The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

In the Doghouse

Posted by Exile on August 3, 2015

Well, not really. But dogs in the house.. again.

It’s been about three months since our little dog died. She was the last of two that we adopted some seven years ago and both dogs had heart problems. Sadly, they died too young but had a great life here with us. Grieving over, we have decided to take two more on board. That wasn’t the plan, but it is how it worked out. We intended to adopt only one, a dachshund again, but according to the rescue kennel, the chihuahua next door was her best friend. So we took him too. She’s 10½ years old. He is 6.  Fie and Zimba. An unlikely couple. They ain’t big, but they are cute. OK, the chihuahua thinks he’s big. Unfortunately, he has been badly fed in the past and has lost half his teeth, so he’s handicapped in a fight but definitely not afraid of bigger dogs. I have to clean his teeth for him too. That’s gonna be fun… She’s a miniature long haired dachshund and, apart from her age, there are no issues and she is very lively.

They sleep in our bed. We don’t notice them. They are small. Tiny in fact.

Early days yet, but they seem to be settling in well and we each have our own dog. Fie sticks to my wife like glue and the little Mexican fella is always at my heels. We’ll see how this develops.

IMG_0300 IMG_0299

Welcome home you two. Live long and well.

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Ask a Silly Question…

Posted by Exile on July 17, 2015

I was out for a day with my 4 year old grandson. We went swimming at the local pool. Well, local for him, a 40 mile drive for me. It’s been a while since I was there last. About 13 years when his mother was 12.

It was good seeing the old pool again. It hasn’t changed much. We splashed about for an hour or so in the warm pool, which is quite deep for him, he can’t touch the bottom and he spent most of the time swimming with his inflatable ‘wings’ on. All great fun, we played with every floatation toy we could find and I must have covered miles of swimming.
Finally, we were all wrinkly and had had enough water sport for one day.

Getting back to the changing rooms we got under the shower to get the chlorinated smell off. My grandson announced that he needed to pee and I went off to get dried and dressed. Nearly dressed, I realised that I hadn’t seen the lad for some time. It doesn’t take that long to pee, I thought, so where the hell is he and just what is he doing?
A quick search of the showers and toilet drew a blank. The only place he could be was in the sauna.

I opened the door to the said sauna. There were a lot of men in there. It’s a popular place for us old ‘uns. Sure enough, sitting right on the end of the lowest bench was the lad himself.

”What are you doing in here, young man?” I asked.

“Sweating.” came the prompt and succinct reply.

Every man in the sauna broke out in gales of laughter. I left him to it. Obviously the lad knows what he’s doing, even if I don’t.

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Oh Nuts…

Posted by Exile on July 14, 2015

I had a bit of a shock a couple of weeks ago. I woke up with a real sense of discomfort emanating from my right testicle. Which was disconcerting, to say the least, as the right one is my favourite. Under the shower I had a good feel around and discovered a lump below and behind the ball. That’s not good, I thought. A lump and pain. I rang the doctor and made an appointment to get my nuts looked at by a professional.
He took a peek and squeezed the offending nut. Pronouncing a verdict of ‘not sure’, he sent me to a clinic specialising in ultrasound examination. I had to wait for the exam as we were off on the cruise in two days. Cruise over, I met up at the clinic yesterday and had my balls looked at again. Scanning was quick and painless and, according to the pictures they received on the high definition screen, there is no tumor to be seen.

No tumor. Woohoo..

However, the extra little bit that grows beside the actual nut may be a little inflamed. That bit has a weird name. It’s called the epididymis. And it isn’t too serious. Just annoying and at times, painful. Like you’ve been kicked ever so gently in the nuts.

This, then, is treatable. I have to go back to my doctor and we’ll figure it out. It may have to be removed, but that isn’t serious either. One can live quite happily without one’s epididymis.

So, I’m a little bit wiser now. A little more aware of my body and its functions. And wiser in more ways than just that one.

I also know now, that is quite difficult to remain objective about anything when your balls are being fondled by a pretty young nurse…!!

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The Cruise

Posted by Exile on July 13, 2015

clip_image002My wife’s idea. She thought we needed a break and booked a trip round the Baltic Sea. With all the trimmings and a get-anything-you-like-on-board-for-free card, we paid a bargain price because the ship had cabins left unbooked. Always had an eye for a bargain my missus, which is why I married her and she married me.

