Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2008 – Year of Unfinished Projects.

Well my friends, it has been a long time – FAR too long – and thanks to the none too subtle hints from various parties (where’s our updates you lazy cow??), I have been persuaded to put finger to keyboard once more. I haven’t been avoiding updating the blog for any particular reason you understand, it’s just that I prefer to be able to put photos on the blog, and thanks to a slight technical glitch called Keith, I haven’t been able to get hold of any recently.

So, a whirlwind tour to bring you up to date with the latest happenings at FTC …

20 June 2007 – Keith and I got married. It was probably the most perfect day we could ever have hoped for and still makes me smile when I think about it. We now have a little row of photos in our bedroom which makes me smile every morning when I crawl out of bed (no mean feat!!) one of me as a small child smiling at a stuffed Mickey Mouse, one of Keith as a sprog eating ice cream on Pendine Beach (Keith eating? Surely not!!) and a larger photo in the middle of our wedding day – which very scarily shows that my smile has in fact not changed since I was 18 months old. If there is anyone that we haven’t yet bored with our wedding photos, they can be found here

You might want to make yourself comfortable, there’s a few of them!!

July 2007 – Keith and Larry open the doors to Retro Custom at a lovely farm on the outskirts of Baldock. Times were hard to begin with, and it has been really tough for us as a couple to cope with the balance of work and home life, especially now that the relationship of work and money is much more direct and bills always need to be paid. One massive stroke of luck from my point of view in RC’s new premises is the farmers who live there. They are lovely people, the sort for whom the phrase "salt of the earth" was invented. They are kindly Baptists, who are very keen to share the joys of their religion, as well as the produce of the farm. The lads get a regular supply of potatoes, newly harvested vegetables as well as pheasant and rabbits killed on the farm. I have no problem with Keith presenting me with any of the above, as long as I’m not expected to do more than cook them!! This is one of those places where I wish I had photos to share with you all, as I took some cracking photos of Keith ‘processing’ his first pheasant.

November 2007 – I escape the clutches of the oil and gas industry, as well as the daily agony of the western M25 to start work at a well known electrical retailer in Rickmansworth. This has to be, without doubt the single best move of my professional life. This place is amazing, the people are amazing and have done something I thought impossible at the time – rebuilt my confidence. It was a hard lesson to learn, and maybe one I needed in order to make me appreciate a good employer when I found them. I don’t know, all I can say for sure is that my new boss, and my new colleagues, and my new role, make me feel happy, and confident, and content, and valued.

December 2007 – Keith starts working at The Old White Horse in Baldock. Before anyone gets scared that this implies the demise of Retro Custom, fear not, it was initially a way of getting some extra pin money (and smoothing out the boom and bust of self employment) but soon turned into a lot more. I think Keith has really found a community he loves at that place, as have I if I’m honest. Since he’s started working there I have started helping out on occasion in the kitchens, not for the money, but for the experience, and because this takes my hobby to a whole new level. There has been idle talk of us opening a place of our own some day – perhaps in Gib – where we can put these new skills to good use. I think I’d really love that, even more so because I know the way in which food is grown and sold just over the way in Spain is so much closer to my heart than the way we treat food in this country. But let’s not get me started on that one!!
And so we come to 2008, so far, the year of unfinished projects.

The bathroom is currently one of those rooms. Questions on progress usually results in me nailing a smile to face and saying things like "it’s a work in progress" when really I only have myself to blame. I stupidly said those words no woman should ever utter – "OK darling, you can make a start on stripping the walls". What my darling husband in fact heard was "Please get your friends over and remove two layers of tiles and all the plaster down to the brick and then leave little piles of the resultant mess all over the house". Progress is slow and steady (the toilet and sink have been purchased and are currently resident in the lounge) and is hampered only by my obsessive attention to detail. I know how this bathroom will look when it is finished, I can ‘see’ it in my mind’s eye and it can’t fall short in any way. Unfortunately, good old FTC seems determined to thwart my plans by making life truly awkward. The bath, for example, is going to be an old fashioned roll top bath. We can’t buy just any roll top bath however, because the space in which is has to go is not the industry standard 1700cm, oh no, it’s a measly 1550cm. And my well developed sense of righteous indignation still won’t accept that I must pay a huge surcharge for the privilege of buying less bath.

