Since my last post there has been very little progress - in fact some things have gone backwards. If that's what happens after a good school report maybe I shouldn't blog good weeks :)
The only success has been the almost completion of the wall copes by Mark a week and a half ago.
The underfloor heating was scheduled to go in on Wednesday but Alan let us know the day before that they were not coming. He was warned that it would not go unnoted on here...
We have had one quote for the painting so far. It was noted that the ceiling in the sunroom should have been treated with nullifire but hasn't been. Paul phoned Thomas to find out what was happening with regard to that as it was specified in the plans.
We have had a second painter around today to get another quote. We hadn't been inside the sunroom recently, and it is clear that three of the windows are not weatherproof after the strong winds and rain we have had recently.
We are still waiting to see the painter used by our contractors - was meant to come on Friday but he phoned to reschedule.
On a more positive note I have started planning what fruit trees I want for the back garden. I fought the gales yesterday to measure the 'fruit tree bed to be' and then drew a scaled diagram. I think I should be able to fit five 'pyramid' apple trees spaced evenly along the lawn side of the bed, a 'fan' cherry at the side gate wall and a few pear/plum cordons at the outer wall. I now have a list of my wanted varieties/rootstocks. This is all new territory for me but I am getting quite excited by the prospect. Won't happen till next winter though at the earliest but hopefully that will give me enough time to get the area ready.
Spurred on (well actually bullied for weeks by Paul) I got around to booking my car in for its MOT tomorrow. It doesn't actually run out until Monday but I also need to sort out the road tax :(
This meant that I would actually have to drive it to the garage. The battery has been flat since the snow in February - I almost got to it in time for our battery charger to do the trick - probably just one day too late. So yesterday I called out our recovery service. Young chap arrived from Swinton, hooked up jump leads to his van and it started straight away. Ten seconds later and off he went, probably wondering why we hadn't done this ourselves from Paul's car. Well, that is because the last time we tried Paul couldn't get the battery cover off his and didn't want to use to much effort in case he broke it...
So I left the car running for about 15 minutes and then went for a pleasant drive in the country - lovely day to be in a car. Through Lintlaw and up to the A1 at Grantshouse, back towards Berwick diverting off to Coldingham. Past Edrom nursery which looked as if it might actually be open - it used to shut down over winter and open after Easter, but this may explain why the website doesn't mention opening dates. I would have stopped to find out but wasn't confident enough of the battery behaving at that point. Turned round and back home via Reston and Billiemains.
Three quarters of an hour and 30+ miles later I have now parked it facing outwards just in case it was not enough...
I decided on Sunday that I would brave the gusty winds as the sun was shining and it seemed a little wimpy to not be out there working.
I donned a woolly had to keep my hair under control and made a start on LB8. Penny's suggestion of using a rake to gather the surface crap was excellent. However, I can now see a load more weeds breaking through including some ground elder so another chemical warfare attack will be required. But that needs to wait for a non-windy dry day.
I then got digging again on the next bit along the wall. I was more organised this time - bucket at the ready to collect the stones. I must have filled and emptied it about ten times in progressing just over another metre. I also dug up quite a large section of a clay pipe buried underfoot...
Yesterday really was too windy and we had a couple of hail-stone deluges. I satisfied myself with browsing plant nurseries on the web, planning ahead.
Today the wind has dropped but it is toooo cold. However, I decided I really ought to measure the new bank sections to get a more accurate idea of how big it is.
So, armed with tape measure and rope I set to it. Fix rope at top with a stone at each designated section start/end and throw it down to the road. Tie a knot in rope where it reaches the road. Measure each section width along the wall. Measure each knot in the rope.
Total area is approximately 83.75 square metres. Total width is 21.42 metres and it tapers from 5.27 metres at the house end down to 2.28 metres at the gate end. It would be good to do this for the current LB sometime...obstacles permitting.
So from thinking I had almost finished the ground work/preparation I now find that I am probably only just over half way there what with the path along the wall and LB8 weighing in at a massive 31.84 square metres :(
I hadn't allowed for the extra two metres width from the existing bank to the start of the new wall - that area alone is over 10 square metres and is now LB8a - don't want an LB13!
Each section gets progressively smaller as the distance/slope to the road diminishes: LB9 = 17.6, LB10 = 13.4, LB11 = 11.5 and LB12 a mere 9.3.
