Wednesday, October 25, 2006

DIY - The Loft

I’d like to say that changing the loft insulation in a 100 year old house is fun, and full of amusing stories. But so far it isn’t, and there aren’t any. It’s simply dirty, nasty work in a loft full of cobwebs, dust and other unspeakable grime.

The loft was insulated, at some time in the past, with ‘Clinker’, which is defined as:

A local term used for remains of coal that have burned and the surrounding rock that has been transformed during the burning of the coal.

In other words, the Victorians and slightly later folk thought it a good idea to throw coal dust up there every now and then for good measure.

We filled 21 bin sacks full of the stuff. Never, ever been so filthy.

Now installing some kind of space-age (ha) insulation...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

People who liked Creedence Clearwater also liked...

I suspect that this is a blatant lie.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Attic #2

More attic misery.

Attic #1

The attic is a harsh beast, full of coal-dust and clinker, whatever that is...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

DIY - The back door

The back door is a little shoddy, truth be known. It looks like it’s been cobbled together from bits of old firewood and ikea furniture, and then added to over the years in an attempt to make it more secure / draught-free. It doesn’t open fully, grinding on the kitchen floor, yet when closed proudly boasts a one inch gap at its bottom, through which can been seen slugs and spiders, hastening inside out of the cold and wet weather.

There is also a large gap at the top of the door, which happily lets in rainwater, which has been soaking the wall above it.

Time for action. I choose 6pm as my start time, as it is just getting dark and threatening to rain. I open the door and the spiders and slugs hesitate, and then retreat to the walls to watch and wait.

First, apply insulating ‘tape’ around the door, in theory this provides a cushion when the door closes, and stops chill air whistling in as you try and cook lasagne, or something.

The instructions reckon that you should clean the area with white spirit and then dry thoroughly before application, but, I ask you, who’s likely to do that? So I wipe the area down with a damp sponge, then with a tea-towel (don’t tell the wife).

The tape goes on fine, this is pretty easy, I think.

Next is the bit of wood I bought to hammer on the top of the door. I measure the length and saw off an appropriate bit, sanding it some to remove the sharp edges.

Bang, bang, bang, bang, it’s going on well, bang bang, ah. As the door doesn’t open fully, there’s a part where I can’t access to hammer in a nail. I start to think that I should have used that wood glue I bought here. But I’ve hammered most of it on now, and it’s starting to rain, and getting dark, so there’s no way I’m taking it off now...

Ah, it’ll be fine, I think, and try to close the door.

It won’t close.

(With hindsight, I should perhaps have tried to close the door before putting the wood on...)

With some swearing and a bruised shoulder, I manage to close it just as the wife comes in.

‘Looks good,’ she comments.

‘Hmm,’ I say. ‘It’s a bit stiff.’

She tries it and is unable to close the door at all, bruised shoulders and all. She walks away with an air of ‘sort it out’.

I examine the door. The rain is getting harder now, and it is quite, quite dark outside. The wind picks up.

The wood seems to be sticking a little at the top, so I get out a rasper and start worrying away at the wood, taking all the edges off and rounding the bar. This generates a lot of wood shavings and eventually starts to ease the nails from their comfy positions so the whole thing rocks about. In frustration I rip it off, nails and all and retire to the cold, dark and wet garden to hammer all the nails back out of it and then swear at the wood as I rasp it to death.

All went well, and I was applying a bit of sandpaper to the diminished rod when the wife came out to ask how I was doing. Just as she does so there is an ominous crack from the stick, as it breaks internally and forever weakens.

‘Good,’ I lie.

The wood is soon nailed back onto the door, and is firm. It doesn’t rub anymore when the door closes. In fact, there are gaps all around. I suspect that it will still let in rainwater. Just a little.

The door still won’t close though. Well, not easily.

I notice that the door is sticking on the right hand side, next to the lock, where there is a bulge. I get out the rasper and take off a mm or so. It now sticks somewhere else, so I rasp that. Then it sticks somewhere else...

It’s a while before it dawns on me that as I remove the sticking bulges, the door is slipping on its hinges and so sticking somewhere new...

It’s positively cold now and the spiders want in. I shoulder the door into place with violence and lock up for the night. After all this, I realise, it’s actually just the tape that is making the door hard to close, and sigh as I sweep up the soggy wood chips.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


So my father is here, helping fix up the house, fitting new locks, pulling off my skirting boards etc.  And he brings some tea, as I don't have any (bare cupboards).  Yorkshire Tea.  An acquired taste, he says, as I pull faces drinking it.

Mustard comes round later and I offer tea, which he pulls a face at when he sips it. 

'It's an acquired taste,' I tell him.

It tastes a bit like off-milk, as an aftertaste.  I'm not sure I'll ever acquire it.  Nor is he.  It makes my mouth go a little numb, in fact.

Knowing my father, a thought occurs.  I say, 'So, how old is that tea then, Dad?'

'Not sure,' he says, 'I found it in the back of the cupboard.'

As I get up to examine the box he shouts after me, 'Tea doesn't go off!'

There isn't a date on the box I can see, but there is a special offer on the side, to send off for a nice, limited edition teddy bear, provided that your entry arrives before the closing date of 31st August.....   1999.