Having dealt with the writing off of my car I asked my friend Lindy to help me embark on a tour of the used car dealers who looked to have small inexpensive ones, not the posh ones which I couldn’t afford. We had 2 lovely days out with a picnic on the first day overlooking the estuary at Milford Haven and watching the Irish Ferry leave for Rosslare. We found 3 I could afford and which met my needs but one, the best one of course, was booked for a test drive and the salesman wouldn’t let me even look at it until he knew if that person wanted it. She did – no surprise there! But there were 2 others in another garage and after driving both of them I needed to sleep on the decision overnight.
We parked at the end of this bridge looking at this view!
The next day she drove me back to the garage and I put a deposit on a Suzuki Swift a year younger than my old car. I had to then wait for the garage to service it and do an MOT and for me to transfer the money. So we went on to Tenby, which she visits regularly as it is quite near her house, and lunch in her favourite cafe to celebrate.
And now it is mine! She took me to collect it today and followed me to the petrol station and then home. It is amazing what some people will do for coffee and homemade cake! Without her and Laura to help me I would have really struggled but with them it has been almost – almost – enjoyable! Not that I want to do it again soon you understand but the days out in lovely places and the feeling of being cwtched (a welsh term meaning hugged, held, safe, cared for) was brilliant.
A week last Friday I had an accident in my car. No-one was hurt thankfully though both the other driver and I were shaken up. Neither of us knew quite what to do. What was lovely was that other drivers passing the scene stopped to see if we were both OK and did we need any help? It was certainly not rubbernecking. My car was slewed across the road and if I hadn’t been able to drive it I would have needed help to move it out of the way. Everyone here knows that mobile signals are patchy – I couldn’t get one at that point – and someone with access to another network may be needed to call an ambulance or a recovery service.
Once we had exchanged details and both taken photos of both cars for insurance purposes the other driver rang for someone to come and collect her. I decided I was 1 mile from the garage where my car is serviced and repaired and 3 miles from home. I drove to the garage. Richard who owns and runs it was wonderful. He explained that as an old car the insurers would probably write it off – 2 new body panels fitted by an approved garage would cost more than it was worth. But when I got their response to take time to think and to talk to him for advice.
He then drove me home. Did I have anyone to keep an eye on me in case I had delayed shock? Yes, Laura was working in the garden. He would phone me later anyway to check all was well for his own peace of mind. We had to drive past the site of the accident and he stopped to check on the other driver who, it turned out, he knew because she lives in the village where the garage is. Her partner had arrived but Richard offered to help them move the car later with his trailer. Again it was not a bid for work but just being neighbourly. When he kept his word and phoned me later he told me that both cars were now in his care until the insurers can sort things out – no rush to get them moved.
Laura insisted I had a cup of tea and some chocolate. While the kettle boiled I messaged my son and daughter to tell them what had happened. My son picked up the message first and while I was typing the next part contacted Laura to make sure she was with me. She promised him she was and would check on me during the evening. Then she helped me do the insurance claim form online. I could do most of it without help but knew there might be some unfamiliar tech trick needed and that I wasn’t at my best. I had accidentally brought the car keys home with me so she then took me to the garage to put them through the door. Apparantly while I was walking the dogs (some things just have to be done!) she messaged my son to explain that, having seen my photos of my car she was happy I was very unlikely to have concussion or whiplash and he could stop worrying! Both he and my daughter offered to come and stay for a few days if I needed them.
Laura, Lindy and another friend, Olwyn, all offered to take me shopping or to other places I needed to go, and I know there are others I could ask if none of them is available. So there was no rush to get back on the road.
The previous week Rose, my friend and yoga teacher, had been explaining to us all in class that she had been on a First Aid refresher course and had been reminded that out here in the sticks help from official sources takes a while to arrive, if at all. She was therefore asking us to fill in a form with details of any health conditions and who she should contact if there was an emergency – just in case. We have to look out for each other, take care of each other and not rely on ‘Them’. My accident was a brilliant example of how good people round here are at doing just that.
