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.