necessitated wrestling the unit off the wall again so the wall bracket could have a spacer inserted to bring it forward). The instructions say that unit can hold take 65kg. I will not be testing that out. The second unit is waiting patiently for its brackets to be positioned.

The rerouting of the plumbing from underfloor to overhead was completed without the need to take down any part of the ceiling. The two new pipes slid through alongside the joists on the third try. This is the first thing that has gone right for ages.

The ceiling got repainted in less time than it took me to dehead the spent flowers in the back garden. Washing out the roller and brushes took me more time than the painting.

In between we are trying to fit in all the normal end-of-summer tasks, as well as various visits to see other organic food producing enterprises, various village shows, and b33 events.

The b33s are back where they should be at this time of year, helped by the glorious weather this week, the hen with the bad foot is much better, and there is a lovely dewy spider's web on my old plough.

It is chaos.

We love it.

Posted at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Seaside and dishwashers

Yesterday, as the weather was set to be the 7th day of the long-awaited summer (Indian Summer - is one even allowed to call it that these days?), we went to the coast an hour and a half north of here. A repeat trip to that 4 months ago on our wedding anniversary. A fabulous proper day out with beautiful scenery there and back and the beach (sand, scenery, pebbles, shells, fossils, trains, free parking, uncommercialised) is definitely now confirmed as my third favouritest beach in the world. I even found a cowrie (my favourite shell)!

Today in the kitchen Mr BW did electrics: lowering a socket and switch so we could put in a cup shelf and making the under-cupboard lighting safe, and even more plastering. Once again, still-live sockets were found behind units, although these were not quite as bad as the live socket found behind the plyboard in the upstairs shower.

And I spent the whole day - yes, the whole day - trying to work out which new dishwasher to buy. I thought I had it all worked out months ago, but the information derived from many sources proved to be out-of-date.

Why are there now no mainstream dishwasher manufacturers offering more than 2 year warranties as standard?

Even Miele, who claim that their appliances last 20 years, now only give 2 years as a standard. In the 1980s they gave 20 years, last time I looked it was 10 years, now it is only 2, the same as most other manufacturers. Put your guarantees where your claims are, manufacturers!

The purchase cost of a dishwasher is only a very small proportion of the long-term costs. Energy usage and water usage are, these days, much more significant than the initial price. Plus some manufacturers will not sell spare parts to competent individuals to effect repairs, so one is forever tied to high-price manufacturer servicing.

I finally settled on a Bosch, with a (claim after purchase) 5 year guarantee, even though it has all sorts of smart tech crap that we will never use (seriously Bosch, who needs a push-notification on one's phone that one only has 5 dishwasher tablets left?!), because the overall price per year of guarantee was less than that of any other machine.

Bought via John Lewis on a cashback credit card, with free removal of the old appliance (and it not being able to arrive for another 11 days, by which time hopefully we/the new kitchen will be ready for it), and with 3 months of free dishwashing 'product', it wasn't what I had expected to be purchasing.

In the past nearly 40 years I have had 3 Zanussi dishwashers, 2 Siemens and an inherited Whirlpool. The latter was old and smelly when we got here, and, three and a half years later, is still plodding on (albeit with the door held on with extra screws, and the top basket held together with Mi1dred's high temperature sealant) although it is very very noisy, doesn't provide as much space as it might and doesn't dry well. Zanussi don't make 'em like they did 40 years ago, and Siemens have been more than disappointing (the first lasting 5 years, the second 7), despite supposedly being a premium made-in-Germany product (I have just discovered that Bosch now own Siemens though, although the latter was once the premium product).

My requirements were: freestanding, very quiet, very energy-efficient, very low water usage, at least 5 years of guarantee, cutlery shelf rather than basket, delay button, ability to turn off all sounds. The one I found, having spent all day researching, seems to be the only one of the hundreds available that can offer all of those.

Which? say that the average lifespan of a dishwasher is 17 years. We'll see...


Tuesday, September 5, 2023


In case, at some point in the not too distant future, you find you can no longer view BW - and this problem will probably apply initially to those of you who keep everything totally up-to-date - there is a problem with the age of the security certificate for this website.

Thanks to Commentator Tim for bringing this to my attention and advising that the way round it is to add it as an exception to whatever browser plug-in is preventing access. Well... I think that is what he said he did, such technical things are beyond me these days.

This is the sort of thing you might see:

I have sought advice from the hosting company and the nice tech who picked up my pleas for help has pointed me to exactly what to do, but I am a bit too scared to do it until Mr BW can supervise (I think he had to do it for his own website), but I am unconvinced that my 20 year old lovingly hand-coded-by-Oddverse-Alan (who has long since left the building) template will cope with new-fangled add ins. And as to where I find the .htaccess file, well, I probably knew it once...

But... it may be a while before Mr BW can help as now that we have removed all the old kitchen units on the LHS, we have discovered that the water pipes that feed the sink and dishwasher that we believed ran between the ground floor ceiling and the first floor floorboards actually run down the wall and then underground. They run down the wall behind the lovely oh-so-clean (*shudders*) grey-coloured soil pipe in the centre of the picture.

Cheap 1970s copper pipes in nasty 1970s cement tend to corrode and leak, as we found to our great cost when we had to renew and re-route all the central heating pipes that originally ran through the same concrete floor when we first moved in. So, this problem must be fixed before we fit a brand new kitchen, or we risk having to pull out and re-replace the kitchen at some future point when the pipes leak. That 'we' being the royal 'we' of course, and, obviously, sourcing and re-routing pipework has to come above renewing blog security certificates.

Thank goodness for the many thousands of pictures we have taken at pertinent points in the renovation and building works. And thank goodness that Mr BW has them all stored and indexed so that he can find them when he needs them in a hurry. And that he has the correct tools and knows how to do the job, as that's another £1,000 in plumber costs saved. Thankfully, as the coffers are more than empty.

We've just seen this bird on the drystone wall:

Mr BW thought it was the yellow wagtail back again, but it is the wrong colour, and slightly larger than the last time we saw it. It was, however, doing a wagtail shimmy. Any ideas?


Monday, September 4, 2023

Vegetables and chocolate

Mr BW hates beetroot.

I have no idea why, as that he grows for me is delicious. In the past, I've tried hiding it in many dishes, but he always spots it.

The other day, having cooked up the latest batch in the pressure cooker, and found it to be particularly gorgeous, I persuaded him to try it again, hoping that maybe his taste has changed as he heads towards his next decade. While he didn't actually spit it out, he did pull a face.

