Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Now on B -12

This is Mr BW's CAD model. CAD standing, in this case, for Cardboard Aided Design. Made because I needed a 3D model to visualise how things will look. I still have the one he made when we extended Coven Sud.

This is what is going to appear after The Blob (tiny cold draughty porch put on some time in the 1700s, no DPC or foundations and no proper joining to the main building) has gone.

The roof actually 'V's back into the existing roof of the house to cover up the piece of wood showing (this was V2 of the roof and made for simplicity). Obviously building this double-height structure, with traditional local arch feature front, new cloakroom, utility room, and upstairs store room, involves taking out some of the front wall of the house, but that doesn't happen for several weeks after work has started, so we are told. Which is just as well as that will involve sealing off the upstairs and the downstairs long passageway, leaving us with the new bit (bedroom and Studio) plus kitchen at one end, and the lounge/conservatory (half full of boxes of stuff that will eventually go back into the big furniture) at the other, only accessible by going for a long walk between external doors at the back. And no stairs for a couple of months, as they are being spun 90 degrees. The office (Finance Central) is upstairs. I no longer do ladders, and anyway the door will be sealed. That will be interesting.

Oh - and - not wishing to jinx things or anything, but Coven Sud may have been sold to the first viewer. Bit of a complicated set-up (so could be 10-12 weeks, maybe more, the estate agent says, which might suit our build timing perfectly, otherwise it could be interesting getting large furniture in through a building site or round the back down a narrow passageway or over a hedge), but everything has now checked out (the delay was because the buyers' estate agent wouldn't answer the phone to ours, or return messages - that was the estate agent we nearly used, narrow escape there), but better than selling to a London lawyer who wanted to use it as an occasional second home and said she had no time to do gardening, DIY, cooking or anything else, and hoped there were good staff available locally. It pleases us greatly that the buyers love the house and are also a creative couple (although in different arts), similar age to us, like gardening, and that one of them was in a punk band in the 1970s.

Que sera sera. And if it isn't it won't be.

And as for the state of the so-called government... it's like watching a car crash in very slow motion, isn't it?

 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Last orders

We got home sometime around 11pm last night (having driven through torrential rain and then having to detour due to the A1 being unexpectedly shut - clearly planned, but not listed on the Highways England website - but the sunset was amazing - lasted over an hour as we went up and down hills) knowing that everything at Coven Sud was as good as it could be, thanks to our efforts and those of Cleaner BW who did an amazing last clean through after she had done a full shift at a covid-hit hospital. "Trust me," she said, "it's every bit as bad as it was a year ago, and the vaccine doesn't stop it." Well, hey ho, why am I not surprised (hint people, you need an N95 or equivalent mask to protect you).

Our CCTV cameras at Coven Sud earned their keep once again, and suggested that the sun was shining this morning as we had our first viewing (38 minutes), before the official 'viewing day'. First viewers, "stake in the ground", 5% below marketed value. Agent says, "They'll go higher, believe me!"

This is all so surreal. Unbelievable. Really unbelievable.

But, short of unloading the boxes from the trailer (due to impending rain), we have spent the day in bed. Even Mr BW. Packing up, clearing out, and leaving behind is truly draining.

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Hare today, gone tomorrow

"Do you remember the days," queried Mr BW, "when what we did was limited only by the number of hours in the day, rather than by the energy we have?"

Lots of washing, yet more packing, cleaning, painting. Our estate agent seems to be lining up the punters for the weekend, after we've gone home and the place is beautiful again, but I'll reserve judgement until contracts are signed and the money's in the bank.

We saw our very frst hare in the field behind Coven Sud today, 27 years on. There are huge problems with hare coursing in fields quite near here, so the suspicion is that it was released on purpose. Either that or it hitched a lift down on the trailer and it is actually a Northern Hare.

"Why are you selling?" asked the Morrison's delivery man this morning. "Because we are moving!" I quipped. "Tell you what, if I win Euromillions tonight, I'd love to buy it!" he said. Just as Nosey Neighbour was walking past with her yappy dogs, he was asking where we were going. "North!" I said, "Way up north!" "Scotland?" he asked. I saw Nosey Neighbour's legs through the hedge. "Do you know," I said, "In SCOTLAND care is free for the elderly, and prescriptions are free for all!" "The only problem with Scotland is Lady Nicola!" he said. "Lady Nicola of SCOTLAND is a saint compared to the Ego that is Johnson!" I proclaimed. "Good luck with your move to Scotland!" said the delivery driver, cheerfully. "Fingers crossed that I'll see you tomorrow, when you are in a position to buy!" I replied. Ah, it's so easy, mis-fuelling the local gossip.

There is a certain irony in learning today, the day that we had two removals companies round to quote to move the remaining large items of furniture (the tightness of the first one's trousers, and the potential trustworthiness of the second are still concerning me), that the neighbouring District's Local Plan has finally been passed by the Inspector: minus the two proposed New Towns in open countryside that we (and particularly Mr BW, who attended and spoke at several public enquiries) fought so hard against for the past x years (I no longer remember how long; it was a long time). We knew that these had already been thrown out as being badly conceived and totally unsustainable, but seeing it in print came at a weird time.

The knowledge that we have helped save several hundred (thousand?) acres of prime farmland from concrete is certainly a pat on the back, and a fitting legacy to our beliefs (which are becoming more mainstream by the day) I think.

Now, how many years until we have to fight those battles again up north? Now, famous last words, but I fear we may soon be fighting view-blocking tree planting (huge amounts of government money are now available for that, in lieu of essential post-EU farm subsidies fo hill farmers, so they have no choice but to play the new game to survive) rather than the peace and quiet destroying urbanisation of unsuitable southern quasis-rural acreage.

 

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Way of the World


 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Sunday's best

Reasonable journey down, for a change, albeit hot due to ongoing malfunctioning aircon. Lots of caravans and motorhomes, but few lorries and no delays or closed roads. Most unusual for a Sunday. Got quite a bit done this afternoon after we got back.

