So, here we are through the front edge of December with Christmas just around the corner. Unless you run a shop in which case Christmas is a done deal and Easter is just around the corner. I can't say I'm the best person in the Christmas preparation stakes, but I've managed to buy at least one present and have developed a stock of small pieces of wood with which I can make pointless pots for unwary friends and relations. Some can be seen above, though the castle thing on the left hand end is not one of mine, but bought in Lanark Christmas Market because it was just such a good idea. Also demonstrating that you won't get rich making small bits of wood smaller. 
    Anyway, I thought I'd better get on with the Christmas newsletter that I was intending, doesn't it just fly by?
    On the subject of wood, the large ash over the garage was getting too large and had to come down. It has been threatening the power-lines for a while now and I'd have cut it down myself but that the chaps from Scottish Power, bless them, said they'd do it and then faffed around for a decade, eventually deciding that they wouldn't. By that time both I and the tree have gotten older and bigger so I brought in a firm called Fallhills Firewood who are better qualified to remove trees between power lines. That's one of them up the tree on the right. I was thinking, "I could have done that", and I still think I could have (10 years ago anyway), but I'd have needed to watch somebody else first and I'd have still probably brought the power-line down. What impressed me most was the light-weight chain saw. It started when he pulled the string and ran till he turned it off. Neat.
    Sad to see the tree go, but it would have gone over sooner or later (a large crack in the middle guaranteed that), and might have taken my garage with it, or my neighbours car. Instead it can keep us warm over Christmas.
I was thinking of leaving enough stump to make a chair, the cats quite like to sit in the sun and ignore people going by, but Errol, lower right, has found one he can watch from, look down from and still be in the sun, so I didn't bother.
Errol
Christmas 
2012 Issue. 
Made in  
November 
of course.
    On the Kit car front I've made some progress putting 17" wire wheels in place of the 13" Herald originals, I think it does the job nicely, and I seem to have sorted most of the resultant geometric challenges in lifting and adjusting the mudguards. I'm pleased with the improvement in my welding skills, still not brilliant, but the new gas (argon) is much better behaved than the CO2 I had before. As usual it really comes down to patience, preparation and practice (preventing proverbial poor performance). I'll tell you when I develop some.

   At this time of year, currently 3 degrees below, having the potbellied stove running warms things up nicely, though for efficiency I'll have to close off the gaps in the flooring between the garage and the loft to reduce the heat loss, and do something about the lack of door seals. Something to keep me busy when I'm not splitting logs. A nice aspect of a wood burning stove, it keeps you warm at least twice. We've always had enough from the various trees  in the garden, but a neighbour told me how much wood costs if you just buy it from a dealer ready split and bagged. Jings! Perhaps I'd better put a lock on the wood-shed. All in all, the alternative energy aspects of the house have turned out well. The Ground Source Heat Pump is ticking away nicely, and the solar panels do their thing except on the darkest days. If I could just get the cats to work the treadmill a bit harder we'd be well ahead.

    I was referring before, to my being older and bigger, well, while I can do little about the first, except ignore it, I've had some progress with the second, we've been trying a diet! I know, we've heard it all before too. This one has a new wrinkle......stop eating. 
    Well, actually it is more of a cycle of not eating very much for two days in the week. That's 500 (for Females) or 600 (for Males)  calories for two days and eat normally for the rest of the week. Of course if you are the kind of person who loses a pound and celebrates with a week of excess then you aren't going to get much benefit, but I have lost two stone in a few months. It was triggered by a TV programme by Dr Michael Mosely.
Here is a link to a Newspaper article,                                          you can find his stuff by Googling him, but in case it goes out of fashion, or you just want a stripped down version, here's a copy of the text.

   Our reason for starting it was not so much for the weight loss as the other health benefits. I'll let you read the article for that, but it helps prevent diabetes and the like. The weight loss bit seems to work and I feel fitter for that at least. I started for the improvements to the repair system and that is difficult to evaluate, but things don't seem to have worsened anyway. I'll see how long it takes to repair the damage incurred from chopping up the logs.

