Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jabba the shed

When I wrote yesterday's post I could not for the life of me remember what Sunday's DIY had been. Now I remember: it was assembling a Bike shed from Homebase. As yet the shed does not have a name.

At Avon cottage we have four compost bins (not counting the fifth "Bin With No Name" down by the dustbins). The first three I bought at the same time and christened Tom, Dick and Harry after the tunnels in "The Great Escape". When we added a fourth I wanted it to be called Selene (after the Greek goddess of the moon) but Mary named it Gertrude (after Gertrude Jekyll the garden designer).

Then we bought a shed and I decided it too should have a name. I thought long and hard. All of a sudden inspiration struck - I would call it Jabba. I haven't stopped chortling since.

Now we have another (bike) shed and I am once again searching for inspiration and a name. Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A weekend of DIY

The weekend was not all post house-move DIY tasks. We started with a trip to Cineworld Wandsworth to see Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. We went with Tim&Sarah and their two children Alex&Zoe. A cracking film and no chav brawls outside the Spotted Dog.

Most of Saturday was very productively spent doing handyman tasks that went smoothly - not always the case! Bathroom shelf, cabinet and loo roll holder all sorted. Plus Mary did major wine shuffling in the cellar.

Sunday we had Mum&Dad round for a very enjoyable Sunday lunch followed by a little more DIY. There will be more in the weeks and months to follow I am sure. It is best to get as much done as possible in the early days or the danger is it never does get done.

Oh yes, and I am in Zurich today.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Garden furniture for cheap

Moving house has meant shopping and lots of it. All managed by the distaff side natch. This has meant everything from K&B knick-knacks to bed linen to furniture to a whole new shower room, central heating boiler and kitchen re-fit (though we are staggering the latter).

Now we have a garden we, of course, had to get some garden furniture as well. And here we had a bit of a result. I say *we* but my contribution was to pack an astonishing amount of teak into a BMW, drive it home and lug it into the house.

Courtesy of Criterion Riverside Auctions we bid for, and got, two and a half grand's worth of table, chairs, loungers, side tables, lazy Susan, parasol and cushions for a paltry 850 quid. OK they are second hand having been used as display items and lugged around from fair to exhibition but then what would new ones be like after a summer in the garden?

See, I am in touch with my feminine side. Isn't this is simply a variant of "I bought this in the sales, look at the money I've saved"?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Garden redesign at Avon Cottage

Nikki, a friend from CSC, recently took the same escape route that I did some six years ago and is now a person of leisure. Her passion is gardening and so we have commissioned her to do a small piece of work at the cottage.

She spent most of the weekend working in our garden with Mary and I pottering around her. I got co-opted for the occasional heavy bits like uprooting a Kilmarnock Willow.

The primary target was the bed next to the drive at the front and the first thing you see as you arrive at the cottage. Now completely dug out and dug over and re-planted with mostly evergreen silver-through-grey foliage.

In a few weeks time the secondary objective is to re-jig the flower beds at the back, adjacent to the house. That will involve some rose removal and shrub relocation. I have no idea what will take their place but all will be revealed soon enough.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Great Chefs' Dinner with Mark Hix

Another extravagant meal at BBR on Friday evening. They are running a series of designer chef evenings. Mark Hix runs The Ivy, Le Caprice and J. Sheekey.

Wild Duck and Elderberry salad

2000 Chablis Valmur, Grande Cru, Domaine Jean-Claude Bessin

Rock Eel 'Forrestiere'

2003 Dolcetta d'Alba, Luciano Sandrone

Braeburn Apple and Blackberry Jelly

2003 Coteaux du Lauon "St Auban", Domaine des Forges

Stinking Bishop with Oat Cakes and Onion Chutney

"Tonel 12" 10yr old Tawny Port, Quinta de la Rosa

Berrys' selected coffee and mints

Odd and brave to pair white wine with duck and red with fish. Mary thought they went well, I was less convinced. OTOH the Coteaux du Layon went superbly with the apple jelly.

The food was good but not brilliant and definitely NOT Value For Money. Having eaten Mark Hix's food and read the restaurant reviews (always a slightly biased source) I will not be rushing to book a place at the Ivy or Caprice although Sheekey might be worth a go.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Do something amazing

Give Blood goes the slogan. And so I did on Wednesday for the first time in about six years. Shameful that it took me so long really since I have been on this contract and in a stable location for over a year.