I feel like I am living in a show house and we have misplaced lots of things as we can't remember which cupboard we stuffed them in to be out of the way for photos and viewers. Cleaner BW isn't too well and it is doubtful whether she will make it over to clean up before we go back at the end of the week, before the 'open day by appointment' next weekend, so Mr BW is on pain of death to mess anything up. Several rooms are out of bounds.

Tomorrow it is the funeral of a Patchy Friend. Four consultants (in different specialities) over three years failed to believe she had a problem swallowing and told her it was psychosomatic. By the time the fifth (junior) doctor saw her and ordered different (expensive) tests, her throat cancer had spread and was inoperable. In her last weeks, her husband of more than 60 years felt that looking after her didn't leave him enough time for himself, and arranged for her to be taken (against her will) to a nursing home as the local hospice would not admit her as she did not want to go there.

She was a lady who spent her professional life working with children and families in various capacities, all of them challenging, and in later life would always do anything for anyone in need, and was a kind and generous person, who always had an uplifting word for everyone. One of life's true 'givers' who always put others' needs before her own. I find it so hard to understand why her husband, who she had waited on hand foot and finger all her life (so often the story for women of that generation) treated her as he did at the end. I am told that he did not even visit her for her last four days. I am going to find it very hard to be civil to him tomorrow.

 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

3D

I'm really hoping that going down the A1 tomorrow I might meet myself coming back up. I have lost all sense of time (and possibly reality) and am just living from task to task on the 'to do' list. We have got through all of them (and some extras) in the last 4 days though. We have now also sourced and ordered the 30 square metres of ceramic tiles for the new entranceway.

Mr BW dropped the jockey wheel of the trailer on his foot while hitching it up this afternoon. I don't think he has actually broken any bones in his foot/toes, but it will slow him down a bit for the next few days! Thank goodness for frozen peas and ice packs.

An amazing coincidence: we were invited to visit a very local ancient 24 acre wildflower meadow on Thursday evening. Until Tuesday, we did not know that this existed, and we have been struggling to get yellow rattle to grow in our new wild/orchard area. As we were walking around, we were chatting to the owner, and discovered that her husband was a sculpture artist, who worked in wood and stone. She asked where we lived now, and where we had moved from. She then said that they had links to a town down there (where I once worked) and that her husband had several sculpture commissions in various places near there. We visited one of these places a few years ago and Mr BW saw a sculpture there that he loved, that he just stood and stared at for about half an hour, and this inspired him to do a couple of his own woodcarvings - complex pieces, involving several objects, created out of just one piece of wood. It turned out that the lady's husband had carved it. Truly amazing, meeting up 300 miles apart and finding a personal link as part of a simple conversation, whilst walking through a meadow, about a specific sculpture amongst hundreds of art pieces. We still can't quite believe the connections.

We've known for a while that another near neighbour commissioned That Sculpture That You See As You Come Up The A1 into our adopted county, bit we had no idea that we lived so near to another renowned sculptor. Very sadly, he now has dementia and is now longer able to carve.

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Exhaustion sets in

We have just had to make over 50 corrections (grammar/spelling/punctuation) to the estate agent's draft details. Of particular contempt was the phrase, "The properties' garden's deserve a particular mention as they offer..." He said, "Most people just say nice advert, thanks!" How we laughed. I'll bet that there are still mistakes in the final live version though.

And he's not yet let us see the photos, other than to say that the professional photographer's one of the back of the house - the most impressive view - wasn't good enough, so he had to go round, and, being unable to get through our layers of security as he doesn't yet have a key, or the code to the alarm, then had to vault over the neighbours' fence, and stand in the farmer's field on tip-toe to attempt to take a better shot. We'll redo it again ourselves at the weekend when we are back down, because, you know what they say: if you want something done properly, do it yourself.

It's too hot and humid here and I am very very tired. To prove that point, we had to go out earlier to look at some tiles (they need ordering to be here in time for the new entrance hallway, or it will delay the fititng of the stairs, which we have also not yet ordered) and buy some outdoor storage boxes to tidy up the assemblage of orphaned pots and planters not adorning the area in front of the greenhouse, and I somehow distracted myself and accidentally left the key in the front door. Oops. Being 400 yards down a private track off a very minor single-track road, luckily no-one walked in, and no-one except the postman came by anyway (and he's used to no-one round here ever locking their doors). That's the trouble with UPVC/composite doors of course, they need to be locked, and I'm just too used to a solid old wooden door with Yale lock plus 5 lever mortice lock making it impossible to leave the door unlocked on leaving.

Mind you, Mr BW managed to not remove the trailer-to-car hitchlock before driving home, which is fine mechanically, but illegal, so we are now quits in the key stupidity stakes, and hoping to sleep better tonight than we have been recently. Now, where did we put that floor-standing fan?

Removed

Yesterday was a total blur - up before 7am to pretty up and plump, photographer arrived to do photos and the plan of the house at 10.30am, we followed him around until he left at 1.10pm (he was a real old woman and I had to point out things to him several times that would have spoilt shots, and Mr BW had to suggest several better angles for shots of the back, not dreadfully impressed, not yet seen the results of what he took, although he said he'd upload them by last night and send the access code to the estate agent), we left 10 minutes after him, having locked up, got back 7.20pm having stopped at Costco at Gateshead for fuel and some provisions. The aircon on the car has ceased to function, not good when it was 28°C all the way to Yorkshire (when it dropped to 20°C for the rest of the journey, which was much more bearable). Never ever seen so many trucks on the road - I guess because of the rail strikes freight is moving by road, including in really old trucks (some 20+ years old). Then on arrival, even before watering ourselves, we did an hour of watering in the greenhouse and garden, as the solar/water butt powered watering system seemed to have malfunctioned, managing to resuscitate all but some relocated-just-before-we-left white winter pansies, but they might still recover - the thermometer says it has been hotter than the weather forecast suggested and a couple of degrees warmer at nights than down south.

