Desperado

Day-z decided I wanted to wake up at 5am today. Tomorrow will be different when I can shut the bedroom door.

And that’s what I spent a good part of the day doing. A simple job, I thought. The holes are all there, the handles and screws all together. What could be difficult? Who knew that these handles have to go on exactly the way they came off or they won’t work?

And, given a 50/50 chance of getting them wrong each time, I figured I’dd get them right 50% of the time. No such luck. The bathroom door was the only one that worked first time. An irritating job that took much longer than it needed to. Still, they all look fantastic against the white gloss doors.

I thought it was going to be a day without workers today but I was wrong. Yesterday I sent Dave the Builder the snag list (a list of outstanding, last minute jobs) and he passed it on to the relevent trades. Subsequently, Rich turned up to go through the decorating items on it. We spent some time going around, with me pointing out things and him nodding energetically. All was well and he said he’d pop over tomorrow to tick them off.

There was an outside chance that I’d be seeing Nicktor tonight, a chance I’d figured had gone when I, unexpectedly, received an email saying he’d pop in on the way to the football (which I can’t go to because of Emma) and we could go to the Albion for an early dinner and a couple of beers. An excellent idea.

He turned up at about 5:30, changed out of his work clothes, giggled, uncharacteristically when I turned on the water feature and generally remarked favourably about the state of the place. The kitchen hadn’t been finished when he was last here and he was impressed with the extra storage I now have.

Shortly after arrival, we wandered down to the Albion, leaving the girls to sit mournfully by the front door waiting for my return. We’ve been trying to leave Emma for longer periods, hoping she’ll eventually get the idea that we’re not always around. Tonight I left them for about an hour. It would have been longer but for the sign outside the Albion that declared that the chef was on holiday and there was no food.

Although disappointed, we settled down to a couple of pints of the always brilliant 6X – always wonderful on tap – and had a jolly good natter about secret men’s business. It’s always nice to spend nattering time with Nicktor, though it’s a shame when he’s not staying. Maybe next time…when I’ve dug the bed out of the rubble upstairs.

In passing we discussed the incorrectly held belief that English beer is served warm. We decided that this rumour has been spread by people who like their beer to taste of nothing. English beer is NOT served warm. It should be served at cellar temperature, which is never warm.

And so, back home to excited dogs and the next in a long line of pre-prepared meals for me and a hapless trip to the Rec for Nicktor where he sadly reported the 3-1 defeat of the Shots to Braintree in a series of gloomy texts.

And to finish…it’s been a while since I posted a video of Molly and her wonderful voice. Here she is singing Desperado by the Eagles.

Pamela

Mirinda had book group today so she was lucky enough to witness, first hand, the joy of having builders in the house.

Carl, unexpectedly, turned up first. He added a weather seal and strip for the laundry door. He also put the locking bar on the bathroom door. He disappeared while I was in town, buying supplies for the week. I thought it would be a nice learning experience, leaving Mirinda on her own for an hour or so.

Rich turned up at about 8:30 (before I left) to continue his painting and decorating and was quickly joined by Dave the Builder. Dave hasn’t seen Mirinda for ages so they had a bit of a catch-up, discussing the relative merits of our extension. It was all rather jolly.

Tim turned up while we were having lunch. He’d come straight from the new job at Froyle where, the news for the day was, they’d found a 50 foot well under the back patio which had stalled the builders, somewhat. Tim had a photo on his phone. A beautiful, brick lined, 18-19th century well. It will need to be filled in before the foundations can be added. I’m glad they didn’t find a well under our patio. (I wonder if it was a treacle well?)

He powered up the water feature and the spot under the beech tree, while Rich touched up the extension ceiling and painted the skirting in gloss.

Burbling away

Tim managed to finish the outside stuff but ran out of time. He’ll have to return for the several small jobs inside. Which is annoying. He blamed the well for being late which led to his lack of time.

It’s all so close to finishing. Sadly, the closer it gets, the more frustrating it is. Still, at least we now have lights outside.

The ‘Pamela’ of the title refers to the book Mirinda read for book group this month. The group was almost unanimous in finding it awful reading material. There’s a reason why it’s obscure and, virtually, unknown. Interestingly, the author, Samuel Richardson was so taken by the critical reviews of the first edition that he rewrote great swathes of it accordingly for the second. The group read the first edition.

Richardson also wrote a sequel, Pamela II but I don’t think Mirinda will be reading it any time soon.

Dundee 2, Lamb 1

I was trying to recall this morning, as I lay on the long lounge, a poodle and a cockerpoo snoring softly on top of me, exactly what a Sunday sleep in is like.

The annoying thing with the dogs is that they can be up and boisterous one moment then instantly asleep the next. I know. I’ve been inadvertently studying dog behaviour for some time now and, while they’re quite mad to have me awake at 5:30am, once they’re sure I am wide awake, they go back to sleep. This is pretty irritating.