    Meantime, things progress as you would expect, I'll be putting the green Midge through an MOT as soon as I've finished the mudguards, and maybe get a run out in the country, if the weather holds, to show off my new wheels and test my driving gloves. Then possibly build a roof for it, (Fiona doesn't think it is complete without one,) and perhaps a heater, I think it'll be a single seater till then. 
​   The house itself seems to be holding up, which is nice. I'll track down the odd leak eventually, sometimes caused by my inaccurate building skills, but more often by that d**ned roofer. Unusual wind directions seem to set them off, it's a couple of structural faults that are to blame. I've nailed two out of three though, so there's hope yet. 

  08/12/2012  Here we are a day or so later, just back from Edinburgh which we visit on a Saturday to see how Lillias (Fiona's Mother) is doing in her care home. She was quite perky today, and although she finds it difficult to make herself understood, when she makes a bit of an effort she can keep up her end of the conversation. That is tiring for her, but she enjoys it so I think it's worth while. Boredom is still one of the bigger problems if your body is more tired than your brain. We have reached an agreement that if she can ask a question then I'll blether on with my opinion of the answer. If she gets bored then she asks another question, or closes her eyes. An odd system but it seems to work for her. Today she was interested why I married the first time, and what (after the divorce) attracted me to Fiona. We also dug into the machinations of the catholic church and how many children a couple might want depending on poverty and education etc. Quite a lively chat, and when we left, and she set off for lunch, she was noticeably more alert. Bringing her up from the care home in Lytham St Annes took a bit of doing, but she gets many more family visits and proper care at Marian House. We have always worried that we should be looking after her here, but she seemed to prefer the current arrangement, and frankly I don't think we'd be able to look after her any better. 
   My own mother, who will probably read this, eventually, is a fair bit younger and far too independent to think about that yet. Both of them tend to look after other people, for as long as they can, I think that keeps them self supporting for longer. They come from a generation that just got on with it rather than waiting for somebody to do it for them. Mind, that doesn't mean there won't be list of repairs to do when I next visit, but that's fair, I'm my father's son, and we fix things.  I wonder occasionally what he would think of the Kit-car, having no practical purpose. But I think he'd like the mechanical simplicity, low insurance, and the immunity from tax-disks.

​    I'm glad to report a lack of damage to self when splitting logs. I took till last year to discover splitting axes, (the blade is thicker so it doesn't stick in the wood when you haven't swung it hard enough) the first one I bought from a hardware shop in Carnwath,with a fibre-glass handle it was rather expensive at about £35, the second, also glass, at the village craft fair was £5, much more like it, but it does show how illogical (even) I can be, they should last forever, so having two is daft, but at £5 who could resist? I found a similar sledge-hammer and two aluminium snow shovels (I know,but they don't last forever). They have already seen some work, and the lock to the tool-shed froze, so I needed the second splitting axe sooner than I expected. Some of the logs are reasonably big, and being frozen solid, need quite a swing to split them. Keeps you warm though. The stump is going to get a couple of thick wooden rails fitted, so that the bits don't fly off each time I swing. I had that idea after I'd picked up the two halves a few dozen times. I've never seen such a thing, but I can't be the first to think of it.  Addendum: I used thin metal rather than thick wood, if the axe hits it, which is unlikely, then the metal is too thin to harm the axe, the chicken wire provides the catching net. Works a treat.
























    If you are on my list of peeps who get warned when a newsletter 
is imminent you'll have had an electronic Christmas card, whether you 
want it or not, if you aren't, then don't feel left 
out, you can see the gist if it  by clicking here.


Heck, you can even print one out to fold up (fold along the black line first) and stick on the mantle piece.

    I looked up the origin of that expression, mantle piece, it's a mantel, started as a chimney mantel, 
and means something that covers a fireplace or chimney. It makes a bit more sense when you remember the expression 'mantled with snow' which we expect to be soon


Finally, our last visit to Skye has caused Derek to paint a picture or two, which he's rather good at. Here's a link to some of  that.

see ya
Jim
Now you see it
Now you don't