Sunday, 27 October 2013

Multi-coloured (Bedroom Furniture) Swap Shop

So, here I am showing my age with the Saturday morning children's TV reference. And just to save you time Googling it; Swap Shop, as it was more commonly known, ran on BBC1 (when there were only three TV channels in existence in the UK; those were the days...) between 1976 and 1982.

When I had the vacuum cleaner out the other day, I came over all productive and decided it was time dear old DC got a bit of a bedside furniture upgrade. This has been on my mind for a while, and I've been on the look-out for a suitable piece to pop in this space between the chest of drawers and his bed, currently home to the one-becomes-two table (which featured in this blog post from way back in November 2011) and a wicker chair which was mine when I was young (sometime prior to the golden years of Swap Shop, methinks.)

This close-up shows that the piles of books really aren't looking their best, to put it politely, nor are they very practical being so precariously balanced.
So, I whipped table and chair out, had a bit of a vacuum round and went on the hunt for what I thought could be the perfect solution
right next door in the guest room
When I first popped it down in DC's room I thought it looked a wee bit small and out of place.
But then I added the piles of books, plus the globe-cum-lamp.
And a couple of toys.
And I decided that it all looked rather spiffing.

And best of all was DC's reaction when he came home from school. 
His first words: 'Oh Mummy, it's so tidy.' 
A child after my own OCD heart.
And, fear not (because I'm sure you were worrying, weren't you?), the guest room was not left untended. 
I moved this little table in from the spare room.
(Excuse the rug, it's the one that came out of DC's room when he got his new one; it doesn't really 'go' in here, but I'm still undecided what to do with it.)
Then added a mirror from the other side of the room.
So that it can be used as both a bedside table and dressing table, should the need arise.
Oh, and I did finish the vacuuming.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

VW Campervan Trip to Devon

This post is somewhat overdue; I don't know where the time goes and I seem to get caught up blogging about other things. It was only when I was flicking through some photos on my computer that I realised there are several trips that I've yet to blog about. My bad, as the young folk say. Coming soon to a blog near you a series entitled: Places I've Been To Recently But Not Blogged About, featuring: 24 hours in Bruges and three nights in Amsterdam. 

Anyhoo, back at the very end of August Family W hired an old (1971) VW Campervan called Freddie.
And we drove down to Devon; Kingsbridge to be exact.
Unfortunately, what should have been a 2-hour journey ended up taking over four hours as dear old Freddie continually overheated and we had to make a LOT of pitstops. Apparently, this is one of the many 'joys' of an old campervan...
Still, we got there in the end and, after some yummy fish and chips for tea, we set up camp for the night.
DC was VERY excited about his bed in the pop-up roof.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny, and this was the lovely view from our 'front door'. 
Not too shabby.
Our first trip was into the town of Kingsbridge itself, where we discovered a bakery which sold THE most delicious lemon drizzle cake EVER. (So much so, that we went back on our final day and bought three pieces to take home.) I still think of it now.
This is the lovely old cinema on the main street in Kingsbridge.
And here are some of the many boats moored at the bottom of the town.
After a very pleasant couple of hours strolling round the shops of Kingsbridge, it was time to jump back into Freddie and travel a few miles along the coast to Salcombe.
Beautiful, beautiful Salcombe.
A place to sit and contemplate.

We also partook in about an hour of crabbing and a little retail therapy before returning to the campsite and calling the AA man...
Yes, dear old Freddie really wasn't feeling his best. But, luckily the very, very nice man from the AA was able to patch him up.
We were lucky with the weather again the following day as we travelled a few more miles along the coast to Bigbury-on-Sea, home of Burgh Island (where hubby and I stayed for his 40th birthday - see this post).

The beach here really is magnificent, and arriving earlyish in the morning we had it almost to ourselves.

When hubby and I stayed at the hotel, we had the room just above the circular section, on the far right. Such a lovely place to relax for a couple of days. And in January it really felt quite isolated with the wind whipping around. 

After all the hardwork (ahem) of strolling across the beach, looking at rockpools and having a drink + picnic at The Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island, we jumped in Freddie and headed back to Salcombe, having enjoyed our visit there the day before so much. More crabbing ensued, including some that I have entitled 'Extreme Crabbing'. There's always someone who has to take it that little bit too far, non?
And after all that exertion, it was time to rest up at The Winking Prawn. Since we only had coffee and cake, I can't say whether it's a great place for lunch or dinner, but the location is a winner on a sunny day.
I was having such a lovely time relaxing in the sun that I didn't take many photos; this one sort of gives you an idea of the great location that WPrawn has - just across the road from the beach at North Sands. You can probably imagine how busy it gets in the height of summer, but we were lucky to be in at the tail end, so tables were easy to come by.

