scribbles tagged ‘saving’


Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Old roofA friendly chap from the Reading counci Planning and Building Control department visited the wendy house today. He took photo’s of my sample PhotoVoltaic tile, copies of the installation drawings and photographs of my roof where I’d like the tiles placed. They will generate electricity for my home with enough left-over to sell back to the national grid.

He sucked his teeth and said that he wasn’t going to recommend that the tiles could be installed. He said it’s possible that someone higher-up the chain might value the ecological benefit over maintaining the look and feel of the local conservation area, but he didn’t think it was likely.

He will be putting this in writting after discussing it with colleagues. He gave me advice on how to re-attach crumbling ancient tiles without calling a roofer with a ladder and health and safety insurance. He didn’t look at my staircase of doom. He didnt put his head into the attic and see the crawl-space. His advice was well-meaning but impractical.


I used facebook to voice my disappointment. A heated little thread arose that included Dr. friend, who works as a government consultant specialist on environmental issues. Dr friend drafted a couple of letters for me to send to key MPs. Here’s one  he drafted for the in-credible UK State secratary for Energy and Climate change:

Dear Mr Huhne,

I am writing to let you know about a problem I am having trying to reduce my carbon footprint and help increase the supply of renewable energy. Basically I am trying to get permission to install solar tiles on my roof ( Everything I hear both the government and my local council say about the urgency of the climate change issue makes me think that I should be being actively encouraged in doing this sort of thing. However, because I live in a conservation area (i.e. one where almost all of the houses are old and therefore very energy inefficient) my local council is saying that that they will not let me have these fitted. How is it that the government can all a minor issue such as the aesthetics of roofing tiles prevent people from making important upgrades to their homes in order to reduce both their carbon footprint and their reliance on an extremely volatile energy market.

Can you provide me with any details of what your Department is doing in order to ensure that the Department for Communities and Local Government are taking this issue on board. As far as I can tell, the current localism agenda is going to make it even harder for the government to encourage and support householders like me to do my bit.

Quality stuff, for free, because of facebook chatter. Excellent!

I’ll be adapting it to provide details of my location and council and copying it to the local council so they know what i’m up to. Feel free to use this yourselves if you have similar challenges

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can you improve cemetery junction?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

A4 going east approaching Cemetery JunctionCan you improve Cemetery Junction?

Is it so gorgeous that any changes are more likely to ruin its existing gorgeousity?

Is it so icky that people have given up hope of being able to improve it without first obliterating it?

The question raises all sorts of emotionally charged, creative, cynical, optimistic, pragmatic and other reactions from people who live near, or pass through, the infamous local junction of the A4 (London Road) and A329 (Kings/Wokingham Road).

A local councilor, Rob White, is working with local action groups to improve the Cemetery Junction area. At the moment he’s consulting with locals. The co-op has a big cardboard suggestions box decorated with a collage of magazine pictures of pretty things. Excellent stuff. It made me feel like being back at school where having a go was important, encouraged and easy.

I’m loving the humour and creativity evident in this summary of suggestions to improve cemetery junction made on a ‘Get Reading’ news article:

  • i’m thinking giant dinosaurs
  • how about a cinema or a roller disco?
  • Napalm
  • Make it a spooky theme park
  • How about a monorail?
  • A small tactical thermo-nuclear device
  • Bit of paint and a clean should do it….or if you really wanna prettify it, hanging baskets
  • An underpass
  • make a big roundabout where resturant is
  • Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure
  • re-install the gallows that used to stand on the site now occupied by The Granby? It might act as a deterrent to the hoodies and wannbie gangsters in that area
  • What about an H Bomb?
  • Prevent shop keepers and traders from parking cars and vans on the pavements
  • The overhanging bushes on the London Rd side need trimming… …new paving and signage
  • can’t be improved – its a dead loss
  • A Tesco supermarket each side of the road, with a couple of Tesco Expresses sprinkled around Liverpool and Cholmeley Roads
  • big ornamental archway would brighten up the area considerably
  • Give me some explosives and a bulldozer and Ill give you instant results. Guaranteed
  • Zombie Apocalypse
can you improve cemetery junction?
2 votes rating 4.5

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recycling confidentiality

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

In my valiant steps to curb my consumerism, mend my waywardness, I partake of old-fashioned passtimes such as darning socks and spurious knitwear. Mumsie taught me how to darn. Darning wasn’t a syllabus item on the compulsory (for females) Home Economics course provided by Chipping Sodbury Comprehensive school. A lot of useful home economics were omitted from my Home Economics education. It wasn’t comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination.

