Thursday, 2 July 2015

Lesley and the transformation project

Our good friend Lesley, who has been mentioned on this blog a few times here,  and here, is on the home straight after a mammoth transformation project on her house.

Lesley (aka ODS for Old Darned Sock – when she was my manager in the Home Office back in 2005 she used to call me SFO for Short Furry One – in relation to my being a kiwi and kiwifruit being furry. So I called her Old Sock – she’s not much on expressions of affection as they embarrass her I think [as this may, but who cares …] so Old Sock seemed appropriately disrespectful as well as just affectionate enough. Then she had a couple of serious operations so the Darned got added to the Old Sock – OK, up to speed now?)

So, let’s start again. Lesley never had much time for doing home improvements – she’d bought her house brand new when she was working in London as quite a young bod, and because she is a popular woman, she was almost never home at weekends, and only home during the week between the hours of about 7.30pm and 6am – she was a civil servant, and contrary to popular opinion, a large number of them, including Lesley (and me when I was a de facto one) worked pretty long hours.

A few years ago, my sister Dee and I stayed with Lesley; and, as Dee and I do, we thought about what Lesley's house and garden could look like with some imagination (ours) and money (hers). We drew up plans on the only paper she would give us – small scraps, so we couldn’t go too crazy, and we left – and she promptly lost them. There’s gratitude for you.

So when she fell out of love with work, took early retirement and was home a lot, she decided – with some fairly strong nagging from me on another visit – that it was time to make her house into the home she’d be happy to spend the time in. And that was going to involve a bit of a wholesale makeover.

When I stayed with her a couple of years ago, I took it upon myself to push her (nag her unashamedly she would no doubt say) into planning the makeovers for the bathroom and the kitchen. We got far enough along to buy red pots and pans and a red toaster and electric jug that were stored until the kitchen would be done, plus a new washing machine and new large fridge freezer.

The bathroom was completed last year before I arrived (we had to do a shopping trip for tonally uplifting tat) and the kitchen after we left – it does take her a while to build up speed … The kitchen flooring and the under-stairs cupboard (easy access storage solution, rather than jam stuff in and forget it and buy a new one …) are still both to be done when other stuff that would be detrimental to them is finished. Both the bathroom and the kitchen look fabulous and are a real improvement to the functioning of both.
Bathroom, with tonally uplifting deep erange tat in place.
Shower with two shower heads - very posh! Of course the mirror is too high for normal sized people ...
The old kitchen - OK, I NEVER saw the bench this empty ... and those cupboards - you had to stand back when you opened them to avoid a tsunami of stuff sweeping you away. Seriously, I kid you not.

Mmmm, this doesn't look too bad. Why did she change it? Ah, I remember, that gas stove you can sort of see on the left hand corner of the photo had a non-functioning oven, the bench was tiny, and everything was outdated. That washing machine is the new  that we (she) purchased at Curry's. It's amazing what deals you can get when you go in there with a bald head from chemo - I think it's especially helpful when you are wearing a Taranaki Hardcore cap!
The new microwave and oven tower. Cupboard above, drawers below.
The cooktop and rangehood

The kettle and toaster - the pots match too!

Last year was also the year of sorting out what to do about getting a conservatory built and sorting out the section. The section was a bit of a wilderness as Lesley had been unwell for a while and not able to get out there. I won’t call it a garden, cos it wasn’t. The previous year we'd found a guy to clear it; he did the job but he was a rip off merchant and a bit of a prick.
This is what the garden looked like after the rip off merchant had cleared it . But especially the efforts by Lesley, John (next door) and me after we had cleared the line of shrubs between fence sections. On the LHS, the fence was a gone burger already. That little shed up at the top was jampacked with stuff - so much so that getting anything out was an exercise in rubrik's cube - a pain in the arse.

The pile of shrub clippings. ODS was a champion at clear felling, and John got very keen on using Lesley's loppers.

So last year, while David was back in NZ visiting his mum in the dead of the southern hemisphere winter, Lesley and I were busy planning. Well, I was planning and she was holding her head in her hands …

We saw the demo model of a finished conservatory article at the factory and then at Andy's house. Andy is the owner of Trade 2 Trade. He drove us there to view the one installed at his house so she could see it in the flesh - now that is service! When they came to look at the section, and after partaking of cream sponge (purchased at Morrisons) and pikelets (made by me) Andy and Rob declared that they could sub-contract all of the work that was required for re-fencing, terracing the garden, building steps and retaining walls; and then their firm would build the conservatory and put a window high in her lounge wall (her house is end of terrace) so she gets some direct natural light into that room once the conservatory is up.

Once I was back on the boat, she got Rob to do her a plan, and for some ungodly reason she said she wanted a lean to style – FFS, it looked like a bloody shed or an outdoor bathroom! She told me yesterday morning that she had exaggerated my response to it when discussing it with friends – she said I’d suggested she put a toilet in it and go the whole hog. If I'd thought of it, I would have said that. But with 20/20 hindsight I told her I would have said it would have been the (w)hole bog.