Since then I have been in the simplistic and surreal world of car insurance. Apparantly I may or may not have been ‘to blame’ for the accident, the insurers really don’t care; I was ‘at fault’ because I crossed the stop line and the other car had right of way. The fact that the road was empty when I pulled out was immaterial. And the car was, indeed, written off. I am glad because when Laura took me to collect the last of my belongings from it I realised that even if it was repaired I would be anxious in it. So now I am looking for a new vehicle which will cost a lot more than the payout and all my plans to replace the worn / shabby / unloved items in the house are on hold. Thankfully my friends are happy to go on ferrying me around for as long as it takes to find the right car at the right price so I am not being rushed into anything.
Every cloud has a silver lining they say and when Laura took me shopping yesterday she also took me to a drumming group she has just joined. I knew from trying to learn ballroom dancing as a teenager that I have 2 left feet but now know I have 2 left hands as well! Combine that with not being able to hear the instructions properly and I kept getting lost! No-one seemed to mind and it was great fun so I will go again. It was a brilliant pick-me-up.
Tomorrow Lindy will hold my hand whilst I accept the insurer’s offer and contact their nominated scrap firm. Then take me shopping to start looking for a new one.
Not a week I ever want to repeat but it could all have been so much worse and a reminder that a loving family, good friends and a community which offers support are beyond price.
Normal cheerful blogging service will be resumed soon.
Scrap Happy happens on the 15th of every month where a group of us, organised by Kate and Gun, share things we have made from scrap materials – fabric, wood, packaging, anything which we save from throwing away. Follow the links and be inspired!
My offering this month follows on from my last post about putting up with things which don’t work well. A simple place to start seemed to be to replace some cushion covers which were dull, stained or damaged.
This one, for the bench seat in the kitchen, was based on an old cover which I had taken some applique off. Scraps of left over bias binding made the stripes which were deliberately not even – I know my accuracy limits!
Two very simple patchwork ones for the sitting room. So nothing very exciting but a definite improvement on the old ones.
The sofa will eventually have a full set of covers in black denim – I have no idea why I bought masses of that years ago – but the old seat cushions disintegrated a while back so I did those. The rest is on my list but I really need to get my sewing machine serviced before tackling such a big heavy project.
No, not the sort on Audible or CD where someone reads to you. I mean wandering the library shelves and a book going ‘You need me!’ It happens to me from time to time and it usually means there is something I need to think about. It happened last week in Carmarthen Library which I use because it has a larger non-fiction section than Cardigan. I was innocently looking at cookbooks and craft books when I heard it calling me.
My first reaction was ‘NO!!’ I had read her first book because I kept hearing it mentioned and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I totally understood that keeping things tidy was a good idea. I have an idiosyncratic but fully functional system for keeping paperwork in order, my kitchen is well organised and my keys hang on hooks. But being told that there was a right way (and many wrong ways) to fold my knickers irritated me.
The voice persisted, I got tired of saying ‘No’ and decided that I could always put it on the return pile after a few pages. The book was right and I was wrong – I did need it at this point. Has moving to America, Marriage and Motherhood softened her approach? Am I just ready to see beneath the precision folding to a message I needed to hear?
The first thing which struck me was her notion of ‘sparking joy’ – an idea she majored on in the first book too. If I threw out all the clothes in my wardrobe which do not ‘spark joy’ I would be walking round naked or seriously under-dressed for the weather! What’s more I doubt if I will ever find socks a source of much joy. Except for my hand knitted ones of course. Which is kind of her point. Most days I am home alone so I dress for comfort, warmth and decency. How I look is very much second in importance.
In this book she is seriously extending the concept to the things, furniture, soft furnishings, ornaments, in my home. So now I am going to be living in a bare space?!?
The penny dropped. Yes, I know, I’m very slow on the uptake sometimes! I have got rid of a lot of clutter and many things which I really don’t like but I am too good at saying ‘It will do, it’s good enough’ I have a lot of things which do the job but don’t make me smile or trigger happy memories. They aren’t ugly / uncomfortable / badly designed enough to make me lose patience with them but neither are they right. So I have a duvet cover which is fairly new, doesn’t clash with the paint colour in the bedroom but is too fussy a pattern, a kettle which tends to dribble when I pour from it if I am not concentrating, some lampshades which have seen better days, the mixing bowls I use for baking are chipped …. I need to replace them bit by bit with things I really enjoy using. I know that the underlying issue for me is that I don’t like spending money if I don’t really need to and I am great at self-denial!