"How can I make you like beetroot?" I asked.

"Maybe cover it in chocolate?" he suggested.

"But it will slip off!" I protested.

"Well, then, I can have the chocolate and you can have the beetroot!" he retorted.

Mr BW has no such problem with courgette. He will eat it raw, or cooked in many different ways.

His new favourite is in this very yummy Chocolate and Courgette Brownie (gluten free) recipe given to us by b33keeping friends last weekend. It was in cups, but I translated and tested in grammes.

"It wasn't me, it was a mouse!" he declared when I asked where the missing 3cm squares had gone.

It's meant to be made in a square 20cm/8" tin, but most of my tins are still lost in a box buried under the new kitchen units in the living room, or maybe in the conservatory, who knows, so I had Mr BW do a bit of mental maths and we decided that the best available alternative was the 26cm round tin (first used for the bottom tier of our wedding cake nearly 30 years ago) that was in a kitchen cupboard. I say was, as the contents of that cupboard are now (as of yesterday afternoon) also in boxes, buried, etc etc. This made it a bit thinner than it should have been, but that was no bad thing.

I cut it into 3cm squares to get it to just under a thousand calories a portion, and even the courgette, which probably counts as one of your five a day doesn't negate that.

Chocolate and Courgette Brownie:

300g courgette, finely grated
200g almond butter
1 large egg, beaten
2 level tablespoons cocounut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
85g h0ney
65g cocoa powder
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 level teaspoon salt
100g chocolate chips or cacao nibs, or chopped nuts

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C and line 20cm square tin with baking parchment.
  2. Squeeze excess moisture from courgette (I squeezed it with clean hands into a sieve over a bowl; I then had 220g)
  3. In a large bowl, stir together courgette, almond butter, egg, coconut oil and h0ney until smooth.
  4. Add cocoa powder, bicarb, salt and choc chips/nuts.
  5. Bake approx 25-35 minutes. It will still seem a bit 'soggy', and the top won't spring back when pushed like many cakes, but it should have shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin and the top may look slightly crispy. It's a brownie not a cake after all, so it's meant to be squidgy and decadent!

I had to have it with plain yoghurt as it is so rich, but Mr BW has no such problem. Creme fraiche would go well with it too, and a bit of torn mint sprinkled onto that would help cut through the gooeyness too I think.

To make a vegan version, substitute the h0ney with maple syrup and the egg with chick pea juice.

It's summer here again today! Which is of course typical as we are emptying food and crockery cupboards in the south-facing kitchen prior to ripping them out. That will leave just the side with the sink and dishwasher still as it was.

Luckily I managed to get 10 of the 64 litre plastic boxes emptied yesterday ready for re-use, and we have lots of plastic folding tables. We had three big built-in heavy-duty floor-to-ceiling deep double-doored wooden cupboards installed across one end of the long room back in 2021, so we are still able to function. We are also keeping the actual worktops temporarily so that they can rest back on top of the new base units once they are installed, pending templating and manufacture of the Corian tops and sinks (which might take the manufacturer a couple of weeks).


Sunday, September 3, 2023

Today's task...

... is putting (at least some of) these 15 boxes of files, which came up with the removal men and have sat on the landing (on cardboard so as not to permanently dent the carpet) for a month now, back into the filing cabinets from whence they came on 17.7.22. Thank goodness for good labelling, and good pre-weeding, because they came out of 7, but have to go back into 4.

Meanwhile, Mr BW continues to work on the kitchen bit by bit, so that there is the minimum disruption to the usual mad frenzy of early autumn harvesting and preserving jobs.

The plastic boxes have to be emptied so that we can reuse them for temporary storage of the next tranche of kitchen cupboards to be removed. Mr BW can then get on with the next stage of electrics and the next bit of floor tiling.

Only Bodgit and Coverit (previous owners) could have managed to put in a brand new kitchen 22 years ago without tiling all the floor and filling the gaps beween the walls and the floor. 17th century floor (with later additions of loose concrete, which constantly sheds dust) is not what I want under my new kitchen units. Of course, one cannot now buy the tiles previously used (which we like much more than anything you can buy now), so we've had to get cheap generic grey, and ensure the new overall footprint covers the old. That will be where the masking tape is, all being well.

Now at the beginning of meteorological autumn, we had the first 'proper' day of summer yesterday. Warm from dawn to dusk (and all night), no wind, and we finally managed to sit outside to eat in the evening. There have been a handful of other warm and sunny days in July and August without rain, but they have always been marred by northerly or easterly winds, and too-cool evenings. That out-of-position jet stream has a lot to answer for.

A most disappointing summer, although the runner beans, mange tout and peas have loved it. Even taking into account the heat in June, I find it very hard to believe that it was the eighth warmest summer on record.

In summary:

" Met Office Senior Scientist Mike Kendon said: “The lion’s share of fine and settled weather in summer 2023 for the UK occurred in June, when high pressure was widely established bringing many dry days of warm summer sunshine. After that, however, the jet stream shifted much further to the south, with low-pressure systems often bringing rather wet and windy conditions to the UK through much of July and August.

“The characteristic variability of the UK’s climate has once again been illustrated by this summer: the season’s temperature figures are influenced by how significantly hot June was, but the result is that summer 2023 will go down as a warm and wet one for the UK, with plenty of rainfall in the second half of the season.” "

A question for those of you who grow fennel (herb fennel that is): are your plants lacking in foliage this year? Ours have plenty of flowers (the b33s are happy) and seeds (we and the birds will be happy) but almost no leaves. This is true of both the bronze and the green varieties. I noted on last week's GW that Monty Don's looked pretty similar. I'd have thought with all the rain there has been the foilage would be very lush.

Posted at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

Friday, September 1, 2023

Repurposing, and saving b33s

Occasionally one of you says something in the comments that reminds me of things I have mentioned before and then forgotten about. Yesterday it was Scoakat.

This is the place where the labyrinth was going to go. Until last summer.

Only we then had several roofs full of old slates that were beyond reuse to dispose of.

We had anticipated the slates being put back on the roofs they came off, but it became apparent that they were not best quality when they were first reused in 1974, and they were several different sizes. I'm pretty sure that the disappearing/disappointing roofers also dumped some they'd taken from elsewhere on the pile they left behind.

It was either pay for 2 skips (the better part of a thousand pounds) and for them to go to landfill, or come up with a plan.

So I came up with a plan. Make a slate garden out of them.

One day when Chief Builder wasn't here - or he'd undoubtedly have charged us extra - we got his lads to take the (many) piles of slate down to the bottom of the orchard and spread them over a flat area.