So she rethought it – lucky for her or I was going to send the boys around to sort her out. And she chose the Edwardian style. Good choice. Her intention was to have it look like it belonged there, not like it had been tacked on, so it was to have brick walls up to window height. (How she thought a lean to would look like it belonged I have no idea …)

The shed has gone, so had what remained of the grass

A fire is far more satisfying than carting stuff to the tip ... The steps that Lesley's dad put in place when she first bought the house would soon be gone.

Work started on terracing the garden and getting the fencing up on the correct boundary quite a few weeks ago. 
First tier almost in place

And the second tier takes shape
The terraces, the fab steps, the fences, the shed and the patio. On the right of the top two terraces you can just see the railway sleeper raised garden beds.

Those steps are the business
The first plant which will need to be transferred into the appropriately coloured pot - royal blue, black or grey.
John and Julie, next door, have added a couple of bits of trellis to the top of two fence panels - they look cool.

Doing the terracing was fine, but the fencing was a bit of a mission.  However, it is now done, it looks cool and the garden is terraced, retaining walls are up, stairs are in place and well designed, the kitset shed is in place and its roof secure (thanks, Mike), the railway sleepers that form the garden plots are in position and joined up and stained.
No conservatory but a big mess in front of her lounge doors.

 Over the last week or so, the conservatory has been taking shape – the brickies had completed their work and then it was time for the framing, the roof, the windows and doors. Her doors are fabulous – bi-folds and they are the dog’s bollocks.
Block and brickwork for walls in place. Lesley was very impressed with the brickies.
Windows are in both sides and doors are in. Roof framing underway.

Roof goes on. I wonder if she did a roof shout? Must ask her!
And the view from inside. If I remember correctly, the large windows don't open. They are on the eastern side so she will get morning sun in there.
These doors are the dog's bollocks!

In the late arvo sunshine

Morning tea is consumed here.
Yesterday morning, ODS sent me the above photo of where she’d sat having her morning cup of tea – made me feel quite emotional thinking of all the planning and thought that has gone into getting this large piece of work done. I did have to harden up and send her a message back saying the only thing missing was the pack of Griffins gingernuts … (She is a big fan of gingernuts, as you will know if you have read her comments on various posts, and this year we didn’t bring her any.)
A few days ago the wiring work was completed, and yesterday the plastering was underway - the guys had to work fast because of the heat.
The skylights are in and the ceiling was plastered - on the hottest July day on record!

ODS has already been making use of the conservatory – drying washing (her clothesline needs to be re-installed on the second terrace), sitting in the afternoon sunshine, sitting inside, sitting outside, feeling smug - and why not? She’s accomplished an enormous amount that people (e.g. David and me) usually do over a period of years (20 years in our case) – and she’s done it in under two …

I think I need some time off from boating so I can continue my well-established pattern of helping her spend her money – a dining suite, a new sofa, chairs for in the conservatory, a new dresser, a patio table and chairs, new carpet, and a new TV. Plus garden pots, plants. I am sure I can grow that list ...

Where and when can I leave the boat? Can David steer the boat and look after the grandsons at the same time? It would be dangerous for Lesley to be left too long alone with such a shopping list! Dee, where are you? Can you come over now?

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Day's Lock to Sandford Lock

Late yesterday arvo I saw a boat trying to get in to moor just ahead of us, but it was too shallow. On going out to see if I could help, I saw it was Ann and Keith on Oakfield - we hadn't met them, but I have read their blog from go to whoa; not in real time, mind you: I started reading it last year and caught up quickly.

They had another go at mooring behind us but also too shallow. I had offered for them to breast up with us - they had been on the move since 8am, so it had been a long day. Once moored alongside us we agreed that a drink on the meadow would be a good idea.

About the only thing we didn't discuss was toilets. They got mentioned (thank you, David) but not discussed.
Ann is opening the biscuits - M&S special cheesy ones, very yummy
They all laughed when I said I had a photo of Ann serving the two men ...

We did discuss the tying one on event we'd had at Cleeve Lock in the morning. They said that the same thing had happened to them that day too. I was delighted - not that they'd had it happen, mind you, but that more experienced boaters than us had made the same mistake. We didn't feel quite so stupid after that. Theirs was a bit more extreme than ours - Oakfield's list had cupboards opening and spilling some of their contents and they used to have three glass biscuit containers. What they now have is a very clean floor. Given the crashing and tinkling coming from inside, Keith was strengthened by adrenaline and was able to release the rope, unlike us wimps who had to empty the lock to get the bite to release.

We eventually all went in for our respective dinners at about 9.30pm - already past my bedtime but I cooked the toad in the hole, potatoes, peas and brown onion sauce all the same. And we followed it with a gu chocolate mousse. Yummy indeed. It is an extremely long time since I have eaten dinner after the sun has gone down, as a number of Waikanae friends can attest ...
The green things are tent boats or boat tents (a la Three Men in a Boat, I gather). The crew moved out the seats and slept in them and in small tents on shore (out of shot, sorry). They appeared to have set up the catering division in a bunker in that line of trees a few yards away.