We packed all our best gear and duly boarded the MSC Sinfonia at 14.00 hrs. on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Copenhagen. We got aboard early to avoid the hordes and spent the afternoon exploring the floating hotel. I decided to avail myself of the freebie card in one of the bars. It worked. All the booze I can swallow for zero money. And food. Cakes. Ice cream. You name it. Whip out the card and sign a receipt for 0.00. Brilliant.

We had booked our evening meal for as late as possible, which was a good thing as we had to practice emergency mustering at the lifeboats at 19.15. We had to grab our lifejackets and muster at muster point G. Here, you put your lifejacket on and practice standing around under the lifeboat for a half hour.
I got bored by the standing around and thought I’d cheer the mustering guy up. ‘’My wife wants to know if these life jackets come in any other colours as this one doesn’t match her shoes.’’ He didn’t seem to find that funny. Nor did he seem to appreciate my running round the muster station shouting ‘’We’re doomed, we’re doomed. We’re all going to die.’’ One or two of the others at muster station G did though and conversation was attempted. No sooner started than finished, we had all passed the mustering test and we were dismissed to return to normal cruising activities. This meant dinner and more free booze. Surprisingly, after all the free food and beer I had consumed during my afternoon recce, I wasn’t too hungry but once I got started on the soup I decided to do my very best and ate a hearty four course dinner just to please the missus. Dinner done, we went off to try the cocktail bar and casino. Many free cocktails later, we called it a night and went off to bed.

During the night, the ship moved and we woke up in Germany.


clip_image004Having arrived in Northern Germany we disembarked into a popular seaside resort and glorious sunshine. In fact it got to be very hot and sticky so we didn’t stay ashore for more than a couple of hours. It was the local town festival week so the whole affair looked as if a circus had invaded and occupied the town. Being a Sunday, the local shops were mostly closed and those that had opened were tourist traps.
It was hot. We took a liquid lunch.

Back on board ship we took a tour round the bars and ended up in the pub. One can smoke in the pub. Only one minor incident to report. As I was explaining to the barman where we would be sitting, I stretched my arm out to my side and pointing with one finger, I accidentally poked a passing waitress right in the eye. She took it all with a teary smile and I was hard pressed to apologise enough to the poor girl. We drank our drinks and beat a hasty retreat to our cabin.

From there on, it was dinner and cocktails all evening and finally off to the land of Nod. As we sailed we encountered the worst thunder storm I have ever witnessed at sea and the good ship Sinfonia was hit by lightening at least 3 times during the night. The noise was ear shattering and the lightening was absolutely spectacular.

Day three is a sea day

 We are heading North towards Stockholm. I am presently trapped in a bar with free booze.. The weather is not good so the day gets broken up by breakfast, shopping, bar, lunch, bar, bar, nap, dinner and bar.


clip_image006All ashore and walk round in a gale punctuated by rain and sunshine. I’m sure Stockholm is a pleasant place to be in the summer sunshine but we didn’t experience that. My eyes were sandblasted and I found the wind cold and unpleasant. My dearest had to buy a jacket to keep warm. We shortened our shore leave and returned early to the boat and visited the bar.






On then, to Tallin.

clip_image008Again, the weather wasn’t good. The old town is beautiful and is the tourist trap one expects it to be. My watch strap broke and I found a watchmaker who effected repairs. Some of us went shopping again and I didn’t. I did enjoy being in Tallin though and may be tempted to return at some later date. 

Back on the boat, we went for dinner at eight p.m. I am not impressed by the Italian kitchen. I ordered the beef and expected a nice piece of meat, well cooked and with some trimmings. What I got amounted to three pieces of undercooked dead cow and some fancy vinegary, oily sauce lovingly prepared by a chimp.

While I’m on the subject of food, breakfast leaves a lot to be desired. The continental is easy enough being a bun with meat, cheese, cereal and so on. The English breakfast is virtually unrecognisable. How hard can it be to open a can of beans and make some toast? There are beans. Not baked as we know them. No. These are some delicate foreign exotic beans, plucked from beneath the hooves of stampeding llamas and lovingly soaked in olive oil and prepared by an overpaid egoist chef who believes he is the world authority on beans. I have news. Heinz nailed it years ago. Give up and accept it. I am also convinced the sausages are made of goat meat and the bacon leaves a lot to be desired. An egg is, thankfully, still an egg. Hard to mess that up but that doesn’t stop them trying. The eggs get fried in olive oil.

