What a mess

How different things look after some tidying up! I have been enjoying some really sound sleep for quite a while now, all due of course to my being busy with my projects. I wake up feeling refreshed just as I ought to and it sets me up for the day, usually to do some more work! It may look as though all I do is work but it isn’t true, I do rest and do other things as well. What I prefer to do is to get the bulk of my work done in the mornings but sometimes I end up working through the afternoon too. I try to keep a tight rein on work for I will only wear myself out if I attempt too much. Yesterday’s post mentions a new project I am tackling with E’s assistance  now and then. It was she who suggested the work be carried out as I suppose she just got fed up with the state of the store-room and to be honest I agreed with that. So in yesterday’s post you will see just how untidy that small room was but after today’s effort it now looks like this

Empty! Behind the door is a work of art…..

One way to clean a brush after use I suppose. I am as guilty as the next person for doing similar but I usually do it on walls that are going to be painted later. I don’t think that door has seen a lick of paint on the inside for many years, certainly long before we moved into the house anyway. There was a free-standing unit at the rear of the room which I moved out and put into the adjacent much larger room we call the workshop which itself needs a thorough clean out. Most of what we took out of the storage room has been put in the workshop but much has also been scrapped too. Now the serious work can begin, replacing bricks, filling in holes in the brick walls and floor tiles, work on the ceiling and shelving, sealing the brickwork and of course painting it all. It will take some time to do but as I usually say these days there is no hurry.

Shirley Anne

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The things I do

For one reason or another I felt so tired I went to bed early, that is just after ten o’clock on Tuesday (3rd) evening. Perhaps it was the hassle we had in getting the mortgage paid off. Anyway it served to get me up much earlier on Wednesday and I was downstairs before seven-thirty eating breakfast. E wouldn’t appear until ten o’clock! I began thinking of things I could do but first I had to bring up from the cellar some items of food from the freezer and some canned food too. The upstairs freezer was short on stock but I needed the canned food because I had decided to prepare a Bolognese Sauce for later in the day. That required canned tomatoes and mushrooms. I should use fresh foods for that but as I often make things on the spur of the moment canned foods are easier. It wasn’t long before the sauce was done. Whilst I had been downstairs in the cellar I noticed some of the pipe insulation I had fitted a week or so earlier had shrunk a little in length in one or two places. This can happen with new insulation until it is settled. It was easy enough to cut some small sections of insulation and squeeze them into the spaces to seal the gaps. This I did next before returning upstairs again. E still hadn’t arrived downstairs so I decided I would bake a cake and set about preparing that. This time I was baking another Family Fruit Cake. Easy to prepare and bake:
Ingredients:
1 lb self-raising flour
1/2 lb unsalted butter
1/2 lb fruit (sultanas, currants and some chopped lemon peel (if desired)
1/2 lb caster sugar
Small quantity of milk
2 Standard eggs

Method:
Put flour and butter in mixing bowl and mix together by hand to form a crumble.
Add fruit and caster sugar to the mixture then the eggs with a few tablespoons of milk. Using a metal spoon mix thoroughly until a soft paste is formed but not too moist. Add a little extra milk as you mix. The mixture should be firm enough to handle and not be dry.
Prepare a small baking tin (say 8 inches) by lining it with parchment paper and covering it with butter using fingers. The paper should stand an inch or so above the edge of the tin to allow the cake to rise. Scoop mixture into tin and level out leaving a small dimple at the centre to discourage it rising there too quickly. Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 350 F /180 C for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Using a wooden probe test to see if mixture has baked through to the centre near to the end of the baking period. Don’t open the oven door before then or the cake may not rise! If it hasn’t set in the centre then leave in the oven a little longer.

Just as I was about to place the cake in the oven E came into the room. We chatted and we discussed what we would like to do in the cellar regarding a storage room down there. She has been asking for quite some time that she would like to as she puts it ‘sort it out’. Well it does need sorting out…..

Don’t you agree? It is one of those rooms where everything gets dumped and is almost forgotten about though we are often in there looking for tools and materials for use on projects. Looks like we will be busy again soon ‘tidying it up’.

Shirley Anne

One last look

It was now Wednesday morning and I hadn’t anything special to look forward to in the way of work or anything else either but there was one thing I had to do nevertheless. I had to tidy up the gym/boiler room and collect and put tools, paint and paint brushes away as well as cleaning them beforehand. Thirty minutes should have been enough time but I ended up taking two and a half hours! Minor touching up of paintwork and giving the rear door which leads out into the garden a thorough cleaning both inside and out all added to the total time I had spent down in the room.

