The bubbly is chilling…

The bubbly is chilling in the fridge waiting for the launch of the Kindle version of Mud & Marriage, and will be popping its cork soon, as will I.

My talented sis Kate Northover has been at it again (design-wise I mean) and has made a splendid job of getting the pages ready and putting them in the right order – who knew what was involved? So the countdown begins 10…9…8… ‘shping’- hold on a minute, that’ll be my phone. It’s my sister; she’s coming over so we can make some final adjustments to my ‘front matter’. I did get a Nokia Lumia 635 and am whizzing away nicely now thanks for asking. Apparently I can download an app on my phone to be able to read the Kindle book.

7…6…5…’ping’- that’s my phone again. My friend Sue has just put a picture of me on Facebook from the 1980s with very big hair; I look moody, I expect I was trying to look moody, although that is the trouble with my face – it either looks quite cross in repose or otherwise it looks as if I have done something really naughty, no expressions in-between. It’s a problem. Don’t be fooled by my online face, I had to try really hard to look normal.

4… Ah here’s my sister. We just have to tear Mr Clark away from Salvage Hunters long enough to give us a hand with some html code, and that might take a while. We’ll have to wait until he gets to an episode that he’s already seen. Mr Clark is an expert in code, especially at the moment as he has an ’orrible code in the dose, boom boom. (Yes, I know .. I know). Poor Mr Clark, all rugged up on the sofa, festooned in tissues with his mug of blackcurrant Lemsip. Blackcurrant Lemsip? Now that is a perplexing paradox or is it a misnomer? It could even be an oxymoron.

3… I’ll get the glasses out ready.

cropped-mudmarriage-book-cover-04

Book cover design by Kate Northover.

What makes you happy?

My happiest top twenty:

  1. Up a ladder
  2. Reading in the bath
  3. Wearing hats
  4. Singing along with Lionel Richie in the car
  5. Pulling weeds out of the gravel
  6. Playing Bananagrams
  7. Resting my head on Mr Clark’s gurgling tum pretending to be Jacques Cousteau on an undersea adventure
  8. Wearing socks
  9. Dancing to Michael Jackson
  10. Doing a blow-offs in the bath
  11. Eating a crab sandwich in Cornwall
  12. Stroking a dog’s ears
  13. A hot flannel on my face
  14. Watching Mr Clark feed the robin mealworms
  15. Eating a Choco Leibniz biscuit
  16. A nice cup of tea
  17. A nice glass of Chardonnay
  18. Eating St Agur
  19. Watching my mum eating a cream cake
  20. Coming home

I’d love to know what makes you happy. You can let me know on this website, through Twitter or on Facebook.

 

Technophobes in treehouses?

Should I get an iPhone? I’ve been putting it off. Whizzing touchscreens scare me. I had one a while ago but had to give it to my sister as I kept calling people by mistake. Mr Clark says that I am a Luddite and technophobe – charming. Things are moving on so quickly, I’ve been left behind and now I can’t be arsed to keep up. I went into the Vodafone shop in Reading recently for some help and the young chap serving me couldn’t be arsed to help me catch up either. He was drumming his fingers on the desk and looking around for something more interesting to look at. His attention was lost while I was confused about megabytes and why I would need so many of them – so what now? If it wasn’t for Mr Clark I would probably turn into Catweazle and go and live in a treehouse in the woods with my tellingbone.

Mr Clark has now got a car camera which records his journey. Apparently it records sound too. I have been sticking my fingers up in front of it and saying outrageous things in case it gets played back. He pointed to the little screen and said to me ‘look, now you can see where you’re going’.

If Mr Clark suddenly lost his memory, I would be stuffed. He deals with all the technical things like internet banking, error codes on the boiler and strange messages that pop up on my computer. I hope he doesn’t. Maybe I should build a treehouse just in case.

Today I have been looking at the Vodafone website and wondering about the Nokia Lumia 635. That’s as far as it got, because then I couldn’t be arsed and wrote this instead. Now I’m going to sit somewhere nice and comfortable and read a book. You won’t be surprised to learn that I haven’t yet bought a Kindle, but for those you have, the Kindle version of my book Mud and Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure will be out soon on Amazon.co.uk – watch this space.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

 

What is the meaning of existence – could it be cheese?

What is the meaning of my existence on this earth? Did I come of my own accord or was it peer pressure? Perhaps I just wanted to know what St Agur tasted like. Whatever it is, I know that time is ticking fast and I must experience as many types of cheese as I can before my time on the big cheeseboard of life runs out.

I have been delving deeper and meditating on the reasons for the buffeting I get from life sometimes. I went to a yoga class the other evening with my friend Sarah (I’m always up for a bit of relaxation) and at the end of the class when it was time to wind down from trying (and failing) to get my big toe anywhere near my nose, the teacher asked us to visualise ourselves as a tree with roots growing down into the earth, which I found very useful, and which she said would ground us in the earth.

