Sunday, 16 May 2010


Just a quick post to say sorry that there hasn't been much news recently. Got the enthusiasm knocked out of me a bit by our incredibly sparsely attended housewarming. Still, we have a freezer full of chilli and a fridge full of beer so it can't all be bad...

We're also quickly coming to the realisation that there's little point in starting any exciting decorating adventures until we've addressed some big-ish structural issues. Since we can't afford to do them this year we're a bit stuck for now. That said, Rosie started picking at the (almost certainly lead-based) paint peeling off the Study door the other day so we might need to do some remedial work...

Close followers of the blog will also be pleased to learn that we've replaced nearly all the lightbulbs with CFLs - a very satisfying item to tick of the to do list. We've also moved onto compost heap number two following the arrival of a fearsome garden shredder. The herb garden is in great shape, planted out our pots to plug a few gaps and identified a few more culinary plants, including some lovage. The veg patch is also coming on apace following lots of donations from relatives and neighbours - we even managed to come through the frosts last week without any major casualties, so go us!

With any luck the sun will shine for more than 10 minutes at a stretch this week so I can post some more photos...

Sunday, 11 April 2010


We love a bit of gardening. I like flowers that smell sweet & musky in the evening, pretty cottage borders and herbs arranged in geometric patterns. Steve likes anything edible and has little interest in the aesthetics of the thing. Rosie likes her little watering can and picking daisies and stones. In all, we're quite the team.

Our last garden was entirely paved (although we lifted a couple of slabs to make room for more veg). Pretty much everything grew in tubs. It was about 20ft long by 10 ft wide. Very compact and bijoux Mostin.

We now have something on an altogether different scale:

One formal, gravelled front garden with box and lavender hedges, several very old trees (some kind of cherry, I think, possibly a hawthorn, a holly and what might be a cypress). Two huge borders stocked with innumerable unidentified plants and a very dark, dank corner that contains an old Christmas tree, one of those old garden rollers they use on bowling greens (rusted to pieces) and other random rubbish covered in about a billion snails. There's also a charming wrought iron gate that doesn't close terribly well and, right next to the path, a very poorly standard bay tree whose bark got eaten by something - we don't think she's going to pull through, sadly.

Sauntering round the side of the house, we come to the pile of turf that was previously in the front garden and has rotted down into the most amazing compost. Unfortunately, it's been left for so long that a great big bramble has taken over the top and a small mammal or two has taken up residence inside. Hopefully they'll relocate, Watership Down-style as we gradually dig away their home.

We then come to the patio. This is almost exactly the same size as our entire old garden. It is now housing all the plants we transported from London (until we work out where to plant them) and is surrounded by a rampaging and slightly eccentric herb garden: many kinds of thyme, lots of dill and fennel (I hate aniseed and feel faintly nauseous even pruning the stuff) and some rhubarb.

There's a summer house/shed thing, which is looking a bit sad but might do for a Wendy House for Rosie with a lick of paint. At the moment we're keeping pots and seed trays in there. Next to that is the hot tub. Yes, a hot tub. Apparently, it's out of commission due to faulty 'lower controls' but that should be a bit of fun come the summer...

We have a huge veg patch, which Steve dug over during the Bank Holiday weekend. We've already planted loads but barely half filled it. Next to the veg patch is yet more rhubarb and some fruit bushes: currants and possibly a gooseberry. Further round are some very old and ivy-ridden damson trees. Also here is our pallet compost heap (thanks Gardeners World!), which we've very nearly filled already, decorated with the dogwood prunings from the front garden.

Then down the final side, we have a very big fence (from where the cottage next door was separated from the main house), which is crying out for some planting to soften it up a bit.

Finally, we have the lawn, approximately 26 metres square. The last people very kindly left their ride-on mower, which Steve is enjoying immensely.

I have some squared paper and a notebook of measurements and am trying to come up with a plan, but it's all so incredibly BIG. We got so cunning at making the most of a tiny space that, now we've got so much, I don't really know where to start...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Wired for Sound

An interesting discovery today: a bunch of speaker cables poking through the corner of the lounge, sorry drawing room. Turns out you can pipe music through the whole ground floor! What we had previously thought were vents in the ceiling are actually recessed speakers. I feel fairly confident that the conservation officer didn't sign of on that particular 'modification'.

Whilst unbelievably kitsch, I think we'll leave them be for a while, at least until we've had the house-warming...

Incidentally, photos will follow, I promise, just as soon as we locate the correct cables to connect the camera to the computer.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Bob the Gas Man

'Twas on a Monday morning the gas man came to call.
The gas tap wouldn't turn - I wasn't getting gas at all.
He tore out all the skirting boards to try and find the main
And I had to call a carpenter to put them back again.