I don't think I have had a week where I have worked so hard in the past 2 years (although Mr BW has weeks like that the whole time, but that's Mr BW for you! ). Down again this coming Sunday until Friday next week (to pack and remove absolutely everything left other than what the removal firm will eventually remove, and attend yet another funeral), then house open day by appointment the first weekend in July (run by the estate agent, he doesn't want us around, which suits us) and then hopefully we might have sold it, with two weeks to spare before building work starts here again.

Coven Sud did look really good when we left it, even if I fear the photos might not do it justice. We'll see! I thought I'd be really sad, but, unexpectedly, I'm not. It's time for us to move on, and for the house to move on. In 6 years time it will be 100. I expect it will look quite different by then, but I probably won't be going back to see it as there is almost no-one left down there now to return to see, and those few remaiing can come up and see us. If you're passing by, let us know...

 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Moving on

We, and Cleaner BW, have worked really really hard and the house is as clean and decluttered as it has ever been, and the garden is now nicely tame wild. It's amazing how much it has grown and spread in the past 2 years when I haven't been here to keep it in check, although Mr BW did an excellent job cutting grass and hedges and keeping the bindweed under control last year when I wasn't able to come down due to having to be present for insurance purposes and to supervise the building work - amazingly, it's a year ago tomorrow that they started Phase 1, and in a month's time they will be starting the third and final and most scary phase, which involves knocking down the current blob stuck-on single storey uninsulated porch, taking a wall out of the north side of the house, rotating the stairs through 90 degrees and building back a double storey new entrance with a traditional local arch and tall glazing.

It is a glorious sunny evening at Coven Sud tonight, and in about ten day's time the garden will look at its best, which is great as that is when the viewing day of scheduled appointments will be held. Photos are being done in the morning, which isn't the best time of day for the light, but it was the only time the photographer could manage, and we need to get back up north with some more stuff to sort so that we can get back down here at the weekend to complete packing everything but the large furniture. We can't both leave Cven Nord once building work starts, so we have to cram everything in now.

I am heartily glad that we are not people who move frequently as this is physically and emotionally extremely hard work.

 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Scorchio to Freezio in one day

Must have been an accidental auto-spell.

Isle of Wight Festival - last night Madness, tonight Beautiful South, now AKA Paul and Jacqui.
Back when we moved in in 1995, we decorated this house, at 11pm and 5am, in between work, to Beautiful South.

Happy memories.

It's a funny world.

 

Friday, June 17, 2022

One Summer Day

12 machine loads of washing and 8 dishwasher loads completed today. Lots of subsequent folding and wrapping. Nothing goes north until it is clean.

Summer finally came to the south today: it was 33.8°C in the shade, with a breeze that meant garments were drying faster than the next load was finishing: just as well as there aren't too many pegs left here. Up north it was just 16°C and no sun all day, according to the BBC and CCTV respectively. Nevertheless, here's hoping that the automatic solar powered/giant water butt watering system is working to water the greenhouse. Tonight's low temperature is forecast to be 17°C south and 8°C north. I've been making a study of north/south temperature differentials and this is the first time in the 27 months we have been living between two places that there has been such a huge variation in temperatures. What's it been like where you are?

Today Mr BW unexpectedly needed an expensive electric cutty thingy tool that he moved north in the last load, thinking he wouldn't need it again, so he had no option but to go out to a local DIY store early to buy another. Very frustrating... but luckily as it turned out, the tool gave up the ghost shortly before he had finished the job (but by then he could finish it another way). So he took it back and got a refund. Usually at 5.30pm on a Friday it would take an hour to travel the 4 miles to get there, but he was there and back in 40 minutes. No traffic around. I guess everyone was melting in the heat and had gone home early to have BBQs and make hay while the sun shines.

Tomorrow is more washing, cleaning, packing up, gardening, and generally getting ready for the photographer on Tuesday morning. For the first time ever I shall be ironing a duvet cover as crumpled bedding looks very bad in property photos.

The independent estate agent who came to see us late yesterday afternoon endeared himself to me when he said, "It's so nice to visit a property where it takes as long to look round the garden as it does to look round the house. Hmmm... I'm thinking of phrases like "gardeners' paradise" for the details!" Ha, he should have seen it before we made another garden from it by moving many of the plants up, and neglected it for two years.

Sadly he lost all his brownie points again when, on standing in the garage/workshop and somehow ignoring the large stack of empty cardboard boxes (saved from 2 years worth of northern deliveries) waiting to be filled, he said, "Plenty of room here for a nice old car and a motorbike!" "Exactly!" I said enthusiastically. He then turned to Mr BW and said, "So what sort of bike do you have?" Mr BW smiled wrily and said, "I drive the old car, but Mrs BW rode the bike." I grimaced and implored him not to be so sexist. I don't think he will be making that mistake again.

It's my half birthday today.

Posted at 10:02 PM | Comments (4)
 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Dear Coven Sud...

... please stop making things go wrong. I know you are sad that we are leaving, but that is really no reason to keep throwing tantrums.

Mr BW simply does not have time to fix leaking sinks, malfunctioning taps, toilet flushes and showers, greenhouse door panels of toughened glass that spontaneously explode, and cope with me dropping window lock keys down plug holes accidentally, as well as doing everyting else there is to do.

The estate agent dealing with the sale of Mr BW's Mum's house continuea to disappoint, but we have tonight found someone offering a new 'American-style' model of selling who we think will do an adequate selling job for us. And for more service and less fee than mainstream estate agents want to charge. We will see...

It may have been hot and humid here today (knocking 30°C) but it's cold now. This just is not normal weather for this time of year.

 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

300 miles from home

Heating oil is now £1.02 per litre down south and £1.06 up north. It is usually between 30p and 40p per litre at this time of year.

The most expensive diesel fuel on the A1 today was £2.049 per litre and the least expensve £1.897 per litre, with most in the high one hundred and nineties. The better part of ten quid a gallon, but you'd never know it from the volume of vehicles on the road.

