Thursday, 29 October 2009


The builders seem to have found a new lease of life and suddenly things have progressed at the house (probably because he wants to finish and be paid and get us out of his hair)! Ian has been receiving daily updates with pictures of the work and requests for money!

They have finishing off the outside and putting some cornerstones on the building prior to it being rendered. These are made of reconstituted stone as the real things would be far too expensive. They are a bit 'mockney-chav' but hopefully will look okay once the building is rendered.
We also have mock lintels across the tops of the windows (Ian changed his mind about the arched windows) and a keystone in the middle of front door lintel.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Apart from the woodlice infestation we have also noticed that there are a vast array of other insects, bigger and bolder than any we have seen before. Here are two of them.

This one is a little stick insect that seemed to like our wall. It didn't seem to do much other than look like a stick with legs.

This one is rather large beetle that Ian found in the cellar. He seems to be waving!

Over the rainbow

The day the builders arrived it was showery.
"It always rains when we are here" said one of them rather grumpily! Fortunately it did not last long enough to stop them in their work. At the end of the day a sudden shower appeared followed almost immediately by the sun. I looked out to see if there was a rainbow and sure enough, there was the most amazing double rainbow that seemed to end in the corner of our field. Living most of my life in the city I don't think I have ever seen such a complete rainbow before. We have not yet found the pot of gold but we are hopeful!

That evening Ian went from our bedroom area into the lounge and found that we have a little bat living with us. I rather like the French word for a bat, la chauve-souris or 'bald mouse'! It is supposed to be lucky to have a bat living in the house.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Return of the builder

After several cold sunny days, the weather changed and the clouds appeared bringing the rain. Along with it came the illusive builder. We returned after eight weeks to find that nothing had been done on the house and Ian was fast beginning to lose faith. However, as if by magic we had a message last night to say that the builders would be over today to render the cellar. Ian and Warren’s array of drains and pipes seems to have worked and the cellar was bone dry; enough for the builders to apply a coat of waterproof render to the inside. The down side of this is that we have to be up and dressed by 8.00 a.m. and as it is damp there is claggy mud all through the house. A small price to pay however, for another step towards the finished product!

We have been less successful re-engaging the services of Warren, who is supposed to be finishing off the fosse septic. We have heard tales of broken diggers, borrowed diggers not turning up, lost drivers, wet weather and submitting the plans to the wrong SPANC and we have seen Warren for 5 minutes yesterday. Tomorrow is our last day so we will see if he returns!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009



Well the weather has been sunny and clear during the day but the promise of warmer temperatures has not materialised! Another cold night prompted Ian to insulate the space above our temporary living area and make a temporary door so that any heat we have does not immediately disappear into the unfinished lounge. He has also been fitting the soffits in an attempt to seal off potential woodlice routes. The cold seems to have slowed their progress but the odd one or two are still finding their way in and this does not bode well for next year. Before laying the insulation Ian vacuumed up a bucketful of woodlice corpses and behind every item there are piles more!

This morning we were woken up by a loud bang. Sunday is the day of le chasse here and at dawn two huntsmen were out looking for partridge or pheasant in our fields. They weren’t very successful and in their wanderings came across our temporary sewerage pipe, which must have been very pleasant for them! Not to be deterred they returned at dusk but were no more successful. My guess is that most of the wildlife keeps a low profile on a Sunday as I saw the partridge happily pecking in our field yesterday. Let’s hope he lived to see another week!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Joys of getting older

Now I am menopausal I note with joy that I now no longer need to carry round a bag with tampons and towels in various sizes and thickness, spare knickers and painkillers. However the contents of my wash bag now includes a range of alternative products that I never needed in the past. These include haemorrhoid cream, indigestion tablets, tweezers (for the stray facial hairs) and special dental tape to clean under my bridge!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Woodlice and winter

The day we arrived at the house the temperature dropped from a balmy 15 degrees at night to freezing or below! As we got out of the van the cold took our breath away but before we could make up the bed and huddle together to keep warm we had to clear up the aftermath of a woodlice infestation that seems to have targeted our house and those of our two closest neighbours. As we walked into the house their remains crunched under our feet making it sound like we walking on sea shells. The dead woodlice were an inch thick in places and pretty much everywhere. Their decaying carcasses gave off a smell rather like dried nasal mucous!

Eventually we cleared up a space for the bed and went to sleep, disturbed from time to time by the cold. Despite the thick duvet it really was cold for October! The following morning our macerator got stuck and when Ian went to investigate he found a solid lump of ice holding up proceedings. He also discovered that two metres of our pipe had been chewed up by rats, in an attempt to get at the juicy contents!

