Reflections and Repairs

It’s all done with mirrors

I love all sorts of mirrors. There is the enormous (sadly, recently smashed) Mafia Mirror with its smugglers cavity, which Gill kindly picked up for me from the ‘Russians’ last summer, but at the other end of the size scale I have a few damaged 99p jobbies, one of which is splayed on a towel on my living room floor awaiting further surgery this evening

Before and after bending with pliers, then applying elbow grease with rottenstone and good old WD40. It still has a patina but is no longer filthy

I tend to think of mirrors as things to look at, rather than to look into. And ironically for someone so mirror-happy I spend way less time in front of one than many people, and probably less time than I should, taking the ‘casual’ approach to clothing and make up to the extreme. This despite the fact that I have hung good mirrors either side of the front door, in an attempt to remind me to check myself before leaving. (At least C and Baz use them)

Recent examples include:

Leaving yoga class last week I looked down at the logo on my vest top, wondering if it was Adidas, Sweaty Betty, New Balance etc, and realised that it was just a blob of grey undercoat. When I pointed this out to C she just said she assumed I already knew

Recently, Baz has pointed out blobs of face cream as I get into the car to work in the morning

One morning, C turned to me in the hallway and asked me, without a trace of irony: ‘Aren’t you going to work today then?’

To be fair, the skanky chicken-flavoured flip-flops didn’t help the look

I genuinely admire people who take the trouble to look good but I fully believe that one day it will be discovered that there’s an actual gene which compels some women to match handbags and shoes to outfits and to iron their clothes. Sadly, it’s a gene I do not possess, but thanks to Baz’s side of the family, C has inherited it (in part. Not the ironing!)

Isn’t nature wonderful

I’m not hideous, but I rarely get compliments on my appearance, even when I have made a real effort. At one excruciating Boxing Day family get-together where I was wearing a nice top with good jeans, someone remarked cattily that ‘I see you’re wearing your best socks’ and everyone roared with laughter. I wasn’t wearing my best socks, of course, but Baz’s socks as always. I just hadn’t dressed to impress

So why all the mirrors for someone so unglamorous? I love the light they bring in to a room, and the way a bevel (I do LOVE a bevel) sends light and reflections shooting off. Of course I buy mirrors with a past, so damage is acceptable and foxing is actually desirable because it just adds to the mystery

And it means I don’t have to look too closely at my reflection

But I digress. Back to the patient: its dear little asymmetrical bevelled mirror has had a hard life and the silvering comes away from the back in large thick flakes, so I’ll clean it up and put acrylic mirror (90p) behind to cover the silver losses. It’s very effective

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And after all, it won’t often get called into active duty!

 

 

 

 

 

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?

One-Trick Pony

If you only have a very small talent, use it as much as possible

I only really have one real answer to a problem: WD40

I’m not brand-specific, but when a screw doesn’t budge I squirt it, if a lock or hinge doesn’t work I drench it, if I need to polish something I cover cloth or wire wool with something WD40-ish. I guess there’s just a lot of rust in my life

But birds are true artists of make do and mend. The swans have nested on the bonfire pile that I never quite got around to burning or moving from the river bank in the autumn. Three eggs so far, they have created home from our negligence. They have tidied and trimmed the weeds around it and they have bizarrely trashed our neighbours’ (Spanish) bluebells, and left them strewn on the bank

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Yesterday’s main project for me was the shed door, rotten from the bottom up, having withstood two floods in the time we’ve been here (seventeen years last Thursday – I hold this anniversary as dear as any other). Baz was busy adding fox-proofing around the garden to give the chickens a bigger run, so I helped Baz lay wire under the grass

Normally when we use electric tools I’m the lowly facilitator, finding things, suggesting things, holding things firm while Baz performs the nobler and more responsible task of cutting. I got help from him for trimming the new wood for the bottom of the door, as much out of habit as anything. I salvaged most of the original door (even the old hinges – thanks to WD40) and now it’s primed and ready for a coat of ‘Garden’ to match the window we rebuilt in the autumn, (I just looked at that post and saw our beloved – and sadly now departed – Percy)

