Friday, June 23, 2006

The final cone

We are off tomorrow (Saturday) so this may be my last post for two weeks unless I can make it to the new internet cafe in Locorontondo.

Daniele has sent us more pictures to prove the squad are still "on the case". This cone did not need doing on practical grounds but it had been unsympathetically repaired by a previous owner. This obviously distresssed Daniele and he persuaded us to do an aesthetic repair to return it to its original condition. Like the cottage and another budget over-run. Ho-hum, I am a sucker for doing the right thing.

So in two week's time expect a rash of new piccies of the completed des res in the sun. Until then "live long and prosper".


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Packing for our holiday

Nowhere is the difference between the genders more apparent than in our respective approaches to packing for our holiday:

Mary [Holiday - 10]: What do I want to take with me? What is appropriate for our destination, time of year and latest weather forecast? Which items are still in fashion or favour? Which ensembles work together well? What is still in the laundry basket that needs to go through the washing machine in order to be clean and ironed in time to pack?

Mark [Holiday - 1]: Opens wardrobe. Is it clean? Yup. That'll do then, job done!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Avon Cottage on the market

So the deed is done. Saturday we whizzed down to the cottage for the day. Mary did weeding and internal tidying, Asher helped by clearing the weed patch round the quince and plum trees and I did jungle containment in the raspberry canes.

Then Bob Hill from Wessex Archeology came to inspect the works and draw up a snagging list. In the afternoon we had three estate agents (US:realtors) round to give an approximate valuation.

Yesterday we appointed one to act as our agent and got Bob&Lynn to drop the spare keys round to them. So I guess soon the cottage will be up on and though it might take them a couple of days.

It is going to be strange giving up the cottage. I have always said that the cottage, the cats and Mary were the most important things in my life with work a very poor fourth. I hope we find a buyer who is sympathetic to the needs of a 650 year old home.

Friday, June 16, 2006

T-Shirt humour

A guy at the Salisbury Festival on Saturday was wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend:

"There is a place for all God's creatures...
...right next to the potatoes and gravy!

This put me in mind of the many excellent T-shirts I saw when we were at the NO JazzFest, including:

"Vampire Support Group"
"Masquerading as an Adult"
"The Five Food Groups of Rock'n'Roll
• Alcohol
• Nicotine
• Caffeine
• Sugar
• Grease

Thursday, June 15, 2006

England swings like a pendulum do

Three times this last week Horse Guards Road has been closed for various events related to QE2's birthday and the ceremony of Beating The Retreat so I have been forced to cycle down the Mall, past "Buck House" and through Victoria.

Along the Mall there were not one, not two but three pairs of 'Bobbies on bicycles, two by two'*. Make no mistake these are not your rose-tinted bobbies but pedal-powered traffic cops. They have words with cyclists who run red lights and, I presume, can pursue pickpockets through crowds where a car chase would be, to say the least, inadvisable.

"Flashing Blue Bike"

* England Swings by Roger Miller

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm up on the eleventh floor

And I'm watching the cruisers below *

Well actually the first floor (US: second floor) but you get my drift.

Had a short notice get together with siblings and nephew Mike in Old Compton Street last night to see Jane&Pete's new pad in darkest Soho. As I crossed Dean Street I passed a couple going the other way. I heard the girl say something to her companion in a dark brown voice and had a Crocodile Dundee moment, "Strewth, that Sheila's a fella!".

The flat is one room with K&B but that's all they need for a crash-pad in the heart of the city. I will be able to meet Jane for lunch when she is up in town as it is only five minutes walk from work. Jane is very excited about this as her first job, *mumble* years ago, was just around the corner so this is a chance to revisit the haunts of her youth.

* Queen Bitch by David Bowie

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Working on the cottage

The weekend was another two days of rushing about like maniacs. Up on Saturday morning to cut the lawn and get through a couple of wash loads. Hang them on the line and then off to Avon Cottage to inspect the progress on the works.

In early 2004 we had all the windows refurbished *and* we had a leak in the thatch which forced us to have the cottage re-thatched (see "Thatch before 1/4" and following). Both of which left plasterwork in need of repair.

We are going to have to sell the cottage. We don't want to but the cost of supporting two mortgages doesn't make sense. So we need to get it in a fit state to sell. Thus we need to get all that internal work done.

Plus the previous owners had been liberal in the use of cement and modern plastic based paints. Not good for an old timber-framed building. While we were about it we decided to do the right thing by the building.

exposed brickwork in timber framework bulding

So as well as internal repairs, we are having the walls stripped of the modern cr*p, repointed with lime putty and limewashed with traditional materials. We regard ourselves as custodians not owners and want to leave it in a better state than we found it.

After a quick inspection it was tidy up indoors and take rubbish to the tip, getting the place ready for vistors next week end so they don't arrive to find a building site. Then off to the Salisbury Festival with Bob&Lynn for a picnic in the cathedral grounds, a jazz concert and fireworks. Sunday morning was a quick (4 hour) blitz round the garden targetting the biggest weeds, then off to London for an afternoon of furniture rearranging. By eight o'clock we were distinctly zombie like through sheer exhaustion.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Pictures from Daniele

Daniele, our architect, emailed me some photos yesterday - proof positive that the workmen continue to work even in our absence:
Lorry Delivering Flagstones
Lorry Delivering Flagstones
This is where some of the budget overrun is going.

Courtyard Started
Courtyard Started
The first line of stones in place.

Back Door Path
Back Door Path
We are having a metre wide path all around the perimeter of the building.

Roof Terrace Completed
Roof Terrace Completed
This is where we watch the sun set with a glass of vino bianco.

