varying costs of work

Regular readers will know that we had a woodburning stove in OldHouse. We left it there, as they are supposed to be attractive to buyers, but in the end the house went to a developer, who beat us down on price; we told him that we would accept his offer, but would be removing the woodburner, and had someone go in and take it out the next day and deliver it to us here, where it resides in the garage. Curiously enough, his solicitors mailed ours yesterday to ask if we’d consider leaving it for an extra £100. We scoffed, openly.

So I’ve been looking around for someone to fit it in here, a rambling Victorian terrace. We were going to do this before the autumn, but having our little Morso Squirrel back has cut the install cost by a few hundred quid, so we thought we might as well get on with it. Plus, as I type, it might be Spring according to the calendar, but it’s blowing a gale with sideways rain outside.

First call was to a chap who advertised on Gumtree. He came last Friday, and started out by saying that we needed to get the Building Regs people in to certify the chimney (never heard that before). He was a dreadful old woman, stayed for about an hour, constantly wringing his hands and repeating himself, and we got the impression he didn’t want the job. Which is fine – just say so, and leave.

He claimed that our nice fire surround was slate, that he probably couldn’t get it out without breaking it, that he’d need *everything* taken out of the room, and all in all just seemed to make an enormous fuss about everything, He said he’d e-mail me a quote (although he omitted to ask for an e-mail address, which I pressed upon him), and that he would send it this week as it was a bank holiday weekend. We’ll see, but he’s going to pad the quote, I’m sure of it, and if he works as slowly as he surveys, he’ll need a fortnight.

Next up was a youngish bloke, who claims to do sub-contract work for various fireplace showrooms. He came on Saturday morning, on his way to a bike rally, and certainly seemed to know his stuff. He looked up the chimney and said it didn’t need sweeping, he said the lintel was resin, and was no problem to remove and put back, and quoted us £470 without the cost of lining the chimney, which he doesn’t do. We want it lined, so he said he’d put us in touch with someone who did that, and the HETAS cert. Not heard so far, but he was pretty good.

After that, I talked to a company called Ecofit in Pontefract, who were the only people to respond to an ad on (which seems useless these days, to be honest). He phoned me and asked some questions, and then rang back 40 minutes later with a price of £1,250 (not clear whether that was VAT included or not). I have no intention whatsoever of employing someone to do that sort of work who can’t be bothered to come and do a site survey – how can they possibly price it without knowing what’s properly involved? So they’re out the window.

And they we got our mates John and Paul, the self-named Dead Popes, to have a look. They had the nous to pull the carpet back, revealing some lovely original tiles for the hearth, worked out where the chimney went, had a look at the upstairs chimney for me as well, and this morning quoted me £300 plus the cost of a register plate (because, despite their assurances, I want a lined chimney). So that’s where the work will be going – always been happy with their services in the past.

All I need now is to find someone to drop the liner down a very high chimney – how hard can it be?

well, at least the dining room floor is clean …

Pete called up to me that there was a “flood in the dining room”. This seemed … odd, but I went down to have a look. And indeed, there was. The hose coupling wossname on the pipe from the outside tap to the water butt we use for fish water had come apart, leaving the tap on full, and the hose pointing at the patio doors. Which were open.

It’s *amazing* how much water a tap can produce in half an hour, and of course as it was coming through a hose it sprayed everywhere. The mat by the patio doors is utterly sodden, and is currently draped over the aforementioned water butt. The cheap but large Ikea rug under the dining table is also sodden, and is now draped over the back yard wall – I doubt it will recover, to be honest.

We moved all the furniture into the living room end, and I mopped and mopped the floor, then dried it with a towel. We also dried off bookcases, wine racks and other sundry wet items of furniture.

Thank heavens the weather is warm and sunny, and forecast to stay that way for a while. Pete was wet through, but he changed his clothes rather than be draped over something outside.

We’re now going to go out for a sandwich, as I don’t want to keep walking on the wettish floor through to the kitchen.

[edited to add]
As a friend points out, if we’d been out the patio doors would have been closed. So it’s a shame we were in, really.

spur of the moment reorganisation

Downstairs of our house is almost finished – needs shelving, new floor, new window, but other than that, it’s done. It looks lovely, it looks .. grown up, somehow, which is not like us. The bathroom looks a tad post-apocalyptic, but we know where we’re going with it, and it will be really nice when done.

But the bedroom and study. Oh dear. We have Too Much Stuff, and the bedroom has been a bit of a junk room since we moved in, and I just hate it. There are three huge boxes of vinyl records in there, waiting for Pete to rip them to MP3, together with his Manticore Mantra turntable and his Moth record cleaning machine, but none of this has been touched for years, because there was no access to a powerful enough computer anywhere near where they lived. The path to the door from his side of the bed was narrow, and paved with obstacles, though my side is OK.

The room is difficult – the chimney breast isn’t quite centred, there are two lovely tall windows where the sun floods in, but their sills are low so we can’t really put anything in front of them, and indeed Pete likes them like that. One window is only about 25cm from the corner, so we can’t put fitted wardrobes down the obvious wall. It’s all a bit difficult to plan.

