Who’s in your shed?

It’s my own space and entry is by invitation only

Last New Years Eve, in torrential rain, three of us took the van, and we emptied and dismantled my beloved green shed from my ex-allotment plot

The grass beneath us had become mud, so the wheels pun and spun, until we improvised with boards borrowed from a neighbouring plot and brought the shed pieces back to the house, where we dumped them on the lawn, all of us exhausted and achingshed allotment.jpg

These pieces lay there until July (for various reasons, not all entirely connected with idleness – we’ve had a lot to do this year) when it was assigned a new colour and identity, not as a storage area but as a smart and defined, if small, workspace for me

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When we first assembled it some years back we were shed virgins so we closely followed the instructions, and it took a whole day. This time around the instructions were long since discarded, and Baz and I free-styled it in no time before heading to the pub to celebrate our success

We had cleaned the mud off the interior and I painted the inside with various bits of leftover paint so that it doesn’t feel like a sauna. I re-used my faded curtains and splashed out on a funky floor paint (‘Primrose Hill’ by Mylands) which will keep it cheerful through the winter. Oh, and I might just squirrel a bottle of my sloe gin somewhere…

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Since it arrived the space feels bigger, as if the whole garden has been waiting for this shed to turn up. The new colour sets off the lavenders and the gorgeous old nameless pink rose, which often flowers vigorously into DecemberIMG_0018

It’s not a big shed, but I’ve installed a solar light, shelves and hanging space. There’s even a shed alarm, although only a fellow lunatic with a fetish for steel wool would ever break in here (yes, you know who you are) and I am already enjoying the space

Entrance is strictly by invitation only, and my first visitors apart from the bugs (of which there are already many) are two of the set of six 1930s oak chairs I bought on Ebay. These two were wonky and needed repairs and have been glued and clamped. The whole set needs a good clean too, having been used for many years. It can be hard to see progress, so I took a picture of before and after to remind me of how worthwhile this process is and how much detail it reveals

The other visitor at the moment is the plucky little heater, ‘Stumpy’, which came to me with a limp. More of that in another post …

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I’m still moving in really, and there is plenty more that needs doing to the shed itself before the weather really kicks in, but I’m getting a feel for what the space allows and for which tools and basic supplies I actually need to keep in here in order to work properly

So that’s what/who is in my shed right now. What do you use your shed for? I’d love to hear

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

West Bay Weekend

Is that OUR van?

Having parked the van way too easily the night before (The Thrill of the Chaise / Pugs and Pink Jugs ), we were stopped in our tracks as we reached the car park

All down the back and sides of the van was a stream of seagull ploppings. In less than twelve hours it had been completely ‘pebble-dashed‘ and the two gulls on top looked pretty bloody smug. Baz suggested that perhaps the Bridport and West Bay Tourist Board could use this photo?

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‘Still Life with Van and Gull’

At Bridport market I found lovely brass tiebacks on a stall where the lady remembers us even though it’s sometimes months between visits. Her price was so good I took the lot, and she shoved them into a carrier bag, telling us she only brought them with her as an afterthought that morning and that she’s still hoping to find suitable glass shades for my weird chandelier

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We wandered around the junk shops of St Michaels without buying anything, then took a friend’s tip for lunch at the recently-opened Dorshi – absolutely delicious

After a coffee at the flat and armed with ice creams, we struck out in our walking boots in search of bluebells at Eype Down. My sprained ankle made me very slow, but I needed to see how it coped on uneven ground. Not very well, as it turned out. Unfortunately we were a couple of weeks early for the best of the bluebells

Chesil Beach was lit up by the sun and Portland stretched across the horizonIMG_8776.JPG

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There were lambs – it is April, after all. They are such dear little things. There were ones and twos, blonds and brunettes

And even a little redhead

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Back at West Bay we went out on the harbour and watched the late afternoon sun hitting East Cliff, along to Freshwater and Burton Bradstock

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After missing out on beer the night before we had a proper night out with friends watching the Skimmity Hitchers at the Ropemakers (And yes, the beer tasted WONDERFUL)

Job done

Peeling Back Layers

It’s a random sum

There’s something about stripping wallpaper that to me is very therapeutic. The downside is that it can be immensely hard work when there are numerous layers and RSI sets in. Multiply the layers by the number of rooms to strip and the total here becomes at least fifty, perhaps seventy. I don’t know what that number means – it’s a random sum – but that’s what we’ve got. Yesterday that total equated to around about a year’s solid work for me

But today that number has been considerably reduced, courtesy of one of the roof guys who saw me labouring away and brought in a stripping product for me to try. I tried some last night and can confirm that the sum will now be divided by perhaps ten, meaning that naked walls will be achievable in about six or seven. I started again this morning after a coffee

The effectiveness seems to be due to not only the product, but the application using a pressurised spray (‘vaporisateur’), the type you sort of jump up and down on to build up pressure

When we were kids there was a product that was regularly applied to prevent greenfly in the garden, not only by our parents but by us, very willingly, because it seemed so much fun to use the spray thing. It was called, enchantingly, Killa Spray. Therefore, before anyone gets too precious about using spray substances to remove wallpaper without proper mask/ overalls/ ventilation I would suggest that any damage was already done back in the seventies

So, the concentrated product is enormously diluted with water (we’re back to wallpaper stripper now, I very much doubt that Killa Spray still exists) and is used to soak the paper economically and evenly. A few minutes later a scraper will just lift the paper cleanly. Voila! C’est fait!

I admit that I am not so tough, I do wear gloves because my hands are like beacons of abuse right now. But I am also really enjoying removing wallpaper in its truest purest form as therapy

IMG_8092And as you can see they’ve left some spare paper in case I change my mind!

Things Removal Men Say

Do they have to share opinions?

The two guys delivering my much-fêted pillow also brought some other bits I’ve been hoarding in the UK. They did a good job overall, though at least one of my Fragile – this way up boxes, containing an irreplaceable wall light, arrived the wrong way up. I pointed this out to them as they unloaded the vehicle and was greeted by blank expressions. After 20 years working in relocation I see that removals men still have no sense of orientation. Hopefully my packing stood up to this abuse

They made the normal compulsory comments about the size of the house, the state of the house, are we going to turn it into gites, etc, and had a bit of a dig about ‘the French’ while they were at it. They were just trying to make polite if opinionated conversation

Among the goodies was one of a pair of leather club chairs that we can’t fit in our living room at home. I had them place it in the empty salon, where I have now successfully tested it. It rocks

Then it happened…

‘Now this’, said one of the blokes, himself a Brit living in France, ‘is a man’s room. That armchair there and a big TV on that wall, that’s all you need’ He kindly expressed through mime the approximate size of his enormous imaginary TV and indicated the wall where I should put it, between the elegant, if very shabby, French doors

I really don’t think so

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