Recently I’ve added ‘Brickette’ making to my many economic home skills. Here’s the recipe

  1. Borrow a brickette maker (I failed at this first step – I bought one)
  2. Use a large (not plastic) bag to collect the shreddings from the confidential document shredder at work.
  3. Empty the shreddings into a large waterpoof container (Bucket!)
  4. fill the bucket with wate
  5. Leave the shreddings to soak for 3 days
  6. Scoop the soggy shredded paper from the bucket into the bricket maker and squish into a brickette
  7. Leave the soggy brickette in the sun tor dry-out. I’ve placed my first brick in my log-store

Three days to make one brick. I only have one bucket. I wonder how many bricks I’ll be able to make this summer? I wonder how well they’ll work as fuel on the woodburner. Apparantly it is possible to make brickettes from tea bags…

soaking shredded confidential papers Brickette squished from soaked paper

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local store for local people

Sunday, January 17th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

wood burning stoveCas:   hello Dr. Wendy

Wendy: Wow, I’m impressed that you remembered me and that I’m a Dr!

Cas explained the differences between multifuel and wood burning stoves as she pulled together a costing for converting my fireplace (gas fire).  

Paul:  you’ve over-estimated the cost of the chimney liner, knock 20 feet of the height, Wendy lives in the cottage

 Wendy: you even remember where I live!

Paul: and we put the fireplace in there about  7 years ago for the last owner.   We’ve done most of the fireplaces round here, we’ve been here for 20 years.

Cas handed me lots of manufacturers brochures to help me choose a stove and I bounced out into the wet snowless winter weather.

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black and white

Monday, May 18th, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

I’m not so environmentally friendly since I paired up with Thomas.   On the otherhand, I’m not using a jet to get around. With the exception of a classic cathode ray tube,   few things are actually back and white.  

The Monochrome set sang jet set junta

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no pollen alleriges

Saturday, March 28th, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

bathroom air freshnerOne of a host of Jasmine plants that fill the Wendy Home  with a wonderful aroma.      No chemical air-freshener arrives with throw-away packaging,  immitates floral scents and requires  refills.     Lets hope that no guests have real pollen allergies….

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discernable compassion

Friday, February 27th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

Occassionally I enjoy a wee excursion to a local high street bank.   Today was one of those special days

Wendy: are you concerned about your job security? the news says there will be redundancies in your bank…

Finacial Specialist (FiSp):   NO!   I’m not worried,   we haven’t done anythong wrong, customer facing staff like me are doing a good job its the managers, people earning over 60K that are going to be made redundant, at least that’s what they’re telling us.

She continued with this perky attitude that   lacked discernable compassion while telling her stories of the credit crunch

FiSp:   I had one 82 year old in tears here yesterday,   her pension has been ruined by the fall in interest rates.

Her advice to me was:

FiSp:   In October we had 6 investment products,   in December we had 4, now we only have 2,   if you don’t invest now there may not be any products left.

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lists of fairtrade outlets in Reading

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

I do enjoy a good list,   closely followed by that wonderful feeling of achievement that follows ticking things off lists, or striking them out as ‘done’.   I’ve found a list provided by the BBC,   a fabulolus service,   that lists shops and eateries in Reading that  sell fairtrade goods.   How fabulous is that?!

I will tick-tell-myself off if I use any other Reading shops and cafes. Naughty girl.  

