Saturday 31 January 2015

Permission not to panic, Mr Mainwaring sir!

Well, the good news is that my panic about the transparency of the paper on the feature wall in our bedroom was needless! As the paper has dried even more over the last week, the paper has lost its transparency and the gib board (sheetrock or plasterboard to people from the northern hemisphere) is no longer showing through. The paper is looking splendid. I AM DELIGHTED! So I don't have a week's worth of additional effort of prep work and replacement which I was not looking forward to at all, given all the other redecoration that is ongoing or in the queue here.

I have painted the kitchen ceiling and put undercoat on the walls over the last two days and I am taking today off. The ceiling needs another coat even though the instructions says one is sufficient - I cleaned the ceiling with sugar soap but I am pretty sure I just moved the dirt around really. Flat paint is hard to clean and probably not the best in a kitchen. The paint has a great feature for application tho - it goes on pink and dries white. It is so good being able to see where I've already painted and where I haven't, esp when I am using the flip-top feature of my neck and head...

With the ceiling looking distinctly whiter than before and the walls quite dazzlingly white with the undercoat, we almost need sunglasses in there! It has confirmed my view that we need a softer wall colour.
The stove is being replaced with a white Smeg underbench oven and a Bosch induction hob. The hole in the wall where the isolation switch was (relocated in to the cupboard up on the right) will be covered by tiles or a splashback, depending on price.

The benchtop and cupboard doors/drawer fronts are being replaced. The tray is needed under the kettle as any drips from teabags are all too visible on the pale blue benchtop - and it stains too easily!
The whole kitchen rejuvenation is due to occur on Thursday - the plumber and electrician are lined up too, the appliances are due to be delivered early this week. So here's hoping it all occurs then. I'll be busy on Monday and some of Tuesday getting paint on the walls, at least within the working area of the kitchen.

The lounge/dining blinds are almost ready to be collected but won't be put up till I've redecorated; and the bedroom blinds can't be too far away. It is coming together slowly but surely!

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Redecoration and its associated disaster, but success in another quarter

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of my sister Dee’s company assisting me in completing the bulk of the redecoration of David’s and my bedroom. Before Dee arrived, I had cleaned all walls and stripped the wallpaper off the feature wall and I’d done a couple of coats of paint (with all requisite prep work) on the window frames, main door and one coat on 2 of the four wardrobe doors.

So on her arrival, we were able to get on to dealing to the remaining tasks before putting the topcoats on the walls and the wallpaper on the feature wall. On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, we:
·      Got 3 coats of white semi-gloss on each of the wardrobe doors, main door and all window frames
·      Painted the skirting boards with 2 coats of the same
·      Put a pigmented sealer on all walls and cleaned up where it had gone over the edges on to the scotia and skirting … oops
·      Painted the 3 walls with the water-based topcoat in Sandfly Point - I don’t know why these colours are named for places in NZ, but they are and mostly the names don’t give any clue to the colour. As an aside, a couple of weeks ago Dee and I were in a paint store looking at paint colours and saw one very pale colour we liked the look of on the swatch. When we asked for a test pot we were told it was vivid white – not what it looked like or any reflection of the name … Bizarre indeed.

Dinner on Thursday night was fish and chips - the best I've ever tasted! For some reason Dee thought it was hilarious that I stood on the box to pay for them - if I don't climb on the box I can't see the eftpos machine, so it seems sensible to me. She and other customers seemed to be amused though ...

So Friday was the day for sizing the feature wall and getting the final topcoat on the other three walls - they look amazing. Then it was time for the wallpaper. It went on pretty easily even though it requires a careful match and part of the pattern is totally  flat and other parts are textured – the flat bits on the edges took some keeping stuck to the wall. It was a very hot day and the paste kept drying out along the edges of the paper, so the paste brush accompanied the smoothing out. 
I get it on the wall and matching and then do the cutting around the window frame ...

Then Dee (on her knees like the good christian she is) makes sure the edges are thoroughly stuck down - the gold bits you can see are thinner than the rest of the paper and like to lift away from the wall ...