We have determined that new personal number plates are largely a thing of the past: aspirational motorists seem to be seeking a green stripe on their new vehicle's plate these days.

We visited an acquaintance's open garden on Sunday, and I took the opportunity to quiz him on his much-boasted-about solar panel credentials. With a flourish of his mobile phone and lots of bar and pie charts, he proudly showed how much he had saved this year through renewables. I am still reeling from the shared statistic that they have used 22,000 kWh of energy in their house already this year. I don't care whether much of it is self-produced, 22,0000 kWh seems to me to be a really profligate amount of energy to have consumed in less than half a year. They have solar panels (which may not even earn their keep, in terms of energy invested in their manufacture, in the NE) and an air source heat pump, and two electric vehicles. These numbers just do not stack up. It's all very well being 'green', but substainability and common sense must come into play too.

Tonight at Coven Sud is just like the first night we saw it, and fell in love with it, 27 years ago. Gorgeous light, long shadows, verdancy, high temperatures (29.1°C in the shade at its peak, still over 20 now). And the washing doesn't come out orange...

 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Another week on

The first ripe tomato and the first ripe strawberries emerged from the big greenhouse on 10th.

We have had strawberries well before June 10th, but we've never had tomatoes in June, let alone in the first half, and 300 miles further north. Luckily we have indeterminate tomatoes as well as determinate ones this year, and luckily I found out about the difference in time to grow some of each, because I'd forgotten.

Yet another water problem yesterday - no water from mid morning, for 6 hours, and then it again returned orange and airy, as before. On the way back from an open gardens (ours, at 2 years old, is better than theirs at 12 years old, even if we say it ourselves) we went via the pumping station 3 miles away, and found that the repair the water company did there last time, 3 weeks ago, hadn't been finished. The blue 'temporary diversion' pipe had been left over the road, and the farm traffic driving over it had pulled it out of the unfilled hole where the leak was, and the water was gushing out like a fast-running stream. It had obviously been like that for several days, and, yet again, no-one had bothered to report it. I can understand why though... unlike down south where a leak can be reported quickly and easily online, here one can only phone. It took 10 minutes for Mr BW's call to be answered, they then cut him off and didn't call back, so another 10 minutes waiting to be answered, and they then demanded his full details and also a postcode for the leak, even though their pumping stations in the middle of rural nowhere don't have a postcode as they don't have a letterbox!

Tomorrow we make another trip south to Coven Sud to have a final tidy, primp, and have photos for marketing done. It now feels rather final, and quite sad, 27 years on. Still, it has to sell, in order to fund the next (final) phase of the renovation works at Coven Nord. Building starts on 18th July, we are promised. Just 6 weeks later than originally forecast in February, and already 10% more expensive due to rising costs of materials. But probably still 50% cheaper than it will be in a year's time, which was the original plan.

Now, a question. We were originally going to put the same engineered oak floor into our new entranceway as is already in the lounge and hallway. However, it is now hideously expensive, there are now no local fitters, and it is recommended that it is not wet mopped.

Because of how we live, we need easy-clean, hardwearing flooring, that can be regularly mopped.

I think we have now ruled out wood, and I wouldn't put down laminate as, like wood or engineered wood, it also has problems if wet-mopped. Ceramic tiles are an option, but as we are not having underfloor heating, I think they could be very cold in winter, and hard to walk on.

Has anyone any experience of Amtico flooring? It seems very hardwearing, wet-washable, easy to remove marks from, and warm underfoot. Any experience or suggestions welcome, thanks.

 

Monday, June 6, 2022

The climate it is a changin'

The weather doesn't feel like June.

We are now just a couple of weeks off the longest day, and it really doesn't feel right.

It is only warm when the sun is shining, and the rest of the time feels like March.

Anyone else noticing this?

 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Unseen but not unappreciated

Yesterday I caught the sun. First time in many years. Not sun burn, but sun red, and I had to hunt for the aftersun yesterday and for the sun screen today. Lots of vitamin D manufactured anyway. Today has been less sun scorching, but fair weather nonetheless.

After making a 5m x 6m new 'allotment area' in the field yesterday (and then planting it with cleansing potatoes, plus lines of horseradish and jerusalem artichokes transplanted from Coven Sud), today Mr BW widened some of the garden borders, and then cut out new areas for soft fruit in the garden with the Magic Turf Machine. Then he cut a swathe around the hens' enclosure so that the electric netting stopped shorting out on the long grass, and chopped out some new bits of grass for wild flowers.

This evening we watched something that was trailed before almost every broadcast from the Chelsea Flower Show (they know their target audience): Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen ("which includes the BFI National Archive’s new digital restorations of rare highlights from the Royal Collection of film").

An amazing BBC production, one of their best, and a rare glimpse into the past and the future. Do find it on Sounds and watch it if you haven't already. Truly touching, and enlightening.

 

Friday, June 3, 2022

Platinum Plans

We are doing a very patriotic thing today.

Setting up a new asparagus bed.

The crowns (Guelph Millennium) came a couple of weeks ago, and had to be hastily potted up as the raised bed wasn't ready for them and we didn't want them to dry out. They have already grown thin spears, so will have to be carefully transplanted. We've never managed to grow asparagus successfully before, despite doing all the recommended things. I'll let you know in two years whether this attempt is any better.

At least we are not flying any Union Flags upside down. I wonder what proportion of people actually know which way up our national flag should fly?

Yesterday was turf cutting and soil shifting and soil sifting in the warm sun. All very hard work. Goodness knows how earlier inhabitants of our house over the centuries managed to eke out a subsistence existence without power tools. The soil is fabulous once the thick hill grass is removed, and the field area was last cultivated for food in the 1950s or 1960s, so should prove very fertile.

Late afternoon it rained in drops heavy and hard enough to be hail, and the valley was so obscured by rain in the evening that we couldn't see any of the beacons, which we might have been able to see had the weather been better.

 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Home alone...

... but we can see her waiting hopefully for our return, even if she can't see us.