Her second point (for me) was to ask what I see when I first open my eyes in the morning and how that sets the tone for the day. Whoops! A chair piled with the clothes I took off the night before and an airer of damp washing. Take those away and I would see a basket of unfinished craft projects and mending and / or the ironing basket. None of this encourages me to get up in a good mood! I have moved the craft basket to the spare room – not a long term solution but at least I don’t look at it there. I have done the pile of ironing (for now). The washing is a problem. I don’t use a tumble drier and hung in the car port it gets almost but not quite dry. The only places to put the airers are the sitting room or the bedroom. The clothes are the outer ones I will wear again and at bedtime I just want to get under the duvet where it is warm. It will all improve as the weather gets warmer but I need to find some solutions before next winter. Meanwhile I took 2 sacks of spare bedlinen removed from the linen cupboard (Why do I hoard thin old towels?) to the charity shop yesterday so that is one less unsightly pile to look at.
I extended the notion to thinking about what I see from each chair in the sitting room, or when eating. An interesting exercise especially when thinking about the chairs I don’t habitually use but guests do. Or what meets my eye as I walk from room to room. Those of you who have visited me more than once will know that I often rearrange the furniture. I move things to clean and always hope there is a better plan! I suddenly noticed that outside the sitting room window was dead vegetation on my passionfruit vine. And the hurricane lanterns on the mantlepiece needed new candles. Next to them was an ugly plastic box keeping my stash of chocolate safe from Evie. I’m not sure if cutting out the dead stems, replacing the candles and moving the detritus from the mantlepiece will give me my ideal life but it will make sitting in there more pleasant.
Apparently the entrance to my home is a sacred space and should be given special attention and kept extra clear. I have given the porch a good tidy but the carport, which is the way everyone enters my house, is full of cardboard waiting to be laid on paths in the stream garden and junk (including an oil drum barbecue made for a party over 10 years ago and a holey wheelbarrow with a flat tyre) waiting to go to the tip. Guess what I will be doing tomorrow if the weather improves! Wish me luck!
I have reached the point of wishing I had turned a deaf ear in the Library but I also know that doing these things will make me feel better in the long run. Given the way prices are going it may be the very long run or I may have to get seriously creative. And since stuff breaks, wears out, gets shabby, I may never fully succeed but I can try. As the adverts say (and I am trying hard to believe) “I’m worth it”.
I have been to three funerals recently. I suppose that is one of the things whch happens when we get older. We may be invited to Weddings and Christenings of the younger generations of our families and close friends but our comtemporaries are usually past that and it is their funerals we go to. These three events could not have been more different.
The first was for the 96 year old father of a local friend. As his wife’s health deteriorated they had struggled to cope and decided to accept an invitation to build a wooden chalet on my friend’s smallholding where she could support them. The wife died a few years ago and was buried in the graveyard of the local chapel. Every day the old man walked up the road to visit her grave and became a familiar sight in the community. Whilst visiting his son and daughter-in-law near London he became ill and died in hospital there. But his wish was to be buried with his wife. It was a very simple and informal ceremony. The Hearse arrived and members of his family, including his teenage grandson, pushed his coffin to the graveside and we followed. My friend, a retired vicar, invited us to share our memories of him, one of which, shared by the daughter-in-law he had been visiting, was of him being thrown out of a cocktail bar for being badly behaved – he was 95 at the time! One of the sons-in-law videoed the proceedings and fed it live to the man’s eldest son in Australia. When everyone who wanted to speak had done so the coffin, with his trademark red knitted hat on top, was lowered into the grave and most of us threw a handful of earth onto it. The wake was in his cabin. He had given strict instructions that we had to have Cornish Pasties from a shop he thought made the best ones (they had lived in Cornwall for a while before moving to Wales) and a boxful had been duly ordered and couriered here. The rest of the catering was done by the family and a next-door neighbour who used to be a professional baker. A lot of people crammed into rather a small space ate, drank wine, reminisced and raised a glass to him. It really felt as if WE buried him, all of us participating and contributing.