The study has also become a bit of a dumping ground, and I don’t find it a very sanguine working environment. Pete is less fussy than me, of course 🙂 I walked into the bedroom yesterday afternoon and something just snapped – I felt I had to at least get it tidied up, and had a bit of a rant about all the clutter, and how I hated the rooms being “studenty”. Pete responded with “well, I don’t want them sterile”, which caused a bit of a frosty moment, because I worked really, really hard on downstairs, and didn’t think it was remotely sterile, so a bit of back pedalling and clarification was done!

We started measuring things, and discussing things, and after a fair bit of hard work, by 10.30 p.m. the turntable and cleaning machine are in the study, and they’ll be hooked up to my big Mac Pro which has oodles of processing power and disk space, for ripping to commence. I’ve set up a user account for Pete to do that. Space was made by firstly moving his big toolchest to somewhere more sensible, then moving the filing cabinet to where that was, beside my desk, thus creating the space for the record stuff. I tackled the bedroom – his big chest of drawers did fit where I hoped it might, beside the bed. The three boxes of records have been stacked up and an old curtain draped over them. I’ll construct one of the deconstructed shoe racks for the many pairs of footwear owned by a man who “doesn’t understand shoes”, but yet seems to have masses of them.

There’s still some work to do in the study, but we’re getting there, and the bedroom is a lot nicer – you can actually get a sense of space in there, as indeed you should, as it’s about 4m x 3.4m. Onwards and upwards – it’ll be lovely when it’s finished. As we keep saying.


Gas usage for the past 15 months – the woodburner was commissioned on 24th December last year. It’s interesting to see not only how much less gas we’re using, but how much the bloody price of said gas has gone up.

quarter to metric units bill £
19 Apr 2011 2935.56 120.87
21 Jan 2011 4355.29 306.51
16 Oct 2010 1394.04 68.25
17 Jul 2010 1352.56 66.51
16 Apr 2010 5124.9 214.37


We are plant sitting a couple of green monsters for Jane, who is about to depart to work in Sri Lanka; they wouldn’t really go as hand luggage, so we’re looking after them.

This one resides on the front window sill, where it can keep an eye on the comings and goings.

This one has today been bought a nice new terracotta pot, and moved to the bathroom, where we hope it will be very happy.


garden after blitzingWe used to have a nice garden in Long Ashton – not huge, but south facing, with big patio and a fish pond that Pete dug. Here, we just have a rear yard, north facing, with high walls. It’s not very big, it’s not enhanced by the sodding palm tree that Gavin planted (so appropriate for an urban yard, don’t you think?, but the cats do like climbing it), and it was quite overgrown, which has of course just got worse since what has been passing for spring arrived.

It was getting hard to do anything out there – even hanging the washing out was a bit fraught – but every time we looked at it, we thought it was going to take ages, and somehow we just couldn’t make a start.

But yesterday, I suddenly snapped – I’d walked over to Aldi for some shopping, made a huge vat of meatballs for the freezer, and slumped for a couple of hours, and then just decided to go and make a start at about 3.45.  Pete came and joined me, and between us we emptied out all the old pots, scraped out the weeds from the cracks in the paving slabs (front and back), pulled up all the dead stuff, Pete laid two of the slabs Gavin had taken up to plant the aforementioned sodding palm tree (thankfully, he left them), and we rearranged all the Japanese Acers in pots that we’d brought with us (and the black grass, and the heuchera, and the gargoyle is now in place).  I also cleared up the empty wine bottles and jars that were stashed out there (they’re still stashed, but tidily now).

The compost bin is full, and four bags of garden waste are in the car ready to go to the tip, and the extraneous plastic plant pots went on Freegle, and are being collected in about 15 minutes (gotta love Freegle).

The acers will go in the ground, but it’s the wrong time of year, I think – we’ll do that November-ish when they’ve stopped growing. And I can plant some bulbs, and put something climbing against the walls and fences. And now there’s enough room to sit out, so I’ll keep an eye on Freegle for garden furniture, because the corner is a nice sun trap in the morning.

We have an outside light that can go up, we’ve moved the old table round the corner out of the way, and it generally looks a whole lot better. It only took 3 hours, too – lord knows why we left it so long 🙂

weekend 27/28 March 2010

Saturday involved a short walk (5.68 miles!); we followed the old railway path, and then carried on mooching.  It was a lovely morning, and we just sort of kept going!  Came home and constructed a salad of chickpeas and tuna and stuff, and fell asleep on the sofa.  Badgers.

Sunday we were due in Thornton Le Dale, near Pickering, at 11 a.m. to collect the exercise bike I bought on eBay.  Again, a lovely day, so we decided to pack a picnic and explore the area a bit. So I heated up the oven bit of the microwave, and bunged in a couple of part-baked baguettes to bake, while I went and had a bath.  charredImagine my horror to come down to find a smell of burning in the kitchen, no control lights on the microwave, but the element still glowing red hot, and the baguettes in a somewhat charred state. I still can’t quite get over just how lucky we were – it’s not unknown for me to shove stuff in that little oven and go out, and the house could have burned down.