Hip Hip Hoorahs all round

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Tuesday, December 11th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Reading reolcation specialist (rrs).

rrs: I remember the 90’s market depression,   houses being repossesed,   very sad

rrs: its going to happen again,   best to buy a house after January because the prices will have dropped due to all the repossessions and the difficulties in securing a mortgage.

I sold a home in 1993 and was thrilled to get the 1990 purchase price.

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selling a garage-load

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007 | tags: , , , ,  |

A multifamily garage sale on the Wendy House street.   I sold stuff that would be unnecessary for living in a smaller UK style Wendy House.   We wisely picked a cold, rainy,  November day for the sale,  advertised on craigslist, expo live,  and with street-signs.   People arrived an hour before the start.    We  made good value sales in the first 2hrs then dropped prices radically to end with effectively shifting  quantity, nearly everything.

Several friends helped make the sale  a fun, pleasant, and effective experience  by displaying stuff attractively,   being nice to the customers and  making sure everyone had tea,  Thai hot soup, and donuts as needed.  

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tax advisor says

Monday, November 12th, 2007 | tags:  |

US advice:   we don’t tax alien’s once they’ve left the US unless they have income from the  US.

after nearly 8 years you don’t have a green card.   That is good news,    how did you manage that?”

“capitol gains is the difference between the original cost of the house and the price that you sell at.   You have to pay tax on anything over $250,000”   Luckily the real Wendy House has doubled in price without hitting this minimum gain for US capital gains tax.   Hoorah!    Beers all around and bottoms up to boot.   Small is beautiful,   small is untaxworthy so its still mine.

UK advice:   have the biggest garage sale in Wendy House history

This advice was cunningly concealed in this code,      “As you have been outside the UK for 5 UK tax years, by concession you will be charged to Capital Gains Tax only in respect of chargeable gains from disposals made after arrival.”    So I should sell my expensive stuff before I reach the UK.   The Wendy house garage is not eligible for capital gains tax because “The sale of your main residence is tax exempt for capital gains purposes.”    Phew!      

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Sunday, November 4th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

Luckily the stager didn’t use the infamous  circles.   I hardly recognize the place,  I’m way too scruffy to live here,  see!

Maureen Rammell, my realtor, arranged the staging and  has been extremely reliable,   focussed, and personable in all her dealings with me.    Outstanding.    Maureen  really works  for her percentage.  


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the stager

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007 | tags: , , , ,  |

the stager wandered through the Wendy house asking questions like “can we move that into a cupboard where it can’t be seen” and “do you have any throws“,   “pack all the books except those about movie stars,   the dictionary,   and books with classic or high quality covers,   pack anything that might provoke speculation about who you are taking their focus off the house“.  

I asked her “should I get rid of the plants” and “I expect the religious paintings and angels have to go” to which she replied “I’m glad YOU said that,   you’re right”.  “Well religion leads to wars so its probably not good for selling homes“.  

In the Wendy House boudoir he Stager chirped enthusiastically about my Kieth Bowen print.   This print is in the boudoir because it made house guests squirm.   Which apparantly is not a good thing.   I love the charcole portrayal of a Swaledale ewe,   wool ruffled in the harsh snowdonia winds,   suckling  her lamb.   It’s all mumzie!   But this mother-daughter sucky-moment in unpleasant weather isn’t  a hit with the masses.   We agreed that it should probably be covered-up.  

In the garage the Stager encountered my infamous circles and whooped with joy…     …they must have some hidden mistical powers…   …cetainly they have not been known to offend….   …maybe if you watch them and relax they hypnotize you into wanting to buy the Wendy haose   hease house.

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Realtor challenge

Thursday, November 1st, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

<totally serious post warning.   High risk of sleep induction>

Realtors are the people that find you a house or sell your house for you.   In the UK the nearest equivalent is an Estate agent.     In Washington state Realtors are generally self-employed and affiliated to a large agency that provides them with training and infrastructure resources.  

How do I find the right Realtor for the Wendy House?  

