How to become a ‘big cheese’

I haven’t been invited to a cheese and wine do for years. Is it because I have become unpopular, or are these sorts of functions put on just to get you to sign up to a committee and I am avoiding responsibility? It might just be that the canapé has usurped the cheese, I’m not sure. Thankfully the one thing that can never be taken from us is the wine.

I have been reading self-help books recently (yes – really), and I think I can analogise the gist of what they are saying well with the aid of comestibles.

Let’s take the concept of ‘the big cheese’ vs the little cheese.

Basically if you think of yourself as a small triangle of Dairylea cheese, you will be a small triangle of Dairylea cheese, forever to be wedged in with all the other little cheeses in a box with a lid, dying to get out of your restricted foiled world. If however you picture yourself as a mighty round of smelly blue and delicious Stilton, that is what you will become, but you must keep that picture in your mind at all times. Never picture yourself as a Dairylea wedge as that would be counterproductive. Don’t even think of yourself as a Babybel because as you know, you will be caught in a net, have your wax ripped off and then wolfed down in one go.

I would like to be savoured and eaten with wine which will complement my aroma and flavour – not eaten in a packed lunch by a five year old and washed down with a carton of apple juice (no disrespect to any five year old readers). I would like to be lovingly placed on a cheeseboard with other distinctive cheeses and raise a gasp when I’m put on the table. Apparently all I have to do is to affirm that I am a ‘big cheese’ as often as I can and it will happen.

Mr Clark would like to sell up and set up a cheese farm out west somewhere. A silly idea you may think, but if he really wants to make cheese, he should be allowed to make cheese. Perhaps he could make wine as well. Do you know that there are 432 commercial vineyards in England and Wales, and 124 wineries? Amazing when you consider the weather. www.englishwineproducers.co.uk And according to The British Cheese Board there are over 700 British cheeses produced in the UK www.specialistcheesemakers.co.uk

I am a ‘big cheese’… I am a ‘big cheese’…

 

 

 

Why should you keep a diary?

I have recently been leafing through my old diaries from the nineties. There are things that I really don’t remember at all, which is a worry. I was full of hope for the future; it’s an odd feeling looking back, I feel quite protective of the young lady I was then, knowing what I know now. My mum says that I’m like a cartoon character – I keep getting squashed by a boulder but always somehow manage to ping back to life again. There goes that old song in my head ‘Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again’.

The whole saga is chronicled in my mum’s diaries too. Oddly enough, as she was looking through them to help me remember events during the house build for my book – as well as providing me information about what the weather was doing at the time, she realised that her 2010 diary was missing, we hunted high and low but it had gone. No, it wasn’t me – I didn’t do anything particularly dastardly that year, so you can stop pointing the finger. Now we will never know now what the weather was doing in 2010, unless we Google it of course. We discussed what would happen to her diaries when she departs from this earthly life. She said to burn them, but I think not. Since writing Mud & Marriage I have now got into the habit of keeping a diary, not every day, but I know that looking back on them one day will give me a great sense of amusement.  I wonder why we only remember the highs and lows. It’s a puzzle how only a few strange details filter through.  I suppose we file many things away in the pleats of our mind, and there they will stay I expect. (Or until you become friends with someone on Facebook who you knew when you were fifteen and it all the embarrassing moments come flooding back).

I have written notes in my diaries for people to read on my departure to the heavenly realms. I’ll be glad to give people who might read them some food for thought. Wagging an advisory finger from a different dimension is safer I think. I’d better hide them until then eh.

We had some visitors today who have read Mud & Marriage – I was very pleased indeed to show them round the house. Mr Clark and I showed them the photo book  we made of the house build from start to finish and they said that it must have been a huge task.  Looking back, yes it was, but while you are living it, you just live it and get on with it. Keeping a diary is a great thing – It shows you how far you’ve come and that things usually turn out alright in the end.  I’d do it all again – it’s an adventure, and even though unpredictable events may be daunting at the time, they make for an interesting story.

 

You can buy Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure from Amazon.co.uk  or from this website.

How to build a site manager out of a fussy middle aged woman and a Pot Noodle – husbands and subcontractors take note.

