The Big Debate – Porridge v Peelaway

Porridge – keep out of the reach of children

Following on from Porridgey Looks and Paint Removal

As I was paying for the cute (and kitsch) framed picture above, I noticed a dear little nicely foxed mirror that was filthy and absolutely lavished with paint – the ideal candidate for the porridge test? As it was too cheap to leave behind it seemed worth a punt (in the interests of science, of course)IMG_9125

It took me a while to spot the Quaker Oats packet in the supermarket. It was on the top shelf – for adults only, I guess. I didn’t have anything to mix it in, so I cut a San Pellegrino bottle in half, inadvertently creating the simple ‘coffee maker’ that I have failed to find in the shops so far. Handy, as going out for coffee breaks up the day and requires me to wear something much less indoors-y

Once it had reached the consistency I thought it should be, I applied it generously and covered it in cut up pieces of bin bag. This was lunchtime. It was only at six in the evening that I absent-mindedly noticed the part-can of Peelaway 7 in the hall, so I spread that on the rest of the frame and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. This made it feel like a properly scientific trial

No matter how much there is to do, it’s very hard to keep your hands off something when you have put paint stripper (or porridge) on it, so I had to try to keep busy. Even so, at ten o’clock that same evening I was peeling back the bin bags to see how both were performing and I couldn’t help picking away a bit on the Peelaway side with my available toolset, a plastic picnic knife. I was surprised to see how much paint had come off, but I realised that I had no neutraliser for it. Vinegar would work, but I didn’t have any and the shops were long-closed. I tried some brine from the olive jar, but (unsurprisingly) it didn’t work so I went scouting around, found some alcohol upstairs and poured some into a plastic cup (I know what you’re thinking but this wasn’t gin, it was proper murderous cleaning stuff that even I wouldn’t drink) and dipped the wire wool. It seemed to do the trick, and the paint came off quite cleanly, which was lucky as Baz’s toothbrush was the next implement I had in mind to use

When you start commandeering your husband’s current toothbrush for things like this it’s probably time for bed

I woke, well rested, at 6.50. Perhaps it was the fact that I now had coffee available, or perhaps I just couldn’t wait to get started, but I removed the rest of the Peelaway, which showed a vast improvement from the part I had messed with the night before. I still had no vinegar and even if the shops were open I was not prepared to go in search for it at that time of day, so I continued with the alcohol. It smells much nicer anyway and it evaporates really quickly. Then I removed part of the porridge as well, cleaning it afterwards with wet wire wool, then also with alcohol, for the sake of being equal. I have to say that the inner and most fiddly detailed edge came up just as well with porridge, but the bobbly beading was not really very good, as the porridge had been stopped in its tracks by a thick-ish layer of gloss paint, way too much to ask of the porridge mix. So, once I’d wiped down, I applied a small amount of Peelaway to just that area and covered it up again. Having plans for the day meant that the mirror would be safe from my meddling until the evening

The Verdict:

Porridge given enough time was very good at removing water-based paint. I would certainly do this again.  Plus, it’s easy to work with, environmentally friendly and cheap. It won’t damage anything and doesn’t need neutraliser

Peelaway 7 lifted all the paint, including the gloss, but don’t believe the videos of it coming off cleanly with all the paint securely attached. It is a very messy substance and not a joy to use at all. You absolutely have to neutralise it with something (they supply a bottle of the neutraliser, but never enough – it ran out ages ago) and there’s a lot of cleaning up to do afterwards

Just as a comparison I also tried the wire wool with alcohol on a separate patch, and it had little effect on the paint

So if the paint is water-based I would recommend the porridge method. It needs to be really gloopy and thick, but kept nice and wet for as long as possible to allow it to work

Thanks to Witch House for the tip. Ultimately I will be repainting the mirror frame, but I wanted to strip the details back first, instead of just disguising them even more

Gratuitous shots of someone else’s house

French Property stalking for a quick ‘fix’

I arrive in Carcassonne alone, and drag my wheelie case along the cobbled streets to find the house we saw when we came here a few weeks before IMG_8991

I am a huntress. I know when I am getting close, even though I am not that familiar with the streets. I just feel that I am getting closer

I have only a short time before I have to catch my train, but I just hang around outside,  taking photos when I think no-one is looking. Does this make me a house stalker?