This ship is populated by Italians. They are noisy in the extreme and equally as impolite. At the buffet, they behaved like pigs at a trough, pushing others away and snatching food from the plates as opposed to simply taking what ever one wants in a reasonable and orderly fashion. Their children display a complete lack of discipline and are given to loud violent tantrums.

‘’Hamburger Paradise’’ isn’t. It is purgatory. The buffet is free for all and is a ‘free for all’. Beware stampeding Italians.

I have checked my personal indexes. Beer down, cocktails up. Tea down. Chocolate and cake both critically low.

St. Petersburg. Or Leningrad, as I like to call it.

clip_image010I never thought I would set foot in Russia. The old adversary. I spent eleven years ready to visit violence upon this country. Today, I came in peace. Lucky for them.
Just to prove it, here I am outside the Winter Palace unarmed and not being extremely dangerous.

Surprisingly, a pleasant place to be. I saw the Winter Palace and took a lot of pictures. The place reminded me of Budapest or Prague. People looked well fed, affluent and well dressed for the most part. Gasprom owns the town and has seriously polluted the river Neva. Have I seen the cultural high point of Russia? No shopping here as we had no visa and were reliant on the pre-arranged ship tour. We were driven round the city and herded like sheep through a souvenir emporium. Free vodka. The sun shone briefly. One of the forty days of Sunshine this city gets each year..

Dinner on board with a nice German couple, Dieter and Christine. We’d met them in the cocktail bar earlier and had a bit of a cocktail and whisky party with them. Great fun.





Last day.

A day aboard as we sail, homeward bound, to Copenhagen. We are due to get there at about midday tomorrow but are not to be disembarked until about quarter past one tomorrow afternoon. The weather is awful. Cold and windy. Spent most of the day relaxing in our cabin. Packed most of our gear. Gala night in the restaurant tonight. I wonder how many tee-shirts I’ll see there. There is always a dress code. I have tried to respect it. Not all of my fellow travellers do. Uncouth commoners, they should be sent from the restaurant and told to dress accordingly.
Dinner was followed by more free cocktails and a late night. Which may have been a wrong move as we had to get up early the next day.

We slept soundly.

Finally, as we arrived in Danish waters the following morning, the sun came out. Welcome home.


So, what did we learn?

Apart from the uncontrollable weather, which wasn’t good to us, the whole experience was rather good. Most of what the restaurant dished up was very good and the wine selection was great. The crew and cabin staff, bar staff and everyone that ran about fulfilling our needs were cheerful and well trained. The restaurant service was tip-top.

Days on board ship can be a bit boring but if you can find a watering hole and a little entertainment for the afternoon, you’ll be OK.

Get a balcony cabin. Living in the belly of the ship would be claustrophobic after a few days.

Would I do it again? Yes. I might choose a different company to sail with but the whole idea of cruising is to travel to as many lands as is possible in the run of a comparatively short time with as little effort as possible. Travelling while you sleep is an excellent way to do just that. We may not have seen much of the countries we visited but one can get the idea that one isn’t done with the place. For example, I may just have to go back to Russia and Estonia at a later date. There is more to see.

If you like being pampered to any degree, then try a cruise.

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Old Father Time..

Posted by Exile on September 28, 2014

I recently bought a watch. Not just any old watch, although it is just that. Old.

I spotted it on Ebay, which is not my favorite place to do my shopping but once in a while, I go and see what’s on offer. I do have a pocket watch and a chain. My wife bought the watch and very nice it is too. I bought an antique silver chain to hang it on and a couple of antique fobs for decoration. That is when I got the antique silver bug. Antique chain? Needs an antique watch. So the hunt was on. Looking for a working, large, solid silver watch took me to Ebay. I looked for a week.

Finally I found this Waltham in a silver Dennison case. All hallmarked and working, purportedly keeping good time.
I looked at the pictures for an age. I read the description several times.
Eventually, I hit the “buy it now” button and promptly paid the bill. £175.00. Turns out, I got a bargain.