Note the washing had been cleared from the line by E the night before so the room appears as it does for the majority of the time. Even if all three washing lines are full of washing none of it would interfere with the use of any of the equipment in the room but look at the open space now that we have cleared out the clutter that once occupied it. The project is for all intents and purposes now complete but as I mentioned in yesterday’s post I have yet to treat the floor. Already I have the next project in my thoughts but I will tell you about that when I tackle it.

Shirley Anne

Darned thing

So Saturday (24) came along and I was up early once again. During the last few days we had discovered that the dampness in the bottom of the cupboard in the gym we have been decorating wasn’t drying up. It had to be caused by an ingress of water from outside the building. I had given it a few days to dry but it stayed wet. Two things are at work here. Firstly, the house walls were not constructed with a damp-proof course or membrane and secondly, the boiler room floor is below the ground level outside. I have no real idea why when it was laid the builders made it so. The house was built in 1877 but a quarter of the boiler room being part of an extension built we think at the turn of the century, that is 1900, was added to the already low floor. It is the only room below ground level at the rear of the house though at the front the rooms there are below ground only because earth was piled-up in front of the house…

There are vestiges of former windows below the soil level which have been bricked in. I suppose the thinking was because the ground the house stands upon is sandy there was enough drainage as not to become a problem. Anyhow on Friday I got to thinking about what I could do about the ingress of water and from where it was coming. When I took measurements I discovered that the floor inside the cupboard was nine bricks down from the window in the room but outside only seven courses are visible above the path and eight just where the wall ends at the grid. Now the grid is below the path so it puts it at the same level as where the dampness appears inside. On checking the brickwork I found gaps in the mortar at ground level and especially around the grid. I decided to mix some fine cement and use it to seal off the gaps both along the base of the wall and around the grid earthenware.

I used a small amount of what was left to patch up the plinth beneath the boiler

and then I set about painting the shelves and insides of the doors of the cupboard which now will only need touching up here and there,

Saturday and Sunday were forecast as dry and sunny and as I write this on Saturday lunchtime it is indeed sunny. It needed to be dry at least so the cement can set.

Shirley Anne

The fat end

When we talk about the thin end of a wedge we are usually referring to the start of something big. Sometimes those things may be good and sometimes they may not. The wedge I am referring to is a good one, the project I have been engaged with over the last few weeks, the gym room. I am now at the thick end of that wedge where it all comes together as a finished work. There is still more to do but the major part of the work at least is over. It is now Tuesday 20 th and this morning I was busy at it again. I wanted to paint the doors of the boiler cupboard in the red colour we had chosen for the woodwork in the room. This I did first of all and I was going to give them another coat later in the day to finish that part of the work but I didn’t get around to doing that on the day. While the paint was drying I set about clearing out the room cupboard and began working on the inside of it. First of all I had to insert a brick in the wall where there had been a hole. I could feel a draught coming from the wall’s cavity. I cut the brick and mixed some mortar with which to set it in the hole (Top right beneath and above new ceiling in picture below). Next task was to remove the loose plaster from the exposed laths of the cupboard ceiling  and tidy up the mess. Finally I was able to construct a false wooden ceiling making the cupboard ready for a few coats of paint.

E had been to the hospital for treatment and returned just as I was finishing the work. I had agreed to pay for her computer repairs so I got changed and we drove down to the shop to collect it. By now it was approaching one-thirty so I decided we might dine out. E of course never declines such offers so we drove to a carvery and had a full-sized meal. On our return home we called in to see our neighbour who is chronically ill with emphysema. She struggles to breath at times and has oxygen cylinders to hand at home. She was happy so see us and grateful for the visit. As far as my working day was concerned it was finished but Wednesday beckoned!

Shirley Anne

Lots of hours

I deliberately retired to bed early on Monday evening so I could be up and working early on Tuesday. I wanted to replace at least some of the pipe insulation before the heating fired up. I concentrated on this corner of the room as I am moving along doing a section at a time and this part where the treadmill stands was next.