Baz and I have worked together professionally for over twenty years now, as well as living together. We have differences of opinion – sometimes very loud differences – but winning arguments has never really been on the agenda and that’s obviously part of what makes us a successful team: we’re not scared of each other’s point of view

The swans also work as a team. The male chose this nesting spot and persuaded his partner that this was the place, and since that time they have worked together to create their abode, both taking time on the eggs. Just after I snapped this the male came at me and I had to leg it, but I don’t know which of them has bluebell issues

And the renewed shed door? I’ve added 10 % new wood and maybe 5% WD40

 

 

 

 

 

Things in the Roof

Slept in today and woke at 8.40 – probably due to having a proper pillow at last and the excitement of watching last night’s fantastic rugby game

I hung out for a bit in the attic, ankle-deep in pigeon droppings as usual and picked up a few bits of crap among the way

There was a broken moulded tile of some sort, complete with incy wincy. I took photos – recording everything – and a piece of rusted hardware that probably needs to go back on one of the shutters at some point. We seem to be treating this place like an archaeological dig as much as a renovation. I tried to remove anything we wanted before the roof guys just sweep it all out. I also found what must be the original frame for the lantern over the stairway. I only realised what it was when I saw broken glass caught in the torchlight

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Looks like he’s got a spider on his moustache?

There was newspaper dated Tuesday 26th April 1955, stuck between rotten floorboards. I couldn’t decide the reason for the paper being stuffed down there and I don’t advocate using it as a DIY material, but it had survived over sixty years before I dragged it out. Will the house now collapse?

The church clock struck twelve and I retreated downstairs for lunch with my carrier bag of tragic treasures, like some compulsive shopper covered in cobwebs. On the way out I also recorded the final resting place of the last pigeon. It’s sad, it’s gruesome, but she probably had a good long life. I didn’t put her in my shopping bag. Charlotte will probably complain

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Sorry, have I gone too far here?

I love how France stops at lunchtime. I love that on a Sunday there is nothing to do. Nothing but potter

On the way downstairs I grabbed the few items of textiles that I had squirrelled away for washing at My Home from Home from Home this evening. I don’t know if any of the pieces are to my taste, but if I can’t find a place for them, someone else will

 

 

Life Imitating Art -the Scream (again)

The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge this week is ‘Life Imitating Art’. I had just seen an old photo from a previous post, and thought I would re-purpose it:

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Yes, it’s Edvard Munch’s ‘the Scream’ in floorboard form, usually hidden under a kitchen stool at home. Of course, it’s been re-worked and plagiarised by everyone over the years, so once more won’t hurt

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/life-imitates-art/

 

The ultimate romantic gesture

I have allowed my face to be moulded and ‘splodged’ in latex, come face to face with myself made out of plaster of Paris (a very strange experience) and been photographed throughout as C did weird stuff to me towards her Art GCSE. But I long for the time and space to do my own projects and I fear the time slipping past

When my ‘big’ birthday arrived in September there were generous gifts of chocolates, money and booze – many and varied booze(s), in fact – and an extravagant evening out. So imagine my delight when Baz, the love of my life, presented me with his gift

A gas-fuelled soldering iron/ blow torch

Jason at work compared this to the time when his dad gave his mum a set of saucepans one Christmas (apparently she was livid – imagine!). But for me this little beauty is just what I will need to repair my Jugendstil chandelier, and to experiment with countless other glass and metal projects I have in mind

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Ah, the fun I will have…

But more than that, I believe this gift is Baz’s way of saying ‘It doesn’t bother me that you fill our lives with unco-ordinated tat that needs mending. It’s OK that you never want nice modern things like other people.’

It’s obviously his full acceptance of my obsession with old crap and therefore a licence for me to continue to attempt to resurrect dying things, and perhaps even finish a project one day

At least that is what I get from it. Am I wrong?