Saturday, 28 March 2015

Tides Of Change

With the tidal part of a river running alongside our garden, we’re presented with an ever-changing landscape.

There are times when the tide is so low, with so much of the riverbed exposed, that you feel you could walk across to the other bank, if it weren’t for all the mud! At times like this the wading birds congregate, redshanks and sandpipers, scouring the waterline for rich pickings. The odd lapwing or moorhen roam the mudbanks and gulls often congregate too.

When the water’s a little higher, cormorants come to fish, and then bask on the shore drying their wings. A few herons and egrets pause in sentry-like pose, occasionally grabbing a tasty bite, with a sharp stabbing action.

As the water becomes higher still, swans, ducks and the odd Canada goose glide by, but the river can become less peaceful with the arrival of a much less graceful creature – man! People in boats make the most of the opportunity to ride the river, some at alarming speeds in their flash cruisers! I prefer to watch the sailing dinghies and rowing boats – they’re much more sedate.

And then of course there are the really high tides. Fortunately there is a flood plain directly opposite us that spares us the wrath of these higher tides. I have it on good authority that the piece of land housing the ‘glorified shed’ has not been flooded since at least the 1960s. However, we did become a bit concerned when we experienced an unusually high tide the day after the recent solar eclipse. Although the river didn’t actually spill over onto our garden, water did cover the lower walkway that runs just below the garden’s edge, leaving a pile of assorted debris in its wake.

It’s sad how much rubbish, including plastic containers, small pieces of furniture and old tin cans, are washed along with the tides. We do seem to acquire a steady stream (if you’ll pardon the pun) of very clean looking footballs however. Perhaps I could set up a small football shop as a sideline!

Whatever the tides bring, it’s a great source of interest and enjoyment watching the changing landscape.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Peace and Quiet

I’ve always been someone who enjoys a certain amount of absolute peace and quiet. In the words of the Desiderata (Max Ehrmann), “Remember what peace there may be in silence”.

So when we moved out of a town to a more peaceful, rural location, I never worried that I would find things too quiet! I may have wondered whether I would feel isolated as I was no longer within walking distance of local shops and amenities, but not whether the serene calm of the countryside would prove stifling. I’ve not even missed frequent visits to the shops, but only go now on a ‘need to’, as opposed to a ‘want to’ basis, filling my free time with my many hobbies and enjoyment of the countryside environment.

It’s true that it can be incredibly quiet here, but in the most relaxing way. I positively relish it! There are days when I hear little more than the sound of birdsong and the odd boat passing along the river (that runs along the edge of our garden) when the tide is right. There are certainly no cars and lorries trundling past to break the peace, as we live at the end of a narrow lane – a road to nowhere but our home!

The ‘glorified shed’ is a quieter place than our old home too. We have no landline constantly trilling the alert of unwelcome junk calls, just mobiles that we can put on silent, and canvassers never seem to knock on our door – they possibly can’t even find us! We definitely live a calmer, less-interrupted lifestyle.

The longer that I live here, the more I seem to wallow in the peaceful atmosphere, finding it more of a shock when I venture into a busy town, with its onslaught of chaos and cacophony of noises competing for attention. I always emit a sigh of relief when I return to my little rural haven and the sound of (near) silence!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Welcoming Spring

Well we’ve survived our first winter in the ‘glorified shed’, although it was hardly a severe winter, for which we were thankful. In our area we only glimpsed the odd stray flake of snow, and although we experienced some chilly nights and frosty mornings, our make-do heating arrangements saw us through.
Walls and a roof severely lacking insulation, single-glazed windows from the 1960s that have definitely seen better days and ill-fitting, draughty doors were certainly set against us, but movable oil-filled radiators and a supply of thick jumpers helped us to manage the cold.

Now as the weather brightens with the arrival of spring, we are making plans to insulate the building and install a wood-burning stove ready for next winter. All we need now is to put the plans into action.

Meanwhile, in the garden things are coming to life. Daffodils, tulips and crocuses are making a welcome appearance. The number of birds I see increases daily, with more goldfinches and greenfinches visiting for food and a pair of blue tits taking up residence in the nesting box. I’ve spotted a treecreeper and a woodpecker in the garden, whilst on the river, the number of cormorants has increased and I’m hoping to soon see the return of the egrets that were regular visitors last year.

Progress on the building work may have been slow so far, but hopefully the arrival of spring will give us just the boost that we need!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Wires And Pipes

When people enquire about the rate of progress on the renovation of the ‘glorified shed’ they’re often quite surprised by the response.

Some six months down the line, they’re expecting me to report that, “Yes, we do now have a bathroom” and, “Yes, the kitchen has now been installed”. But the fact is neither is true, partly because some of the work is down to our own efforts and our time is limited, what with work, elderly mothers and children needing attention and life just being lived, and partly because much of what is being done is kind of ‘behind the scenes stuff’. You know, that gutty work that needs a lot of effort but doesn’t show much in the way of tangible results.

For example, before either bathroom or kitchen could become nearer to reality, drainage needed to be put in place. Currently both water supply and drainage only serve one small corner of the building, which is not anywhere near where the bathroom and kitchen are to be installed. We therefore had to find a willing and trustworthy individual to dig out a big trench, lay pipes, connect to drainage system and put everything back as if nothing had happened. Happily mission accomplished!

Similarly a plumber had to be arranged to run pipes from the water source to the proposed bathroom, to enable bathroom fittings to be connected.

And then of course came the matter of wiring. The room (former office) that we are converting to a bathroom contained sockets and switches not compatible with its intended use. Cue electrician. Of course, his intervention has also had to include new wiring looms, cable suitable for a shower, relocation of sockets and some shiny new switches!

So there has been progress but not of the ‘swish-new-shower’, ‘brand-new-bath’, ‘super-stylish-kitchen’ variety!

Walls and ceilings still have to be lined, flooring laid and a new ceiling put in place – then I’ll get my bathroom! Watch this space...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Highs And Lows

Since moving into the ‘glorified shed’ last year, I have definitely experienced a huge range of emotions.

Excitement at the prospect of a new home that we’ve designed ourselves; wonder at the beautiful view and interesting wildlife I can see from the window; trepidation at the enormity of the task that we’re undertaking; near horror at the way in which we’re having to live during the renovations.

Some days I look at the current set-up, a kind of ramshackle affair with no real bedrooms (just areas divided by wardrobes) or kitchen (just a mini oven on an old workbench and a dresser crammed with as much as possible, both food and eating implements), and emit a sigh of despair. It can be quite daunting living for a prolonged period amongst ‘organised chaos’, lacking the type of fixtures and fittings that so many take for granted.

But then there are those moments that serve to remind me of why we are doing what we’re doing. The time I walked out of the door to see a heron flying over my head; one of the early days when I stood in the garden and saw the head of a seal pop out of the river and look in my direction; the morning I glanced out of the window to see a beautiful woodpecker sitting in the tree; the feeling of space due to the fantastic view that we have across the river and surrounding countryside. I just have to remember that for every down moment, there is something wonderful to offset it.

It will be quite some time until we have even a vaguely finished home, with further chaos and disruption as guaranteed as night follows day. But in my gloomier moments, when I long for cosy interior d├ęcor, I have to focus on the final goal and the lovely surroundings that have been here from the start!