  1. Make sure she has knee pads (with Velcro fasteners)  How about these?
  2. Make sure she has steel toecap boots
  3. Keep an emergency Pot Noodle in the site office
  4. Give her a kettle, teabags, some milk and a mouse-proof container
  5. Never attempt to put fish tins on her rubble pile
  6. Buy her draught-proof clothing
  7. Buy her waterproof clothing
  8. Sing to her
  9. Tell her some jokes when she looks upset –  You could have this book handy.
  10. Don’t tell her jokes when she looks a bit miffed
  11. Don’t ignore the red and white barrier tape around her trees
  12. Don’t tell porkies
  13. Admire her choice of bucket colour – this Jewson one looks nice.
  14. Remark how tidy her site office shed looks
  15. Don’t let on she has hat hair

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You can buy this fussy site manager’s book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure from Amazon.co.uk in paperback or on Kindle or from this website.

Do you need more storage? An Ikea Pax wardrobe might float your boat.

Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure is available in paperback from this website or from Amazon.co.uk in paperback or on Kindle.

Well … I have made my first foray into writing an article for a magazine – I am very happy indeed and feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity. I was invited to write the article for the April edition of i-build magazine and I am very pleased with the result – thank you editor Emily Smith.

Self-building is a big life changing experience and writing the book is another. When I wrote the article I was thinking of other self-builders battling the wind and rain trying to get their build watertight – as being watertight is a major achievement and signals a significant step in the process of building a home. I suppose April showers are all part of the process. If you are building at the moment I feel for you, but hang on in there; it’ll be worth it, there is light at the end of the chilly and damp tunnel. One day you’ll look back fondly – it’s amazing how you forget the sogginess (but you do).

I don’t know if you have read my previous ramblings, but I have said in the past that I wish we had built in more storage at the time of the build. Well, Mr Clark and I took the plunge and now we have a fabulous Ikea Pax wardrobe.  Actually it isn’t just a wardrobe; it is a whole wall of storage with drawers and shelves, which we customised for the space with the help of a lovely young lady at the Southampton branch. We went to Ikea for dinner – who doesn’t love their meatballs – and came away with a printout of exactly what our wardrobe would look like. When it arrived, Mr C put it all together himself … he demolished a light fitting in the process but I think he enjoyed the challenge. It prompted an overdue spring clean which can only be a good thing and Oxfam will be happy.

As I wipe the salad cream off the ends of my hair (I’ve just had my dinner) and the dinner medals off my jumper, I would just like to say – before I have a glass of Chardonnay, thank you for reading my blog. It would be lovely to hear from you if you felt like dropping me a line.

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Building show tips and a total eclipse.

How many of you woke up this morning in Britain singing that Bonnie Tyler song? Mr Clark was treated to a rendition on my awakening. He wasn’t impressed.

I opened the shutters wide and what did I see? A completely grey sky staring back at me. Then the sun came out about an hour later – oh well. According to my horoscope in the Telegraph magazine, the solar eclipse is auspicious. I am still waiting for that ‘unexpected conversation this week that will help me branch out and break new ground’.

I had a long chat with a lovely young lady from Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine  yesterday. It wasn’t ground-breaking but a very good chat nonetheless. We talked about the Homebuilding and Renovating shows, as Mr Clark and I went to quite a few of them before and during our self-build. It was at one of the shows that we met a couple who were by then on their third house build, and they, along with Mark Brinkley and David Snell (the house building gurus), inspired us to go ahead and project manage our own build.

For us the shows were a vital part of gathering information for essential items, from roof tiles and ground- source heating, to sewage treatment systems and flooring, we always came away with bulging carrier bags full of brochures. If you are planning to go to a show, take your list of stands you want to visit, wear comfy shoes and also take a flask and sandwiches – gather as many free pens and sweets from the stands as you can, and have a lovely time eyeing up all those things you would love to have but you probably can’t afford (luxury mobile homes or caravans for living on site being one of them), they might not let you eat your sandwiches as you try out the comfy seats but you could have a go and see what happens!

You can read more about our Homebuilding and Renovating Show visits in my book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure, available from Amazon.co.uk  or from this website.

 

Are you sticking to your Gripfill gun – or is it sticking to you?

It seems to me that Twitter is one ginormous cocktail party, where sadly you have to get your own drinks and canapés but where amazingly you can wear your jim jams and it doesn’t even matter. When I started tweeting to advertise my book, I was scared stiff and didn’t dare press any keys on my computer in case I tweeted something by mistake, or inadvertently insulted someone – because as any Twitter user knows, etiquette is all important (little finger in the air as the author sips Chardonnay).