We then added the best old 'traditional' b33hive we have (salvaged from a field years ago and refurbished), and Mr BW put in a row of big stones from the demolished front of the house to stop the slate sliding down if there was torrential rain, and to make an edge to strim grass up to. I've been adding plants occasionally (not visible in the photo), mostly white, and eventually the area will have seats and a table, and be a nice place to sit. If we ever have time for sitting.

From time to time I go and jump on the slates, and, eventually, it will all be crushed. Perhaps we should have a pogo party to get it done more quickly?

This 'Lemon Popsicle' Kniphofia, just outside the kitchen door, came out a couple of days ago. The b33s are loving it, and the nearby chive flowers. The summer has not been good for any pollinators, as they can't fly when it is raining or too cold, and we've seen maybe a tenth of the butterflies we had last year, and about the same for bumble b33s. I've seen very few hover flies, and few solitary b33s.

With a few sunny days in the last week, our b33s are madly flying anywhere and everywhere, trying to gather enough pollen and nectar to raise the winter bees that will keep their colony alive until spring. Usually honeyb33s won't forage on 'complicated' flowers, because their tongues are relatively short (compared to bumbleb33s) and they can't reach into the flower corollas. Generally they just ignore anything that is not a 'single' or 'open' flower, but they are currently so desperate that they are exploring complex flowers they usually wouldn't go near. Here, a 'frizzy' poppy (which we didn't plant here but which must have come up from the south, where they just appeared and cross-bred over the years). Apologies for the poor photo (two b33s to the RHS are about to dive into the petals to see what they can find):

For the first time in the 28 years we have had buzzy familiars, we haven't taken any h0ney off at all. On August 11th, because of the poor weather in preceding weeks, when we opened the b33s on the first fine day, we found two colonies starving and had to emergency feed them with sugar syrup. There was no h0ney at all stored in the brood frames. Had we not opened them on that day, they might now be dead.

I am still very shocked and upset about that, but have to console myself that we did get there in time, and we couldn't have looked at them any sooner as it was too cold and too wet to open the hives.

In order to get them through the winter now, we will have to feed each colony around 20kg of sugar syrup, as they have been unable to collect enough nectar to store, and only just enough to keep themselves going through the summer. Luckily b33s aren't fussy about where their carbohydrate comes from, but Costco are limiting what they are allowing people to purchase, and it's currently around £1.17 a kilo in supermarkets (cf 60p a year ago and 48p in 2019), plus stirring 200kg of granulated sugar into boiling water (it takes about a litre of water to dissolve a kilo of sugar) to dissolve it into solution is a big and arm-exhausting task. It's going to cost £200 to hope to keep them alive over winter, with no income as there has no h0ney to harvest. The tax man is not going to be happy at the size of loss we will be declaring this year! We don't keep b33s to make money, but it is nice if we can break even, as well as do good through providing a pollination source to farmers.

Of greater concern is whether queen bumbleb33s (and other b33s where they do not persist as whole colonies over winter) will have been able to store enough body fat, before they go into hibernation, to survive the winter.

I don't know what sort of summer b33keepers have had in other parts of the country, but talking to others locally at the Show last weekend, it's the same story all over up here. This really has been the most challenging year in living memory. As I said to Mr BW, if this had been our first year, I don't think we'd have had a second.

And while we're having a catchup post, we have finally (nearly) finished the area around the vegetable beds in front of the greenhouse. We never rush into doing things until the ideas we have feel 'right', and this part has taken 3 years to finish off, although we have been growing in the raised beds since soon after the greenhouse was finished the first autumn we were here (2020).

The central 'feature' is another big lump of recycled house stone, topped by an old feeder (into which we will plant something when we decide what), and several objets: many old shoe lasts, and some triangular metal floor tiles from a closed foundary in the next village down south. All picked up over many years for not very much money at all, or given to us by people clearing out (on which subject, we have already gained a reputation locally as Rehoming Central and Nice Nearest Neighbour this week kindly gave us a beautiful 40" x 18" slab of granite left over from her kitchen refit 5 years ago, which will no doubt turn into a table or bench eventually - maybe even down in the slate garden pictured at the beginning as I've just realised the colours will be perfect together).

The small green lumps are creeping thyme (loved by b33s) which will hopefully cover the entire area around and between the stepping stones eventually. We bought two very large plants (for £4 each), split them into 8, and will propagate more by dividing them further as time goes on.

The seed said 'cucumber' on the packet...

... but it grew a snozcumber.


Thursday, August 31, 2023

Unblogged Things

Tuesday 15th August: the new kitchen arrived, albeit not unitl 8.15pm, and after spending an hour offloading, they then had to fiddle the tacho to enable them to get back to Leeds by 1am ready to start work again at 7am the next day.

The overly-friendly and far too jolly Eastern European deliverers declared that in 10 years of delivering, they had never seen such a comprehensive scheme for marking off and labelling units as that I had devised.

The 22 units and 50+ other pieces completely filled the living room. This was OK as we have not used the living room since we stopped having to use it as a bedroom in December 2020.

Wednesday 30th August: the replacement parts for those damaged or missing on delivery finally arrived. After 15 days rather than the promised "5 to 7" and then only because we applied thumb screws, threats, and legalise. Not to mention spells.

I still do not understand how someone could have packed a corner unit with only one of the two doors attached, or how three oak coloured plinths could have been passed as correct when they were black.

Thursday 31st August: the third day of summer finally arrived, on the last day of meteorological summer. Must have been the full super blue moon or the concurrent first passage for ages of the ISS that hastened it.

How did we spend it?

We took out a lot of the kitchen. Peninsular, half the side base units, and put the drinks fridge on a dolly, wheeled it across the kitchen and plugged it back in.

The only thing that worries me is that the drinks fridge might fall off the dolly and break all the necessary cooling bottles.

Mr BW decided that he was scared and would rather do my jobs: ordering things, organising things, provisioning, freezing things, and finance. I pointed out that I had already ordered the groceries for next week, and various other required items (some of which he hasn't yet even realised will be needed), so that was hardly fair, and that I did assemble and fit an MFI kitchen (from flat pack) when I was 22 or 23, so could probably manage a fully assembled version at 60, and no, there would be no lessons in Financial Management and Coven Keeping to enable him to do my jobs, so he'd Just Better Get On With It.

Watch this space...


Just running through with an idea for anyone who has a rhubarb forest from all the rain and a glut of basil:

Savoury rhubarb sauce.