The second was that of the man who lived next door to my daughter when she lived with her husband. After they separated the neighbour still kept in touch and supported her. Each time I visited I would chat to him and I wanted to be able to pay my respects to him and say goodbye. He was an active member of the local Catholic Church, belonged to the Knights of St Columba (a lay order for men in the Catholic Church), an active member of the Royal British Legion and a Scout leader. There was a funeral Mass with some of his fellow Knights acting as bearers, another short service at the Crematorium with the Legion Standards aloft and then dipped and a wake in a Social Club near his home. There was a lot of ritual and it was very dignified but I felt like an observer not really involved. Maybe that was partly because I am not and never have been a member of a Catholic Church and was not clear what the procedure was or what the correct responses were. At the wake the various contingents – Family, Knights, Scouts, Legion (The other neighbours had left to go back to work) formed little groups in the big space, ate standard funeral fare, bought drinks from the bar and hardly mixed. It was no surprise that I didn’t know anyone there but other than the family neither did my daughter.
The third was for a 91 year old woman who lived about a mile from me in a bungalow on the farm she and her late husband had run and was now owned by her son and daughter-in-law. We gathered in the small non-conformist Chapel a couple of hundred yards from her home. The service was in a mixture of Welsh and English with one hymn in each language. The Minister did all the readings and gave the Eulogy but I felt he knew the woman he was talking about and respected her. Afterwards we all mingled in the graveyard and the family spoke to everyone. The burial was to be later in a family plot where the couple originally came from and their second son, who died of Meningitis at the age of 6 was buried as was her husband. She had asked to be reunited with them. I was unable to go to the wake in the village hall but know that the food would have been provided by family and friends and that there would be tea and coffee but no alcohol. I had walked to the service because my car was in the garage for repair and several people offered me a lift to the wake, then, when I explained I could not join them, to my home.
It made me appreciate again that whilst an urban life allows for lots of different social opportunities, the close knit rural one is where I feel I belong.
I am joining Kate, Gun and the other Happy Scrappers with another project made entirely from Scrap. The links below will take you to an inspiring group of people who work in a range of materials to make something out of waste.
I can see in my mind’s eye a gallery of confused faces and hear a chorus of ‘What the….?’
Last year we almost ran out of rainwater on the veg patch. I only water the greenhouses and newly planted stuff outside. I had 2 IBC tanks (one out of sight in this picture) each holding 1000 litres and 3 waterbutts but it was only just enough despite careful rationing. The tanks fill from the greenhouse roofs and the shed roof and they plus one butt are linked by syphons (hence the tangle of hosepipe snakes on top of the tank on the right) so that I can dip the watering cans easily but the butt refills automatically. This year has been very dry so far and the stream is at its summer level. Of course the tanks are full and we may have a very wet summer but there is already talk of hosepipe bans ahead so storing water is important. At house level I had another tank collecting from the workshop roof which was hardly ever used. So Laura and I decided it would be better to move it up to the veg level and join it to the system. That is the one on the left ogf the picture.
Each tank is surrounded by a metal cage to hold it in shape and tank plus cage together are very heavy. Two metal bars at the top hold the cage together and the bolts which hold them in place on the one to be moved were seriously rusted. So the first job was to use the angle grinder to cut off the nuts from the bolts. Then we syphoned all the water out, tipped the whole thing on its side and slid the plastic tank out of the cage. Each, in turn, was loaded onto a trolley and roped on then towed up the hill. We got to the top and discovered the gateway was just too narrow so out came the gatepost!
The only place the tank could go without being a nuisance and narrowing the path too much was on the end of the compost bins. Which meant it was on the opposite side of the path to the greenhouses. A hosepipe across the path would be a problem so it would have to be raised up. Another of the tanks is on the wrong side of a path – it collects off the shed roof – but I was able to attach the hose to the gable end of the greenhouse. This latest tank had no such useful structure. Time to get creative!
