Friday, December 15, 2006

Harry 4 - Christmas Tree 0

That's right folks - the total of baubles savaged by the great bagle of Arlesey (that's got a kind of ring to it actually) now stands at 4, and the tree is starting to look a little bare around the bottom.

Most worrying of all is the fact that he has now moved onto the crunchable kind of bauble and the shards that were found on the floor were not equal to the 2 baubles that were missing.

Cue phonecall to very understanding vet

Was he showing signs of wanting to throw up? - Tash looks across to a very smug and sleepy looking Harry who could possibly even have been poking his tongue out at me (possibly just the light though)

Nope, no signs of throwing up.

OK well then just make sure the plastic comes out of the other end then.

Great. Bring on the glittery poo!! If only the glitter meant it would smell less pungent eh?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Harry and the bauble

Well, after having tempted fate by saying that Harry wasn't interested in the baubles I made the fatal mistake of feeding him his Kong (rubber toy, hole in the middle, people stuff them with food to keep their dogs amused) with white bread and marmite, forgetting that wheat makes Harry hyper. Cerrr-lang!!!

After wearing out the carpet doing laps for a while he turned his attention to the Christmas tree and the bauble he had been happily bouncing for the last few days obviously looked very tasty. I had deliberately left just the plastic balls at the bottom of the tree (just in case) and it was lucky I did! The little goit grabbed a bauble and ran, dodging my rugby tackle in the process.

Luckily he didn’t have very far to run and we cornered him in the kitchen but by this time the bauble was well and truly wedged in the back of his mouth. Discussing options, we stuck him on his lead so he couldn't go anywhere and there he stood with the single most belligerent look I have ever seen an animal give. Stemming a rising tide of hysteria at a fast disappearing bauble, I grabbed a treat, Keith grabbed a piece of wood, (both usually dead certs for him dropping whatever he shouldn't have) and waved them fruitlessly under his nose. Daft bagle was actually drooling so much that there was a pool forming under his head and he STILL wouldn't give the bauble up.

I tried to prise his jaws but they were already so far open that I couldn't get the gap I needed to get to the bauble and all the time it's moving further and further back in his mouth. Eventually I decided the only option left to us was to be as stubborn as Harry, and we went back to the sofa while he stayed in the kitchen weighing his options. He dropped the bauble eventually, snaffled the treat and was giving the piece of firewood a good lick when Keith decided to try and ambush him to get the bauble back.

Now, I’m being generous when I say that while Keith may be built like a gazelle, but he certainly doesn't move like one and by the time he reached the kitchen, Harry had clocked him and grabbed the bauble again. Keith was not impressed

The next few minutes were pure Benny Hill. Both hound and man came running into the lounge and proceeded to play chase around the coffee table. Harry then decided he was REALLY unhappy with the situation so started trying to bark at us (me by association for having the cheek to sit on the sofa and laugh I think).

I say try because his entire gob was filled with bauble so it came out more like "uffff" than a proper Harry bark. Keith and I were on the floor with tears running down our cheeks and Harry, taking umbrage to this, started 'barking' even more, which (obviously) just had us crying even harder.

Eventually though Keith lost his patience and took Harry for a walk. I don't know what he did on that walk but eventually the two of them came back, Harry looking very crestfallen and a very unimpressed Keith holding the mangled remains of what was once a bauble.

That should have been the end of the story, but like so many things where Harry is concerned, ‘should’ doesn’t mean diddly. I would like to say that our guests will be able to gaze on our luscious tree come Christmas Day, but I’m not at all certain they won’t be faced with a woeful twig adorned with misshapen blobs. Simple fact is that Harry like digging and chewing ... or sometimes chewing and digging, he’s not fussy ... and his new favourite location for both these activities is (you guessed it) behind the Christmas tree.

For a dog of his size to fit into the corner behind the tree is a blatant thumbing of the nose to the laws of physics, but he can, and he does. Expect more updates over the next few weeks with photos of an ever decreasing tree ... or possibly an ever increasing Harry, it’s anybody’s guess at the moment.

Oh and finally, a big Hello and Merry Christmas to Pascalle, the sender of our first Christmas card (and shame on you people, it came all the way from the US!!). Harry would like to thank you for the compliment and wanted to send you a photo of just how cute he was. Unfortunately as you can see posing was too much effort for the little fella.

Actually, I’ve just remembered, house news!! (I’d nearly forgotten the point of the blog there!! lol) The kitchen is STILL not finished. Not news in the purest form I grant you but what is impressive is that it has actually taken a step backwards!!!

The dishwasher broke after a heady 2 months of use and we are now back at the mercy of MFI ordering systems to get a new one. I have the delivery pencilled in for around 2012.

In addition, the plate rack is still languishing in the barn because our kitchen fitter has stubbornly refused to answer his phone for the last month. Best of all though, my complaint to MFI corporate headquarters was answered by a lovely lady a few weeks ago. Apparently the entire kitchen based SNAFU is my fault because I missed the initial delivery that they didn’t tell me about.

So that was nice to know.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas is coming …

December has finally come, and in keeping with the impatient traditions of the mediterranean side of the FTC family, the Christmas tree was bought, installed and decorated this weekend. Unusually for FTC, this particular event went remarkably smoothly.

Early on Saturday morning, Keith, Bill and I went to the local chicken centre (which doubles up as our firewood supplier and purveyor of fine quality Christmas Trees) and walked the long avenue of bushy pines looking for that perfect specimen to fill the lounge with Christmas cheer. Luckily for all concerned, there were only two varieties of tree to choose from and after much debate about branch spans and furniture arrangements, the purchase was made, netted, bundled into the back of the car with Bill and driven home.

Keith and I were both real tree virgins and as such, fell into the common trap known as “tree looks small in shop but suddenly becomes enormous when taken home”. We spent some time moving tree, dog, and furniture before settling on the corner by the hallway. It looked perfect there, the perfect width, perfect height (although Keith would argue we should have got a taller tree) and definitely the perfect smell. As do most people who have grown up in an age of pine scented cleaning fluids and flatpack furniture, I had a strong aversion to the idea of anything even tenuously related to the pine family, but it turns out the smell of these trees is as much like the odour of ‘pine scented’ as a McDonalds hamburger is to a cow. You can keep your Ousts and your Glade plug ins, the gentle wafts of a warm pine tree are what it takes to mask doggy whiffs and have you reaching for the mince pies (which we also did incidentally).

I will admit that both Keith and I were very worried about the likely outcome of Harry Vs Christmas Tree and the smart money wasn’t on the tree. We decided to let him roam free in the lounge while we were decorating to see whether we would need to draw shifts to man the lounge round the clock with a cattle prod …. Turns out, we underestimated our bagle.

