Monday, 31 December 2012

Great to be prooved right.....

It's always nice when you turn out to be right.

Sure enough the student came home from clothes shopping and abandoned everything in favour of puling lots of bits out of boxes. Much oooing and ahhing - seems to be rather a lot of firebrick in a Rayburn - thinks "this could be complex."

Door of oven open, lots of pushing and shoving to get in - new clothes? Pah she didn't even notice a bit of soot one her new pullover.

I think I am getting a picture of how it all goes together - could still be an interesting few weeks though.

I wonder If i can get her to see the logic of stripping out all the old firebricks etc moving the stove then rebuilding it all in situ. going to be some very precise trimming of the chimney to get that to mate with the flue, I can see hours of fun ahead, the things I do aye....

A time of beginings.....

I have to speak as I find the the Rayburn man really came up  trumps. There will be more enthusiasm than a 5 year old on Xmas morning when herself opens the parcels that just arrived. Lots of bits of Rayburn stove to keep her happy for ages.

She has already told me that i have decided that I am not doing her Rayburn this week. Apparently I decided that I was building a plinth first so that her Rayburn will be at the same height as the kitchen units next to them.

Apparently I decided that the electric cooker gets moved first, then the units above where the Rayburn is going are coming down and then I have decided that I will put the Rayburn in.

I didn't get a new boiler as apparently changing that is a pretty huge job so she tells me. 

I really love being in control of my own destiny and getting to make decisions for myself.


Sunday, 30 December 2012

And the year is gone

At this time of year, there is a tradition that you try and write something profound insightful, clever even.

Well that's going to push my buttons, lots.

What can I say that is clever and insightful - err quite.

It's been quite a year, the student has been studenting, Bethan has junked Harley, I did the Olympics which was, on balance OK, we have a possible new financial outlook for next year. Something i am not going to do a whole load of thinking about now.

This Xmas we have been as broke as we have ever been, due to overspending on making a flat (apartment if you are USAifcally challenged) which will I think turn into an earner for us next year.

And just as we thought it could not happen, the rebuild of our cottage looks on the cards, we might be able to put a package together to fund it all

This would make herself delirious in her happiness.

Mind you, I reckon that when the bits to commission  her Rayburn turn up, she will be a bit chuffed too.

Though of course for me, that will just be a spanners out moment.

All the portents are two that this will be a one term Tory government, joy to the world

Oh hang on the fall back is Ed the Milliband.

Right that's it,

Come on Leanne, independence within Europe for Wales - you know it makes sense.  



Friday, 28 December 2012

A festive time

There is some rulebook somewhere that says Xmas is supposed to be fun. Maybe if you are about 5 thats true. Once you turn about 25 things slowly change.

Let me break the circle,  it's bloody hard work

Having self added her extra day  because everyone was off somewhere else on the 25th we got through the 24th on a tidal wave of food and drink,  then did it all again albeit with a few less people    on Xmas day itself.  She was a bit quiet, Xmas day and the kids elsewhere, first time that has ever been the case. Then boxing day and the whole mess of kids, step kids, grand kids, girlfriends wives and husbands descended.

I really  think the 25th was lots better, by mid afternoon I had done as much food over 3 days as any sensible person would in a month.

This was interupted on the 25th by Mr Foxy coming to call and making off with Celia, Celia being the head of the chiken tribe and altogether herselfs favourite from the lot of them.

I elected to do a Clarkson and lay in wait overnight with gun, night vision specs and Chablis. Sadly  there was no gun or night vision specs so I had to make do with.....

Fortunately yesterday was a quieter day. Well, in some ways, by some accident herself managed to land up on te Rayburn Spares Website. By less accidental process she ended up with my credit card in her hand. This was less good. lots less good.  Much clicking and "adding to basket"  later, followed by a pained "how much" from the card owner, she had enough bits on order to rebuild the beast and all at a fraction of the cost of a reconditioned unit.

With that out of the way, even more plastic pain bought the whole tribe tickets too see the Hobit in 3 D. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, it was everything you would expect, fantastic scenery, brilliantly shot and loads of action. But, Lord of the rings is a three book trilogy, the hobbit is a couple of hundred pages. So making the former into 9 hours of film is one thing, stretching the later to 9 hours did feel a bit strained.

But that's a minority view....


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Lets do Xmas - OK lets not

We sort of got stuck into the big event today.

A day of lots of things nearly done, so nearly time to risk Tescos.

Bookers first with a hoovering up of stuff on short date.

Then to sports direct and some clothes buying.

Really we shout have bought American Football suits before going into Tescos.

I can see where the yanks are coming from, had owning an assault rifle been an option, I would have hoovered them aisles clean..  

Parking the van was serious grief,  people competing for parking spaces, then into the store and mayhem.

We escaped alive  having noted Tesco had hiked all their prices for Xmas - forget every little helps.

Then it was home thank goodness

Season of earth and peace to all men?

Give me a break please.




Friday, 21 December 2012

Heavy haulin....

The morning dawned and, first thing to note, the world had not ended - yet.

Next task fall out of a far too warm bed, raid green goddess for various ropes and away to go. With Big D along to provide a bit of back up muscle.

First stop was Biker Phil and drag him away from the house and off in the trusty transit heading for the Rayburn.

We found the address with worrying ease, so where was the drama?

I should point out that if i have to move something large and heavy, it is always on the third floor with several 90 degree bends on the narrow staircase that the house owner only thinks to tell us it rotten after it has collapsed.

This here Rayburn is a huge item - has to be 250 kilos of anyones money.

So three of us got stuck in and with the aid of rollers  Soon got it moving and in a very short time with very little drama it was out in the street. Of course this wasn't any sort of street, it was a narrow little victorian town street, moving the big luton into complete block, not one but two streets. It was but a five minute job to get the stove in the van, another 5 minutes to lash it down, all done with very little honking hooting and impatience.

Back home and into the house went the "beast" with four of us and 3 rollers navigating it through a house cleared of items that might impeede progress.

Soon the lump had been trundled into place.

To say she was happy was not even to touch the emotion.

The bits needed to rebuild the stove have been catalogued and websites ransacked to find the best price.

I suggested that, at a pinch Xmas lunch could be Rayburned, she turned that one down, but only after a pause.

I really wish i had paid for this as a Xmas preseant it would put me so high on the moral high ground with the added value that I know for a fact that, unlike a shovel she would not be able to hit me with it.

So anyways with minutes to spare, the Transit was returned whence it came, then another Booker trip and then Aldi fun of Xmas.

Ahh yes Xmas, Branwen has been asking for a slow cooker.  Something she needs for her student house, so of course it was on the pressie list, then tonight on Freecycle there was this person offering a slow cooker, only used once, still with the box and instructions - WOW result.

So I hit the reply button fully expecting not to get it, then the phone rang it was Phil Bikers other half:

"About this slow cooker"

Thats two perfect Xmas pressies bought without paying much money -I can sort of get into this Xmas thing, well no not really.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

the rays that burn

We have been having a normal staggering along Penole time. Cars have been sorted with monumental effort whilst around us the fest grinds on.

Today herself and I went shopping and gave up when we could take no more.

Tales of a 9 deep line at the checkout at Morrison's brought all plans to an end.

We have however sorted the Xmas roast, a simply humongous lump of pork on a very short date at Booker's decided the annual question for us.

There was more though, i am a member of a thing called freecycle which is a site for people to give away things they don't want.

Now usually this is the fanciful:

Wanted: aston martin in silver must be still in warranty.


Free: obsolete printer (broken) with no inks.

A couple of days ago someone offered a solid fuel Rayburn - something that has been on herselfs wish list for a long time.

So tomorrow maybe her wish comes true, it has taken a lot of logistics but we are off in the morning to move something that ways maybe 300 kg, could be an interesting morning.

But if this comes off, she will have a proper range again and we will have a wood powered cooker.

If this cooker is only half as bad as it seems i might engage overdrive and see if it can be in for new year.


Monday, 17 December 2012

I've been driving in my car....

Sad old gits will recognise that line from a madness song.

Madness is a good starting point - we have had a weekend of driving at a time when we are not sure how we will pay for the next litre.

To add to the jollity the clutch on the t4 has gone - this was all the tragedy I needed with Xmas round the corner and a big bill for an engine rebuild still not paid.

Add to that the MOT running out on the C5 meaning that has to be rushed through a test tomorrow before Xmas stops everyone doing anything and sends them all home for a few weeks.

The Xsara that has sat outside for 2 years is at last over at the greasy garage and things are not moving there either. There is some strange issue around the fuel pump and trying to get the fuel tank to seal. That's is of course after finding the previous owner had been running it on a blend of vegetable oil and kerosene, possible in older diesel engines but a definite no no on newer cars.

Saturday was over to the m4 to facilitate contact for D the younger before coming home and fetching D the elder from town. He has been off to spend 3 days with his mum for the first time since he was taken into care age 5.

Then yesterday was here there and everywhere as the Bruce needed collecting from university - another 120 miles.

But there were good things too, Bethan as I said was interviewed to do relief work and made such an impression she was offered a part time job. Well she has worked two days and they have changed their minds and offered her a full time post! It's only to cover for a couple of months but the effect on her confidence has been noticeable.

Something nice to report before we enter the tunnel of hell that is Xmas.    


