Ollie and The Painter

For the last three days, poor Ollie has been discombobulated. When the painter arrived early on Monday morning, as far as my dog was concerned, he was just a guest, and a potential playmate. He wagged his tail enthusiastically, and brought his most treasured toy, a tattered and smelly stuffed lion. But there was no time for play, as much work needed to be done.

Living in a one-level bungalow, there is no escape from having to go in and out of the two small hallways. We did our best, by leaving one of them free, which meant I was exiled from the small office room. But the other hallway is essential for access to both bathroom and kitchen, so disturbance of the tradesman was inevitable.

But worst of all, Ollie’s habit of following me around had to be curtailed. He could not understand why he wasn’t allowed to accompany me into the kitchen or bedroom, and why he was not allowed to lay down against the freshly-painted skirting boards. Much of the day was spent telling him to ‘Lie down’, ‘Stay’, or ‘Move’. He just didn’t understand what he was doing wrong, and took it as if he was being scolded for something. The sorrowful expression on his wrinkled face was painful to behold.

By yesterday afternoon, as all seven doors were in the process of being painted, the area available to the distressed dog had been reduced to not much more than twice his own size. Refusing to rest, he just stood staring at me, wondering why I wouldn’t throw his toys, or play tug-of-war with them. Even extra strokes and fuss couldn’t shake his gloomy mood. Once the painter had finished, and left for the day, Ollie naturally presumed that he would be granted his usual freedom to roam. But no. We had seven wet doors and some skirting boards to contend with, and he could not be allowed to brush past them, or lean against them.

I took him out to the kitchen for his dinner, shepherding him carefully past the wet paint. When he had eaten, he expected his evening play as usual. But once again, I had to disappoint him, as I could not risk him swiping one of his large stuffed toys across the fresh paint. His gloomy visage returned, and he slumped down on his rug with an audible sigh. I felt so guilty, and wished he could understand it was only temporary. But he couldn’t of course, and spent the evening stressed, and unable to relax, constantly seeking reassurance.

Today, we have no work going on. Ollie has crashed out, fast asleep on his rug. He is catching up on all the rest he has lost over the last three days, and dreaming his canine dreams.

I dare not mention the carpet layers, who are arriving next week. I will let him rest for now.

A tribute to tradesmen

Talking of decorating, I found this post from 2014. Only a few of you have seen it before. 🙂


And I should add, tradeswomen too.

I have been decorating a small room in our house. It was a relatively easy project, as I did not have to paint the windows, or gloss the door and surrounding wood. Clear the room, fill the cracks and screw-holes, sand down and wash the walls. This was followed by two coats of paint on the ceiling, then two coats of a different colour, on the walls. Some fiddly finishing touches followed. Making good the straight lines, going over tiny bits that were missed, and clearing the dust and spills from the carpet. This was not a mammoth task, and many readers could have probably completed this in a weekend, without giving it a second thought. However, I was hampered by a serious decorating liability.

I am just no good at it. Adding to that, I hate doing it, and can get absolutely no…

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An Englishman’s Home

With work going on around the house, I got to thinking about the old proverb, ‘An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle’. I looked it up, and it dates from 1581, used in legal terminology to assert the right to defend and protect your own home. In 1781, Pitt The Elder made this law, with his famous quote.
“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.”

Home ownership is something of a national obsession in Britain. Unlike many other countries, especially France and Italy, where rented houses and apartments are the norm, owning a house, flat, or even a humble hovel, has always been the aspiration of the British way of life. Since the 1970s, the steady increase in property values in most parts of this country has also made it good financial sense to buy your own home, as it can often make you a great deal of money too. As a rented tenant, you have less rights, can be asked to leave, or be subject to rent increases that make it increasingly difficult to balance your finances.
Home ownership has come to represent security.

In more recent times, it has also become something out of the reach of all but those with good regular incomes, excellent prospects, and substantial savings. The last ten years have seen a steady increase in the number of people returning to renting, as the only way to be able to move with jobs, or leave the parental home. The selling off of state and council-owned properties during the time of Margaret Thatcher has also severely reduced the amount of homes available for social rented housing, and many young people are stuck in the family home well into their thirties, or beyond.

But owning your own home also brings with it great responsibility. It needs to be repaired and maintained, and if you are unable (or unwilling) to do this yourself, you can expect to spend a great deal of money above and beyond the purchase price, just to keep that much-desired roof over your head.
So perhaps it is time for us to rethink that national obsession. Relax about home ownership, and stop worrying about our ‘castles’. We will hopefully see a time when you just live somewhere, and nobody asks how much you paid for your house, and what it is worth now.