I unwrapped the first bauble and placed it gently on the lower branches, sitting back slightly to let Harry make his move. He wandered over sedately, eyebrows raised, nose twitching and a collective breath was held. His nose made contact with the bauble and SPROING!! The branch bounced away from him. YAY!!! thought Harry, a new fun toy all of my own, and proceeded to spend the next few minutes bouncing the unfortunate bauble by batting it gently with his nose. And that was it. There was no attempt to pee up the trunk, no superman style launch into the branches, not even a hint of teeth!! After a gently sigh, he turned away and resumed his place a few feet behind me to oversee the decoration from a distance.

Decorate I did, apart from a brief interlude to hold the dog when Keith showed an uncanny resemblance to a snake with an egg. I had no idea that baubles could implode with such ferocity.

So here we have it, the first Christmas tree of FTC, along with the hound who, as you can see, is proudly guarding his mum’s handiwork. I suppose there are worse things you could find under the tree.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Season of Mists, Mellow Fruitfulness and Flagging Spirits

It’s been a while since the last update, so I thought it was time to bring everyone up to date with the latest developments at FTC.

Our first autumn at the cottage has been a time for enjoying life, planning, and DIY avoidance.

We are approaching our first Christmas at the cottage and plans are underway for a large family affair with plenty of food and possibly even some home made gifts in the form of Fig Jam. In addition, New Year is looking like it will take the form of a Western Cowboys and Indians barn dance in (surprisingly) the barn. Discussions on Saturday night included talk of a home made bucking bronco powered by the race car, although I’m hoping this was just the Guinness talking. So, for any and all of you reading this site, if you fancy the idea of donning chaps and spurs and downing your hoe on New Years Eve, please feel free to join us. You may well find you are eating chilli round a campfire at 3am, but if you have any moral objections, there is always the takeaway down the road.

We have also been taking advantage of the weather to go for long walks with the hound. The most notable of these (for me anyway) was this weekend when, after sheltering from a lightning storm under a tree (?!?!), Keith managed to fall flat on his back in the middle of a sodden field. Both Harry and I thought this was the funniest thing we have ever seen and I think somewhere amongst his various ungenerous mutterings, Keith finally admit he needs a pair of wellies. We’ve also started to take the hound a little further afield (in the car, we’re not completely inhuman) and this has resulted in a lovely ‘patina’ to my otherwise pristine car interior and a delectable “pong de chien” which I am now going to have to scrub out of the seats, much to Keith’s amusement and my annoyance. I suppose it just goes to show that what they say about revenge is true.

In terms of DIY, we’ve hit a bit of a wall. We have now skimmed the kitchen walls 3 times and all we have managed to achieve is a finish which wouldn’t look out of place in a Mexican cantina in Peckham. Rustic is not a starting point that most tilers appreciate, so we are now desperately trying to smooth the walls to something a little less Himalayan. If we succeed, you will be the first to know!!

We also put up a shelf in the kitchen over the weekend. For those of you with eagle eyes, the new shelf will look suspiciously like the shelf that used to live on the far kitchen wall – mainly because it is that shelf, saved from the overactive axe arm of Mr Batsford when the original kitchen was torn out. The recycled shelf looks great in its new location over the back door … except for the fact that there’s not enough room between the shelf and the ceiling to fit my various kitchen implements, so the damn thing is currently being used as an oversized key holder.

Topping the chart of current DIY snafus is the tale of the bedroom blind. Keith pointed out last week that our slinky green curtains, while very attractive, were covering the radiator and therefore posting most of our heat through the large, drafty, glass letterbox above it. No problem for our resourceful household though, we have the technology – or more precisely a blind from my old place and some tie backs for the curtains.

In order to maintain cohabiting harmony I decided to put up the blind in the manner to which I have become brainwashed – most of you might call it “correctly”. Long gone are the days of my usual botch jobs, converted as I am to the joys of rawl plugs and pre drilled holes. Shame nobody told the house. Turns out the window in the boudoir has a metal lintel which didn’t seem to appreciate the drilling power of a Black and Decker with a masonry bit. So, with a sigh, I turned back to what I knew best and screwed the hooks directly into the wall. This would have been a perfect solution, were the idea of a blind not to be opened and closed. As it was, the combined weight of blind and human intervention meant the slightest pull on the cord sent the whole thing crashing down again. I will spare you the details of my language, or indeed my eventual solution … needless to say that the windows are now definitely not covered by warranty (or indeed openable according to Keith) but the blind is up and the heating of the bedroom now secure for winter.
Hopefully all of this will go some way to explaining why updates have been a little slim recently. There are times when the God of DIY is definitely not taking requests, and this is one of those times. Not being ones to flog a horse of questionable health we have turned our attention to the arts of loafing and fire building, and will be able to bring you more progress when we have rediscovered our DIYing mojo.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Slinky Dog

For those of you wondering why I have referred to Harry as slinky dog, I give you Exhibit A.

As those of you who have spent time around the little lad will know, it's not just a physical similarity, more that his back legs have never formally been introduced to his front legs.

The Joy of Rex

It is a well known rule of the universe that what goes up, must come down. Unfortunately for Keith and I they have been coming down pretty fast because when wallpaper and plaster is confronted with a set of determined dog teeth, about the only thing it can do is to wave a white flag.

There has been progress recently, not in the house which has remained stubbornly untouched, but in the behaviour of slinky dog.

Desperate to avoid more rabbit related incidents we have started taking Harry to the river at the weekends. This isn’t for purely selfless reasons you understand, exploiting a love of fetching sticks from a pool of lovely clean water means we don’t have to do any dog bathing when we get him home. Come the summer we’re debating taking a change of clothes and joining in the fun, although that seems a long way off at the moment when I am knee high in the river wearing calf length boots with cries of “I’ve only got trainers on” ringing from the banks.

It is a pretty idyllic spot this river of ours. So idyllic in fact we spotted no less than 3 groups of gothy teens wandering around dreamily on Sunday. Now correct me if I’m wrong, aren’t gothy teens supposed to be holed up in blacked out bedrooms, playing ‘meaningful’ music about how the world doesn’t understand them?!? Keith pointed out that since we live in the country there’s not much to do but walk around fields, but even so, it was more than a little surprising to see them voluntarily walking out in the sunshine and ... smiling!!!

The only explanation I can come up with is that word has spread about the funny looking dog and its slightly unhinged owners:

I will grant you, it’s not entirely usual to see a fully grown woman wading around a river playing chase and fetch with a dog who happens to look just like a mini sea monster when he’s swimming.