How incredible it is to be able to hook up with like-minded, well-known or even famous people who you admire and who, amazingly enough, might even spread the word about your scribblings. How else would I have heard the news about Jeremy Clarkson not quite punching somebody? Well … actually Mr Clark told me, but even so …

Sometimes the thought of doing a thing is daunting. I’m sure Jeremy would have (had he thought about it) been daunted at the fallout of his actions. As a punishment I think he ought to be made to clean cars in Sainsburys car park for at least 6 months – a fitting community service and you never know, he might even lose his jeans overhang.

Daunting or not, building your own house will be worth it, and there will always be someone you can tweet who might be able to help you. Take it from me; never employ builders who don’t speak any English, unless you can speak their language of course. Think your build costs through – it is most important especially if you have a tight budget. Buildstore can help you with their build costs calculator. If your carpenter ends up taking the p** and asks you for some very expensive fixings that aren’t in the budget, just say ‘no – use some bl**** nails’ and stick to your guns, (hopefully not to your Gripfill gun, even though I expect you will find that it will come in very handy – Gripfill being the stickiest and toughest substance on earth).

Talking of tweeting, my mum has a clock that chirps with a different sort of bird on each hour. The other day she went outside and heard a blackbird – strange she thought, it can’t be eight o’clock yet. I told her it’s the Pavlov’s dog effect. She has been conditioned by her clock! – now that could be a military strategy, if you have read The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson you’ll know what I mean.

I’m tweeting like a demon now – give me a tweet @mudandmarriage

If you want more advice about do’s and don’ts on a self-build, you’ll find them in my book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure, available to buy from Amazon.co.uk  (Kindle version now available) or from this website.

And on that bombshell … What an adventure it was!

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You can ‘self’ do it too!

From self-building to self-publishing, I say all a person needs is a bit of grit and determination and probably a deep need to be in control. You may be on the cusp of a ’self ‘project and I am here to say that it isn’t as scary as you think it is – help is at hand.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a control freak (others might). Mr Clark says that I am fussy – I say that I am just a bit particular, but we both agree that if you want something done properly –do it yourself and for those things you can’t, pay someone else to do them (or if it is your sister, just ask nicely).

You may not know anything about ground source heat pumps or where to put your punctuation after a bracket, but there will be someone who does. I think the best way to learn about something is from talking to an actual human being – as well as Googling of course. The internet does have its place in gathering essential information – how else would I know how to cook Jamie Oliver’s sticky ribs recipe or even how to recognise a sociopath?

Homebuilding shows are brilliant for self-builders, not only for gleaning information from suppliers but from random conversations you may strike up with other self-builders as you eat your sandwiches. One such conversation gave me and Mr Clark the confidence to do it ourselves. (We also managed to get quite a good supply of free pens and sweets from the stands).

This week we went to Bath Literature Festival and I went to seminar given by the lovely Flic Everett on ‘how to promote your self-published book’ (while Mr Clark went to see his e-bike friend and ate his way around the city). Not only did I come away with some extremely valuable nuggets of information but I met some really lovely people too, all like me on the quest to do it themselves.

Mr Clark and I also visited the aptly named Topping and Co booksellers where I had the great fortune to meet and chat with a fabulous young lady who works in the shop and who gave me some very sound advice.

I’m not under any illusion that a ‘self’ project is easy – I’ve built a house – but it was a worth all the hard work and I still have a great sense of satisfaction, especially when I look back at the photos I’m submitting for magazine articles which document the build from start to finish. I’m still on my upward self-publishing trajectory – who knew what was involved without a publisher! As I get to grips with it, I must remember when I am checking my blog ‘stats’ (yet again) that getting out into the world and talking with people is paramount in enjoying the journey – and that is after all, in my eyes, what it is all about.

If you would like to know how you can build your own house there are some handy hints in my book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure, available from Amazon.co.uk (now available on Kindle) or from this website.

After

The Bath Literature Festival:  http://bathfestivals.org.uk/literature/

Book cover design: www.katenorthover.co.uk

Art blogger L.E Wright https://lewright.wordpress.com

Homebuilding shows:

http://www.homebuildingshow.co.uk/

http://www.granddesignslive.com/

http://www.buildshow.co.uk/

http://www.nsbrc.co.uk/

 

What everybody should know about self-building

Builders make a nice fat profit – without a main contractor you could afford a house worth 30% more.

It isn’t as hard as you think it is, you’ve seen Grand Designs, they all end up with a lovely house and you don’t even need Kevin McCloud (even though it would be nice).