Thursday, 13 December 2012

In the bleak midwinter

Well the expected thaw seems to have passed us by completely.

It's -2 outside 22c in the living room here where i am tasked with  keeping the conflagration going on the wood stove. Our Breton firelogs are a huge success, they really give a high speed blast of heat and then keep on delivering heat for about 11/2 hours - unless you turn the fire down.

The night rolls on the weather rolls in the heat goes up.

To make the feel a bit more festive, we have muled a bottle of vin rouge with a mixture of spices and fruits. The warm red makes a nice change from my  more usual chilled white 

I could get used to this way of winter life, if I didn't have to get up and go out in the morning!!


Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Life is a mess of milestones, points where, subtly, change takes place.

First girlfriend, first trip to town on your own, first car, all markers of achievement in life.

For a parent there are plenty: first words, first steps, first day in school. Now for Bethan at 20 she has completed her first day in her first proper job. She has loved it too, from jittery faltering starts, she got herself an interview with an agency that staffs houses of people with learning disabilities in the community. Her interview was for a relief member of staff to cover absences sickness and holidays, she must have impressed  as she got offered a part time contract.

Yesterday she did brief induction before meeting one of the residents who, it turned out had been on the same school bus as Bethan, was delighted to see her and remembered kindness shown to her by Bethan in school. That's the way to start the new job!!

So Bethan is launched into the world of work.

She is not the first of course, Taliesin was the first into work but we always knew Taliesin would be a worker,  he has grafted ever since he was little and is one of the few local builders who is still working.

No, Bethan went through a shaky phase and this is her launched, I'm sure there will be storms and rough patches along the way but she's off.

There are also a couple of casual vacancies on the local council. See if I can steer her in that direction too, she would make a great politician.  



Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A life of cool

So, the weather arrived a day early and we lagged the pump not a day too soon.

Cool is a good phrase to describe it outside and warm is a lovely phrase to describe a living room heated by a combination of dried wood and wood briquettes.

A few minutes spent this morning persuading the windscreen to defrost, winter is upon us I think.



Monday, 10 December 2012

Welcome to hollywood

I am told it is just a media studies short, but that cannot possibly be.

Over three weekends a bunch of teenies has descended on Penole, shots have been shot on the common, shots have been shot in the deserted village, shots have been shot up the drive, shots have been shot in the bottom field, shots have been shot outside the house, they even erected a tent in the living room at one stage.

I can only conclude this is a Hollywood epic with a cast of 3.

This morning they were all out of bed by 5 to try and catch the dawn.  Me I was perhaps less cheerful than I could have been, they were still at it past  midnight and I draw the line at a 5 am start.

It gets worse, they are now filming in the kitchen and trying to work out how a horde of cats determined to get to the fire won't wreck continuity.

It has to be an epic film though we had all the trappings of film crew this morning, a kitchen full of empty pizza cartons and bottles.

Gosh the high pressure filming lifestyle.



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Weekends in winter.

We have arrived at full on winter. Out here in Penole the real enemy is wind, cold we can handle. With random stone walls, cold is no big deal, once the walls are warm the house stays warm.

Wind though cools everything, is also sets up a ferocious draw up the chimney that makes regulating the fire a real problem.

Ideal then to invite Serenity round for tea. Well no, we didn't invite Serenity, you never do, she invited herself and even phoned up to remind us she was coming in case we had decided to jump on a ferry or off a cliff to avoid the event.

But at last she has her uses, well her husband does.

Long standing readers will remember that prolonged cold weather here is usually the same as no water.

We have moved on this one.

A new water pipe has been laid to the well head. The outside pipe hub is now well insulated and has electrical heating. The last piece of the jig saw needed to go in.

So taking advantage of Serenity's husband being here we measured out and put in a set of footings. I mixed with Tallies cement mixer, Harley barrowed and Rob layed.

It was pretty breezy and chilly and I was pretty pleased when it was over.

Of course today was even nicer, howling wind and colder again. We got a wall built round the well head.

Finished it just as the light failed. Tomorrow I need to make a roof and cut insulation blocks to protect it all, wire in a heater and it will all be done.

The weather is set to be wet, you could fool me, this feels like a proper freeze in waiting. We will get our stuff done tomorrow - I bet it won't be a moment too soon



Friday, 7 December 2012

The weekend ahead

Seems to me you barely have time to blink and it's weekend again. Not that i  mind too much, no need to get up at silly o clock tomorrow, start the day off a bit more calmly.

It has been a bit full on this week, yesterday in Mid Wales for a meeting, all a bit exciting with sleet coming down ice on the roads and snow on the hills. The VW didn't miss a beat and was pretty sure footed too.

Today a running round the builders merchant sort of day, filled the VW with celcon blocks and fitted a couple of automatic door closer things in as well. The kids, of all ages have got this open the door thing pretty much sorted but they struggle with the close it after you. In an old house where we rely on doors to stop draughts that can defeat the determined piler of firewood on to the fire.

That said the temperature in the living room is driving towards 25 C - someone put a couple of our compressed wood logs on to the fire and, until I turned it down the boiler started to threaten to boil the water in the central heating.

That's really good to know - if it drops as cold as some forecasts  say we have the great equaliser in the heat logs.

There is another reason of course for the heat blast, the student went off to university mid afternoon to get books and then headed on to see her mum. She should be back any second and a bath will be required. Her ideal would be to turn on the hot tap and get a jet of superheated steam. She likes her baths so hot you could cook a lobster. I've turned the fire down a bit, as soon as I see those headlights outside the window it can go back up again.

As soon as I know she is safely home I can unpack the corkscrew. 



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pages of blank

Some of you have been wondering why it is I took to posting blank pages on the blog. An austerity statement maybe?

 Nothing as sophisticated, I stated typing the last piece and inadvertently hit send. Then the script got corrupted and I could not add the revised text to the page.

This was seriously technical stuff which, combined with a busy week so far of universitying and other stuff. Meant it was today before any of it got sorted out.

Done now, the student is in university late tonight so I had time to sort out the mess and now I can sit here and contemplate the world in front of a raging fire and in comfort.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

A time for austerity.

We have been on an austerity drive, money here has been tighter than I can remember it for a long time.

So anyway, when the chance to go to Brittany presented itself, austerity ruled and away we went.

Actually there was a bit of method in the idea, we have this new  money making idea involving the compressed  wood yard waste. So a van filled with compressed wood yard bricks headed back from Brittany.

Of course  getting there had to happen first, after the seminar of course. I was supposed to be helping with a seminar at uni.  Got there, right time right room, now let me see what was missing???

Oh yes, people. Having sat there for a while, I decided to go and look, sure enough the dean confirmed the session had been cancelled.

Not a problem, university was on the way to ferry and student had needed to be in uni  to engage in some handing in  type things to do with her essay.
Of course, this disruption to schedules really helped, with so much time spare we were able to drive at austerity speed. Keep the T4 down round the 60 mark where it's brick like aerodynamics could not count.

The VW was really running well and despite the team slow approach we ran into Plymouth on the seriously early side of early.

There was a slight issue, a packing oversight left herself slightly short in the knicker department so it was time to stop off in Sainsburys on the way in. As we arrived i noted a huge line of cars trying to get in and a huger one trying to get out.

A not going to happen moment then so I thought.

Time to ask the squawk box on the dash for alternatives.

As someone once said: "if you want to get lost - get a map, if you want to be totally screwed - get GPS"

We selected a Branch of Asdas  and the GPS  was totally utterly insistent the only way to  get there was going through the one way system - the wrong way.

No matter how far we went - it insisted we turn round so we could go up the one way street.

No hope here then - we enjoyed a tour of Plympton, somewhere I have never been, most of which involved narrow one car streets with a robot in robot mode directing me hither and thither.

Eventually, we called it a day and demanded directions to the ferry.

This took us another bizarre route and eventually we didn't get to the ferry but somewhere else - close but not there.

By now the student had remembered she hadn't had breakfast - she went a step further and said she was a famine victim

So we headed for one of our normal Plymouth haunts the Westward Hoe, getting there was another mess of GPS noise but we got there - and it was closed.

Heads were scratched and we realised the Italian was open

This was not austerity thinking and we took non austerity to a limit.

OK the Trattatoria Pescatorria in Plymouth is not cheap.

But it isn't expensive either, because what you get is exquisite Italian cuisine done by a fantastically talented chef.

Really, if you are ever in Plymouth,make sure you go there.

So it was on from there and on on the armorique, our original booking was for a 2 berth hovel as usual.

These had all run out so it was a  4 berth club class with telly kettle and free coffee

In Itself that virtually wiped out the difference - every morning we need a coffee to wake up and in this cabin they   were included in the fee.

On we went and actually we did save a bit, took a bottle of wine with us and watched telly for the evening.

The cabin was spacious and lovely so we had a decent nights sleep which does not always happen.

Off the ferry, first off again and down to the house where we did a pile of shopping saving ourselves pile of money. The moule were on special offer 2 E a kilo, so into the fridge went a couple of kilos of those too.

 Filled the van with  the processed wood which might  also  make us a pile of money.

By now it was lunchtime so it was trois marchands and an austerity lunch for 11.50 a head.

Fueled up for 1E.30 a litre van doing a quite amazing 39.7 miles to the gallon. Drive to Roscoff with the hugest of huge loads in the back - 34 mpg.

