Friday, December 06, 2019

Benson Row - 08

Penrith, Cumbria, UK. November-2019.

For me the week in November was all about painting. In a feeble attempt to save money I did decorating, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, a full week of roller and brush. I painted the ceilings in the kitchen, dining room, stair well and upstairs landing in Dulux Brilliant White. Then changed to White Mist and went back round again doing all the walls!

Allen, our kitchen designer, was also having fun with paint. Mary found a bendy spatula that was just the right shade for the kitchen units. It matches nicely with the Dulux colour Country Sky. Unfortunately normal emulsion is unsuitable for spraying, you need special paint with the right viscosity and added hardener and that changes the colour. Scanning the shiny-surfaced spatula didn't work and getting the dry paint to match the colour we want is an ongoing challenge. This is causing significant delays to the kitchen installation.

The doorway into our bedroom had a curious second lintel which, on the reverse side, was showing cracks. Removing the boxing revealed an oak lintel which we suspect was inserted when the middle and rear house where knocked into one. The builder declared the cracks to be of no consequence. We are going to leave the beam exposed rather than box it back in again.

There was damp at one end of the upstair corridor wall. Poking our heads up the loft hatch only gave a view along the front and middle roof spaces. The space above our bedroom was blocked off by what was once the back wall before the third dwelling was added on. The only way to see what was going on was to cut a hole in the ceiling. The roof space was dry and well insulated, the builder reckons the damp was condensation.

Slow progress in the under-stairs shower room. The walls are skimmed and painted. The last screed is down and the lino on top. Still to do are plumbing in the shower, sink, loo and towel rail.

Several people suggested using the space under the cellar stairs for wine storage. You spoke, we listened.

Next update in December.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

There will be wine (and beer and more wine)

Champagne and Sparkling Wine.

Philglas and Swiggot. Battersea. Thursday, 31-October-2019.

A walk around tasting of champagnes and sparkling wines and from around the world. Some very knowledgeable presenters made it an informative evening. In particular, for me, it highlighted the huge variety of grape varieties used to make sparkling wines. Champagne may use pinot noir, chardonnay and a little pinot meunier but producers of presecco, cava and Tasmanian sparkling have others grapes at their disposal. Our three favourites bottles were:
  • Antonij Rupert L'Ormarins MCC Brut NV
  • LLopart Brut Reserva Cava 2016
  • House of Arras Tasmania 'Grand Vintage' 2008
11th Wandsworth Beer Festival.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building, Wandsworth. Saturday , 02-November-2019.

Our third WBF at the wonderful gothic pile that is Royal Victoria Patriotic Building. It was the last night of the festival and beers were running low. Our friends who arrived half an hour after us got in for free because so many barrels had run out!

I focussed on porter and stout as I dislike this current fad for overly sharp pale ales. I started at the back of the catalogue hoping to catch some beers still on offer as I am sure many start on page 1. Even so only half the dark beers were still showing. I had enough to provide a satisfactory tasting but might think about an earlier start next year.

Afterwards we went with our friends for a lovely Italian meal at the family run Dan and Angel, named after the owners two children.

Wine Society Dining Club 277th dinner.

Drapers Hall, London. Tuesday, 05-November-2019.

At the other end of the spectrum from the beer festival is fine claret at a black tie dinner in the elegant surroundings of the Drapers' Hall.

The WSDC proposition is that the members of the main Wine Society buy wines for laying down and some years later consume them when they are ready for drinking.

The theme was "The Three Leovilles". We had an informative introduction to the wines, a lovely meal with superb wines and talked to charming strangers.


Sunday, December 01, 2019

Our 26th wedding Anniversary

Royal Albert Hall, London. Wednesday, 30-October-2019.

We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary by ticking off one of Mary's bucket list items: a hospitality box at the Royal Albert Hall.

Last year for the big one, our 25th, we made it just the two of us in a hotel in the Lake District with a very nice meal. This year might have been similar but Ronnie Scotts decided to celebrate their 60th anniversary with a special concert in the RAH. As a member of Ronnie Scott's Mary gets advance notification through the mailing list. She saw this event and was able to grab the last available hospitality box.

The box seats eight. The first four were easy, my best man Pete and his wife Amanda, Mary's matron of honour Geraldine and her husband Alisdair. That's left two seats and too many siblings. So we invited Mary's old boss, and now friends, Grant and his wife Helen to complete the set.

The floor of the house was set up cabaret style, like a giant version of Ronnie's club.

Geraldine and Mary.

AJ Rahney at London Jazz News writes:
"On stage the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars house band quintet led by Pete Long, and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, accompanied a terrifying cast of talents, each of whom brought their own personal connection to the club." Full review...
Artistes included: Judi Jackson, Ian Shaw, Natalie Williams, Curtis Stigers, Liane Carroll, China Moses, Nigel Kennedy, Ezra Collective, Kinetika Bloco, Courtney Pine, Kurt Elling, Imelda May, Roy Ayres, Madeline Bell and Van Morrison. One of the more surprising performances was Nigel Kennedy playing Jimi Hendrix but apparently he has been doing this for 20 years [Google "Nigel Kennedy Jimi Hendrix"].

