Archive for Apr, 2008

The Fireplace

This is what the fireplace looked like in its original location.  Getting it out was interesting and slightly risky as there aren’t many solid surfaces to stand on!  However, two days later I’d cleaned it up and it glowed like pewter.  Once we’d replastered the end wall and installed it, it looked like this.

The hearth was under the carpet as were these floorboards, but under these floorboards and laid in the other direction were sixteen inch wide floorboards.  We didn’t investigate them at all, figuring it might be better to leave them well alone.  The fireplace was blacked with polish and now looks great. 

Well worth the effort.


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Above the inglenook, on the first floor (or where it would be if there was one), was a bedroom with a fireplace of its own.  When we renovated our bedroom (we like to call it the master bedroom!) we found it was in a far worse state of repair than first anticipated.  For a start, it was far too small compared with the room below it, so we took down the fitted wardrobes and looked at the wall behind.  We knew there was something of a hollow there because we could hear birds within the outside walls and there was a small opening visible on the side of the house.  We pulled away hardboard which was tacked to an old door and discovered a fully-lined cupboard in the alcove, complete with wooden mushroom-shaped pegs in rows.  Thanks to the small opening and the birds, there were twigs, straw, dust and dead things to a depth of about three feet.  Once that had been shovelled out into sacks we could see that the wooden lining (elm, we think) was completely rotted and full of woodworm, so the cupboard had to go.  We turned our attention to the other alcove and found something similar, although far less sophisticated, almost like a rustic copy of the first cupboard.  Then, we found the fireplace – or the hole where the fireplace had been.  On enquiry mother-in-law told us it had been ripped out years ago and now lay out in the fields somewhere, part of a d-i-y landfill attempt.  I remembered seeing a bedroom fireplace in the ruins and persuaded Gordon to get it down for me.  It was in a sorry state – thick with rust and almost unrecognisable.  However, he sat me down with goggles, gloves and a wire-sander whatnot that goes on a drill, and told me if I wanted it, I could clean it up.  I’ll show you what it looked like tomorrow.

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Remember I said we had disused parts of our house and that’s where I found a pile of framed photos?  I thought I would show you one part of it that has become our very own ruin.  This is the old farmhouse kitchen, or what’s left of it.  The dark hole to the left of the fallen beam in the foreground is an inglenook fireplace, complete with cast-iron fire and surround.  Of course, it’s totally unapproachable now – what Health and Safety would call ‘structurally unsound’.  Somewhere behind the elder trees that have taken over is a bread oven and behind that a door that leads to even more ruined building.  Under the undergrowth is a flagstone floor.  This section would have been four rooms downstairs and four bedrooms upstairs, with connecting hallways to the main part of the house, now bricked over. 

When we moved here ten and a half years ago, this section of the house was well on the way to falling down due mostly to the want of roof repair.  Once the rain got in, the ceilings, floors and their respective supporting beams began to crumble away.  Before we had our own indoor jungle, Daniel and I attempted to clear it one day and carried out the main oak beams, cracked in two and so rotten you could push your arm through the centre (should you want to, which we didn’t).  We built a bonfire in the garden and put the beams across it.  It burned for a very long time.

The moral of the story?  Fix your roof when the tiles come off in the wind!

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This is the outside of my ‘potting shed’ (I know, it looks like a chalet) with the trough I acquired last year planted up with herbs.  The section where all the plumbing would have gone on the left makes a perfect isolation tub for the mint, which takes over left to its own devices.  The curly-leaved parsley did really well over the winter and the thyme came on in leaps and bounds.  It is called winter thyme, so there’s probably a bit of a clue in the name.

Gordon let me loose with the strimmer today.  He doesn’t normally trust me with such things, but we ‘acquired’ this one too and it’s not as beefy as are old one, which is a proper, agricultural brush-cutter with a blade rather than the string-stuff that whizzes around.  I had great fun and strimmed every edge in the garden; well, as much of it as the lead would allow!  We have various power points around the garden: one in the porch, one in the workshop next to the potting shed and another in the greenhouse, so I had to keep shifting the plug to cover the maximum area.  I dug up weeds and planting some stuff until it got darker and darker around about 2.00 pm.  I took this as a sign that I’d done enough for the day and put everything away.  About ten minutes later it was pouring with rain so no more gardening today.