Into Roscoff and one of our favourite eateries Ty Sauzon, a big worry here as the old man and Lady who ran this for as long as we can remember had obviously retired.  Can be a difficulty - not in this case,  they had obviously trained up their successors. Lovely to see a speciality not on the menu, included because they had acquired some local wild mushrooms and added them to the menu for that day. A lovely piece of austerity.

Back on to the ship and with austerity in mind I upgraded cabin to another 4 berth, this time they gave us one that looked out over the bow of the ship (pointy bit if you are nautically inclined). This austerity was really becoming a style I could grow into.

Next morning, yet again, one of the first off and away we went up the motorway heading for home. I had been aware of a bit of vibration in the truck for a little while, I wasn't sure where it was coming from. On the trip up to Dieppe I had this gut feeling that maybe it was the rear nearside hub but nothing I could be precise about.

Anyway as we were half way between Exeter and Bristol, there was a colossal BANG, the truck lurched and, in the mirror,  I could see all sorts of bits flying out from under the rear wheel arch. This was not good. The tyre had let go. For those who don't know, the correct thing to do if this happens (assuming you have the room)  is out of gear feet off everything and let the car roll to a halt. Hazards on and onto the hard shoulder I went. The tyre had not actually let go but the tread had completely separated from the carcass across about half it's width.

Not good news then, but actually not as bad as it could be,  changing a tyre on the hard shoulder with trucks whistling past a couple of feet away was just a bit more excitement than I felt like having. So we limped along the hard shoulder at snail pace to the next junction, found there was a small services there and changed the wheel in their car park.

Might as well have breakfast then - or not. Nothing there I would want to eat so back on to the motorway and risk the next services.

An austere full breakfast and it was onwards for home.

Arrived in time to help the student cook a fabulous moule marriniere which was complimented by French bread bought the day before so that by now it was ever so slightly stale making it ideal blotting paper for sauce.

I think we could really get used to this austerity - trouble is the austerity we could be in together is Osbourne and Camerons - not the grinding poverty they will cheerfully impose on the poor.




Thursday, 29 November 2012

Essay Essay Essay

I'm not at all sure how parents guardians and relatives of undergraduates have ever lived with them, surely this is why offspring chose universities largely on how far away they are.

But of course the student lives at home, and we have the clashing mix of:

"I just want to pass"


"I want a first"

The last few days have been quite challenging as she tried to frame her essay in the best possible way.

I think this is the fortyeleventhousand re write.

Everyone else has gone to bed

I am still here.  

 Today has been properly cold.

But unlike earlier this week lack of wind has kept temperatures in the house bearable.

23 C in the living room just now, which is properly comfortable.



Monday, 26 November 2012

Don't know weather it's safe to go out aye....

Good grief!!!!

Not sure what to do today, had to go into big town and wasn't sure if it was classed as driving or wading.

Haven't seen so much water in ages, forgot to put the handbrake on the VW which I realised as the van trundled past the window pushed by the unseen hand of the wind.  

The house is in silence, the student is essaying and the kids in college school or gone to boyfriends.

I am struggling with a fire that shows extreme reluctance to deliver anything like warmth.The cover bought for one of the GG's is in tatters - obviously force ninety eleven winds are too much for it.

A day to be glad we are not on a ferry, a day to stay inside.....

What a day to make my 1200th post here!!


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Feeling psychadelic

Been an odd few days, filling in for the student who has been a bit unengaged,

Now I have it


Thats all I can say though I got through it yesterday, but did a lot of work stuff today and I was really out of it by mid afternoon - total fatigue.

IKEA is nothing like what it's cracked up to be either. Cheap chipboard, MFI reborn


Thursday, 22 November 2012


Today, the student submitted her dissertation plan. This included electronic submission so of course this tested her DIC to the point where it creaked. Documents written in one format needed to be sent in another. This was real testing stuff.

Then physically drive to uni up an M4 that was properly full on wet and windy.

Next stop Uni drop  the physical copies of the documents off then on to get the bits for the refurbished rooms. A big shopping list in IKEA buying things we can't affoard to buy for the D's who wont be able to affoard to replace them when they, almost certainly break them.

I am feeling so positive today aye!! 

Big D has a day of assembling tomorrow, but before that we had to get home.

Weather conditions were truly terrible the M4 like a bath in places. I pulled our speed back to match the trucks, there were still lemmings in the outside lane doing Mach 1 whilst touching the car in front's bumper.

Really scary

Everywhere round here has flooded, from what I can work out.

Apart from the places that got blown away by the wind.

Climate change?

Ok who is denying it?


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Plague house

Every so often you get an outbreak of winter illness. Monday Beth and I were doing a course when around lunch time she went a very strange colour and we decided she needed to go home. Just as well too half way home she barfed spectacularly out of the car window naturally just as we were going through  a village. Fortunately the rain was like nothing seen since Noah was about and that will have washed away.

The student has not been right for days, I suspended her driving licence after she both forgot and didn't notice a roundabout. I positively insisted on taking her to university as there is no way I could see she could have driven 60 miles up the motorway and not hit something.

This morning I woke feeling a bit odd, got the students to their various buses then, with the student bustling her dissertation I thought I might just chill for a moment. That was 9 AM a few minutes later, or so it seemed I opened my eyes and it was 1.30 pm.

This is obviously something doing the rounds, people were looking decidedly ill in Bookers, with one member of staff wandering round in a complete daze.

Still things are not all bad, the builder has finished and we are off tomorrow to get furniture for the new bedrooms.

That will be more money we don't have spent.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sun day over the rainbow

OK so maybe I lied, no rainbows here today. Loads of wood to bring in to keep the fire going.

Warm living room rest of the house less so. Absolutely broke, had to pray the bank would let us fill the car today, that's one slight less worry.

I'm in coll tomorrow, with Bethan, student off on manoeuvres a couple of days this week. It's a tough time financially we have not been this broke in about 15 years.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. 2 years ago we had one sprawling house in need of refurbishment Now we have two houses and one small flat. This time next year we will have a brand new cottage as well one that features super insulation and generate at least some of it's own power.

The grand scheme to rent some of this land out for wind generation seems to have fallen by the wayside as the Nazi Parks threatened a veto, so it's not all good news. The drive too is looking a bit second hand, serial serious pot holes have appeared. We did a quick fix yesterday but I think something more permanent is indicated.

Talk about a money pit.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The heat is on....

When we last went to Brittany we came across a burnable wood product.

This stuff is very interesting in that it is a type of brick made from waste  wood. Stuff that gets chucked on the floor or sent to landfill. This product is made by finely grinding the wood and wood yard waste then passing it through an oven in which 10% of it gets burnt. The remainder is heated to 550C at which point virtually all the water evaporates and the wood is tinder dry. Crucially the lignums melt, so when it is compressed and extruded you are left with a very dry compact block that contains 4 times the heat energy as an equivalent block of kiln dried wood.

Unlike a lot of what you can get in this country, this process does not involve adding any binding agents or glues which would screw up your chimney.

I am very impressed. Out fire was going fine this evening but the student wanted a bath so I added one block of this stuff weighing about 1.5 kg. The living room has gone from 23 - 26 C in about 40 minutes and I cannot open the fire vents as the water in the boiler boils pretty much on the spot.

You have a clean fuel, the bricks don't leave mess on the floor, very easy to control and you can bank the fire then leave it a couple of hours before adding any more fuel.  There is virtually no ash as everything gets burnt. Next time I go to Brittany I am bringing more of this stuff back.

More than that, the student is printing leaflets and looking to sell the stuff we bring back. If it works out we are going to look into the costs of getting a plant. We have two sawmills locally we could be on to a financial winner here.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Hague's Britain

I know a young man, well someone in his 20's anyway who has some issues around his mental health.

A year ago he had his own flat, he was coping, sort of in his own strange way. 

Then the changes came in, he was out of his flat and into a room in a shared house, well not even that, a room in a grubby flat shared with someone else.

Last week his flat mate stole all his food, so he says.

Yesterday he was seen in town, carrying a lone pot of muller rice. His flatmate left the heating on overnight and used all the electricity, that was all he had left for food.

Welcome to Hagues Britain. Where the poor have to stave so Amazon can keep all their profits.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Bruce come home.

It has been an eventful time, Litle D our fosling is dishing out a very hard time for everyone. This weekend he did everyone a favour, he stayed in town. It was truly great as Bruce came home from uni something that required a deal of driving, then she vanished with the VW for as many hours as she felt she could get away with.

Came home to our first experiment with Satay chicken, she was never far away when there was food around.

Continuing our run of bad luck the student reversed the C5 into a post disloging the back bumper. This required a lot of manipulation to put it back on, until it fell off again, and again, and again.

Took us till yesterday afternoon to work out where the problem lay and i'm not convinced that opening the tailgate will not dislodge the damn thing again.

This week of course I was supposed to be on a course, having taken 460 pounds off me  the firm vanished.

Serial phoning last week produced converstions with "i'm just the receptionists" who promised to pass on the message but wouldn't promise to ensure someone replied. In fact they took your message with the tone of someone who knew there would be no reply.

Sending an email suggesting litigation was a possible solution, seemed to get someone to the phone, Friday, while I was out someone phoned the student and said the course was off and that if I contacted them again with the number of the card, they would try and refund the money they had demanded, up front, within a few weeks.   

