scribbles tagged ‘homestead history’

nature’s pace

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | tags: ,  |

April 2008. As found on moving in, lots of patio and a small  lawn
Stalking a Cautious cat

April 2009. Rearrange Patio, introduce borders, do some planting, and put a hair sculpture over the drain lid
April garden 

May 2010. Almost getting some ground cover and some flowers to welcome me home from work
from the pathway

March. 2011. Add more garden furniture…. wait for plant growth
Morning light

April 2014. Enjoy the Easter sunshine and the last few years lf plant growth taking the borders to waste height. The dwarf trees (Acers) may stretch to near 6ft in another decade….
Spring in the garden


2 bits of fabulous banter »

colour saturated grass

Monday, April 14th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Estate Agent #1

  • This is the only other coach house on sale in the area, one more bedroom but no garden or off-road parking
  • Buyers can find out what you paid for this house, and when you bought it
  • I had to explain to my Indian client what a coach house was, he just didn’t understand
  • Someone will walk into the garden and fall in love with this place before they’ve even got through the door (Indeed, that’s what happened to me)
  • Oh! That bath…
  • We’ve never had a problem showing houses to people with cat allergies, we did have one client bitten by an owner’s dog. The dog had been locked in the garden and the client was told not to go into the garden
  • I’m from Bristol

Estate agent #2

  • This is the most desirable area in Reading
  • Double off-road parking is worth around 20K
  • We don’t get many character properties like this downtown
  • I’m from Bristol

Estate agent #3

  • I can tell you what the other agents said (he did, and he was wrong)
  • Fantastic (repeatedly, like a carbon copy of his colleague that I spoke to on the phone)
  • What a fantastic kitchen
  • Our website is new and really good, it’s got pictures of the founding partners on it
  • We’ll do a TV presentation for a character property like this one.

I didn’t get the impression that any of them offered anything that would add any real value over the property details and access to buyers that have been pre-screened for a mortgage. None of them really told me about their access to the type of people that would like to buy the Wendy house. I suggested excluding:

  • couples planning to start a family – dangerous staircase, downstairs bathroom
  • elderly people or planning for this to be a last, retirement, home – dangerous staircase, downstairs bathroom
  • people over 5″8 – low beam crossing the dangerous staircase
  • people that love to cook – tiny kitchen separated from the dining area by the hallway

Estate agent #1 was the least offensive, arrogant. She listened and related to me as a person most effectively.  Maybe I’ll have to make my own promotional materials pack – showing related documentation from my purchase, guarantees on work done, local service professionals etc


7 bits of fabulous banter »

7 year itch

Friday, February 28th, 2014 | tags: ,  |

Based on a light weight trend analysis, I suspect I might be moving home this year.

  • 86-93 home in Loughborough (including a year living in Edinburgh with my Mortgage, weekend place, in Loughborough).
  • 93-20 home in Hampshire (Southsea then Warblington).
  • 00-07 home in Seattle (Redmond, I meant to move downtown but somehow never got round to it).
  • 07 -14 home in Reading town (intending to stay here for a while yet, but the trend suggests otherwise).

 

 


3 bits of fabulous banter »

switched

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Original Light SwitchesSwitch malfunction.

Light SwitchesFlicking these white plastic switches had no effect on the lights they’re supposed to control. Unscrewing the faceplate showed that a small piece of plastic that acted as a ‘catch’ for the switch was broken. I needed to replace the faceplate and switch mechanism.

All the light switches in the Wendy House are the same style. Another one feels like it will break soon, frequently failing to work. I wanted to replace all of them with  switches that have a firm action, are well made mechanically, are good looking, compliment the House style. I took my design brief to a local retail DIY store.

The switches were displayed to show their faceplate, they were packaged in a way that prevented me seeing the mechanical action, materials and quality. Darn.

I chose flat, reflective-nickel, switches. Black to compliment the old oak beams in my ceiling and wrought Iron door furniture. Black to make the switches easier to see against the light walls in the dark when I’m fumbling to turn them on. Unfortunately, the behind the scenes mechanism is deeper than the back-fittings of my old plastic switches. Replacing them was not just a process of swapping the plates and re-wiring. The masonry drill came out and the wall hole had to be made deeper. A bigger job than anticipated. Why aren’t switch box sizes a standard? Pah!

Now I’m loving my new sleek nickel switches, they have a very pleasing action with a good ‘thunk’ when they fall.


1 wonderful musing »

Laundry ship set to sail

Sunday, February 16th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,  |

Laundry ShipAnother stormy weekend chez Wendy House.

A temporary break in the flood production system. No rain this morning.