Making sure there was no undue pressure on the slim piece beside the window by holding the bulk of it on the wall with my knee


We finished at 5.30 and had seven friends coming for dinner at 6pm – we’d prepped the chicken for the main and prepped the starter while waiting for our second load of paste to go off earlier in the arvo, so all that remained to do was clear up the bedroom (Dee’s job) and prep a salad and the potatoes (mine). Two guests were bringing the dessert – yay! Plus of course, before they arrived we had to shower and change as we were pretty much covered in paint and paste…

The room looked fantastic – the painted walls contrasted gently with the white of the doors and window-frames, and the wallpaper looked absolutely amazing. We were suitably proud of ourselves for a job well done.

But disaster was waiting in the wings – on Saturday David and I reconstructed the bedroom and while we were putting the mattress back on the bed frame, I noticed that THERE WAS A BROWN MARK SHOWING THROUGH THE WALLPAPER!!! WTH (slightly less violent than wtf …) So I looked at the wall closely, and as the wallpaper had dried, the paper had become opaque, and therefore needed the wall behind it to be perfectly white/pale all over with no variations in colour. Apparently, according to the wallpaper rep it says the walls need to be even, but either I misread/skipped the part about colour or I had interpreted it as the surface rather than the colour. Bugger! The upshot is that, even though I painted the wall with one coat of a pigmented sealer, I should have given it several coats until the differences between the gib board and the plastered bits were no longer visible. As it is, one coat was insufficient and I can see the brown patches of the gib (23 years old and naturally discoloured, rather than pale beige) under its only previous wallpaper - a solid vinyl - that nothing shows through incidentally. Modern stuff is more expensive and much less substantial. As I said: BUGGER.

So I have to strip the paper off, wash the size and paste off the wall, (1 day’s effort) paint it innumerable times until nothing can be seen through the paint (1 day for each of the innumerable coats, let’s hope 2 more does it), leave it for 2 days to properly cure (as told to me by the paper rep via the store assistant this morning - not in the paint instructions or the wallpapering instructions, damn their eyes). Then it needs to be sanded, dusted and sized (1 day). Then and only then, can I put up the wallpaper again (1 day). Sounds like about a week’s worth of time and effort somehow.

I am feeling a bit demoralized about it and it is too hot to move all of our bedding into the sunroom again and get started on it today, so I have cleaned off a part of the back fence with bleach and planted 2 hydrangeas instead.

I’ve decided I am going to get in touch with Student Job Search to get a couple of students to do the repainting of the bedroom and the lounge dining - based on the number of coats required in the bedroom prior to papering, the lounge will need at least three before its paper goes on and it's a very big room, so a couple of younger fitter people can do that work instead of me. They can also paint the ceiling, and I will do the window frames (six of them), the doors (3) and the skirting boards.

Today I was going to start on the kitchen - the list commences with washing down the walls, filling the gap between the scotia and the ceiling, sanding the cabinet end panels, door frames and kitchen doors (3 - to laundry, dining and hall). I am tired already!

Aha, saved – the electrician is here doing the preparatory work for wiring in the new induction hob which is apparently power hungry and the under-bench stove we’re going to have fitted when the kitchen cupboard doors and benchtop are replaced. So I cannot get anywhere near the walls to clean them down – yay!!

Before I finish this post though there is another success to report. On Friday I rang Gary and asked if he and friend Dave from Taumaranui would be prepared to do a manly task for me on their arrival in Waikanae from the city, while Bruce was still at work there. They agreed and set about putting together the raised vegetable bed. Dee and I had had a go the evening before but the only drill we had was our dad’s one which was too powerful to use effectively as a screwdriver as it burred the screw head before the screw was fully holding the two pieces of wood together. Gary came along complete with the right equipment so all went well. 
Dave and Gary and their creation - complete with wood in the bottom - when I plant troughs on the boat this year I am going to look for sticks for the bottom rather than stones! Apparently they hold in the moisture better and as they break down they provide nutrients for the plants.
They lined it with polythene and put in the bits of tree trunks and branches Rob had bade me to keep. The next morning David put a woolsack of compost into it from Bruce and Gary’s (we’d gone there for brekkie) and then he added the eight x 40 litre bags of potting mix. Given the cost of all materials, I mustn’t buy lettuces anymore this season and next to ensure that the ROI stacks up …

No plants in yet (Sunday morning) but the grateful designer is flanked by her skilled construction team.
Hard to see but a number of plants are in and David has arranged the umbrella so it shades them during the heat of the day. It can be rotated when required by humans at the large outside table ...

