The adventures of renovating a period house

Even our museum doesn’t have a boiler that old!”

the British Gas repairman exclaimed in delighted shock. Apparently studing our ancient boiler and trying to work out how to get the heating going again was one of their career highlights. As they scratched their heads in excited bewilderment at this never-seen-before relic, I found the remarkable boiler rather less exciting as the prospect of a cold winter stretched out in front of me.

I have always wanted to live in an old house. Having only ever lived in crisp, modern homes, or dated but fully-functioning military ones, there’s something romantic about the features in a period house: the higher ceilings, the doors and floorboards with character, the picture rails, the larger room sizes, the unusual windows and often larger gardens to boot. So when we found a period house with all the above we had to buy it, even though it needs complete renovation and was evidently last decorated in the 70s.

But living in a period house before doing it up is not as easy, or glamorous, as it first seems. I’ve spent months wearing two pairs of socks and unflattering thermals and fleeces to try and fend off the draughts coming through the floorboards and to cope with the inefficient heating.


Check out the tiles!

And aside from the -albeit worthy – initial amusement at the décor in our downstairs loo, guests soon discover that there’s no hanging around on toilet visits given the cold quarry-tiled floor and no radiator!

According to a study, these things put would-be house buyers off a purchase:

  • Avocado-coloured bathroom suites
  • Woodchip wallpaper
  • Artex ceilings
  • Out-of-date kitchens
  • Old carpets
  • Blocked off fireplaces
  • Carpets in bathrooms

Guess what? We’ve got them all! And more! The estate agent must have been laughing all the way to the bank when we fought for this house that time forgot.

But despite the décor, the damp, the mould and the cold, we are excited at what other original features we might discover when the builders finally arrive. By tearing out all the old carpets, we have already unearthed an original oak parquet floor in the hallway, original floorboards everywhere else and thanks to the dog for chewing the carpet off the bottom stair; beautiful hardwood stairs too!

One thing is certain, when the boiler is gleefully replaced, the British Gas museum is welcome to it!IMG_0943

Mutt renovations

How ironic that the day after proudly announcing that our eight-month old puppy has never chewed anything, I came home to this!

Stair carpet

His saving grace: we have recently bought a period property that needs complete renovation and an extension, so the carpet was heading for the hills anyway!  Perhaps I should thank him for speeding up my DIY…IMG_4220

Remembering 115 Squadron

IMG_3756 It is always humbling to see people who have lived through WWII coming to honour their fallen comrades: engulfed in their silent memories and struggling, through age, to lay their poppy wreaths.

On Remembrance Sunday, I joined Veterans and families of 115 Squadron – at the 115 Memorial located at what was RAF Witchford in Cambridgeshire – for a short service of Remembrance.  Although, never based at RAF Witchford, my grandfather was a Rear Gunner in 115 Squadron, who defied his job’s life expectancy of two weeks, or up to five operations, to fly and survive 30 operations, which was classed as a whole tour.   Whether having a personal connection or not, Remembrance Sunday and today’s Armistice Day – the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month – help us poignantly reflect on the sacrifices that our previous generations made.



Pink Pooch Tails

Getting in touch with his feminine side!

Getting in touch with his feminine side!

“I am sure you get asked this all the time…”

a lady approached me at the beautiful Trebah gardens in Cornwall last week. Expecting the customary – since we got a Samoyed puppy at the beginning of the summer holidays – questions about the breed, I complacently replied:

“He’s a Samoyed.”

Best to get that one in quick before she had the chance to question where others had gone before:

Is it a pomeranian? [Rendered speechless at this one: does he look like a toy dog? Is he peeking out the top of my handbag?!]

Is it an albino husky? [Did you seriously just ask me that?]

Having pre-empted the breed question,  I prepared myself for the next onslaught of:

“How big will he get?”

“Bet it’s a nightmare keeping him white!”

“Does he take a lot of brushing?”

“Does he shed everywhere?”

But she floored me with:

“Why is he pink?”

What a refreshing question and as it happens she was the first person to ask why this cute, male puppy was now a paler shade of pink!  I had wickedly-wondered (after a painting accident where he started off aubergine-coloured and then after a thorough bath by Tina, a beautiful baby pink) whether I should fabricate a much more entertaining version about his pastel-coloured dream coat, such as:

“It’s a girl puppy; they start off pale pink and gradually fade to white.”

Would people be sucked in? Would they all be hitting google trying in vain to find one of these rare mystical breeds of dog?

Two months after getting him and the questions are still asked daily.   I have flippantly considered producing a FAQ’s flier to keep in my pocket.  It would save me sounding like a broken record several times a day:

“He’ll be slightly smaller and much lighter than a Labrador.”

