Sunshine and Showers.

Not a terribly adventurous weather forecast for this time of year is it? A squillion pounds worth of powerful supercomputers running multi-threaded modelling software all expertly analysed by blokes with beards and yet this is the best they can come up with? So I’ve challenged myself to do better, and in no way felt hampered by having nothing more than a window, a rainfall measuring device* and many years of weather lore ingrained by being continually pissed on while commuting.

But I thought it was important to start small** and look for a niche opportunity to sell this fresh new meteorological service. So I bring to you “The Indoor Forecast” – now I accept the market is potentially only two children with no money of their own, a woman who has none of my obsession for stuff I can’t change and a dog, who while looking interested and keen, views weather as something that aids running, eating sheep shit and rolling in fox poo.

On the upside, it does give me an ideal opportunity to stop the kids’ pocket money and raid their bank accounts. The next obvious question would be “Exactly how hard is it to forecast indoor weather“. Well quite bloody hard actually Mr. Clever Trousers, especially when your heating system is essentially a NASA space shuttle only with more complexity and potential for catastrophic explosions.

We had great plans for our utility room, all scuppered by the installation of a Scud Missile masquerading as two hot water cylinders and a Swedish Heat Pump that has more than the odd blond moment. There is no room for anything other than shock and awe with the sheer quantity of stuff connecting the two. We have the output of 400 metres of under garden pipe at one end, multiple snakes of hot and cold water conduits disappearing through various apertures, electrical systems strung between the two and pumps, so many pumps pushing liquid this way and that. It is exactly like a 70s film set where the cat-stroking bad guy cackles”Ah Mr. Bond, marvel at my Destroy The World machine and see now that I cannot be beaten mwaaaahhhh”

So the bottom of the house is heated by underfloor heating, the top by big radiators, the bathrooms by huge steel towel rails all working off different circuits and powered by different, er, stuff. The hot water is another physics lesson in itself, and I’ve taken to wondering aloud if it is all really just magic, with careful examination of the darker spaces bringing elves and other magic creatures into the light.

What has all this to do with indoor weather?” you demand. Well just this; on Monday evening, the local forecast at 21:45 hours was for a cool front passing through the kitchen (dog outside, door open), a warm channel of air being forced between two channels of high pressure (sure you can work that out), cloudy upstairs (steaming bath) and extremely wet on two walls where once there had been just dry plaster and fresh paintwork.

The outlook was not good at all. The threat of localised flooding was a real possibility, as were lighting strikes from frying electrics and definite impediments to travel unless one was packing an inflatable. At times like this, it’s important your first response gets right to the heart of the problem. Knowing this, and not much else I shouted to Carol “Probably worth knowing someting has exploded upstairs and we’ve Vietnamese boat people docking at our TV“. She instantly diagnosed the problem and dispatched me to Mission Control to shut down all systems.

Again, not as easy as it sounds. It goes like this; run into utility room and be faced with a barrage of flanges, wheels and valves, flashing me back to WWII films where the plucky brit single handedly attempts to put out a massive fire in a submarine engine room. In such films, rarely does the hero dash back into the kitchen for a chair much needed to ascend the North Face of the Scud. A riot of grunting, flipping and punching eventually created a tense quiet on the Western Front. The cascade was reduced to a dribble, which descrives well my soggy mental conditon as well.

The advent of a proper plumber brought guiltily forth a faulty “sealed for life“*** component that had decided it would rather be a hose than a pipe. We’re still awash in the sea of damp carpet, mouldering plaster and soggy floor, but had it happened an hour later, the forecast would have told of the kind of disaster that unstoppable hot water at mains pressure would create.

I am considering though a return to wood fires and tin baths. Or getting some new elves in. Elf and Safety you see – they just don’t go together. The forecast for the rest of the week is turning increasingly grumpy, with large clouds of depression and some internal wine showers at regular intervals.

* Bucket
* And work down.
*** Maybe of a mayfly. Lasted a total of four days.


Finally. Only three months later than promised due to a pace of life issue. In fact, at twelve weeks past deadline, this monstrous delivery is – in Herefordshire terms – marked as “on time“. I was wrong about the 10 tons though. But only by a factor of 25, as endless trailers deposited huge elephant turds on the wasteland of our garden.

To many people, this looks like merely a start; to us it’s feels more like the home straight. Unless any of the 400 metres of buried pipes springs a leak. In which case, we’ll have no heating but a rather fetching water feature.

Progress is remarkably brisk inside as well. Most of the ground floor now has a floor, a scud missile has landed in our utility room accompanied by electronic cleverness that somehow eeks free energy from the ground. It just needs connecting together through a complex fusion of plumber and sparky, which – assuming we’re on Herefordshire Mean Time – should happen just in time for Autumn. 2010.

