Sunday, 26 July 2015

New New House!

Back in May, I moved all my furniture, and myself, out into the shed / garden annex / converted garage,  in order to allow a whole string of builders and plasters and electricians and decorators and carpet fitters to transform my house.
The living room. Note the lovely stone-cladding, and the artex ceiling

It was in great need of it. 

These are some of the 'before' pictures. The house has literally had nothing done to it for decades. 

I assume the wallpaper went up in the early 80's, and nothing had changed since. Not shown here: the lovely curtain poles, which were screwed to untreated bit of wood which were, in turn, glued to the wallpaper.

My Bedroom. With woodchip wallpaper everywhere
I can be quite certain that they were glued on, because whoever glued them on did not clear up afterwards, so there were lots of blobs of white pva glue sploodging out around the wood. 

Spare room. More woodchip. 
It's actually quite inspiring to think that there is someone out there who is even more clueless about DIY than I am...

The 'before' pictures of the bedrooms are less dramatic, because you cannot really tell that the walls (and ceilings) are covered with lumpy wood-chip wallpaper, and the carpets so thin that every floorboard could be seen. 

And these pictures don't show the black, sooty plaster, loose around the sockets and where the airing cupboard used to be. Or the lovely holes where the previous owners had TVs on the walls, and all kinds or random bits of wire everywhere...
Living room. 

Also not shown: the peeling artex ceilings in the kitchen and the bathroom. They were not fun. 

So, I moved out, and the builders moved in, and made dramatic and messy changes. 

It is very strange to come home at the end of the day and find that you can see all your brickwork, or can learn what your loft insulation looks like from the underneath. 
My bedroom. No more woodchip!
(Yellow, mostly, in case you were wondering!)
Also my bedroom. No more ceiling

But mostly what I came home to was dust. Black dust. Lots and lots of black dust. 

And then some more black dust. 

And did I mention the the black dust?

It was also a little worrying to see just how much stuff was ending up in the skip outside the house. I started to feel as if I might get home one day to find the entire house was gone, with nothing left but skip after skip of rubble.

Fortunately, things then started to improve.

I would return each evening to find plasterboard, and then plaster, and new skirting boards, and new electrical sockets, and all sorts of things.
Living room

And then came the decorators, and the new, non-black, walls went from pink, to  white(ish) to the colours which I had chosen.

Then, last week, after the decorators had finished, the carpet fitters arrived. I had not, originally, planned to replace all of the carpets but in the end, I decided it was easier than doing them bit by bit, plus they really, really needed to be replaced...

And so now I have new carpet everywhere. 

And it does, I think, all look rather nice.

The carpet fitter finished on Friday morning, and on Saturday morning two blokes with a van arrived to move all my furniture back indoors, so I am now, officially, moved back in.

spare room
And I feel that I now have the house which I 'saw', when I first looked around the house last Spring, before I bought it.

It is not quite finished:

 I don't have any curtains yet, and all of my books are in boxes (the third bedroom is, literally, half full of boxes of books right now.) 
Bedroom with furniture!

I am stalking a couple of carpenters with a view to getting some bookshelves and cupboards built into the living room, and one day I want to have a wood-burning stove in the fireplace, and some better quality furniture.
The books, awaiting unpacking.

And outside, the garden needs work.  But for now, by new house is all shiny and new, and I am very happy with it.

Now, I just need to get the books unpacked ...!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Car Troubles, Bees, Summer, and Friends

Last week was mostly distinguished by being very, very hot. At least by English standards.

It was an mixed week for me - on Monday, the exhaust pipe (or at least the back half of it) fell off my car on the way home from work. Annoyingly, the exhaust broke somewhere in the middle,and the bit attaching it to the back of the bumper didn't, so it didn't actually fall off, it just dragged along the road, so I had to stop can carry out emergency tying bits of the car together (fortunately I had several bits of bungee in the boot)

Fortunately my neighbour is a mechanic and kindly removed it for me once I got home, and the car is now fixed, but it was not a good start to the week. 

Wednesday I had planned to go to the cinema to see the live broadcast of Carmen but it was too hot, and by the time I got home from work I was tired, hot and had a nasty headache, so I didn't go.

After that, the week started to improve. On Thursday I went bee-ing again, which was interesting. I am starting to feel a bit more confident, and competent,  around the bees, which is nice. I am going to have to start scouting around to see where I might  be able to keep a hive or two next year...