Laundry to be washed and dried. No modern tumble-drier accessories. My laundry its catching some rare sun rays in the Wendy House wind-swept garden.

Extra ballast had been added to the ‘airer’ to prevent it attempting a take-off garden tour. Bricks.

The ships that carried lumber from Seattle to San Francisco, to build the beautiful houses there, carried stone back to Seattle as ballast to weight the ships appropriately on the return journey. The stone was used to build many of the Historic buildings in the Pioneer square area of Seattle. Awesome.

Sampo stretchSampo is staying in.

The RSPCA has warned that cats are likely to take-off in these strong winds. Despite her own substantial personal ballast, Sampo’s a cautious cat.

Sampo’s not risking any unplanned flights.

 


7 bits of fabulous banter »

French doors

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

 

installing internal French doors

Installing internal French doors between the Wendy House Orangerie and front room

French doors? According to internet gossip, the French have a reputation for not being very good at keeping out invaders and these doors have big windows so invaders can see what to steal and they are easy for burglars to open, not very secure.

The cool air from the Orangerie, in the winter, is drawn around the heavy drapes by the warm air from the wood burner rising up the stairs to the hayloft in the North wing (bedrooms). A draught. On cold winter days the drapes stay closed to trap the warmth in the main living space where I lurk like  vampire afraid of daylight. This won’t do if Mum’s going to be visiting this winter. Costing on ugly UPVC doors were all rather expensive, especially given how ugly they are. I found a carpenter and briefed him with

‘simple, plain design consistent with Victorian period. Wrought iron hinges and door furniture, bevelled edge glass, that’s the one fancy thing I want’

His sketch captured the ethos well. True to French insecurity, no locks on these internal doors. It took a week for the carpenter to make the doors and 2 days full of sawdust to install them. It took me a day to put two coats of varnish on them and a day to buy new Voiles and hang them without the use of the irritatingly ineffective superglue and rod solution that the last owners of the Orangerie had installed.

The droughts have been subdued with a beautiful work of art. Daylight has found the front room in winter. Mum can visit.

 


3 bits of fabulous banter »

white lines

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |
Dropping curb and adding house number and name sign

Dropping curb, adding house number and name sign

This year I discovered that cars could legally park in-front of my driveway entrance. I discovered when a person on vacation in the USA left her car across my drive blocking my car in.

I took the bus to work, £25 per week bus fare seemed very expensive, a lot more than the £10 diesel costs. Not knowing when, and if, I’d be able to use my car was very disheartening.

It was also disheartening that a person would choose to block my car in, it seems such a mean spirited thing to do. When I’d knocked on my neighbours doors to see if they knew the car owner, could contact her and ask her to move, they were all wonderfully outraged on my behalf. Some had seen her before, none knew how to contact her. One neighbour offered to park her car so close to the offending car that it would be unable to get out without knocking on neighbours doors. We decided against this potential emotional escalation path, and giggled.

The council wouldn’t put their white lines “Access Protection Lines” (APL) outside my drive until I’d dropped the curb. This is when I discovered that every time I drove in and out of my drive I was breaking the law by driving over the public pathway. Oops. Myself and rather a lot of my neighbours were all breaking the law.

To avoid breaking the law I needed to arrange to drop the curb. To be able to ask the police to remove people parked in front of my drive I needed APL. I gave the council a cheque and some sweet-talk – you know so much, you’re so good at your job, I’m just so ignorant of all these things etc.  The road workers were at my place before the cheque had even cleared, 2 days later, at the weekend! Sweet!

  • 4 road workers including  “Mr. Reading” a local looker. He did compare favourably with Brad Pitt.
  • A compact digger
  •  A truck
  •  Pick axes, spades and all sorts….

It took them a day to rip-up the pavement, half a day to lay the concrete foundation and half a day to lay the surface tarmac. Less than an hour to paint the APL

Hooray! Confident, legal and easy access to my driveway has been established. Peace of mind

Then, I added a house sign to the mix. The name and number of my home with an arrow to help people see which way to go to find the Wendy House. My neighbour used his cable-less drill to fix it. As he fixed the sign he told me stuff I didn’t know:

  • People deliver mail for my house to their house and they then bring it round to my home and post it through my door.
  • People knock on their (3B) door to ask where 3A is because it’s clearly not between 3 and 3B.

He’d been suffering without telling me, so English, he was thrilled that I’d decided to put this sign up.

Front of house access sorted.


3 bits of fabulous banter »

open sesame

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

finished curbI reversed onto my drive, with no bumps or bangs as would happen before my dropped curb. Beautifully smooth. A figure in the dark opposite is fiddling with my neighbours door. I get out of the car and can hear the figure cussing.

