The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Extension Part 6 - The Stop of the Beginning

Alan started work proper on Wednesday. I was awoken to loud bangs - he was filling in our porosity test hole. Then he commenced clearing the area at the back of the house. There were more loud noises as the concrete cladding/plastic sheeting at the bottom of the house wall was taken off - we have no idea what it was for. Then he started to dig the foundations for the utility room.

At about 12.45 he came round to the house. We had a problem. The foundations of the wall at the back were not deep enough - it would be too dangerous to dig down further for the foundations of our utility room. All stop.

Paul was in Jedburgh sorting out getting a blazer for his NPC role next month. He got back about half an hour later. Alan had suggested moving the utility room to also come out the back of the lounge. It is not ideal but is our only option other than abandoning it altogether. A phone call to the architect.

I wandered out in the evening and noticed a large puddle of water at the top right-hand side of the old barn area. I traced it back to a hose coming out of the wall from Margaret's behind us. I could see no way of turning it off so went round to her's to see if she knew about it. She didn't but came round to look. I got Paul to come out too.

Margaret phoned a friend, Derek, and between us we managed to clamp the pipe to stop the leak. We still need a permanent solution, but we haven't found where it is coming from at Margaret's end.

David (architect) came round on Thursday afternoon. He sees no problems moving the utility room, essentially just flipping it. After almost two years of visualising it one way I won't have long to get it clear in my head before it goes up. Alan should be back on Monday to recommence work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scottish Open 2008

I was up early and at Allan's by 8 a.m. Allan was just finishing his coffee and we were on the road to Perth ten minutes later. As is usual it is my job to feed Allan with anagrams. I managed to give him an 8 that kept him quiet for a large part of the journey (EHIPRSTU).

We arrived at just gone 10 a.m. - enough time to get a coffee and not feel stressed before we started. I was defending my title, and also trying to become the first person to win it three times in a row. I handed back the trophy, and noticed there was a hole in the bag and the engraved strip on the side was missing. I retraced my steps to the car but could not see it.

Game 1: Moya Dewar
Moya started with FUB and after a while trying to find something better (there were no other bonuses) I played TOElIKE. HOD from Moya. I had picked a clumky rack and VIR(E) cleared the V and duplicate R, but I was not happy playing such a blocky move so early in the game. LOTA from Moya and I opened with WRITE. Moya immediately blocked with ABA. I had another awkward rack and again was not happy with CU(BI)T but could see nothing better. Moya immediately blocked again with DO(C). GENUA to open again from me and Moya just dumped C(IDE). I then broke away with PLIER for 40 and ZHOS for 62 to be 80 up after QIS from Moya. A late bonus of bARNEYS blocked Moya's bonus to increase the spread.
W: 477-327

Game 2: Ross Mackenzie
We both changed five tiles as our opening gambits. I bonused first on move 4 with MONSTER and Ross dumped the Q. GNA(R)R from me using my only vowel but I had picked an S, and picked three more consonants and a blank. Luckily for me Ross did not block my F(A)X. ZIT from Ross and I had picked a vowel for SNiRTLE. Ross bonused back two moves later with (R)EWINdER. CRON(E) blocked the useful floaters but did not help my rack. AMI(d) from Ross. I(N)DUED cleared it and scored well, but I picked up more of the same but also an S. Ross changed five tiles again. I dumped LU(D)O. FY from Ross. I successfully talked myself into UN(R)IP to balance, blocking Ross's J(U)VE at the same time so just JO(L) instead. At this point I am only 46 up with six in the bag. With AEHISSO I opt for ASSI(Z)E leaving one in the bag as I was not far enough ahead to afford for Ross to get the triple. He duly bonused with AVERAGE but it was not enough.
W: 409-390

Game 3: Marion Keatings
INIA opening move from me from an uninspiring rack. Marion laid down MATINEE across the top but then noticed the NI... I was waiting for ETAMINE instead, working out what to play with my rack of ACDNQRR but it never came, Marion just dumping ME. I played off NARC and picked a blank. With nowhere to dump the Q I then changed it on the next go, bonusing with gRANDEE the move after. I followed up with YOLK and JOUAL, but Marion was caught me back up with HIES, EX, WOG and WIN(C)H to make it 228-228. I bonused with (E)LeVATOR but Marion hit back with ZIT. GAG from me and DEF from Marion to make an opening and stay in touch. OBS blocked it, emptying the bag and sealing the win.
W: 439-372

