Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Persephone, pictures, paving and paint

It's all go over here - I've finally joined Instagram (@thedomesticnovice), my first Persephone parcel* arrived, the paths have been laid, our wall rebuilt and the gate hung, the kitchen floor and units are in and I now have two delectable weeks at home. The worktop arrives tomorrow and then it's just the final touches - electrician, lights, paintwork, appliances and a jolly good clean up. I say final touches…another two weeks worth. There's a lot of painting on the cards. The exterior of the extension needs to be done, the kitchen walls need another coat to get rid of grubby knocks and finally our front door is getting some TLC.  The pale lemon posset colour is the current hue - and the underneath of the letterbox is clearly the original. Which I'm rather pleased about because we've gone for Babouche from Farrow & Ball. I'm amused that it's named after a heelless slipper, but it does sound wonderfully exotic and if you google the paint, there's almost a cult following. The door will certainly liven up the road. And it might find its way onto a chair. You never know.

Now I must dash - I have an afternoon of tea supping, scone scoffing and Madame Laski ahead of me.

*I was a very lucky birthday girl back in the Summer when Mr & Mrs M Senior organised a 12 month subscription. Took forever to get my list down to 12, but I finally managed it - mostly fiction, with a smattering of cookery. And for those Persephone lovers - they've got a competition - more here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Early morning

The change in season has been particularly noticeable this past week. Grey, overcast skies, heavy with moisture one day, crisp, blue skies and dragon's breath the next. The lawn is covered with a thick dew regardless. Drops cling to the blades like pearls, soaking my boots as soon as I step foot onto the luscious green. I am not a morning person, but the rhythm of the build has certainly, in the main, seen me stirring earlier, with the builders on site by 7:30 each morning. Autumn though makes me burrow back under the covers, Miss P takes to her warm dormouse bed, less keen to go outside for the dawn chorus. I hanker for freshly brewed tea and marmite toast for breakfast. Commuters shuffle, hopping from one foot to the other to keep warm, space is reduced as layers of wool suiting increases, eyes look blearier. The wrench of leaving the warm nest, of shuffling with the swathes of travellers clad in shades of black and grey is forgotten for the exhilarating moment of crossing the Hungerford Bridge before 8am as the reviving river breeze blows the cobwebs away.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Hidden marks

In the tiniest bit of concrete laid for the tiniest bit of wall, two sets of footprints will remain for as long as the wall stands. It might be 20, 50 or 100 years - who knows. I've always placed my sentimentality in a childhood surrounded by antiques and the love of nostalgia. I can't explain the excitement I feel when I unearth something fabulous in a charity shop - whether it's a knitting pattern from 1937, coffee cups from the 1970s or an original penguin classic. When our chimney came down last year, the builders came across an empty packet of cigarettes tucked away with a date of 1926 inscribed on its side. The older the building, the more hidden the treasure.

My late grandparents lived in a Tudor cottage on the river - I was convinced they had priest holes and more tucked away. It was a house that creaked with mystery and legend. One summer I excavated a patch of their garden - driven by an unsolved murder my grandfather told me about. Needless to say, Nancy Drew and the Famous Five featured heavily on my reading list. No bodies were unearthed, but I did come across beautiful broken crockery, discarded smoking pipes and an intricately decorated toilet which was most odd. 

Our footprint will be left in the changing shape of the house, and the bits that we pop in our front wall. As odd as that sounds, our existing wall is a hodge podgy of wine bottles and doorknobs, bricks, tiles and anything else that the original owner could lay his hands on. My parents have kindly donated a couple of items which the builders are going to incorporate. I do like the notion of legacy, however small. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

We have windows

Beautiful, handmade, double glazed windows. And if you look closely, the latches are the original ones that we managed to salvage (more about them here). We're so pleased with them. The oddest thing was having them sat in our conservatory for a couple of days before they went in. Whilst ridiculous to say, I'd not considered what a window unit might look like out of context. Odd, frankly. Like the little black wooden fire guard I used to pretend was a shop as a child. The sills are deep and will be perfect for our herbs and radio and other random things that will no doubt find their way onto them.

It feels as though the build has sped up - this shot was taken a week or so ago. It's now been plastered and the paint goes on tomorrow. Flooring and dishwasher/washing machine arrive on Thursday. All other appliances and kitchen cabinets arrive on Friday. Today was spent clearing the conservatory - I managed to squeeze the conservatory sofa into the bedroom, the lovely chair has been moved in front of Mr M's wardrobe (so neither of us can open our wardrobes for the next two weeks), dining chairs were stacked, tables winkled into cupboards, items popped in the skip. The drive has been laid. The path is a work in progress (the curve was plotted by Mr M yesterday). The oven and washing machine become defunct tomorrow - I need to organise a collection for them, and fathom out where our local laundrette is.

Most calming of all - Miss P has returned. There has been a lot of meowing, purrs and lap time. And her 2am shouting session at her kitten and rugby ball was a joy. It's as though she's never been away.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A brief interlude

Goodness, how time flies when you're living in a building site. Windows are in, plastering done, front garden excavated, drains unblocked and the outline of our driveway has appeared. Lights have been ordered, credit card blocked (clearly spending too much) so the dishwasher and washing machine are temporarily on hold until 8am tomorrow when I can unblock the damn thing - am determined to get those Partnership points, thankyouverymuch. Popped to the National Gallery this morning for a breakfast viewing of Making Colour (not at the NPG - so confused by their twitter feed but did discover a useful back route to Trafalgar Square). I was drawn to the vividness of Van Gogh's Two crabs, and bemused by how tiny the Seurat was. It was fascinating to see pigment in its purest form. There were so few of us it didn't feel appropriate to take some shots. The exhibition is heavily weighted in the Renaissance, in part I guess because a lot of the paintings that used incredibly expensive pigment like lapis lazuli were commissioned by the church where so much of the wealth sat. The exhibition ends this weekend. The lighting truly makes the paintings sing.

Normal business resumes this weekend. Miss P returns.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Happy bank holiday

Bring on the sun, the bbq and the relaxation. Lots of Mr M's heritage tomatoes on the menu! Oh, and wine.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Loving the honey

I do like honey. I grew up on my grandpa's homemade offerings, with the gentle hum in the garden from his hives, and will probably be on an eternal quest to find a pot that comes close to his, instantly whipping me back to my childhood (isn't it funny how taste and scent can so often do that). Its homeopathic qualities are famed, my gran swore by a teaspoon a day and popped it on cuts and stings,  and I can confirm that it does a great facial in the shower*.

I'd not gone to the supermarket to buy honey, in fact I'm not even sure how I wound up standing in front of the honey section, but there we are. I was astonished at the different varieties and their prices - has that always been the case? Bonkers. This one seemed to have the same consistency as grandpa's and I was intrigued by the English Borage, so into the basket it went. It's so clear and runny. I've been having it drizzled over frozen yoghurt, over fruit and, my favourite, on hot buttered toast. That salty-sweet pairing is lip-smackingly tasty, especially when served up with a steaming mug of tea.

*the trick here is to have a cheap, squeezy bottle of honey to hand. Slap it on your face before you get into the shower - you will feel stickier than a fly trap - and then enjoy as the warm water gently washes away the honey. It gently exfoliates and leaves your skin feeling just lovely.