The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Archive for May, 2023

Double Trouble

Posted by Exile on May 23, 2023

If it’s worth doing, do it well…

We were promised rain today, so digging the garden, or other outdoor activity, was going to be a bit tricky.
I was also a bit excited about the tractor I had ordered being delivered today and a whole lot of flower bulbs, corms and seeds which I hope will give the garden some colour. Coincidentally, both deliveries happened at the same time.
More about the tractor later. I have to read an instruction manual first.

So, in the event of rain, what can be done? The Americans have that fine building, The Pentagon. We can beat that. We have an eight-sided pavilion. We call it “The Octagon”. It needs some work and some fitting out…

We had removed a folding leaf table from the kitchen when we moved in. The long haired one didn’t want it and it had to go. She had me install some shelving in its place but I kept the table. One never knows…
I thought it might be the perfect thing to hang in The Octagon and it would provide me with a place to smoke my pipe in the winter, if nothing else. Having discussed the affair with the good lady, I got cracking.
Tape measure, spirit level, drill, screws, pencil, it is grand to have all the relevant tools at hand. I got to work.
I measured the width of one of the internal sections and found center. I drew a vertical reference line on the wall. I then measured for the desired height of the table and drew a horizontal reference line. The table is hung on a board which has a perpendicular section upon which the drop leaf is hinged. I measured the depth required from the table top to place the screws that hold the thing to the wall and measured the distance from center that the first screw would need. I marked accordingly. Here we go then. I drove the screw in to make a pilot hole. I placed a screw into the back of the table and lifted and pulled the table to the relevant position to set the first screw. A success. Child’s play.

Now, this thing is heavy. I needed to lift it to be able to find the position for all the other screws. This is more precise than measuring. Basically, I only needed to set one more screw and then it would be easy. I was lying on the floor, trying to lift the table, find horizontal and use the drill/screw machine to set the second screw all at once.
I needed more hands and didn’t have them. I attempted to support the end of the table with my spirit level in order to allow me to use my left hand for other, more useful purposes that just supporting a lot of weight. It was not comfortable lying on the floor either. It was difficult to reach the required height to put the screw in. And yet, despite all that, I did it. I had two screws holding the thing up! Yay.. Pat myself on the back.
Now I could set the remaining screws easily. And so I did. Job done.
I stood back and admired my handiwork. It wasn’t quite horizontal. It was central to everything, but not quite horizontal. I thought, “I’ll live with it.” But it wasn’t quite horizontal.. That would annoy me forever but I didn’t want to go through all that pain and effort again. Determined to ignore it, I gathered all my tools and prepared to leave. I turned to the door and then I realised…

It was in the wrong place!

It should have been directly opposite the door. It wasn’t. It had to go. After a good deal of cursing and a cup of tea, I removed it from its position and started again. It’s where it should be now. She had a good laugh about it. I had a long session of self chastisement but actually it didn’t matter. Having done the job once, I got it done again with less trouble in less time and used a proper support to help me find horizontal. It’s alright now. We had the wicker chairs and didn’t quite know where to put them. They have a home now.
I need to do more in there. The floor needs sanding and finishing. The windows need a good cleaning. The door doesn’t close properly and I need to find some form of lighting. There is a power supply in there. I may even fit a paraffin heater or something similar for those colder evenings.
Still, it’s a start. Better than doing nothing because of a drop of rain…


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The Garden..

Posted by Exile on May 21, 2023

…isn’t really a garden.

What we have is a remnant of what was once a copse or a piece of woodland. We have large beech trees, a silver birch, a whitebeam, a few trees that I cannot truly identify yet and a couple of large fruit trees, which may be pear or plum. I don’t think we have an apple tree but that remains to be seen. I have found young ash trees growing in the eastern side of the property which I might move to fill a few gaps in the hedgerow that borders the place.
There are young beech saplings there too. I will not be removing or cutting them down. I want some new stock to grow here, to leave behind when I’m gone. There are bluebells growing under some of these trees. Colour in the grass. A boon to the eye. There are a few really old tree stumps, cut right down to the level of the ground.
We have some fruit bushes, probably currants or gooseberry. I won’t know until they go into fruit. I am no botanist, so this is going to take me some time.

I am tackling what was once a chicken run. About 100 square meters of overgrown ground that was full of nettles and weeds and the dreaded Japanese knotweed. That has to go. I had thought of chemical assault but Round Up is apparently not effective on roots which is precisely how the knotweed spreads. I also have it out on the periphery of our property and it is on its way into the adjoining fields. I have met the local farmer. His grandfather built this house and he farms the fields that surround us. I believe he won’t want the creeping pest in his fields and I will speak with him to hear if he has something effective to kill this stuff. I’m sure he will.
I planted two honeysuckle close to the fence around this chicken run. They are doing well and I will train them up the two metre high fence. I can’t dig for long these days. My back won’t have it and I don’t want the pain again, so I dig one line across the entire width of the run every day. This is to clean the ground. So far, I have removed a trailer full of nettle roots and other plant debris. I have planted a cherry tree right in the middle and later I will sow grass and a mixture of wild flowers to make a wild garden surrounding the cherry. I’m at the half way stage now. It has taken a month so far. I have planted some bush beans at the edges of the run to give a little shelter. Once they are harvested I will remove what is left and till the whole patch in the autumn with the cultivator ready for grass.