Game 4: Allan Simmons
Allan exchanged four tiles and I opened with the board killer of VAV. Allan bonused with plintHs. ADO from me clearing a couple of duplicates. LURE from Allan and DEIF from me to score and keep an opening. QAN(A)T from Allan and I cleared an awkward rack with (V)AUCH. Allan took the triple with EDGE and I took the other with G(L)ENT. (C)OZIER from Allan gave me the floater for ABER(R)ATE to take a small lead. FEERIE for 55 from Allan, and there was now only one unseen E. OXY from me - I was worried about the hooks and Allan immediately got M(A)C there for 33. Another uninspiring rack and I balanced with IWI. Allan also balanced and blocked with GI(G)OLO. I just dumped an H from a now consonant heavy rack to keep in touch. Allan then made an opening with (V)UM and I took it off with JANNS to regain a small lead. TRAN(Q) from Allan and I am now 19 behind with ABLOPRU with six unseen tiles including ESS?KWY and other bonus-friendly tiles. I spent a long time before deciding on PROB to take a 20 point lead and pray - I could not see anything else that could score enough to give me a chance. I picked OWS? and as long as Allan did not have a bonus blocking mine the game was probably won...
W: 404-340

Game 5: Azu Ogbogu
In all the previous games I have played against Azu I have got off to fliers but this game was slower to get going. Azu started with AZO and I played OF. After JA from Azu I could not make a single play so changed five tiles. TAPA from Azu let in a chink of daylight. GOY from me. Azu then bonused with COnIDIA. I balanced a consonant heavy rack with WH(O)M and REWaXES the move later got me five points ahead. It was nip and tuck for the next few moves. Azu took a reasonable sized lead with CHU(T)E but I bonused again with STARRED. I gradually eked a small lead which was wiped out by VARVES, emptying the bag. My rack wasn't great (DDEEITT) but Azu's pick up was worse (EEIINNN). (B)ITTED gave me a six point lead and a two move play out, Azu missing the new NEINEI but it wouldn't have affected the spread.
W: 390-383

Game 6: Alan Sinclair
It was me to start from an opening rack of AAEIKW?. I did a lot of soul searching - KAWAI* formed on my rack. Then I thought of KAWAU and couldn't decide which was good. I went with it and Alan just wrote the score down. I checked it in the evening as it was still niggling away at the back of my brain. I followed it up with FLETToN after wasting a lot of time again deciding which bonus to play. Alan bonused back on move 3 with NOD(D)IEST but responded with the face value GREEN(L)ET. Five 30+ plays in the next six moves from me saw me take a large lead. Alan made a desperation opening at the end allowing me to get 60 with JEST.
W: 502-310

So, end of day 1 and a clean sheet. I phoned Paul to get him to check for the missing engraving, but he reported back later that it was not found. I was staying in a nearby B&B, and wandered into the city centre in the evening to eat. I cleared my cardbox before turning in for the night.

Game 7: Neil Scott
VIFDA to open. Neil dumped QI. AXOID from me and Neil bonused with CLoTTED. I had AACELNT and tried AC(C)ENTAL for 167. Neil bonused again with GOBLINS and LACTEAN from me. Neil took the triple with (C)HORE. I had AIJKMUO and eventually opted for MUJIK. ANY from Neil scored too many points. AGENE from a vowel-heavy rack from me, AULI(C) from Neil finally removing the 9-x spot. HOI from me and Neil bonused with StOMPI(N)G. I was still hanging in with WINERY, opening another 9-x, but was then hit with ZOOEA and (E)VENTERS from Neil. I got a consolation play out bonus with PERTUS(E)D.
L: 401-508

Game 8: Wilma Warwick
I changed IIIUY as my opening play and Wilma tried WETTENs. I had picked NATURES and Wilma played the face-value TWENTiE(S). I was pleased to spot the playable bonus with BIIMNRS. Wilma took the triple and I dumped QI(S). N(E)ATHERD two moves later and Wilma tried (E)ARHOLEs. PLUFFE(D) from me for 60. Wilma dumped HO(M)A setting up my LUZ for 45. Wilma bonused with B(U)NGLERs. JAI from me, keeping two more Is, and a lucky pickup gave me DIO(R)ITES the following move. I followed that up with OX(T)ER for 60.
W: 580-338