It’s not especially common to see said couple wandering through the fields mooing at a herd of cows and laughing hysterically when they respond.

I can even understand the inclination to point and laugh from passing cars when such a family of oddballs eventually wander back towards civilisation wet and windswept.

But is that enough to crowbar a notoriously introspective tribe from their caves I wonder, or is it maybe that they recognise in Harry one of their own?

Anyway, back to the wall, aaah yes the wall, or ‘ex wall’ as it now is. Harry finally discovered that the hallway was plastered with crème cheese held in place with wallpaper. He discovered this on Friday and has decided that it is his civil duty to help us rid said wall of all signs of crummy workmanship. A noble cause I think you’ll agree. The Dyson certainly doesn’t. It has taken exception to being filled with chunky of plaster and paper on top of the indignity of its current dog hair duties.

We’re at a bit of a loss with this latest behaviour I have to admit, the only real benefit being to Harry who gets the amusement of seeing us bound from the sofa and up the hallway like a pair of whippets with every strip of wallpaper he removes. He has even developed a very hurt look which he saves especially for these situations, after all, he’s just trying to join the house renovation efforts.
Despite these new tendencies, Harry is actually doing fairly well with his training, his recall is improving even when in a field, his fetch and leave commands are wonderful and his chewing of exposed limbs is second to none!! We’re told it will pass in about 4 months and 20 days, and until then … well there’s always Prozac.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Harry the Teenager

Well, it had to happen at some point - the grumpy, awkward, time of life where self loathing is topped only by the loathing you feel for your parents - and so, almost overnight, Harry has gone from a lovable bundle of fluff to a stroppy teenager.

The changes are plentiful and joyous to behold - digging at the leather sofa, chomping on exposed body parts, complete deafness when out on walks, cheekily inching closer and closer to dinner plates before sneaking in with the ‘lizard tongue’ and throwing temper tantrums when he isn't getting all the food/ attention he wants.

Right now (and I’m sure all the parents out there will be sagely/ smugly nodding at the screen) Keith and I feel like pretty bad parents and are often at a bit of a loss at what to do with ‘Bo. Luckily for us, it’s not considered abuse when we shut him out in the garden.

So, on the advice of some very wise people on a dog forum I frequent, we have launched an offensive.

Phase 1 started last night when I took the slinky dog on his evening walk and kept him on a flexi lead in the field so we could avoid rabbitty distractions. We did lots and lots of recall training and by the time we were on our way back he was leaving scents (unheard of!!) to come racing back to me for treats.

Back home he laid on his towel to be dried off (his undercarriage is so low it gets a little muddy on walks in fields in this weather lol) and then watched me while I cooked dinner (he got a few bits of chopped veg for being so good)

Then Keith got home and it was all a little bit too exciting for ‘Bo but he eventually sat to be fussed rather than jumping up. Progress!!

After dinner, as is his new habit, Harry decided to throw a tantrum. No problem, we thought, we’ll distract him with games. So distract him we did, playing fetch, hide and seek (more hide than seek on our parts admittedly), and eventually we all managed to get some quiet time together in front of the fire.

We only resorted to a spell in the garden once – and that was when he just would not stop trying to dig through the leather sofa so he more than deserved it. In fact, he’s lucky he’s already had the snip or Keith may well have gone on the hunt for two bricks!!

I’m aware that all of this makes it sound like we are sailing through this latest phase. Not in the slightest. I have to point out that before I got home last night Harry had chewed several guests, rolled in some very dead and rotting rabbit on his morning walk and caused Keith no end of grief over the contents of his food bowl. We’re taking it in relatively good humour at the moment though, if only because dogs are only teenagers for a matter of months rather than years. As any long serving prisoner will tell you though, a month can be a very long time.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Petrol for Blood

This is a slightly off topic post, but I think you'll agree that it's worth it.

My Dad is off on assignment in Saudi at the moment and when you are away from your family in the middle of an exceptionally large expanse of sand, you make your own amusement.

For those of you wondering where I inherited my love of all things car related - I think that question has finally been answered.

For those of you wondering what my mother had to say about this photo - the words SKIN and ALIVE featured quite strongly.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Harry's First Road Trip

Harry has had a lot to digest over the last few weeks, literally in some cases. He has once again proven himself a worthy hunter of dead rabbits – in his case the deader the better – having appeared with rabbit limbs in his mouth on several occasions. Needless to say this is not a welcome addition to the daily routine and we hoping against hope that the rabbits in the field are previously unseen hibernating variety, so that we can have a few months off scrubbing the stink of dead rabbit from Harry’s coat.

There was another first for Harry last week - tractor and plant machinery in the field!!! He wasn’t too bad, relying on his tried and tested method of discovering new things which generally follows these lines:

1. Don’t move – I need to lie here and consider the situation
2. I’m pretty sure I’m not about to get attacked, time to walk slowly towards the offending article,
3. It pays to be safe, best grunt and growl to make sure I’m not being tricked
4. I’m going to carry on my walk now, what was all the fuss about, you weren’t scared were you?
5. On next encountering exact same new thing, in exact same location, repeat above safety measures.
6. Continue for about 2 days until fully satisfied that said new thing is completely safe.

In this case the repeat performances were cut short by the appearance of his best friend Dudley at which point they decided to play 'chase' around the tractor. I don’t think I need say more.

This weekend Harry went on his first road-trip. The purpose of said trip was two-fold, to reacquaint him with his uncle Bill, and to say hello to granny and grandpa Batsford.

We arrived on Friday evening after a very uneventful car journey when we discovered that most of the music we listen to puts Harry to sleep. It was a rookie mistake to take this as good news – a sleeping dog is quite clearly a newly energized dog waiting to happen. He was slightly unsettled by the newness of his uncle Bill’s house and that, combined with the rest he’d had on the journey meant that he managed, within a few hours, to chew his way through Bill's doormat and doorstep and sniff out the hunting potential of the large koi carp in the even larger pond. He also whined so much Saturday night that I ended up sleeping with him on a slate floor in the kitchen (and my back will never forgive me for that).

Sunday was less physically painful with us taking him for a long walk at a country park with Keith's parents. My chest is fully puffed out with pride when I say we were SO proud of him. He introduced himself very politely (rolled on his back at his granny’s feet, the little flirt) ran with her, sat, rolled over, stayed and returned on command, played well with a few other dogs and generally melted every heart within a 20ft radius. I’m told there were even mutterings of “can we get a Harry” by the end of the walk although I am unable to confirm or deny this.