Luckily I already had a very long syphon tube which was not in use. All my syphons need to be longer than that so have had to be extended. They start with what Amazon sell as a ‘gas syphon’ (gas as in petrol) for emptying fuel tanks. But they are only 1m long. I tried attaching hosepipe with the standard garden hose connectors but they allow air to seep in breaking the syphon action. So I use a short piece of copper pipe taken out of the house at some point (hence the plastic joint in the middle of this one), heat the end of the syphon tube in a jug of hot water and stretch it over the copper, securing it with a jubilee hose clip. Ditto the hosepipe. And now I have a really long tube. The gas syphon has a ball bearing and spring in the end which you jiggle fast in the water of the sending tank leaving the other end on the ground until water runs out of the open end. Then you put a thumb over that open end and put it into the receiving tank. As long as the open end is below the sending end it will run. And once both ends are under water you can do what you like with the middle and it will keep working – as long as you don’t pull on of the ends above the water in which case it stops! It is fiddly but I have learned the hard way to tie each end of the pipe to the tank cage before moving the middle! Three lengths of left over slate batten ( yes, the same stuff as I used for the doors in last months post) fixed together and to the cages made an arch. Then more cable ties to attach the tube to the arch, adjusting the pip[es so that both ends were at the bottom of the tank in case they run very low, and the job was done. I have to confess that the cable ties were not exactly scrap – I buy large packets and keep them in stock. But everything else was.
For a couple of years I have been watching 2 large Ash trees in my garden develope signs of Ash Dieback disease. They were mature when we moved in 30 years ago and about 25 years back we had the crowns thinned to reduce the weight. They gave welcome shade to the workshop in summer. But this winter I decided they had to go before they got any more dangerous.
Both were too big for Laura and me to handle and they were on steep slopes which made the job even harder. Luckily one of Laura’s friends is married to a tree surgeon so I asked hm to take on the job. The tree on the left could be dropped across the stream but the one on the right would have to be climbed. So James would have to get the help of his friend, also called James, for safety and James 2 would have to bring his winch so they could pull stuff across and out of the stream.
By lunchtime the first tree was down and winched into the field. I asked them to cut it into manageable pieces but then leave it for us to clear up. They did but were a bit bemused at what I thought we could manage! If I have been over-confident Jmes 1 will come back with his chainsaws and do some more cutting up.
Then in the afternoon they got onto the second tree which James 1 climbed. It was amazing watching him!
This photo is taken from the terrace above the previous ones – there is another 3 – 4 metres of trunk below what you can see. We agreed that they would cut it down to the main fork but leave the trunk. It may regrow as a pollard in which case it will be a long time before the branches are any danger to the workshop. Or it may die but that is another habitat for wildlife.
As James cut away at the branches some of the pieces fell in the stream. They were big and heavy. At that point the water is about a foot deep and the bank about 5 feet above that so the winch was used again to drag them up to ground level.
By the end of the day we were left with this on my side of the river as well as all the wood in the field
We have made a good start on clearing it all – stuff that is too small or rotten to bother with goes into piles to be chipped, long lengths of thinnish stuff are snedded with the billhook and stacked up ready to cut to length in the woodshed and bigger lumps cut with the 2 person saw into roundels for splitting. I had to re-learn how to split with the maul! Because I knew that I would miss sometimes I chose to do the splitting in the lower garden where the soil is fairly deep. Missing the log and hitting a stone does a lot of damage to an axe.
All this wood will be seasoned for 2 years before it is burned so 2024/5 we should have plenty of fuel and the Ashes will return to the garden as ashes.
For the last 2 years the Apricot trees is the greenhouses have not produced fruit. We have diligently hand pollinated them, fruit has set but it has all dropped off before swelling. The Peach which grows between them has yielded luscious ripe fruit. After much head scratching Laura and I concluded that it might well be that the greenhouse doors were disintegrating and late frosts had dropped the temperature in there too low. As the peach flowers slightly later it might have been affected less.
The orignal doors were in the gable ends of the houses but John decided it would work better to have more doors and added some in one long side. Double doors so that getting a wheelbarrow in was easy. But the greenhouses are raised up on a low wall so the height of the wall is not standard. He made some wooden doors which had started to fall apart and eventually a winter gale got through the gap and they literally fell off.
A couple of weeks ago Laura and I were walking round looking at what was happening in the garden and realised that the buds on the Apricots were begining to show pink. The doors got put to the top of the urgent list!