Anyway, the things is, my Sunday started quite early. Though, to be fair, it was quite restful all told.

I made another attempt at the Dundee cake. This time it came out perfect so I can now make my Christmas cake, safe in the knowledge that I know how to work the cooker.

And this week’s roast was lamb. Delicious lamb with a perfect Gaz gravy, rosemary potatoes and creamy sweet potato. Perfect…though not sure what animal to roast next week. Still, there was enough leftover for bubble and squeak tomorrow night.

Roast lamb…the meal that keeps on giving.

Civil disobedience

Today, the plan was to enjoy brunch at the Holly Bush. Unfortunately, the Holly Bush had other ideas. They stopped serving food just before we arrived. Plan B ended up with us going to the Frensham Garden Centre and having the most delicious bacon sandwich I’ve ever had…though, according to Mirinda, I’d had one there years ago with the same reaction. I have no idea how I could possibly forget such a taste sensation.

Apart from the bacon sandwich (did I mention how amazing it was?) the garden centre welcomes dogs, so we could eat and drink with Day-z and Emma with us. It was lovely to see lots of other people with their dogs there as well. Very country.

Before we left, I popped into the farm shop for a few favourites when I was accosted by a woman giving out tasters of a new local pale ale. The Frensham Brewery is just behind the garden centre and I was tasting their first brew. I was instantly sold. A lovely, full bodied pale ale which went down with extreme ease. I couldn’t help but buy a two pint milk bottle straight from the barrel.

The biggest event of the day, though (the bacon sandwich and beer were both great events) was Emma walking almost the length of the Avenue of Trees. And back.

She had a wonderful time, running and exploring, sniffing and hiding from other, annoying dogs.

Annoyance was on the agenda at the V&A yesterday. Civil annoyance, to be exact. At lunchtime I popped over and explored a new exhibition called Disobedient Objects.

It explores civil disobedience in all its glory (and, sometimes, gory). The exhibition itself is very interesting but what makes it especially brilliant is the way it’s laid out and displayed.

The exhibition space is beautifully used, the way through perfectly guided. There’s a feeling of crowding without being crowded. This almost gives the viewer a feeling of being part of a mass demonstration. This is further enhanced by the videos and their soundtracks.

It’s not enough to just display items these days, it’s also important to engage your audience. The CERN exhibit did it brilliantly at the Science Museum as did the Rubbish Collection. This was another one that had been planned and laid out with meticulous attention to the viewer. If there’s awards for museum exhibits, all three of these should get one.

I noticed a few changes in the V&A – it’s been months since I last visited. The information desk at the Exhibition Road entrance has now become a small gift shop and they have once more instituted a bag search at both entrances, something they’d stopped doing for a while. Not that that bothered me as I didn’t have a bag.

In the garden, the architect firm of Zaha Hadid have designed and installed a huge bridge like structure across the pond. It’s called The Crest and, according to the information board, it “…invites an intriguing dialogue between its own sleek, streamlined structure and the historic backdrop in which is situated…” It will eventually be a permanent sculpture in Dubai.

Crest by Zaha Hadid Architects

And, finally, to answer my mother’s question…the girls spent the day with Sue, as they will each week so I can go to work.

Lighthouses

I thought the last time I was at the Science Museum was two weeks ago. It turns out, it was a month.

I couldn’t get into my account because the system had frozen me out so, for the first half of the day, I was logged on as Nick at Work but, even so, I managed to do some research into a couple fo civil engineers who deserve a bit more recognition than they have.

The first was an Irish chap called Alexander Mitchell. In 1833 he came up with a way to build and secure lighthouses on sand. This was a bit of a Holy Grail at the time. The perceived thinking at the time was that it was impossible. Alexander didn’t let this stop him.

He made a model and secured it to a beach using his new screw-pile system, going back and checking it each morning to check whether it had withstood the rigours of the tides. It turned out to be a success and so he patented the idea and went on to build the Maplin Sands lighthouse in the Thames estuary. It was finished in 1838 and successfully remained for almost 100 years, eventually being washed away in 1932.

Mitchell went on to build more of his lighthouses in various sandy locations (including the sands at Morecombe Bay), all of which were successes.

Before making a name for himself in the lighthouse world, Mitchell ran a brick manufacturing business, inventing various machines to help make the venture a success. Clearly he was a very enterprising and clever chap. But the one thing that sets him apart from all the other enterprising and clever chaps of Victorian Britain was the fact that, from the age of 23, he was totally blind.

He had contracted smallpox as a child which had affected his ocular nerve. This gradually worsened until his sight was, eventually, completely gone. I have to wonder how brilliant he would have been had his sight remained. Or was it that losing his sight made him all the more determined?