Wendy: Can I help you?

The elderly lady sounded distressed and talked about how the keys my neighbour had given her weren’t working. I offered her a cup of tea in my place and I’d call my neighbour’s mobile phone. She calmed down and tried the keys again.

Wendy: it probably won’t make any difference, but I’d really like to try the keys.

She gave me the keys and the door unlocked smoothly with absolutely no problem

Wendy: I’m magic

The lady laughed. We exchanged praise of my lovely neighbour and went our separate ways.

I’m magic and available for all your ‘locked-out’ needs


what do you think of that »

the mixed step

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Doible-sided, A4, photocopied, instructionsLots of these. Unlabelled.

Have NEXT ever put their Self-assembly instructions in front of actual customers, observed them using those instructions to assemble their cupboard, then updated the instructions to remove the big problems?

No. If they had followed this standard good design process then it would have taken me 2 hours, not 4, to construct the cupboard.

The instructions include 17 steps on double-sided, A4, photocopied paper. Before starting these steps NEXT recommend that I check I have all the required parts and the right tools. Because those aren’t steps, I do them before the steps and wonder. What’s a step?

Step one

  • Has no meaningful title to tell me what I’m achieving. They are an ordered list
  • Step one contains a list of 5 numbered things to do, sub-steps? They actually don’t appear to require the order implied by their numbers
  • Introduces the concept of a cambolt. What’s that?! It’s not mentioned on the list of fittings or parts that I checked before taking any steps. A quick look at all the other steps shows that I’ll be using a lot of ‘cambolts’ and there’s something on the fittings sheet labelled  Ø15 that I have 61 of, next to an unusual style screw that I also have 61 of. I’ll guess that this is a cambolt
  • The step tells me what the numbered pieces actually are, 1 is the ‘top panel’, 3 is a side panel, 9 is a ‘rail’, 2 and 5 are legs. Hooray! It’s about preparing the top and back legs to slot into other bits

Step 1 completed, not understoodHere’s step 1 completed in the Wendy house Orangery.

Putting in the cambolts and dowels took about  5 minutes.

Working out what I was supposed to do, interpreting the instructions, took about 10 minutes. 15 minutes per step for 17 steps? This doesn’t bode well. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply learning from step one later down the line, and the steps will be faster.

I got step 1 right. Phew. If only all steps had been this unambiguous…..


3 bits of fabulous banter »

NEXT self dissemble

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

instructions first pageThe delivery man carried my cupboard on his shoulder. Even before it arrived in my hall I’d realised that it was self-assembly. My heart dropped. At the price charged for the cupboard I hadn’t expected Self-assembly, I hadn’t anticipated spending Saturday morning with a screwdriver. Sigh.

Page 1 of 20 Is the cupboard that difficult to construct?

2 people, as tools, to construct it?  I’m offended at being called a tool, I want my cupboard today and my friends, who are not tools may not be available to help me for emergency cupboard assembly….

2 screwdrivers, phew, I’m equipped. Actually I also needed a hammer for inserting dowels and a pair of pliers to removing pieces inserted in the wrong place due to design asymmetry and instruction ambiguity. Now I understand why the sales person was so keen to sell me insurance against getting the furniture scratched.

Helpline?! Goodness, it must be difficult to construct!

This phrase nearly put me off unpacking the box:

“Self-assembly items cannot be returned once assembly is part or fully completed unless the item is found to be faulty

I wonder how many returns Next get from people like me who didn’t realise self assembly, unlike me are scared by 20 pages of instructions and a ‘helpline’ for something that should be simple, and read this no returns as evidence of difficulty to construct and Next pre-empting, to avoid, arguments with its dissatisfied customers.

Important?  they want me to check that they’ve sent me the right bits? Cheeky! They should check they’ve sent me Pacakge contents listthe right parts.  They don’t think I should involve my children in the construction process? Do they think I’m a complete idiot, unable to take responsibility for making decisions about my children and taking responsibility for my own poor decisions. Bloody cheek.

About half the text on the front page is NEXT covering it’s back against customer complaints and returns and treating customers as ignorant, irresponsible, or devious. Thanks NEXT

After 5 years of looking for a cupboard this size and shape I wasn’t gong to let these poor first impressions put me off. I started unpacking and gathered my tools… what happened next is another story….