Napoleon once famously described the English as a ‘Nation of Shopkeepers’.

I wonder what he would make of our now empty shopping streets, and Amazon deliveries?

Domestic disruption, and blog absences

For the next 7-8 days at least, I will not always be around on the blogs. We have a painter coming in to decorate some rooms, as well as new windows being fitted to the whole house.

Things will have to be moved around of course, and I will have to try to keep out of the way. I should get some chance to look at the blog in the evenings, and hopefully reply to comments sometimes, as well as reading your posts.

But I have to apologise in advance if I end up missing many of them completely, and if some comments you leave might appear to have been ignored.

I wanted to let you know, in case you wondered where I had gone, maybe even thought I might have finally dropped off Pete’s perch. 🙂

Best wishes to all, Pete.

How? Why?

We have a fault with the new cooker we bought last year. It’s not a ‘won’t work’ fault, but the fan refuses to turn off, and comes on of its own accord, even when the oven hasn’t been used all day. Just another of life’s little annoyances, add it the list that grows daily. The small niggles that make me so frustrated with modern technology, I am in danger of biting through my bottom lip.

Luckily, it is under guarantee. Just get the receipt that doubles as the guarantee, contact the shop that supplied and fitted it, and off we go.

Hang on. Where did I put that paperwork? Somewhere safe, obviously. A place so secure that not only would I never lose it, I can be sure of never remembering where to find it, if I live to be 100.

My fault of course, not my wife’s. I dealt with the purchase, I paid for it out of my account, so it’s my job to get it sorted.

Funny thing is, whenever she loses or misplaces similar receipts, that’s also my fault. Because I must have moved it. That goes without saying. It was definitely ‘there’, and now it has gone. The only solution is that I moved it for some reason best known only to me, and now I don’t know where it is.

This doesn’t end with receipts for electrical goods, oh no. Instruction books for things bought but never used, they all disappear too. Attachments for things like mixers and vacuum cleaners suddenly remembered, where did we store them? They will never be found. We already know that, as we begin the fruitless search, and tempers rise.

This reasonably small house has very little storage, or free space. But it is nonetheless capable of swallowing up unlimited amounts of crucial paperwork, and rarely used household implements.

Yet we know full well that we stored them ‘here’, or ‘there’. We can remember it as if it was yesterday. Yet they are gone. For ever.

How does this happen? Is it only us? Are we completely careless and thoughtless? And when it happens, why is our first thought to allocate blame, washing our hands of any responsibility for the loss? Why don’t we stick to a simple system? Maybe we should have one big box where all such things go to live.

We would have to rummage through it, and probably tip it out every time we had to find something. But we would rest easy, knowing it would eventually be found in ‘The Box’.

As long as we can remember where we put the box of course.

Life’s Small Mysteries

Most of us like a good mystery. Whether a ‘What if?’, or a ‘Whodunnit?’, they can often be fun to explore, or challenging to try to work out. But when they affect everyday life when you don’t want them to, then they are just plain annoying. Some of you may recognise the sorts of mysteries below, and others will have their own to tell us about. Please add your own, in the comments.

Disappearing objects.

Many years ago, I bought a Herb Chopper. It was a big curved blade, secured between wooden handles, and it came with a specially indented wooden board to use it on. I intended to chop my fresh herbs with a professional flair, and make more use of them in cooking. At the time, we lived in a very small flat in London. There were few places where anything could be stored, and we had to arrange everything carefully. It was placed in a cupboard under the worktop, and easily visible.
Less than a week later, I bought some fresh Basil, and went to get my new device to chop it. It was gone. The cupboard was emptied out, but there was no trace of the substantial wooden board, and the large, shiny chopping blade.
Even though I knew where I had put it, I duly searched the other four cupboards, a sense of complete pointlessness overwhelming me. Sure enough, it was nowhere to be seen. It had simply vanished. When we moved to Norfolk, I was convinced that it would ‘turn up’, and we would laugh at the strange location it had been found in. But no. It had disappeared, never to be seen again. And it was in good company, as many other possessions had gone the same way over the years.

The spoon in the bowl.