I am a bit of a fair-weather gardener.

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Last year, before we discovered mum was ill, we decided we’d ‘do’ a couple of National Trust properties and our first choice was Killerton House.  It rained all day, but didn’t stop us walking around the garden, which was magnificent.  We each have a digital camera and thought it would be interesting to compare the end photos to see which gave the truest colour, etc.  Consequently we took a lot of photos of the same things, and this was my version of the wisteria.  Both Terri’s and mum’s cameras made it bluer although the quality was good.

No blog yesterday as I wasn’t feeling well.  I spent the day at a craft fair in Shepton Mallet and despite telling myself I wouldn’t be spending any money, I did!  This is no surprise as I usually do.  I don’t need any more craft supplies, but when has that ever stopped the average craft junkie?  By the time I got home I had a fuzzy head which developed into a sense of detachment and nausea.  Gordon is worried I might be sickening for whatever it was he had and is still struggling to get over.  We went to a neighbour’s in the evening, but felt the need to leave earlier than we would normally have done.  I had a terrible night – was it hot last night or was that just me? – and had to get up early to milk. 

Gordon’s gone to the airfield at Westonzoyland now to meet up with his mates, Alex (who’s home for a week or so) has just left for Bridgwater, Steph’s out with her friends in a minute and peace will reign.  I might have a cleaning session.

Or not … 

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After milking this morning, Gordon decided we should move the dry cows from one canal bank to the other.  The plan was he should go down and open the gates, with Daniel and me following on the quad bike.  That was fine in theory, but unfortunately we couldn’t get the quad bike out of reverse gear once we’d got it into the yard.  Not a problem we thought; we’ll do it the old-fashioned way and walk.  We’d got as far as the gate when the heavens opened and poured freezing cold, torrential rain on us.  Consequently, we trudged up the road with our heads down and the rain running down our clothes into our wellie boots.  By the time we got back to the house it was just stopping.  I was taking mum to the hospital so had a shower and changed, while Daniel changed into dry clothes in the kitchen.

Mum, Dad and I went to the hospital to meet with the surgeon and she gave mum a bit of a problem to resolve.  She has to decide whether she wants an operation or not, so for the next couple of weeks we’ll probably be weighing up the pros and cons.

On the way back from the hospital, round about lunch time, we stopped at the Maypole Inn at Thurloxton.  I haven’t been there for years and was surprised to find how much it had changed.  The photo is a view from the car park and while we were inside it rained heavily, the sun came out, it rained some more … well, you get the picture.  We all had a two-course lunch; one of the best meals I’ve eaten out for quite a long time, all for the princely sum of £7.50 per person.  I think I might actually like to become a food critic.  I wonder how you go about doing that?  I seem to eat out often enough. 

The Maypole would get top marks.

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Cowslip Time

In the last few days I’ve noticed cowslips on the grass verges beside the road.  It’s nice to see this humble flower making a comeback.  This one lives in dad’s garden, so it’s a tame cowslip!  Gordon says he’s seen red cowslips growing alongside the standard yellow ones on his travels in the morning to check-up on the cows, but I’ve yet to verify that!  For a country boy, Gordon is strangely unaware of things like the names of flowers, animals and birds.  I’m better informed and grew up a townie, albeit with the country boy dad who liked nothing better than to wander on the hills explaining all about the flora and fauna!  I thought everyone did that, but apparently not!  Gordon once picked me a ‘wild flower’ he found growing in the fields because he thought it looked nice and it turned out to be a tulip, imported in some topsoil several years before and flowering valiantly on its own.

The most dramatic piece of news today for everyone in the Highbridge area is the massive fire last night which destroyed the Highbridge Hotel.  This was, I believe, a listed building and had been boarded up for a while after the last tenants moved out, but I read there may have been squatters.  More information is available with this link: http://www.burnham-on-sea.com/news/2008/fire-highbridge-hotel-23-04-08.shtml

More disruptive to us is that the middle of Highbridge is closed as the hotel has been declared unsafe.  We fancied kebabs for tea and rang the place we normally order from, but they aren’t delivering to this side of Highbridge as it involves going the long way round, especially since the railway bridge is closed too. 

Highbridge is just falling apart! 

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