Keep your budget realistic and always try to get three quotes for everything, even small things (Mr Clark made me get three even for loft hatches!)

If you have friends in the building trade – shamelessly pick their brains.

Trust your gut feelings, your instincts are probably right when employing subcontractors (you’ll see what I mean when you read the book).

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If you would like to read my book Mud and Marriage and find out all about my housebuilding adventures, you can buy it from Amazon.co.uk  or from this website – Kindle edition out now.

 

My cork has been popped and my love has been Kindled

2… and… 1 – we have lift-off!  Thanks to my clever sister’s patience and hard work, the Kindle edition of Mud & Marriage is out now – phew! I have a slightly fuzzy head due to a few glasses of Prosecco to celebrate last night, but I am very happy indeed to be out electronically. You can now buy it from Amazon.co.uk. 

Valentine’s Day is here and lovely Mr Clark gave me some chocolates and I gave him some meat products (no,I wasn’t wearing them), so we’re both happy. We’ve just have just had a very challenging Bananagrams game, so Mr Clark has gone for a lie down as he has to be fit for his Deckchairs gig tonight at the Queens Arms  in Reading – on the same bill as Peter and the Test Tube Babies. I will be going along (with earplugs, I want to try at least to save what is left of my hearing after having been in a loud band myself all those years ago).  I’ll probably wear a badge that says ‘sorry I can’t hear you’ and take along a notebook. I remember taking a notebook out with me once when I had lost my voice. I made a heading saying ‘I have lost my voice’ and wrote what I wanted to say. It worked really well, but the strange thing was, people wrote back to me on the notepad rather than speaking to me – a bit odd, but effective. I still have the notepad from that evening and it makes interesting reading.

It’s not that I don’t like the music, I do, especially the song that goes … ‘baby … have you ever been to Bracknell oo-a-oo-a-oo’, but I just don’t want to go mutton just yet. Mr Clark has been downloading sound effects onto pedals for the gig; I might miss the Charles Hawtrey one where he says gently ’ooh I do feel queer’ but  I expect I will hear the scream, the siren and the explosion, as I don’t think even earplugs could keep them out.

Right then – time to put my PVC trousers on.

Kindle edition of Mud & Marriage arranged, formatted and uploaded by Kate Northover 

If you want to have a listen to the Deckchairs you can here (parental guidance lyrics!): https://soundcloud.com/the-deckchairs-1/zombie-attack

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Earplugs or soundproofing? Cockerels at dawn

Cockerels, cockerels everywhere! And not a shotgun in sight.

When God invented cockerels he had probably just been to a Deckchairs gig without his earplugs. What was he thinking?

Next door’s cockerel got killed by a dog. Then they went and got another one. Our neighbours over the road had so many cockerels at one point, they had to have a cull as the whole street was complaining.

Heartless you may think, you live in the countryside and are very lucky so stop complaining you may say – what’s that? I can’t hear you I’ve got my earplugs in.

Don’t get me started about pheasants.

I wonder if you can actually build a soundproof house without breaking the bank. When we built ours we thought that all the insulation we put in the outer walls would be enough – naïve, that’s what we were. We put soundproofing plasterboard in between the bedrooms upstairs and that works really well in counteracting noise from snoring visitors, or Mr Clark cranking up his Marshall amp, but how I wish we had put it on all the walls. At the time it would have been a budget issue – it being pricier – and that would have made our spreadsheet of costs strain even more at its already bulging seams. If you are building a house on a tight budget you’ll know what I mean.

I don’t know why, but I seem to have amassed a large number of egg boxes over the last couple of years. People always ask me why, as they are right by the front door steadily making their way up to the ceiling. I say that it is a modern art installation and balk when they ask if they can have a couple to take home with them. Maybe I’ll stick them to the walls of my bedroom for sound insulation.

If you are building a house, even in the countryside, I would urge you to think about sound insulation. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? My mum says it is. She says it teaches you to recognise the same mistakes when you make them again. If we do ever build again, you never know I might have collected enough egg boxes to actually put into the walls; now that would be recycling at its best.

http://www.noisestopsystems.co.uk/trade-soundproofing

http://www.jewson.co.uk/building-materials/plastering-plasterboard/plasterboard/acoustic-plasterboard/

http://www.travisperkins.co.uk/c/heavy-building-materials/acoustic-roll-slabs/893457