A Refurbished Frontage

This morning, three men arrived to work on the driveway and frontage of the house. The old gravel had ceased to combat the weeds, and it was looking unloved and overgrown out there. Although the space is not large, there is room to park four cars when necessary, so far too big for me to tackle it. I had hit one side of the five-bar gate with my car, so that needed a new gate post.

The old shrubs had to go too. The climbing hydrangea on the house was encroaching into the brickwork and guttering, and the unkown type (to me) of other bush seemed to only serve as a ladder for spiders to get in through one of the spare bedroom windows. Under the front Oak tree, the raised bed had been invaded by brambles, the dwarf conifer had started to grow out instead of up, and I had let everything get into something of a shambolic state.

Using a company recommended by our next-door neighbour, it was arranged they would come today with a digger and sort out everything, replacing the sharp gravel around the front of the house with the kinder, more rounded version.

Exactly at at 8:30 as promised, the digger was unloaded from a trailer, and they set to with a vengeance. It is only two and a half hours later as I type this, and they have already removed the shrubs and plants, tidied the raised bed, and scraped away all the old gravel and dirt. One of them is preparing to replace the broken gate post, and another is sweeping and clearing away everything not needed.

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10:45, and the clearance is complete. The old gatepost has been removed, and they are preparing the cement for the new one.

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Just after midday, I took Ollie out for his walk. The prepared ground had been sprayed to keep down any weeds that grow back, and one of the men has taken the tipper truck to collect the gravel from Fakenham.

When I got back just before two, the gate was fixed and solid, and they were adjusting the fittings so that it cleared the deeper new gravel. Two-thirds of that new gravel had already been laid and levelled, and they were just waiting for the next load to come back in the tipper truck. The owner of the company told me that they will only be here for another thirty minutes once the last gravel is laid.

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I had other estimates for this work. One man wanted half the money up front, the other told me it would take two to three days, and the final price would depend on how long it took to complete. Both said I would have to have a skip for the debris, and pay for that separately. This man told me he would finish it in one day, and remove everything included in the price.

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14:30, work completed. Six hours after they started, including a short break for lunch.
Here is what it looks like. (There is no ‘before photo’ as I was too embarrassed to show it!

(The photos are Flickr links, and can be enlarged there by clicking on them.)

Driveway and side of house Dec 2021

The huge Oak tree in this photo is the one in our back garden.
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We didn’t even have to pay today, as we will get a bill by email next week. That’s what I call great service!

“One Dead Bat”

Yesterday, I had a chimney sweep calling, to clean the wood burning stove and its large chimney that goes through the ceiling and out onto the roof. We don’t use the wood-burner that much, and mainly keep if for emergencies like power cuts. But then we discovered that it has to have an annual safety certificate, whether we have actually lit it, or not.

This is because of house insurance of course; yet more income-generation for tradesmen, and potential avoidance of any claims by the insurance company.

So I found a local chimney sweep who is a member of The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps (yes, there is such a guild) and arranged for him to come yesterday morning at nine. The name of his one-man company is ‘Norfolk Sooty’, quite a good name, I thought.

Things have changed a lot since Dick Van Dyke was dancing on rooftops twirling his brush, his face smeared with soot in the film ‘Mary Poppins’.

My sweep arrived on time, and proceeded to cover the hallway carpets with clean plastic sheets before he even attempted to come in. Then he brought more covers to spread around the floor at the base of the wood-burner, and began to use his industrial strength vacuum cleaner to remove anything from inside the chamber. Once he was happy with that, he put a small brush inside, then removed the grate and top plate, before securing a clear plastic hood around the stove with magnetic bars that held it in place.

The hood had two openings. One was for the tube of the vacuum cleaner to be inserted into, the second smaller one was for the lengths of tubing that attached to the brush. The brush was moved up and down inside the chimney many times, then attached to a power drill that spun the brush inside, for a thorough clean.