Summer digging That's nearly finished

We’re so sick of the whole house rebuild thing*, my extended weekend was only partially scuppered by being unable to leave the premises when the first load of elephant dung had been carefully placed behind the cars. Still we fashioned an escape of sorts, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.

Heading west was an inspired move as a family full of the holiday spirit decamped to Techniquest in the surprisingly lovely Cardiff. I broke the mould of your standard male by both showing much interest in the kids attempting to re-configure the exhibits in a way that was way outside of their operating parameters, and surreptitiously refreshing the tiny phone browser until a final confirmation of the crushing of the Australians at Lords.

Good day that. Tomorrow isn’t. London calls as the Clash once said, but I wager they didn’t have to find a 5 O’clock in the day to get there. My train is broken for six weeks, leaving me little option but to drive most of the way there. I expect it to be dreadful. Don’t worry, you’ll be the second to know.

* Dangerous use of the word “We” here. I’ve done two thirds of sod all on the grounds that a) I’m working and b) I’m a lazy bugger with time consuming hobbies. The important thing about being a selfish bastard is being honest about it.

Hitting the wall

This is not, as it may first seem, the beginnings of my burial chamber. However, the way things have been going lately, the prospect of a long lie down in a cool, shaded spot is rather becoming. As opposed to what I am becoming which is bloody irritable.

My fully synchronised electronic diary failed to interface with its’ analogue sibling on hosted the kitchen wall, so curtailing my long looked forward to weekend of riding in the Peaks. A duplicitous plan, built on the need to fix my Mum’s home PC, was revealed for the web of receipt everyone knew it was, after said parent arrived at our house late last week.

Diaries you see, I have several but Carol has “the one that counts“. And I have not time to bore you with rambling whinges on house progress (not enough), budget situation (not enough), fantastic days of riding (not enough) and work (far too much).

In fact, I am being dispatched today to actually go and talk to some real clients. It’s been over three years since I had to go and earn a proper living. I’m quite looking forward to it, which is probably more than both those who have asked and those who are to receive my wise words and flailing hand motions.

I have just enough time to notice that Mountain Mayhem this year appears to be set fair. This I find slightly troubling as the entire world weather systems seems finely balanced on the predication that MM is ALWAYS piss wet through. Maybe the CLIC this year has drained the clouds of all their water.

Anyway I shall return in the manner of Arnie, although with more words and less shooting people. Unless London gets the better of me again.


Or CDO as we obsessives like to order it. I have spent the majority of my Bank Holiday weekend polishing adequate to create something smacking of compulsive. I don’t know many people who would level four odds’n’sods bins with a spirit level, or even spend a hour on the web searching for a match for what they already had.

*Raises hang guiltily* It’s still not done, A couple of under-bench shelves will be harvested from some old fire doors, and the Swedish basket system re-made through the simple medium of re-allocating a fistful of drinking vouchers.

Notice the post project beer* taking pride of place. And if you think that side is tidy, check this out.

Workshop/Bike Store Workshop/Bike Store

Workshop/Bike Store Workshop/Bike Store

Worry not about bike removal versus possible shelf interference. I went all scientific with string and angles, before running a full bike removal simulation. Yes, it took some time, but being right is sometimes better than being quick**, so I could relax on my pimpy stool with a beer some bottles downstream from the topping out glass, and declare – with a satisfied nod – “That’ll do”.

It’d have been a whole lot easier without six silly model aeroplanes that formed no part of the original plan. But a on-the-job design mod saw a bunch of pre-loved plasterboard jimmied into the roof, delivering the perfect storage solution to filing lots of occasionally useful shit.

Although in my rush to get it done, I’m not exactly sure what. Haven’t seen the cat for a couple of days which may explain why one of the boxes kept changing shape as I attempted to stow it.

We’ve*** finished the office as well which is significantly less busy although that may just because I’m meant to be working in it. The view into the field would be lovely, were it not for the acres of “to be dealt with” crap outside the window. And until the wood fades a bit, I’m feeling tempted to strip off and set fire to the bookcase to create the authentic Sauna experience.

Before I filled it with electronic detritus and much loved – but long filed – pictures, it looked like this:

Workshop/Bike Store

Three things struck me this evening as three days of holiday came to a rather abrupt end:

1) I’ve spent most of it working inside. While it has been stupidly hot and lovely outside. I’d pay good money we no longer have to switch this weekend with the last one – so CLIC would have been fantastic, and finsihing this wouldn’t feel like penance for something very bad from a previous life.

2) I don’t need to finish a job I just started. The actual task doesn’t matter, but for the first time in bloody ages, it doesn’t have to be done by tomorrow. It won’t last, but it feels pretty damn good to actually finish something, and not have to immediately start the next thing.

3) We’re bloody lucky to live here. You sort of lose sight of that. But walking the mad mutt in the warm evening, and being immersed in a million acres of stuff gowing like buggery feels like quite a privilege.