Game 9: Iain Harley
Iain opened with ILIAC, ORV(A)L from me. Iain dumped QI, and (C)OLBY from me. OOM from Iain, blocking the S hook I hoped he didn't know. My rack hadn't matured and I changed five tiles. Iain got the face-value RET(A)INER and I caught that back up with MIKED and FEZ. LAUNCeS two moves later to take a good lead. sTEWERS from Iain on move 10 to get back in touch. I didn't particularly like my reply of GAIT and I was still not safe at 70 ahead when Iain opened the 4-x with V(ET). I didn't have an E so took off the triple, leaving one in the bag. Iain just dumped an O, and I had now picked an E to remove the last danger spot.
W: 445-346

Game 10: Anne Ramsay
Anne opened with YUM, and with a consonant heavy rack GOLF from me. GR(O)VE from Anne, and I took the risk with NOTT/GROVET. Anne blocked the potential high scoring S hook with ADO. HARO from me and I was consonant bound again. LI from Anne and QI from me. Anne changed after toying with playing parallel to QI, DIPT from me. Anne bonused with ARAISES to take the lead, which we swapped over the next few turns as the board got more and more blocked. I had moved 40+ ahead when Anne played JArGONs onto DEEK which I challenged off. I wasn't going to make any openings now and dumped BL(I)N from a rack of consonants. Anne now tried S(NOTT). I couldn't block either of the two danger spots from TORI or ITA/SOW so balanced again with BUY. Anne now dumped JA(NE). I severely restricted TORI with REN. GU(V) from Anne. From my rack of AEINRST I played off NITRE to kill the last danger.
W: 347-325

Game 11: Allan Simmons
The computer threw a wobbly this round and had done a king-of-the-hill pairing, which was not meant to happen until the last round. Amy decided to run with it rather than risking screwing it up completely. I was one game ahead of Allan, and around 160 points better in spread.
Allan started with AGAPE and I responded with JOB, keeping back an E. (G)ENII from Allan and from EEIILPR, and I chose PLIE over PIE. (JA)XY from Allan, QI from me. I followed up with good scores from WERO and KEDS from DEKLNRS rather than the lower scoring but better rack leave choices. I then took off with the hat-trick of D(E)LETION, OUTRATe and WIGLeTS. Allan never closed the deficit.
W: 499-326

Game 12: Anne Steward
I was 'Gib(p)sonized', as no-one could now catch me.
I started well with HOMED followed by OX. NOTATEs on move 4. Anne's JIN for 42 kept her in touch, but I scored well with consecutive plays of BLEND, WAID and POUK. I bonused again on move 11 with IOLITES and Anne's bonus response of R(E)TiRING still left her well over 100 behind.
W: 517-342

So I had retained my title, Allan finished second after beating Azu in the playoff for second/third places. Allan was looking at the trophy after I received it and he happened to turn it over - there was the engraved strip stuck on the back!

Many thanks to Amy who had a fraught weekend with all the fixture/printer problems, and to everyone else who helped.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Garden Report - May 2008

I am getting frustrated again. After the glorious weather at the start of May it has turned cold and dull again so I am stuck indoors. However, I did get a lot done last week.

The grass had grown at a rate of knots so I knew it was going to need cutting when Paul got back from his long bridge weekend away in Stratford. I weeded the rose garden so that the grass cuttings could be used as a mulch around the roses.

I also weeded the little raised bed at the top of the drive. I have discovered a lot of small geranium seedlings there. It will be interesting to see what they develop into as I have three different varieties of geraniums planted in there.

My major project, however, has been making a small path along the new bed by the trellis. I had rediscovered the stepping stones I had brought up from Sandhurst when I had cleared out the back of the cowshed and decided they could be put to good use. I also had brought up a lot of lawn-edging that had been sitting in one of the sheds. I set about cutting out the grass/weeds to make a flattened path just about wide enough to stand comfortably on. At intervals I levelled a larger area to slot in the stones. I then hammered in the edging to stop the 'garden' land-sliding onto the path. I only had one disaster when I lost my footing coming down and now have an enormous blue/yellow bruise at the top of my left leg. I think it was worth the best part of a day's work as I can now weed most of that bed whilst sitting on the stepping stones so it should save me a lot of pain, effort and danger in the future.