I watched from across the room, very impressed with his thoroughness, as well as his cleanliness. Not only did he vacuum all the floor covering he had put down, he also vacuumed his own clothing as he worked, to make sure no dirt fell onto the surrounding carpets when he stood up.

When the hood was removed from the stove, he had to admit it was one of the cleanest chimneys he had ever swept, a result of us hardly using it over the years. I asked if he had found much inside, and he shook his head. Opening his hand, he smiled.

“One dead bat”.

In his hand was a tiny mummified bat. As it was not charred or burned, we concluded that it must have died of starvation, after being trapped somewhere in the chimney.

I wrapped it in some soft tissue, and gently placed it into the rubbish bin.

The Beetley Pigeon

On Saturday, Julie and I were talking about something in the living room, when we heard an almighty bang from the kitchen area. My first thought was that a bird had flown into the window glass, something that happens quite frequently. But when I went outside to check, there was no trace of any bird on the patio, or on the lawn nearby.

When I was making coffee on Sunday morning, I saw a large Wood Pigeon sitting on the lawn at the far end of the garden. From that distance, it appeared to be asleep, not something you see that often.

By the time I went out with Ollie a few hours later, it was still there. As I walked over to the shed to get Ollie’s lead, the bird began to run to my left. It was flapping its right wing, and the left wing was lying outsretched and useless at its side, obviously badly broken. It managed to hide under a large shrub, staying hard against the wooden fence.

I went out with Ollie, and that afternoon, Julie told me she had put a small container of bird seed on the ground for it, as it had been trying to fly up to the feeder. Checking the container, it was half-empty, so it seemed the injured bird had managed to walk over and get something to eat.

Not long after I went to bed last night, I could hear constant flapping sounds outside the bedroom window, and presumed that the distressed pigeon was trying to fly, or perhaps escaping a local predator, like next door’s cat.

This morning, I found the bird hiding under the garden table, and as I approached, it vecame very distressed. I decided to leave it alone, and put out a small plastic box full of water for it.

Thinking about what to do, I considered killing the bird as quickly and humanely as I could, to end its suffering. But it was looking directly at me, and if a bird can look terrified, that was the expression. I thought about catching it, putting it into a box, and taking it to the Vet in town to be put to sleep. But even trying to catch it not only made it flee in panic, it was also doing more damage to the badly-broken wing.

Wood Pigeons are considered to be a pest in the countryside. Farmers shoot hundreds of them every week, to stop them eating crops. Many are also killed by local birds of prey, and flattened by cars on the main roads when they don’t fly away in time.

But the pigeon in my garden is still a bird, and an injured bird that has affected me.

I don’t know what to do about it, except to keep it fed and give it water, until such time as it eventually dies.

Some Sunday Musings

Unlike my frequent ‘Thinking Aloud On A Sunday’ posts, this is more by way of a collection of things I have been thinking about over the past week.

I have had to face the fact that I can no longer do many jobs around the house and garden. What with Vertigo, muscle weakness caused by Statins destroying my arm muscles, and the general onset of old age, I have let things go, to say the least.

I finally bit the bullet, and arranged for contractors to come and give estimates for clearing the shabby front driveway, and relaying the gravel that once covered the car parking area. With space to park up to four cars, depending how big they are, this is a considerable job. When I look back at old photos taken when I was regularly weeding and tidying the area, I hate that it now looks like nobody has bothered for a few years.

The first man who came was very local, living just a few streets away. He gave a fair price, and offered to start very soon. But when he was contacted to accept the quote, he wanted half the money up front.

This is a warning flag for home owners. NEVER pay any money up front for any work on your property, especially to someone you have never met before. He was told “Thanks but no thanks”, and the second man was contacted.

Fortunately, he was completely professional, and our attitude to him was helped by the fact that he had done some garden landscaping work for a neighbour earlier this year. Not only did he provide a fair (albeit more expensive) quote, he made us feel very confident with his grasp of what was required. In addition, his company can tackle other jobs we need doing next year, like sorting out the wonky patio at the back, fixing a fence and gate, and paving over some parts of the lawn.

