Wednesday 30 December 2020

Frosty day

 Everywhere was iced over this morning, so it meant that I could go up into the field behind the houses. At the moment it is very muddy up there, but today it was all solid ice. I don't own any wellies so I have to pick my days. 

There are two newt ponds up there and what looks like a home for some sort of animal. There are pipes leading in to a mound of soil, and my guess is for hedgehogs. Nothing in sight today. 

Darren went out for a cautious run, and he is on a run streak - running every day. I think that he is on day 55, although his inspiration, Mike is on more than 3,300. Good start though. 

He has also spent the rest of the day in the kitchen and made some rather tasty wholemeal cobs, creme brulee that we haven't tried yet but he has low hopes for, and fajitas for tea.

Sunday 27 December 2020


 Another morning run, and another afternoon walk around a world class country estate. This time it was Stowe. Our walk was around the outside of the estate and grounds because we weren't members of the National Trust.

We set off up an imposing driveway, 

and then we walked around the outside of the gardens along a muddy path. It was nice, and after a while we saw a beautiful grotto area just behind a little gate. 

We nipped around the side of the gate and carried along the way, gradually seeing more statues and buildings, and marvelling at how grand it was for the owners to just leave them along our path. 

Eventually the penny dropped and we realised that we had mistakenly got in to the grounds, and what an amazing place it was. 

We never did find the main house, but it was a lovely walk and next time we will go back and do the walk properly. 

Friday 25 December 2020

Christmas day walk

 It's a lovely bright but very cold Christmas day. Started the morning with a not parkrun 5k and then breakfast.

After that a short drive to Blenheim Palace for a walk around the grounds.

It was a bit of an unsteady start as the gates were closed, but we followed some people in the know down some unpromising steps and then through a couple of secret gates and we were in.

Beautiful views right from the off.

Apparently this is the finest view in England, but although good, I desagree.

We followed the path, and it got a bit wet at times.

Luckily it wasn't deep and we carried on.

We then got to a section where the path joined a river and I was seriously thinking of trying to jump it,

but my little island was very unstable so we carried on and eventually made it through.

A very nice ten kilometre walk, and back home for a zoom call and dinner later with S and P.

Thursday 24 December 2020

Flooding on the estate

 It rained all day yesterday, but was gloriously sunny today. I went out for a walk and headed first towards the little ford near the Grand Design houses.

The ford was in full flow, and imagine my surprise to see a Mini heading straight for it. 

The car made it through, but huge clouds of smoke was coming out of the exhaust pipe, the number plate was hanging on by a thread and water was pouring out from everywhere. I found out later that the car is now in a very bad state, although looking at the photo I am not too surprised. 

Both sides of the road were flooded, and this is the view to the main train line. 

I then went to the nearby park where we used to do the Parkrun. Here is roughly the start line! 

This is the route to the finish line! 

The road to the station was closed with numerous stranded cars. 

And finally, a view of the mini stone henge in the park. 

Hopefully it will soon be back to normal. 

Sunday 20 December 2020

Christmas cheer

 We went to a lovely event this afternoon.

For the past few weekends some of our neighbours have been working hard making a festive walk through the local wood. I know that it poured with rain on at least one of their building sessions, and it was very cold so a great effort all around.

They also set up a coffee, mulled wine and cake stall on the village green. 

After a warming wine we wandered over to the wood and followed the fairy lights in.

What a nice surprise, and a great way to build up the Graven Hill community spirit. 

Thursday 17 December 2020

Custom cabinetry

 A quick reminder of my plan for the living room.

I knew exactly how I wanted it to look, and this is how it looks this morning. 

Daz has outdone himself this time, and the shelves even get narrower towards the right hand side so that smaller books and paperbacks fit nicely on the shelves. 

I bought some cushion foam and a blanket from Ikea and cut them down to make a window seat. 

I also watched an American DIY programme a few days ago and was impressed that they built a reading nook. We have made what we are calling a book nook and I am testing it out. 

Unfortunately it turns out that we don't have enough stuff to fill all of the shelves, but we have room to grow into them. 

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Airtightness test

We have spent a stressful three days preparing for our airtightness test. I have crawled around on my knees for hours every day putting a bead of decorators caulk along the base of every skirting board in the house.

I have also cut out round pieces of plastic and taped them over all of the mechanical ventilation vents in each room. 

11.30am today was the time to find out if it had been worth all of the trouble. 