I inspected The watch as soon as I had it in my hand. I disagreed with the seller’s description. He said it was hallmarked for London 1908. Wrong. It’s Birmingham 1912.
He said it weighed 125 grams. Wrong. It’s 136 grams.

The case is made by A.L.Dennison in Birmingham, England. The movement is from the Waltham American Watch company in Massachusetts.
According to the serial number on the movement, it was produced in 1909. I cleaned the case with a silver polishing cloth. It came up a treat.

The watch is key wound and the hands are set by opening the glass and gently turning the minute hand in the required direction until the right time is set. It keeps perfect time. I’ve had it running now for 36 hours and it hasn’t missed a beat. The sound of that old movement is wonderful.

I’ve married the watch to my double Albert chain. The watch at one end, the key at the other. The whole set up weighs a half pound.

Apparently, to keep the watch working well, one cannot simply put it away and leave it. This would actually damage the watch. The oil dries and gums up and stops the working parts from moving as they should. One should keep the watch running at all times, winding it once a day, every day.

It needs servicing too. There are various suggestions as to when or how often. Some say yearly, others say as long as two or three years between services. Servicing involves stripping the watch to pieces and washing all the individual parts in soapy water, then a cyanide solution and then alcohol. Then reassemble and oil all the moving parts. I won’t be doing that myself then, but I’ll find someone who can.

I find it fascinating that something so old can still function so well. I wonder how many watches that are bought today will still keep time in 100 years from now. With the right care, this watch may still be working then too. Which speaks volumes for the skill and method of our forefathers and their manufacturing abilities.

We live in throw away times. Buy something now and toss it away within ten years to replace it with the new version. Or even shorter when it comes to our electronics. I suppose that is what draws me to these old things. They have stood the test of time. They are still attractive by default and valuable beyond monetary value.

When I’m a thing of the past, this watch will be in my grandson’s possession. If he takes good care of it and appreciates it, it will probably outlast him too. I’ll take my time and tell him what he’s getting.

Hopefully, he will appreciate the history lesson.

N.B. Pictures nicked form Ebay…

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Pimping my Lawnmower

Posted by Exile on May 18, 2014

If there is one job I detest, it’s mowing the bloody lawn. If I had my way, I’d cover the garden with asphalt, but the missus thinks that grass is nice so I’m not allowed to do that. Something else I don’t like is the lawnmower. It’s been a good piece of kit but it has seen better days and frankly, it should be put out to grass. Pardon the pun. However, looking at it from a purely mechanical point of view, the motor is good, starts relatively easily and has been a good runner. The chassis and wheels though, are another kettle of fish. The rear wheels are wobbly to the extreme and the chassis is getting old and rusty. The choke lever went years ago and, to start the machine, I have to hold the choke open with a length of string.

I should replace it, but I’m a stubborn old git at the best of times so I decided to fix her up. The main problem was the wheels. They are mounted on stub axles and the chassis has weakened to the point where it can’t hold the wheels upright any more, causing them to rub on the frame and impede my forward momentum when mowing the bloody lawn. I decided to strengthen the mounting point by placing some big washers at either side of the frame where the axles fit and tighten up the locking nuts to squeeze the assembly together. Brilliant.
Well, it would have been brilliant, but the axles and retaining nuts were so rusty that in my attempt to loosen them, they both snapped. Cheap chinese bolts. Shite.

This forced me into the iShed to find replacement bolts, which I don’t have. I do have some ten millimeter stud though and some lightweight tubing that fitted through the wheels and would accommodate said studding. Hacksaw at the ready, then, I cut both tube and studding and fashioned new axles. Joy of joys, they fitted and the job was a good ‘un. The lawnmower travels easily now and with no more rubbing of wheels on chassis.

The blade wasn’t looking too good either so I removed it, since I was under the machine anyway, and took it to the iShed to grind a new edge on both ends of the blade. That went well and soon I had refitted it and bolted it neatly onto the drive shaft.

Having the thing the right way up now on the new wheels, I looked at the engine. The motor. Call it what you like. Very little oil on the dipstick. I have lawn mower oil somewhere. SAE30, if I remember rightly. I found it and topped up the crankcase. I fueled the thing while I was at it and filled her up with 95 octane.