Sometimes you spend so much time trying to plan for what’s about to happen, you kind of forget why you started in the first place. Having spent an giggly hour on the trampoline with the kids, I’m going to try bloody hard not to do so in future.

* not shown, two previously topping out beers quaffed in about 9 seconds after working inside on the hotest day of the year.

** A couple of examples come to mind that buck that particular argument. I’ll not be troubling the hedgehog readership with either of them, since one of that readership is my mum.

*** I had a “Mission Control” morning with a million cables and recalcitrant Wireless tat, Carol painted the hard yards of the floor. Three times 🙂


Oh yes. It’s back. Having installed this and the vice, I am now ready to break things in a far more controlled and well ordered environment. It really cramps your style when you have to climb over fourteen boxes, two cabinets and the dog to get to your biggest hammer. Now it’s merely a stretch and a swear away.

You may notice how clean and tidy my tools are. I’ve been polishing them. Nothing wrong with that in the privacy of your own shed. Sadly I now have more tools that wall so only “A List” stuff gets put up there, the rest is relegated to the bottom of the toolbox.

Hang 'em high Office

I’ve yet to add two more storage containers, lots and lots of shelves, the rest of the bike hooks and – of course, how could we forget – the beer fridge. The design of this bespoke building works perfectly for bikes and associated stuff. Shame I’ve added six gliders and two proper engine-y planes. Might have to throw the kids bikes out.

But it seems churlish to complain about a lack of space, as most people manage with a shed/spare room/kitchen table/annoyed spouse. And I’d better not even offer up a whiff of discontent, because this building has made a sizable dent in the budget. So we may not have new bathrooms, but at least I can now furtively fettle my many unfinished projects.

By the time you read this, I may – however – have burned all my bikes and be found rocking under the table murmuring “the mud, you can’t imagine it, God I can’t get it out of my head (or eyes, fingers, toes, etc), you can’t know what it was like, YOU WEREN’T THERE“.

I think my next purchase may be an angle grinder in case any of them survive the funeral pyre 😉

Herefordshire’s finest WW1 Trench Experience

Now under development. Exclusive photos below:

Ready to add the “firing step”

Stop before you hit the big shed! Yes it really is that orange. No, we don’t know why, it’s not the colour on the tin.

I’m hoping that’s not “finished”.

Back to work, thankfully I am 60 miles from the digger carnage. Unfortunately I’ll be back there later. Probably testing the trenches by falling in.

Some pictures, less words

That’s before Ken really got started. After he’d finished, it looked more like this:

Gardening The Manhatten Experiment

What is scary is how we’ll be down another metre for the trenches. So far we’ve been through two water pipes and narrowly avoided browning out Hereford. I’m not worried. Much.

Beer Fridge Shrine Lintel Mania

I am now the same colour as “Dale Winton” Orange hue you can see on the big shed. I am trying not to think about the sad fact I have to do another coat. And paint all the inside. Oh, joy. Looks good though and soon I’ll be able a proper man again with his own shed.

The other pic is our solution to a lack of floor height when installing underfloor heating and new wooden floors. It’s cheap-ish and reasonably safe. Not that I’d want to sleep under one of them.

And to finish, a picture of the shoe-eating hound who is wondering where the garden has gone.

Murphy - 11 months Murphy - 11 months

He is now rather large and nearly a year old. Top dog though and the least stressed of anyone in our house right now.

Right I’m off the read the building regulations so I’m perfectly well informed enough to ignore them completely.

Holey Moley

We’re going for a temporal shift tonight. Rather than me imagine something that could have happened and may be amusing, I need you to stir your creative juices* so to paint some pictures in your head**. Because the photos that really should accompany this post are as yet untaken. There are many good reasons for this, but I shall give you just one: It is already dark and somebody stole the spare from my time.

First the “garden” – never really a garden really and certainly not one now. After Ken “The Lost Wurzel” and his mighty digger excavated an unbelievable 150 tonnes of harcore, this former car park now resembles the showpiece exhibit for the Manhattan Project. Either than or ground zero at a significant meteor strike.

I expect to receive our first inquisitive visitors once we’ve upgraded to the full Flanders Trench experience due next week. Christ knows how much deeper we can go before we hit the water table. Or Australia. Not that this troubles the many tradespeople now setting up second home in our house. A round table roll up and tea excavation summit ended with the following joint statement “Arrgh, she’ll be fine

Yes, we do seem to be employing pirates. This in no way phases me as I have really no idea what’s going on at all anymore. If one of the interchangeable Geoffs/Johns/Kens wandered in and announced “okay the Gorrilla is here, still going in the utility room, yes?” I’d just assume the big furry fella is an integral part of the heating system, and go and fetch some bananas.