We have finally managed to catch her white sister (who has got rather wilder than she already was in the past 2 years with us not being down south much), so she will have feline company once again, once we get back tomorrow. The two never liked each other, despite Black Feline Familiar being White Feline Familiar's grandmother or great aunt (we were never quite sure which), but after several years apart, and with BFF having no other feline company, hopefully things may go rather better.

After attending possibly the most depressing funeral ever, late morning, Mi1dred disappeared on the back of a trailer early afternoon, and we just have to hope that she will reappear at Coven Nord tomorrow afternoon.

It's very cold down south. 10 or 12 degrees. Grey skies and almost every appliance is going, or has already gone, wrong. I was kept awake most of the night last night by a smoke alarm bleeping, which, when I eventually reluctantly woke Mr BW as I couldn't track it down to remove its battery voicebox, turned out to be the smoke alarm on the solar PV system, which is hard-wired in to the electric supply. Why it should also have a battery, I have no idea. Is that normal?

Here's hoping we have a better journey up tomorrow than we had down yesterday: the M11 was only one lane all the way from the top, then closed totally between 11 and 10, and lots more roads were shut cross-country from Saffron Walden than were on the Ride London map. Only Highways England could shut the M11 (and it was a planned closure) while half of North Essex was also shut for a load of overly-lycra-clad London cyclists.

 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Celebrations

We now have 6 weeks without builders before they start the final (and most complicated) phase, which involves taking out an outside wall of the house.

We hope that the electricity and water services behave themselves and, without such time robbers, we might actually be able to get stuff done and start making order out of all the van and trailer loads of stuff that have come up and got piled on top of each other over the last few months.

Once we get back from a funeral trip south, hopefully with Mi1dred being delivered at around the same time by a car transport service, we will celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

By having a 4 day hire of a turf-removing machine to remove the grass to make fruit beds, allotment bed, cuttings bed, area to pave around the greenhouse etc etc. 4 days for the price of one as the hire company are closed from Wednesday 4pm to Monday 8am. We haven't used one before, so if anyone has any tips, comment away.

Never a dull moment...

 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Money, money, money

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) have crunched numbers and produced this response to the government cost of living support package announced yesterday.

Interesting reading.

Rewatered

Over 50 hours on the water finally came back yesterday lunchtime... as orange gunk. More orange than it has ever been, and more viscous, and full of air.

Mr BW has taken the ballcock off the sheep trough in the field behind so it can feed/overflow through there until it clears at the Estate's expense and not through our platinum-priced meter or our nice clean new system in the house!

It is still not properly clear after 10 hours of running.

While the water company have now mended all the leaks on their part of the system, there is still a leak that is losing 5 cubic metres of water every day, in the middle of a remote field of OSR, that the estate farm manager says he cannot locate exactly enough to fix.

While we now have better water pressure than we have ever had, we suspect we will continue to get orange water while there is an opening (leak) in the system. I am wondering whether I should volunteer my dowsing services (I'm pretty sure I could find it), or whether that might earn me the nickname locally of "The Witch on the Ridge". Then again, with the very high price predicted for OSR oil this year, they may be choosing not to try to fix it until after they have harvested, as they don't want to lose the part of the crop above the leak where digging would need to take place to unearth the faulty pipe.

Posted at 12:26 AM | Comments (8)
 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Water matters

And still no-one has water this morning, despite successive teams of water company 'lads' having worked all night (well, we hope they did, that was the plan at 7pm last night when Mr BW went to see them). Nearly 48 hours now.

One joy of living amongst hill farmers is that they get up at 4am this time of year (they are silaging at the moment) so already have situations sussed out by the time we wake up.

At least it is cool and drizzly - so the water butts are refilling almost as fast as we are using the water - and not scorching hot.

Knowing the depth of reader expertise, I have three technical questions about water situations, the first two linked to things I have pondered here in the past, and the last of current high concern. I'm hoping someone might have some technical knowledge they could share:

1. Our water often has an orange hue, caused by high iron levels from the surrounding geology. Locals with boreholes have confirmed that their sand filtration systems do not completely remove this hue. My white washing has been coming out orange for ages. I had a hunch that it was not being helped by me sometimes using washing soda in with the powder to remove tough stains. I got some Vanish powder for whites, and used it instead, and the problem got a lot better. Would the iron in the water causing the orange discolouration be reacting with the washing soda to make a more orange salt than was originally in the water (or to fix it in some way onto the fabrics - as washing soda and salt are used as mordants in dyeing)?

2. If water flowing through a water meter contains a lot of air, will it be producing an inflated meter reading? (ie have we been paying for air for months, or does the meter measure just the water volume and not the volume of the water plus air passing through it)?

3. If an initially pumped water system, that then relies on gravity (that serves 10 properties on hilly terrain over maybe 3 miles), is completely empty of water, how are the airlocks created (that will naturally rise to the highest point in the supply chain) removed?

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Yes, we have no bananas...

... and still no water either.

36 hours on now.

Luckily properties at less height than us have now also run out, as has the Estate farm manager's property and all his animal troughs, so there may be some hope that the problem is cured sometime before the end of the year.

Several excursions to the back of beyond by Mr BW have yielded the information that two water company lads ('lads' being a term seemingly applied locally to anyone below senior manager level in a company, and unrelated to age) were at the pump-in-the-middle-of-nowhere 3 miles down the road (that also draws from the big natural spring to fill a big reservoir a few miles away) at 4.30am and changed the 'valves' that might have been faulty so contributing to the problem, a series of 'gulley clearing vehicles' ('septic tank emptiers' to me, 'poo suckers' to Mr BW) attended during the day to draw water from the area around the 'leak known about locally for weeks but unreported' so that the split plastic pipes could be excavated and repaired, and the system turned back on (around 6pm).

As we still have no water, it could be due to other leaks, properties lower down needing a long while to refill their storage before water will climb the hill to us, or a big airlock that may or may not be fixable in the short to medium term.