Ronnie Scott played the tenor sax and so were many of the early artists he booked. As a tribute the final part of the evening was 60 sax players on stage and parading around the hall.

We had our own dedicated waiter and ample food and drink included in the price.

A great way to celebrate our wedding anniversary in style with the best of friends.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Winter Droving 2019

Penrith, Cumbria. Saturday 26-October-2019.

Our fourth Winter Droving in Penrith. The usual fun mix of craft and street food stalls, live entertainment throughout the day with acts on several stages and itinerant performers.

An innovation this year to encourage the wearing of masks all day - a checkpoint with fast track for those wearing masks and winding barriers for those bare-faced, policed by suitably officious border guards.

Our friend Kate had no problem at Mask Control!

Lunch was some very tasty lamb merguez in a bun from the jolly staff at Hallsford Farm.

Live music at the bandstand, one of several acts we saw.

Lots of laughs at a regular feature of the day: The Drovers Cup featuring the tray-of-beer relay race, the hay-bale and sack of potatoes relay race, and ...

...the egg hurling.

The highlight of the evening is the giant lantern parade.

Groups of marchers.

Illuminated brass band.

Drummers and the giant stag.

Supper was in a newly opened tapas restaurant La Casita which warrants a return visit. After supper our friends went for a nightcap at Fell Bar but we peeled off and went to bed after a full day.

Looking forward to The Winter Droving 2020.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Benson Row - 07

Penrith, Cumbria, UK. October 2019.

There has been much progress since the last visit. Following advice from our builder the wall between the front bedroom and bathroom has been moved and made good on both sides.

Boarded and plastered. Not only did we gain a meter from the bathroom but also from the corridor; the old bedroom door is now a meter back from its previous position.

The builder put a single base coat of white emulsion to help keep the dust down for the brother-in-law's visit, his asthma is triggered by, amongst other things, dust. It will also make the re-decorating easier for me, one less coat to apply.

The new alcove takes the Ikea shelving which frees up space for the cot-bed that we had purchased for the alcove in the middle bedroom which we lost to accommodate the stairwell.

All ready for our next visitors.

The bathroom now looks like a normal sized bathroom with the moved wall lined up with the bath. The old tiles had a narrow, dated looking border. That and the row of tiles next to it have been chiselled out and replaced by some modern mosaic tiles. A simple trick to make a stylish improvement. Oh, and we replaced all the dripping taps with new ones and installed a new heated towel rail and downlights.

Under the stairs work has begun on preparing the space for the plumber to install the loo and shower.

Boarded and plastered. The shower cubicle will be straight ahead.

The loo will be off to one side.

The plumbing in the cellar is being boxed in (apart from the gas pipe which under current regs must NOT be boxed in). To cut a long story short almost every piece of heating pipework, cold water supply and electrical cabling throughout the entire house has been replaced.

The kitchen is all plastered and given a primer coat of emulsion. Now all the white goods and cabinets are delivered it is getting a bit busy in there. My job is to give is a top coat of wipeable kitchen paint before the kitchen fitter does his stuff.

The stairwell now has walls and a ceiling. Before you could see right up into the loft space were they had to replace the rafters and install a firebreak between us and the flying freehold. The temporary handrails will go and there will be glass panels and new handrails but these will only be fitted right towards the end.

The middle bedroom is now definitely a single as we had to steal an alcove to accommodate the stairwell. Still it is cosy enough.

Just just when we thought the Money pit had a reached Australia our builder said “there is a bit of a void underneath the hallway”. So we had a look and it was space under the cellar stairs that had been bricked up.

So we bashed open a hole. We had a peer and said that will make a handy lockable storage space.

Bashing complete revealed a handy space with stone steps. We will have a small antechamber and door fitted but maybe not just yet.

What this shows is looking up at the underside of the cellar steps. They are made of great blocks of solid stone set into the walls either side. Pretty chunky!

Next visit we should see something more closely resembling a home, apart from the kitchen,

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Real Ale Train at The Watercress Line

Alresford, Hampshire. Saturday 21-September-2019.

The birthday treats continued with a journey aboard the RAT: the Real Ale Train on the Watercress Line. The journey begins at Alresford and shuttles back and forth to Medstead and Four Marks several times with the train swapping ends each trip.

All the stations and rolling stock are done in original, period style as are the staff (volunteers) who are clearly having a good time.

First order of the day, get a round in with our friends Gavin and Tania.

The platform at Alresford; all very "Brief Encounter".

The locomotive coming in for the first leg.

Medstead at the end of the first leg. The station master doing his best skinny "Fat Controller" impression.

Swapping ends at Medstead.

The loco in motion.

Reattaching at the other end for the first return leg.

The bar: four barrels of cask-conditioned ale. Alas I cannot tell you their names but I do remember they were all modest strength, around 3.8 ABV, suitable for full evening's drinking.

Supper was a basic selection at the station buffet back at Alresford: chicken jalfrezi, cheeseburger, chilli con carne and a couple of other choices. All clearly, freshly home made and tasty but they were ultra-restrained on the chilli powder and could have easily upped the heat to some advantage.

 An interior of one of the open carriages.

After several hours and several pints we staggered off home having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.