The reason I was reseraching him was because the museum has a model of the Maplin Sands lighthouse in the collection. It was purchased from a Mrs Edith Wells in 1899. While I was unable to discover who actually made the model (or when), I did find out that Mrs Wells was the widow of George Wells, a London based civil engineer with an interest in lighthouses. In fact, George invented a way to identify lighthouses.

Rather than paint something on the side of them, something which requires a lot of repainting to keep it viable, George came up with a system of using ground glass set into apertures around the top of the lighthouse. The ground glass was coloured, forming the reference name of the lighthouse and, when the big light illuminated the sea, the name would shine out. Remarkably clever, simple and virtually, maintenance free.

George exhibited his idea at the Great Exhibition of 1851 (the museum has a lithograph of the design) and received a lot of plaudits. It was called the Wells’ Universal Telegraphic Lighthouse.

Somehow he came into possession of the Maplin model and, eventually, his widow sold it to the museum, along with two other lighthouse models. George actually died in 1887 while Edith held onto the models until 1899. I can only think that she found herself in need of some funds. Either that or her children insisted she declutter.

Whatever the reason, by selling the models to the museum, she has ensured that the names of Mitchell and Wells have been given a new audience after spending a long time in engineering obscurity. And I thank her for that.

Cable biter

Jaws died today. Richard Kiel, the over seven foot tall actor with the steel teeth, nemesis of Roger Moore’s Bond and biter of cables, was 74 years old and died suddenly.

And the Stealth fire wasn’t installed today. Dave the Gasman and his side kick arrived and unloaded everything. They checked through all the parts, filling up about a quarter of the extension then stopped. Two parts were missing. Actually one was missing and another was wrong. Oh, and there was a black elbow instead of graphite.

Dave the Gasman got onto the company and talked to someone he described as ‘an idiot’ who told him he had to talk to some guy in the Netherlands because the UK company had stopped working with the manufacturers two weeks ago. The Dutch guy was very helpful and told Dave the Gasman what to do. We now have to wait for the proper and missing bits to arrive from the Netherlands.

More progress on the decorating front though. Rich the Painter was hard at it all day, glossing over yesterday’s primed undercoats, filling holes in various things (walls, doors, ceilings) and generally working pretty much non-stop.

At the end of the day it was pretty obvious that I’d contracted a cold. Mirinda was going to come home tonight and work from the house tomorrow but I warned her that she was in danger of attack from my germs. I also told her that upstairs was a bit smelly with gloss paint and wood filler. She decided on the safer option annd went home to the flat.

I had an early night, hoping it would help dissipate the cold.

Smelly floor

The decorators turned up today and immediately started sanding and filling, painting and oiling. By the end of the day, the staircase was looking better than new as did the parquetry floor.

Here’s the thing, though. Because the final coating takes over eight hours to dry, the girls and I were banned from going upstairs. First thing, Tatt-man suggested I get anything I needed and put it in the extension. I’d be sleeping on the long lounge.

While they worked away (making an awful lot of noise) I set to finally tidying my office. This required taking everything out, sweeping it then running the steamer over the floor. The steamer managed to lift the little muddy puppy prints that dotted the bare floor, in between the piles of ‘stuff’.

Since February, my office has been the depository for anything that lost its home as the builders progressed through the house. The ‘stuff’ was increased when we returned from France and our excess luggage joined the general mess. The rest roamed the country from holiday rental to holiday rental until our fnal return when, most of it, wound up in my office.

It was getting so bad that I’d lose Emma in amongst the piles. It also reached the point when I didn’t want to go in there any more. Something had to be done. And I did it today.

By the end of the day, it was almost like a new office…well, the floor, anyway.

How can I help?

Speaking of floors, the parquetry and stairs were very smelly. I could feel the stench sticking to the inside of my throat, lining it with a foul tasting smear of grossness. I had to leave the big door open in order to battle the evil miasma. Which meant it was cold. Brilliant.

At bed time, I finally closed the doors, put the dogs in the laundry, sneaked back to the long lounge and settled down to sleep. It didn’t fool them. First it was Emma with her pipsqueak squealing then Day-z’s single, loud barks. Eventually I had to let them out to sleep with me.

This worked out fine until about 4:30am when Day-z decided to stand in the middle of the extension, barking. Not continuously, of course, but one bark every 30 seconds. I dragged myself awake and told her to shut up. This didn’t work so I opened the door and she shot out into the dark. Emma crawled up to my face, wondering what Day-z was protecting us from.

Interestingly, there was no barking outside. Day-z merely ran up to the back and…well, I don’t know what she did. Being awake anyway, I decided to ut Emma outside to go the toilet, which she quickly did before running back inside. I fell back onto the lounge, knowing that Day-z would find her way back. Besides, the fumes needed dissipating.

When I woke up again (at 6am), I realised it was going to be a very sleepy day.