5 bits of fabulous banter »

cinderella cupboard complete

Sunday, October 13th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

cupboard complete!A little space in my entrance hall is aching for a cupboard. I carried a tape-measure in my pocket for 5 years, diligently measuring every small cupboard I encountered. Like Goldilocks uncovering non-conformity problems:

  • Too tall - block the hall window light
  • Too deep – block the kitchen door opening
  • Too wide – block the front door opening

I learned to see ‘wrong size’ at a distance, I stopped measuring and hope gradually dwindled. The space in my hall gradually attracted stacks of practical boxes. As I walked by them I thought ‘crazy box woman’ and sighed. I suspect I’m not alone in feeling a disproportionate pleasure from finding durable, functional, beautiful home storage solutions.

Then while off to buy some food I walked passed this in a shop window display.

It looked right. I got excited as I slipped out my tape-measure to check I wasn’t fantasizing. Yes! It fits just right. It’s sturdy, the colour compliments the room. Purchase made, delivery arranged. What I didn’t check was whether it was self assembly or not, but that’s another 4 hour story….


6 bits of fabulous banter »

smoke signals

Monday, October 7th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

Neighbours Bonfirewalking home from downtown I noticed a large stream of swirling white smoke coming from…. ….my house

Oh!

Maybe I left a candle burning unattended and my whole home is now going up in smoke. My heart sank and I broke into a run. Luckily it was just a garden bonfire in my neighbours garden. I took in my ash-speckled laundry and climbed the wall to talk to my neighbour. A group of people were clearing the badly overgrown garden, I acknowledged their good work and said next time I’d help of they warned me. Then a friend’s face turned up and I discovered that they’d bought the house, so I now have new neighbours who are old friends! Excellent result. Reading town is a small town in many ways.


6 bits of fabulous banter »

bayonets are so ‘not in’

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

used lightsWhile having a bath the last bulb in my light fitting blew. Darkness.

The next morning I fought procrastination and took a trip to buy some bulbs. At the store I realised that I didn’t know what size or fitting to buy. I plumped for the ‘common’ size and bayonet fitting.

I found a screwdriver to open the sealed bathroom light fitting and a bar stool to stand on, then started fiddling. I managed to open the fitting without breaking the glass cover, remove the blown bulbs, then notice the bulbs were the unusually small screw fittings – not what I’d bought. A quick scout around the house uncovered a couple of small screw fitting bulbs in my bedside table lamps. Phew. Easier to go to bed in the dark than bathe in the dark. Screw fit bulbs in place and bathroom light fitting reconstituted.

Just call me capable. Even without the aid of power tools.


6 bits of fabulous banter »

download, install, commission and personalise

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

court cupboardA side-effect of the new job is extra funding to solve all those household inefficiencies that niggle without breaking the home experience.

Recently, while downtown purchasing a cushion or 2, curiosity pulled me into the British Heart Foundation Charity furniture shop. I found a court cupboard and a welsh dresser fronted with beautifully carved linen scroll. Bargain price. The British Heart Foundation even took my old ‘modern’ furniture away for free. A modern minimalist somewhere will be thrilled to find my old furniture!

Meanwhile, the Wendy House is looking darker and more Jacobean than James, in Jamestown, drinking Jameson whisky. We’re not on fashion, we are coordinated in our out-of-fashionness. Yummy.

welsh dresser2 days of shuffling the contents of my old, and new, cupboards. A couple of sacks of stuff for re-use emerged and we’re ready for everyday living again.

Now I’m looking for a carpenter and a heating engineer. If they talk technical in a friendly tone of voice,  and get excited about the unique opportunities I’ll be dangling in front of them. They’ll be in.

Prepare yourselves for some almost interesting home improvement posts before the winter sets in…


2 bits of fabulous banter »

resurfaced by working class heros

Monday, August 12th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

The ‘highway maintenance’ team who resurfaced the Avenue (where I live) were all very

  • friendly
  • bald
  • tanned
  • efficient
  • male
  • quality focussed – nice job!
  • quick – they stuck to schedule despite all sorts of problems like having only half of the pre-ordered tarmac delivered when they were due lay the tarmac

Yay for road workers!

Before digging starts Road surface removed Half road resurfaced completely resurfaced road

The council processes and staff were more than disappointing.  It’s an odd choice to resurface the Avenue, which is a cul-de-sac, rather than one of the more well-used through-routes in Reading town.


1 wonderful musing »

door to door

Saturday, August 10th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

Ready to paint the door framesThe next weekend that we see a decent sunshine forecast. I’ll be out with my sand paper and paint brushes. A glossy new coat of paint on my front and back door frames is on the books…   …or table…

The front and back door are next to each other, they’re actually both back doors or both front doors. Almost twins.

Very cute and slightly peeling with their stand against 5 years of rather damp summers.