Mr BW has gone off to do his civic duty as a local councillor this evening and will be pushing the message, "You need an Emergency Plan, you really do, these problems of ageing infrastructure not properly maintained, and climate change and drought, are becoming more frequent and you really need to ensure you have ways of supporting the local people affected each time, including knowing who to call to get official emergency supplies and services." Can you imagine living in the South and not being provided with emergency water supplies after 36 hours of a water supply failure? Trust me, I've lived there all my life, in many different locations, and it would never happen. Up here it is just accepted that that is the way it is and there is no expectation that it shoudl be any different.

It was around the time this blog started (2003) that Parish Sud created their Emergency Plan and it was decreed that no sandwiches could be served in times of crisis unless I was present as I was the only one in the WI who had an Essential Food Hygiene Certificate, so was legally allowed to oversee the provision of refreshments in emergency situations. Things have moved on since then, and now half of evacuated London is catered for, if/when The Time Comes.

Since we have been here we have been stranded at home by snow for 6 weeks, had no electricity for 11 days, and had no water for [heaven knows how long eventually], and been regularly buffetted by strong winds. Everyone locally that we talk to just laughs and says, "It hasn't happend before in living memory!" but it really isn't funny. An elderly neighbour (who lives a mile away) who we've befriended as he walks by with his dog regularly, rang me earlier to ask if I knew anything about the water problem. I explained the situation and bemoaned the litany of disasters we've suffered in the last 26 months.. "They never happened before you moved in, are you sure you're not a witch?" Out of the mouths of babes and the elderly...

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

And it got worse

Tonight we have no water at all. Not a single drop.

This morning we had an intermittent trickle of orange tinted, very frothy and spurty, but water nonetheless. I managed a 30 second shower, by turning off the water for several minutes in between each trickle. Three times.

It is unclear what is happening, or, indeed, if we will ever have water again.

Our supply comes off a Country Estate's supply, which now emanates from the county water company's, because private supplies were taken over by county water companies in an enforced acquisition a few years ago. They seem to have forgotten to include all properties drawing from the acquired points, so in very rural parts, a lot of people like us are left in a perilous position if their supply fails, with no-one legally responsible for having to restore it, the water companies washing their hands of responsibility, and landowners not being inclined to spend any money they don't have to.

After being notified this morning by the Estate's Farm Manager of the leak he'd spotted a month ago, the water company mended the leak on their side around lunchtime, but there was some problem with the valve to our side not working when they turned it back on again. But, we seem to be the only one of the 10 properties supplied on that line who does not have water.

Because we (and the sheep's troughs) are the highest point from the supply point (a natural spring), we may apparently be suffering an airlock.

No-one knows how to solve this, and, because we are not the direct customer of the water company, no-one has to, and no-one has to provide us with an emergency water supply, or indeed any information, assistance or support.

Our nearest neighbour (half a mile away) has a borehole. We have begged 50 litres from her. "There's something wrong with it!" she proclaimed, "It tastes really metallic at the moment." Heavy metal is better than no water at all. And we had plenty of practice living on 25 litres per person per day in Cape Town during their bad drought a few years back.

We have a few water butts with some water left in them - perhaps 350 litres in total. We have a rechargeable portable shower spray unit from Bri@n the mini-caravan, so we are currently pretending we are on a caravan safari in South Africa. Without the good weather, obviously, but with more facilities. I think the novelty may soon wear off though.

There may be some reason events have conspired such that we have not yet been able to get Coven Sud on the market...

 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Some updates

Well, after a week drying off, the phone dipped in tea has come back to life and lives on, which is good as its younger cousin replacement proved to have too many bells and (especially) whistles that could not be switched off. What happens when it finally dies of old age is of concern.

I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to feel that I am totally uninterested in anything outside of my own back yard as there is nothing that I can do that will make the slightest bit of difference anyway. Something that I have often noticed in older people, but never thought would happen to me. Ho hum.

Did the tarmac people turn up to fill in the 20m trench across the dirve as promised (which should have been done by the end of last Thursday)? What do you think?

The powergrid project manager is back from his holidays and has been chasing.

Guess when they are coming?

Wednesday. Apparently. And that is after intervention from both high levels in the regional grid company and senior levels of their national sub-contractor. Just 12 days on from opening the trench. "You are not important!" is the strong message from them. I do hope they understand our message, "And you will not be getting paid!" We had to pay the largest part up front, but the payment of this part is dependent on our signing off a paper document. Will we be signing it? I don't think so.

Why does it always have to be this difficult?

For the past week or so we have had very bad water pressure, with the water often running out mid-shower, mid-teeth cleaning, mid-washing machine load or mid-anything in fact, and is constantly frothy, spitty, and orange. Early this morning we took a walk down to the lower field (which looks very close from the top of our ridge but is probably half a mile away), and discovered an overflowing sheep water trough, due to a malfunctioning ball cock. We rang the estate manager. "Oh yes, that might be part of it, but there is also a 5 cubic metres a day leak somewhere below you!" "Right, OK, when might that be fixed?" Oh, right, you don't know, fine, absolutely, why not leave us without reliable water supply indefinitely?

Frustrated, moi?

 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Saturday question

I would value your opinion on this:

A customer employs an architect to draw up plans, and the architect provides a fixed fee quote for doing the job.

The architect needs structural calculations as it is a complex project and recommends a 'preferred' structural engineer. The architect gets a fee quote from his preferred structural engineer and the customer pays the structural engineer directly, although the architect has all the contact with the structural engineer to procure the information he requires.

When pricing the work, a builder asks 4 manufactuers to quote for the structural steel framework. 3 say that it is not possible to bend the steel to the drawings supplied by the architect, who was advised by the structural engineer. The 4th fails to reply to the builder.

The builder speaks to the architect and to the structural engineer, and explains the situation: what has been drawn and calculated between them is impossible to construct.

The builder explains the situation to the customer and suggests that the customer asks the architect to speak with the structural engineer and sort out their error between them.

The architect then produces a slight variation on the design, which the steel fabricators are then able to make.