There are a number of plants down behind the vege garden that are awaiting planting. There's a tamarillo (Sth American bush more commonly known in my childhood as tree tomato - the most wonderful fruit) and a passionfruit vine. Perhaps tomorrow they will get lucky when Rob is here. Two of the hydrangeas in this pic were planted over by the fence this afternoon. The new leave buds can be seen on the tree fuschia - they have only sprouted since Luke and Rob have cleared that area of trees and undergrowth.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Caption competition – entries and results

And now the news you have been eagerly awaiting:


Les Biggs
·      I have asked if the camera could film my good side.
·      David, I've got her up to £2 each for the extras’ fee.

Alf said his entry was prompted by the comments (I think my note to self re batwings may have been what he was referring to)
·      Come fly with me (sorry 8-) )

Jack Potter (renegade Aussie friend)
·      Local commentator shows viewers what she really thinks of Kiwi tourist

Sandy Valentine-Munn (B&B guest at Cherswud, fan of Joe the rockstar chef, all round good person)
·      Fame at last!

Julie Green (good friend and neighbour to our other good friend Lesley from Walderslade, Chatham, Kent)
·      Walderslade residents outraged over offensive sign language aimed at their famous & favourite Kiwi. Marilyn McDonald wins an official apology.

Ken Wilkinson of Hull
·      David, you can stop blowing now, my hair is dry.

Michelle Curnow (who has featured on my blog when she and her partner Taffy came for lunch and to give me a haircut – valiant effort as they called in and saw us when moored near Scholar Green on their way from Glasgow to Wales. Michelle is now coiffure to the star ...)
·      Hey, any of YEW guys know where I can get a decent haircut?


In third place, we have Les Biggs for his second entry:
·      David, I've got her up to £2 each for the extras’ fee

In second place, we have Michelle Curnow:
·      Hey, any of YEW guys know where I can get a decent haircut?

And the winner is the wonderful Julie Green
·      Walderslade residents outraged over offensive sign language aimed at their famous & favourite Kiwi. Marilyn McDonald wins an official apology.

Les, I will make sure you get a lovely glass of NZ sauv blanc when we next catch up – if Jaq says it’s on the approved list for special occasions, of course!

Michelle, as much wine as you can drink next time we are together, whether that’s for my next haircut or when you next visit us in beautifully sunny and balmy Waikanae.

Julie, your prizes will include the best bottle of NZ sauv blanc or bubbles that I can find when next we see you, AND I’ll donate to you one of the packets of gingernuts that ODS won’t be wanting or needing now she is losing so much weight!

Thank you to all our competitors. Stay watching the blog for further opportunities to win fabulous NZ prizes! Next time it might be something made of merino and possum fur, and Lesley can tell you how special and warm such things are!

Wednesday 14 January 2015

The redecoration project starts

I have been dithering – no other word for it – over colours and styles. When we had our offer accepted on the house, I was all set to go modern. The colours from nature that look so good in other people’s houses – the pale greys, the taupes, the olives, the blues and khakis ... After much dithering, I realised that I just cannot do it. Those colours are not me. I like to see them in others’ houses but they just aren’t to my taste. They look really smart, but to me they don’t look warm and inviting. I know they could look stunning with our furniture – black button-backed leather lounge suite and wooden china cabinets, balloon backed dining chairs and long oval table, but I realise I am not after stunning, I am not after a fashionable look. So an about turn, a winding. It’s back to lightness, to warmth and softness for this house. David is VERY relieved.

My sister Dee has been very helpful in this time of dithering, and conversations with her helped me clarify my discomfort, and when Wendy and Kevin were here for dinner on Monday, Wendy picked a paper that Dee and I had listed as a possible for the lounge dining room from the book, and that was the decision, as quick as that in the final analysis, but it had taken me ages to get to that point… Doh!