He was also spoiled rotten by Keith’s parents with treats and a very cool tennis ball on a rope which he is studiously destroying. The tennis ball looks like it has mange and the rope is doing a valiant job in the face of some persuasive chewing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Simple Things

Those of you who know me well know that I am not naturally a patient person. As a rule I find it especially hard to be patient when I have an end goal I can ‘see’ and other people are stopping me from reaching it. The kitchen has been a pretty big example of that and it has annoyed me every time I have walked into that room that it is so close, but yet so far. Well, far just became a little bit closer – the granite has now been installed!!

I did promise that I wouldn’t go on about it, so I shall keep to that promise as best I can and let the photos do the talking for me.

You have to admit, it is pretty damn special isn’t it? Smile? I spent most of the evening grinning and stroking the bevelled edges lovingly. Keith and Harry struggled to share my enthusiasm although I’m sure they were supportive of me from the comfort of the sofa.

More exciting than a slab of granite though – Harry has learned to roll over!! I take no credit for this you understand, Keith is the one who finally cracked Harry’s slightly odd approach to training. In his wisdom Harry chooses to listen to the commands you give him, consider them for a week or so, before deciding whether they are worthy of his time and effort.

So it was when we first tried to teach him to fetch. He spent many hours watching us throw toys before giving us a “you threw it, you go pick it up” look. About a week later he brought his toy up to us one evening and we haven’t been able to stop him fetching since (toys, sticks, rabbit legs, small children, you name it).

When it comes to rolling over, you are told that you need to get your dog into a full down position and then make a circle over their heads with a treat while saying Roll Over. This isn’t designed to turn them into toads, but the movement a dog generally makes while following the treat makes them roll over naturally. Under normal circumstances that is, there was no mention of when to do if you dog happens to have inherited the physical characteristics of the child in The Omen. We tried and failed to make Harry roll over although he would manage it if one of us did the treat circling while the other one did some gentle pushing.

True to form though, about a week later, Keith decides to try it again and without so much as a raised eyebrow, little Harry was straight down, legs flailing. So successful was he that when I came home that night the lounge had been rearranged to give him more room for his doggie manoeuvres and Keith was already thinking of the next tricks: Footballs, frisbees and hoops were all mentioned although I think I managed to discourage talk of the flaming variety.

Hold onto your hats next time you meet us folks, we could have a one dog circus going on by then!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey.

This weekend saw a few more “firsts” in the life of FTC, and all of them of the good variety.

First up, the barn got a fresh supply of legal elastic trickery. To explain, there were electrics in the barn before, but they didn’t inspire confidence in the way the fittings dangled majestically from the wall by the flex so the power was never turned on. When the kitchen fitter had the electrical work signed off, y’man took one look at the fuse board and promptly disconnected the whole supply to the barn. So, in preparation for impending winter, the decision was made to bump this job to the top of the list. Thanks to a nice electrician who was happy to take on some weekend work, the barn now has two brand new strip lights and three sets of nicely conduited sockets. As you will soon read, the combo of recently installed workspace and new electrics are proving to be an important mainstay in the health of the relationship – who needs a potting shed when you have a workshop.

The second big event to hit FTC this weekend was the lighting of the fire. Not really one to break out the marching band you might say, but this was a major symbolic event for both of us. When we were originally writing a list of “must haves” for the house, a fire was the first thing on the list. It is something I have had in every house I have had in the last 5 years except my last flat, and both of us had missed it more than I can describe because we’re both avid fire gazers. Based on the condition of pretty much everything in the house, we took the decision when we moved in that we wouldn’t light the fire until it had been swept and that mission was accomplished last week. This weekend, after some umming and ahhing, we decided that the weather conditions were just about favourable for a fire (and neither of us could wait any longer so it would have been lit even if we had needed to open all the windows and change into swimwear). As you can see, Harry is as much of a fire fan as we are, although I suspect that his interest is in the wood rather than the fire itself, since he risked serious fur loss over the course of the evening when any wood was added to the blaze.

At this point I had an epiphany my friends, Keith and I are fast becoming the biggest middle England cliché going – hound by the fire, wax jackets and wellies under the stairs, pipe and slippers of an evening … chuck in some tweed, a Volvo and an Aga and we’re pretty much there. If I ever utter the words “room for a pony”, somebody slap me, please.

Aaaaaanyway, moving swiftly onto the kitchen. Due to a lack of planning on the previous owner’s part, the kitchen extension was (very thoughtlessly in my opinion) not designed to accommodate granite in the edge profile I originally wanted, so I had to go for something that has delayed the installation by a few days. I took the opportunity to cover some of the delicious terracotta and ‘morning pee’ wall colours with a good solid base coat. Obviously since the plastering and tiling still hasn’t been done there was limited benefit in doing this but it needed doing and there was some free time going.

I say it was done, what I mean is that I did it. It was supposed to be a joint effort but after some discussion, it was decided that Keith should stomp out to the barn and hit bits of metal with a large hammer and I should spend the afternoon expanding my list of Universal Truths of Painting. For those of you who have not met this list before, they came to me during the decoration of my last kitchen, roughly about the time I went ar5e first into the kitchen sink while holding a full pot of white gloss. The rules at that point went as follows

1. Paint is like blood, the smallest amount looks like the end of the world, especially when you add water into the mix

2. Gloss paint is very difficult to remove from the crotch area but removal is preferable to letting it dry

3. The amount of paint you get on you is directly proportional to the importance of the meeting you have at work the next day

4. If paint is allowed to settle, it will always choose to settle on the surfaces you least want to ruin.

After this weekend I would like to add a few more rules to the list …

5. Dogs attract paint splatter.

6. Dogs like to lick wet paint

7. All things being equal a dog, given half a chance, will always lie right where you need to clamber down from the worktop. Don’t bother looking, just assume, and always, ALWAYS put the tray and roller down before you start clambering – halfway off a worktop with one leg dangling and one arm keeping the whole kit and caboodle level is not the time to be looking for a place to rest your paint.

and finally

8. Sometimes the Rawl plug is best left in the wall.


The kitchen is looking much easier on the eye now, and the granite should be arriving tomorrow, so more photos then. I apologise in advance for boring you to death with my excitement, I am fully aware of the fact that most people don’t feel especially passionate about kitchen worktops unless they are being used for lascivious purposes.

In a quick doggie update, young Harry has developed a bit of a taste for dead rabbits. We decided to take him to different fields recently, having got fed up of dodging cows, hauling him off cow pats and out of rivers and it seems that the field we have chosen has a not entirely healthy population of rabbits. He came bounding up yesterday with the rear legs of a rabbit hanging from his mouth and it took no end of bribery to make him put the damn things down again. He also had a good sniff at a very mummified corpse the day before and I was as green as green could be trying to get him away from it. I’m assured he is unlikely to have caught anything from these ex-rabbits though so the only real damage has been to my appetite – no bad thing I hear you cry. We have also now come up with a name by which we can describe him. It gets a little tiring answering the question “So what is he then” when your answer is “he’s a beagle basset cross”, so now, the conversations will mostly go along the following lines …

“He’s a lovely little fella, what is he??!”
“He’s a Bagle”
“You mean a Beagle?”
“No, a Bagle”

I think it suits the little lad.