Should the architect (who was working to a fixed fee) charge for this, and if so, who should pay?

 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Bee Day

"What's that little bee doing in the Google box today?" I thought.

"The United Nations officially declared 20 May as World Bee Day to honour the birthday of Slovenian beekeeping pioneer Anton Janša (1734–1773). In Slovenia, one in every 200 people is a beekeeper, most of them amateurs. The Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia says the hobby teaches ‘responsibility, perseverance, modesty, hard work, love of nature and homeland’.

More info about that here. And a rather different attitude from their government towards the importance of bees to what we get from ours here...

Posted at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

Action at last!

2 rough-looking blokes built like brick shithouses arrived at 8.15am.

It's probably not politically or socially correct to say that these days but,
(a) We live in the North now and no-one round here gives a toss about 'woke concepts', and
(b) It's true.

"Would have been here an hour ago if we hadn't done 50 miles round the countryside looking for a way in for our wagon!" they said. And it was gigantic, with a mammoth scoop.

They started work almost before the lorry had stopped. No sitting in the cab for half an hour before slowly starting as is generally seen from workmen in these parts. We reckon they probably normally do fill-in behind rolling roadblocks on motorways, when there has been a suddden collapse in surface, and things have to be done pronto.

The 20m long, 75cm deep trench was filled in in with Type 1 and sand in less than an hour, with a protective metal barrier being laid over the electric cable and our ducting for the (mythical, maybe one day) fibre-optic cable put in too, and the huge pile of spoil dug out a week ago scooped away into the lorry. A veritable whirlwind! Did more work in that hour than our builders do in 3 days!!!

I've never seen blokes carry 2 of those big heavy protective barriers at once, one in each arm!

Still not being tarmaced until Monday though, despite Mr BW's best efforts.

GRRRRRRRR

After probably 20 phone calls and emails, we discovered that apparently the trench fillers are not coming until today.

Because we are not a trench in a public highway any other work takes priority over us, despite the job having been contracted to be finished "by 20th". Yes, but it would have been nice to have been TOLD there were delays and not have wasted half the day chasing you, and half the week waiting around for you to appear.

And they won't do the rest of the work at the weekend, so not until Monday for tarmac and clearing up, which totally wrecks our plans for a visit south from today until midweek next week, just for a change.

Why do these people have such a lack of respect for the fact that other people have lives, commitments and plans? Because of deliveries, workmen, visitors due here Wednesday to Saturday next week, we now won't be able to get south for another 10 days, which is the day half the roads around Coven Sud are closed for Ride London.

GRRRRRRRRR.

 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Update especially for Tim W (see comment below) who is probably the only one not bored by the building tales

The new meter fitting man arrived at 8.07am yesterday, having left home at 6am to make sure he wouldn't keep us off supply any longer than he had to. Mr BW had rung the meter fitting company contracted by the supplier twice, once when we made the appointment a couple of months ago, and once last Friday to ensure that there was a note on the job sheet that it wasn't just a standard meter swop, but a meter onto a new supply line and we would have had no power for 24 hours, so would be grateful if we could be first job in the 8-12 allocated slot.

The builder's electrician was also asked to arrive at 8am and eventually turned up just after 9am, just as the efficient meter man was leaving, having spent half of his hour here admiring our view down the valley. We keep telling Chief Builder that the electrical company is the weakest link in his tradesmen, but he says there is only one company better (and a lot worse) and the joiner he works with all the time fell out with the better electricians 20 years ago, so "boys' loyalty" means he can't work with them now.

The tails were attached into the new meter, an earth spike was added, the cables from everything (a bundle as thick as my leg) going into the new fuse box were taken out of the interim staging post in the old system, and supply was eventually restored just before 11am, so 26 hours off.

We had the generator on for a couple of hours in the afternoon to keep the fridges and freezers cold, and again in the evening to power the router as Mr BW had a Zoom meeting. We then left it running to use up the remaining petrol in the tank (easier that emptying it), and, amazingly it lasted until breakfast time. Given the amount of petrol it used in a day during Storm Arwen, one can only conclude that the temperature around it outside, and running all the pumps and other electrical components in the heating and hot water systems, makes a big difference to consumption (sorry NiC!).

Talking of consumption... I noted with dismay that the 'readout unit' that comes with the smart meter uses 2.5W an hour. That may not sound a lot, but that is 22kWh per year, or nearly £7 currently, and probably £11 come the next energy price rise October. So much for being a money saving item... Needless to say, once it is operational (which apparently takes up to 2 weeks while all the info is fed from installer to supply company) I shall be turning it off and returning to my trusty regular pen-and-paper reading of the meter. I'll bet there aren't many of you who know exactly how many kWh your home uses in a day: having had solar power with battery storage down south and being determined to use most of it ourselves rather than let it go into the grid (on the old FiT payments, the amount you didn't use made no difference to the microgeneration payment received) made me ultra-aware of usage.

I'm horrified to read the new plans for protecting the profits of the energy companies (the price cap on energy will change every 3 months rather than every 6 months) and ensuring that never again are there cheap tariffs for people to switch to (a new 'market stabilisation' charge payable to the losing supplier by the receiving supplier when people switch to a better tariff).

Now, will the crews supposedly tuning up to fill in the trench, reinstate the tarmac surface, clean up and remove the barriers and signage actually turn up today? Not yet...

 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Electrifying news

Tonight we no longer have an overhead power cable from the pole just outside our boundary to the house. We do however have an undergound cable, supposedly live.

We also no longer have any power, but hopefully that should be resolved in the morning when electricians and supply company (hopefully) turn up to put on a new meter. We should also then also have a new 'generator port' which will allow us to pipe petrol-generated output through the house wiring safely and without us needing to run extension leads to plug everything in to the generator. Provided that 'TT' supply has been put on rather that another sort that won't do.

At one point this morning we had 6 blokes, 3 large vans, 2 cherry pickers (1 small, 1 large) and a boss's car here. Most of their time was spent watching each other work.

