Chicken’s run.

After only eighteen months, “Poultry Alcatraz” is finally complete. Not complete as in properly finished, but sufficiently secure for a complete relocation of our six mad chickens to their new home of “much squawking”.

Garden/Chicken Run - July 2010 Garden/Chicken Run - July 2010

Garden/Chicken Run - July 2010 Garden/Chicken Run - July 2010

It may not look like over a years’ work, and of course it isn’t. Because we had to wait until the diggers moved out, the pond was drained, that area was laboriously cleared of mutant vegetation before even the ground could be dug up by a team of two with many other calls on their time. Two of them generally hanging around asking for food/money/toys/the other sister to be buried in a trench.

But, after a harsh lesson in rural animal husbandry, we took extra care this time with six foot of tightly meshed fence bolted firmly to stout posts. Below ground another twelve inches* are dug in against fox attack.

All we’re missing is a roof and some motion sensing machine guns. Even this evening, I was shifting large logs in the proximity of the pen to prevent a possible roof assault. I did wonder if Fox’s now come equipped with grappling irons and wire cutters, or we were in thrall to an Olympic gymnast hiding a chicken rustling habit.

But better safe than, well, dead. And while the construction methods are somewhat rustic, all done by eye and then by hammer, the end result is chicken heaven right now. As we’ve left all the spiky vegetation that’s about head high and adding a few inches per day. Well it was but within a week, the greedy buggers will have reduced it to shrubbery swarf, so turning the entire area into first a dust bath and then a mud pile.

While recording this rather satisfying, if structually second rate, building of all our own work, I ran around in the summer rain shooting random garden scenes. A quick browse shows a pretty impressive transition from pea shingle to mostly garden via phases of four foot trenches, ten ton hardcore lorries, a week with a mini digger and six months from a man who came for a week to finish a single dry stone wall.

Tallet (2 of 33) Gardening

It makes me realise how much we’ve done, but also how much is left to do. And that’s before maintaining what we have. Next person who says “oh I wish I had a lovely big garden like this” shall be presented with a spade and a bucket and told to put their trowel where their mouth is.

Garden/Chicken Run - July 2010 Garden and Chicken Run July 2010 (18 of 31)

Garden and Chicken Run July 2010 (14 of 31) Garden and Chicken Run July 2010 (15 of 31)

Garden and Chicken Run July 2010 (25 of 31) Garden and Chicken Run July 2010 (26 of 31)

Garden and Chicken Run July 2010 (31 of 31) Garden and Chicken Run July 2010 (30 of 31)

Tomorrow I have to spend 18 hours travelling to and attending a “Developing your edge” course. Something I’ve only previously considered when sharpening disemboweling weapons. Apparently even for the lightly tinged self conscious individual, this is a very long day of gruesome toe-curling embarrassment.

I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to it. I may be able, however, to explain exactly how much I enjoyed it on my return. Could be quite a short post I feel.

* I measured it and everything. Couldn’t help thinking “12 inches is always a bit more than you think”

I do not love the smell of wet plaster in the morning.

Last night our swanky new heating system suffered the kind of failure that can easily remodel your house, replacing solids with liquids. Assuming the crisis does pass, I will explain how three minutes of my life were exercised in rotating big wheels, flipping switches and winding flange levers. To ask if our heating system is a bit complex is akin to wondering whether Tesco is a tad busy the night before Christmas.

However, until then let me share with you some fine satire on the world of modern life and corporate speak. I’m sure you’ve probably seen it before, but it cheered me up this morning. And I really did need cheering up.

Waving your arms around and talking bollocks.

Sitting round in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.

A manager, who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything and everyone and then leaves.

The process by which people seem to absorb success and advancement by sucking up to the boss rather than working hard.

The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed .

An office filled with cubicles.

When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people’s heads pop up over the walls to see what’s going on. (This also applies to applause for a promotion because there may be cake.)

Single Income, Two Children, And Oppressive Mortgage. What yuppies turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids or start a ‘home business’.

Single working girls. Single income, no boyfriend and desperate.

One who has bleached/dyed her hair but still has a ‘black box’.

The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

The rarefied organisational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the ‘adminisphere’ are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve. This is often affiliated with the dreaded ‘administrivia’ – needless paperwork and processes.

* 404.
Someone who’s clueless. From the World Wide Web error message ‘404 not found’ meaning that the requested document could not be located.

That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you’ve just made a BIG mistake (e.g. you’ve hit ‘reply all’).

A young man of substandard intelligence, the typical adolescent who works in a burger restaurant. The ‘no-stars’ comes from the badges displaying stars that staff at fast-food restaurants often wears to show their level of training.

Entering a fast food restaurant with no intention of buying food, you’re just going to the bog. (Loo) If challenged by a pimply staff member, your declaration to them that you’ll buy their food afterwards is known as a McShit with Lies.

The contents of a wonder bra, i.e. extremely impressive when viewed from the outside, but there’s actually naught in there worth seeing.

A very short skirt only an inch from the hare.

An excellent phrase for an overweight person.

A deeply unattractive person.