1 wonderful musing »

vital view from the loo

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

view from front doorview from the Wendy House toilet(Warning: ‘I love my garden’ post)

When I moved into the wendy house (2008), the garden was completely covered in low maintenance and BBQ friendly patio. Bleak. Sitting on the loo with the doors open, produced the sort of view that would induce minimalists’ premature ejaculation. A bit dull.

Now, the vital view from the loo has been cluttered with the sort of frivolity that might lure a Victorian for a brief promenade:

  • A slate slab covers the drain-lid and supports pebbles stolen from Pacific and Atlantic beaches
  • A black hare keeps an eye on approaching guests
  • Rockery shrubs and grasses provide Sampo with delicious hors d’oeuvres
  • A Rhus provides shade in summer and colour in autumn
  • Honeysuckle and wisteria cover the fence filling the garden with sweet scent and beautiful blooms.

View from sleeping quarters in the North WingEchinops and beesI love my garden, I spend a lot of time there watching the butterflies before Sampo eats them, pulling weeds and contemplating blooms. I still have patio, but the lines are broken by borders full of colourful and scented plants that change with the seasons.

Peace


1 wonderful musing »

wendy way maintainance

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

RoadworksThe Avenue is about to get ripped-up and resurfaced. It’s an old bumpy and pot-holed road so this is good. But it’s caused a big kerfuffle amongst residents because of a combination of things including

  • No residents road access during the 4 days that the road will be repaired
  • Residents given only 3 working days notice of the works
  • Some residents have building works, on their house, scheduled to coincide with the road-works. Builders are busy in the summer and rescheduling is difficult, especially if the building works were in preparation for your daughter wedding…
  • Several businesses have customer parking that is only accessible via the avenue. These businesses weren’t warned of the work because their address is for their front doors on another road and the council didn’t notice their business access via the Avenue
  • The road-markings will be redrawn exactly where they were – which was often in rather silly places. the council isn’t taking the opportunity to re-align the lines that mark driveways with actual driveways. How silly is that?!

I met a huddle of about 6 highway workers having a round of tea this morning. Very nice chatty people. I feel like they’re the only ones in the whole organisational chain that have shown any good common sense, but they’re not planning to put the markings in the right place around my drive….yet….


what do you think of that »

Edgy

Saturday, June 15th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Foxglove drivewayI sprinkled foxglove seeds along the border of my gravel drive 2 years ago. They’ve taken the hint and I’m liking the new foliage that softens the border between the gravel and the wall.

Through the garden gateI’ve also sprinkled Poppy, Campanula and Forget-me-nots here. A couple of each have taken root and I’m hoping they’ll self-re-seed and spread to make a green foliage and blue summer border. A winter Jasmine is also beginning to settle on this border, to add some winter colour. I may try to train a Ceanothus up the wall to add spring colour and winter foliage.

From the drive you open my garden gate to see some more Foxgloves, Ferns, logs, a thriving Ceanothus and a white Wisteria that will eventually cover the woodshed and fencing.

 

 


what do you think of that »

paper chase

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

Harry Tuttle wasn’t available, central services turned-up

My home insurance notifies a local heating engineering service. 5 hours later the service calls me to arrange and ‘emergency’ appointment.  Emergency means within 24 hours, but no time specified.  We agree a visit time – 2 days out

The engineer quickly diagnoses the problem as a broken fan on a common boiler, tells me he’ll phone me when he’s sourced the part to arrange a fitting.  He can’t source the part there and then because he need clearance from my insurance company.

5 hours later, no call, I phone my insurance who know about the part and the cost but cannot approve it until the engineer tells them how long he was onsite. They can’t take my word for his time on site. The say they’ll follow up with the engineer.

2 hours later I phone again and find the repair has been approved.  The Heating engineering service won’t arrange a visit until they’ve actually picked up the part which will be within the 24 hour period, from approval, that their service contract with my insurer specifies as emergency cover.  That’s 24 hours to get the part, not to fit it.  They suggest that I call them back in 2 days time if I haven’t heard from them.

Effectively, 6 days after reporting the ‘emergency’ problem to my ‘home emergency insurance’ provider – who subcontract out their service, I will be able to try and arrange a time to have the broken part replaced. UK emergency services are bogged down by organisational bureaucracy. More than 6 days to diagnose and get hold of a replacement broken fan seems rather poor to me. I’m anticipating they wont be able to get an engineer round to fix it within 24 hours of calling me ….   …and that I’ll have to chase them with phone calls.

 


6 bits of fabulous banter »

what’s hot and what’s not

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | tags:  |

fridge = Not Hot. Not Cold. Silent.

boiler = Not Hot.

wendy = Hot.

This morning I used Victorian methods to wash before dressing. I’m a rufty-tufty kind of a girl in a winter heating crisis.  I can leave the milk outside the fridge in the kitchen, confident that it will stay cold in this north facing, unheated room.