Also hampering proceedings is time, or lack thereof. Underneath the not so old, but infinitely mangy carpet (I mean come ON, who still puts carpet in a bathroom) was the second least bathroom friendly floor covering, cork tiles. They may be warm on the tootsies, but the don’t like water, and after tripping over the dried sandwich corners on various trips to the toilet, I decided that my teeth would very much appreciate it if they weren’t smashed out on the sink and work began on removing them. Anyone who has ever removed these things will know that they don’t come quietly but in tiny fingernail sized chunks that have to be collected, by tweezers sometimes, and put out of hound’s reach.

In the spirit of "make do and mend" I have also decided to recycle the offcuts from oak floorboards I bought for my bedroom at the old flat to make a cupboard to go under the new sink. I think it will look wonderful, and once I finish my long list of other chores, I’m sure it so prove to be. For the moment, however, my attention is focused elsewhere.

One of the features of FTC that has always annoyed be beyond logic or reason are the windows that top the wall into the third bedroom. I don’t know how they came to be, but I would estimate them at circa 1970 and to my eye, they are a complete abomination. There was no practical way to get around them however, so I have got a little creative with them instead. After some discussion, Keith and I decided on a poem we both thought summed up the house, and our relationship, and so I shave spent most of my recent evenings up a ladder painting the following words across the 4 windows

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe

For anyone wondering, it is a poem by Lewis Carroll from the book Alice Through the Looking-glass, called The Jabberwocky.

Obviously, in view of my earlier comments, there are no photos available of this masterpiece, but they are painted in a deep gold in a very simple calligraphy and the general effect is as if we can uncovered some old original signwriting from when the house was built. The slight down side is that it has made me realise that whoever glossed the window frames last was clearly visually challenged so my final job once I have finished the signwriting will be to go round all 4 windows with a razor blade to tidy up. Why is it that as soon as you make something nice, it just makes everything else look as mess???

The last job in the house which currently requires a serious amount of vision is the hallway floor – and on this point we have clearly been held to ransom by events greater than ourselves. The old saying goes "marry in haste, repent at leisure" but it has been my experience of the last few years that anything done in haste will invariably be followed by months of woe.

We decided to turn the barn into a party room/ dining room/ spare room and started clearing away the sea of junk that we had managed to accumulate since we moved in. Nestled at the back were a pile of leftover tiles from the kitchen – and another smaller pile of the same tiles in black. Joy!!! Are there enough to cover the hallway in a checkerboard pattern? Just. JOY!!! A quick trip to the local purveyor of quality DIY items and we were arms and ready to go. Up comes the old carpet with carefree abandon!! Out goes the underlay with a fling of the arms. In come the tiles from the barn ….. and the rest of the tiles? … what rest of the tiles, this is it.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that we are several (65 in fact) black tiles short of a floor, and of course it is now Saturday lunchtime.

Back in the car, and after brandishing one of the tiles in the face of several tile shops we find on who knows what they are and can get us more. For the princely sum of £105. Sob.

Tiles duly ordered we return to the sorry looking house and decide to do a few overdue trips to the local tip to get rid of some rubble and now carpet in the sure and certain knowledge that our tiles are but a few days away.

The only sure and certain knowledge should have been that nothing is ever that simple. A few days later we discover just that, faced with a very apologetic tile shop owner explaining that due to some misalignment of stars over Wales, the poor folks therein have not been able to manufacture our tiles and we are therefore going to have to glory in our cement floor for a few months until they have resolved their current dilemma - whatever that may be.

You really couldn’t script it, could you?

At least you can be sure of one thing, nothing much has changed in our neck of the woods, and I hereby promise