I can’t really do anything about the choke yet. I need to design and build a lever affair that will allow me to connect a wire to both lever and choke lever on the carburettor, so my string will have to do for now.
I cleared up all my tools and put them away. I cleared up in the iShed. All I needed to do for my own satisfaction was to mow the lawn after all my efforts fixing up the mower.
I went back to said mower, adjusted my string choke, grabbed the throttle control and pulled on the starter cord.

It fired up immediately.  Success.

And just as I was ready to go… it started to rain.

I hate mowing the bloody lawn.

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Behold. The iShed is Finished..

Posted by Exile on May 13, 2014

And bloody marvellous it is too..

Finally, I have the shed I always wanted. I built it, mostly alone. Therefore, I call it The iShed.
It is insulated against the elements. It has heating. Electricity. A flagstone floor and a workbench. Building it has been a labour of love and a herculean one at that. It took me weeks of endless screwdriving, pushing and pulling and hauling of lumber, Rockwool, sand and concrete flagstones. My laptop computer can even find the house WiFi connection from the bench. I have a radio out there for company while I’m working. Lighting and sockets for my power tools and I’ve put shelving units up for spares, tools and other stuff that gets stored in The iShed, like the Weber grill and some garden furniture. For good measure, I have a thermometer and a hygrometer mounted on the wall. Climate control. Can’t have Thumper rusting, can I?

The woodpile is housed under the extended shed roof. Enclosed on three sides, dry and airy, the wood is well stored there and there is room for me to stand in the shelter of the roof and cut, chop and stack wood for the stove. There’s even lighting out there too.

I did have one little problem. After it had settled, the tar membrane roof covering developed a small leak or two. It had bulged up at one or two points along two of the seams between layers. It took me a while to find them, but once that was done, I sealed them up with cold tar and recoated the outside of the seams with the same gooey black stuff. Now it doesn’t leak any more and, if it ever does again, I know what to look for and I know how to fix it. One expects teething troubles. I’m glad I found them now and not in the middle of winter.

Here’s a couple of pictures. I’m afraid I didn’t take many. I should have taken a load of ‘em.. The first one is of the flagstones going in, the second is of the workbench, which I built from scratch. The bench top is a cheap kitchen counter top, cut to length, and it affords me a great surface to work on. The drawers are an old kitchen unit, removed from our kitchen when we had the dishwasher installed some years ago.


I have about seven square metres of floor space, room for Thumper and a bit more, including the garden tools. I painted around the workbench to give a bit more light to that area. I have since installed a bench vice and moved my bench drill and a grinder in. I intend to install another cabinet with more drawer space at a later date.
I have a mini fridge for beer. It’s not installed yet, but give me time enough and I’ll get round to it.

It’s organised, dry, warm and generally a pleasant place to stand and work in. I’m pleased that Thumper has a secure place to be kept in, that my tools are gathered in one place and that I have a place to retreat to when I have some great project in mind.

Hail The iShed. It was worth all the effort, sweat, pain, work and expense.

Every man should have one.

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Windsurfing is Not My Specialty

Posted by Exile on March 17, 2014

Well, actually, not at all. But there were boards involved and the wind was definitely up…

It’s no secret that once I get stuck into something, I have to keep going no matter what the circumstances may be. Putting a solid roof on the shed was only the first step in creating a comfortable home for my motorbike which will double up as the workshop/toolshed that I’ve always wanted. Once the roof was on, I decided to insulate it for warmth in the winter and thought it might be a good idea to insulate the walls as well since the wind was still blowing through the gaps. The shed is 10 years old, warped in places and there were open spaces to let the draught in.
Can’t have that sort of thing going on, now can we? Well I can’t, so that’s that.

My mate had well and truly worn himself out on the roof, so he wasn’t going to be of much use. I decided, do it alone and do it well. Stubborn old git that I am.

To insulate the underside of the roof was not going to be easy but I had thought it through. I created a ledge all down one side of the shed to rest one end of the chipboard plates on. The other end could then be lifted up and supported by makeshift pillars to hold them up while I got busy with the electric screwdriver. The insulation held itself up by being forced gently up into the spaces between the rafters. All that was done in nice weather and went quite nicely, thank you. It took me a whole day, a lot of tea and smoke breaks and very little foul language, but I got it done and am proud of the result.

