Tuesday 27 November 2012

Compare and contrast

After our very little scare with our very little brook the other night, I was catapulted abruptly into a harsher view of flooding while watching the news tonight.

Those poor people of St Asaph and other flooded towns, their homes wrecked and their lives turned upside down; my heart goes out to them.

Wet feet seem paltry in comparison.

Sunday 25 November 2012


That's us. I wish Blogger would let me show you the photographs of what we had to put in place last night. Sandbags, large sacks of John Innes No. 2, and sections of leftover stone flags from the hall, all stacked in the porch, keeping the water at bay - we hoped - as the rain continued remorselessly to fall. The brook, so musical in its summer gurgling, roared; a torrent of strong dark tea - or rather, water straight off Exmoor - spilling over its retaining wall and surging madly down our road.

Everyone was out until after midnight, protecting their doorways as best they could. We had walked home from dinner with a friend at the top of the hill, growing ever more alarmed as we approached our own home, gradually wading ankle deep in the swirling brown water, and dreading the possibility of discovering a flooded cottage and outraged cats. 

The Gardener, sleepy from dinner, including a surfeit of lemon posset, and intending to sleep within five minutes of getting home, turned immediately back into a Proper Practical Bloke. Wide awake, changing sodden shoes for wellies, finding the torch and the sandbags (no mean feat in our chaotic linhay) and organising a barrier in the porch to divert any sudden surge of water, he also checked on elderly neighbours, exchanged opinions with others on the state of the brookside vegetation further up the road, and finally tumbled into bed two hours later, leaving a collection of sodden clothes downstairs. 

Meantime, I flapped anxiously about indoors, lifting rugs, shifting precious items up above water level, making cups of tea (so essential in any dramatic situation!) and trying to stop the thoroughly-rattled animals from fighting each other or getting underfoot. I didn't sleep until after 3, and was up again at 5, to find the road clear, apart from the pebbles and mud that the water had washed down. We hadn't been flooded, but others had (see here).

But the sand/compost bags will remain in place; it rains and rains and rains....

Saturday 24 November 2012


It's all much worse than I thought..... Something bad has happened inside my iMac.

Picasa (the photo thingy that I used before iPhoto) has been sitting at the back of the computer surreptitiously breeding

Thousands - thousands! - of duplicate photographs, many folders that should hold one or two images now containing 600+. Looking into the innards was like one of those scenes in sci-fi films where a door is opened and acres of sinister alien pods are revealed. 

Many of the Picasa pictures are pre-iPhoto, but everything I have ever stored in iPhoto is also there. Replicating endlessly. Much as I love Scooter, 600 copies of a photo of him peering cutely out of a window has limited appeal.

Duplicate Annihilator hasn't worked. Uninstalling Picasa after a massive clean up hasn't worked. Weeping and swearing - well, admittedly, that helps, but it doesn't actually work. My brain hurts. I worry. I have had bad dreams in the night, although perhaps it was the consolation chocolate at bedtime that caused that.

Thinks: there may have to be a trip to the Apple store some time soon for a proper service for my poor machine and perhaps a tutorial for me.

The Gardener will be pleased. The Apple store in Bristol is his spiritual home, and is just across from Carluccio's.....

Thursday 22 November 2012

Boo hiss

I'll be back when Blogger stops telling me I'm out of space for photos.

(It does this occasionally, trying to make me buy more space, but suddenly allows me to have more, even though I have done nothing about it. Meantime, I'm sulking.)

Friday 16 November 2012

Paint love

For those of you still on the chalk paint journey with me, here are the results of the experiment I conducted. For those of you who are bored to tears with all things painty, look away now. Sorry. Cats, dogs and everyday life with The Gardener* will resume shortly.

Firstly, the clear wax continued to be problematic for me: difficult to apply without blotching, it wasn't the un-distressed effect I wanted. I watched videos of other people waxing their newly-painted furniture, I took advice, I even looked at the legendary Annie Sloan's own painted pieces, and decided that no, waxing and blotching seemed to be synonymous.

Another website had a contribution from someone who had used polyurethane varnish over her chalk paint, with some success. I was a bit anxious about this, as I didn't want a shiny-shiny look. And the word fusspot crept into my lexicon of self-doubt.

So off I went to consult Angus in the local paint shop: he always has advice to impart. Angus recommended a water-based, rather than a polyurethane varnish, and I came home with this: Blackfriars Dura Tough varnish.

Went on easily, with almost no odour, dried quickly, and the brush rinsed clean in water. Fabulous!

And the result? Perfect. The chalk paint drank it up thirstily, leaving a sheen rather than a shine. No blotches anywhere. I love it.

I'd show you it (I know... again...sigh...) but the light isn't right and my camera(s) still need sorting out, but my bedroom has been transformed into a calm, neutral space. (Or could be a calm, neutral space if I were to pick up my clothes and tidy the dresser.)

*The Gardener has had lots of work to catch up on this week, so the painting was all mine to do; he did, however, help enormously by heaving bedding and ton-weight mattress on and off the bed for each of the three stages, and heaping me with praise. That'll do nicely.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Stand still long enough and I'll paint you

Recently, I posted about my knotty pine bedroom and how I was painting it.

Here it is today. We think it's an improvement. The peeling brass-effect wall lights are going to be changed.

(The photos are dreadful because I have Done Something to my camera and can't Undo it without the instructions.)

The old Ikea laminate bookcase got a makeover too. House of Thrift, us.

Next on the list will be a very old chest of drawers, a large Edwardian one, battered and with its white paint chipped. Then the banister. Then the shelf in the hall. Then the wicker trunk. Then the dining table... then... then... the possibilities are endless. 