This morning was an early start for us. On the way towards Abingdon, we encountered Sue and Vic on No Problem. A greeting as we passed each other. Maybe some chatting time next year ...

David steered us through this bridge today

He's very focused

I am on lookout duty
We took a break at Abingdon to have a cuppa with Ann and Keith who were escaping the heat of the day there.
Coming in to Abingdon
Houses on one side, meadows on the other.

The 5 day moorings in Abingdon. We are definitely coming back here next year to take advantage of the 5 days!!

We carried on, thinking we'd moor after we'd done a pumpout and got water above Abingdon Lock - ah no. No spaces for mooring between Abingdon and Sandford - well, lots of places if we could brave the shoulder high nettles. Not us I'm afraid.  It's a great way to make sure boaters stay away ...

So we are moored on the 24 hour moorings above Sandford Lock - free and very sunny. We did rescue a leather soccer ball from the river as it floated towards us, and hoped we'd be able to keep it. However the 7 year old whose birthday present it had been came over with his uncle to ask for it back. Dammit! I did show him how to use his birthday yo-yo (had to have a practice without him watching first ...) Soon after that, a plastic boat moored across the river came over to collect the ball again. So two opportunities for salvage rights were lost. We won't be so generous a third time ...

It's nearly 7pm and still extremely hot. No dinner tonight - who needs food in this heat?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Cleeve Lock to Day's Lock

We were moored up today above Day’s Lock by 2.45pm. We had intended to keep going to Clifton Hampden but called it quits here. 
Isn't this a beautiful spot?
Since we arrived, the farmer has kindly come around and removed all of the hay bales for us.
See? Such a different method than I remember when back in Taranaki as a teenager, where bales were thrown on to the back of the truck by sweaty, muscly young men ... Now one teenager hoons around with the loader and another drives the tractor and trailer. I guess the beers bill isn't so big for the current method though.
We have decided that we do love the Thames, and this morning we were congratulating ourselves on finally accomplishing getting the ropes over the bollards by ourselves in the locks. Last week, Fred, the relief lockkeeper at Cleeve, had taught David how to hold and throw the rope, and he’s definitely got it sussed now.

But, as they say, there’s many a slip between cup and lip … Because David was operating the lock (it was early, so on self service) we used the middle rope, and because it’s a fairly long way from the middle back to me, we agreed he’d loop the rope fully around the bollard rather than just over it so it didn’t slip off. And because I was keeping it taut as we rose up in the world, the rope caught on itself on the bollard. As David walked forward to open the top gates I noticed we had developed quite a list. Oh bugger!

We could not release the rope and while I was keen to use the scissors, it was decided that we would travel down in the lock again to release the rope and then come back up. Fortunately we didn’t waste any water, as there was a boat coming in from the top and one coming up from below.

So note to selves: Never tie up in the lock, even if going up!

It wasn’t very dangerous but it was a good lesson. And it added half an hour to our journey. But that was a cheap price for a lesson.

After a brief stop at Wallingford for me to walk to Waitrose (gu puddings, ham, salami) and for David to stay onboard and sort out some banking stuff online, we moved on up here to Day’s Lock. We were delighted at Benson Lock to see Fred again – he is the relief lock keeper, so we have now seen him at Goring, Cleeve and Benson. And I have only once thrown a rope at his head and spat tea over him. He is not aware quite how lucky he is really ...

On the way here, we came through Shillingford Bridge and a variety of housing from quite stately to a static caravan site. It was good to see that some ordinary people get to have riverside views! 
This boat house is not one for the ordinary people but it is beautiful.
If you look closely you can see the decorative brickwork. Beautiful.
Shillingford Bridge
Just in case you aren't sure, this is NOT a static caravan
One of the numerous bunkers we've seen on this trip - they always make me think of the heroic efforts of the British people during the war.

We’ve had a quiet weekend moored on the meadows below Cleeve Lock although there was a constant stream of boats coming past on Saturday and far fewer yesterday – I think the weather had something to do with it! Fine & sunny on Saturday and a bit of rain yesterday, although it cleared in the afternoon and we walked to Streatley – a lovely village across the river from Goring.
A representative of the weekend's neighbours. If you look closely you can see that Mel is studiously ignoring her.
We are off on our walk.
Down the tree-lined public path he goes.
The view from the public path - the last three photos are taken from the same place, proving I can turn in circles with the best of them
Across the field of maize
Poppies growing in the verge
Where are the chocolates to go with this cottage?

David has developed a cold so is not feeling fabulous - a quiet weekend and an easy day today have helped. I think it may be because I cut his hair – didn’t Samson fall apart from that? And David does look like it hurts ...
It's a selfie but doesn't he look like it's all too terribly painful?
I swear I didn't cut him, only his hair! I'm not sure if he's reaching for rescuing arms or taking a photo ...
The end result. Lesley says she'd trust me to give her a trim...