Hopefully, we should have a fresh and smart driveway before Christmas, and arrangements in place to have the back garden sorted next Spring.

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A few houses in the village already have Christmas lights illuminated on their houses. Is it just me, or are people celebrating things earlier and earlier every year? We haven’t even got past Halloween, and some are beginning to celebrate Christmas in late October. My own opinion is that this actually diminishes the traditional enjoyment of any celebratory festivities, and I fully expect to be seeing Christmas lights in August soon.

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It has been nice to see Ollie chasing deer again this week. As he has been getting old so visibly, and not enjoying very long walks anymore, his sudden bursts of enthusiasm to chase random deer in the woodland are a delight. Of course, he has no hope of catching them, and he pays for it later with much longer sleeps, and stiff front legs by late evening. But I want him to enjoy life, even though he really is too old for such hunting exploits.

Sometimes, I think about life without Ollie, if he goes before me. I try to cut those thoughts short, as life without my constant companion and best friend is not something I enjoy contemplating.

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Covid-19 is still very much in the news. Despite all the government self-congratulation, infections are back on the rise, and deaths attributed to the virus account for around 100 reported every day. That means that 3,100 people in England will have died of Covid-19 by the end of October. Imagine the catastrophic impact on all those families.

Yet more and more people refuse to be vaccinated, and continue to assert that it is all just a conspiracy.

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Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

Best wishes, Pete.

Our ‘Disco’ Toilet

The main light in our bathroom also operates a very noisy extractor fan. That runs for over ten minutes once activated, and can be very intrusive at night. So we had a motion-acitvated night light that provided sufficient illumination to use the toilet in the dark, but it was very easily activated just by walking past, and used the batteries up very quickly.

Then Julie spotted one of these for sale.
(They are very inexpensive)

Just put in two small batteries, and it is ready to go. It doesn’t get touched by any water during a flush, so is completely safe.

So we now have a ‘Dico light’ effect inside our toilet, albeit a very sedate disco.
(It looks a lot more colourful in real life)

A Day Off The Blog

I haven’t had a chance to read any posts today, or to write any for my own blog. Apologies to all concerned.

I have been consumed with one of the most unpleasant aspects of the Christmas season, namely a ‘deep clean’ of the kitchen. I had to report for ‘Domestic Duties’ as my Call-Up papers had been served.

I was assured it had to be done, and as Julie was helping her daughter move house today, I thought I had better be the one to do it. I tried to give Ollie the job, but he was unable to work the spray pumps on the various cleaning fluids using his paws.

As we are eating out on the 25th, and have no visitors at all due to Covid-19, I did wonder what the fuss was all about. But it came under the heading of being ‘Completely ready for Christmas’. Apparently.

After crawling around cleaning skirting boards and doing the floors by hand, I now feel as if I have been run over by a small truck.

Hopefully, normal blog service will be resumed tomorrow.

Providing I am able to get out of bed that is.

Nothing Getting Done

Do you ever have those times when nothing seems to get done? I do, and this is one of them

Day 17 of rain means nothing has been done outside for almost three weeks, unless you count creating a blanket dam to stop the shed flooding completely. I would like to have cleared the gutters, so that they managed the downpours better. But that’s not a very attractive prospect, when you are on the tail end of a bout of Flu, and feel as weak as a kitten.

Even things that can be done inside are not getting done. Remember the expensive camera I got got for nothing from Amazon? Well other than a quick play with it to justify my review, I still have not set it up as I would like. What’s the point? I have no intention of taking it out to photograph rain.

And as some things get fixed, others keep breaking. The printer can wait, as I cannot muster the will to try to fix it. Then Julie took my car out today, and got a slow puncture. I do less than 4,000 miles a year, but the local neglected roads chew through at least two tyres a year on average. Something else to deal with, come Monday.

I could sit and type a list of all the things that need doing; from the simple mopping of the kitchen floor because of trodden in dirt and leaves, to routine paperwork that needs to be sorted out by the end of the month.