I used h0ney (naturally) and made 4 times the quantity, with 2 heads of garlic (need to keep the werewolves away). I froze a few portions, but I'm sure it would be fine if bottled (hot) into sterilised screw-top jars. Delicious.

Another hint for rhubarb: cook it in (just a few tablespoonfuls) of orange or clementine juice. The citric acid somehow works to neutralise the rhubarb's oxalic acid and results in needing no (or reduced) sweetening.

Anyone got any other good recipes for rhubarb?

I have been given an excellent recipe for the gluten-free chocolate brownie made with courgettes that I sampled at the weekend. Coming soon...


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

What 5 Words

Saturday: Reds, Blue, Oranges, Silver, MUD.

Sunday: Exhausted, bumblefoot, soaking, washing, feeding.

Monday: Harvesting, gluts, preserving, freezing, chasing.

Tuesday: Harvesting, electricals, plastering, gardening, researching.

We finally have a few days of good weather. So much to do. Doing so much, but no energy left at the end of the day for blogging. More when it rains.


Friday, August 25, 2023

On Beeing BWs

Tomorrow Mr BW and I are doing something that we haven't done since pre-blog days.

Something we swore we'd never do again.

But something we have been talked into.

It last happened somewhere between the summer of 2000 and the summer of 2002, I can't now remember exactly when, although I'm sure that somewhere in Deep Box the answer still lies..

It is an all-day activity, and we have had to set our alarm clocks, and pack a picnic.

Not the main event, but points may yet mean prizes, who knows. But if his chain beats my sheep, or his corks beat my blouse basket, or his flower beats my borage, or his chilli my rowan, there will be spells, for sure.

I hope your plans for the Bank Holiday weekend are as exciting?


Friday, August 11, 2023

Canada Geese

13 of them, presumably enjoying the left over grains of barley.

One of them lives on a nearby pond, and the others fly by and pick him/her up en route to wherever they fly to every day, and drop him/her off when they return. Maybe they just all go for a communal fly about, who knows.

My favourite type of geese. I even still have a calico shoulder bag with an all-over design of BW blue lino-printed Canada geese that I designed and made at my 1960s progressive primary school when I was 9.


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Walking on the beaches, looking at the...


Who said you can't grow peaches in England's most northern county?


Nearly got the craft room sorted. How is it that not everything that was in the plan chest will fit back in it now?!

Mr BW currently has the steering wheel off the car and the bit with the indicators on it on the kitchen table (luckily still the plastic one). He is trying to save £500 by cleaning the copper contacts that are stopping the right indicator working reliably, because it won't pass the MOT otherwise. 10 years of muck and many many weeks of being sat home alone and stationary on the drive down south have wrought their worst. Hopefully nothing that a cotton bud and some IPA can't fix.


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Mission Accomplished

Mr BW has his Mum's old balloon pump. "Made in England" and still working as well as it did in the late 1950s or early 1960s when it was new.

He blew up 18 balloons (after I'd painstakingly emptied the gold metallic penny-sized discs out of the clear balloons as they are an environmental hazard when balloons pop - that sort of balloon should be banned) and we stuffed them into black bin liners, and just about got them all into the car.

We tied them in places all round the outside of Nice Nearest Neighbour's cottage, including on the plant arches and in her greenhouse.

The next morning we sent her a text message wishing her a 'Happy 70th Birthday!' She didn't reply, but it often takes her a while as she is often out walking or gardening. We got a bit worried when we hadn't heard anything by lunchtime, and hoped we hadn't offended her.

It was nearly 3 o'clock when she appeared at our gate in her car. She extracted a huge water butt from the boot and staggered down the drive with it. She plonked it outside the garage. We knew about this water butt as it had fallen off its stand by her greenhouse during torrential rain in the week and dented, and she doesn't like non-perfect things but we do, so she was donating it to us rather than take it to the tip.

"Present for you!" she said. "But it's your birthday" I replied. "Did you have a nice meal last night?" asked Mr BW.

"Ah, yes thanks. But when we got home last night, and it was nearly dark by then, my friend said, 'Look there's some balloons, were they there when we went out? How did they get there?'"

"Balloons?" said Mr BW innocently. "Where?"

"Everywhere! And a banner, and some flags, and this morning I even found some outside the back door and in the greenhouse?"

"Really!?" I said. "How very odd!"

"It must have taken someone ages to blow them all up!" she smiled.

"We have a balloon pump... but we admit nothing!" I said. "Je ne admit rien!" The banter continued for a while longer, with her never directly accusing us, and us denying everything. The closest we'll get to knowing she was pleased.

A couple of hours after NNN had gone home, they started harvesting the barley in the fields around us. Two combines, a tractor and big bailer, and a tractor and trailer (at least part of each is actually in that picture, but you have to look carefully!). Less than two hours later all that remained was a field of stubble and some bales. To think that 70 years ago that sort of task would have taken a dozen men and a team of horses and rudimentary harvesting machinery all week.

Don't mention the bales...

All piled up so they couldn't roll around and get up to mischief in the night. They know how to keep bales under control in the North.

By 8am the next morning the bales had all been collected too. Quickly, before it rained again.

It didn't rain until 8pm last night, and then only a bit of drizzle. Today is sunny, for the first time in weeks, but it's late September / early October light.

Posted at 11:04 AM | Comments (4)

Saturday, August 5, 2023


I can't tell you the difference it makes having proper furniture again. A proper office chair to sit on instead of plastic, being able to sort the craft room boxes finally, and places to put other things. I didn't know how much boxes and plastic chairs were getting me down until this week.

3 hours to re-Briwax this dresser (in the garage, it was safer as I'm a bit messy with Briwax). It look so much better now. The top of the base has a lot of marks and needs the wax removing with fine steel wool and meths before it is re-waxed. Tomorrow's job.

With the arrival of the 1950s bed-settee that was previously in the Studio down south, the entrance is now bright and quilty, and not as cramped as this photo makes it look. Oh for a wide-angle lens. Eventually things will move round again - when the living room is clear of boxes and then boxed kitchen units, but for now this will do.

Earlier in the week I also polished up the old shop haberdashery unit and now that Mr BW is back he has refitted the mirrors and glass shelves to the 'display' side (not visible in the picture). The broken-in-transit mirror stuck together well with clear polytunnel mending tape, and doesn't really notice.

The plan chest will be refilled from its boxes tomorrow - Mr BW tells me that each drawer is in a box, and the drawer labels I thought I'd misplaced are actually in with each box. As Cleaner BW Nord said on Thursday as she attempted to clean around the boxes, we may have lots of boxes, but they are very well organised and labelled.