As a tree hugger I like the analogy of a tree to describe our being. Perhaps we change with the seasons and grow taller and stronger when the winds of change blow from all directions. Gales, storms, warm gentle winds or cold whipping winds. Some of us bear fruit, some don’t, and if you are an apple tree you can’t grow pears, even if you really want to – although we all have leaves, (some trees have spiky needles). Happily there is always the saving grace of growing more leaves if they fly off in a high wind and them in turn making a nice bit of leaf mould to put on a veg patch.

What a load of twaddle, I hear you thinking. Watch out I’m going to write about water being a metaphor for emotions next… On second thoughts, I’ll just leave you with one of my favourite poems instead.

If I Could Write Words

If I could write words
Like leaves on an autumn forest floor,
What a bonfire my letters would make.

If I could speak words of water,
You would drown when I said
‘I love you.’

 Spike Milligan

scan0045

5 top tips for self-builders

  1. Get like-for-like quotes if you can.
  1. Always check the work somebody has done before they go, and get them to explain what they have done.
  1. Mark everything out exactly where you want it in case you aren’t on-site when the work is done.
  1. If you are a site manager, invest in some skiing salopettes from a charity shop for the winter, they keep out draughts and prevent builders’ bum.
  1. Don’t put a roll of lead behind your car seat and put the brakes on hard.

There are lots more top tips in my book Mud & Marriage – A Housebuilding Adventure. Available to buy from this website or from Amazon.co.uk http://po.st/wJ1KZW

cropped-mudmarriage-book-cover-04

How do you feel about birds?

I fear that Mr Clark’s rustic bird table that he made will be blown over again tonight with storms forecast. It has survived a few before – it’s a bit wonky now but still does the job.

He loves his little birds and has been Googling what they are allowed to eat, diligently refilling the feeders and reconstituting mealworms for the robin. They have been on quite a superior diet this winter. The peanut feeder fell off yesterday; Mr Clark said he had a feeling it would. It must have been those squabbling starlings – they’re a little gang of vandals flapping about and making the (unsalted) bacon fat fly everywhere.

Mr Clark doesn’t like cats, even though they are good for catching rodents. There is a colony of big fat rats who have set up home in the once site office shed (it still has its laminated SITE OFFICE sign). He doesn’t like the rats either but cats are a threat to his birds and have been pooing in the middle of the lawn. He has a squirty device that has a motion sensor which is great, but you have to run past very quickly or you get soaked as it doesn’t discern between humans and cats. I don’t think it is fair on me however as I don’t poo on the lawn! I quite like some cats; I grew up with them but am allergic to most of them now. This suits Mr Clark very well as there is no threat of us ever having one. A neighbour’s cat sometimes sits on our wall with its mouth open waiting for a small bird or two to pop into his mouth. He is a killer and killed (but didn’t eat) one of Mr Clarks beloved blue tits who we watched fledge out of the bird box on the ash tree just outside our bedroom window. That was a sad day.

Cats may be useful as rodent deterrents but are even more useful for dressing up, my sister would say so too. Poor Holly our first cat – what he had to put up with. He did look good in a baby grow though.

Yes, Mr Clark likes birds. I’m mostly talking about the feathered variety but he isn’t averse to some nice cleavage. He was most pleased while watching The One Show recently when the three judges of The Voice were the guests on the sofa. The new Kylie, Rita Ora had forgotten to put her top on but had luckily remembered to put a jacket on just about covering either side of her modesty.  He was very pleased indeed about that… and all before 9 o’clock. I wonder if we will see them wobble on the chair turn, we may have to start watching to see.

We’ll be taking part in the Big Garden Bird Watch on 24th and 25th January www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/.  I wonder how many tits we’ll get this year.

 

A pallet of wood pellets Mrs?

Mr Clark says that he would like to build a carport/garage with a room above and a utility room joining to the house. Sadly I think he will need more than his wood work O level skills for the construction.

I wonder if we could make one out of pallets!? The wood pellets for our boiler are always delivered by truck on a wooden pallet which is left here, so we have loads of them down the garden. (You think I’m not being serious, I can tell.)

We live in a narrow lane and some delivery drivers can back into the drive with some skill (even without taking out the fence across the way) if encouraged, but some flatly refuse to try. Some have terrible trouble getting our ton of pellets off the back of the lorry and onto the drive from the road; getting the load onto the tail lift is always a bit wobbly and precarious and has involved some very hairy moments where I thought I might get squashed like Wile E. Coyote flattened by a boulder. One driver got in such a bad mood with it all that he threatened to leave the delivery in the middle of the road – he didn’t luckily, but it was a close call. Another one had to call for backup from another driver as he really couldn’t manage. The other driver duly arrived. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you don’t know if someone is a man or a woman but this was one of those occasions. It really didn’t matter and I don’t mean any disrespect, but these things bug me as I like to know what is what and who is who. He/she (who had beautiful nails) deftly manoeuvred the pallet of pellets into place and all was well. Then we let all the irate drivers go by… phew it is a strain sometimes.

As a remedy for these shenanigans Mr Clark is thinking of getting an external hopper for the pellets and then they can be delivered by truck through a filling hose and that would be brilliant. It’s too late to build a self-feed to the boiler though, which is a shame.

We’ve tried various makes of wood pellets, some make a load of dust and clog up the boiler, some are better. At the moment we have got Woodlets www.woodlets.co.uk and they are pretty good.