And finally I would like to share with you the results of the weekend’s labours – it is truly a hard life.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Happy Birthday Harry!!!

Harry has been part of the family for 2 weeks now and I have to say, it feels like he has always been around. There are times when he makes Keith and I laugh until tears role down our faces and slowly but surely his training is turning him into an angel, even if it is an angel with a dirty face.

The biggest progress he has made is with his recall, which has come on in leaps and bounds. We took him off the lead for the first time last week and it was a very scary moment for me as I was on my own that first day.

Imagine, if you will, a wide path between two metal kissing gates running alongside a river and a high chain link fence. Safe ground I thought, how wrong I was. If Harry were a whippet I could say he went off like a whippet out of a gate, as he isn’t, you will just have to imagine him flying through the air with carefree abandon straight into the river. Now imagine (and I’m being generous here) that the poor little mite got water in his ears, thereby rendering him deaf to my calls as he crossed the river and went up the opposite bank. Back into the river he went, still unable to hear my calls and started swimming up and down while I was trying desperately to think how I was going to explain to Keith how I had lost the dog. I was about a second away from jumping into the river after him when I decided that it was too cold and I would never catch him and decided to walk away and think of a plan of action. Miracle of miracles – Harry followed!!! So, should any of you see me abandon Harry in a particularly deep hedge or cold looking river, please don’t think badly of me, it’s just the easiest way to make him follow.

Since then Harry has spent many hours off lead and is now overcoming his selective hearing to the point where we are getting really confident in letting him roam around the local fields.

He’s also made a few new discoveries this week –

1. There are sheep around these here parts, and sheep make scarier noises than cows.

2. There is a cat down the road which does a fantastic slow motion walk if he barks at him

3. Topiary hedges are NOT too dense to get into if he tries long and hard enough. There is now a Harry sized hole in someone’s perfectly manicured border which I sincerely hope they will never notice.

4. Baths are not scary, it is not necessary to attempt SAS style escape techniques and a non whiffy coat means more cuddles

This week he also met the grandparents and I have to say, I think he is going to get spoiled rotten over Christmas. He was very excited about his birthday gifts – a jangly ball on a string (which is no longer on its string) and a hide ‘bone’ which is down to a stump – but more importantly we’re going to need to make sure we still have a dog come the new year, as things stand I can see him being dognapped!! It’s the basset eyes, I swear he could get away with murder after a flash of those.

So Happy 1st Birthday Harry, fingers crossed the next year is even better than the last 2 weeks!!!

The best laid plans of mice and men …..

In the past I have always lived by the rule that if you want a job done right, you do it yourself, especially where houses are concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are a very talented group of craftsmen out there who do a grand job of supplying and fitting the fixtures and fittings that any house needs, it’s just that being a bit of a control freak when large sums of money and a “vision” are concerned, I prefer to organise these things myself.

So, can somebody please explain to me why, in view of what I have just said, I was tempted to err from this path to the seduction of the “we organise everything” promises of a large company? Convenience I hear you say? I think not baby puppy!!

There is one irrefutable rule of life, if you get a large company involved, things go wrong. The kitchen was no exception:

The first delivery went back to the depot undelivered because they didn’t tell us when they were going to arrive.

The second delivery comprised half the kitchen because the rest had vanished

Said vanished cabinets were tracked down to Sidcup and returned 2 days later

The cabinets, now returned with a stern warning about wanderings, included the wrong cooker housing

Manager of store delivers the correct housing himself and inform us that the centrepiece of the kitchen is out of stock until October.

I lose my will to live.

The week itself was a fairly enjoyable one, although I have to admit I got very little of my “To Do” list done as I spent most of the week looking after Harry. This wasn’t my initial plan but after he snuck into the kitchen and stole one of the fitter’s sandwiches on the first day I decided the supervision was the order of the day to prevent him being nailed to the nearest wall.

What we DID manage to do, however, was install the old kitchen in the barn. As you can see, the old workshop is now looking a lot more, well, workshoppy. You can’t fault the facilities, there’s not a lot workshops that have solid oak cabinets to hold the oil and spare parts. There are currently plans for many, many power tools and, no doubt, enough gadgetry for Keith to fabricate his own space shuttle if the mood took him. I, on the other hand, am just glad of the temporary peace and quiet.

If any of you are still wondering what the outcome of the week was, see below.

The cabinets are now in, the appliances work, the manky old strip light has been replaced with some lush spotlights, the electrics are now legal and the granite is due to be fitted on Friday. I have to say I’m in love with the kitchen, it has so far turned out exactly as I imagined it and all the hours spent sourcing parts was more than worth it.

Still left to do: tiles and paint and a few accessories here and there - more photos to follow when these are finished and time is going to be tight, there will be 6 hungry mouthes to feed come the end of October when we sit down to a lovely meal to celebrate Sal's 29th!!!

We cooked our first “proper” meal there this weekend though and I couldn’t have wished for more, stood in front of the stove with the dog curled up on the floor and Keith pottering around and being affectionate. Humble dream I know, but it had been my dream for a long time and at that moment I couldn’t have been happier if I had won the lottery.

Of course the peace was soon shattered by the dog jumping up to steal some dinner, sending my into his water bowl while Keith hollered from the general direction of the sofa – but you can’t win them all.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Harry Diaries – Week 1

Every day, Keith takes Harry for his morning walk and to keep me happy while I sit in the office, he sends me a little paragraph on how the walk has gone. Keith, a relatively inexperienced dog owner, is taking to his new fatherly duties like a duck to water and as you can see from the following entries, Harry is proving to be a typical hound, and we love him for it, ever last stubborn, gross little habit lol


We went for a walk this morning pretty much bang on 6-7. He was good as gold, I rarely had the lead tensioned and he walked close to me pretty much the whole way. He nearly always came when I called him. I think I maybe had to pull him away from a smell only 3 times or so.

Then we got home and I fed him. He didn’t show much interest when I was preparing it, but he trotted outside when I put it there. I went in the shower, and when I came out he had been sick around outside the bathroom. He had eaten the wet food, but not had much of the dry. Poor fella looked so apologetic. Im not intending on feeding him till this eve now.