Encouraged by this success, I decided the walls must be easier to do because one isn’t continually fighting gravity when working on the vertical bits. I created the framework, measured and checked again, even drew a plan sketch of each wall. Victory was guaranteed. In fact, I’m nearly finished with the whole job so the arithmetic and planning seems to have been pretty damn good.

The fun part was getting the material in.

See, the weather changed. We had a bit of a storm. It’s still blowing a bit now, three days after.

Undeterred by Mother Nature’s whimsy, I had to get on with the job so it was off to the builders merchants and buy material. Storm or not. I bought screws, more insulation, metal brackets and, finally, chipboards. The boards are big. Solid and heavy too. They measure 2.4 metres by 1,2 metres. The trolley I used to carry them out to my car allows one to stand the boards up, rather than lay them flat. This was no problem inside the merchants hall but once I got into the car park in a force 8 gale I realised I was in trouble. Holding a hundred kilos of weight on four wheels with what is effectively over two square metres of sail solidly mounted on board is not easy.
I set off like a rocket… totally out of control and like a speeding bullet, I careered up the parking lot being dragged along by the cart. I tried to turn it sideways into the wind but that made it tack like a yacht which increased my speed, changed my direction of travel and did nothing for my self esteem.
Luckily, the wind slowed for a second and I finally managed to stop the bloody thing before anyone or anything got hurt or damaged about one hundred yards from my car and very close to the main road. Even more luckily, one of the staff had seen all this and, despite almost laughing himself to death, offered to give me a hand.
Eventually, we loaded the whole lot into my car and I could journey homeward with the backdoor of the car open and plates and wood hanging out. (It’s an estate car. The back door really is at the back.)

My problems didn’t end there. Once at home, I had to get the plates out, one by one, and carry them to the shed. The wind was still blowing. Taking one plate in my outstretched arms. I lifted it from the car and carried it onto the pavement. Once again, the wind caught me and, like a human kite, I was forced down the pavement whilst fighting the drag of the wooden sail. Determined not to be blown to kingdom come by the thing, I hung on for dear life and finally wrestled it up over my head to lay it flat which meant the wind no longer had a grip on it. I had to repeat the process four times before I was finished. Getting the small bits in was easy.

I may have to wait for better weather before I get the last bit of this project done.

If you hear reports of strange things flying over Denmark, you’ll know I didn’t.

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Fiddlers on the Roof

Posted by Exile on March 4, 2014

A tale of ‘high level’ activity.

The old roof on the shed had never impressed me. Made of wobbly plastic sheets held down by elongated screws, it cracked with age and moved about in the wind. It was a constant battle to keep water out and it leaked at every junction despite the fall of gradient. Capillary action is not to be underestimated. It had to go. My motorbike, Thumper, lives in the shed and I was fed up with having to cover him with tarpaulins and constantly wipe the damp of him. Hellfire, indoor areas should be dry..! Not only that, the roof extends over the woodpile. I was tired of buying dried wood only to have it get wet again. Something had to be done.

asphaltrollThat something was an easy decision, albeit expensive, but you don’t get something for nothing. The roof would be replaced by a truly waterproof cover. Asphalt roofing. Guaranteed watertight.
The process is simple. Off with the old plastic roofing and cover the entire roof area with wooden plates. These plates measure 1220 x 2440 mm, are 7 mm thick and heavy as hell in a gentle breeze. Then, roll out the roofing, stick it down with cold tar and add nails under the overlap, which is again sealed with cold tar. Cover the edges of the roof construction with a fold over and nail it fast. Result: one lovely, black, watertight roof. Sounds easy. No it isn’t. At least, not when it’s blowing a bit and very cold.

I had enlisted the help of a good friend. We do all sorts for each other and even work together, on the odd occasion, redecorating and renovating peoples homes. He was happy to help, or so he said, so I got him up on the roof with me. Kneeling on solid plates, so we wouldn’t fall through the now brittle plastic roof, we began removing the three hundred screws that held it in place. It was surprisingly cold up there. And wet. And windy. We were soon shivering and our knees were knackered. We progressed, slowly, until the old roofing was gone and then adjourned for warmth and coffee.