Then we have to remove half the length of a couple of shelves in the craft room (just out-of-shot on the RHS) to make space for another old wooden drawer unit (the one on the LHS) to go agins the wall, and all will fit in nicely. Reducing from a 7m x 7m Studio to a 5m x 5m, even though the sewing items from the original larger room are now in what was previously a bedroom, has presented logistical problems.

Nice Nearest Neighbour is 70 tomorrow and let slip last weekend when she was here helping out with supervising removal men that she is out for the evening with friends tonight, so we are just off to balloon and banner-bomb her cottage while she is absent. She has lived alone for nearly 25 years since her husband died, and pretends not to like fuss about birthdays and such things, but we're hoping she will be secretly delighted! If not we're in trouble...


Friday, August 4, 2023

Cereal serial

For those who wondered what the infamous hit-by-removal van-but-fortunately-survived-unscathed concrete tub with tree (Prunus Serrula, my favourite tree) in it looks like:

In the bottom of that picture you can see me taking the rubbish down the long track to the bins using the b33 trolley. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that. The bags were too heavy to carry down, and too smelly to wait until Mr BW got back so we could drop them off as we passed in the car.

For those who wondered what a field of spring barley that was starved of water at a crucial time in its growth (May/early June) looks like:

The ears are absolutely flat, with almost no kernel.

This was sprayed with glysophate to dry it off a month ago (yes, really, a known carcinogen, but they are still using it to artifically 'ripen' cereal crops - no wonder there are so many people who react badly when eating cereals). Since then it has been too wet to cut. Interestingly, up here, the farmer told Mr BW, they always have to dry cereal crops after they are harvested, even in a good year, as the moisture content is always too high for storage. In East Anglia and the SW cereal crops only have to be dried in exceptionally bad years. The current energy cost to dry a failed crop must exceed its value.

Some of the winter wheat and barley has been harvested, and their yields are probably better as there wasn't a drought at the time they were at a critical stage of development. The bright light spot is harvested winter wheat, the brown above that is already ploughed harvested fields. They do love their ploughing up here: clearly no dig to preserve the soil structure hasn't reached these parts yet.

With small crops of cereals and lack of imported cereals from other places (eg Ukraine) I predict the price of flour and bread will rise a lot in the months to come. Supply and demand. Not to mention profiteering.

Which reminds me: I heard on the radio the other day that prices in supermarkets have gone up by 25% in the past 2 years, except for prices in Aldi and Lidl that have gone up by 35%. The majority of our groceries are delivered by Morrisons now (who wants to drive 26 miles to get food) and on the odd occasions that we are in town and go into Aldi, we are shocked that their prices are frequently more than Morrisons, on those things we buy (basic ingredients), and can't believe how their emphasis is now on ready meals and highly food processed items.

I shudder when I look at the ingredients in what those new evangelical vegans are buying thinking it is healthier and will save the planet. The fact that many of Aldi's buyers have changed since the new CEO took charge is also evident. Wine, DIY tools and products and gardening products are not what they were, and the centre aisles are now full of plastic tat and kitsch that only those of a consumeristic mindset would even think they need.

Gratuitous post box picture.

Yeah I know I should have got rid of the triangular plum moth pheromone trap, but that takes time and Mr BW is on his way back up after 11 days down south and there are a few more things I need to get done before he gets here: particularly as he said he was leaving at 9am and then managed to leave before 7.30am.

Those of you with long memories will know that the post box used to live outside the front door at Coven Sud. It is now in the back garden and, as almost all our windows face it, I am happy that I can now see this all the time, rather than just when I go out.

I love my post boxes. And my red telephone boxes. But that is a project for the future, maybe... if there are still any around to be had for a sensible price.

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (4)

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The beginning of August

It didn't rain at all today!

Yesterday the wind was from the east. Today it was from the north.

Rarely is the wind from the north or east in summer.

Today the swallows are massing - seemingly for their migration south for the winter. Weeks early.

Who can blame them?


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Witchy's little helper

Without Mr BW here, I've had to do a few spells to get through the stuff he normally does.

This one, to keep the hedge trimmed, has been rather too successful, and it won't be long before the ewes have climbed right up the wooden fence on the field side of the hedge and are actually in the garden. This one is half way up already.

Anyone know when it is going to stop raining?


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

The Sequel

Mr BW has been down south (the first time in 6 weeks) for the last week to sort everything out: garden, re-painting, pond, hedge cutting - and overseeing the removal of everything left down there apart from a bed, a settee, 2 lounge chairs, a dining table, 4 wooden dining chairs, a few garden seats and some summerhouse furniture. Basically just enough to provide future prospective purchasers (chance would be a fine thing) with an idea of scale, but things that we won't miss up here. We have lived with plastic dining tables and chairs for three and a half years, so we can manage for a little longer!

The week before last we decided we were fed up with boxes everywhere here and no furniture to put the contents into. With a totally dead property market, so no timescale, we decided to just move almost everything else up.

Everything left Coven Sud at 1.15pm on Saturday in 2 Luton vans and arrived here safely on Sunday morning, although rather later than planned as the 2 removal men (company owner and his strongest worker) didn't understand that there is not a fuel station or a take-away food outlet on every corner up here, and came cross-country to avoid getting pulled into the weighbridge just off the A1 south of N'castle.

They were well overweight - who knew that you could only legally put just over a tonne in a Luton? We had asked for a 7.5T vehicle, but they assured us 2 Lutons would be OK, but they'd rather underestimated the weight of an old haberdashery unit, a plan chest, 7 x 4-drawer filing cabinets, a huge display cabinet, a dresser, a solid 1950s settee and about 100 boxes of stuff (that we just threw into crates in a hurry without having time to sort it properly) one weekend last September when we had a completion date but no time in the working week to be away from supervising builders taking out the front of the house up here. Oh, and I forgot the old plough from outside the front door that also went in.

Unloading it here:

One of the vans ran out of diesel en route (the route they went is easily 50 miles between fuel stations) on Saturday night and they'd had to borrow jerry cans from a farmer and arrived rather stressed on Sunday in just one van at 10.50am rather than the promised 9am. They did call at 9.40am and say they were half an hour away.

Nice Nearest Neighbour (who lives half a mile away) kindly offered to come round to lend 'moral support' as she put it, which was so helpful, particularly as she is excellent at jigsaw puzzles. She also pointed out that pubs round here that do B&B, like where they had stayed overnight, don't serve breakfast on a Sunday morning before 8.30am, so we had always expected them to be late.