Harry and I had a pleasant walk this morning. Certainly made him hungry which went down fast and hasnt come back up yet lol. He appears to not like postmen, and tried to chase one. Maybe its just the bike. Likewise, lorries! He played up a bit on the walk along the path back to the house, but was pretty good other than that. We went through the long grass to keep our distance from the cows in the field and although he was suspicious he was ok with them.


He was quite a good boy this morning, a few to many wet and fresh cow pats around which took his fancy and needed a watchful eye but other than that he was well behaved, especially on the walk by the path where he played up yesterday. He is definitely getting there I think. He was so funny last night, he was asleep on the couch next to me and as he was breathing it was just lifting the corner of him mouth, and would then drop back down. Dead cute bless him.


Well it’s been interesting. What is the little monster like!? I put him outside for being bad and instead of thinking about what he’s done he’s having the time of his life chasing a frog around!!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting ...

I’m so excited about this post!! I’m afraid that Keith and I have been keeping a little secret of late and the time has now come to introduce you to the newest member of the family. A while ago we decided that once we were settled in FTC that we would look at extending the family. After a lot of finger crossing and frantic work around the garden, the time finally came to welcome that new addition this weekend. So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I would like to present Harry.

Harry is a 10 month old Basset x Beagle who has been a complete joy since he arrived on Saturday. Kat, who has had him since a puppy, has done the most amazing job of him and he is affectionate, placid, completely bomb proof (except for cows but we’ll get to that in a second) and a total lummox when it comes to coordinating his back legs and front legs.
Anyway, he arrived with us on Saturday and after chatting to Kat for a while we were left to get to know the little fella. We took him for a walk along the river and soon learned a few things about young Harry:

1. He loves eating cow pats (bleugh)
2. He loves water, especially muddy, smelly water
3. He loves children, even if they’re not too sure of him
4. He is ultimately bribable with a stick
5. He loves to chew anything knitted

He also has a whole range of gorgeous mannerisms which I am trying very hard not to go on about for fear of being a bore. I will say that I am constantly amused by his facial expressions (very basset), mannerisms (very chilled as long as he gets to lie over/in the middle of/ behind anyone on the sofa and drape his head over your nearest body part), his run (I can’t describe it, you’ll just have to see it for yourself), his big ole dinner plate feet and his sighs (I have never known an animal with such a wide range of them!!!)

Anyway, yesterday was the real challenge and I have to say I was SO proud of Harry. We went on a really, really long walk during which we managed to meet several other dogs without a second of fuss (the other owners commented on how good he was!!), meet herds of cows (actually the same 2 herds many times) and go from “no change guv!!” to “hmmm, I still think you’re funny looking but I’m going to ignore you just this once” and best of all, we discovered the river. As you can see Harry is not entirely active when it comes to rivers, preferring to sit and contemplate life. I was happy to sit on the bank and do the same.

Harry has had a few moments since coming to us, most notably his sudden “modus ballisticus” each evening after dinner when he either decides human squeak much better than chew toys (cue time out in the garden), or else does a very cool four legged dig in my herb bed covering everything in a 4m radius in soil (result of time out in the garden). The digging would have been fine except for the fact that when he did it last night, he was still wet from the river *sigh* … and he likes fighting towels. In the end I let him do the work for me, threw the towel over him and let him fight his way out, thereby cleaning himself in the process – genius!!

So, this blog will now include regular updates on the life and times of Harry as well as news of FTC and I would like to say a massive, enormous thank you to Kat, you did a fantastic job with him and he’s an absolute joy, thank you a million times for letting Keith and I take him :-D

No Longer a Jungle!!!!

It's been quiet on the house front, mainly because Keith and I have been busy doing other things. A little poor I know but when you have an endless sea of jobs to do, it's sometimes nice to remind yourself there's a world out there so that the house doesn't start to feel like too much of a chore.

The house itself as seen relatively little action because I'm building up a nice long list ready for my week off when the kitchen is fitted. Currently I'm planning on:

Boarding out the house loft (once I've cleared it out that is)
Laying the new floor in the downstairs hallway
Taking up the carpet on the stairs
Painting the upstairs landing

I think you'll agree that it's a list with the potential for huge amounts of storytelling, mostly of the horror variety and no doubt ispiralingpiralling costs.

Unlike the house, however, the garden has seen quite a lot of action. The garden has now been properly cleared and there is also now a fence separating the two ends of the garden - and when I say fence I mean work of art, hand crafted with no shortage of blood, sweat or tears by us both over the past few weekends.

The plan for the back of the garden has also changed a little and the 6' fence with 12' gates has now been replaced with 4' fencing and no gate. This is largely due to the fact that those gates take 6-8 weeks to make and we needed a fencing solution a little quicker, for reasons that will become apparent very shortly.

I have to say, I'm pretty proud of how the garden is looking at the moment - you can stop sniggering back there - because the groundwork is really coming together. It's not going to win Britain in Bloom any time soon, I grant you, but it is under control, and by the time spring comes around and we are ready to plant, we're going to have some fantastic soil and comparatively weed free beds. Believe me, that is no mean feat!!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's a Jungle out there!!

Seeing as there is going to be a slight lull in house related DIY this seems like as good a time as any to talk about the garden.

As you can see from the first picture, the garden (as with the rest of the house) had been singularly unloved by the previous owner. The plants weren't complaining, oooh no, the nettles were quite happy being 5ft high, if you listened hard you could hear the bindweed blowing gentle raspberries at you when you passed and the horsetail, well that took a more subtle approach and just quietly busied itself thinking growing thoughts under the cover of its taller neighbours.

Those of you who have read "101 Weeds You Don't Want To Get In Your Garden" will now be heading for a lie down in a darkened room, for the rest of you (and I would include myself in this group until last weekend) what that last paragraph means is we have the nastiest collection of chemically defiant, napalm ignoring, fork shrugging weeds on the face of the planet - and they're not going away.

As I mentioned before, Ian and Rach did a very fine job of clearing what is slowly becoming the herb and veg patch near the house. The addition of a chiminea, table and chairs has made it quite a pleasant place to while away your time - as long as you don't mind being crispy fried because after about 9.30 the sun beats down fearsomely and there is currently no shade. I say currently, because within the next day or so the fitting kit for the sun shade will arrive, just in time for the weather to turn and summer to be over if the week so far is anything to go by.

The upside to all this sun is that the blueberry bush, which was but a sticky stump when it arrived at the house is doing very nicely at the moment. As you can see it's not dead, and that is as much as I ask from any of my plants, green finger I have not got!!

There are some serious plans for this area of the garden and if you squint at one of the photos above you can just about imagine it (you're going to have to because my CAD skills still aren't good enough to have drawn it up yet).