Once the insulation was fitted I could paint it and of course the ceiling and walls in the area too. The dark patches you see in the picture(s) is plaster. I had been patching up several large holes but they couldn’t be painted until they were dry. Further along to the left in the picture I continued to patch up the ceiling as well as replacing insulation,

The pipes are so close to the wall and ceiling in places which made fitting the insulation very difficult. I wrapped tape around where it was possible, especially on the small pieces. The tape will be hidden when it is painted over, as in the top picture. The bottom picture shows a detailed view of the area which presented me with some awkward work. The round white junction box on the ceiling near to the pipes had been installed far too close and it had to be moved, rather difficult when there was little slack in the wiring but hey I am (was) an electrician! The more awkward work was fitting a thin board to cover a large hole in the ceiling above the pipes. The board is brown in colour as it hasn’t as yet been painted. Several pipes and cables enter the hole so I had to ensure they were not moved or trapped. The problem with the hole is it couldn’t easily be patched any other way. The house is old (1877) and has lath and plaster ceilings which cannot be restored without a lot of mess. The only solution would be to fit plasterboard but even that is a messy job. For such a small hole in a room in the cellar in an out-of-the-way position I think doing it the way I did was the best way. Other holes were filled-in as I went along. The room is taking a long time to decorate because of these side issues but there’s no hurry. It has given me the opportunity to clear out many of the things we stored in the room which will now be stored elsewhere. This outdoor furniture for instance

can be stored in the garage now that it is cleaner than it used to be. That whole area needs clearing out anyway to allow decorating to continue. I spent four hours working in the room before lunch and another four after lunch!

Shirley Anne

Slow but sure

I was so keen to begin work again on Monday that I made it my business to be up early to get on with it. My or should I say our latest project is decorating the gym/boiler room though E has not been too involved in the work. That is mainly due to her limited ability because of her condition. Though she may be willing there is little she can do. Having said that she has painted one of the internal doors. On Saturday she began painting the door in a salmon pink colour but after discussion we decided red would be a more suitable colour.  We had some left over from my painting the front lounge ceiling detail last summer. 

On the left-hand wall just below the pipes I manufactured and fitted a door stop first thing after breakfast but the main area of work during the morning was in the corner around the treadmill.

Of course I had to raise the treadmill to its vertical position and cover it with sheets as you can see. In the next picture you can see the ceiling and wiring I was working on.

The wiring on the wall and ceiling needed fixing securely for much of it was simply dangling. There were large holes in both the wall and the ceiling which needed filling and that took much time to do. Before those repairs can be painted over they will need skimming over again. My intentions are to work slowly but surely around the room and completing each small area as I go. Whilst I was doing that work E was painting the door. After lunch E didn’t join me as there was nothing she could do. I however concentrated on painting around the entrance door, that part of the ceiling up to and above the up-righted treadmill and the wall adjacent to it before the paint ran out. By now it was four o’clock and I thought it not worth continuing by opening a new can of paint so I stopped work for the day. We had a delivery of pipe insulation but only one carton had been sent, something to do with them not having it all in stock. The second was promised on Tuesday instead.

The carton contains 48 x 1 metre lengths of insulation.

Shirley Anne

A fine end

Sunday, the last day of the year turned out to be bright and sunny, The temperature hovered around 9 deg C all day though a stiff breeze made it feel colder. Still, it was nice to be outdoors when sheltered from that wind. I had deliberately arisen early so that I could drive to the beach to collect some more stones. I left the house around seven-thirty and by the time I had parked the van in the car park near to the beach it was beginning to enter the twilight zone. Twilight for me is the best part of any day and I am glad I live in a place where we have a period of twilight twice a day. Anyway, the wind felt stronger down on the sand but I persevered and collected quite a few stones while it was still quite dark. I made three short trips to and from the van to collect the stones in a plastic bag to then place them in a large bucket I had stored in the van. I should have taken a couple of more trips at that time but I was beginning to feel tired and cold. I could always return later. Before returning indoors on my arrival back home at eight-thirty I decided to make an attempt at sliding the hard neoprene strip back into the guide on the garage door. If my readers will remember it had slid out a couple of weeks ago and I informed the installer to have it repaired. At the time of writing this on the last day of the year there has been no follow-up from them. I will have to inform them it has been repaired. After doing that small job I took a parcel we had received on behalf of our neighbour across the road to give it to her who at the time it arrived wasn’t at home, then I went indoors for my breakfast. E came into the kitchen just as I had finished eating. After breakfast I donned my overalls and went into the garden to empty out the stones and to dig out a couple of montbretia plants.

Still not enough stones to cover the soil so I would have to do some more collecting. With that in mind E and I drove down to the beach in the afternoon and whilst I went to collect more stones she sat inside the van admiring the sea view. From her vantage point however I was invisible because of the intervening sea wall. I collected a small bucket full of stones which I placed in the empty space when we returned home…..