The following day we got ourselves organised. The fan heater worked well in keeping the temperature bearable and I cleaned up the kitchen and bathroom area so at least they were woodlice free. Our temporary electric supply means that if we run the water heater and the fan heater we can’t run anything else so we had to prioritise the equipment that we needed. The other problem is that by the time the electricity reaches the house down the 150 metre cable the voltage drops from 240 to about 190 which means that everything runs very slowly!

As I write this the temperature is rising. The builder’s father-in=law arrived yesterday and said that the moon changes this weekend and that means the weather will change. The forecast suggests it is getting warmer!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Wrong number

My mother gets quite a lot of nuisance marketing calls as she has never got round to registering her number for the telephone preferencing service. She is nearly 80 years old and getting out of the chair is an effort, so when the phone went this evening she reluctantly got up and picked it up. She heard a man's voice.


Hello..she answered, cautiously, expecting a sales pitch.

Well have you got your knickers on now?

 She was a little shocked

Who's calling? she asked.

John, the gardener

John, the gardener??

Oh my God.. I think I've got the wrong number. He said with acute embarrassment in his voice

Yes you have! Goodbye!! and with that she hung up!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Off again

I don't know where the last six weeks have gone but here we are in October already and Ian and  I are off to France again; this time with the intention of finishing off a few jobs before the winter. We are still aiming to be out there next year so I expect some of the time will be spent trying to plan for that. Will try to make one or two posts while there!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

National poetry day

Today was national poetry day and so I decided to send my colleagues a poem. I hunted around and I found this one which I thought was rather appropriate.

TOADS by Philip Larkin

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison -
Just for paying a few bills!
That's out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts -
They don't end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines -
They seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,
Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets - and yet
No one actually starves.

Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that's the stuff
That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
My way to getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.

I don't say, one bodies the other
One's spiritual truth
But I do say it's hard to lose either,
When you love both.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Cultural sensitivity

I wrote in a previous post about the French custom of kissing on the cheek when you meet a friend or acquaintance and that there were various customs and cultural rules about who you should kiss and how. Of course you can also use the fact that you are English and not sure about these customs to your advantage. Ian had to engage in some tricky negotiations about his contract last month with his agency. They are based in Belgium and the negotiator is a rather formidable woman who looks a bit like this.

 After some heated discussions they finally came to agreement but there was definitely some tension between them. When the agent visited them all at work last week Ian approached her with firm bize on each cheek and made her very flustered as she obviously couldn't tell whether he was just being a bit culturally naive or trying to take the p*ss!

Monday, 5 October 2009

On my doorstep

Last week I went for a walk up on the downs from my house. I can't remember the last time I did it. When I first moved here I walked up there nearly every week but familiarity breeds contempt and now I take it for granted. The walk reminded me of what I have on my doorstep. I walked up the hill through the woods to Butts Brow and then up along the ridge to the South Downs way.

From there, I walked a little way along the South Downs way until I reached the trees and the path that leads down to my house. All in all the walk is about an hour and a half . One thing I love about being up there is that you can see the sea on three sides, making you feel that you really are at the edge of the country!

The parakeets of London

Ian’s mother lives in North Cray, just inside the M25, to the South East of London. Her bungalow backs on to a meadow that is usually full of horses and she has a lovely view from her garden. However, there are some rather unusual birds in the area that are not known to be native. The trees echo to the squawks of a troop of parakeets and the brightly coloured birds hurtle around her garden from tree to tree.

A couple of weeks ago Ian and I went for a walk in Foots Cray meadows and I saw some there, nestling in the chestnut trees. I tried to take a photograph and if you look very closely you may just see their outline hidden in the trees!

Apparently, despite their exotic appearance they have been breeding and living happily in London for years, unbothered by the less than tropical climate!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Hublet 2

This is a Hublet. We are not quite sure what it is and what it does!

Thursday, 1 October 2009


I managed to avoid going to a staff meeting yesterday which was just as well as in the mood I am in at the moment I think I would have found it hard to make any constructive comments. One of the things being presented was the new research strategy, which to me just looked like a cheap re-launch of the old strategy in that there are four groups and we have to decide which one we want to align ourselves with. Today those of us that weren't there received this email.

If you were at the School Full Staff meeting yesterday afternoon, thank you for all your post-its indicating which Research Groupings and/or Research Hublets you are interested in. I have transferred the data onto the attached spreadsheet which shows all groups and hublets and your preference. Feel free to add your name to other groups and hublets and let me know.

Now this confused me as I have never heard of a hublet and it seems neither has the dictionary. Could it be a made-up word? We are running a competition to see who can come up with the best definition of a hublet and one of my colleagues made one from a pom pom.