Paul helped out by keeping the dogs amused... Well, give him his due - he has strimmed the verge which is looking a lot better for it, mown the lawn several times, and has been back on dandelion duty.

I also finished weeding the bottom of the long bank, including digging out the photinia that I had cut right back last year. It was hard work but it looks a lot better for its removal. In the space cleared I planned to plant the auricula that Janet gave me last year - when I got it out of its pot I actually found there were five... I also managed to remove the self-seeded pampas grass that was growing in the middle of a saxifrage. That whole area is looking lovely at the moment - I am especially pleased with the tulips I planted last year.

I still need to do the top/middle - ground elder is taking over again in places. Everything seems to have put on so much growth just over the weekend I was away. I also need to get back up the high bank where the goosegrass is swamping a lot of my plants.

Extension Part 5 - The Start of the Beginning

The building warrant has now been issued. Building control have been very helpful regarding our drainage.

Alan came round on Monday morning to check the levels for the grey water drain. We then found that the rodding point we thought was for the septic tank was actually just for rainwater. There was another rodding point further up the garden - this was also for rainwater. Eventually Paul remembered there was a manhole underneath one of the large wooden plant tubs the previous owners had left. Eureka!

Alan was still concerned we would not get the drop as it was a little further away. We got out the drawing Craig had given us and he had drawn the drain going under the new corridor coming out of the sitting room which was much closer to the house than Alan had measured - it was all going to work. Phew...

We moved all the furniture etc. that was at the back of the sitting room on Tuesday. Jen and Poncho quite enjoyed the expanded space they had for a couple of days.

Today Alan and another chap came to start preparing for knocking through from the sitting room. It should all kick off for real on Monday morning.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

English Grand 2008

This report is not going to be as comprehensive as previous ones as I did not photograph any of the boards. The tiles were cleared away too quickly in the first few games, and then after a bad start I decided not to bother...

I set off for Coventry before noon on Friday and arrived around 5 p.m, doing my John Wayne impression as I got out of the car. There were quite a few players already there, sitting out in the sun. I checked into the hotel and then went out to join them. The tournament itself was starting the following morning.

I got a reasonable night's sleep - my room this time was facing the carpark rather than the main road.

Game 1: Femi Awowade
This was a game with mistakes on both sides of the table. Femi took an early lead and on move 5 I played IONIZES down from b9. Femi then tried the phony PETAL(I)SE as a 4x. I decided to block the easy L(IONIZES) triple and not worry about what bonuses he had missed. Femi then tried (S)PAETSLE from o8 across to the triple. Off it came. I missed the bonus from BEEILNT from the same S. having seen the anagram that didn't fit. Femi then failed to play any of his playable bonuses. He bonused a couple og moves later, and I took the triple he opened with (A)VINE. Unfortunately this gave him the N he needed for LIMItI(N)G. I picked the second blank near the end but Femi could block both the bonuses I had.
L: 383-401

Game 2: Tom Wilson
I was always in control in this game after bonusing on moves 2 and 3, and scoring a healthy 75 on move 5 with SEXTON. Sitting with DEIIPRT on my final rack and Tom gave me a place to play out to further increase the spread.
W: 525-311

Game 3: Wojtek Usakiewicz
Wojtek had come over from Poland just to play this tourney. The board got pretty blocked right from the start. I knew it was not going my way when Wojtek played sUQ for 64 and I had AAEINRT and no suitable floaters. I dumped an A, Wojtek played the J for 35. I had picked the X. I dumped (R)AX and picked two more Ns. I eventually got a bonus to get back to level. (V)IEWING from Wojtek at a4 across, and I was hanging on to PR but never got an E...
L: 381-411

Game 4: Maureen Chamberlain
I bonused on move 1 and again on move 4. Maureen eventually bonused on move 10 but I was never in trouble.
W: 410-343

Game 5: Moira Conway
Moira bonused first on move 3. We exchanged bonuses on move 6, but then I had a series of good scores and bonused again on move 11 to take control. Moira bonused out at the end to reduce the spread.
W: 444-405

Game 6: Sandie Simonis
Sandie bonused on move 2 but I was scoring steadily to get us back to level by move 7. I managed to move slightly ahead and hold on to the finishing line.
W: 401-371