It is back to the word study for at least a week looking at the weather forecast...
Still, I did get a load done. Unfortunately no photos - camera battery need recharging yesterday and weather not conducive today... Changed my mind and braved the 20+ mph winds...
Friday and it was clearing the top/middle of the long bank and other bits I had missed/ignored in previous forays. Doing my mountain goat impersonation as I clamber nimbly up and down - well, clinging on for dear life and praying I don't slip - as I try to gather the dried out moss and leaves from hidden caches underneath the shrubs. A good hour or so removing same from between the stems of the sedums, although this was at ground level. The mahonias give me a lot of pleasure when they are about the only thing flowering through winter but the fallen leaves in spring take great delight in pricking me at every opportunity.
I finished the day taking out all my aggression on pruning the LB buddleia. All my reservations over pruning the fruit bushes and roses disappear when it comes to the buddleia. Even fighting my way around the back of a berberis to get to the front-left and a mahonia to get to the front-right did not deter me in my hatchet job. There were only a couple of overgrown branches in the middle I just could not get the loppers to. Luckily Paul had wandered out so I got him to complete the job. It is now half the plant it used to be...
Saturday and I had promised myself a 'fun' day starting to plant up the LB extension. But I needed to clear the buddleia debris from the massacre first. Then I found an area missed at the back of the flowering currant. And then I thought I really should attempt the get the nettles out from under one of the brooms as this is the best opportunity I will get - ground relatively soft, nettles not too large and other plants not in the way yet.
So, an hour and a half later and time for a coffee/ciggie break as I gather my thoughts for the new planting.
First in a rhodondendron that was brought up in a pot from Sandhurst. It has never flowered up here but still looks quite healthy. I hope it survives the trauma and blossoms, so to speak. Next two more rhodos that I bought from Aldi two years ago and had never made it to the high bank. And then a dwarf rhodo bought last year from Edrom nursery. Next a twig from my cousin Maureen which will hopefully become a hibiscus. And another twig which is showing signs of breaking into life - my daphne from Lamberton nursery. Finally in the far end corner the Kilmarnock willow from Morrisons that was also living in a large pot. I was having trouble digging a hole large enough for it and had almost given up when I realised that the bottom two inches of the plant was actually polysterene chips from the drainage. After I carefully untangled the roots it fitted perfectly. I was also going to give my contorted hazel a new home but the sky had clouded over so I headed back indoors.
Half an hour or so later and the sun was back out and so was I. But I got sidetracked. The top couple of feet (width-wise) of the LB extension from the new wall had never been weeded/destoned etc and has been used as a footpath for the duration of the building work. Not only that but in places the ground level is too low and the breeze blocks are showing. Luckily further back it is too high so I am hoping it will work out.
So I started, getting just over a metre done of LB12 - I have decided to designate the LB extension LB8-LB12, each section corresponding to a section of new wall. However I really need to sort out the last section (LB8) before I can do the top. LB8 has been weed-killered but nothing else yet. Several rocks are piled up at the top waiting to be moved into position as footholds. I may need Paul to help when the time comes - some of the rocks are very large...
Tuesday saw me out clearing the crud and autumn debris LB5-7. The three different pulmonarias from Edrom nursery that I split and planted last autumn were discovered to be alive and well after I cleared all the leaf-litter. Also the half a dozen that I got from dividing my own large one have pulled through and are flowering - just had to remove a lot of dead leaves to get to the healthy new ones. I have also noticed lots of little pulmonaria seedlings growing in the trellis bed. Hmm - I guess they will be a staple of the long bank extension...
There was a short break early afternoon - Jean had invited us over to walk the dogs with hers. We had pre-muzzled them and Poncho had his harness on - but we needn't have bothered. See another dog around here or at the park and Poncho goes haywire...but at Jean's nothing...perfect little angel.
Yesterday I pruned the fruit bushes. It took all day. This is because it also involved lopping a dead conifer, a stand of something else that I have no idea what it was but I didn't want, and quite a few branches of another unknown tree/shrub that was fighting for space with my overgrown redcurrant bush. I could then get around the back of the currants. Now that I can see where the stems are coming from there is only one bush that I am not sure of - red or black? I am guessing red...