Apparently, the ancient combination boiler couldn’t go on without its friend the fridge. Suicide pact.

Not looking forward to the boiler purchase process…


2 bits of fabulous banter »

fridge is aired

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

The old fridge that came with the house 5 years ago has just reached too-much-rattling for my liking. Then it had the audacity to add squealing and leaking to its repertoire.

I wish the fridge had given me at least a week’s notice of its impending demise. Maybe sent me a text or a calendar appointment. A week is the time it will probably take to get one delivered, standard delivery. Meanwhile, I’ll improvise….

 


2 bits of fabulous banter »

Education act

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

The Education Act of 1895 made schooling free for all children. Hoorah!

Several schools near the Wendy House were built around this time. The nearest one is where I go to vote, on the Wokingham road. The Alfred Sutton primary school.

Alfred Sutton ran “Sutton and Sons” which was the world’s largest seed firms at the time. Alfred donated 20% of his substantial income to charitable causes. One of these causes was funding the creation of local schools.

Alfred Sutton Primary School opened as the “Wokingham Road School ” with just over 100 children attending the first day in 1902, it was renamed after Alfred Sutton in 1920 when there were 528 children attending – 50 in a class. The red brick building is not just functional, it really seems to celebrate children and education.


what do you think of that »

hot in bed

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 | tags: ,  |

intelligent electric blanketI’ve got a bed fellow that responds to temperature changes while I sleep.

I’m not alone in seeking out something more substantially hot in bed than a hot water bottle. The online product reviews were posted by people over 55 years old – it’s better than their last electric blanket, it’s the best electric blanket they’ve ever owned. …ooOOoo…

It’s sold out online. I take ‘please me now’ action and walk to the local store. Yes. Satisfaction. My first ever electric blanket joins the single-skin brick wendy house. My bed has become cosy incorporated.


5 bits of fabulous banter »

the Gladstone club

Sunday, October 21st, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Gladstone Club Gladstone clubI’ve always admired the wrought ironwork on the porch of the London road side of the Gladstone club. It’s a grade II listed building.  The listing mentions that in 1887 the house was the home of the recently founded Reading High School.

It’s easy to notice the Gladstone club, without actually noticing it. It’s a substantial building in a significant location facing out onto both  Reading’s London Road and Kings Road. The club is next door to the Abbot Cook pub on the Cemetery junction on the southern edge of Newtown. Newtown is where the Huntley and Palmer factory employees lived.

Once it was a grand building. It’s namesake William Gladstone was a record breaking 4 times (Liberal) Prime Minister of Britain. The link with Huntley and Palmers is more than the proximity of the club to Newtown. The Huntley and Palmer website says:

In 1878 George Palmer became a Member of Parliament for the Liberal party. He was nicknamed the ‘silent member’, although he did make a few contributions to debates. In his maiden speech he supported a bill to grant women the right to vote “

The Acacias (London Rd)George Palmer lived on London Road in “The Acacias” about 500 yards west of the Gladstone club. An easy walk.

Sadly, the Gladstone building now stands empty with a for sale sign on it.  Until 2010 it was a delightful Indian restaurant and wine bar called the “Sardar Palace”.  Now it looks forgotten, overlooked. Grass is moving into the gaps in the forecourt paving.

 

 

 


3 bits of fabulous banter »

Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000

Sunday, October 14th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

The wendy house is south of Cemetery junction. Newtown is north of cemetery juntion. My neighbour! Several friends live in Newtown. I bump into them when shopping in the local Co-op or in the local Abbot Cook pub.

The Newtown area appears to be described by being bounded by:

  • North: the Great Western Railway (GWR)
  • South: Kings Rd / London Rd
  • East: A4 railway bridge
  • West: Forbury Rd

According to Wendy Hobson (1995), cited on the Reading Forum:

It was jointly owned and developed by John Sutton and George Palmer for their workers and by the 1870/80’s extended up to Cholmeley Rd, from there across to the railway was Suttons planted areas – this was then developed in the late 1800’s early 1900’s

It includes a beautiful primary school that looks much as it would have done when it was originally built in 1864.

Natural Gas StorageOne of the most striking visual features of the area is a disused gas storage tower that can be seen from the river Kennet, the train lines, and at the northern end of cumberland road. It’s diagonally opposite the Jolly Anglers pub. I find it strangely beautiful and peaceful. An architectural sculpture.