“He stays white by himself: he seems to have some magical dirt-repellant coat.” (Fortunately 😁😳 most of it falls off onto my kitchen floor…!)

“Not too much brushing…” (yet!)

“And no, at the moment he sheds less than my brother’s Labrador; although he will shed excessively every spring.” [That’s when I may resemble a Samoyed myself…We could enter one of those dogs-and-their-owners-lookalike competitions!]

But back to his comedy-dog colour. Will he need to stay in touch with his feminine side for a few months whilst we wait for the fur to grow and shed? Will he slink along the paths to avoid being mocked by other male puppies for his girly appearance? Will he forthwith be known as Flossie or pinky? No, no and no!  You see thanks to his weather-repellant coat, the pink has now virtually disappeared. Looking at him you are not sure if it’s a very, very pale pink or just a trick of the light!  Once more a masculine powderpuff of white…no more candyfloss shades in sight!

Who me?

Who me?

Navy nylon knickers: a bloomin’ delight of PE in the 1980s

Vacancy: one games teacher from the 80s. Skills required: (a seeming) lack of compassion. You must be able to show little/no emotion as:

  • children enter the communal showers, under your watchful eye, collecting their towels on the exit
  • you insist on showers after games, even if children forget their towel. Make them air dry!
  • children shiver during winter sports, wearing barely any sports clothes ❄️☔️
  • you insist that children play sport without parts of their uniform if ‘accidentally’ forgotten. What’s a bit of embarrassment?!

Benefits: no communal showers for you! 😄 And you can comfortably shout, from the sidelines of the sports pitch, in your tracksuit top and bottoms during our cold winters.

According to the Telegraph (June 23, 2009), almost a third (29.3 per cent) of those questioned said PE lessons were their unhappiest experience of primary and secondary school, with women more likely to have bad memories that men (34 per cent compared to 21.3 per cent).

“Hours spent climbing ropes in the gym and running across fields in little more than a vest and underwear are most adults’ worst memories of school, a poll of more than 1,250 people found.”

In contrast and seemingly a lone voice out there, I loved PE: whether climbing ropes, throwing myself into the high jump, racing cross-country or jumping into a sand pit, I relished every heart-pounding minute. It was the uniform, or rather lack of, that bemused me. Consisting of slip-on plimsolls, a white aertex short-sleeved shirt and most memorably; a pair of navy nylon knickers with elasticated waist and legs (shorts would be too generous a word for these tight-leave-nothing-to-the-imagination horrors). Navy nylon knickers, PE kit, 1980s

Jeepers creepers; these left nothing to the imagination!

Jeepers creepers; these left nothing to the imagination!

Is it any wonder women have more bad memories than men, wearing these bloomers!  Whatever inspired the design of these pants: was it Wonder Woman’s costume, or was there a fabric shortage in the 80s? In winter we were allowed to cover our navy nylon knickers with a short pleated skirt and, if we were really lucky, a sweatshirt!   We would look reprovingly at the PE teachers, standing on the sidelines in their tracksuit bottoms, shouting at us for not being more lively as the notorious British weather lashed our legs. Playing hockey or running cross country in the winter with exposed legs was not a barrel of laughs: we used to try and mitigate chapped and blue skin by smothering our legs in vaseline on icy days.

And don’t get me started on the horrors of the sweaty-smelling COMMUNAL SHOWERS: entering and walking through single file, having to collect our towels from a railing as we exited… 😁 There’s no doubt about it, times have changed!  Today, games/PE is a much more pleasant experience, with less-strict games teachers and weather-forgiving games kit.   Although, when I recently considered a second mortgage to purchase games kit for my daughter (a full tracksuit – no chance of cold legs there – a hoody, a thermal base layer, winter, summer and house-coloured sports tops, a skort, various socks and games and swim bag), I couldn’t help wondering if the simplicity of the 80s navy nylon knickers and its co-ordinating get up, including the stricter PE teachers, weren’t such a bad idea after all…?

Thank you for inspiring my trip down memory lane lovely AGMA 😘 with your post, Don’t be fooled by the smile.

The Royal christening: perfecting British stereotypes?

This article made me smile with its accurate and yet tongue-in-cheek references to similarities with Mary Poppins and glossy TV productions.  Like the author, it certainly made me wonder what other countries think when they see images like this: do they think this is a snapshot of British life or just a surreal experience?

On that note, I must go and hang out the bunting in preparation for afternoon tea on the lawn with friends…


A snapshot of Britain?

A snapshot of Britain?