I do most of the washing up around here. I don’t mind doing it, and usually set to it as soon as we have eaten. I am not a person who can tolerate leaving an untidy kitchen until ‘later on’. We don’t have a dishwasher; in fact I have never even used one, let alone owned one. I use a plastic bowl in the kitchen sink, and very hot water that necessitates wearing rubber gloves to do the job. The method works well for me, as long as I always use a ‘premium brand’ washing-up liquid. When everything is clean, and stacked on the plastic stand to drain off before being put away, I tip out the used soapy water, and clean around the sink and bowl to avoid leaving any soapy mess.
As I do this, I can guarantee that there will always be one small teaspoon left in the bowl. No matter how carefully I sweep my fingers around under the water before tipping it out, that elusive spoon will evade capture, preferring to fall into the sink with a ‘clang’ instead. But the real mystery is that even when neither of us have actually used a teaspoon that evening, there is still one in the bowl.

Somewhere ‘Safe’.

Most of us like to keep certain important papers ‘somewhere safe’. Passports, Birth Certificates, Marriage Licence, Social Security and Medical Card, and those all-important guarantees and instruction manuals. I went so far as to buy a portable filing case, with indexed sections for such things, and I have kept it in sight for almost twenty years now. I placed all the papers and documents into the correct letter of the alphabet sections, and closed the lid with a click. But as soon as I needed to access any of those things, they were not there. They had magically migrated to the back of a drawer, sometimes in a different room. A few had disappeared completely, never to be seen again. One was found by chance, in the pages of a book I hadn’t looked at since 1997.
I now just leave them on the desk in the office room, where I can see them every day.
But I still expect them to vanish any time soon.

Things I never expected to buy

In between my draft posts that I have been putting up lately, this thought occurred to me, and generated a post that is not about films, for a change.

When I was younger, and living in the biggest city in Britain, there were certain things that were never really thought about. Things that I never expected to own, let alone have to buy at some stage. Moving to the countryside, and of course getting older at the same time, changed the everyday requirements of living, especially where clothing and footwear was concerned. Living in a place that is always much colder than London also brought about changes, and I recently had cause to consider some of the things I now own, that I had never imagined I would.

For most of my life, I had never possessed a ladder. When I had a house, I would pay someone else to clean the windows, make repairs to the roof, or paint where necessary. If I needed to get into a loft, I would stand on a stool or chair, and haul myself up through the hatch. For routine jobs, I had some small steps, allowing me to get up high enough to change a light bulb, or paint a ceiling. Once I moved to flats instead, routine maintenance was always done by someone else, provided by landlords. When I came to Norfolk to live in a bungalow, I didn’t need a ladder to clean windows, which are all at ground level. But I discovered that I also had to clear leaves from gutters, and that I could no longer physically drag myself up into the loft. So the ladder was purchased, and is now used all the time.

Houses and flats in cities are rarely that cold. The close proximity of other buildings and efficient central heating ensures that bedtime is rarely a chilly experience. But out here, our house is detached, touching no other buildings. All four walls are exposed to the elements, and the outside temperature is normally some five degrees less than it would be in London anyway. So we had to buy a much thicker duvet. For the first time, I now own a fifteen-tog heavyweight duvet, which is the minimum winter weight required, to feel cosy in bed.

I had never needed rubber boots, called Wellingtons here. The small city gardens of my past were easily managed without them, and even walking dogs I used to own was done on paved areas, or in manicured parks. We would rarely venture into the countryside on wet days, or in winter, so I was sixty years old before I realised that I would have to buy such boots, and have to wear them almost every day for six months of the year too. Not only that, I learned that I would have to have more than one pair. Lightweight ones for the spring rains, and heavy-duty lined ones for all of the winter. Then I had to get something called a boot-bag, for taking them out with me in the car.

The first bad winter here also made me worry about being stranded in the car. So I bought a tiny shovel, which I was sure would be needed at some stage. It never was though, so it was removed from the car and now hangs in the shed, looking as good as new. That set a trend for buying items that have yet to be used. With no gas in Beetley, we bought a portable gas-canister cooker, in case the electricity failed. Then added a hand lantern, for the same reason. All this new stuff had to be stored somewhere, so the useful shed outside became chock-full of ‘essential items’ that do little more than occupy space on shelves. A leaf-blower that just blew leaves around, but I still had to bend down to pick them up. A rough saw for trimming trees, that I then discovered I wasn’t allowed to cut.

I won’t bore you further with the list of white elephants that I had never thought I would need, and in most cases didn’t. But if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, think carefully about what you need, and what you buy.