Poor Mr Clark tripped over the hearth in his slippers the other evening and broke his fall by putting his hand on the glass of the lit boiler..Ooh I hear you wince, yes indeed. He has had bad blisters since but is on the mend. He had a gig with his band recently at the Purple Turtle in Reading and I made him wear huge bandages on his finger and thumb to protect them – very rock and roll – not. But he managed to play his guitar which was a relief.

I steer very clear of the boiler these days, having warmed my behind a little too close the glass on one occasion and am particularly wary if I pass by wearing synthetics.

Top tip* Never let your blisters burst. Use Aloe Vera and Lavender oil to heal up burns.

Ding Dong

Ding dong painfully on high
Is that the doorbell ringing?
Ding dong I’m as high as high
The Codeine has just kicked in

Ee’n so here hello hello
Mr Clark’s new bell has rungen
And oho ho-ho-ho-ho
It’s the postman who has dung-en

Pray you dutifully sign
For the parcel that you ordered
Thankfully it’s here on time
And that’s got Christmas sorted

Glo oooooo – oooooo – oooooo r – ia, mince pies and Alka – Selzer!

Mr Clark bell

Is that a book I see poking out from your Christmas stocking?

Christmas stocking 002small

I know it’s shameless but there you go. I can’t reasonably use sex or kittens to sell the book but I reckon Christmas is fair game.

How about a log cabin up in some snowy hills with a roaring fire and a nice glass of sherry? Lovely jubbly.  Somewhere quiet surrounded by snow covered fir trees where you can forget all your troubles, your planning permission application and give your nails a chance to grow back.

But then you’ll probably think as you tuck into your stollen and your reindeer shaped cinnamon biscuits…actually we should build a log cabin instead and stay here in the snowy mountains away from the M4 forever. Somewhere where we can chop logs, build snowmen and go sledging, perhaps even get time to read books or write that novel that people are always telling us is in there somewhere.

With your faces glowing by the light of the fire, you’ll say cheers and chink your glasses of eggnog, but those creeping doubts may try to wheedle in … would there be broadband? Would we be able to watch Strictly, and where would the nearest Waitrose be?

Our whole village was plunged into darkness with a power cut last Sunday evening and I was a bit worried that I might miss the Strictly results show. Mr Clark and I lit some candles and the log burner and enjoyed the quiet and soporific atmosphere, so much so that we both fell asleep. I didn’t mind missing Strictly (because after all I could watch it on the iPlayer on Monday if I wanted to, and I could always call my sister from the plug in phone to see who was out.) The electricity came back on, which oddly enough was a bit disappointing, so we turned the lights off and went back to sleep.

I’m busily collecting things for Mr Clark’s Christmas stocking. I don’t think I can get this industrial vacuum cleaner in it though which is a pity. www.ebay.co.uk/itm/350897542517

You can buy Mud & Marriage – A housebuilding Adventure from this website or from www.amazon.co.uk

 

 

The bigger picture

It’s amazing what we human beings can put up with eh? Heartbreak, the dishwasher going kaput, chronic back pain, a small child with a cold sneezing right in your face.

I have a lovely friend who is usually as cool as a cucumber, and has been waiting patiently for her house sale to go through and for the other party to tick all their mortgage offer boxes and get on with it. She said to me today that Mrs nice guy had gone out of the window during a conversation with the estate agent – I wasn’t surprised, but I suspected that Mrs irate guy was firm but fair even though she was still in the dark as to what was actually going on. She was just spitting out the last feather when she saw a young man on the TV who was in real pain through the ravages of a dreadful disease. It stopped her in her tracks and she said to me that her situation was put into a rapid perspective.

I know how hard it is to see the bigger picture when your carpenter has buggered off and left you in limbo without a word, or when you are glossing your fascia boards in sub-zero temperatures. It can completely disappear when your husband tells you that if you drink less wine you could lose weight. I don’t know why it goes, it just does. We’re only human. I reckon our dilemmas do matter; they loom large at the time. I would just say that your TJI joists will turn up eventually and your windows will get fitted. You might even get all your VAT back – imagine that. Taking a step back to look at things is always good. When I teach art classes, I always get my students to have a look at their work from a distance, and then they see what needs to be done. It works every time.

In my experience, managing your own house build makes you resilient and is character building, even if you aren’t ready to have your character built. I think it is a good thing on the whole even if you are a perfectionist. I know it seems mad, but if you take on your own house build I expect you will find yourself saying ‘that’ll do’ even if you thought it could never ever happen – not in a million years. Even if you had previously said ‘I will have those exact Heritage taps’ – out loud. But if the budget runs out, the dreaded C word will rear its ugly head… Compromise. Building-wise I say don’t compromise on what is important to you, but Screwfix do have some decent taps. http://www.screwfix.com/c/bathrooms-kitchens/taps/cat820012

I’m going to practice seeing the bigger picture. There’s a particular Picasso painting I can meditate upon which pokes firmly at the pain invoking parts of the grey matter, but first I might need a large glass of Chardonnay.  But what is all that shouting about…oh my God Mr Clark’s shaver has burst into flames – quick get the fire extinguisher!