I contacted 3,   one recommeded,   one showed-up top in a google search for a description of the Wendy house,   and one has been putting flyers in my mailbox regularly for years.   Each Realtor was affiliated  with a different high profile agency,   John L. Scott,   Coldwell Banker  and Windermere.    All the Realtors had websites, of varying quality,  that I reviewed  before interviewing them.   I interviewed each Realtor asking them to:

  1. outline the general home selling process.
  2. identify what they  considered to be their competitive edge over other Realtors.    

Their answers to the above 2 questions serve well to illustrate why I picked the Realtor I did without interviewing any more:

Found by his Mailbox-flyer

  1. home selling process:   He produced  a seemingly unstructured monolog without using any props.   When I tried to ask him specific questions he demonstrated poor conversational management skills.   He was difficult to interrupt and he didn’t appear to understand my questions.  He made several assumptions about me and my situation.   For example,   he assumed that I had never owned or sold a home before.  
  2. self-stated competitive edge:   He makes very good looking fliers and takes all the photographs himself.  

Are glossy goodlooking paper flyers a strong influencing factor in my house-purchasing decision?   Um,   no.

Found by a Google-search

  1. home selling process:     The discussion was structured around some statistics and graphs (not Excel produced) and clearly conveyed her knowledge of the moving market,   tracking mechanisms and social skills.   She had visited my home the day before,   photographed the outside and made a draft sale-booklet including examples of comparative properties on the market.  
  2. self-stated competitive edge:   Trustworthy

Is percieved trustworthiness of the sellers Realtor a significant factor in my home purchasing decision?   Um,   no.

Found by a Recommendation

  1. home selling process:     talked without prompts in a clear chronological way making it very clear what she did to make my life easy,   for example she would hire a company to clean all my carpets,   would hire an interior designer to ‘stage’ my home etc.   She asked good questions about my time-scale and values and  she adapted her conversation to suit my questions.  
  2. self-stated competitive edge:   She was on the orginal selling team of my Condominium when it was built.   She lived in my condominium for 4 years and knows in detail  the good quality of the condomium management company.   She has sold homes in this conominium at record-breaking prices,   specialised in Condominium sales for 10yrs,   is married to a builder who can arrange quick fixes cheaply and easily for her without troubling me.   Is one of 40 or so Realtors contracted by Microsoft to help find homes for Microsoft employees being relocated to the Redmond headquarters.   She also added a long spiel about the training and quality of support provided by her affiliate agency.

Is detailed accurate  information about the property and  a well-staged layout on a viewing  a significant factor in my home purchasing decision?   Um,   YES!

Can you guess which one I contracted?     YES!

You are SO clever.

<serious part over you can  WAKE UP now>

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of bartering books and buses

Friday, July 27th, 2007 | tags: , , , ,  |

Fifteen more books successfully released to the safety of half-price books.   In Exchange, three books paroled to the comfort of my handbag   No cash changed hands.   Bargain,   I gained book-shelf space  and topically useful books…  ..I feel a few more books coming on….

Libraries are fabulous social resources whose being is radically changing nature with the emergence of the Internet as an archive and social resources.   This Library,   Escorial, near Madrid has just made it onto my list of way-too-many-places I hope to visit.   I’ll have to use the bus* or train to get there   Brrrrrrmmmmmmm….Brrrrrrmmmmmmmm…..

Without even leaving Madrid I may get to see an Eygyptian temple,  a Palace where the Spanish Inquisition did some of its inquisiting,   fabulous deliberately leaning buildings, a very ornate post-office, a stadium  bull ring, a crystal palace inspired by the London Crystal palace,   bars that Earnest Hemmingway drank in (not all of them),   graveyards, and of course the essential  very tall thing for tourists to go to rather like Seattle’s Space Needle and Portsmouth’s Millenium tower.

Then there are castles to be checked out,   like the Alcazar…   just outside Madrid…   more buses!!

