Saturday, 25 October 2014

Keeping Warm

As the weather chills down, we’re aware of the odd draughts and scant insulation in the former workshop that we now call home.

We soon realised that addressing the subject of heating should be given some priority, to enable us to comfortably survive the winter ahead of the main renovation work starting next spring.

The building still contains the original radiators and boiler – although these would need an overhaul – but the oil tank that would formerly have been used to store the oil to run them no longer exists. We did consider installing a new one, but are not sure whether this will be our final choice for heating – we may go for a more energy efficient, eco-friendly system – and will have to think about this over the coming months.

We therefore decided to come up with a temporary heating arrangement that currently consists of a selection of small, portable, plug-in, oil-filled radiators, and an electric fire with faux log effect. In fact, using the log effect setting even without the heat is sometimes enough to kid us into feeling warm and toasty. As it chills further, we’ll make use of the small radiators and will invest in a couple more should the need arise.

Of course, we can also employ more traditional methods of keeping warm: layering our clothing (I have a good line in fluffy jumpers and cosy tops): using hot water bottles to warm beds; drinking lots of warming beverages (and the odd tot of something stronger); I’ve even made a draught excluder out of pompoms!

Over the years we’ve become too accustomed, as have many of us, to living in homes that are kept constantly cosy due to central heating. Yet as I child, I grew up (for the first seven years at least) in a house that had nothing more than a gas fire in the living room and a coal fire in the ‘back room’. During a particularly cold winter, my dad invested in a small paraffin heater that we could position wherever it was most needed – I can still remember the smell! Despite all of this, I still recall waking up to find a thin layer of ice on the bedroom windows!

Of course, we eventually moved to a new house with central heating, and became dependent on the warmth of such systems that we’ve relied on ever since.

So as we head towards our first winter in our new, almost home, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a mild one, but trying to condition our bodies to accept lower temperatures just in case!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

It’s Like Living On A Film Set

Moving into a former workshop has proved an interesting experience. The building basically consists of two large rooms (large enough to fit in several smaller ones), an old office and a small toilet/washbasin area.

As I’ve previously explained, the office is in the process of being transformed into a luxury bathroom (she says hopefully) and we have currently spread ourselves over the two large rooms, although we will have to condense down to one when the main part of the work starts.

A somewhat 'alternative' kitchen
In the meantime, we have created a series of ‘rooms’ by the clever placement of furniture and the odd curtain. However, when I relax in our small ‘sitting room’, I can’t help feeling that I’m living on some kind of film or TV sitcom set. There are chairs, a coffee table, a floor lamp, a bookshelf and a TV (hubby even stuck white wallpaper over the brown walls), but all of these are situated in just one corner of a very large room. The surrounding space suggests that somewhere a cameraman, director and various other crewmembers are possibly lurking. As I take my seat, I half expect someone to shout, “Action!”

Our living area, not unlike a TV sitcom set
 As things progress, this large room will become a big open-plan living arrangement, with kitchen, dining area, living area and home office, all lovingly arranged. The view from the room is spectacular – the river, fields and hills – and this we can enjoy even before our plans take shape.

Hardly a luxury 'bedroom'
For now I will just have to resist saying, “Have you had your tea? What did you have?” in Barbara Royle style as I take my seat on the sofa. I must remember I’m living in a home, not a TV or film set.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Autumn Leaves

Although autumn is by no means my favourite season of the year (that accolade goes to spring, when I get a fresh injection of optimism for the year), there are certain things about it that I do quite enjoy.

This year, I’m even more aware of the changing of the seasons, living in my new rural location. I’ve always loved the colours of autumn, the deep reds and golds of the leaves can be magnificent, and this year I’m certainly surrounded by enough trees to see plenty of these. I must also admit that I love swishing my way through large piles of dry leaves and hearing the satisfying crunch that they make. This comes second only to walking on an expanse of virgin snow, which offers a blank canvas of opportunity and a reassuring ‘crump’.

From a less colourful point of view, it’s sad to see the surrounding fields transformed from the lush greens and pale golds of the summer, to the dull, universal brown created by the necessary ploughing. But I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such an expanse of countryside with all of its colours, textures, sights and sounds, whatever they may be.

The view from my window
Of course with the autumn comes the chilling down of temperatures and the more blustery winds. I confess to absolutely hating strong winds, so maybe being surrounded by trees with the river immediately on my doorstep doesn’t sound the best place to be at times like this, but hey, we have to take the rough with the smooth!

It’s also fair to say that a draughty old workshop isn’t the first place you’d choose to spend chilly nights, but we have plans in place to keep the cold at bay, and will hopefully cope through not only the autumn, but the winter too.

My first autumn in my new, almost home, will certainly be an experience!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Clearing the Way

Since moving to our new ‘home’, a former workshop that we’re renovating, we’ve made and remade plans time and again.

We have packed, unpacked and repacked boxes several times over, rescuing the things that we most need and storing those that we can live without, for a few more months at least.

We have rearranged our meagre furniture in a variety of ways to eventually settle on a plan that presents us with a variety of ‘rooms’, so that the building is vaguely liveable.

And now the fun, or at least the work, begins.

Reminding myself what a bath looks like
One of the first tasks has been to clear a number of small trees and bushes from behind the building, in order to get to the drainage needed to install a bathroom – our first priority. Although we currently have a small toilet and washbasin arrangement up one end of the building, we make a daily trek to my mother-in-law’s for a shower. The distance may be minimal, but it can still be a pain in bad weather.

We’re now starting to clear out the old office area, which we plan to lovingly reinvent as the new bathroom, which leads me on to one of my favourite parts of this whole project – choosing the fixtures and fittings!

In my head I’m imagining a gorgeous sleek affair, bright and shiny with a touch of luxury. Mind you, if the truth be known, I will just be glad to have a bathroom to call my own, whatever form it takes! Oh, how I revel in that thought!

Until that day, I will focus on my dream bathroom and carry on with the task of preparing the way.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Seal Of Approval

The change to a new rural, riverside location has certainly given me an interest in watching wildlife. It’s hard to ignore it really with so much going on literally outside my window.

I love to wile away the time watching the swans gliding along the river, the cormorants drying their wings on the mud bank and the herons keeping sentry duty in the shallows. Recently I was fortunate enough to see a seal catching fish right in front of me! There was much splashing and slithering to gain my attention, although it took me a moment or two to actually realise what I was seeing.

Indeed the arrival of the seal has been a topic of conversation in the village, with residents eagerly keeping watch for its next appearance.

At twilight I love to stand outside and watch the bats flying around me – yes I am a bit of a batty person – but I actually think they’re amazing little creatures.

And whilst the wildlife is causing a great source of interest, it can be a little disruptive to the daily routine.

My husband recently arrived back from the school run a little later than usual, having experienced a hold up in one of the lanes. What was it? A minor vehicle collision? Debris on the road? A spot of road resurfacing perhaps? No, none of those. The delay was caused by squirrels playing on the road. Yes, I did say squirrels caused a traffic jam – the joys of rural life!