By contrast, the decision about the feature wall (OK, there is a modern touch) for the bedroom was made about two days after we had our offer accepted on the house – Joe and I popped in to Guthrie Bowron’s in Porirua and there it was. I fell in love with it instantly. Material for blinds was chosen on a trip to Palmerston North with Dee – and that was a quick decision too. On Monday we discussed paint or paper for the remaining walls, and settled on paint – we had found one that was the exact colour to go with the wallpaper and I’ve got stripes of it from the testpot on the wall in the kitchen. And it’s far cheaper than paper and possibly quicker – it’ll need 3 coats – a sealer over the wallpaper and then two topcoats. But I don’t have to take off the paper, and that will be a b*gger of a job* on the end wall that is having the new lovely beautiful fabulous paper. (* Note at 7pm – my prediction was right!)

And the kitchen was another room I was going to go modern in – the old benchtop is a cornflower blue. I know that that looks stunning with milky coffee/taupe/mushroomy colours. But could I bring myself to choose any of them? Not on your life. So we decided to get the kitchen rejuvenated - the guy is coming tomorrow to measure and quote for new a benchtop and replacement doors and handles. The kitchen is a good ergonomic shape and very easy to work in. It’s got lots of cupboards, a number of which have nothing in them at this point.  So no need to strip the whole thing out and start from scratch, and the rejuvenation option is cheaper. The cupboard doors I have selected are faux t&g in white (traditional look), I am tossing up between a wooden benchtop (the one on the boat is lovely, hardwearing and easy to keep) or granite (I love the look, but it could be a bit unforgiving on glasses and plates, although excellent for pastry). It may come down to cost … The paint is most likely going to be the same as we had at Cherswud, a lovely creamy yellow.

So, where to start? I decided to do the bedroom first. So on Tuesday I washed down the walls, doors (5 including 4 wardrobe ones) and windowsills and frames. 
The mattress is on the floor in the sunroom for a few days until the bedroom is finished and the paint aroma is gone.

All furniture is on the bed base apart from the treadle sewing machine. Only one strip of wallpaper has been removed.

And yesterday morning, after we moved the mattress and bedding out, I went and spent heaps buying enough ceiling paint for the rest of the house, painting equipment (cannot think where to start looking in the boxes stacked in the garage and lost the will to live in contemplating doing so). The ceiling has had two coats and needs another. David did the first one and cursed and groaned all the way through as it was so hard for him to see where he had done/not done. He managed to miss bits and I managed not to be able to identify them either. So I did the next coat, and managed to miss bits too. So I will put the third coat on this morning. When I have straightened out the kinks in my neck, I’ll score the wallpaper on the prospective feature wall and get that off. If I have any energy left, or any strength in my right arm, I may paint the skirting board, architraves, sills and doors, or part thereof.

OK, up and at’em, Atom Ant. It’s 8am and time to get started. I’ll make fruit salad for our brekkie first and then I’ll get on to the painting.

At 7pm: I did the final ceiling paint [as David was on hold for over an hour with Vodafone trying (for about the 6th time since just before we moved into the house) to sort out stuff about getting the cable installed and our desired line speed for the internet. This is a saga that has had him on hold for 20 times longer than any actual conversations he’s managed to have with the call centre people. We are trying to replicate the system and service we had at Cherswud – currently, as a stopgap, we have ADSL which was fine while all workers were on holiday, but now it’s like a 3rd world service which is slower than dialup - aaarrrggghhh!!! Vodafone’s customer service is rubbish – once a call gets through the staff are pleasant but getting through and getting the promised callbacks are both proving trying in the extreme. It’s clear there aren’t enough staff to handle the calls in a timely manner. We were TelstraClear customers, they got bought out by Vodafone some time ago, but we are still put through to the service team who handles former TC customers – there seems to be no understanding that in moving and setting up in a new home our contract is with Vodafone, not TC … Very frustrating, and far worse than any experience David had as PA B*tch in the UK. OK, rant over, for now!]