A bath so hot, that when lowering yourself in, you go: ‘Oo! Oo! Oo! Aa! Aa! Aa!’.

The bus that arrives at the pub on Friday night while you’re in the toilet after your 10th pint, and whisks away all the unattractive people so the pub is suddenly packed with stunners when you come back in.

Your first pee in the pub, usually after 2 hours of drinking. After breaking the seal of your bladder, repeat visits to the toilet will be required every 10 or 15 minutes for the rest of the night.

Bottled premixed spirits, regularly consumed by young women.

A woman whose knickers are too small for her, so she looks like she’s got 4 buttocks.

Stolen brazenly from Julian who is old mate and recent hedgehogger.

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.

Call that a shed?*

This a shed. I’m about to lay down a deposit the size of a decent bike frame to secure the rights to this flat-pack furniture on steroids. Four weeks from now, a huge truck shall abandon a few hundred planks, and a single sheet of badly translated instructions on our concrete slab.

My understanding that this grown up self-assembly wardrobe will somehow do exactly that, while I examine my giant erection with unconfined joy and some awe. Do your own jokes, I’ll be back in a sec. Finished? Right, moving on or – to be more precise – up, my real plan is to shirk any building responsibility by dragging my friends from all over England to assemble it for me.

A tissue of lies shall promise unlimited food, beer and riding in exchange for ten minutes light work with a chisel. Apparently a competent DIY duo could assemble this in a week. Less usefully, nowhere is an estimate provided for six drunk blokes, one exasperated wife, and an impatient man skilled only in “powertool trigger revving

But the completion of that building is right here; front and centre on the critical path of a thousand tasks that start with a big digger, and finish with financial ruin. The idea of a static caravan was put beyond possible use by a reasoned argument starting “WHAT? You’ve seen Grand Designs? Four of us in a caravan for two months would be Last Person Gouging with added Cutlery

I’ve spent some quality time designing systems to hang bikes and hold planes. However, I’ve pulled back from that dark realm of sadness where humourless men speak of “A Steed Collection” and “My Hanger“. Instead I’ve sketched out a few ideas on wine soaked paper, and passed them over to the only person in the Leigh family with spacial awareness.

Now stop sniggering and help me out here. I have a problem with the siting of a rain water harvester.*** Anyone know what 6000 litres of litres of water weighs? Is it “quite alot?

* Remember the film? “That’s not a knife…“. I had impure thoughts about Paul Hogan’s bit’o’stuff in that movie. Saw it again the other night. Hairstyles in the eighties, what were we thinking?**

** In my case “I’m going bald”

*** Oh yeah, livin’ the dream here, livin’ the dream.

Scary… A photo essay.

This is quite scary:

This breezeblock pillar was encased in a layer of bricks both cutting the room in half, and providing a sense of (somewhat overestimated) solidity, It made a 6m square room pretty useless with the fire frying your eyebrows, Wii tournaments ending when someone nearly lost an eye, and a vast expanse of space behind that was never used.

This is scarier still:

The old RSJ was acutally a bit rusty. That’s not what you want to see when it’s supporting two floors, the first of which is our bedroom. The plan was to remove the pillar completely, and install a monster steel spanning the entire room.

Which involves this scary place:

Yes now the house is held up with a couple of big pipes and a lump of wood. At this point, I backed out of the room and went in search of the insurance details. The act of a sane man, when confronted by a slight alignment issue:

Roger, fetch the bigger hammer

After much grunting, moving of hoists, technically advanced building techniques involving bits of slate, and a very, very large hammer, scary moved on to dusty.

Calm descended, and the ceiling didn’t. It was a little fraught for a while, so the fact that we cannot close three of the doors upstairs, and a few walls have authentic looking “adding character” cracks, it’s better than the first floor being amalgamated with the ground floor.

It did allow that horrible paint to display its’ full mustard gas effect. It really is even worse when you are in there. But once we’ve painted the ceiling and the joists, changed the lights, swapped the curtains and ripped out the skirting boards, it’s the first thing on our list.

Because after that, comes the heating laid under a new floor. Thankfully that is a) some months away and b) slightly less worrying now I have this beer.

Plumbing Hell

By now, you should all be familiar with my approach to any problem. First up is an all points bulletin explaining exactly why it isn’t my problem after all. It is, in fact, someone else’s problem, anyones, yours, hers, that badger over there. With that sorted, now sketch out some perfect solution that is long on fast talking and much waving of hands, but short on real world practicability.

At this point, I am essentially done, so hand it over to those with the skills and method to solve it, while staying peripherally involved to share in the glory, or prepare my exit strategy if it all goes to rat-shit.

And while this methodology has served me well in the world of work, it seems incompatible with the indescribably* complex plumbing system that has mutated from “these bloody storage heaters are rubbish” to “No that’s too easy, let’s install the new organic heating voles and back-pressure aware, quasi autonomous cosmic interface module

I think you can probably guess which half of the project team is childishly excited by a plethora of technology which includes wireless control systems, high pressure pumps and great big bloody holes in the ground. The more practical half is left to worry about the kind of boring stuff which joins the many disparate parts into a working whole.