NewtownThe remaining original housing in this area is mainly small terraced house’s with walled gardens and narrow back lanes.  What I’d call ’2-up, 2-downs’. Houses where you walk from the street, or forecourt, through the front door into a front room.  A staircase goes to 2 bedrooms and the 2nd room downstairs was originally the kitchen where the fire was used to heat water for a tin bath. The toilet was outside the house – at the bottom of the garden.  Newtown clearly includes some larger homes with forward facing gables more bedrooms, front gardens and downstairs hallways.

Many of the buildings nearer downtown, to the East, were knocked down and redeveloped as social housing in the mid 1970s. Coinciding with the closure of the Huntley andPalmer business.

The areas north of the Kennet and south of the Thames were developed with both private apartments for London commuter set and more modern social housing. It looks like this happened in the 1980s and 90s.

There are only 2 pubs in the Newtown area. they sit on the river (kennet) bank and look like they may pre-date Newtown. Perhaps being built to serve the canal traffic that would pass this way between London and Bristol. The pubs are:

  • Fishermans cottage
  • Jolly Angler

The Abbot Cook is on the borderlands, effectively south of Newtown and in either the “University District” or possibly “Earley

Fisherman's Cottage Jolly Anglers

Fishermans cottageRumour cited on Reading forums suggests that:

The story went that H&P realising that the workers, not being quite so ‘religious’ would go to the pub anyway, and rather than have the drunk / hung-over they would control it. They supposedly gave out rationed tokens as part of the salary that could be exchanged for a limited amount of drink. Enough to wet the whistle but not get drunk!

Note to self – must get a copy of: Terry Allsop’s “NEWTOWN A Photographic Journey in Reading 1974″ Two Rivers Press (cover photo at top of page)

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behavioural and biscuits

Friday, October 12th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Or what I’ve found out about Huntley and Palmers so far:

Joseph Huntley and his son Thomas opened a biscuit shop at 72 London street, Reading, in 1822. As Quakers, the Huntleys believed in honesty, self-discipline and hard work. They used high quality ingredients and sold their cakes and biscuits at a fair price – passing on savings to the customer rather than accumulating unnecessary wealth. I like their approach.

Prudential HeadquartersIn 1846 the firm purchased a factory on Kings Road for £1,800. The factory was positioned on an island site between the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon canal. It had a floor space of 5,000 square feet and was spread over an area of half an acre. The Island is currently the home of the Prudential’s headquarters.

In 1850 the working week for men was 58½ hours – 6.30am to 6.30pm.  In 1872 the working week for men was reduced to 54 hours, the same as for women. By 1918 it had been reduced to 48 hours. Huntley and Palmers employed about 10% of the whole Reading town workforce, 5,409 workers by 1918

From 1855 Saturday evening entertainments were held to keep people out of the public houses. A Mutual Improvement Society was started and all employees over 16 could use the library on payment of 1d per week. Weekly lectures were also organised during the winter months.

By 1860 Huntly and Palmers employed 500 staff who produced 3,200 tons of biscuits per year.  In 1861 the average weekly wage was 16s 9d for men and 8s 8d for women and girls. By 1894 this had risen to 20s 1d for men and 9s 3d for women and girls.

Between 1851 and 1901 the population of Reading increased from 22,000 to 72,000. Attracted by the jobs, migration from the countryside was playing an increasing role in the growth of towns across the country. Reading expanded its boundaries in 1887 to include Newtown, the Wokingham Road area beyond Cemetery Junction, and part of Tilehurst. It had the largest population of all the towns in the county and was the only one big enough to achieve county borough status in 1889

Huntley and PalmerIn July 1855 they arranged a boat Thames trips for about 200 employess and families to Park Place near Henley. In 1857 the firms first outing was organised when the employees went by special train to Crystal Palace. From then on every alternate year an excursion took place, until 1868 the sheer number of 3,000 employees made factory excursions impossible. In 1898 the Recreation Club was founded by George Palmer who had bought 49 acres of land (now Palmers Park) to provide sports facilities. The company provided all the equipment for cricket, football, hockey, quoits, bowls, tennis and athletics.

Palmer's park in Newtown - still used for football tournaments and more!By 1873 the company had become the largest biscuit producer in the world

The company enforced a behavioural code for its staff.  Fines for misbehaviour were paid into a Sick Fund box. The Fund was a scheme set up in 1849 to benefit employees or their families who had experienced a death or serious illness. Employees contributed sixpence a week, and received 12 shillings a week benefit during illness. This was before there was any form of national health scheme

Employees who had completed over 50 years service received a non-contributory pension. By the early twentieth century a pension fund had been set up but only men were allowed to join.

The Acacias (London Rd)In 1906 George Palmer’s son, Alfred, presented the college with the site in London Road which included The Acacias, his fathers former home. This became the University Library.

