Thursday, 12 February 2015

Knocking down an Outbuilding

I feel that there comes a time in all men's lives when it is necessary to do something manly with a crowbar, sledge hammer, heavy duty power tools and so on.  And at the end of the day, one hopes for a large pile of rubble to show the results of the day.

Today we started on demolishing one of the "petits touts" to open up the garden.  An hour or two is spent on the removal of the tiles and wooden chevrons from the roof.  This reveals that actually, the walls are really thick.  Moreover, one end is covered in an extremely hard render which is very difficult to break through.

Undeterred by such minor set backs, a few hours later it is clear that the petits touts is on the way down.

And by the end of demolition day one, there is something of the view we eventually hope to have of the opened up garden.

Day two sees some serious sledge hammering and the render gradually succumbs. 

There are few more manly sights that a man with his sledge hammer and the large pile of rubble he has created from the sweat of his brow - it is like Corbett posing with tigers in India, or Hemingway with a large tuna.

So the outbuilding is more or less down by the end of day two and now we have the issue of disposal of the debris.  This is scheduled for five or six weeks time and the current plan is to hire a tipper lorry that we can move several tonnes in at once - even so, it is possibly one day's work and three trips to the dump to move it all.  And then we still have to knock down the last sections and dig out the concrete foundations.

It does look more open though!

Building a Wall

It was -4 overnight, but the forecast is that today will be dry and sunny - perfect weather for building a wall across the back of the garage.

So we have a hole that needs to be filled.  We have 50 breeze blocks, carefully calculated to fill the hole (provided we don't make any mistakes)

We have a trailer with a quarter of a tonne of sand, 125kg of cement, a wheelbarrow and two spades.

We have a space on the floor where we can tip our sand

And another space where we can mix our cement/sand mix in the ratio 1:4.

The first row is always the most critical and must be dead straight in all dimensions - up/down and side to side.

The gaps are filled in, and row two commences with a piece cut into two, so the joints don't line up between rows.

This means that the occasional piece has to be cut - the joy of a large angle grinder.

By mid-afternoon, we have several rows in place, and are getting low of mix.  A maximum of five rows should be done on any one day.

So the next day is similar weather.  And rows 6 to 10 go in, with more cutting.  We have 3/4 of a piece left over when we have finished.

Was there ever a nicer wall built (in part) by me?  Most definitely not!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

"Journey on the Crest" and "Wild"

With all the current comments on the movie Wild, I have recently re-read Cindy Ross's book, Journey on the Crest, one of my all-time favourite books.  Is the the fourth or fifth time I've read it?

There was a time, in the early 1990s when I did go through a brief period of thinking seriously about doing a long distance hike but it remained just a day dream.  The closest I came to doing one was when I walked the West Highland Way in 1994 (?).  Cindy Ross's book was one of the ones I read about that time and it remains one of the best books on long distance hiking.  One day perhaps I will go and see The Three Sisters mountains - that might be the limit of what I might do on the PCT!

And in the aftermath of Wild-related press coverage, a picture of Cindy Ross returning to the PCT 30 years later

After finishing Journey on the Crest, I decided I would read the book of Wild.  I did rather enjoy this but some aspects of it do bother me.  Firstly, the walk actually took place in 1995 but was only written about 15 years later and published in 2012.  Secondly, though she does do very well on her walk, she is fairly hopelessly incompetent and I'm not sure I liked that feature of the book.  Though I have no experience of the PCT, I think there is a very good chance that her experiences are quite different to how most people experience the trail.  For some reason, I am also slightly bothered by the fact that she "only" walked 1000 of the 2400 miles.  But the book is very moving and I enjoyed it a great deal.  It hasn't risen above Cindy Ross though.

The real Cheryl Strayed and "Monster"

And Reese Witherspoon, who is very good in the movie.

Some people online has expressed concern that as a result of the movie, the PCT is going to be overrun with idiots.  I am possibly inclined to share that view

A PCT website has a parody of Wild called Rabid, reflecting a 2013 thru-hikers view.  I don't know if it is a full work, but the extract I read was very funny.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Snow in our bit of France - now there's a rarity

Snow overnight - the deepest fall in the Charente Maritime for several years!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Watching Diva - a name from the past, Jude Willetts

I watched an old favourite movie this evening, Diva from 1981.  I think I saw this at a cinema in London when it first came out and it was one of the first movies that I ever recorded on video when I first got a video recorder.

I have always liked to think that I was most like Gorodish - living in his ultra-cool loft, with his strange, electronic music playing, going on about the "Zen in the art of buttering bread", his ridiculous jigsaw puzzle of the wave, the cute Vietnamese girlfriend . . .

But I was probably more like Jules, the postman who bootlegs the opera performance.

Gorodish is so cool

I'd still like a wave water feature!

I remember back at Easter 1982 meeting a girl in my home town.  She lived next door to one of my friends and was really into philosophy and cinema and David Bowie and such things.  We watched Diva together one night at my house - a rather fond memory.

And by the power of the internet, here she is, in a previous work role as Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology.  Who'd have thought.  She is currently also on Linkedin I discovered.

Of course I knew her as Jude Willetts.  Definitely one of the most interesting people I met as I was growing up.

I wonder if anyone looks for me on the internet - I suspect not!