The trip south took a little longer than usual as we dropped off to collect a couple of pictures from Lindy and Harry, of which the vas seen above is one.  Their ‘new’ house and its garden have been much improved since we saw it last, which was soon after they moved in, that must be a few years now (but time slips by), and they have a biocidal dog who tidies up hedgehogs and anything else that moves. I think retirement suits them, most of us are retired now, leaving only Bill, who I think enjoys his work. More than the rest of us did toward the respective career ends. I think we were all in the ‘caring professions’ but as time went by it felt as though the system cared less about the workers, partly perhaps because of the ever shrinking budget.

    Being retired should mean more flexibility in our planning, but one of the effects of being a bit busy means we are often unable to visit other friends and relations. Obviously Mum likes a visit now and then, but I do feel a bit guilty about not visiting everybody else and the elderly cat has to be considered, so a week is usually the upper limit.

     The journey there and back takes the better part of four days. We could do it in two easily but that either means 400 miles in one go or expensive flights and high carbon costs. I'd rather not drive for 400 miles, and Fiona goes to sleep after 50 so until the robotic cars get cheaper and more effective the only other option is moving south or winning the lottery. The best answer would be overnight rail, but a bit of analysis reveals that the rail system is too degraded, complicated and expensive to do that. 
    It is our own fault of course, Winchester is easy to get to, but Tarbrax is difficult to get out of and the faster modes of transport are further away, so you don't really gain from them. Of course if they were nearer then the property would be too expensive for our modest budget. 
    A car is needed to get to the airport or rail station and that would involve parking, so in the end the road is the most effective at the moment, as well as being more flexible at the other end.
    We may just have to wait for the cat to fall off his perch and then take longer breaks. Here he is having been woken from his favourite place.
    Hottest room but in the shade of a chair.

    Village life continues, and we certainly noticed a marked improvement in the weather in the time we were away. We are used to shifting four months toward summer when we go the 400 miles south, but this time, on returning, we seem to have brought it back up with us. Fiona has been in the garden since then. Everything seems to be catching up at once, bees buzzing, weeds sprouting and lambs bouncing around like clockwork toys.     There is much chitter and squeak in the woodland and Errol is to be found baking in the sun, although he is bright enough to get into the shade for some of the day. 
    He missed us for the 6 days away, and has been singing all night since. What he is singing about eludes me and I suspect he doesn’t know either. Probably doors. An open door is of no interest but a shut one is a permanent temptation. The problem is that nowadays he quite often cannot remember what he wanted and just sits there. I guess we all have those moments, but at three and four in the morning? And five and six too by the way.
    Ah well, he does seem happy, and it seems a cheerful if mis-timed song. He is 18, rather skinny and weaker than he was, but well behaved (apart from the singing) and slightly addicted to crunchy cat treats, when he can get quite energetic.

    Errol may be a bit 'crunchy' now but it was the treats I was referring to.

    As the weather warms and the days get longer I shall have to start on the porch, which has required attention for some years now, a few persistent leaks and a generally scruffy look, but it's going to take a complete re-build to sort it. It is harder re-building something so 'home-made' after repeated repairs, adjustments and tweaks. It will also need a solid wall for the electric car charger and the hose reel (not too close). Logically I should just employ a double glazing firm, but a simple conservatory / porch wouldn't do what I want, and probably cost a small fortune. No doubt more on that later. 

    Hoping to take the caravan out for a trip to the Borders (that's the Scottish side of the English border) we'll need to dig the caravan out. It doesn't get used very much and tends to get locked in by things that need to go somewhere under cover, but don't really have a dedicated space. The first thing is to clear the log pile that has developed in front of it, and since I started this newsletter that is now done. One problem is that I don't want to waste good firewood, and as a result now have several wood-sheds.This one is now full. It goes back about 5 metres.

This one, also now full, had one tacked onto the end. Another 4 cubic metres there...

....and a wee one (1 cube) around the back. 

What I really need is one big one to amalgamate all the scruffy sheds into, but the tractor shed isn't built yet. I sold the tractor which makes that a less urgent matter, but the name stuck. The problem is that I need to take down three more large pine trees before I can build it. I may have to have a really big bonfire come November.

The unbuilt tractor shed with absent tractor. It's all getting a bit metaphysical.

    Next is blood donoring, a spot of shopping and possibly a trip to the cinema. Still worthwhile for the really big epic ones, but I wonder how soon the virtual reality headset will take over. It's a really clever invention, but like the TV, computers, VR gaming and home deliveries of Amazon ebay and groceries it seems to be pushing us into our homes. I think we may come out one day and find everything is built over. (My woodsheds aren't helping.) Remember The Matrix?