Then on Friday evening I met up with my friend T to go to the theatre, in Bath,which was lots of fun.
Catherine Steadman (Kate) and
Michael Pennington (Mr Hardcastle)
We saw 'She Stoops to Conquer'  which is on as part of the Theatre Royal's summer season. The play was originally performed in 1773, but for this production the setting has been updated to the 1920s, which mostly works - it is still feasible, just about to have the big class divides which underlie the plot.

The plot relies heavily on characters being unable to recognise one another, and on the dashing young gentlemen being fooled into thinking that the manor house was in fact an inn...

Hubert Burton plays Marlow, shy and tongue-tied with women of his own class, forward and brash with women he believes to be his social inferiors, and cringingly snobbish and superior towards his host, Mr Hardcastle (Michael Pennington) who he believes to be an inn keeper. Marlow has a touch of Bertie Wooster about him, and while his way with innkeepers and serving maids is a little unappealing to modern eyes, it is very well done.

Micheal Pennington had a far less showy role, but played it with beautiful restraint, as Mr Hardcastle, ready to welcome the son of his best friend as his daughter's suitor, but  met with arrogance and treated as a servant.

Catherine Steadman (who I last saw in 'Oppenheimer') was Kate Hardcastle, who seemed more n control of events than any of the other characters, and seemed to enjoy playing the barmaid to 'conquer' Marlow.

It was all good fun, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and felt the setting - (both the period and the revolving set) worked well.

The play is on in Bath until 18th July, so plenty of time to see it if you are in the area!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Indigenous Australia, and Bad King John

I spent this weekend visiting relations in London.We had tickets to see the Globe Theatre's production of Shakespeare's 'King John', and also took the opportunity to visit the British Museum and see their 'Indigenous Australia' exhibition.

The exhibition is not big, but it is very interesting, and has some beautiful artifacts and art, and it appeared to me that the curators had tried very hard to ensure that the exhibition was presented in a way which was respectful of the indigenous Australian's culture and history, including details of how they were treated by the British Colonists and Australian Government, although there were a few odd phrases... for instance, referring to the lack if recognition of Indigenous People's rights to / occupation of Australia as a 'mistake' and a 'misunderstanding' seemed a little odd - not least because it implies that the country would not have been Colonized had Cook and his successors understood more, which, baring in mind British Colonial Expansion in the 18th and 19th Centuries seems a bit unlikely! 

But over all I enjoyed the exhibition, learned things I didn't know before, and would encourage anyone likely to be in London to see it.

After visiting the exhibition, we browsed a little elsewhere in the museum, including taking a look at the Waddesdon Bequest, which includes some lovely medieval jewels, plate and other artifacts.(The museum has just rehoused it in a newly refurbished gallery) 

I am not a big fan of the elaborate gold / gilt tableware, although the workmanship is amazing, but the various jewels are beautiful, and fun - I rather liked this little ram. I should be happy to give it a home, if the Museum should suddenly decide to start rehoming its art!

After that, we had a very pleasant Chinese meal before heading over to the Globe to see King John

I have never seen the play before, and deliberately decided not to read it before seeing it, although of course I am broadly familiar with the history. It isn't performed very often(this is, I think, the first time the Globe has done it) and I did wonder whether there was good reason for that, and that it perhaps isn't one of William's best.

I need not have worried. It was excellent, with a very strong cast. I enjoyed it immensely, and there were a surprising number of funny moments, among the battles and deaths and betrayals.

King John was played by Jo Stone-Fewings, (who played Buckingham in the production of Richard III I saw at Trafalgar Studios last year). His John was initially gleeful (the play started with his coronation, during which there was a plainsong setting of 'Zadok the Priest') 

Alex Waldmann, as 'the Bastard' had, in some respects, the biggest role, and seemed to have a good deal of fun with it, and left the distinct impression that had the play continued much longer, John might have discovered he had a usurper on his hands...

The rest of the cast was equally strong. Tanya Moodie's Constance seemed, at first, to be pushing her son (Prince Arthur)'s claims for political reasons, arguing her (his) case, but as the play progressed and Arthur was captured by King John, she was the bereft and mourning mother, a picture of grief.

I don't think there was a single weak link in the cast,

Although I had not realised it in advance (perhaps because it wasn't me that booked the tickets, the performance we saw was the last in the run, so after the play ended there was a brief speech from Artistic Director Domenic Dromgoole, followed by the cast throwing roses ito the crowd. (with a special cheer for (I think) Giles Terera who managed, at the third attempt, to get a rose up into the gallery! 

It was a great evening, and I'm really glad that I got to see the play. Seeing it at the Globe was an extra bonus, and even a minor train issue on the way back didn't dampen our enjoyment!