The Gas Man Cometh, Flanders & Swann

As it happens it was a Wednesday, and an afternoon, now I come to think about it, but Bob the Gas Man came nonetheless. I'd found him on the Gas Safe Register to give the boilers (yes, gentle reader, there's two of them - more anon...) the once over before we moved in. We ended up having a lot of phone conversations as the previous owners were a bit lackadaisical in returning his calls to book an appointment - we got there in the end though.

I mentioned that we were getting a new cooker delivered on the Wednesday before Easter - did he think he'd be able to fit it for us before the weekend?

"No problem. Just give me a ring and I'll pop over!"

The cooker arrives at lunchtime and Bob is on the doorstep within half an hour and gets straight to work, interspersed with useful nuggets of information on the best local pubs, curry houses, car servicing, restaurants, and his colourful history servicing the heating for Whitehall and the Royal Palaces.

Bob decides that the cable the previous fitter had used for the electric oven is not the right size so downs tools and nips over to B&Q to get the right stuff. He also points out that the gas attachment for the hob isn't in the best place, so, before you know it, that's been moved too.

Every time we hired a tradesman in London, we were a teeny bit disappointed with the work they did: they left a big mess afterwards, or cut corners, or took an age to finish. But Bob, he's just brilliant: quietly efficient, friendly, and cheap - for all the additional work, he charged an extra £15.

I love Bob the Gas Man.

Monday, 29 March 2010

101 Lightbulbs

I did an audit today and there are 101 bulbs in the house (not counting the garage and floodlights in the garden). And just one of them is a CFL. The previous owners clearly had very deep pockets when it came to energy bills!

Pretty much every room uses vast quantities of 60W candle bulbs, residing in ornate chandeliers, the kind with fake candle wax dripping down the side of the fitting - very tasteful. I think we need to find a bulk supplier of energy efficient bulbs pronto!

Which leads seamlessly to the exciting new world of switches! Nothing makes a great deal of sense yet. Light switches come in banks of eight or so, so you feel like you're producing a minor theatrical event whenever you enter a new room. Night one, we accidentally left the fountain running all night after having turned everything on in the utility room, trying to get the heating going; night two we accidentally left a floodlight in the back garden on - still have no idea how to control the outside lights, to be honest.

We've managed to confirm that the burglar alarm is very noisy, but are still unsure as to how to set it correctly.


We're In!

Well, we finally made it!

Four strapping men from Pickfords arrived on Friday morning, a bit grumpy at not only having to heft all our stuff down from the 3rd floor, but also halfway down the access road. Despite leaving notes for the neighbours and leaving out 'keep clear' notices some of the neighbours had blocked the lorry's access.

Despite the setbacks, it all went very quickly. They were loaded up by 9.30 and, once I'd done a quick clean, we were ready to go! I'd just dropped off the keys at the agents, when we got a call from our solicitor to say we'd completed. Wow. After every single thing to do with this purchase had taken so damn long, we'd managed to complete by 11am. Much whooping and delight all round and then the long drive to Kent, with two adults barely containing the excitement and one child snoozing in the back, completely oblivious.

We were clearly a bit all over the place by the time we got nearer. Should we get some lunch, then pick up the keys or pick up the keys then get some lunch? Pub lunch? Supermarket sarnies? After many wibbles and detours we finally arrived At Our New Home.

The magic of the moment was a little broken by Rosie tripping over the front doorstep as we came in and having four burly delivery men accompany us for our first tour of the house but even so, it was even bigger and better than we remembered. The previous owners had also obviously made a real effort to make us feel welcome, everything was clean and tidy and they'd left us a big folder of information, together with a nice bunch of flowers in the sink and some hot cross buns.

Parents-in-law arrived shortly afterwards and wrangled the small one whilst I directed boxes at the front door. All a bit bizarre as I hadn't seen most of them for four months and hadn't actually packed any of them!

The only big annoyance of the day was that our lovely fridge-freezer is too large to fit in the gap in the kitchen. Luckily the kitchen is so damn big (and/or our furniture is so damn small) that it's not a big problem for now, but we'll need to sort something out in the medium term.

After a huge takeaway from the local curry house, everyone retired to bed in a crumpled heap.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Pack up your troubles

I've been gently introducing the idea of moving to Rosie for the last week or so. She barely noticed the last move in December (from beautiful but compact home to The Flat) but this time I've been carefully breaking the news that everything she knows is going to change. We've mostly concentrated on the idea of boxes, as I thought this would be the thing she could grab hold of. Everything we own will go into boxes, then the men will come and take the boxes to Our New House but mummy and daddy and Rosie will still be together. She's coped pretty well, although I thought she was going to lose it at bedtime when she turned to wave goodnight to her In The Night Garden poster and it was gone! I think that was the moment when it all became real for her, and me.

So tomorrow, for the first time since a scant half hour one morning in September last year, we see our new house (lawyers permitting). I only hope it's a beautiful as I remember.

So, bye bye hell hole! Hello beautiful new life in the country!!*

*(that will inevitably fail to live up to my impossibly high expectations but will, nonetheless be infinitely better than what we've got at the moment.)