Our inspector, Andrew, turned up and set up an airtight seal around the front door with a giant fan in the middle of it. 

He turned the fan on and it started sucking air out of the house. What happens then is that any gaps allow air to get in to the house. What should also happen is that there should be hardly any air getting in. 

All of the work that we had done was very successful, but we didn't realise that the gaps behind taps and pipes, and the underfloor heating manifold would let air in.

Andrew gave us the result of the first test, and we scored 3 point 7. I don't exactly know what that means, but for normal building regulations anything below a 10 point 0 is a pass. Because ours is supposed to be very eco friendly then we were aiming for a maximum of 3.

It was a bit amazing to go around the house trying to plug up air gaps, and very much a panic too. 

In the end we got it down to 3.3, and we will now fill in properly all of the gaps that we found. I am confident that once we have done that, then we will be under 3. But at over £250 a go, we are not keen to pay again. 

What a stressful day. We went out for a run to calm down and then drank a lot of wine. 

In other news, Darren has made some good progress on the fitted units in the living room. 

Saturday 12 December 2020

Bannisters and bonsai

 Our bannisters arrived as unfinished oak poles that Darren has to cut down to size and fit. Before that happens I had give them all four coats of oil, and this picture shows the final coat.

He has also started the fitted units in the living room, and we made a trip to Ikea to pick up some feature lights.

At the moment it is highlighting one of Darren's many drills, but it will eventually have a Damien Hurst flowery special on the wall at the back.

I have decided to take up a new hobby of bonsai making. I have watched a short youtube clip and bought some wire. Unfortunately I have very little knowledge and zero experience, but this afternoon I have butchered some of the plants in the garden.

I had a lovely time chopping up the plants, but did find out that wrapping the wire around the branches is quite difficult. I hope the plants don't feel pain, and only time will tell if they grow as I hope.

Above is the conifer experiment, and the plant on the left has been spared. The middle one is supposed to be a tree leaning over in a gale and the right hand is just cloud pruned.

This selection is a stretched acer, a bargain buy from the garden centre and another cloud pruning attempt. 

Wednesday 9 December 2020

The kitchen is finished!

 At long last, we have just about finished the kitchen. There is still a bit of painting and a small window ledge left to put on, but that won't take long.

There was loads of dust and I have been washing it away almost every day. Just about everything has been cleaned again, apart from the red wine bottles. 

I have left them dusty on purpose so that they have a nice aged look, although really they are only a few weeks old and mostly from Tescos. 

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Alpe d'Huez

 I am having a 'get fit' phase, and my bike turbo trainer is now up and running. Darren has set it up and apparently I can choose from hundreds of different rides to go on.

I decided to go for a nice, easy and mainly flat one, but couldn't work the computer properly. Darren was busy chopping things up in the garden, so rather than disturb him I chose the only ride that I could see. It was called Marmotte 4 to Alpe d'Huez.

I thought that it would go along the valley floor and stop at the bottom of the hill, but after cycling for a couple of minutes it became apparent that it wouldn't. 

At least I had the right kit on, and a handy bottle of water on the bike, because this ride was going all the way to the top. 

I cycled for exactly an hour and by then my bottom and legs were getting so sore, so I paused the ride for the day. 

I cycled round about six or seven of the famous hair pin bends and I have the poster behind me for inspiration. 

I think that another couple of hour long sessions will get me to the top so I am going to continue it tomorrow, as long as my bottom can cope with that. 

Ps, exciting day today because we are actually going out to Oxford later for a meal with S and P. 

Monday 7 December 2020

More fish

 I have been decorating the downstairs toilet and here it was at 8 o'clock this morning. 

This is it tonight.  For the eagle eyed reader, you may have spotted that there is currently no toilet in the toilet, but it is still in the shed in the garden. 

I think that it's always good to use up spare wallpaper, and it is nice to see the fish putting in another appearance. 

The bannisters for the stairs arrived today and they look very exciting, although not in this photo. The handrails are made of oak and need to be oiled and cut to size, so it will be a couple of days before they can be fitted. 

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Living room progress

 Darren has been very busy today, and in a morning he put in the whole of the floor of the living room.

This is a strange photo and it looks as if he is smashing something with a giant hammer, but it is actually a cutter for the laminate. 

Dah, Dah, - finished photo. 

I have plans for a shelving unit and window seat and have made a drawing. 

Hopefully we can sort out the measurements tomorrow and then I can order the plywood.