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.