After the ceiling was done, I got started on stripping the wallpaper. It took me about 5 hours to strip just one wall. Thankfully I am painting the remaining three. It’s been so hot today that each time I’ve wet sections of the wall they have dried off in about 5 minutes. I have added my sweat to the bucket of water – today I have not perspired or gently glowed, I have sweated profusely.  I am waiting on a wallpaper steamer to be delivered up to Waikanae for doing the lounge/dining, but I don’t think it would have been much use to me today. I was hot enough just using water and vinegar – if I’d been handling a steamer I probably would have expired. So when the wallpaper was off, I stopped for the day – a shower, lots of water to drink and blobbing in front of Boston Legal episodes.

Tomorrow as well as the kitchen man, we’ve got a curtain consultant coming to measure and quote for the roman blinds in the bedroom. Things are moving along ...

Tuesday 13 January 2015

The deforestation of Waikanae continues

The place is looking a bit scrappy now as the ground is being cleared and the garden opened up. But it's important that we keep the long term picture in mind at this point.

A couple of Sundays ago, Luke and Di came with Lyall to collect cartons and packing material as they are planning to move house. They stayed for lunch and Luke used the pruning saw to reduce the height of the camellias outside the kitchen - well, I started and he couldn't bear to sit while I was doing it so he took over. I'm not silly ... 
The Clash of the Titans in the battle of the bubble wrap

Luke may be taller, but David takes advantage of being short to go in low ...

Rob was here for a day last week. We started off designing the whole garden as it will be in about a year or so,  and then he worked solidly for about 5 hours clearing the wandering jew from the former forest beside our bedroom. We took 6 woolsacks of it to the transfer station (wonderful inventions woolsacks – do you have them in the UK? Old woolsacks that are no longer suitable for farm use but fabulous for collecting garden waste in. They still smell of lanolin, are very strong and able to be hauled around the garden and across concrete paths, compacted to fit in the boot and then emptied for the next time).
Woolsack #4 - some lilies made the cut as well - collateral damage ..

Woolsack #4 is in the background and Rob is readying the contents of #5. The 3 straight trees in the background came out this weekend to make room for the clothesline.

You can see my current clothesline - not long enough and rather unsightly. We bowled the rotting trellis and removed a lot of lilies - their tubers are still in place in the main so they will regrow if Rob lets them ...

The ground was fully cleared by Rob. Luke has felled the 3 straight trees and the woodpile in the foreground is to fill my yet to be constructed raised vege garden. The two posts will also support a bean frame.

On Sunday Luke came up again alone but with chainsaw and equipment, plus van and trailer, and he did a magnificent day's work. I feel a bit guilty about the number of camellias we have reduced to a third of their height or chain-sawed to ground level (Luke’s favourite – you should see his face light up when I say ‘ that one can go’).

However I am learning to live with that guilt as I see the garden opening up and the trees that remain being able to breathe and grow on the side that was previously blocked by a 20 – 25 foot camellia. One of the three trees he took out from beside the bedroom on Sunday (see photos above) was a bay lookalike – at least 30 feet high, for heaven’s sake! Our friend Jane (who came to take away the detritus of Sunday’s deforestation for their place in the sand dunes of Te Horo where she needs to build up wind breaks so her plantings can survive the northerlies and the scorching sun) told me that it will likely grow back even if the stump is ground down to root level – such is the power of the survival instinct as described in evolutionary theory! "I might be 30 foot tall reduced to nothing but a root system, you b*stard chainsaw operator, but guess what – you haven’t beaten me: as one of your human (well, perhaps) actors says: ‘I’ll be back’."

So two trailer loads went to Jane’s and two more to the transfer station down the road. Luke’s trailer is a high-sided one so fits lots more. Derek’s trailer which I went up and borrowed (it is useful that he is still away in the US as I am allowed to borrow his car and trailer at any time) is a low sided one. Luke said it’s a tr, I told him that was mean and it’s more a trai. Whatever, it still fits lots of camellia trimmings, esp when Luke tramples them down halfway through loading.