This fair pushed me over the edge - oh did I mention I was at a conference on mental health at the time, Today I fired off a lively little letter, I hope they ignore me as I will then be able to hit them with a schedule of compennsation.

Could even pay for Xmas...


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Airs and Vans

The run back from France was a bit of a struggle but all that slow driving did offer one dividend. The van returned 39.7 miles to each gallon. That's remarkable when you think how loaded down it was.

The problem was it turned out, an air mass sensor, van is running nearly but not quite normally.

The week has proceeded peacefully with the student in university and builders a building.

Building work is nearly done which is a worry, that end of the building is stunning. Little D could destroy an anvil and has no respect for anything, half the reason for moving hm is his current room stinks. Could be some grief there.  

Money is going to be incredibly tight for the foreseeable future, not sure how we are going to survive.

Not sure if we are going to survive!!

I am off doing my first aid instructors course next week, so there might be a few extra pounds to come in from that work.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Of mice and wine boxes.

There is something nice about the kids being that little bit older. Previously we were prevented from going away at all. Or forced to make very complex arrangements over kids transport and safety.

Last week with Bethan in charge of the house and Taliesin in charge of the transport off we went on adventure bent. The T4 was driven in leisurely mode, meaning it returned a creditable 37 miles to every gallon. With some little bits of dense traffic on the M5 we still made Plymouth with enough time to stop in a pub for a pint before boarding the ferry early.

This was the life, 3 course meal and an early night, just the job. Up next day and a leisurely drive to the house. We had left in a big hurry so the place looked a bit of a state. Got our new log stove lit and   soon the place was feeling warm.

I had left the strimmer home to make sure we didn't need to work, at all. 

The rush to leave last time had meant we had left quite a few boxes of red behind, the plastic bag in a box jobbies which are really good if you cook with wine as well as of course quaff the stuff.

Anyway the boxes were all fine and soon it was time to load the van and head out for lunch.

Well we thought the boxes were fine, we had not allowed for the local mice. Mice learnt a while back that food is often sealed in plastic and so they have learnt to nibble holes in the stuff to access the larder beneath.

So of course when  I looked at the boxes they looked fine. Picking one up though put pressure on the inner bag and produced a veritable spray of fine jets of wine from the multiple fine holes. This produced a bit of alarm, some quick thinking and into the shower with them.   Pretty soon the inside of the shower was looking like the set of "Psycho".

Running out of room, I took to lobbing them out the front door and soon the steps of the house looked like they were running with blood too. Of course in all of this there  was wine going everywhere, a lot of it over the student who was really wishing she had not forgotten her changes of clothes.

This was a full on major incident with wine all over the wood floors, pouring down the steps and bubbling out of the shower waste pipe into the back garden.

We sort of cleared it, but I reckon our next trip  will feature mops and buckets and a lot of cleaning up.

There was only one sensible course - we went for a 4 course meal in the Trois Marchands.

Feeling happy it was on to the Intermarche and open wallet surgery to restore severely depleted stocks.

Then on to the coast, a run back up to Roscoff with a few more shop stops on the way.

There is something special about Roscoff, leaving the van at the ferry terminal it was a lovely walk into town with the sea providing the background sound track. Disappointing but not surprising that the Creperie was booked up, we arrived early enough to get a table at the Chinese. Another thoroughly decent meal walk back to the van with a moon shining bright on to the sea.  With the illuminated chapel underneath. Made me wish I had the camera, then to top it out the Pont Aven sailed into the night, a blaze of light on the crystal sea, pure magic.

Then back to the van, try to create a bit of room so we could sleep. It's lucky we are really good friends - there was not much room back there.

So morning arrived with us both well relaxed - after the day before I am not sure how, on to the ship and back to bed - even more sleep.

Off the ship and bound for home, ahh yes, did I mention the van? Having an extensive rebuild, something wasn't quite there, loading it to the gunnels added precisely nothing, It was really odd, varying between it's normal self and gutless with no way of predicting which.

The student was heroic in her driving, till we got within 50 miles of home, that I had to take over and drive the last few miles. Sense of humour let go.

This morning - bright and early off she went to take D the smaller to contact. This afternoon off we went to collect him Had the weather changed? And some - biblical rain fell in sheets, at times we considered jacking up the C5 suspension to cope with the depth of the water.  The wind was incredible, thank goodness it had abated before we went home.

Still, we are home now - time to book the next trip....




Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Long old days

This has been a long old day.

Started very early this morning after finishing very late last night.

Came down to a scene of devastation and a sea of sleeping teenies.  

The student staggered off to university, got asked by the lecturer to stop snoring...

I pootled about a bit and got the young people who had no transport home.

Little D has gone out for the night, proper All Hallows.

This means it's seriously quiet and - maybe  an early bed tonight.




Tuesday, 30 October 2012

No tidal wave yet

Has been a quiet night tonight

Well no they have made serious noises and they are doing serious shouting now.

No tidal waves of crashers of gates, just loud teenies

Been easy really



So far so good

Well we have got this far, there is serious din downstairs

But they have some sort of fire going outside and we are nothing to do with that.

I think i might have a few hours rest, the student is locked in journals


Captains log star date.

It's so far so good here at Penole.

A big contingent of teenies have arrived and are fairly well ensconced downstairs. The student and I have taken refuge upstairs. My one trip downstairs produced the kind of silence you would get by rolling into a Hells Angels meeting riding a scooter.

Diving into the fridge to rescue a bottle of wine I noted a lot of my white wine seems to have walked downstairs  and jumped in the fridge to keep the lager company.

Telling them we have a stereo in the living room that might go down as one of my less sensible decisions when reviewed at 2 am.

Da man, the terror of cats, and hunter of cows, yes honestly he has been known to try and bring down a full size cow.  Da Man has had enough and made a break for the outside. He who treats the fire as his personal property prefers the great outdoors.   

Adam, the grandee and old man of the cats has decided we have got the right idea, and joined us upstairs.
At least there have been no gate crashers - so far.


Happy Halloween

Sometimes things just happen, your calm and clear day is thrown 180 degrees on it's head.

When Bethan announced she was holding a Halloween gathering for a load of her little mates and volunteered here as a venue I did sort of get a premonition. Premonitions of course are OK on Halloween but this was more of an uneasy sense of foreboding.

The plan was to gather a group of her friends here, which has indeed started to happen.

The trip home could not be completed without a trip to Booker's and more particularly the aisles stacked with booze.

Food was going to be dealt with by a huge Chinese takeaway, tricky that one as, had Bethan checked our local Chinese is closed on  a Tuesday.

Beth then announced a change of plan, since all her little mates might be a bit potless (hadn't seemed like that in Bookers I might add) she would prepare food.

Well, that was  premonition gone, full on  alarm bells were sounding everywhere.

Bethan is not quite cordon blue when it comes to cooking, more your cordon blimey type. The notion that Bethan was going to cook for 16 produced a simple three  word text from she who has retired to university, allegedly to attend lectures but I think it was to hide.

"She'll poison everyone"

Bethan has found some beefburgers and is making jelly (beefburgers in jelly perhaps?), there are no rolls and only two loaves of bread.

Even the big J man himself started with 5 loaves though I am pretty sure we cann run to 5 fishfingers if that helps!!

But of course as ever there is more, this here party has been promoted using that great medium Face book. So of course there might be 20 or so of her little mates there might also be 200 gatecrashers.

I have put a couple of my more "diplomatic" mates on standby in case we need to evict a few later.

Just to complete our joy, Little D knowing this was something nice for someone else seems to have decided to jam a whole toilet roll down the toilet before he went out, so a furious (in all senses of the word) rodding and flushing session has been needed.

The student is so concerned, studies have been abandoned and she is rushing home.

Me I am bracing myself for what could be a very interesting evening.

It's all there for the making, teenies, alcohol, the student off one one, and a few hundred gatecrashers.  

Watch this space.        

Life here is lots of things but it is very rarely boring.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Conservative values

Back in the 80's the Tories were in power they needed to impose their will on the country and the miners got very firmly put in their place. Workers could not expect decent treatment from their "masters". Policing changed from upholding the law to imposing order, no matter if they way it was done was lawful or not.

Last night,  across the country, it would seem that numbers of those who have stood up against cuts for the poorest and hardest hit were targeted by the Police in what seems to have been a blatant attempt to put the frighteners on them.

We are back to being arrested for "wearing a loud shirt in the dark".

Never mind the law - this lot want order.


Diploma in Computing Rodney

The student consulted technical support, looked intelligent rather a lot, then set to.

Fair play, by lunchtime she had it all running, then suddenly computer decided it needed to update - all fair and good there then.

All 80 updates took a fair old while and then - grey screen.

This produced a bit of head scratching and a lot of profanity.

Back to technical support she went and got more advice. The poor chap at the other end of the phone was a proper specialist, I think his specialism was hair dryers as he seemed totally lost when it came to computers.

Steadily growing frustration turned into steam under the collar rage, which could have been pretty ugly had the poor chap been in the room.

She is currently sat, trying to be calm reloading things and trying again.

Myself I think firefox is having a scrap with outlook distress and that's the root of it.

I am trying to make helpful suggestions, but any comment at all is living dangerously.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

A world in computers

The student is back in full studenty mode. this meant much harrumphing as of course Gwion has loaded her computer with all sorts of junk which in turn means it runs at a speed comparable to the postal system.