* I  like  riding on  buses

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spring bulbs

Monday, April 30th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Have you noticed how at any one time there are always three bulbs in your home that don’t work and only 2 in your spare-bulb draw?   Is there a name for this effect?   Outcandescence as oppose to incandescence?  

I’m gradually replacing the incandescent lighting solutions (bulbs)  in  :: The Wendy House ::   with alternatives,   like the pictured porch light.

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Sunday, December 17th, 2006 | tags: , , , , ,  |

For a  photo-story of the Wendy House, 24hr Power outage, click this picture of my reading a book by candle-power:

The Wendy House was lucky,   only 24 hs without electricity and a gas-fire for warmth.   The Seattle PI reports that more than 1 million Washingston State residents lost power. The all to frequent sound of siren’s passing the Wendy House re-inforced the risks associated with a suddent lack of traditional power sources.   The smell of woodsmoke, prevalent in the air, took on an ominous tone.   Did it  herald a burning home?

Memories of my childhood:  

January 1974,   11yrs old, the UK was suffering from a power crisis.   The Conservative government under Prime Minister Edward Heath introduced a ‘3 day week’ to conserve power.   At that time the UK’s main source of electrical power was the National Coal industry,   electricity from coal.   The country was suffering from extreme inflation.   To try and curtail inflation the government introduced wage-capping.   The Miners were not happy about their wage cap.   The Miners union introduced a ‘work to rule’,   they only followed the detail of the job description nothing above and beyond.   This severely curtailed coal production and reduced the power available to the country.   Unable to negotiate a solution with the Coal Miners representative,   the Union, the government introduced a 3 day week.   Power was only available on 3 consecutive days in a week.

To  an 11yr old this  is exciting and  fun.   4 days a week where the evenings were by candle-light and no hot-water for bathing.   As a family we would play cards by candle-light. It was like camping inside home.    We wore several layers of woolly jumpers and fingerless gloves indoors.   We used a camping gas stove to brew tea and make the occassional hot meal.  

After the Heath Conservative government was replaced by  Harold Wilson’s  Labour government the normal working week returned.   Wilson was a working-class boy who excelled in English the educational system.   A Yorkshire boy,   like Wallace, with a quick wit.   The last great intellectual Prime Minister that lead Britain.   The last true Labour Prime Minister.   With some impressive political thinkers in his cabinet such as  Tony Benn  and my personal favourites Denis Healey and Micheal Foot.

The exploitation of  oil  from the North Sea helped Britain to avoid severe economic disaster,   and assured that Scotland would not gain independence before its natural resources ran out.   That would be approximately…. ….now.   Britain is begining to face a renewed energy crisis and despite a thrashing by Thatcher the National Union of Miners is still a voice at the lobbying table.   The fancy new Labour party, Blair’s government, is being criticised for its lack of long term planning.

In my ‘retirement’ I  want to live in, or below,  a Windmill, to  be self-sufficient then sell extra power back to the country in  an emergent decentralised power system.  

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Wendy’s not Scottish

Friday, November 10th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Not spending money is one of my favourite passtimes and I’m not even Scottish!  Here’s a scrabble, triple score, analogy of how  doing one thing can replace three separate expenditures:

Single score

Avoided paying a gym (health) club subscription or for a CD/Video work-out program.    If I deliberately pace myself to work up a sweat I can do all the following  in less than an hour (tea breaks excluded):

  • Weight lifting:   chairs,  table, shelves, vacuum cleaner, books, full laundry basket, rubbish bins
  • Stretching & flexing: lunges pushing the vacuum cleaner,   reaching to dust the top of shelves and wall-hangings,   reaching to wipe the shower walls,   bending to empty the cat litter-trays,   scrub the  toilets and bath
  • Aerobisizing: prancing up and down 4 flights of stairs moving laundry,   rubbish, and vacuum cleaner  between floors, returning the books that have escaped to the front room from the upstairs book shelves

Double score

Not paying a cleaning contractor (or boyfriend) to do the cleaning.   I don’t enjoy overflowing rubbish bins or  clouds of cat-fluff scurrying around my feet with every step taken.   Cleaning has to happen somehow.  