I always have been an erratic donor; it has taken me 30 years to get into the mid-teens. I am not sure exactly how many since the little paper tokens fell out of my donor card years ago and it is all computerised now anyway so I have become a man without a past.

I do remember my first donation back in 1975 for two reasons:

• Firstly, I stood up too quickly and nearly fainted. It was then I decided that 9¼ stone (59 kilo) was too light and spend the following period trying to eat more pasta and put a few pounds on.

• Secondly, the NBS wrote to me saying "Your blood group is of a type not often met with." Made me feel like Tony Hancock in The Blood Donor. Gone now, that card, it said I was negative donor but positive recipient (or was it the other way round). No matter, if it is an emergency they stuff you full of Type O and other times they test you first.

If you are able to give blood please do. For most of us it is the only chance we have to genuinely save lives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Home but not alone (2)

Unlike a previous Home but not alone this time I had a productive weekend. Mary was away Saturday and Sunday on an NLP Practitioner course and I was again Home but not alone.

For company I had the cat and a prodigious "To Do" list occupying a full sheet of A4 (double column). Priority One tasks were house-move related: fix the door and window locks, un-box the hi-fi, clear the smallest bedroom of boxes, write to the council (times several), unblock the moss from the drainpipe and so on...

Low on fun but high on job satisfaction. Ticking off things that needed to be done leaves a satisfying and slightly smug sensation.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Going back to my roots

* It would appear that our new house is less than three miles from my father's place of birth. He was born in Cambridge Mansions in Cambridge Road, SW11 and not as I have always, erroneously, believed Streatham.

At 81 my father is ever more aware of his own mortality. Last month he sent me a list of account details so that, as eldest son and joint executor, I would have an easier time sorting out his estate when the time comes.

He also recently traded in his old VW Polo for a Honda Jazz. He remarked that it would probably be the last car he buys until he gives up driving or, in his words, 'hands in his dinner pail'.

So I cycled past the mansions on my way in to work yesterday. Strange to look at that red brick block of flats and think my father was born there. I never knew that. And so more more about him I will probably never know. Roots indeed. <mood="thoughtful">

* Goin' back to my roots by Odissey

Friday, October 07, 2005

Isaac Newton invented the cat flap

I am much indebted to ScaryDuck for pointing me at the wonderful factoid that Isaac Newton invented the cat flap. It is in Wikipedia so it must be true.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

House Warming

Saturday was a far more enjoyable social event as we had not such much a party more an "At Home". The afternoon was mostly friends with children, the evening mostly those without. Sufficiently well spread out it was possible to get to talk to most everyone and give them the guided tour.

The day reinforced an insight from Friday night's gathering. On Friday evening the most frequent question was "What have you been up to for the past thirty years?" The answers mostly described points on the emotional trajectory of people's lives. For example, met wife in 76, had first child in 81, moved to Erewhon in 93, and so on. With children easily being the most important.

Having no children myself my answers lay upon three similar emotional dimensions:
* women: as a serial monogamist only Mary counts and I stop there
* home: and the new house really feels home from day one
* work: a poor third for them and me, going self employed being the only datum of note

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hertford College Gaudy

Friday night was the Hertford College Gaudy (college reunion dinner) as previously mentioned (Weird in a deja vue kind of way). Off to Oxford straight from work with my Moss Bros DJ in tow, Arrived just in time for the pre-dinner sherry followed by a very nice meal and a couple of pints down the college bar. Like Cinderella, I fled at midnight as I had a house-warming to attend on Saturday (my own).

The real pleasure was catching up with Alan who left at the end of the first year to go to Manchester University (not UMIST as I incorrectly wrote earlier). He came back to visit once every term for the next three years. He reminded me of what I had forgotten, that I went to visit him after college on a trip to the lake district. Mike was in good form but Pete was as sneering and cynical as ever and Vince was a no show as expected.

For me it was a chance to discuss with the others whether the college years were as miserable as I remember them. Mary says I paint too negative picture and should balance it with the plus points but for me there are not enough of those to tip the scales. The reasons why I did not enjoy college are many and varied but the margin is too narrow... Certainly looking round a roomful of strangers in black tie I felt zero affinity with those hallowed halls and maybe a little jealousy of those with fond memories, a sense of camaraderie and rose-tinted nostalgia.