Hi all,
various updates and news items, our rental house tenants left a month or so back, so I did some decorating to tidy things up a bit. Over the years before we owned 253 Viewfield Terrace, and to some extent during our ownership so far, various levels of skill have been used to paper and paint walls and ceilings, the last tenants chose some paper and paint I would have avoided, but that’s with hindsight, I now know that magnolia, white and gloss white are the only suitable colours and wallpaper should be avoided. I have no objection to other colours, but for a rental house green, brown and red don’t improve things.
    It also helps if the paint is applied to the intended areas consistently and not to light fittings, radiators and switches.

253 as we bought it.
Some paper removed and paint applied. Further investigation suggests the last tenants painted and papered quite a lot. Rather inaccurately. I shall have to be more observant
    All the paper is now off, the walls repaired where lumpy and the only remaining colour is lemon yellow in the kitchen and ‘sunshine’ yellow in the porch. I’d have reverted them to magnolia but I had the matching paints and was running out of time. They’ll be magnolia next time. 
    I was rather pleased to find that magnolia improves Artex white ceilings, and used that in the upstairs bedroom.
    Nobody really loves the colour, but then nobody hates it either and it is fairly easy to make small repairs if you keep some of the paint. I have enough to keep things right for several years, and rollers and brushes last longer if you don't keep changing colour. Even so I have to stock four paint cans and had to learn a few tricks. I’d never heard of painter’s caulk for instance, and didn’t know what I was doing was called ‘cutting in’ - that’s when you do the corners and around the light switches where the roller can't reach effectively.
     It all worked quite well, especially as I was able to call in a neighbour who had experience of rental house painting and some of the tricks of the trade.
    Anyway, that’s the house all fresh looking, the central heating is working again and all the lights are LED now. 
    I do wonder sometimes how tenants manage to make such a mess, difficult to say which ones but it must have been over several tenancies and at least ten years, but the walls of the stair-well looked as though furniture was simply thrown downstairs. Fast curing filler is my friend now, though why people can’t remove a redundant rawl-plug I don’t know, I must have extracted at least forty and repaired the holes and bumps they left.

    Why anyone would use a lump of filler to bury a smaller lump, and then paint over it is beyond me.
        I managed to find out why the central heating didn’t work, (bodged wiring mostly), and a defective 3 way valve. I was pleased to eliminate several ‘schoolboy’ errors and had a heating engineer rewire the junction box and check it all out afterwards. I think the work, replacement parts, paint and filler came to about a month’s rent, though my labour isn’t calculated in, if it had been professionally painted it would have been two or three times that.

    So after that and having a tenant lined up for early this month we nipped off south and prepared for the art exhibition in Middle Wallop. 
    This is for is for Mum, well it was her idea, and commemorates Scotty Turnbull (1900 to 1980ish)     Seen here around 1975 with Dorothy his wife, he was a painter and a surviving first world war pilot. They often visited the farm and had painted many pictures over the years. The family has inherited about ten of them, I have no idea where the rest went but we packed what I could find up and took them to the Museum of Army Flying in Middle Wallop in Hampshire. I provided three, Mum four and my sister Lindy two. Lindy was also Scotty's god-daughter. Sadly one of the pictures, impressionist style in oil of rocks and waves in Woolacombe Bay, was too frail to travel, but you can see the essence of them at :-  

    By a stroke of luck there were several suitable cardboard boxes in the loft of the rental house, left ten years ago by the people we bought it from. I guess that suggests the loft is reasonably dry. 
    With a bit of modification and a lot of parcel tape I was able to change cubes into flat sleeves. I must admit my first reaction when Mum proposed the idea was that I didn’t think anybody would be interested, Scotty deliberately never sold any pictures so he has no history or ‘provenance’ but the museum curator seemed very happy to put them on display for a couple of months as part of the 100 year anniversary of the RFC becoming the RAF.
     We are all so used to them it’s difficult to evaluate the skills needed to create them. They’ve simply always been there. I doubt anyone is going to offer us a fortune for them. The art market is completely insane in that who painted it and when means more than whether it is 'good' art and people want to look at it.  I don’t think Mum wants to sell anyway, but you never know.
    If you want to go and have a look they are gong to be displayed from 14th May to 29th June 2018. The admission charges and directions are at and I would say the exhibits of aircraft and artefacts are worth a look anyway. Rather than just standing there many of the exhibits are built into dioramas (if that's the right word).     We have left a box of postcard sized copies of some of them for the public to take away. (voluntary donations will get to the RAF/museum charities somehow). 
    Set your Satnavs for Museum of Army Flying, Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 8DY.

Incidentally they are hoping to do an exhibition of early British aviatrixes, including our own Hilda fairly soon.

I was going to put a map here, but the copyright people are getting picky.