After they had unloaded the first van, they went back to their hotel 30 miles away to put the jerry cans of fuel into Van 2 so that it could get to the fuel station to fill up, and then on to here to unload, before both driving straight back down South ready for a 7am start for a run to Wetherby yesterday. Oh to be 30 and to think that sort of thing is a good idea... or indeed to have the physical stamina to be able to do it.

As Remover's Mate reversed the retrieved (still full) Van 2 in at lunchtime, he hit the big concrete drain pipe tub with a tree in it that we had the builders place to protect the drystone wall up by the gate against builders' and merchants' vehicles during the building work. We must have had several thousand vans, delivery trucks, skips, cranes, bulldozers, large caravans etc etc through here since the tub was placed, and that was the first time it was needed. Even I managed to reverse a Luton through the gate without issue; the gateway is pretty wide!!!

The concrete pipe tub (and so the huge 400 year old stone pillar gatepost and the drystone wall) survived unscathed, but the van didn't

Luckily it was only the back nearside light cover and numberplate that were broken (the bulbs and electrics were OK) and Nice Nearest Neighbour (whose winter pastime is doing jigsaws with more pieces than I knew existed) managed to piece the 32 bits of red plastic back together and we stuck them together with polytunnel repair tape and gaffer taped the whole lot back on again so they could get home legally in the dark. I really hope they got home safely as they were both clearly exhausted when they left at 3pm.

2 hours 37 minutes to offload (in two tranches), 4 hours and 30 minutes to load.They did a fantastic job though, and were so helpful and pleasant. Couldn't have hoped for better service.

Mr BW is coming back up on Thursday (well that's the plan currently) so I have a few more days of peace and gentle unpacking before we start the heavy stuff. And we have to get it shifted/sorted quickly as the unsorted stuff (which mostly is ancient paperwork that mostly needs burning) is currently filling most of the lounge and we need the space as the new kitchen arrives, 22 units in boxes, fully assembled, plus all the panels, plinths, pelmets etc, in w/c 14th August.

Mr BW is going to fit it as if he can do oak stairs, he can certainly do a kitchen! And, thinking back, I put together and installed a flat-packed MFI kitchen in the first house I lived in when I left university. That was in the days before I lost my DIY skills and developed learned hoplessness (one stage beyond learned helplessness) as far as anything practical is concerned. When one is married to a highly skilled engineer with advanced skills in absolutely everything in every medium or material, there is no point in trying to compete. Or even necessity to try.

There are an awful lot of packages containing specialist resins and foot long bolts for fixing cupboards into crumbling old walls that have arrived since Mr BW was last here!

I forgot to say - the rain held off for all the time they were unloading, and the only thing that got drizzled on even slightly was one side of the metal plan chest that I simply wiped dry with a cloth. Given that the previous night and the night after (from about an hour after the removal men left) had torrential rain, and what was forecast, we were very lucky. Now, whichever dead relatives are up there watching over us and organising things, could you just arrange to get Coven Sud sold, and pronto, please?

(I'll add some photos later when I've dealt with the overnight slug problem in the b33hives - anyone know if slugs eat polysterene as we have some very expensive new mini-nuc boxes that slugs seem to swarming over?)


Sunday, July 30, 2023

Deliver us from evil

It could be worse... until last night it was forecasting 70+% chance of heavy rain all day.

This morning, after a night of torrential rain and strong winds (Biblical proportions), it is windy and overcast with rays of occasional sun, and the forecast is now saying "gusty winds and thundery showers".

Now, can Nice Nearest Neighbour (half a mile away) and I keep up with wiping the rain off incoming items?


Saturday, July 29, 2023

Live Blogging: Moving Day

07:27 Mr BW moves the cars to next door.

08:12 Mr BW puts wood and cardboard over the balcony and ladder. He has already removed a pane of glass from the balcony. What went up that way can come down that way.

08:34 The CCTV down South malfunctions. This could be my entertainment / long-distance monitoring for the morning ruined.

08:36 It returns. I breath again.

08:41 The first of the two vans is in the drive. I note the company's livery is BW Blue: vans, blankets and shirts. I note that it is not raining, even a bit sunny. I hope this lasts.

08:42 Boss is inside - I guess Mr BW is showing him what is going and sharing his Big Plan. This is to put all the stuff going in through the garage entrance in one van, and all the stuff going in through the front entrance in the other, in the order they need to come off. This is because serious rain is forecast in the North for tomorrow morning.

Mate is playing on his phone by the van outside, poking around in the hawthorn hedge (why?) and yawning. I hope he won't fall asleep on the A1 later with a sixth of our worldy goods on board (we have already moved half, and another third is moving, split between 2 Luton vans, which was cheaper than one bigger van, due to driving hours, fuel costs and mpg). He looks strong and I am pleased to see he is wearing trainers and not boots. This will be better for our nice new oak stairs tomorrow.

09:00 First box comes out, followed by a lot more small things. These disappear into the Luton top box over the cab.

09:03 Mr BW rings and tells me Boss doesn't like The Big Plan because of the likely weight distribution. There are 3 weighbridges on the A1 and "We get pulled on almost every trip!" I remember how many times (6? Or 7? Can't remember now) we have driven extremely heavily laden rental Lutons up the A1 and thank the universe that we've never been challenged. How much weight are you allowed in a Luton anyway?

09:07 First filing cabinet comes out.

09:09 Second filing cabinet comes out. Bloody hell, they're not hanging around are they?

09:11 Third filing cabinet comes out. Boss clearly likes riding up and down on the tail lift as much as I do.

09:12 First large crate comes out. Meanwhile Mr BW is wandering up and down by the pond out the back looking like a spare part. I suspect he thinks he can load the van better than they can. Based on my observations of what he's fitted in on our past trips, he's probably not wrong.

09:14 CCTV has frozen. It's obviously a Bad Broadband Day up here. Just for a change.

09:22 Ah, it's back. 5 filing cabinets are now out. And some more boxes. Number 6 arrives. Oi, watch what you are doing with that when you turn it round, I don't want dents or gravel marks in it!

09:32 The last filing cabinet is out. I am supposed to keep all my official papers and individual files for 25 years since I last added to them. To date I have. Once the barley in the field adjoining Coven Nord is cut, there is going to be one hell of a bonfire. I'm probably the only one who has been following this rule anyway.

09:39 I could have told you that sack trucks on gravel wasn't the best of ideas.