The following morning, after breakfast in the sun at the campsite it was time to pack up our old kit bags and head back home.
We made a little pitstop in Totnes on the way - I do like Totnes very much, it has some great independent shops and cafes. But unfortunately my phone battery ran out so I couldn't take any more photos :(
It also meant that I was unable to take photos of Freddie when he broke down a few miles later and left us stranded on a very nasty part of the A38 (right on a bend where other vehicles could barely see us until they were nearly on our bumper.) Luckily the police turned up very quickly and coned us off, before we were towed away. And there ended our trip, in authentic VW campervan fashion, apparently!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Book Review No. 22: Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth)

This is the very first in the Hamish Macbeth series; I'm amazed it's taken me this long to get around to reading it since I've read all of the Agatha Raisin series written by the same author (M.C. Beaton), and I've also had at least eight of the HMacbeth books in my unread cozy bookcase for quite some time. In fact, this photo taken in February 2011, when we were still living in Reading, shows that I owned several of the books in the series even then (second shelf down, far left - in case you've got a magnifying glass handy.) And, finally, over two-and-a-half years later, I've actually read one.Go, me!
The blurb from the back reads:
When society widow and gossip columnist Lady Jane Winters joins the local fishing club she wastes no time in ruffling the feathers of those around er. Among the victims of her sharp tongue is Lochdubh constable Hamish Macbeth, yet not even he imagines anyone would seriously take steps to silence her ladyship's shrill voice permanently - until her body is fished out of the river.

As the first book in a series I was surprised at how little time is spent introducing the main characters and discussing their backgrounds. So little, in fact, that I actually had to double check that this was definitely the first in the series and that I hadn't perhaps missed a book where Hamish, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, her parents and any other recurring characters were first discovered in the sleepy Scottish Highland village of Lochdubh. Basically they are written about as if we already know them, their backgrounds, their relationships, etc, which is better than having to plough through pages of 'Hamish Macbeth was born in Blahdiblah and became a policeman at the age of XX; his unrequited love for Priscilla first flourished in...'; don't you think? I can only assume that we learn more about the characters as the series continues. A clever idea on the part of the author to keep the reader interested.

In this book eight very different people (including the murder victim) enrol on a fly fishing course run by a married couple in the village of Lochdubh. Lady Jane Winters spends the majority of her time dropping vicious comments into conversation and generally upsetting her fellow fly-fishers, so it comes as no surprise when her body is found in a pool with a fishing line round her neck and chains round her ankles. What is surprising is that it's not until page 93 of the 186-page book, that the murder occurs. This gives you some idea of just how much background story is covered, meaning there are plenty of motives and, therefore, plenty of suspects and red herrings.

Considering this book was first published in 1984, it doesn't feel dated. It definitely falls into the cozy crime category, which perhaps help it not to feel too out-moded. Some of the characters are a little stereotyped, but if you can put that aside and enjoy the book as a gentle romp through the Scottish countryside, with a little murder on the side, then you might enjoy it.

I'm definitely looking forward to reading more in the series and finding out how the characters develop. I didn't watch the TV series when it aired in the 1990s, so I may look out to see if it's being repeated at all (probably on an obscure satellite channel in the early hours of a Tuesday morning, or the like.)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Living Room: Built-In Shelves

When we first came to view the house we now live in, one end of the living room looked like this 
(July 2010.)
Once we had bought it and were making the occasional visit while planning permission was being applied for, it looked like this (August 2010.) It's the wall to the right that this post is primarily about.
Then the builders arrived and starting knocking walls down (April 2011.)
They even went so far as to knock the entire back of the house off. Scary times (May 2011.)
Then they started building it back on again, slightly further out. The wall straight in front is the wall we're interested in (June 2011.)

Then it was plastered (August 2011.)
Then painted (September 2011.)

And then we moved in and created a mess; and we came to realise that we needed some storage, and we also needed to somehow break up that huge expense of wall.
Then we went on holiday and while we were away the flooring men discovered that our dishwasher had been leaking and that a large area of our wooden floor was ruined (November 2012.)
We had to wait three months for the concrete underneath to completely dry before new flooring could be put down (February 2013.)
And when it was laid, we asked the flooring chaps to leave a gap all along the wall.

Because we had a plan, that involved having one of these built (March 2013.)

And plastered.

And then the electrician added a couple of extra sockets (I forgot to take a specific photo, but you can just about see them to the left of DC.)
Then we started playing with colour 
(Vert de Terre by Farrow and Ball, the same colour as the wall in the dining room.)
And then, all of a sudden the carpenter arrived with some big units he'd built off-site and they just slotted right on into the alcoves that the faux-chimney breast had created (April 2013.)

And bish, bash, bosh, he started whacking up shelves on the same day.

And cutting handy little cable holes in the lovely worktops.
And by the end of day two we had this - ta daaaah.

And note, the new TV to boot! Poor old DC cried when the old TV left the building (it went to a new home via the wonder that is Freecycle); hubby and our next door neighbour also nearly cried when they had to heft its weight and bulk out to the car.
And then we (but mainly hubby) had to paint the cupboards and shelves. 
What joy.
And do a bit of rewiring to get the lamp to work via the handy cable hole.

And then it was time to start filling those lovely shelves with lots of lovely books, photos and general stuff and nonsense. The cupboards are full to bursting with DC's toys and games. So nice to be able to shut the doors on (most of) them.
And two last little things (for now) - an electric faux-woodburner; for the princely sum of £15 from the bootilicous eBay. And a lovely slab of Cornish slate for it to sit on; also from eBay and a fraction of the cost quoted by a local (and notoriously pricey) firm.
We have the oak slab that will form the mantle, but we're waiting on the carpenter to come along and fix it up for us; it weighs a ton and neither of us is confident to fit it without him. Then it's just a case of deciding what should go on the chimney breast above the mantle - painting, mirror, nothing at all?

And so, this is what the room looks like as of today.

Quite a change from here
and here.