The grassy area that currently sits under the table and chairs and some of the concrete are going to be dug up to a depth of about 3ft. The herb bed will then, logically, become raised and kept that way by a wall of reclaimed brick. The idea is that the table and chairs will then sit in the dug out and paved area which will hopefully give the setup more shelter, more privacy and when things start blooming, a nicer view of the surroundings.

There is only one more thing of note in this part of the garden and that's the doorbell. Isn't she a beauty? Original inspiration came from a conversation with Ammie whilst wandering round Greenwich one Saturday and I kinda liked the idea so it stuck. The only thing I didn't take into consideration was the fact that there is a Social Club next door and they, of course, have a similar affair to call time at the bar. Not really a problem for us as we don't usually have guests arrive at 11.30 at night but the social club on the other hand is in the grip of a last orders frenzy, especially at the weekends when someone will invariably decide to test the theory. I feel sorry for our neighbours sometimes.

Moving further up the garden we come to the area where the bulk of the work has been done so far. Pretty soon after we moved in (approx. 4 hours I think it was) the like travellers had set up shop, and it hasn't improved much yet but I am promised that "when the barn is organised" the garden will become a car part free zone once more. Until that happens I have to console myself with ripping up bushes and trees.

Our friend Hen came over last weekend he was a godsend on the gardening front!! No photos yet but safe to say there are now many bushes and trees that have bet with the chop.

All except one, the namesake of the cottage, which I am having to defend from the evil advances of Keith at the moment. For some reason he thinks it is a conspiracy that the fig tree can't be moved until winter. In the meantime, the tree is happily fruiting away and last weekend the first one ripened. I can safely say that I have never eaten a tastier fig and I'm doing daily inspections for the next ones to be ready.

It also appears that there is a plum tree at the end of the garden, and luckily it is tucked nicely out of the way so there is no excuse for it to be cut down any time soon. Not that Keith won't try. He seems obsessed with the phrase "clean slate" which is enough to strike fear into the heart of anyone who has to leave a saw happy boyfriend unsupervised for 60 hours of the week.
I have tried to remove temptation with talk of mini diggers in the near future - fingers crossed it works!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

You've Come a Long Way Baby - One Month of FTC

Try not to get emotional, but Keith and I are about to hit the end of our first month in FTC together. So, in honour of this momentous occasion, here is a quick update on how the place looks.

In no particular order we have the first bedroom, where the stack of boxes has been reduced to a dull roar, we now have curtains, wardrobes and, yes, even a picture on the wall. The bed is still a bit of an obstacle course due to the box of ali car panels but all in all, a very nice place to lay your head at the end of a hard day.

Next we have the second bedroom, once purple hell the carpet is long gone, the walls are painted and the ethnic dust collectors are now on the walls. The fish seem very happy with their new home and Keith's TV fits snuggly in the corner of the room so any guests wanting to visit are now well catered for.

For those of you wondering whether my contribution to the house has been 'managerial' I give you evidence of my hard work, such as it was. I managed to roller a wall and cut in half the room before I got fed up and moved on to something else.

There is sadly no evidence of my other DIY efforts including the notable high of me conquering my fear of household electrics and wiring in no less than 3 light switches (what can I say, the lure of the bakelite was too great) and glossing the wardrobes, one of them in the few hours after I got home from work one night.

I like to think of my contribution as more of a support role, cooking food for the troops, providing motivation and spending all the live long day trawling t'internet for the perfect purchases.

Hmmm, moving swiftly on ...

The office, now somewhere for Keith to move Kabie Consulting to new and dizzy heights. The laminate is gone and the walls are now ready for photos, the first of which has gone up - the race car towed by Mooch my old econoline, visions of matt black perfection both, with the Santa Pod finish gantry in the background.

The office is also home to Neo, Keith's gecko, who seems very nonchalant about his new surroundings. This may of course be bacuse he is strawberry short of a fruit salad and has yet to realise he has moved house, the jury is still out on that one. Since the move he has been introduced to food he can actually catch too - they have no legs - and watching the little fella pounce on them is almost worthy of a Benny Hill sound track.

Now we move downstairs, or under them to be more accurate. Keith and I both had large wardrobes at our old places and FTC didn't have the space to recreate that so we needed to come up with a good solution for storing coats and bike gear.

What you see here is stage 1 of the solution: The coat rail. We will store Imelda Marcos' shoe collection under it and there will be a shelf going in over the top of the rail to house the hat and lid collection.

The lounge is pretty much there now, though we are having slight issues finding frames for the pictures we have bought. We've gone for retro car posters and there seems to be a conspiracy between poster printers and frame makers so that the sizes of each are wildly different so you have to either hack up the poster you have just spend hours finding and good money paying for or get a frame with an acre of white border at a vastly more expensive price. Bare faced cheek if you ask me!!

So there you go, the more observant of you will realise that I haven't said anything about the barn or garden in my update but as with the kitchen, those little cookies deserve a section to themselves which will be coming as soon as I manage to get Keith over his stage fright ... And that's got 'can open, worms everywhere' written all over it!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Coming Soon - The Kitchen!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to ... The kitchen.

Due to a slight technical hitch (Keith ran the battery flat on the camera and I don't know which box the charger is in yet) I can't put up any photos of the kitchen as it is. What I can post, is how the kitchen will be after the middle of September (6 more weeks C'MAAAHHHN!!!)

Just to give you the current status of the kitchen, key features are as follows:

  • One small fridge/ freezer which leaks and so is currently lined with a couple of sponges which need to be removed and squeezed on an almost daily basis
  • One worksurface down the window wall complete with sink and very rickety plumbing for washing machine currently held together with PTFE tape.
  • One tressle table with one pot plug in cooker (thanks again surrogate mum), one mini plug in oven/ grill (thank you real mum), one kettle and one toaster.
  • The above powered by a wiring hanging out of the wall and held together with chocolate blocks
  • 3 or 4 wall cupboards crammed with everything else you need in a kitchen.

As you can see, the perfect candidate for a serious makeover.

This is a dinky little plan of how the kitchen will be, and despite getting it from a reputable vendor of all things homely, it has not yet been plain sailing. There was a new definition of the phrase "complete service" when the fitter turned up and point blank refused to work on our electrics and do any tiling or electrical work - nice!!

A few snotty calls later and that was resolved although we had missed our slot and hence we are now waiting another 6 weeks for the kitchen to be installed.

Those of you who know Keith and I well are fully aware of the fact that we have never yet been known to take the easy road and this kitchen was no exception. A lot of the parts have been sourced from separate shops to get the right look at the right price and I think we've done pretty well. Remember folks, this is a turn of the century late Victorian/ early Edwardian cottage, so everything is being geared to be in keeping with the age of the building.