It looks full now but in fact there is space for a few more. I plan to put some other plants in the area later so some of the stones will move to create a space for them. It should then look fuller. (Click on pics to magnify)

Shirley Anne

Nine in the bag

Many months ago I began writing more posts than I wanted to put out at once. At first there were only one or two but for some weeks now that number has risen to nine! It gives me a cushion if nothing else but as I think of things to write about I have to note them down else forget them. There are times I struggle with subjects to write about so it is handy having something to fall back on when that happens. I don’t like writing lengthy posts for fear of boring my readers, if anyone wishes to read more there are probably three and a half thousand other former postings to delve into. That however is entirely up to my readers. Today as I write this it is Tuesday 24 October. This post is scheduled for November 2, today as you read it. I had one of those days whereby I didn’t wish to get out of bed but I finally made it downstairs just after ten nevertheless. E had been up for an hour and had eaten breakfast whereas I just had a banana and went out for a walk. It was almost noon by the time I got back. I waited until after one before having my lunch with E. She had mentioned something about the leak we had in the downstairs front lounge, the one we haven’t used in years because it is filled with my son’s furniture. That is another story but we are fortunate to have two other lounges so not being able to use that one right now isn’t a problem. E was hinting that maybe I should be taking a look outside to see if there was anything I could do to prevent further leaks. She had noticed the leak in the bay window area when we had the storm ‘Brian’ come our way over the weekend (21/22). The wind had forced the rain behind the lead flashing we had thought but it needed looking at to determine if that was true. So before preparing lunch I got the ladder out and investigated the problem. In the area outside I discovered a loose brick, a couple of holes in the brickwork and exposed timbers behind the guttering. The area in question is at the top left-hand-side of the bay in the picture behind where the drain pipe connects to the guttering. I mixed some cement and somehow managed to squeeze it in behind the guttering to fill in the holes and cover the area with it. I also filled in other gaps in the brickwork as well as inserting some plastic sheeting beneath some of the roof tiles with which to cover the exposed timbers. The work didn’t take long and soon everything was packed away again before we went inside for lunch. At this time I cannot say how successful the repairs will be but one thing I do know is that I have done as much as I could under the circumstances. What I would really like to happen is to have the roof removed and a new redesigned version fitted instead. I have never liked the roof over the bay window. That work would be best done during the summer months. In the meantime we play the waiting game and hope the repairs are successful.

Shirley Anne

Walking through the day

We had been informed that warmer and drier weather was coming our way for a couple of days, an ideal time to be doing any outdoor work that was necessary. It was Saturday (14) and I had plans to do some patching up of the garage floor, completing the ramp I had put there many years ago and filling in a couple of holes with concrete after the recent work we had done. First though I wanted to go for a longish walk as I hadn’t been able to do any walking other than the two miles I had walked a couple of days earlier. I hadn’t been too well and had remained more or less indoors for a few days. I arose early and went out as soon as I was downstairs. I walked south along the coastal road to Ainsdale and onto the beach there turning northward to walk back home. I was surprised how many folk were out and on the beach so early on a Saturday morning. It was about eight forty-five when I arrived there. The round trip from home on that route is just over seven miles. I have to admit to feeling a little tired but that was probably due to my not eating breakfast and not having been out for a while. I did take a banana along with my bottle of water. Anyhow I ate breakfast on my return home and after a short time donned my overalls and got on with the concrete mixing. For this work I used 6 mm granite chippings in the mix rather than using grit which would result in a finer concrete as it would have to withstand a vehicle passing over it. These are the holes which required filling after the old wood frame was removed and the existing floor ramp which was never finished years ago…

The ramp exists because the garage floor is almost level with the concrete drive leading to it. When we had heavy downpours of rain it sometimes ended up inside the garage so I constructed a ramp to prevent that happening. It does the job but it needed the back edge finishing. Here are pictures of the finished work.

   The van wasn’t going anywhere for a couple of days! Rain water flows into the grid shown which is lower than the surrounding concrete drive. The drain pipe actually runs beneath the garage floor to connect with the main drains at the rear of the house. That work had been done when we built the garage back in 1988/9. Much has changed since then. After lunch I added an extra fixing to secure the new bird box I had fitted a week earlier then carried on with some gardening work. Who said retirement would be boring with nothing to do?

Shirley Anne