The decline of the companies fortunes can be aligned with many changing environmental and social conditions and coincided with the changing moral values of the family owners from Quaker to Anglican. The link may not be causal… I’d like to know more about the decline.

In 1975 the factory provided the location for the bar scenes in the Hollywood movie ‘Bugsy Malone’ with Jodie Foster and Scott Baio.

Production ceased at Reading in 1976

Good sources on Huntley and Palmers history


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bing bong cuckoo

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

Time passes noisily in the wendy houseChime Strike

On the north wall a Smith’s clock from London with a 7 day mechanism shares it’s Westminster chimes every quarter hour

On the west wall a Saqui and Lawrence pendulum clock from London with a 7 day mechanism strikes every hour

On the stairway of doom a cuckoo clock from Lucerne with a 24 hour mechanism chirrups every hour

cuckoohey all have slightly different ideas about

  • when the hour should be called
  • the length of a minute

PorcelainOn the east wall a Donald Yule clock from Bath with a quartz mechanism silently moves it’s hands while a ceramic mouse watches

All the mechanic clocks tick tock, at gradually slowing rates

Around the hour, the house sings with differing overlapping strikes and chimes

I love the sound

It is the sound of home with all the clocks chattering the time away in their own idiosynchratic ways. They bring peace to my home in a way that’s probably similar to placing a child in a car to drive around until the child falls asleep

tick-tock tick-tick tock-tock tick-tock tick tick tick tock tock BING-BONG Cuckoo……etc


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more… …please….

Sunday, May 6th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

During a conversation about Reading town pubs, one fellow suddenly blurts out

 I love your house!  

wendy: that’s the right answer, me too (huge cheshire cat grin)

fellow: it’s like a secret courtyard hidden away from the city, in the heart of the city!

wendy: (HUGE Grin – pours the fellow more alcohol)

Door knocker


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Pop goes the weasel

Monday, March 19th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

(warning: long budgety scribble heavily influenced by Excel)

Money’s not yet too tight to mention, but the UK budget announcements on Wednesday may tip the balance for many people . The average UK salary is near £26,000 per annum. I’m lucky enough to earn more than average, a ‘middling’ salary that helps me support my 1st luxury of living alone in a house that demonstrates my detachment. My purchase-ability has been steadily dropping since returning to England in 2007. My expenses have also steadily dropped. I am lucky enough to be able to live within my means, and like most people, my means are systematically shrinking

Once my salary has gotten into my bank account this is approximately how it leaves:

50% on home mortgage and insurances

Ground Floor PlanMy 4th mortgage. Each home more gorgeous than the last. This upscaling is why, after 20 years, I still only own half of my home. Some friends  have repaid their mortgages because they’ve lived in one house for a long time. In Reading town I’m primarily paying a premium for living near a station with a 25 minute one-stop commuter ride to London. Spending this money is both a ‘basic’ because I need a home and a luxury because I could rent, or live further from London,  in a place that would only take 25% of my salary.  Being able to  choose to live here and invest in ‘property’ makes me feel like I am a rich person

6% on home services

Water rates, electricity, gas, council tax for local services like rubbish disposal, police etc

12% on home maintenance and improvements

Replacing broken equipment (e.g. washing machine) paying for plumbers, electricians, roofers, cleaning equipment,  painting equipment and plants

12% on transport

Thomas V2Being able to travel any way other than on foot feels like a luxury. My 2nd big luxury expense is tanking Thomas for petrol, insurance, servicing and parts. Some money goes on public transport for holiday journeys like my train ride down to St. Ives at Christmas

10% on health, food and appearance

Toast, marmite, tea, socks, pants, shampoo etc  The stuff that makes up most of my weekly shops

10% on entertainment, friends and family – mainly eating and drinking

Pub and phone boxYAY! My 3rd luxury – a fabulous regular expense that brings me a lot of happiness….

0% on savings

Um never really managed to save. I have managed to get ‘Savings’ this happened when I started jobs that paid ‘Bonuses‘ for good performance – in 2000. This amount is nothing like the size of Bankers bonus! Normally, It could cover the cost of an extra pint of beer a week.

 

Before my salary gets to my bank account a lot is deducted in tax and:

20% on pension

I got my first job after completing my PhD in 1991. Having missed years of making pension contributions, which meant I had some catching up to do. I started by contributing 15% of my salary to my pension in1991. As pensions have become less reliable and effective saving schemes, I’ve increased my contribution to 20%

 

What do you do? How do families with only one income cope?  How do couples use the extra income that joint expenses release?  How can families earning less than average income afford to provide for children?

How will the budget affect you?


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