I have to clean up and determine an area which holds a pond. I believe it has a plastic liner but is so overgrown that getting to it now is out of the question. I believe the liner is punctured as there is little water to be found in it. This is close to our garden pavillion. A solid structure, totally enclosed with large windows. There is no furniture in there at the moment but that will come with time. I could use it as a sort of greenhouse if I chose to do so. Add that to the terrace, which is large and faces the West at the back of the house and we have a lot of recreational space to relax in, even if the weather isn’t all that good.

I have bought a garden tractor to get the grass cut. 1500 square meters is a lot of ground to go round with a man powered lawn mower. I will not attempt it. Despite my plans to leave a lot of area as wild as is possible without being overgrown, there is a huge area of grass to be kept and clipped. Also necessary will be a small trailer I can drag round to collect bits of fallen branches and twigs from the large trees. They tend to shed a little in the wind.

There is much to do. I am in no hurry. We shall see what grows here this year and adjust as necessary as we go forward. I want more colour. I have no idea as to how I will achieve that. But I will…!

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Settling in..

Posted by Exile on May 7, 2023

It’s been a hard few months… but it’s starting to feel like home.

We moved in on the 15th of March and ended the day sitting amongst a hundred and twenty boxes and a stack of furniture that we didn’t really know where to put. A good nights sleep and the unpacking got underway.
Our bed was in the right place but that was only temporary. My dear wife had decided we needed a new bed a long time ago and now was the time to find it. Likewise, the old living room furniture was due for replacement, so that had to be done too. The cellar needed some shelving to hold everything that it needed to hold and I had to find space for a food store and a secondary kitchen area for the rougher side of cooking. The dining room was the only place that seemed not to need any great effort. At least we would eat in a comfortable place while we put the rest of the house in order… I got the internet working, the TV and the wi-fi. We could now follow the news, stay in touch with the bank and solicitors and such and generally conduct our daily business and pay any bills.

We began to find problems. A wall in the living room needed some repair. The plaster had let go of the brickwork and we had a large “blister” under the wallpaper. The toilet kept blocking up. The carpeting on the upstairs landing and down over the stairs was worn right out. The carpet in the smaller upstairs bedroom wasn’t worth much either. All that had to be replaced. My good lady didn’t want carpet in the entry way by the front door either. Vinyl flooring was the way to go. New curtains, well, blinds, was what she wanted.
I got hold of a drain and sewer company, we ordered new furniture, I found a builder and decorator. We ordered new curtains, new carpets, new flooring. All this takes time and it has been a month of mess, noise and waiting for professional help and workmen, but it’s all done now. Thank heavens. Time to sit back, relax and breathe.

Living here is going to be good. We have moved into a small community. Everybody knows everybody else. We are around 300 yards from the village but we have not escaped the attention of the locals. Many have welcomed us as they pass by and people appear friendly and welcoming. I do know one guy in the village. We are old pipe smoking companions. We used to meet at various competitions. Small world.
There are no shops nearby. The nearest supermarket is a couple of miles away. The largest town is 15 miles away, the nearest town doesn’t offer much and is 5 miles away. Shopping is going to be on a weekly basis.
There is no “popping down to the shop” here. It’s a trip, whichever way you go.
The landscape is on our side. We are up on a hill so our horizon is slightly larger than it once was. We have no direct neighbours, we are surrounded by fields. The nearest neighbours are a murder of crows and the closest human occupation is out of earshot. We are visited by hares and pheasants and other creatures. The road is just outside our property but is so lightly trafficked that we are not bothered by it. No street lighting, so the sky is big and visible at night. There is a beach not far away. A large and yet to be explored woodland beckons at about a kilometer away. A small harbour close by. I can be happy here. It has all I need to occupy my mind.

The garden will need some work. I intend to let it go this year in order to see what grows where. We have 11 large trees on the property. Six are beech, one silver birch, a couple of undetermined fruit trees, pear or apple but I’m not sure, there are fruit bushes, probably currants. There are flowering shrubs spread around the place and a few bushes that I have no idea about. Elderberry. I always wanted a cherry tree, so I planted one. We’ll see how that goes… The long haired one wants some wild flowers around the place. I’ll have to figure out where they will grow best. We have the room, I just need to decide on the placing. I have found three new beech seedlings in the lawn. I will look after them and hopefully transplant them into the hedgerow. We have a few gaps there that will need filling soon. I like the thought of leaving a few trees behind me when I’m gone.

This place will be my last adventure. I’m seventy years old this year. I hope I have some years left here. I know I will be happy here. I am also determined to be happy. We own this place outright. Economically, we are fine.
My daughter and grandson have just visited for the first time this weekend. They seemed to like the place. I took the lad fishing. We didn’t catch a thing and it got cold in the end but he enjoyed himself no end. We’ll try again in the summer. I need to get the motor bike out. The country roads around here were made for cruising sedately on two wheels. We will make friends here.

I’ll try to keep you all updated as we continue along. Be patient.
Wish us luck.

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