09:40 Blimey, those boxes must have been buried in Deep Loft. I haven't seen them for... 28 years... This is what happens when there is no possiblilty to sort stuff before it has to be moved.

09:45 Mr BW provides tea. And maybe biscuits? Can't quite see. I didn't order biscuits on the shopping that was delivered (fail, but we found with the builders that young lads don't seem to eat biscuits these days, only Greggs pies and McDs, so I didn't think about it), so if he's found them in a cupboard I fear they might be over a year old (maybe evevn two) and rather stale. He sits them on top of the wheelie rubbish bin. I might not have done that.

09:47 Yes, if you carry red plastic boxes with lids on their side, then things will fall out. It would have been fine had you carried it normally! Yes, pick it all up.

09:49 Time for a sit down on the van back and 5 minutes scrolling phones. They've only been here an hour! I wonder what lads used to do before the advent of phones? No wonder productivity in the UK is so bad.

10:10 Make that 20 minutes scrolling phones. Glad we're paying by the job not by the hour, and that one of them is the Boss.

10:25 I go to make a cup of tea. I return to discover lots more boxes have appeared. I had no idea there were still so many boxes down there. I can see lots of fire in my future. I may remove that last sentence later, in case Mr BW is copy and pasting.

10:37 Stuff seems to be happening on the balcony. I wonder what will slide down the ladder first?

10:38 It has BW Blue soft covering, so I'm guessing it is the settee. Wow, that was clever. Mr BW seems to have been enlisted to help. He's doing my usual job - steadying.

10:43 Next on the slide is the antique haberdashery unit, minus drawers, mirrors and glass. One is holding it with his arms and head while the other runs downstairs to help at the bottom. Mr BW is at the top, fighting with cardboard, to stop it damaging the balcony surface as it goes over the edge. I don't remember it being quite so hard to get it up there, and it was 2 blokes in their 50s, rather than 2 lads in their 20s, who did it.

10:47 Safely loaded. *sigh of relief* Only the plan chest to come down now. Ssssh, don't tell them, but I realised the other night that it won't go through the fire door between the garage and the craft room up here without the door coming off. I have charged the batteries to the screwdriver, but I am not trained in using it, so I hope they are. It's only 1/2 cm too narrow, 71.5 cm whereas the plan chest is 72cm. That's a surprise for tomorrow. And gosh, can I look surprised when I need to!

10:53: Oh, what are those large flat things? Ah, they are the drawers to the plan chest. Bringing them down the stairs, not the ladder. Propping them up by the garage door. Bloody good job it's not raining!

10:55 Mr BW sends me a photo showing a dent in the bottom drawer of the plan chest and that the top is slightly bowed. Presumably so I don't go ape at the removal men tomorrow when I notice. I reply, "Yeah I know!" in true Little Britain stylee. The only reason we could afford it in 2006 when we got it to store art papers flat was because it was damaged. I idly wonder why my brain stores such things but not others that would be so much mroe useful. Like - where on earth I put the labels of contents that came out of the drawer fronts when I packed them ready to move last September.

11:07 Oh, an ironing board appears. I'd forgotten that was down there. We haven't used one of those for three and a half years. Give or take ironing hems and turning over tops when making curtains. My latest contribution to saving the planet: wearing crinkled clothes. I still miss ironed tea towels and pillow cases, but that is all I yearn for. Strangely, the less you iron, the less things are creased when they are worn again after washing. Odd.

11:10 The body of the plan chest appears, ready to slide down the ladder. Oh dear, it won't fit through the gap left by the removed pane of glass. It has to go over the top of the balcony rail... I think it must have gone up before the balcony was finished when we did the extension back in 2006. It's a good job they don't yet know the continuing problems it will be causing when it is offloaded tomorrow... 2 at the bottom, Mr BW on his tummy on the balcony at the top... Glad I'm not there.

11:23 I imagined you'd put the drawers back in the plan chest to transport it? I missed whether you put the 30-odd drawers back in the haberdashery unit before you sheeted it. Perhaps those are going in Van 2 as part of the 'distribute weight carefully' plan?

11:33 OH NO!!! You cannot pile the empty drawers on top of the empty body, the structural integrity of the frame just won't take that! Quick phone call to Mr BW to go and cast an eye and prevent a disaster... I knew there was a reason I was supervising from 300 miles away!

11:47 Please be careful with that, it's Mr BW's Nan's very old mirror and we are very fond of it!

11:50 Yes, I'll allow you another phone scrolling time, that must have been very heavy work, well done. And, oh look, the sun has come out properly. I'm amazed that no nosey neighbours have just happened to walk by to see what it going on.

11:52 Van 1 is officially closed up. That's the hard bit done. Now to swap it with Van 2 that has been patiently waiting in the road outside. Just 2 dressers (neither of which was originally moving today), some garage stuff, a big plant pot, the remaining drawers and (I suspect) some more boxes, to go. Oh, and the very old plough that lived outside the front door. I wonder if that will be the oddest thing they have ever moved?

12:07 That's the big dresser/display cabinet safely in. Luckily it is in two parts. We have had its contents sitting in boxes on a tarpaulin on the living room floor up here for nearly 3 years. I will be pleased to see them again, even if I cannot do so until after Mr BW has put the unit back together when he returns at the end of next week (lots of painting to do down there first to cover walls where things that have not moved for ages have been removed).

12:18 That's the dining room dresser safely in. And even more boxes. Now we seem to be rearranging the positioning of the display cabinet top. Mind the glass, and here's hoping you don't have to brake suddenly because you don't seem to have any of those helpful metal load-restraining bars that come in rental vans. I'm not at all convinced that there is going to be room for the plough.

12.47 It is amazing how many outdoor jobs Mr BW has found to do in places where he can keep a surreptitious eye on proceedings. I think that must be nearly it now as that is the last of the 16 Really Useful Boxes (64 litres) that contain the filing cabinet contents. Handy hint to anyone thinking of moving: don't buy RUBs when they are offer as they are pretty much the same price as strong cardboard moving boxes, but much sturdier, and much more safely stackable in transit, and they can be used again or sold on afterwards. The 64 litre ones will take suspension files, or A4 ring binders too.

12:55 Plan chest drawers finally going in. No way is the plough going to fit in.

13:02 Aaaahhhh... I didn't realise you hadn't got the bottom of the dining room dresser in yet. And... wait... Mr BW seems to be doing something near the plough... perhaps it is going to fit in? Really? Or perhaps he's going to tow it back up behind the car when he comes?

13:06 HMOG, it IS going in... It's taking 3 of them, plus a trolley, to move it...