Yes, most definitely, as I press my face to the window to see inside IMG_8601IMG_8607It was for sale but the owner has now decided to ‘renovate’. I don’t know what that really means, but I hope they will not strip the original interior features that I can still see

It’s the many details which make this wonderful house. Each one is complete in its own right, but they also work together to create the beaux-arts buildingIMG_8982IMG_8613

Hundreds of people must pass by this street every day, yet other than the graffiti artist who has recently made their mark, few seem to notice it. Does that make it any less special?

I think not

Happy Cupcakes

Coffee shop criticisms

C meets me in a coffee shop after school on my day off, allowing me to grab a caffeine hit and stave off that inexorable coffee-withdrawal headache. I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern of general disapproval emerging in the conversations we have

Last week:

(Me) ‘I love the grey they’ve used on the walls here. It would look great in your bedroom’

‘It looks like the colour we used to have in the living room’

‘It’s definitely not the same colour. It’s greener, but warmer as well’

‘Well, maybe not the same, but very similar’

‘I’ll bring the colour charts with me next week and match it’

‘Oh please no, not the colour charts’

This week:

(Me, showing C my phone) ‘Look at this cupcake. How cute is that!’

‘Was that muffin on that counter?’

‘Yes. Look, it’s smiling’

‘And you just went over and took that photo?’

I nod

‘You’re SO weird’

This is teenage disapproval. It’s possibly the worst kind, and it’s not made any easier by the fact that she’s probably right: I am weird, and I do talk about colour charts and happy cupcakes too often

 

 

 

 

Same Again, PLEASE

Elegant in grey for four centuries, but now out of fashion?

I arrive at the Mairie, sans maquillage, and the lovely guy at the desk recognises me, smiles warmly and calls me by another woman’s name. As soon as I try to correct his error he apologises, remembering that he did the same thing the last time we met, and we both laugh. Do she and I look similar? He thinks so, he says. I explain that I’ve been told there is a grant toward restoring the outside of the house, and he says he’ll get me an appointment. I wonder what does this other bloody woman look like – is she actually my doppelgänger?

He phones me in the afternoon, while I am on the balcony with colour charts, matching the shutters as closely as possible (somewhere between ‘gauze deep’ and ‘bone china blue’ – though closer to ‘gauze deep’). I am on my way, I tell him, and I go straight there, just slightly grubbier than in the morning. He hadn’t realised how complicated the matter was, that there are forms to be completed for the permit, that 2 quotations must be obtained, and that we must then write a letter to the Mayor and the work inspected before money can be awarded

His English is good, but I try to keep him in French so we mix it up a lot. He’s apologetic about the amount of time involved – six months just for the permission, and longer for the grant – but I’m undeterred

He sends me upstairs, and as I climb the staircase I see that the building is very beaux-arts inside, though municipalisation has disguised much of this. I arrive at the correct office where a well-dressed and (as I discover later) very fragrant lady greets me somewhat coolly, having been pre-warned that this Anglaise was on her way. Her colleague at the other desk is in charge but is clearly a man who would prefer to spend ten minutes explaining to her what needs doing than to do it himself. As it turns out, she’s very kind and she accompanies me back downstairs to the guy I was speaking with before, because, as she explains, he speaks English and she doesn’t. Once installed at his desk she shows us both the extent of the paperwork and produces a sheet of twelve potential stonework/shutter colour combos for which I may request the permit

The choices illustrated are yellow stonework with shutters in mauve, dark or light blue, beige stone or red with brown, orange stone with brown, light or dark green, pink stone with brown or pale blue, or blue stone with light or dark green. It looks to me like the plans for a Disney resort

I am, shall we say, ‘unimpressed’

I explain that we don’t want to change the colours, only to repaint exactly as it is (grey front and white-ish back, both with the same pale blue-grey shutters, minus the rust stains). But no, they explain, there is no white or grey option, only the colours on the chart, though neither is championing these colour choices, and both are sympathetic. I simply will not renovate at all, I say, but of course this is not an option as the Mairie wants it sorted out. This is the stage at which I become aware of the fragrance of the elegantly dressed lady as she sits down next to me, in my stinky wallpaper-stripping clothes and we ponder the colours together. Upon their request I translate the French ‘beige’ into the English ‘beige’. Still beige. He points at the beige desk. ‘What colour is beige in English?’ I point at the desk and tell him it’s the same colour, we all giggle and it’s good-natured and conspiratorial