The original idea was to go with a cream country style kitchen: but nothing 'twee' and that caused a few issues until this little gem came up which has really simple lines and some very sexy curves to the ends of all the units.

As you can see there's a distinct lack of wall units except a plate rack and that is because we have somehow managed to crowbar a built in fridge/freezer and a larder unit at the end of the room which we hope is going to take pretty much all of the food between them.

The low level units will then have the majority of the cooking gear, with a pan rack above the hob to take the most commonly needed pots and pans. There is also a notable lack of drawers except for two wicker baskets and a drawer so cooking utensils will be kept in a pot beside the hob.

Next problem was the tiling and this is something I have always struggled to be happy with in kitchens. A cream kitchen plus cream walls could easily lead to a Room'o'Cream if the tiles aren't right, and since we were keeping the terracotta floor tiles, the palate was a little limited. So, we decided to try something a little bit special. For the last few months I have been gathering individual Victorian tiles on ebay and the plan is to have two rows of these tiles, alternated with plain cream tiles.

With luck, it should look something like this:

The crowning glory will be a baltic brown granite worksurface with undermounted sink and draining grooves cut into the granite and with any luck we should then be looking at a kitchen to be proud of: which will be handy when both the families come up for Christmas ... but that's another story.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Week 2 - Keith on a mission

After the success of moving weekend I was worried that progress might stall slightly - how wrong was I!!!!

This week saw the bedroom painted, one of the new plugs being installed (thanks to Oliver's Lighting, purveyors of period repro switches), the table and chairs for the garden delivered AND the wardrobes arrive (albeit in *shudder* flatpack ready to be painted).

The place felt a little bit more like home although there were still boxes in every nook and cranny which sometimes made walking through the house a bit of an adventure. It was definitely time to get some excess stuff into the loft.

Ah, the loft, the baby brother to hell itself!!! I was the obvious choice to go up there for the purposes of box shifting because I am easily bunked, good at organising/ tidying and Keith would be the choice to get the boxes up to me. What he didn't tell me is that the loft is about 1,000 degrees, especially at the moment when we're in the middle of the biggest heat wave this country has known in living memory AND the boiler is up there, merrily chucking out heat when it warms our water!! The place did look better for it though, and I did lose half my body weight in about 30 minutes.

So onto the small touches upstairs, pictures going up, curtains up, and the place is really starting to look like home now. It is a little rough round the edges but it finally feels like progress is being made.

The current plan for these small touches is as follows:

The spare room has all the "ethnic" stuff in it with a framed Ghurka knife and wooden masks on the walls. This room also houses the fish, and will house the spare TV as a kind of spare lounge. Add some spare ribs and it's about as spare as it gets lol

Our bedroom has some lovely dark green curtains going on and the big Guinness poster onthe chimney breast. Still to come are more pictures from our travels (such as they are)

The lounge is also painted and tidied and is going to have several large retro motoring posters up on the wall. Not entirely sure about the dust collectors yet but I'm sure they'll come in time, those things seem to breed when Keith is about ;-)

And that's about it for plans, except for the kitchen which will need to wait because it deserves an essay all of its own!!! D-Day currently stands at 18th September though and I cannot WAIT to see how it turns out!!

Oh and we have also made another discovery ... the social club next door is fantastic and will left us jump over the wall and get 'takeaway' from the bar. Perfect for those Saturday evening BBQs!!

9th July 2006 - Thank you surrogate mum!!!

There was only one thing of note today in the life of Fig Tree Cottage .... Helen and Paul came over and leant us a plug in pot cooker thing, which has since proven to be the most useful item in the kitchen. We may not have a cooker or a hob at the moment, but it is incredible what you can cook in a single pot!!!! Life suddenly seems much easier!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

8th July 2006 - The Decorating Begins

I have never been so tired in my life, and when Keith and I had to drag ourselves out of bed at 6 in the morning to take the van back to Leighton Buzzard, I'm pretty sure we both looked like extras from Resident Evil.

The day improved though - big time - thanks to our wonderful friends.

First to arrive were Rach and Ian who only had a 2 hours before they needed to go out. They have to be applauded for the most valiant effort because they managed to clear the shoulder height nettles and grass, find the flower bed and turn the ground ready for me to start planting.

Second was Bill who spent a while helping Keith organise the Barn before coming inside to get stuck into the painting. Between him and my little sister Ammie, the spare room was done by mid afternoon.

Bringing up the rear were Sal and Dave who get the prize for the most entertaining contribution. Speed painting the study while carrying on a domestic about the age old question of a woman's ability to do DIY is a pretty effective skill!!

After the painting came the celebrating, and that it was nothing if not educational:

We did a taste test on the two chippy's in town
Walked into Phoenix Nights and ended up running a creche around the pool table and then
Kept the neighbours up until 4.30 singing songs in a very off key and drunken way.

Sorry neighbours!!!

Thanks to all the lovely people who came and helped that day, we would still be living in purple walled hell otherwise!!

7th July 2006 - Moving Day

On the 7th July 2006, Keith and I finally moved into our first home together in Arlesey, Bedfordshire which we had already named Fig Tree Cottage.

As you can see from the photos, it's not a mansion, but it does have a 100ft garden, a 28'x13' brick workshop in the garden, 3 bedrooms AND a Chinese Chipshop 2 doors down!!

I won't say it was an easy move, it rained on and off all day, the trailer Keith had hired was put into a ditch the night before the move, I had a meeting that the morning and I had run out of boxes so not all of my stuff was packed.

As you will see from the photos, the house was nothing to look at and, as always seems to happen, had shrunk since we last came to see it. Either that or we truly do have more tatt than any two humans should be allowed to own.

Walking down the garden with the keys in hand. You can see the Barn to the right of Ammie

Keith and Larry move the coffee table into the lounge. Note the fireplace on the right - typically for this country, after years of craving a proper open fire, we're now having to wait until the heat wave ends to curl up in front of it with a glass of vino.

Mmmmm purrrrple. This is the second bedroom which overlooks the garden at the back.

The third bedroom, now Keith's office - a vision in Peach I think you'll agree.

The kitchen - as you can see the previous owner favoursed the 'minimalist' approach to cooking.

The smiles say it all really. Keith and Larry during one of my rare amusing moments.

We ended that day in a bit of a crumpled heap, Keith having shifted his possessions in a marathon 17 hour relay and me because I had been babysitting both sets of parents while firefighting the problems you always get on moving day.

Special thanks have to go to both sets of parents for their tireless advice and cleaning prowess, Larry for helping Keith with his move and BS trailers for the last minute trailer hire!!