There has to be some reason for the roof being four inches higher than it was*** and a 8 foot primate would seem as good idea as any. It certainly looks like Godzilla was involved in cutting a doorway between the hall and the mini warehouse tacked onto the side of the house. And quite why a new wall has gone up in there is the kind of mystery beyond my ken to solve.

Maybe we’re going to box the kids in? Not that I’ve seen much of them either because my time is spent between keyboard and paintbrush with not much in between. Today I wasted invested four hours protecting our massive erection with a fluid not unlike the fnar-fnar where we came in.

I was – predictably – so bored I painted in a style of whatever the mp3 player was shuffling. So Green Day meant anarchistic splashes while The Killers segued into rhythmic stripes. A long forgotten prog rock track extended the brushing past the end of the wood, and onto the dog. Still he looks good with a racing stripe.

You really do need to see some pictures. Not because it is any way interesting, rather I need someone to tell me it’s going to get better soon and all this money/dust/boredom/stress is worth it. I’d consider pitching a tent in what’s left of the garden and declaring myself temporarily insane except a) no one would really notice and b) it’s not so bad that CAMPING could in any way be better.

Well it wasn’t that bad until I found another big hole. It’s in the budget spreadsheet and I’ve just filled it with a large glass of wine.

* Perfectly legal with the proviso that no animals are harmed during the process.

** Better than crayons eh? I’ve got a good handle on the mental age of most of my readers.

*** This was amusing. A bunch of blokes trying to gauge how long four inches was. The fairer sex were somewhat more accurate.

I’ve got WOOD!

Oh yes – feast your eyes on our huge erection. I accept it currently has all the aesthetic beauty of a WWII pill box and is lacking some weatherproofing and – well – a roof, but fuck me, am I glad to finally get something started. We seen to have been planning for ever, and my impatience gland was close to an uncontrolled explosion when delay followed problem which inevitably threw up some other insurmountable issue.

And always the budget spreadsheet went one way and my wine consumption the other. So yesterday I was mightily cheered when our Farmer neighbour unexpectedly turned up with his digger*, and removed most of the hated pea shingle in an afternoon that history shall record as “shovel-fest”

Ken and the mighty digger. When do I get a go.

I’ve no idea where it’s all gone – like all things here redistribution is the bedrock of the Herefordshire barter system, so some bloke will have a new drive while we receive half a ton of topsoil from a nutter mining for badgers.

Office. Needs some work. Workshop. Draft version

Anyway back to the building. It’s going to be great although it seems too big on the outside, and too small once inside. This reverse Tardis phenomenon is probably nothing more than a three dimensional mental shift caused by the staggering amount of shit I know we’ve got to fit in there. It was designed for eight bikes** and now has to house those, a proliferation of models, assorted associated crap and – of course – the restitution of the tool wall.

And is this resurrection of the blessed shrine to percussive engineering timed with the Christian festival of Easter a coincidence? I think probably not. Much work to be done before then including solving the brow furrowing complexity of electrickery. Apparently if my power requirements ever meet the physical world, we’ll be needing to add a sub station to our ever lengthening list of projects.

* Which sat around doing nothing while important decisions were debated over a cup of tea of three. I became bored pretty quickly and cut to the only question that really mattered “Hey Ken, can I have a go on the dumper truck?

** You haven’t missed anything. Obviously Carol and the Kids have a rather disappointing one each.

Cracking up

That’s the house, not us. Although the former may soon be a trigger for the latter, before escalating to “Kids, quick fetch your favourite toy, get out of the building and help me with these pit props”.

Okay, I’m exaggerating*, but the house has more spidery crevices turning up than a South London crack house, with a “get your free hit here” flag planted outside the front door. There are good structural reasons for this, and not all of them converging on the difficult conclusion that the house might be falling down.

You have to think “pre pillar” and “post pillar” in terms of when the cracks first appeared. And to that you can add “our house” and “the house it is connected too” to complete the 3-D matrix. I’m pretty sure it’s just a bit of settling, and normal house movement. Carol believes the house is running away down the hill.

Rather than use “GoogleFight” to decide who is right, we’re getting two structural engineers** to have a prod around, and provide us with some reassurance that the roof will still be above the main living space come the weekend.

This seems an ideal time to dig up all the garden (my jest that excavating to a depth of over a metre could counterbalance any subsidence didn’t get the laughs I was hoping for) and install Al’Barn-2(tm). More on this magnificent erection later.

Talking of perfect timing, we are soon to have new neighbours renting the house we’re connected too, and may have inadvertently poked with the new beam***. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to relocate to a rural location where the garden resembles a scale re-enaction of the Flanders trench system, and a dog that tends to greet people at head height.

I’m sure it’ll all be fine. Although it’s not me with the worried frown, the original house plans and a copy of the building regulations.

Ho hum.

* In the style of “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”

** Like buses, none for ages then two turn up at once.

*** That’s the house, not the new neighbours.