I have Paint Fever. 

Monday 12 November 2012

Over the moors and back again

An impromptu drive across misty Exmoor today to Barnstaple. It always rains when we visit Barnstaple, and today was no exception. En route, we drove through dense mist, the road carpeted with the glorious gold of fallen beech leaves.

We went via Countisbury Hill that leads precipitously down to Lynmouth and Lynton. 

Very hilly.

The first time I made this journey, in August 2011, with friend Shelagh from Toronto, it was sunny and very hot, and the brakes began to feel mushy as we arrived in Lynmouth, so much so  that I worried about not being able to stop, and careering into the sea wall. 

Today, it was hard to recall ever having had hot weather; the rain seems endless. 

On the way home, we stopped for supper at the 13th Century inn here

In 1907 it looked like this. Tonight it looked warm and inviting, with its ancient fireplace, glowing logs and good home cooking. 

I had steak and ale pie; The Gardener had penne pasta with butterbeans in a creamy/pesto sauce - so much more interesting than it sounded.

When we emerged, the mist had cleared and some of the millions of stars so clearly visible on Exmoor were just beginning to show.

We're never short of weather round these parts....

Sunday 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday


In all that ridiculous maternal button-bursting the other day, I omitted shamefully to mention or show the Lovely Son's other partner - M, who is the more recent addition to OffKut, and who is the skilled metal worker of the duo. According to the LS, no mean artist himself, M is the creative spirit whose ideas help the stock to change and evolve. 

We were delighted to find him at work, and to meet him at last.  

So here he is - M, winner of the Holey Jumper Award and generally all-round Good Chap. You can tell by the expressions worn by the LS and M that they are having a manly discussion, probably about widgets and grommets; leaning, meaningful silences, and staring in different directions indicate that they get on well together. 

Long may he and the LS prosper in their joint enterprise.

Saturday 10 November 2012

So where were we?

Oh yes.... eating for Britain in South London.

The Lovely Son and Mexican girlfriend C have moved - bravely, given their independent natures - into a flat together, and had invited us to be their first visitors. 

So off we went to Camberwell the other day, bringing meaty foodstuffs from our local farm shop, and enjoying the ethnic diversity that London offers. We especially enjoyed the range of interesting cafes and restaurants not available to us in West Somerset; we planned to eat out at some point.

At some point? Ha. We ate out at every meal. Restraint was not an option with four robust appetites to appease. Day 1: Mexican lunch, art gallery coffee and cake, enormous Turkish dinner (how I love Turkish food!); the next day, English breakfast, cheap and cheerful Vietnamese lunch, Greek bread and pastries to bring home on the train. What piggies we were.

We also trawled charity shops, where a nice little white coat was tried on and obtained for a song, and a volunteer willingly allowed himself to be photographed  - after all, you don't pierce and tattoo yourself and expect not to be looked at.

We visited the Lovely Son's scruffy newly-tidied workshop.

We looked at works in progress.

We walked miles, just looking around. 

We caught up with each other. It was lovely.

And suddenly it was time to make our way to the bus and then to the Tube.

 No prizes for guessing which Tube station.

And on to Paddington. I always wonder what these huge Victorian railway stations must have been like when gas lit. 

We sat on the train amidst hundreds of other people all busy with laptops, iPads or phones, and were back in Somerset by mid-evening. 

Flossie had enjoyed her sleepover with Suzi up the road, and was already in bed. Flossie is clean-living, and likes to be in bed by around 9 pm, but woke up enough to try to convince us that Suzi hadn't given her any dinner, and could we, please? 

Oh no, we said; over-eating isn't good for you. Restraint, Flossie; restraint. Hypocrisy lives.....

Friday 9 November 2012


I wanted to tell you all about our two days in London visiting these two, and eating for Britain, but no time; instead, lookee here! This year's Handmade in Britain Show in Chelsea. Click the link here, go on! 

And then click on Exhibitors, scroll down to OffKut and click that link too.

It's the Lovely Son. My Lovely Son.

And The Gardener met up with the gallery owner to discuss the exhibition of some of his photographs here.

My buttons are bursting with pride. (And with Mexican/Turkish/Vietnamese food, but that's another story and altogether more shamefully-greedy photographs, about which I will show and tell next time.)

Saturday 3 November 2012

Transit times

Yoghurt pot has two lids. 

Remove both, carefully.

The inner lid is plastic too. If dropped accidentally on the floor, a greed-crazed black labrador could swoop on it, and in a millisecond, swallow it whole.

(Not this particular lid, obviously. Another one, similarly indigestible.)

Slack owner, used to black labradors who eat garbage, fails to worry about this, and then forgets all about it. 

In the days that follow, dreadful labrador stomach turmoil is blamed on blackberries and windfall apples that litter the road. But no.....

Guess how long it would take for that plastic yoghurt pot lid to reappear (unscathed)?

A whole week.

I will spare you the details, but it was perfectly recognisable.

Now guess how much of a lesson black labrador learned from this week of dreadful stomach turmoil?

Exactly. Nothing at all. Next yoghurt pot that was opened, there she was, sitting expectantly, hoping for a (ahem) re-run. Slack owner has learned lesson though, and removes and discards plastic lid with extra care....

Thursday 1 November 2012

Personal preference

The Gardener is online, listening with great enjoyment to someone playing a harp.

I can't abide the harp.

I happened to mention that when I was very young, I decided that perhaps I'd rather not go to heaven in case I had to hear harp music forever. The Gardener said that his fear was having to go to Peru and having Pan pipes played at him.

Oh well. Perhaps something else.....


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