A lot of shouting later she decided the only thing to do was bit the bullet and get herself a shiny new HP.

This was ordered and, after a bit of excitement the package came down the drive.  Much unpacking with setting up of computer and all was well with the world.

Until yesterday, her new toy threw a hissy fit and refused to play.

She is currently deploying all her diploma in computing skills which means she is swearing like a trooper, stabbing keys and looking both confused and angry at the same time.

Computers don't they make life easier.


Thursday, 25 October 2012

A good day

Today was spent running round a bit. Bethan had an interview yesterday and today she had another today.

Both were for casual staff to fill occasional slots to cover sickness and other stuff.

This afternoon she got a phone call from a reputable care company saying they had decided to offer her a 20 h a week contract instead.

I am a very proud dad tonight.

Of course it's also pretty much where i started and look where I ended up - oh dear.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Van tastic

Yesterday, back to the fold cae the VW, running like a sack of shovels.

Back to the garage it goes today.

The Xsara is better news of sorts.

Bought with a dead clutch, it seems the problem was hydraulic rather than mechanical. That has saved about 300 pounds.

The engine management problem seems to be located in the fuel tank where some fool was trying to run a modern HDi engine on a cocktail of kerosene and vegetable oil. This could be serious bad news if the previous was doing that for a long while unlikely though as the thing was not running at all on this fuel.

The VW needs to be done though as it is crossing the channel again next week.

Must make sure there are no strikes promised.


changing times

 The student has been setting out her dissertation and looking at social policy issues. This has made us think a bit. 

I suffered  an education, despite being at one of the best Welsh schools they barely contained me till my O levels. For all the engagement I had in 6th form I might as well have gone down the pub, actually I managed a few visits down there.

This is not to write off the teachers or me, the connection just didn't happen.

Despite this I left school and walked into my first job, then some years later walked into my first  house.

But by 21 I was living on my own. What a disaster married life was for both of us. 

My children: Bethan at the same age seems even more at home than ever, Branwen is up in Aber being a student.

At least Taliesin has moved out, he is in a caravan 100 yards away from here.   

For young people today the certainty of employment has gone, with it the possibility of true independence.

Wealth or the chance of gaining any has evaporated. For this generation scraping together everything they have to make a deposit on a house, then spending 20 years servicing a loan secured on it has gone. They are simply going to have to burn money on rent and be left with nothing at the end.

Wealth is moving into fewer and fewer hands - just as Marx predicted.




Sunday, 21 October 2012

Dissertation to despair

As part of this here degree of hers the student has to produce an academic dissertation.  So of course not doing her normal thing, leave it to the day before then stress herself and all around her to death, she has been doing proper preparation.

So the title has been decided, the area has been decided and she has been writing, thats 200 words down 9800 to go.

This could be a long couple of months...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Even more car antics.

The day started rather well, with young D being invited to the Police Station to discuss what they had video of him up to in a local store. This is some form of restorative justice where he has to make amends for his "sins". He has been ordered to make things right, then of course he is still banned from the shop but he will have paid off his debt.

Back home and time to round up the builder and get the Xsara over to Greasy Garage. Xsara was something I bought a good while back and we simply never got round to sorting it. It has a totally naff personal plate that will have to go, but of course it will need to have a valid MOT before we can change that.

Of course, with an MOT needed it must go to a garage,  one of the reasons I got it cheap was that it  has a clutch fault. Not the slipping sort, the other sort, the not releasing type. So it was start it in gear then drive to the garage without using the clutch to change gear. This is the sort of thing that's grist to any old truck drivers mill, in fact, driving without using the clutch is one of my show off tricks in the old fire engine.

Of course an old fire engine has lots of things a modern car doesn't have, like an engine that needs a computer to tell it what to do. The engine management system on the Xsara has been a bit flakey and I got a whole mile from the house before it went on total strike. So it was abandon the car and come back a few days later with Phil the builder and his Jeep. On with the show attach the tow rope and away. I have some nagging feeling that using a towrope is now illegal and you are expected to use some sort of rigid device, anyway away we went and it was down into the valley with me providing retardation then up the other side with Phil providing motive power.

Up to Greasy Garage and, the field entrance which the car was due to be parked in was blocked with another car parked there. Never mind, we could just  manoeuvre the car a bit, well when i say a bit, there were a few back and fores and a decent amount of lock to lock changing, lots easier if the power steering was working but a dead engine wasn't driving that. Soft tyres helped not at all either, the Green Goddess is easier to turn than this thing, still, a lot of sweat and swearing later, it was in.

This was not the point where we needed a head to pop over the gate in the house opposite and offer to move the car in the spot we originally intended to put the Xsara.....

Still, it was back to the pub and refreshment. I happened to notice the Xmas menu on the wall. The starter was Coquilles St Jaques, impressive stuff, thought I, Le Chef was serving and I asked in innocence, how do you do CSJ?  Turns out she had never done Scallops before, now, I was taught how to cook scallops in a restaurant in Brittany.

She was dead pleased I had popped in, I offered to do some pilot cooking to test the recipe. I think that, for the local palette I would need to use a lot less garlic and maybe even drop the Gros Plant in favour of something like a Touraine.

Want my original recipe?

Dream on.....




Monday, 15 October 2012

A day of traumas

I feel really sorry for no one son Taliesin, life recently has been a series of knock backs, then just as he gets over it and seems ready to move one something else goes wrong

When his car went off the road he was absolutely potless so we lent him his mothers VTR Perhaps not the best of moves as fairly soon the Police were taken a lot of interest in the man himself and that car

Young men are young men and i dare say a certain amount of bravado was displayed, though I never heard or saw him doing anything totally daft.

Meantime's he scrapped his pennies together and bought himself quite a tidy little Honda Accord (the exact opposite of a copper magnet)  and set about getting it through it's test.  Quite a lot of money was spent but he ended up with something that was quite a nice little car and an ideal runabout for a young man who wants to work and will turn his hand to anything to turn a pound.

This morning D the elder was having a bit of a moment and ended up late for coll. Myself, I have simply left him behind before now. When you end up walking into town then paying for a bus, you tend to sort your morning routines out quite quickly!

Not so this morning and Tallie tried to get to town to make the bus, only to meet someone coming the other way. Now, the important thing is that everyone walked away without a scratch. The car, unfortunately is scrap.

He just has such crap luck.

Still he went off to work in the VTR and things went back to normal, or rather they did not.

I had not reckoned on the effect this little brush with the grim reaper would have on the student. Now, I might have alluded to her driving style previously. Of course I would not dream of being critical, but the student behind the wheel is quite err brisk. In a sort of; grasp the armrest firmly, close eyes periodically, try not to whimper or throw yourself into the foot well curled into a little ball sort of way.

This afternoon all had changed, progress was sedate, sedentary, funereal even. As we drove round in the big C5 estate I snatched a quick glance behind in case she had sneaked a coffin in there and we were leading a cortege somewhere. Corners were approached cautiously, junctions judiciously, there has been a transformation.

It won't last of course but at least some good came out of Taliesin's troubles.

The man himself has a suprise to come, the insurance company announced his car was to be collected by a prominent local garage best known for holding the BMW franchise. The exciting sequel to this message being the announcement that a replaceent car would be provided for the duration. there followed of course a flurry of excitement at the thought that a BMW would be making it's way to Penole for Taliesin to slum it in for a few days.

Nothing could be further from what happened. The recovery crew turned out totally underequipped for the job. I was cursing the fact I had stood the Green Goddess down for the winter, all the kit they didn't have was on the back of that!!

Eventually we got the wreckage on to their trailer and sent it on it's merry way, whilst I drove his replacement car home. It wasn't actually a top of the range BMW, the recovery driver barely concealed a snicker as he handed me the key. This was a very bottom of the range SEAT, now. I have driven some right ropey old cars in my time things like Triumph Acclaims, Rover Montegos, and in some moment of madness we once ran a small Fiat with a large diesel engine that shook the car to pieces. Those cars at least had the defence of being extreemly second hand.  This monstrosity was brand new, it had a little light on the dash that came on to tell me i was in first, then it turned into an arrow and flashed at me to say I needed to be in second.  The terrible graunching when you apply the brakes is probably a way of warning the hard of thinking their feet have strayed on to the centre pedal.  Then again, I suppose that, if you are daft enough to need that advice the fact it handles corners like the springs are made of jelly and bumps as if there are no springs at all would not matter so much.     

This then is a car for those who hate driving, maybe to be bought for those who love driving by someone who does not want them to drive. 


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Days of peace and silence

The student and I had a lazy start to the day with a long lie in. Coffee and off to take Gwions little friends home which lead to a stop off in the Cash and Carry in turn meaning that "just buy cat food" turned into a 100 pounds shop which in turn meant a stop in the pub on our way home.

Rain is terrible stuff and when you are just mad to get the wood cut rain is an obstruction as it stops you working (shame). Student has been thinking and thinking now she has decided her dissertation subject. I suppose that is a first step.

Now I am sitting here writing this and contemplating the corkscrew. Naah too early.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A wild week

The week has drawn to a good conclusion, much building work has been done. Huge progress has been made.

 Today we set off for the auction to disappointment nothing worth a punt so home very early.

Via the Museum of Internal Fire Wow an oilheads dream of a place. Lots of early engines for powering pumps and generators, huge engines the size of caravans. We got there just as they were starting up the engines, what a fascinating place full of engineering from the last 100 years.