Pizza Oven Work-in-Progress
Pizza Oven Work-in-Progress
Oven at the back, wood store on the right, doors to be added to give us storage space for garden furniture.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Michael McLellan paintings

Two more of Dad's paintings, "Charon" and "Multiple Images":

Charon, painting by Michael McLellan

"Charon" by Michael McLellan

Multiple Images, painting by Michael McLellan

"Multiple Images" by Michael McLellan

See also
"Michael McLellan - Limited Edition Prints" (previous Blog post)
"" (Dad's website)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bits and bobs

Pied-a-terre: My sister Jane and husband have exchanged on their one-room flat in Soho with completion early next month. So we can look forward to some evenings of jollity in Soho (see "Walking in the Wild West End").

I'm sorry I'll read that again: It must be having done too many crosswords that causes me to parse things oddly. Last time I was in Waitrose I bought a stir fry pack containing "Free Range Egg Noodles".

That's nice I thought, these egg noodles are keep in fields and allowed to roam free, not like factory farmed noodles. Then I re-read and thought Ah I think they mean the chickens that produced the eggs.

Marriage of Convenience: I was amused by Empire Magazine's 'Book of Movie Trivia' suggestion that Whoopi Goldberg should marry Peter Cushing so she could become Whoopi Cushing.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Visitors from Elgin

This weekend we had Ros&Craig from Elgin (see"Elgin Itinerary") staying with us for the weekend. We decided to do a Young's Brewery tour after the success of the last one (see "Piss up in a brewery"). We were joined by another friend, Paul, who is a big Young's fan. He plans to have a drink in every single Young's pub and has managed well over a hundred so far.

The tour was even better than last time, the guide knew his stuff and kept the facts, figures and anecdotes coming. At the end of the tour we retired to the Brewery Tap for a tasting. Last time we were served a pint (or two halves). This time the guide said, "Ok we'll sample all the keg beers then move on to the bottles".

The tasting glasses were about a third of a pint and we sampled the ordinary (bitter), the special (best bitter), waggledance (a honey beer), St George's (seasonal summer ale), stout (a dark beer) and double chocolate (a dark, sweet beer with, you guessed it, chocolate). Then on to the bottles: a lager, Ramrod, and finally Old Nick - a barley wine at 8 percent - not advisable for a long drinking session!

A most excellent tour after which we had to retire to the garden and the sun-loungers for a little siesta.

Sunday we took our guests on a walking tour of the local environs: along the Thames path, over Wandle creek, lunch at 'Ghillies on the River', a circuit of Wandsworth park and back home for a quick turn-around and out again into central London.

We queued up for two and a half hours to get into the Comedy Store to see the Comedy Store Players (including Eddie Izzard) do a two hour set of 'improv'. It was OK but I think I would have preferred standup comedy. An Italian meal after and home by midnight. Then Monday go into work to recover from the weekend.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Wedding Anniversary

Not ours but my parents. Yesterday was their 55th wedding anniversary. Not bad going. When Mary and I get to that stage I shall be 96 (yes, ninety-six, I married late). Let's hope I live that long!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Completion of the hovel in sight

This weekend's visit was the most encouraging so far. There were signs of progess on the Lamia House* not least of which was workmen on site doing banging and hammering. Previous visits have been marked by a noticeable lack of any activity or progress (see "Trulli update for April 06" and "Trulli interior").

This is partly due our friend Anne learning from our experience. She commissioned Daniele, our architect, to install a pool for her with stiff time penalties, to whit: if not complete by the start of the season you don't get paid. So now that her pool and terracing is all but done the squad have transferred their allegiance back to us.

This is a bedroom in the Trulli House which is compact - don't be fooled by the wide angle lens. We went for minimalist furnishings, a small canvas covered, pine mini-wardrobe and a hat stand. The joy of these rooms is that, lying in bed, you look up into the interior of the cone.

bedroom in trulli bedroom in trulli looking up

In the Lamia house we now have internal doors with elegantly slim metal frames and glass panels with hooks for curtains. They are really well made and clunk nicely into place. We have kitchen worktop with extra-thick (6 cm) marble. We have a bath where previously was a hole and pipes poking out of the wall. The electrician was doing final wiring so the plasterer could come in the following day and do the last decorative coat.

kitchen in lamia bathroom in lamia

All in all it look like it might actually be ready for our holiday end of June. In terms of the old triple constraint we are way over time (18 months), way over budget (don't even ask) and over quality (but that I can happily live with).

Daniele keeps pacifying us with "It will be worth the wait" and it is true that he has done a wonderful restoration in a most sypathetic and authentic manner. He has been collecting and recycling old stones for the courtyard so that it will look original rather than a smooth, modern intrusion.

flagstones for courtyard view across valley from lamia roof

Finally a view across "our" valley from the roof of the Lamia House. What you will not see is any houses. What you cannot hear are the cow bells as the herd across the valley wander homeward for the evening milking. This valley is so quiet we do not even get the nightly Italian dog chorus echoing back and forth. I am really looking foward to our proper holiday at the end of the month, two whole weeks of this :-)

* There are two halves to the property. Five cones make up the "Trulli house", two cones plus a rectangular agricultural building or "lamia" make up the "Lamia house".

The wit of the Oirish

Sunday morning I was scalping the small pocket handkerchief of grass that passes for our front garden in Wandsworth when a bloke stopped and leaned over the small brick wall.

"Yer doin' a grand job there" he commented in a pronounced Irish brogue.
   "Thank you" I replied.
"What you want to do," he advised, "is sprinkle a bottle of whiskey over the grass".
   Walking straight into it, I exclaimed "A waste of good whiskey!".
"Ah but," he quipped "when it grows back it'll come up half cut".