And while that keeps Carol awake, I’m naively convinced that integration of heat pumps from one supplier, flooring from another and the octopus mainline of pipes to somehow bring them together is easily solved with some money and more shouting. Sure there is some dim awareness that unleashing a seven ton digger may trigger a chain reaction of destruction that takes in flooring, hot water and heating which may be slightly difficult to reconcile into living conditions.

But like I say I’m not worrying about it because my skills lie elsewhere. Not sure entirely where, but it’ll probably involve a cork and an airy dismissal of some issue involving washing with a cold hosepipe. Carol has the plan firmly ensconced in her head, somewhat invalidating my multi faceted task spreadsheets, cleverly embedded with mighty pivot tables.

It has already started. Today four strong men propped up two floors with surplus circus stilts in preparation of the terrifying removal of a structural pillar, which long since paid architects assure us is probably not necessary. Having seen some mid demolition pictures, I’m advocating we sleep on the ground floor for safety. Or possibly outside in the car.

I’ve been busy designing my perfect workshop resplendent with custom designed shelves to create an aircraft hanger, and a bike storage facility with sufficient expansion space to deal with any future eBay/Wine interfaces. All that is left is to divine the x marking spot of intersecting lay lines. Because that’s where the beer fridge shall reverently placed.

You see while there are many, many problems to solve, I’ve reverted to type and admitted my main interest is if I can have a go driving the digger.

* Don’t worry I’m going to try.

I’m taking that lying down.

I must apologise for any reduction in the already poor standard of grammar and spelling. This is entirely due to the content of this post being composed from a position supine on the floor.

I speak to you from this position after an involuntary collapse, following a nasty run in with the quote for the groundworks. It is not as if the work is unbudgeted. However the if you subtract the estimate in the – increasingly financially abstract – spreadsheet from the ginormous number that mugged me earlier, the amount that remains could essentially create the kind of liquidity conditions where Monkeys would be approved loans to buy houses*

At times like this, innovative out of the box thinking is clearly required. I’m considering either faking a gas leak and insisting the gas board dig up the entire plot to a depth of 10 feet to find it**, or using Verbal’s “Science Experiments for Enquiring Minds” set to create some kind of barely controlled explosion.

I’d be looking for a homage to that huge crater in Mexico which triggered the start of the end for the dinosaurs. I asked little Random what it was about the meteor that long term led to their deaths. “Well it would have hurt if it hit their heads” she offered.

Fair point, well made. Anyway, it’s either the teach-yourself-high-explosives or some kind of quick get rich scheme. And although neither look particularly promising right now, I’m pretty sure solutions will magically appear when viewed from the bottom end of a decent red.

It’s Friday, It’s 5pm, It’s crack-a-bottle.

* as opposed to the monkeys who are still trying to sell them.

** A ruse that is unlikely to succeed with no gas pipes being laid within a 2 mile radius of the house.

One Fuse to Rule Them All.

This isn’t the first time my ranting radar has identified incoming targets from the nation state of Electricity-Ville. It’s a bit of a rogue state, firing salvo after salvo of incompetence missiles, and threatening to overwhelm a defence system entirely based on writing angry letters.

Powerless seems the right word to use here. We foolishly switched on a few of the storage heaters on Saturday evening, only to be endarkened from around midnight. A call to EDF didn’t achieve much other than for them to tell us there wasn’t a problem. I issued a stiff verbal rebuttal based on some local, on the ground and in the dark information.

It’s cold and dark I said. Not here it isn’t they smugly replied. Further pleading eventually harvested an engineer who grumbled his way through a fuse change. “You need an 80 amp in there mate” he told us after removing the charred remains of the previous incumbent of our fuse box.

The lights came back on but the heating did not. The reason for this became apparent this morning after the discovery of a hidden fuse. This seems a little extravagent as we already have two fuseboxes bursting with the little buggers. Half of these protect the standard domestic circuits, and the other half stop the storage heaters catching fire.

Or at least they would if their puny 13amp wires were not gazumped by a second 80amper sat in line, ready to take the strain. Now I’m no electrician – and it’s a constant source of amazement that electricity doesn’t leak out of the socket when the plug is removed – but how can a widdle of mini fuses remain unbothered while the big burtha explodes at the first flick of a switch?

Apparently this never used to be an issue when our house was part of a commercial building, because the entire place was hooked up to some monster three phase circuit. This information has not in any way assuaged my worry that – come midnight – the electrical ummph from activating storage heaters isn’t going to create the kind of problem the phrase “blast radius” was created for.

But, short of shovelling another child onto the open fire, it seems we must risk crisping ourselves and the surrounding countryside before ice forms on the inside of the kettle. Suddenly our priority for which project to undertake first has undergone a bit of a policy rewrite, and it’ll all be plumbers and the like saved from financial destitution.

Still could be worse, I could be an incompetant and greedy banker (steady!) who has just had his bonus guarenteed. That’s even better that the dog’s job role – spend an eon being an arrogant fuck up and still get paid a whopping chunk of cash at the end of it. All funded by Mr and Mrs shafted taxpayer.

They’re on the list. I too am “thinking big and bold“. Ready Belgium for a country sized scorpion pit!