Home and chainsaw, lots more wood cut chopped and stacked. I am vaguely optimistic, we have a pretty huge stache of timber cut now. Only another 10 tons or so and we should be sorted - grooaaaann.



The year draws in

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Building the future

One of the great things with Penole is the flexibility.

Start of this week at the end of the building we had  2 bedrooms a shower room and bath room and lobby. Now we are well on the way to having a small self contained 2 bed unit with small kitchen and bathroom.

It could even be a self contained flat.

We are eyeing the future for the D's, they will need to be more independent or we could even take on a couple of people from the adult placement scheme.

Options options.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The force of reason or reasonable force

Another piece of posturing from the Tories this week, the homeowners right to defend their home. Or carte blanche to beat up anyone you don't like the look of.

There is a terrible myth machine around the law in this country (the UK) and the rights you have to defend yourself. 

Everyone carps on about reasonable force, actually when someone uses a physical intervention on someone else there are three criteria.

Necessary - could they have done something else, like run away.

Reasonable -  taking into account all the circumstances was what they did a sensible thing to do.

Proportionate - was it in proportion to the threat and not excessive.

There are 4  circumstances in which Physical Intervention  is lawful:

Self defence.

To protect another person from assault.

To prevent crime or detain a suspected criminal.

To protect property.

So basically the law is currently fit for purpose, the only reason the Tories might have for changing it is to raise the defensive stakes when say, someone believes their property is being raided by persons they do not know to be armed so decides to shoot them in the back as they are running away.

That of course was one of the cases the government is referring too as the right to defend property. Obviously their gated communities will need armed guards with the right to shoot the proles on sight.



Building for the future

Once again the builders are in evidence in Penole.  Yesterday i amused myself by hacking off a wall so today the builders amused themselves by knocking one down. We are creating a mini self contained unit at the end of the building. A hang out place where both D's can have a telly, DVD player a small kitchen and a general space of their own.

This will move D the smaller out of his room adjoining our living room and create an academic space for academic students to have an office and do a lot of work for themselves in peace.

Looming over the student and thus us all is an academic dissertation 10,000 words is actually not that many, but  seems a lot when you have to write it. She has just ordered herself a new laptop which duly arrived today. This being a computer, it took most of today to install updates and get it all working.

Next will be a desk and bookshelves and a lock on the door. So she can work on the inside oblivious to anything on the outside.


Monday, 8 October 2012

I've been driving in my car....

The lack of VW has rather put me in the driving seat of the little VTR a lot recently.

For those not into cars Citroen dropped a rather lazy and softly tuned 1600 cc petrol into their smallest saloon car the Saxo about 10 years ago.

The combination of small car and big engine produced something of a pocket rocket. It's also an all wrong combination of power and chassis, push it and the car is overwhelmed by the torque and power under the bonnet.

Put another way it's lots of fun to drive.

It's also a delight to drive as the total over supply of torque makes it a very lazy car. Waft it along and it wafts.

Unfortunately there is a serious down side.

I was driving yesterday more interested in Radio 4 than anything else, making a steady 60-70 when cars I had passed  would break out from the stream in a dash and make a point of passing me.

4x4 BMW's seem to have this programme built in, overtaking was a personal slight.

The person in the Zafira ended up explaining all to the other person who blasted past in a blue Volvo estate, the one with all the concealed  blue lighting.

This person in a Clio really got personal coming up a steep hill and was really pushing the car to keep ahead of me when I was not trying or wanting to play.

Then we turned off and I had a few miles on a lovely windy B road, it was nice to play and enjoy the car, the competitive bit is the really dangerous bit. That's when people die.

The Saxo VTR is a lovely fun car to treat with respect - funny thing though I reckon our old Rover 214 SEi was quicker over the same stretch of road.

And no one ever called that a fast car.


Ever more fun

Actually it wasn't too bad today.

 A few hours this morning with the SDS in hand removing render from one of our walls inside the house. Barrow all that away to use it to repair the drive. Very handy!

Then, a day of mundaneness, Bookers and Lidl.

Student off tomorrow and builders in so I will be on tea making duties.

The student will be on a long day tomorrow, out till 10 pm. Poor thing, not sure how long this module lasts which will give run out of steam first? The module or the student!!!!

Think I might take her for a meal tonight, while she is still awake.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A fun day

The day began well, off with little D to see his step dad, then a down the tip and down to work moment.

Back to sell a load of Green Goddess parts and get stuck in proper to make sure work can commence next week.

A pile  of wood moved and stacked, Big D the student Bethan and Harley in full on sweat mode.

Then call in Taliesin with the digger to pull out a tree, next  a veritable mound of stuff moved.

Really, it's no wonder we had damp when we looked at the way the back of the house was configured.

We found a drain that had been blocked for at least 20 years.

Drains in a house like this really matter, we get so much more water than anyone else

Moved the compost bin, phew was that ever a smell and a half..

Tomorrow time to start hacking off the walls.

Work work work

Tired tired tired.




Saturday, 6 October 2012

Something for the weekend sir??

The morning started with pain, the pain of a big bill for a reconditioned head for the VW van. That will be here Wednesday all things being equal.

Next on a small ammount of work, or so said she who must be obeyed.

Two bedrooms and the shower room (used as a store for many years now) completly emptied. The lobby gone through with a brutal sort out. All this left us ready to move in on the building work next week. The student urged us on to our labours with the promise of a leisurely day off tomorrow. In our dreams, the arrival of phil the builder planned our day tomorrow. A day of wheelbarrows and digging and chainsaws and hacking off walls and putting up scaffold.

My day was cheered considerably by a lovely letter from social services. Stressing the importance of education for looked after children. The first line was: Education is very import for every young person.

If thats the sort of thing a senior social worker writes - god help us all!!!!


Friday, 5 October 2012

Taming the inner Jonah

Fresh from sorting the saxo, down the drive came the parcelfarce van, bonnet up and top the C5 with rather a lot of hydraulic fluid which in turn, with the ignition on, produced a fair bit of motor noises lots of air bubbles and a Citroen on it's highest setting, to be sure all air was gone.

Letting it down we set off for greasy garage and some detailed investigations.

The man himself shoved his head under the wing and found one of the suspension pipes had pulled itself out of it's housing. So, instead of returning suspension fluid to the reservoir it was dumping it on the road, something you might never notice, as it w ould be doing this when the car was moving but not when it was parked.  So no tell tale puddles of oil to see. The "cure" was a temporary bodge until the replacement bits arrive but this was a lot cheaper than it could have been.

On to the VW, the garage had described some sort of combustion chamber Armageddon. I was expecting a mass of broken metal and shattered castings. Perhaps I have seen the effect of more mechanical butchers than them, either way, I wasn't that bothered, I have rebuilt far worse messes in the days when I was into rebuilding things myself.      

Our neighbours have been far less lucky, they have insurance that includes break down. The ancilliary drive belt went about a week ago and out came the insurance companies repair agent. Not sure where he went wrong but by heck the end result was a trashed engine, the belt flew off, locked up the crankshaft and wrapped itself round the camshaft. This stopped the top end of the engine dead. The camshaft pulley was ripped clean off the cam and the shaft itself then shattered by valves being driven up by the pistons.

Trashed is a really good description, far worse than our engine.

That's enough about cars, lets talk social care.

The power of psychology

When you drive a car it can be a weird thing. Out on the motorway every squeak can be the sound of collapsing suspension. Light rattle is obviously the engine trashing itself and that bottle rolling round in the back is the sound of the car tearing apart.

Last day I had full on convinced myself the gearbox in the saxo was on the way out. This morning as I was leaving Taliesin noticed that something fell out from behind the wheel. There was a stone between the brake disk and the hub which in turn makes a noise very like a gearbox destroying itself.....

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Cartastrophy Continued

Just as I was leaving for the old Bill they came on the phone. Some of you will know there is a catastrophe unfolding in mid wales. Lots of our local bobbies have just been redeployed to mid wales to help with the search for that missing 5 year old girl. So no Police Interviews for us tonight

Compared to that families woes we have it easy. That said, the VW is off the road with a major engine fault, I hesitate to phone the garage and ask.

This morning out we went and the C5 suspension didn't. Normally the C5 pumps itself up to height but there is sits on the ground.

Shuffle and rethink, into the VTR, this morning the gearbox was making a distant whir, this afternoon it's making a full on horrid noise.     

The C5 seems to have leaked it's suspension fluid somewhere, of course the modern Citroen does not use the ever popular LHM, it uses some new fangled high tech suspension fluid that the motor factor has never heard of and the Citroen main agent does not stock.


Thank goodness for GSF, they may well be in London but they will get it to me tomorrow.

Back in the Jug again

Haven't been in the custody suite in a while.... Reports have been filtering back over the summer that little D has been engaged in a bit of criminality, then on the day of his 17th down the drive came the white van with all the lights.No, they weren't there to wish him a happy birthday but they did invite him to visit their office..

So this afternoon myself, himself and R'Ottweiler  solicitor at law will be presenting ourselves at the local nick to watch some home movies they have collected from a local source.

Now technically as Appropriate Adult  I am supposed to know nothing of what he is about to be charged but it was hard not to notice his name on the front door of our local Spar with the one word "BANNED" next to it.