Suitably revitalised we returned to the shed. I went up onto the roof, he handed the plates up to me. I wriggled and pulled them into place. With one third of the roof covered we both set about screwing them into place. It was still cold. and windy. But no longer wet.
More coffee.
We repeated the process until the roof was covered.  Finally, with a solid flat surface beneath us we retired for a lunch break and the sun came out. We were looking forward to getting the asphalt down and would hopefully be done with it before sunset. We trimmed the ends off of the final plates to adjust for the length of the shed and broke out the tar. One has to spread this sticky black goop out with a trowel. It isn’t difficult but is time consuming and on worn out knees, frankly, it’s a pain. My mate worked away at this while I carried rolls of asphalt roofing material up the ladder.

asphaltroofThe critical part is getting the first roll down. If that one goes down straight and flat without folds or bulges then everything else follows nicely. We took our time, we measured and checked everything twice. Allowing for the overlap and covering the edges of the roof, we got it right and then nailed the folded edges into place. The knackered knees really suffered now as we were working on gritty asphalt instead of nice flat boards. We nailed the trailing edge down, daubed more tar over the line of nails and rolled out the second roll of asphalt giving ourselves a ten centimeter overlap. This process was repeated six times and finally the roof was covered. 
We then crawled down the ladder, cleared up all the mess and put the tools away.

By now, we were finished, not only with the job but also physically. Done in and dirty we went to wash up and discovered that the long haired and lovely one had prepared food and drink for us. Gratefully, we sat down at the table and reflected on the days work. The result is great. Everything fitted into place, the roof is solid and watertight and we agreed we are never going to do anything like that again.

Hopefully, I’ll never have to!

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A Load of Crap

Posted by Exile on February 15, 2014


A few months ago, just before the winter set in, I was out riding the motor bike round the island and generally just enjoying doing that, when something caught my eye. Piles of polythene bags stacked up outside one of the many riding stables that exist out here. ‘Hello’, I thought, ‘That looks like horse-poo..’. It was. Tons of the lovely stuff. Just what my garden needs. I made a quick u-turn and stopped in the driveway that meandered its way to the stables. I couldn’t find anybody at first but after calling and walking towards the buildings, a head appeared over the fence. ‘Hello’, I said, and introduced myself.
I asked the guy about the great pile of poo outside his house and asked if he would consider selling a few hundredweight of it. ‘Sell it?’, he said, ‘There’s an interesting concept..’
I must have looked confused. He continued. ‘You can take as much of it as you like. No charge, just come and take it. We have twenty or so horses here, they produce it by the ton. We can’t get rid of it so I bag it up and people come and get it.’
We agreed, I would be back in the morning and I’d fill my car.shite

That same evening, a stupid woman jogger with ears full of that ipad nonsense ran out in front the motor bike causing me to step off. I twisted my right ankle like never before and damaged my left thumb.

Never mind. The following morning, wounded and weak from the pain, I managed to drive, very carefully, back to the stables and the guy helped me load bags of poo into the car. Asking who collected all the poo together he answered, ‘My two daughters.’ I gave the guy a hundred crowns and said he should split it between them. Happily and with a rare old pong in the car, I drove slowly home with all the windows rolled down.
On reaching mia casa I couldn’t carry the stuff into the garden because of my ankle, so I enlisted the long haired and lovely one to push the wheelbarrow. She wasn’t much for it. Shifting crap around is not really her cup of tea, but needs must when the Devil calls, so she agreed, very reluctantly and with a good deal of verbal dissent, to help. I loaded from the car, she schlepped the barrow in and tipped out. Four trips and we were done. ‘Think of the tomatoes next year.’ I said. I got no reply but if looks could kill, I was a dead man.
I have no idea why, but she spent the next hour in the shower.

That was how we got it home. Today, I went out into the garden and looked at the pile of crap. It has rotted a bit despite the winter cold but it wasn’t frozen. Good enough. I began by throwing the bags onto the garden patches trying to gauge the amount of poo per square yard and balance the whole affair out equally. Satisfied that it was fairly shared out, I broke the bags open and started spreading it out evenly over the garden.

Really stinky stuff.
Poor neighbours.

Job done, I only need it to rain for a couple of days to let it wash into the soil. After that comes the digging but that will have to wait until March when I start planting my seed stock and preparing to plant out. The greenhouse received a load of crap too, but I made a mulch for the indoor part of the garden. Mulch? Yep. Take a bathtub full of horse crap and add water. Stir well and distribute by the bucket load. Messy but highly recommended.

I’m  betting, we’ll get some great tomatoes this year.

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