Cold as a penguin’s toes

Friday June 30, 2006

I’m getting into the swing of this now, making small shifts in my routine to accommodate the work I need to get done at the house and picking up the pace so as to get the maximum out of each day.

I had a late start today, making a pass through the B&Q DIY store to pick up a new plastic bucket and a further supply of sugar soap. Even so, I finished washing down the walls in the kitchen before lunch and then, instead of heading back to the caravan for my post-lunch siesta, I heaved myself up and managed to clean all the upper walls in the study, down to and including the paper strip that divides the light blue from the dark blue lower portion.

Tomorrow I shall finish the room off, including the removal of the paper strip, aiming to have the job finished before the forecast increase in heat settles in during the afternoon. On Sunday, when it’s likely to be really hot, I plan to do no more than wash down the walls in the downstairs cloakroom, leaving the whole ground floor ready for Graham to whisk round on Monday to fill the holes and dints ready for repainting. I hope to have the ground floor completely repainted by the end of next week before moving up to the first floor where I need to tackle the living room, master bedroom, and en-suite bathroom. If I can keep the pace up that’ll be done in one more week, leaving the second floor for the following.

I’ve decided that, apart from a bit of cleaning where the kids have tracked their grubby little hands, the hall, staircases and landings will not need to be painted until after we move in; it’s inevitable that they’ll collect a few scrapes as the furniture is moved in from storage. They’re currently painted in a uniform light cream, which is not too far away from the colour we plan for them to be when we make the house over properly.

I’m hoping to have the whole job finished, then, in the next three weeks, certainly by the end of July.

There’s enough slack in the plan for me to be confident that we’ll be able to call the furniture out of storage early in August and for Dolly and I to move in very shortly afterwards. I’m not firming any dates just yet, of course. I can’t discount the loss of a day here and there when my body may ask for a rest. Even so, I have great hopes that we’ll be in residence by the time my birthday comes around in mid-August. Sadly, and he really is feeling a little forlorn about it, Graham will not be able to join us full-time until the holiday season ends in late September. We’ll be only twenty to thirty minutes away from one another, though, so the separation will not be complete.

One of the things I picked up in the DIY was a further supply of sugar soap. This quaint old-fashioned decorating product raised some interest in my comments yesterday. It’s a strongly alkaline, crystaline detergent used to clean, de-grease and prepare surfaces ready for painting; when properly applied and rinsed off the surface is left with a good ‘key’, improving the adherence and coverage of the first of the new coats of paint. There’s no sugar in it. I think the name came about because it was originally sold in lump form by weight, resembling old fashioned loaf sugar. Now it comes in a fine powder or, as I prefer, in liquid form in a spray bottle.

I passed on my trip up to the bar this evening, prefering to enjoy my beer in front of the TV before dinner. I’d had my fill of chips anyway. Another thing that attracted interest is ‘chips and gravy’. Accepting that people will know I mean chunky french fries rather than US-style fried potato slices, which we call ‘crisps’, the gravy is much the same as traditionally served in America with mashed or creamed potatoes; thick, meaty, and slightly floury. It’s a food group entire unto itself and, poured over hot chips, a delight for the carbohydrate-starved soul. I acquired my taste for it in Northern England, from whence comes much that’s comforting and sustaining in low-budget British cookery; here in the South of England it’s regarded with undisguised contempt.

So, it’s been a busy day. All work and no play makes for a dull poet, though, so I relaxed this evening with a bottle of Theakston’s Old Peculier, a traditional British ale, served at cellar temperature as good old beer ought to be. Like most modern Brits I prefer to drink lager-type beers well chilled, as close to frozen as possible and most pubs have pumps and refrigerated storage for them to achieve that end. Takes the taste of the chemicals away, I reckon. Traditional ales, bitters and stouts are best appreciated ‘warm’ or, more properly, a couple of degrees below room temperature. There is however a growing trend to provide mass-produced stouts like Guinness cold as a penguin’s toes.



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