So on a whim I went inside and had a look at what was where and crucially where the cameras live and where they point. Nothing like a visit to the locus in quo as Rumpole termed it.

Haven't had to do an AA in so many years I had to go and look for my course notes.   

Of course the man himself has let out a few of the broadest type hints that he might not turn up, that could be interesting, having him brought in on an arrest warrant. Not done one of those for even longer!!!


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Terrible weather

This is the very worst sort of weather, cool, dry with not a lot of wind.

The worst weather, I will be able to find no excuses for not getting the chain saw out and getting on with chopping more firewood.

Now Harley and Bethan are back so there is likely to be a big cutathon and chopathon tomorrow.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Driven to distraction.

Today was one of those days that held a promise of a lovely day. The student went off to university I settled in for a quiet day.

As if, Tallies girlfriend was going to work so I gave her a lift all was well in the world.

Half way home the van just stopped - strange.

It wasn't turning over - time to call the RAC.

Dragged the thing over to the garage and a sad tale.

A minor oil leak had contaminated the cam belt which had snapped

Not good in an open wallet surgery sort of way.

Still it could have been worse, it could have let go last week in France.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Twas the night before uni.....

Well the student and I had a quiet day before she goes back to uni.

Quietly unloaded the van.

Tidied up the hole that is called my side of the bed.

Moved stuff round

Went shopping

Printed off a load of her handouts for uni.

Meanwhile I have been reading stuff for a new project in the field of training that I really hope comes off.

Could be an exciting new direction to go in. Well it excites me anyway and that's all that counts.

A late PS - how could I forget, neither Bruce nor the students grants seem to be sorted so that was not peaceful - no there were touches of full on drama there!!


Sunday, 30 September 2012

On the road again

We had an early one Friday, loading the van with goodies. As yet we had no idea how we were getting home. Cherbourg sailings were solid, that we knew maybe there was something out of Le Havre.

The UK ferry companies would not open till 10 Am local time, so we toiled away loading till the time arrived and i got on the phone. We could it seemed get out of Le Havre, - not quick enough as the nice lady booked us on the last 6 places were taken.

The nearest ferry was out of Dieppe and that sailed at 5 PM. Not that sure where Dieppe was but knowing it was closer than Calais, I took the reservation. Out to the van and check with the GPS, long way said the voice of annoyance but we could make it in time, if we left that very instant.

So what was loaded was going what wasn't was staying. Very quickly we loaded the van and sealed the house. 10.30 we left the house - this was going to be tight.

Off up the road I went trying to make some time. 130km is the limit and 130 is what the VW was doing.  All very impressive stuff.

No time for lunch no time for food, grabbed a quick motorway sandwich when we pulled off for fuel. They use the same brands of recycled tyres for motorway sandwich filler in France as we do over here as well.

This trip included the Pont De Normandy out of Le Havre. Now of course the student is no big fan of bridges, the Severn usually being crossed with lots of huffing puffing and whimpering. The Pont De Normandy makes the Severn look like the bridge over your local stream. The first bridge is one thing, the second crossing, a concrete box section corkscrew affair drew a pandemonium of profanity from the passenger seat. She was not even slightly happy, the fact that part of it is a negative camber bend really impress herself in the slightest little bit and whilst she didn't actually scream, I suspect that was mainly due to the onset of catatonia....   

We were steadily  winning time on the squawk box estimates of arrival time, we lost the lot when an accident closed the A26 meaning a diversion cross country. Now we were playing catch up big style.

Back on to the A roads and the blistering pace continued. Full respect to the T4 as it munched the miles with a panache that would match any saloon car.

There was a price though, the early fuel consumption had been a very respectable 39 mpg, I suspect when I next check we might even have dropped below 30.

So anyway into Dieppe and a chaos round town as the GPS idea of the route tallied not at all with the directions on the signs.

Eventually we arrived to a ferry terminal awash with cars but with nothing that looked like a ferry. Strange, this was the stage that we realised that the nice lady said the ferry left at 5, meaning  5  UK time so  we had arrived at the book in time, 4 European time or of course 3 UK time.

Eventually the ferry pulled in and the loading commenced. This was a smaller ferry than I had seen in years and loading was a novel experience. Clearly the sheer volume of BF traffic had overwhelmed the staff as they struggled to organise all the cars on the various maze of decks that made up the "7 seas"  accommodation. The ship was pretty compact too and compared to BF the food was limited, costly and uninviting. The management, god bless her got her head down for a couple of hours and i sat reading the guardian catching up on some news.

The ship sailed, eventually, an hour late and the captain announced that he was going to go for it to make up time. to be positive about BF, this was, compared to their fleet, seriously old and seriously slow.

Newhaven is also not the best place in the world to get out of, super swift though compared to Poole!!

With the student behind the wheel the T4 was pointed towards Wales with the nanny on the dash in charge of proceedings.  To be fair to her she made half decent progress too.

Little D was  collected in the early hours and the M4 rejoined. With almost 18 hours under her belt the student was feeling the pace so the last few miles fell to me to drive. We pulled up outside the house bruised and battered at 4 am.

Up again bright, early and ready to party

It was the students mums official 101st birthday   and so at midday, in a convoy of cars, off we set. To our kids eternal credit, they had assumed we were not coming so organised themselves to get there. Frankly, we had both had quite enough driving for a bit so being chauffeured by Taliesin really made life easy.

The students mum was life and soul of the party, starting a bit quiet she became more and more animated as various tales of life with her were rolled out. Both the student and her nephew (hello Bristol)  have been doing serious genealogy so lots of notes got taken. By 9 pm I will admit i was feeling a bit phased and was really glad to head home.

Today, as you might of noticed has been a writing it all down day with tomorrow being a taking a big tent down day - I think. With an unload the van day tacked in there somewhere.

The student has spent virtually all day on genealogy.  She is hunting another side of her family.

Tomorrow, it's back to the student grind.





A lot at steak.....

With agreement that we would board a ferry on Friday afternoon, leaving Brittany Ferries free to fill their Thursday crossings with people who, unlike us were properly stuck. We let the leisure take hold.

Thursday, we set off in the morning for the South, down to Vannes and on to the coast. Some lovely new beaches, well after I looked at the map and decided Pont Groix looked interesting and we had bumped and lurched our way down a dead end country lane to an industrial looking oyster farm.

One of the big regrets of holiday was not having our camera. I was reduced to taking photos on the phone which, being s technophobe I am not sure how you get on to here.

We found two lovely beaches just down the coast from our more usual haunt at la Trinite sur mere. Beaches which would, in August be paved with people, which in September are a peaceful respite from the world. The student speculated that i had been having sea withdrawal symptoms.

In fact, whilst being in Brittany was great I think the uncertainty was starting to get to me. Every morning the Telegramme was carrying roughly the same story, talking continuing resolution no nearer.

Friday  was of course the day we were due to return, then abruptly all Thursdays sailings were cancelled. calling Brittany Ferries, the really helpful staff said that Fridays sailings were all still scheduled but no one knew if they would actually sail.

To give some history, Brittany ferries has been sailing into trouble for a while. They reinvented themselves as a premier brand, bigger better more modern ferries than everyone else. The pricing has been too premium for too long. Frankly, people can save themselves lots of money by choosing other routes, and that is what they are doing.

The management has been looking to cut some corners and they seem to be targeting the crew. Traditionally BF crew enjoy good terms and conditions but these have been under the squeeze for a few years. As if making the crew do more for less would answer the basic dilemma and ease their 70 million Euro deficit.

The trouble seems to have started when the Armorique went on 24 hour strike on the previous Thursday. Meaning we had to land in Brest. Management responded by telling the crew to get off the ship, they were locked out.  The crew responded by seizing the ship.

At this stage though they would still have gone back to work, but no management decided to deny the crew food. They relented that 24 h later.

Of course as news spread the whole fleet was paralysed as the crews stood together.

Negotiations were pretty tough but as I understand it the deal was sealed Wednesday. Management imposed a condition that it had to be signed by 10 am Thursday, the union arrived and signed. The manging director walked in then said he had changed his mind and walked out.

This is where the story that the crews are ready to sail comes from, they are all at their posts.

A further meeting was scheduled with the government as arbiter which BF failed to attend.

There is growing speculation that BF is on the verge of collapse. This could well be true, management have just announced they are solvent and have sufficient cash reserves to carry on, bearing in mind how true everything else they have said so far turned out to be....

But this of course was not helping us. Thursday afternoon arrived in an air of general uncertainty. Only one thing for it time to cook tea. Earlier in the week "tea" had been entrecote (steak) grilled on the open fire in our living room. Last year, when our roof was done, our Bay tree was very heavily cut back. So to do the stake I went into the garden and sawed some branches of bay which went on top of the charcoal and flared brightly giving off the distinctive smell of bay.

If you think that sounds pretty good you would of course be right. Thursday it was a very simple mean of beef boule with onions mushrooms bathed in Steak Au Poivre. I just include this to make it clear we really were slumming it!

Thursday afternoon morning arrived and more bad news, there was no ferry nor would there be till next week at least. Something had to give, an executive decision was reached. We would leave in the morning, let the loading commence .


A weekend of Warmth

Dawned the morning and we had no reason to get up so - we didn't. Proper luxurious life, the only source of heat in our little Breton home is a massive open fireplace. We had very little by way of firewood so we made do with our huge supply of charcoal. 