I was quite vicious with the blackcurrants - a lot of branches growing horizontally through the gooseberry bushes were cut right out as I could see a lot of well-behaved vertical growth further back. A couple had rooted where they were touching the ground and I have cut them off as new plants. Need to find somewhere to plant them.
Got scratched all over my hands and ankles pruning the gooseberry bushes. Vicious blighters. Discovered another couple at the back that were previously hidden by the blackcurrants. Also found a small self-layered gooseberry plant which I rehomed today. Must be up to about twenty now...
Today I pruned the rose bushes. Well, I removed the dead wood and where I could see a bud cut back to it - but several of the bushes are still quite tall as I couldn't see any buds low down on the stems. I am not cut out for pruning - excuse the pun. It breaks my heart chopping off very healthy looking growth when I am not convinced anything new will take its place. I dug out two dead bushes and planted two new ones from Aldi's. I then did a tidy up and weeding of the fruit bush area and pulled out yet more brambles.
Tired but happy. And tomorrow is another (gardening) day :)
I was away at the weekend at Theobalds Park, Cheshunt for a tourney.
It was originally billed as the top 32 invitational event but ended up as a 16 player round robin. You just can't please some folk. Last year there was a lot of debate re the UK Master being only the top 16 and could it be expanded or a second division of the next 16 be added. So Amy and John organise a tournament along those lines and they did not support it. Their loss - I think our small but select band thoroughly enjoyed ourselves - good venue, very good food and good company.
I got the train down on Friday as Allan had been dithering over whether or not to go and I decided to book the train before all the cheap tickets went. I also lucked out on the extra nights at the venue - I got a £10 room rate on a special promotion for the Friday and Sunday nights as there was no way I could get home on the Sunday with the event finishing around 5 p.m.
I thought I was the only one staying Friday night but my phone rang - Amy and John were there and were going out to eat and did I want to join them. We had a nice meal in a local pub.
The scrabble was variable. As top seed I played everyone in order, starting at the lowest rated and at the end of day 1 was 7-1, and third overnight I think. Kevin McMahon, who had come over from Ireland was undefeated and Ed Martin was ahead of me on spread. I played two new players to me - Calum Edwards and Howard Wilde who are quickly rising through the ranks. Sunday and the wheels fell off a bit. I needed to win 10 out of 15 to preserve my rating so had given myself extra pressure of needing to win my last two games. Luckily for me Phil Robertshaw missed a 9-x and careful play at the end saw me through. A cagy game against Kevin and I reached my target of 10. My rating even went up a point as I was dropping a poorer result. I have 36 games in hand before I start dropping my UK Open points...
Well done to Ed on winning with an impressive total of 12 wins and to Kevin who came second with 11.
On Sunday evening Amy, John and I went out for a Chinese. This was a real treat for me. Yes, there is a Chinese in Duns that we have been to once but it felt more like a shop window and we were assailed by a schoolgirl doing work experience telling us her (very short and not very interesting) life history...
John dropped me off at the station after our cheapo Tesco breakfast. I waited till 9.30 to get the train into KingsX as I had an off-peak ticket. I had the perfect seat on the train home - just in from the baggage rack, forward-facing window and table. First time ever. And then the 'lady of a certain age' opposite tried to get me to change seats with her. But I don't travel well backwards so I'd rather not thankyou. 'Nor do I ' she responded. And then for good measure added '...as you may find out'. I still was not budging and as the train was not full she moved...
Allan, Mark and Norman (previously known as A.N.Other) were here on Monday continuing with the paving. They were rapidly getting to the point where they could do no more until the utility room and wall around the path up there had been plastered.
What do you call it when you have your builders, plasterers and joiners on site at the same time? Answer: A miracle. It was rush-hour here on Tuesday!
Not only that but David and helper were also here to fit the railings and gates. It took them the whole day, and I think they look absolutely stunning. They have transformed the look of the whole garden area/walls.
Alan and Mark have started laying the copes underneath/around the railings/posts. The top of the steps up to the veggie patch and the base of the oil tank platform have been paved.
The plasterers started on the utility room and the inside garden walls. They were back today and have started applying the K-rend. It looks very dark at the moment but should become paler when it dries out to match better with the sun room. There is a small area just above the window that does seem to be more the colour we chose.