I can guarantee that we could have found a more efficient way for the job to be done.

We are now waiting for the fill in crew to fill in the trench, the tarmac crew to restore the surface, the clean up crew to sweep up, the barrier crew to collect the plastic protective bits (that fell over in the wind the first night), and the sign off man who wants a signature to say we are happy.

Honestly, you could not make this stuff up.

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Buzzing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The electricity goes off at 9am tomorrow, until sometime on Wednesday morning. After what happened when we had no electricity for 11 days last November/December, every scrap of washing and washing up is done, every last appliance is charged (plus all the battery packs we have), and we have the generators ready to be switched on to keep the fridges, freezers and the hens' protective electric netting running, and lots of petrol. Luckily it is now light from 4am to 9.40pm, so there is no need for lighting or heating, and the Aga can run on manual, so we are OK for cooking too.

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


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

Posted at 10:20 PM | Comments (4)
 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Friday 13th comes late

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm about to find out....

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

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

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (5)
 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Friday 13th

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

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

It's Friday 13th.

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

Never a dull moment here...

Posted at 10:39 AM | Comments (5)
 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Tree problems

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A question of taste

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

but elsewhere the ingredients are given as:

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

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

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

And guess what? That has changed its taste too!

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

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

Why does nothing good ever stay the same?

Posted at 10:46 AM | Comments (8)
 

Monday, May 9, 2022

To print or not to print

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

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

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

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


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

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

Posted at 10:05 AM | Comments (18)

6.15am: First pair of swallows, Nord.

 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

7am: First cuckoo, Sud.

 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Air quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coven Sud has 53% air pollution.

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

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

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

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

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

Coven Nord has 1%.

What is the air pollution where you live?

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

 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Electric matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Peewit

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

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

Do you know what a group of lapwings is called?

Same script, different cast

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, April 30, 2022


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

 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

For better or for worse

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Delivery company Hermes have turned into Evri.

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

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

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

 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

2 weeks on

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, April 15, 2022

The race is on...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope your plans for the weekend are less exhausting?


I also have two questions:

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

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

Posted at 10:05 AM | Comments (6)
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Nearly there...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Next phase

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Where we are up to

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

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

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

It's still jolly cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Another week flies past


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Mopping up

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

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

Quick question - can anyone recommend a good mop?

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

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

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

Posted at 12:41 PM | Comments (10)
 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

My biggest achievement of the last 2 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your greatest achievement of the past 2 years?

 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted at 11:29 AM | Comments (5)
 

Friday, February 25, 2022

You know the world is ending when...

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


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

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

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

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

The Russians released who knows what on Ukraine this week.

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

It really can't get much worse.

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

Because, really, what else can you do?

 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Weather, oil and inflation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Delivery Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fingers crossed

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

 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Week ending

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

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

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

- All my books

- All my craft materials

- A male mannequin

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

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

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

 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Which decade?

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

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

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

The Base Rate doubles to 0.5%.

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

It could get worse.

And probably will.

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

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

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

It really has been too good for too long.

 

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Levelling up

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

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

Have supermarkets and Nectar given up postal coupons everywhere?

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

Nice date today.

 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Something is underway

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

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, January 31, 2022

Bewildering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted at 10:00 AM | Comments (4)
 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Technical questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for any thoughts, leads or info.

 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Things I have learnt in the past couple of days

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

My eyes are dim I cannot see

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

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

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

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

Has anyone else noticed this?

 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Life is a lemon and I want my money back

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

- Meat Loaf RIP and thanks for all the songs

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)
 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

On the move, again

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Motoring on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sharp things

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sunday's Best

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Patience is a virtue I do not have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Question for today

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Before sparrow fart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Sunny Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Communication

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

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

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

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

These days I'm happy to be a dinosaur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Thought for the day

"Nobody can bring you peace but yourself."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Hypothetical questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Cold and bitter

Minus 5 tonight, north and south. Bitterly cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Now in my 20th year

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

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

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

 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Transporting the past to the future

Decluttering and packing up continues.

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

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

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

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

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

Is this use of unidentifiable delivery vehicles the same everywhere?

 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Starting the New Year Grumpily

The fireworks woke us up at midnight.

Some went on for twenty minutes.

Really loud and multi-coloured.

All like 'professional' fireworks used to be.

I have not seen fireworks like it since 2000.

Clearly people have too much money to burn.

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

 

Friday, December 31, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Happy FOTCR™


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

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

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

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

Posted at 12:01 AM | Comments (8)
 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

In case the Bogey Men get us...

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

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

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

Very very spooky.

 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Shortest Day

Happy Winter Solstice to you all.

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

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

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

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

This is against the BW Law.

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

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

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

 

Friday, December 17, 2021

WitchDay

Today beginneth the last year of my sixth decade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted at 10:35 AM | Comments (11)
 

Monday, December 13, 2021


 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Many a true word spoken in jest


Credit.

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

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

Posted at 10:10 AM | Comments (4)
 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Water hardness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted at 11:04 AM | Comments (6)
 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Fall Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIP Power Cut

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

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

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

 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

10th night without power or practical support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am not expecting a response.

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

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

 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Update and help sought please

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Requirements are:

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

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

  3. As energy efficent as possible.

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

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

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (7)
 

Friday, December 3, 2021

8th night no power

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Update... 7th night of no power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We still have no power.

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

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

I cannot tell you how happy that has made me.

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

Have they been asked to help?

Have they hell.

I am now beyond angry.

 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Powerless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Still no usable power...

... more than 56 hours on.

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

It is very cold, inside and outside.

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

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

 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

35 hours and counting...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted at 11:30 AM | Comments (8)
 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Red weather alert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Bird flu, again, just for a change

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

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

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

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

The email said:

"Dear Stakeholder

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

All Hallows' Eve


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

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

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

 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Happy Birthday Mr BW!

Mr BW

Me

All my love and thinking of you Mr BW.

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

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

Posted at 10:29 AM | Comments (11)