Forty minutes and several (mainly unrelated) phone calls later, they are still both sitting with me and all three of us are still disillusioned with the horrible colour sheet, perplexed that the authentic existing colours of this house which has stood elegant and French in grey for four centuries are simply and suddenly out of fashion. And I am sure that the irony that the Mairie does not fit into this scheme does not escape either of them

My only hope, they say, is to complete the forms and explain in a heartfelt letter to the Mayor exactly why I don’t want to change anything, I only want to preserve what is here, and just hope that he will give an exceptional permit for this

I didn’t fall in love with an orange and green house. But I would quickly fall out of love with one, so I have to hope that reason prevails…

To be continued (but most likely not for a few months – I’ve obviously got a lot of paperwork, thinking and letter-writing to do). And there may be a spot of crying

L’Air de Pigeons

Smelly ‘pigeon angels’ swirl in the sunlight

When I stuffed both phones down the leg of my leggings I hadn’t expected them to drop straight through and escape via my right ankle, but this is exactly what is happening as I come down from the attic, a bin bag in each hand. It’s also the moment when Baz calls for an update on the house, and I have to waddle quickly down in order not to fall arse over iphone

Ah, the newly created attic space has surpassed expectations, thanks to the big Velux windows. Well, it is beautiful and calming, and light enough that I can now wander around without fear of debris, or unseen rotten floorboards. These windows reveal the church tower, the tops of the hills beyond. And of course, those taller than me will get proper views

The downside? The filth is indescribable. I mop a small area and find the original terracotta floor tiles, which are in pretty good shape. But the grime is thick and I have already moved several bucket loads before realising that the rough stone walls first need a stiff brushing down first. As I sweep I can see, smell and taste nothing but pigeon detritus. The debris swirls thickly around forming ‘pigeon angels’ in the sunlight and my head jerks back involuntarily from time to time, unsure whether I’ll sneeze or spew. Luckily, it’s the formerIMG_9082

As the church strikes six, I’ve done five solid hours of this and no-one would know I’ve been in here. I am sure that once the dust re-settles I will have made almost no progress

Of course, this is not the update Baz wants, so I tell him of the views he’ll get from the windows, and of the newly-discovered flooring

The only person who’ll tell you that pigeons don’t cause damage inside your house is an estate agent who can’t be arsed to go and close the shutters once you have committed to buy, and who leaves your house open to the elements for months until you finally get the key and can take control of what is left. I had frequent nightmares thanks to that stupid man. So in the worst possible way I feel vindicated when I see the resulting rot in their regular roost spots (oh yes, and I need to scrub all those bits as well!)pigeon loft.JPG

I open the shutter of a glass-less l’oeil de beouf window to let out some dust and heat, but a homesick pigeon is calling a friend, and I close the shutter, stressed

Chicken wire, that’s what we need

And the spiders evicted from the attic? They’ve all joined Quinn by the garage tap, and I realise that I don’t even mind them very much anymore – as long as they keep off the floorIMG_9119.JPG

 

 

Vide Grenier Virgin

She Must Have Really Loved that Saucepan

A friend has told me of a vide grenier in the next village, only about 4km away. I have only been to one so far, so I bind up my ankle, slip on my trainers and walk along the river. It’s the only one this weekend and I am determined to find something to buy

Of course, when I get there I don’t really see much of interest. I quite fancy the cute little French book about personal hygiene, written in 1897 and it’s only one euro, but what am I going to do with it? It’s too dirty to take home and it’s just that contradiction I like – that there’s this filthy old book about hygiene – so when a man shows interest in it I pass it to him and assure him I don’t want it, I was only looking

The woman next to me is paying 50 centimes for a pastry brush and I am thinking ‘Eeooow’, when I see a copper pot. It’s a little under 30cm across, shallow with two small handles. The guy wants 40 for it, then says he’ll take 30 and no less. It’s too rich for me because it’s just a decorative item, so I say I’ll see. But I don’t want to see. I’m not spending that much on some piece of nonsense at a car boot. I want a proper bargain