In the workshop was some slate battening bought to build frameworks for climbing soft fruit such as loganberries. I had to buy a bundle and there were some lengths left and some offcuts. My son had left behind some bits of plywood from fitting out his camper van and some screws he had used but then replaced. Also in the workshop was some twin wall polycarbonate sheeting bought donkeys years ago to replace glass panes in the greenhouses as they broke. It turned out that the houses are imperial, the sheeting metric and the sheets were just a fraction too narrow. I used some of it as makeshift secondary glazing in the cabin in the garden until I could afford to have double glazing in there. The only materials I had to buy were a fex extra screws and the hinges – the old ones were too twisted and rusty to reuse.
I have also bought some hooks which I will put on the door frame each side and in the middle of the doors with a bar of slate batten to keep the doors shut. That is today’s job. I just hope we get some Apricots this year!
Find the rest of the Scrap Happy crew by using the links below
Some of you will recall that back in the Spring I had a new woodstove fitted. My Air Source Heat Pump is very efficient but it runs on electricity and as those of you in the UK will understand that has gone up in price dramatically. I am sure that it is cheaper to run than gas or oil heating but that is not actually a great deal of comfort! I have solar panels on the roof which generate well in summer but little in winter when I need the heating. I could pay the bills but they meant having less to spend on other things I rate as important.
My lovely fire blazng away
On the other hand I have wood here which takes energy to cut down, cut up, shift and stack but involves no money changing hands. Could I use that instead? The answer has proved to be ‘Yes and No’. Laura also burns wood in the cabin and what we have used this winter was cut 2 years ago so that it has had time to season. When it was cut we needed less each winter so we have had to supplement it with Hotblocks – lumps of compressed sawdust which I bought by the pallet. Last year we cut more in anticipation of me upgrading my fire. This year we are trying to cut even more because Laura will have a new fire and be at home more. It is hard physical work but luckily we both find it satisfying!
We have 4 large piles of wood cut – these are just 2
I have found that putting on layers means I am quite happy leaving lighting the fire until late afternoon. Until then I am outside or moving around most of the time and the residual heat is enough for me. I prefer the bedroom to be cool so that is fine. The kitchen has been a bit chilly at times and I have had some problems with condensation damp in there but that is partly because I have to keep the door closed to stop Evie rifling through the cupboards and rubbish bins in search of food (she is part labrador with starvation as her default setting!) I need to swap the door for a gate which allows the heat and cats through but stops her. So some tweaking needed and next winter if it is very cold I may put the heat pump on. This year I didn’t have it serviced and by the time the temperatures plummeted it was too late to get it done before the weather warmed up again.
I have put a lot of effort in over the years to making this house and the cabin more energy efficient but I am certainly not complacent. So when a local organisation, Cwm Arian Renewable Energy (CARE) (A wonderful group – read more about their varied projects here https://www.cwmarian.org.uk/) ) got some grant money to give advice on improving heat retention in houses I signed up for a visit. It has taken 2 years for me to reach the front of the queue but a couple of weeks ago Gerry came to do the survey. My instructions were to get the house warm before he came so that there was a good temperature difference between inside and out but to then let the fire go out and clean the ash out because his fan could make a heck of a mess if the ash got sucked out! As he was coming mid morning I had to set the alarm for very early! It was worth it.
The fan ready to go
What he was looking for was draughts. Draughts round old windows and doors, where walls and ceilings or floors do not meet properly, where pipes and cables enter or leave with gaps round them. He put a polythene sheet over one dorway with a fan behind it to suck air out of the house. That pulled cold air from outside in through any holes. The he used a thermal imaging camera to take photos of the temperature of the walls, windows and doors with a normal photo for reference so I knew what we were looking at. Sadly when I tried to load the photos he sent in his report into WordPress I failed – the downloads are indigestible to WP! I am sure there is a way to do it but not with my tech skills.
The important thing is that, apart from one place by my bed where all the cables and pipes come in from the tank room over the old garage, my house is fairly airtight. A couple of places need sealing with mastic – where the mantlepiece meets the ouside wall, round the top and bottom of the coving in the spare room – and I need to wash the rubber seals on the windows and doors because dust and grit are stopping them sealing quite properly. But my old double glazed windows are still in good
So my plan has worked. I can make things even better next year – fix the draughts, get the heating serviced in case we have another very cold snap, have hotblocks in reserve and keep cutting logs. That will do for me.