This was the first revelation of the weekend, one of the problems with the house is smoke. Light the fire and as the wood burns it slowly fills with smoke, unless you are very careful with how much wood is on there. Running the fire on charcoal, it was really easy to light, the room was warm and smoke free.

The fridge was sitting in the corner humming, we needed to deal with the moule issue and sooner rather than later too.  A quick phone call and off we went to see Edit and Youenn two of our local friends in Brittany. The drive down required a stop in Leclerc in Quimper which in turn added a huge piece of steak to the fridge, at 5E it was unmissable!

A lovely evening with friends laid the ghost of a plan. One of the things on our to do list has always been to sort out proper heating for the house.  Youenn mentioned how he had noticed that Brico Marche had a big promotion on log stoves. A plan started to form.....

The moule got cooked, not our usual way, with white wine, cream and loads of garlic, but with some Chinese herbs, making a lovely meal.

Home bed and another day when we didn't need to get up, so we didn't.

Well OK eventually we got all optimistic and decided to go and see if BricoMarche was open on a Sunday which of course it isn't and on we went to suffer a beer in the Ansi De Sordan on the banks of Lac Guerledan. I could really get used to this....

There is some comment somewhere else about the "revenge of the moule". Just occasionally a rogue one will slip through with effects that can be truly spectacular.  When I say "spectacular" I am of course meaning when it's someone else, if it's you it's tragic and distressing.

The student, god bless her went down with Moule Belly with a vengeance, my was she ever ill, it was impressive!!

It made our trip out next day a hazardous little affair!!!  Monday morning we decided to  break with routine,do something different - we got up before midday, headed into Pontivy and Bricomarche. Prices were indeed quite eye watering, their "specialist" was a really helpful and knowledgeable guy who knew our house, from driving past it every day into work. We agreed how big a stove we needed (8 kwh) and settled on a Franco Belge Savoy at a price that represented about 300 pound off UK list price. About 30% off in fact.

Into the van and home, when of course the flaw in the thinking started to glare.  The stove was 100 Kilos outside the house in the van, the fireplace was up a flight of stairs inside the house. Beer was the obvious solution, into town and the Trois Marchands, bought a couple of locals a beer and back to the house with some muscle. Four of us made short work of getting the stove inside.

By now i had a proper shopping list so it was back into Pontivy for pipes connectors, tiles and adhesive. We have a lovely professional grade tile cutter and by good fortune it happened to be in Britany too. Locked in the dungeon underneath the house, the key to which I forgot to ask Youenn to give me back....

As I sat there planning the operation, a list of necessary tools was forming. I couldn't help myself. I was drawn inexorably to the conclusion I needed a Green Goddess parked outside, everything I needed and more was in the lockers.
Of course we have to work with what we have not what we would like The Stove was going on  a wood floor which was not really a good idea. So I got a few sheets of ply as a load spreader and a load of tiles. Conventional wisdom dictates that tiles are stuck down with grout which means hours sitting round as it goes off. The student (between events) stuck the plywood to the floor with quick setting glue, I got into the grate and cut the flue to length.  A rockwool barrier went into the chimney Tiles were glued rather than grouted which meant that the stove was in position, connected and lit by Tuesday teatime.

Fuel is a bit of an issue for us. In Brittany pretty much everyone uses wood for heat so you need your local wood guys phone number. Buying wood in Bricomarche was an open wallet experience as all their wood is kiln dried, we noticed wood briquets from recycled mill waste were a lot cheaper so we threw a couple of packs of those on the trolley for good measure.

The Savoy proved very easy to light and generated realistic amounts of warmth, certainly more than we needed in a September that was quite mild anyway. A soaring success in the stove, but not on the ope fire were the blocks of recycled waste wood. 3 E a pack  each block  lasted a good few hours and generated tremendous heat. Best of all "Breizh Buches" (they have a website) were somewhere just up the road. Time for a trip out to investigate.

Into the village and the ZA proved elusive. Stop off in the local cafe to ask. When you are in Brittany and the Cafe / Restaurant is encircled by artisans vans of a lunch time it's usually  a hint that the food is not too bad, noting that we made some more enquiries, got directions and vowed to return next day to eat.

Wednesday became another day of action, up in the morning ad break up the old sofa bed in our sitting room, put it, with a load of other junk, ready to go for recycling in the afternoon.

Then it was up to Breizh Buches where 75E got us 250 kg of wood. That all went into the van then into the village for a huge 12 E lunch.

The afternoon was a blur of unloading and a trip to the decheterie, meaning I didn't notice the call from Brittany Ferries. Returned their call in the afternoon and, at last it looked like we were booked on a ferry and off home. 

The kids (oh yes I forgot about them) had been coping, this was a bit of an object lesson. We would never have thought to leave them on their own for this length of time, yet it was clear they can manage, meaning it's OK for us to go again.

That's something lovely to think about. The student and I can go away not for a rushed day but a leisurely couple of days, so we can and we will go again.



A week in parts

Some of you might be wondering about the silence, lets start with a game of serious catch up. The last post predicted a lovely weekend away and it was not far out.

The student god bless her on the Thursday said that she had a baaad feeling, things were going far too well.

Up to Aber I went in the company of Bruce with loads of her stuff packed in the T4 Bruce drove well and the meeting place was found so, I was in some high class Government meeting for the morning.  Half way through, my phone rang, so I put it on ignore. Then it rang again and again. The fourth time I told the meeting I had better answer and, sure enough it was the Police. They were looking for a missing person, last seen with one of ours. Worst of all, our lad was not answering the phone. 18 male has gone missing with 15 yo girl (15 is she? thanks for the heads up officer!) and he's not answering his phone so the Police were a bit worried. I was able to reassure the Officer everything would be fine, then I remembered how his phone was broken and he had gone to get a new one. No wonder it was going to answerphone then. I phoned the man in question and, sure enough, his phone was on answerphone, I left a message to call me back. Back into the meeting and the phone rang again, so outside and fairly soon everything was cleared up and the Police had sight of the body and calm was restored.  Proper old style Penole, life with some unexpected drama thrown in.       
So it was meeting over and a drive back to Penole with a speedy trundle in the afternoon to make the ferry.

The pair of us went  off happy. Except of course that whilst I had been away that the student had been dealing with two bob, her grand daughters and the arm she broke that day  "I have a bad feeling about this weekend" said she yet again.

I dismissed her thoughts immediately, we got in the van, time was a bit tight but we headed off to Plymouth feeling happy and quite a bit free.

The trip down had all the feature of  a good plan and we rolled like a happy pair of bunnies into the ferry terminal. My heart sank, there was some sort of rally going through Plymouth with a whole load of vehicles allegedly heading for Spain with everyone in fancy dress. I had seen this sort of thing before, great if you are in a lets stay up till 4 am carousing frame of mind. Deadly if you have had a hard day and just want to get to sleep.

So anyways, the student and I settled for a lovely meal in the restaurant, some sort of message was boomed over the Tanny while we were there, I was locked in discussion of the days events with herself and wasn't really listening, it was quite hard to hear anyway.     

So it was meal over and time for bed. Next morning I was really pleased to see BF had allowed us an extra hour before waking us. This was great! I could see lights outside so we were in harbour. A couple of coffees later and we were heading off the ferry. Disembarkation at Roscoff it pretty slick but this morning it seemed a bit slow for some reason. Anyway it wasn't too long before blinking and drowsy I rolled off the the ship into a terminal I didn't recognise which was a chaos of TV crews, press, Douane, Gendermes, Police National I think Uncle Tom Cobley was around as well.  I dare say our faces were models of amazed bewilderment, the student certainly looked surprised amused and bemused. There was no time to ask questions, we were hustled out of the place at great speed.

Without giving us any options, BF had put us on a ship in Plymouth, then disembarked us in the Naval Facility in Brest. On the same ship were a group of cyclists who were planning a quiet ride into Morlaix who now found themselves 60 miles or so from  their point of re-embarkation.
The crew of the Armorique had staged a 24 H strike and so we had been unable to berth in Roscoff, we were in Brest. This was no big issue for us, not even bothering with maps we set the squawk box on the dash, followed instruction and went to the house. 

Lunch was dealt with at "les trois marchands" the usual 4 course E11.00 affair.
Nothing came in on my phone, so mid afternoon we loaded the van with goodies and headed for home. We were particularly pleased, we had landed in town just as the "foire au vin" was on in the Intermarche. Some really attractive deals had been offered and we had fallen head over heels for temptation Might be some time before I needed to buy wine again. Moule were E1.50 a kilo so with a fridge fully loaded with goodies we were ready for the off.  8.30 ferry next morning so we were fully primed for a nice evening in Roscoff and a sleep in the van.    

A drive to Roscoff and a smell of rodent. The ferry should have been on it's way to Plymouth, instead it was tied up at the quay. Into the terminal and a see of very unhappy Irish people, the staff were, as usual, friendly and polite  We were able to determine that the crew had staged a 24 h walk out which the management had dealt with by locking them out. This being France the crew promptly occupied the ship.

This had the makings of turning into quite something, little did we know but the other crews, hearing what management had done were in the process of bringing the whole fleet into port and tying up.

The student and I "reluctantly" decided that the best thing to do was to go back to our house and see what happened.

Little did we know what a week we had ahead of us.