At the end of the day, David decided that the remainder would go into the wheelibin and be put out for collection on Monday. Luke and I were all for putting these bits in a woolsack. However David insisted they would fit in the wheelibin. When he’s in that frame of mind there is no point in reasoning or discussing. It’s best just to say ‘go for it’ which both Luke and I did. Getting them in the wheelibin does involve some trampling which David enjoys doing. On to the ladder or set of steps he gets, climbs into the bin and stomps around (he would have been so good at trampling the grapes – a career opportunity missed: sigh ...) So in he goes, tramp, tromp, trump. Next moment the wheelibin tips over as he’s somehow affected its centre of gravity. Fortunately he is holding on to the guttering with one hand and manages to swing his other arm up and grasp it. I am watching in disbelief and with concern – will he be OK and, somewhat more importantly, will the guttering cope with his weight hanging off it? Dear reader, you will be pleased to know that the answer to both is in the affirmative. There are times, ladies and germs, there are times … I did ask if he would re-enact the event so I could photograph and video it for your edification but for some inexplicable reason, he wasn’t obliging.

Having watered the garden ( a good drink for the truncated camellias in particular and for my lettuces) and all of Derek’s pots which I am caring for while he’s away, I then sat at the dining table – I don’t have an office - and looked out at the new view.  In the mornings since it is clear that we have opened up to the view and the sunlight. It's so lovely. I can hear the birds still and I can see more of them. They have been enjoying more access to the insects made available by the trimming and felling.

The two trimmed camellias beside the dining room and verandah. We can now see the hills far more clearly. The two boughs of the huge kanuka tree in the neighbours' garden will be felled soon as it is rotten - fabulous firewood if any boater wants to come and get it ...

This Sunday’s work has opened up the garden and back lawn even more – we have eaten lots of meals outside at our new table over the last week and that number will increase with the continuing good weather and the more open tree canopy. We wouldn't be able to do this if we were still in Johnsonville as even if it's sunny there, there is most often too much of a breeze for it to be comfortable. Here the issue is the fairly intense heat, but with far less breeze the cantilevered umbrella is a boon - it is David's new experimental toy as it twirls and tilts. He needs the occasional reminder to play nicely and not take his friends' heads off ...
Jodrell Bank is constructed in the backyard
Looking for a signal ...

David acting as the ballast before we'd got the paving slabs to hold it down. The hole in front of him is where we removed an old rotting stump. The fence behind him will be replaced.

And the other task that was commenced was providing internal access from the garage. More has to be done for the taller freaks among us, but it's fine for me ...
David has removed the gib board

Luke has removed the joists. I can step through and hardly duck at all. Luke is going to complete the job making it higher and then framing the opening. There's space on each side for coats to be hung up so some hooks will be fitted inside.
So things are progressing. I have my work cut out inside as well, but more of that later.

It has just occurred to me that we decided to leave Cherswud so we didn't have maintenance or gardens to do - what happened???

Monday 5 January 2015

Caption competition

At the back end of August David and I visited Shugburgh Hall and got co-opted into being part of a group of people holding hands (with 161 strangers – that’s not terribly British!) around the largest yew tree in Europe. It was being filmed for an episode of BBC1’s Glorious Gardens from Above and screened in the UK early in October. We didn’t see it then as we were preparing to leave for NZ. David finally tracked it down on the VPN the other day. In his inimitable dog with a bone way, he examined it minutely and found us. David said I am one of the few adults who featured with my own medium close-up. See, fame does come to those who wait …

So, David has captured an image of me and the woman who is signing the narrative.

Your mission, ladies and germs, should you choose to accept it, is to create a caption for the photo. All entries will be published so use asterisks freely if required. You can add your entry as a comment below, but if that proves difficult, then email them to me at

The prize will be your choice of a packet of Griffins gingernuts (the world’s best) or a bottle of NZ sauvignon blanc (also the world’s best).

See, my blouse and backpack are colour coordinated, but if I'd known I'd be on TV I would have worn longer sleeves - note to self, when fame is knocking on the door, rush off and change to more appropriate clothing: batwings are NOT attractive ...
BTW, if you want to see the episode because you are interested in the yew tree and Shugburgh Hall, type in Staffordshire as additional info to aid your search. It is a very big tree …