Game 7: Elisabeth Jardine
Again I started with a bonus, with another on move 5. Elisabeth tried SQUAlIE(R) from a1 and I bonused there instead. SEQUoIA from Elisabeth elsewhere but I was still 100+ ahead.
W: 480-353

Game 8: Brian Sugar
I had to change on move 2 but got the bonus on move 3 to take the lead. A balancing play on move 4, and another bonus on move 5 to counter that from Brian. Brian's pickup was obviosuly not as good as mine as he then changed 6 and I moved ahead. Another bonus near the end from me to seal the win.
W: 448-349

Game 9: Jason Carney
I was determined to not fall into the trap of a blocked board although it was tending to go that way. When Jason bonused on move 8 I could counter with some heavy scoring, including a bonus of AUTO(p)eNS. I then set about blocking. Jason gave me something to worry about with his play of WE leaving 3 in the bag. I eventually opted to block it with OB/O(WE), using my only vowel, rather than scoring on the triple but emptying the bag.
W: 417-361

Game 10: Azu Ogbogu
I bonused on moves 2 and 3 to take a grip on this game. I let Azu off with the phony DUMVIR but hit him when he tried to extend it with an I.
W: 425-297

So, end of day one and I had to be pleased at 8-2, after losing two of the first three games. A couple of drinks at the bar and then a reasonably early night. I didn't sleep quite so well as the night before as I had forgotten to open my window so the room was quite hot.

Game 11: Robert Richland
Robert changed on move 2 and I bonused on move 4. Steady scoring by me and Robert's bonus on move 9 was not enough to overhaul me. I bonused a couple of goes later to get some breathing space and hold on to the end.
W: 424-402

Game 12: Stewart Holden
The game was nip and tuck until near the end. Stewart played GRACE at m9 across, using the last E to get within 3 points and leaving 7 in the bag. There was still an S, blank, Z and bonus-friendly tiles unseen. I had DFHMOOR, and decided to take the chance with FORDO for 44 points. I picked the S, Z and blank. OU(K) from Stewart to open the 9-x on the left hand side, ZH(O)Mo for 84 points...
W: 471-345

Game 13: Di Dennis
I was stuck on scoring 26 for the first 3 moves. Neither of us were getting away at the start. I changed on move 5, and Di moved ahead. I hit back with a bonus on move 9 to retake a small lead and followed it up with GRENZ for 43. The board was getting blocked but Di got a face-value bonus on the last available place just in time to take a 9 point lead. I took the triple off with CHOL(I) to take the last three tiles and crossed my fingers. Di was close to a bonus but luckily for me not close enough.
W: 395-356

Game 14: Jake Jacobs
Jake got away to a flier, scoring heavily and bonused on move 3. Although I hit back on move 4 I was still 94 down after Jake's response. I then started to make some headway and a bonus on move 8 I was back in touch. The board was getting tight and I almost blew it when I missed (O)nCOMING. Coming to the end game I was 31 down, had AIIONT? with 4 in the bag. The board was not conducive to scoring to reduce that deficit so I needed a bonus. An 8 starting with an O or V, or an 8 with U or X in 6, 7 or 8 was needed. There were three Rs unseen and I was rewarded with one of them when I dumped an I. Jake blocked the V and O, but I played out around the U.
W: 440-396

I was now two games clear with two to play...

Game 15: Martin Harrison
A dream game - just what I needed. Everything just fell into my lap. Z(O)OOTIER for 54, QU(E)Y for 62 and two easy bonuses while Martin struggled throughout.
W: 500-319

Game 16: Wayne Kelly
It was just as well I didn't need to win this one. Wayne hit me on move 1 with the 4x LOIT(E)RER and followed it with VOyAGES. I was looking at ESUWYYZ. I had cleared it in a couple of moves with WEY and YUTZ. A bonus from me on move 7 and I was getting back in it. REMINDS taking the last 7 tiles, and I had miraculously taken the lead. Wayne had RAMJeTS with nowhere to play it but unfortunately for me had a two-move playout that scored enough for the win.
L: 414-434

Many thanks to Len for his work in organizing the tourney, and to Amy, John and Linda for running it. I banked the cheque this morning and am now dreaming of what to spend it on. I think I can buy half an Italian lava stone table for my soon-to-be patio :)

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