Triple score

Reduced the time available to shop or be pestered by advertising for things that I don’t need.   Wonderful.

Sometimes, my sheer subversive genius leaves me almost speechless.   Almost.  

What’s your favourite triple score?

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so as to

Friday, July 21st, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

‘so as to’ is a three-sets-of-two-letters-cute phrase carrying two redundant words.   “in order to” is less letter-construction-cute while containing two redundant words.  


In both examples only the word ‘to’ does any real work.      Or am I missing some subtle spin these words  add to a message?    Maybe it makes the person who uses them sound clever.   What do you think?

So as to sound clever I will be using more words than usual and throwing in some new words for good measure.   In order to avoid getting poked in the eye today  I will not be walking within forking distance of Turdface.

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breeding clothes

Thursday, May 25th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

My wardrobe space used to stealthily disappear.  Then magically I stopped the clothes from breeding.

Spell:   before buying something for my wardrobe I MUST DECIDE  what it will REPLACE then  take the replaced item to CONSIGNMENT.  

This spell work’s ((doesn’t work for  hats,  underwear or footwear)) for me because of the cost,    to

  1. make a decision other than ‘buy that pretty thing’ in a shop is DIFFICULT!!
  2. remove a cosey, loyal, pretty thang from my wardrobe  is DOUBLE DIFFICULT!!!!

I now buy fewer  new things and the quality of my wardrobe content is, arguably,  improving.  


clothes recycle
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crease release

Monday, May 22nd, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

Escape today.

Give your iron away.

Wear your creases with pride.  

Crease maps,  on laundry, can  guide.  

A finger tenderly traces the crease on a lovers shirt.    When picture clouds are hidden by the night  seek the pictures drawn  by the creases of your bed linen.   Don’t let the iron flatten your imagination.

Drop the anchor,


2006. Inspired by packing suitecases for travelling, a hectic job, watching  a friend carefully iron socks, a lover, and reducing electricity consumption

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tumble or hang?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 | tags:  |

Normally I’m all for a tumble 😉

My condominium has regulations that disallow hanging clothes outdoors to dry.   Ashame.   I rarely, if ever, see laundry hanging outside in the USA.   I saw laundry cheerfully decorating homes in Costa Rica

Costa Rica home

Clothes dried in an open breeze smell and feel so good.   Good memories.   I persist in using a method that doesn’t rely on generating electricity.   I hang my clothes where they risk catching direct sunlight  and  breeze from a window.    Even here in the infamously rainy NW USA it is easy to dry clothes without a tumble-dryer.      

clothes hanging on an indoor dryer

Hang them!

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releasing books

Monday, May 1st, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

I’m forcing myself to release the books I’ve been holding hostage in my home for years.   Todays escapees:  

Books about to be released into the wild

Fabulous public librarys and internet access remove  the  ‘need’ to own many books.     Despite this lack of ‘need’ it is very painful  to let books leave.   I haven’t managed to release my 16th Birthday present from my brother – The Concise Oxford English Dictionary.        

What books would you have difficulty releasing?

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who needs wall paper?

Thursday, March 30th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

when one weeks unsolicited mail to the Wendy House looks like this:

Junk mail posted to the Wendy House  

I could use it to wall-paper my home.   Too fancy for my taste in wall decor.   Is  there a way to stop the producers of this mail wasting resources on me?   It doesn’t sell me anything.    

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Sunday, February 12th, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

Mum taught me how to darn soon after teaching me how to knit (pre-teen) and weave.   All these skills have been valuable.   A knowledge of weaving and knitting is a useful pre-requisite for understanding the principles of darning.  

Check out my recent handy work.

As a professionally employed person I could replace the clothes.   For me, having the ability to repair is better.   It gives me a preferable choice because it

  • enables me to extend the life of special clothes

  • side-steps unexpected obscolescence

  • reduces ICKY shopping trips  

Obscolescence.   Love that word.   Say it again with me:


W Darn-good

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