We bought the microwave from eBay on 16 December, and I have sent a Polite e-mail to the (business) vendor.  No response yet.

Pete hurtled up to Jacksons^H^H Sainsburys and purchased some wholemeal rolls, and preparations continued apace.  We took the rolls, a couple of apples, two Jordans cereal bars, and a rather elderly home made banana muffin, and a flask of tea.

Exercise bike duly collected, along with trampoline and gym ball, and we had a wander round Thornton – pretty little place, with a tiny market where I bought a pair of memory foam heel inserts for my shoes, as my left foot had a nasty stabbity pain – they were only a quid and seemed to work rather well.

From there, we went to Pickering – wandered all round the hilly town, climbed up to the Castle, which was closed (of course), and ate our picnic in the Co-Op car park.  Then home via Old Malton, where we had another wander about – must have done 3 miles or so in those trips.

On our return to Hull, we sallied forth to attempt to buy a new combi microwave – I use ours so much I didn’t want to be without it.  We found one in Currys; not something to get excited about, but Iggy does like to sit on the big silver box, so it was important that it was dealt with promptly.

We had a friend over for supper, and dined on moussaka, garlic ciabatta and salad, followed by plums with an almond sponge topping.  Lovely weekend, apart from the burning martyr element of it.  And now it appears to be going to rain for the foreseeable future, so it’s a good job we made the most of it, really.

p.s. the bicycle is really quite hard work.


Forgot to mention last night’s excitement …

We live 5 minutes from Princes Avenue, which has loads of bars and restaurants that are very busy on Fridays and Saturdays, thus, we often hear rather drunk people on their way home down our road.  They always sound good-humoured and often sing … sort of.  They’re never remotely alarming,

However, last night, about 11:30, someone was coming down the road shouting his head off, sounding incredibly angry. Whatever language he was shouting in, it wasn’t English.  We live in an end terrace with a narrow alley between us and the next block, which is secured by a locked metal gate either end.

The house literally shook suddenly, and we think this guy must have been rattling the gate, and seconds later, there was the sound of smashing glass – not, thankfully, from our house, but further up the road (although I did make Pete go and and check, not least because the cats like sitting in the front window and watching the world go by).

When we went past this morning, their bay window had been boarded up – I can only guess that this guy was hoping to get into the house via the back yard and alley, and when he couldn’t open the gate, he went for the window.  *I* was scared, so the unfortunate occupant(s) of the house must have been utterly terrified.


Muscle memory is an odd thing. The bannister rail in our former house was on the left as you went up the stairs; in this house it’s on the right. I’ve lived here nearly seven weeks, and I still am not used to it.

Similarly, we had to replace the microwave before xmas, and the start button is on the left, and the cancel on the right. Not only is this the other way round to our former one, but it seems just *wrong* in an user interface sort of way to me.

Missing in action from the move:

  • The blue handled coarse microplane grater. We hunted high and low for this, cursing bitterly, as these are not cheap. I knew we must have brought it because the utensil drawer in which it resided had its tray removed bag and baggage, and placed in a box. It was about four weeks before we realised that the blue handled grater had broken, and had been replaced by one with a metal handle. Badger.
  • Spare keyboards – located yesterday on the study shelves, which is of course exactly where they should be.
  • Stainless steel thermos flask.  We have the tin cups that normally travel with it, but this remains unlocated.
  • The shovel. We kept the small garden tools, and sold/gave away the bigger ones, but we decided that we would keep the shovel for inclement weather use, and possible bed digging.  I’m almost certain it actually came up in the very first wave, and was put into self storage, but we cannot find it now.
  • The spare battery charger for the camera(s) is nowhere to be found

Disappointed to find that the Asian grocers are not very good when it comes to fruit/veg.  They don’t price anything, and the quality is not all that good.  However, I think Walton Street market (Wednesday and Sunday) will do us fine in future, at least when (if?) the weather improves and the stallholders turn up.  It’s about 15 minutes walk, and I have my trusty trolly.

My Nikon D70 is playing up something chronic, and almost certain needs a new CF read/write assembly.  I’ve been quoted £92 for this, plus carriage, by a repair man, but he doesn’t promise he can do it, and it might have to go back to Nikon, at no doubt aaargh pricing.  So far, I’m keeping it going with the application of contact cleaner, but its days are numbered, I fear.  Bodies are still spendy on eBay too 🙁

walking in the snow

Pete in his Swedish hat
Originally uploaded by ramtops

We had some serious snow overnight, and it kept on coming down, so at 7.50 we donned walking boots, warm jackets and silly hats (and a stout stick, in my case) and set off for a walk. We don’t often see this sort of weather in Long Ashton (BS41).

We went round Dawsons Walk, about – oh, 3/4 mile, I suppose, through the woods. It was lovely, although the snow was coming down sideways across the level ground before the wood.

We stopped at the baker on the way back for a hot pasty, which was a very good idea. Ron thought so to, and so had to be fought off.