The utility room and lounge-sun room doors have been fitted. We have picked the required skirting boards - sticking with the same style as the lounge. The ceiling has been finished.
Wally was here yesterday doing all things electrical. We now have power sockets.
The roofers were here yesterday/today fitting the cherry on top of the sun room. Rather them than me - it was pretty cold and windy. I have to admit that I was expecting it to be flush rather than a lollipop.
We collected a few more tile samples from Pearsons and also had a trip to Gala this afternoon to look at some more.
I have also been doing my Blue Peter utility room interior design. Scaled drawing of the room and paper cut outs of freezer, washing machine, laundry pulley and sink unit. We have already determined that it will be better to have an upright freezer rather than a chest freezer and have gone for the smallest sink/drainer in the catalogue. One base unit under the sink, worktop continuing from sink to the wall and one wall unit above the so far unknown sized boiler that we are assuming will fit in its allotted space. So far no units on the other side of the room. We may just put up shelving. I have started making a list of things that should live in there, but Paul doesn't see the need for any more cupboards. Washing powder etc can live under the sink, dog food tins can live in the wall unit. I would still quite like a broom cupboard...
The sandstone paving was delivered on Monday morning.
On Thursday Alan, Mark and A.N.Other started on the patio. We were called out to say if we were happy with the proposed layout before it was set in concrete - or cement to be more accurate. Mainly grey with an occasional yellow just to break it up. Looked good to us.
Work continued on Friday on the paving around the back. Just hope the levels are correct and it meets in the middle :)
David phoned to let us know the railings and posts have been (re-)treated and are back with him to finish off.
When I called in on Penny earlier in the week she was determined to try to track down Scott the tiler for me. He was found working on a house just off the main square. The recession has not hit his workload and he is unlikely to be able to fit us in the near future, but he recommended the tiler from Opus at Swinton. However, I got some advice from him re tiles/skirting boards and he told us that Pearsons is now doing tiles - ask for Kevin and say Scott sent us.
We went down there on Friday. Pearsons also appears to be thriving - just opened a new shop area and still in a bit of disarray. Kevin cleared a load of stuff to get to the tile samples - I think they are still waiting for a lot more to come in. We picked a couple of maybes and then another four from the catalogues - Kevin phoned the company and hopefully samples will arrive next week. We declined the marble tiles at just under £120 per square metre - I have done a rough estimate and reckon about 30 square metres for the sunroom and corridor...
I did my first full pass of the 8-letter ????INGS yesterday. All 742 of them from memory. Okay - I missed about 4 but not bad. Taken me just over three weeks. I will re-test myself at the weekend.
Quiz: What are the four ????INGS words that are not valid without the S?
In the meanwhile it has been announced that the WYSC will follow on from the Causeway challenge in JB with another tournament for us oldies running alongside it. Another 25 games on top of the WSC (number of games 24 in past years but it could well be increased this time - we hope) and 45 games in the Causeway challenge. This may be too much of a good thing...
Five weeks gone on the diet and half a stone lost. An 'off' day today - we have invited Penny round for Sunday lunch.
It was sunny yesterday when we took the dogs out at lunchtime. So I decided to make a start at weeding the far end of long bank extension, being the only part of the garden that was not in shade. Sod's law - the clouds came over even as I was getting my trowel out of the shed. I persevered for a couple of hours before deciding enough was enough, my fingers beginning to lose all feeling.
Still battling with INGS. Double consonants mastered first. Then CVVCINGS. Now working my way through the rest, doing one or two new letters a day. Got up to ???PINGS yesterday.
It is hard work and involves many mnemonics and stupid phrases . Making these up can be really difficult - they need to be memorable, unambiguous and relate clearly to what is being learnt. It is also beneficial if the trigger word is the first alphabetically but I haven't always managed that.
??GGINGS involves many references to bras and breasts. I was quite pleased with ??SSINGS: Passing Gas - CH4? Smells Terribly Bad, which gives PASSINGS, GASSINGS, CISSINGS, HISSINGS, SOSSINGS, TOSSINGS and BUSSINGS.
Whilst this has been going on I have not been adding the next probability 7/8s to my cardbox or bringing more forward once I have cleared it...although I have added a few more suffixes - ITIC and ITIS over the last couple of days.