Monday, January 31, 2011

Keeping warm

The cold winter appears to be passing as we reach the beginning of February. The evenings are just beginning to get a bit lighter. The past three days have been - relatively - mild, and I've been able to inspect the January garden.

I can report that there's not much growth in evidence, yet. But these early snowdrops are making an effort to come through.

The ugly box in the background hides the oil tank for my central heating. This ran non stop in December and early January as the cottage dried out after its soaking. As you know this was successful, but expensive. The fastest thing moving at Skip was the level of the oil in the tank! Given that heating oil has doubled in price since last year, I admit that I just cannot afford the luxury of central heating all the time now the emergency is over.

Fortunately I have alternatives and when I'm at home a woodburning stove keeps the main room of the cottage warm and comfortable. I have a chainsaw and trestle, and all the gear, to keep a good stock of firewood. That's been the job these past three days. The odd tree and wayward branch has come down, and been chopped, stored in the woodshed, hopefully to provide warmth NEXT winter. And why is it that I always find myself singing this song?

Sycamores grow fast, and have been pollarded in the garden before. These two trunks in the foreground are now stacked away. I've decided to leave the really old rowan on the left, but it is definitely in its silver years! The multiple trunks of the sycamore at the bottom will provide wood sometime in the future too.

I have a number of trees growing on in pots to be planted out in this north facing slope soon. I would really like to carve a path through this part of the garden this year. Perhaps I should make that the main task for 2011.

Given that the room has bare concrete floor and bare plaster walls at the moment it has the feel of a bothy! The stove adds to the effect. Mind you the flat screen telly makes it a very high class 'bothy'!

Today though the stove had to be lifted as the hearth stones (of Corncockle sandstone) had been laid over the laminate flooring. All have to come up. The stove meanwhile is away having a service!

In case you are wondering, I inherited the rather unique fireplace!

Wallpaper purchase is imminent, and the way forward is now apparent.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kent Weekend

I left my problems at Skip Cottage far behind me last weekend and took the train to Tunbridge Wells in Kent. (See Skip Cottage Curling for the reason.)

I do enjoy long train journeys. The Carlisle - London leg was on this Virgin Pendolino, here at Euston station.

I certainly agree with this train's nameplate. The journey was fast, comfortable, and on time, and long may such progress continue. With my Senior Railcard too, it was indeed value for money!

What was certainly not value for money were my three nights at the Travelodge, Tunbridge Wells. Unlike most of the hotels of the brand, this is a renovation of an old hotel called the New Wellington. To put it bluntly ... it is a dump. If you are thinking of staying there, don't. It has the charms of Fawlty Towers. I had prepaid for breakfast, but when I went down at 07.30 to have something to eat on Saturday, I was told that nothing was available until 08.00. When I said politely that I had to be away from the hotel before then, the receptionist said, "That's a pity!"

The place creaks like mad, paint was flaking off the bathroom walls, and there's little soundproofing. I now this because I believe one couple enjoyed their stay. No, I know this to be true. They were in the room above me on Sunday night. I heard every bed spring, every groan, every........ I'll not go on. But the earth certainly moved for me, and I was just trying to get some sleep.

I should of course have realised from this dangerous broken step at the front entrance what lay ahead.

Still, life's not always plain sailing, and I cannot say that the Travelodge experience spoilt my weekend which was so much fun in other ways. Let's just say I won't be staying there again, ever!

It was interesting to ride on Southeastern trains. Here drivers chat whilst waiting for problems up the line to be resolved.

Back on home ground now, at Carlisle's Citadel Station. Here's the First Transpennine Express from Manchester Airport to take me the final leg to Lockerbie.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The fans have left

New garden ornament, the aftermath of all the burst pipe damage!

Bare walls - but good news as of yesterday. Skip has been declared as dry as its going to get, and the dehumidifier and fans have all been removed.

I can't stand the silence!

This wall got really soaked from the burst pipe in the loft.

A sad pile of wet books sit on the bare concrete floor. There really is nothing else to do but bin them.

Still, with the house now dry, I'll be able to start the process of getting back to some sort of normality.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Skip has fans

Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2011 will see you all warm, dry, healthy and prosperous. Me too, I hope!

The pic above was last week with Skip still in the grip of the cold spell. Now that there has been something of a thaw, the efforts to dry out the cottage are continuing apace. As I write this, there's a big dehumidifier working hard, and no fewer than six big fans are running at full blast in various rooms and the attic. If you see Skip Cottage flying past outside your window, that will be the reason!

The road to Skip from the south has these old beech trees, here looking good after a frosty night.

This big beech is at the bottom of the garden with the Annan just behind.

This is the road leading down to the village with 'my' standing stone just visable in the field on the right.

Pics © Skip Cottage