As I wait to cross the road, a long stream of lycra-clad cyclists coming up the hill, I spot a garage, where an elderly couple are having their own unofficial vide grenier. I head over to snoop around, and it’s mainly cutlery and agricultural bits, but I’m enjoying the vibe. There’s a big copper saucepan with a really long handle, I ask how much and the old man says ten euros. Over my shoulder I see the same man who bought the book and I’m not letting him have this, so I pay quickly and happily. Then of course I try to pick it up

It must weigh ten kilos. Before I’ve got it halfway down the hill I am wondering why I have bought it. Should I just take it back and tell them to keep the money? I don’t know anyone so I can’t get a lift home. And there’s 4 undulating kilometres ahead on my bad ankle. My bag is heavy on my shoulder (of course I brought my camera as well) and I have to keep swapping hands because the saucepan is so unwieldy and heavy. And horribly dirty. A few people pass me coming the other way and I make an effort each time as I say ‘bonjour’ to look as though it’s the most normal thing in the world to be out for a Sunday stroll in the hills with a stockpot. I worry that the dark clouds on the other side of the gorge will roll over and they’ll find me tomorrow, struck by lightning, still clinging awkwardly to my very conductive pan. The police will ask Baz, ‘Was she a very keen cook?’ and he’ll say, ‘We don’t even have a kitchen’

‘Monsieur, she must have really loved that saucepan’

I pass the viewpoint where I stopped to cry after Percy died, and I want to sit down for a few minutes, but I don’t like the boxer shorts hanging lankly from a small branch, it’s never acceptable to find someone’s underpants in a place like this. So I keep walking and I plan to hide the pan in undergrowth and come back for it tomorrow, but there are no landmarks to find it by, and dogs might wee on it. Maybe I’ll just hide it and leave it altogether. But isn’t that just littering?

Then I reach that nasty bit of wasteland at the edge of town, and I’m nearly home. I haven’t been hit by lightning because the storm didn’t arrive, and I still have my ten euro pan which I carry through the streets, self-consciously and very tired. And I don’t have to go back and find it tomorrow

When I get home I put on my glasses and see it has a Paris makers mark on it and it really is very good quality, the sort you might find in professional kitchens, and it will be ‘useful for something’ in the workshop one day

And for now? Well, it’s just what I need to keep that bloody cellar door closed. It’s already paying for itself

Relight My (Gas) Fire

Upcycling and alternative energy sources

Attractive pieces often get scrapped because they are no longer useful or relevant, so I wanted to re-purpose an old gas heater by turning it into a light. That was the plan – to be sensible and to dip my toes – but then I couldn’t choose between two of them, both very different, each with its own merits. So I bought both!

This one is SO unusual and such a beautiful shape. I could see its potential and fell in loveIMG_8959I think it’s made of aluminium. It was in three robust basic pieces (three very heavy pieces) when I got it, plus it had some perished gas-fitting gubbings that I removed easily (WD40 again!). It was absolutely filthy and took more effort to clean than I had expected, but even so it has a good patina and I’m glad it’s not too shiny IMG_8957I bought a small nickel bulb fitting and some nuts and bolts to put the bits together firmly, and a neighbour kindly drilled the base for me as the existing feed hole was too small (I didn’t have anything that could get through metal that solid). My main frustrations were (a) finding nice 3-core flex, which I eventually got on line and had to wait a couple of days for, and (b) getting the flex through the cord grip. There was some quiet swearing at that stage

It took time to wire the fitting and plug, because I am out of practice. It was a very hot evening and I’m blind to close work without my glasses but they slipped off my nose when I looked down, so when I do the next one I’ll be sensible and work at the table with a magnifying lamp – much easier

IMG_8964IMG_8960I’ve not seen another heater (or light!) like this. I like the fact that it’s so industrial-looking and yet so decorative and sculptural. The ‘stamen’ at the front hides the bulb completely from all angles and the light reflects back from the ‘petals’ of the back-plate. I think it looks lovely, quite sexy actually

We should all re-imagine something every now and again. Have you anything you might re-purpose?