13:07 Oh dear. It seems to be too wide for the van and the hole there is left.

13:09 Lots of gesticulating later, it HAS gone in. Here's hoping they don't get pulled on the A1 because Van 2 now has a lot more weight than Van 1.

13:12 In goes their bag of blankets (not many used). The plough seems rather near the dresser base...

13:14 Tail gate closed. Mr BW giving them last minute instructions. Don't mention the fire door dear, leave that as a surprise for tomorrow morning.

13:18 And off they go... Au revoir, hopefully, tomorrow morning when I wil be able to have the reverse experience first hand. Can't wait.


Friday, July 28, 2023

Pop Ups

They are driving me mad.

Every time I click on a webpage they are thrust onto my screen. Why should I have to hit more than one button to get rid of them? Why is it made so hard if I don't want to accept cookies? It's probably fewer than 1 in 20 that have just two buttons, one for 'accept cookies' and one for 'reject cookies'. I frequently close pages without bothering to confirm my choices if it's clear that multiple clicks will be required. Sites of newspapers in the 'Reach' group always come into that category. There should be a way of permanently declining all cookies, but if there is, I've not found it.

Once upon a time in the long-ago happy era of dial-up and broadband speeds measured in kB rather than GB, I used to clear my cookies religiously, but now there are so many passwords required to do even the simplest thing that I rarely do, or the whole shebang is unworkable. Does anyone actually clear cookies these days? Perhaps I should go back to it: just 'allow all' cookies then clear them each day.

The only pop-ups that should be allowed are toasters, as per John Cooper Clark. Play loud.


Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Sometimes I wonder what the dinosaurs did 65.5 million years ago to bring about the last Mass Extinction.

Experts might want us to believe that it was a natural phonomenon, but suppose it wasn't? Suppose the dinosaurs were not what we think they were?

New modelling suggests that the Gulf Stream is collapsing.

With temperatures so low for late July across the UK, it seems likely that anyone with a heating system contolled by temperature rather than time (most modern systems now) will find it clicking on, thereby adding to global warming (or cooling, as seems increasingly likely for the UK). To avoid this, perhaps turn it completely off at the controller, and put on a(nother) jumper? It was only 9.1°C here the night before last. This is somewhere between 4 and 7 degrees cooler than it has been at this time in the past 4 years.

There is so much confusing information around. It is hard to know what to do or think, or what not to do, particularly when there is no central lead, direction or funding. But I guess that's what happens when you effectively have two rich accountants in the top roles: they know the price of everything but not the value, and are manifestly failing to appreciate the cost of their inactions on vital issues for the future.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

It's a small world

"Are you South African? Do you live in South Africa?" I asked the man on the phone, to make conversation, but also to discover where insurance companies are diverting my enquiries.

"Yes ma'am!" he sounded pleased, "How do you know?" "We've spent a lot of happy holidays there," I said, "whereabouts do you live?"

He gave the name of the small township on the outskirts of Noordhoek, the village that is always our first stop on arriving in Cape Town. "Ah, I know it! We always stay in the same place there, [name], which is a quaint arty place with a wonderful garden, run by a lovely lady."

"Is that [name]? I know her, I do gardening work for her!" he said.

An amazing coincidence. It didn't get me a cheaper price on my insurance though.

Insurance, of all kinds, seems to have risen at several times the rate of inflation this year.

Given that we are low risk, no claim, retired people, who live on a hill in a geologically stable area, in a low risk northern rural place, I foresee lots more uninsured homes and vehicles in other more risky, more populated, areas in the near future, simply because people won't be able to afford the premiums being demanded.

Anyone else been shocked by insurance renewal prices recently?


Sunday, July 23, 2023

This week we have:

- Survived the non-seasonal torrential rain, cold, and grey. The rest of Europe swelters and burns while we in the NE sog and shiver, with northerly winds. We have our heating set to 18°C in winter, which never feels particularly warm (but I am frugal, environmentally conscious, and have plenty of warm clothes), yet when it is 18°C in summer, it feels warmer than the same temperature in winter. Why?

- Finished designing, and then ordered, the new kitchen. Painted oak and some natural oak fronts, direct from the manufacturer. This is costing 30% of what an MDF 'wrapped' kitchen from Homebase costs (and also less, but less less than a local builders' merchant, Howdens, Travis Perkins, Wren, or B&Q - yes, we've done our homework over the past 3 years), and we are getting exactly what we want rather than what they think we want (because most companies don't do a wide selection of unit sizes and configurations). Mr BW has yet to pluck up the courage to tell the nice man from there that we won't be buying from him, despite having picked his brains and learnt to use the design software by watching him. I only feel a little bit guilty.

- Ordered the worktops and integrated sinks for the new kitchen. We are using the same company who made the work surfaces for the craft room and utility room a few weeks ago, as they did a good job (and didn't require any advance payment). These cost 60% of what they would have cost had we bought via the nice man (and also considerably less than the 3 other suppliers we approached to quote). How prices for a product can vary so much between manufacturers is beyond me, as they all buy the basic material from the same UK supplier.

- Ordered lots of really really long screwy things to install the kitchen into less-than-perfect walls, and lots of under-cupboard lights, and plumby bits. Mr BW is going to be busy.

- Defrosted and reorganised the freezer. That is the only positive to a cold July as it is not a job that can normally be done at this time of year.

- Arranged to move all the upstairs furntiure (out over/through the balcony as it won't go down the stairs - what goes up that way can come down that way, we hope), the large display cabinet, and all the remaining boxes, from Coven Sud to Coven Nord next weekend, using a recommended small removal company that has quoted much less than those we have previously approached. The weather forecast says it will rain. Mr BW will oversee loading South, and I will oversee offloading North while Mr BW stays down there for a few days to repair and paint anything necessary. Mr BW has prepared a Project Pack of exactly what is going where, and in what order. I doubt they will ever have experienced such efficiency. It is company boss, plus one, who will be doing the work, over 2 days (load and drive up on Saturday and offload and drive home on Sunday). As it is 28 years since we last moved, I have no idea what today's etiquette is for tipping removal men. Any guidance welcomed (noting that one of them is the company owner, and that, all being well, we hope to use them again to move the final large furniture up, if/when we ever sell Coven Sud).

- There is also a new 200 page A4 lined paper pad of lists. We always have lists. But, I have never seen so many lists. I will need to order (a) more paper, and (b) more Pilot G7 pens as Mr BW is left-handed and presses so hard that I am unable to use the pens afterwards as the balls stick and the tip blots.

Hope your week has been less busy?