But truth be told, nothing’s getting done.

Another Job Jobbed

When I was young, my parents would always say that anytime they finished doing something around the house. As young as I was, I always thought it was a rather silly expression.

Now I am older, I still avoid using it. However, I have come to appreciate the sense of relief, if not satisfaction, when those routine jobs are over.

After ten days with a broken heating/hot water boiler, and trying to remember to keep switching on (and off) the electric back up, the boiler has been fixed. My son-in-law arrived earlier, and has been working for three hours to replace faulty parts, and get it going. The amount of dirt and soot inside the relatively small boiler cabinet had to be seen to be believed, and I was once again glad that it is situated in the garage, rather than the house.

It didn’t help that it has been raining torrentially all day, and walking in and out has left the floors of the garage and connecting shed covered in a wet sooty sludge that cannot be walked on until it has had time to dry out. Unfortunately, the freezer and large second fridge both live in the shed, so I have had to dump old towels onto the floor to be able to walk back and forth to the house without treading in sooty footprints.

After a week when the kitchen cupboards were painted, and the flooring measured ready to order and have fitted, I am relieved that the boiler has been fixed too, allowing the possibility of actually having a ‘day off’ of household disruptions on Sunday.

And I found myself thinking, “That’s another job jobbed”.

Domestic Disruption Ended: Almost!

After delays due to the Coronavirus lockdown, and then a problem when the first painter had to leave the job halfway through, the kitchen/diner has finally been painted! The new painters finished the units and cupboards yesterday, and they make the room look a lot more modern now.

Ollie has had to be kept out of there for two days, and his routine was disrupted, which he hates of course. And he had to sleep in the living room, with his food and water bowls moved into the small hallway outside the bathroom. As a treat, we took him to Castle Acre yesterday, for a change of scene. Of course, he would have preferred to stay at Beetley Meadows, so spent his walk around the Priory grounds hanging back and crying…

Today’s job is to investigate new flooring for the dining section. It previously had horrible old carpet tiles, which we threw away last year. Now we have to get something laid under the table and chairs, and when that is done, it will finally be finished.

I am definitely not getting any other tradesmen in until 2021, and maybe not even then!

My Last Year Of Hedge Clipping

Front of bungalow from across the road

In the photo above, (click to see full size) you can clearly see the larger and smaller beech hedges that are in front of our house. They are taller than they look in this photo, which was taken after they had just been trimmed, in late 2013. From street level, they reach to about eight feet in height, and are considerably higher than that when fully grown before they need cutting. On the plus, side, this height is reduced when cutting the back, as the ground level in the front garden is some twelve inches higher.

I bought some very good clippers when I moved here, as I also had to tackle the huge rows of leylandii hedges at the back. Compared to those, the beech hedges at the front were a breeze, easily finished off in a morning or afternoon. But then I got vertigo a couple of years back. And then I got older of course. I could no longer cope with the ten-feet high leylandii, and had to pay someone to cut them earlier this year. But I was sure I could still deal with the beech hedges.

After deciding that they were unacceptably shabby, I made up my mnd to cut them this morning. It is a hot day, 27 C, so I took Ollie out early, just after nine. On our return, I got straight on with the beech hedges, sweeping up the mess as I went. After managing just one quarter, the first battery gave up. I put it on charge, and went on with the second battery. I was very hot, and finding it difficult to stay steady on top of the step ladder as I tried to get the straggly stems in the middle. After two hours, I swept up, and had a lunch break.

When I went back out, I decided to use a proper ladder to reach the top, and jammed it as hard as I could against the hedge. But is was very wobbly once I got up there, and I was having real difficulty keeping my balance and cutting at the same time. When the second battery went flat, I had at least finished the biggest hedge, and can do the small one easily tomorrow. Sweeping up and tidying the things away, it dawned on me that will be the last time I can safely cut these hedges.

As of next year, I am going to have to pay someone to do it.