A New Record?…

9 02 2015

…for interminable delays between blog posts?  June through to February.  That’s pretty fucking slack really, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s the weird thing.  This is the first time in my life that I’ve had lots of time and been able to prioritize what I do on a daily basis.  I guess that blogging just hasn’t been right up there.  Either that or my life has become infinitely more dull, which now I think about it in more detail is a distinct possibility.

So what have I been doing since May of last year?  That is a very good question.  Let me compile a short list in somewhat of chronological order and see if I’ve been lazy (my vote is yes, btw):

  • Tiled and fitted out the bathroom in the addition
  • Hung out with Marg and Graham for 2 weeks
  • Chainsawed up 2 very large trees into very small logs
  • Rebuilt all of the pool pump infrastructure, including a new pumping shed, all plumbing and electrics.
  • Painted and fitted out the Jeep/Toyota garage
  • Helped out with my buddy’s construction business – painting mainly…
  • Hung out with my bro and his family for 3 weeks
  • Finished off the den/drum room with flooring and trim
  • Helped out a buddy with marketing for his fitness company
  • More painting for my buddy’s company
  • 2 weeks in the UK for Anna’s wedding
  • Tried to buy a campsite and trailer park, and failed
  • Built a log rack
  • Battled with squirrels
  • Learned how to make some groovy video compilations
  • Fitted out the workshop, including making cabinets from scratch and plumbing in new sink
  • 2 weeks in San Francisco
  • Built cabinets in the main garage for sports gear and to hide the heating equipment
  • Started legal proceedings against my neighbour at the forest

And here we are.

The weird thing is that there is still a massive amount on the list that I haven’t got anywhere near.  I guess that’s no bad thing, as once that list is empty, then I’ll become really bored and dangerous.

I know that this career interruption can’t last forever, and sooner or later we are going to have to start earning a living again, but for now I’m going to keep pushing on with the list.  I’d like to think I can mix up some of the ‘urgent/needs to be done today’ ones with with the ‘not urgent, but important to you’ kind of ones and see how that changes the balance of things.

I’d like to think that by the time that May comes around again, I’ve got more crossed off and a slightly shorter ‘to do’ list.

That would be nice.


Damn nearly finished pictures of the addition (and some swearing)…

23 06 2014

Stairs in the Addition

(the full set of pictures are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/64567063@N00/sets/72157645322433654/ : stupid flickr)

So, here is the latest set.

We had the great pleasure of spending a few days with our friends Richard and Bridget Daw in Philly, then followed by the pleasure of the company of the lovely Bowaters in residence in New York last month.  In each case, they were politely inquiring about the progress of our addition, and I tried to show them latest photos but realized that I hadn’t published any in months!

As you can see, its pretty nearly finished, just a few bits of trim here and there.  It is receiving it’s inaugural resident guests in the in-laws this month, who have declared it to be “not half bad”.  I believe that’s Derby-ish for “we like it a lot”.  As ever it was a bit of a last minute effort to get things ship shape, including making the curtains, attaching the stair baseboard in place, staining and painting the stairs, hooking up the shower and most importantly connecting up the TV to the satellite.  Amusingly, our idiot plumbers had decided to connect the new hot and cold lines into the addition into the first 2 pipes they saw in the existing house – they have to be hot and cold, right?  Well, there are actually 3 pipes in our crawlspace under our kitchen; 2 cold and 1 hot.  So unsurprisingly the shower was a little ‘parky’ when it was being fed by 2 cold lines!  I resurrected my plumbing skills, swore a bit and got it fixed.

However, the biggest swear-a-thon was saved for the TV.  As you can see, there is a honking great big TV in the family room, that is happily connected up to the surround sound, blu-ray and apple TV.  It works great.  During the construction, I also ran 2 coax lined behind the drywall back into the old house, ready to hook up to the satellite.  The week before the England game, the party I was invited to got cancelled, so I casually invited a few of the boys over to the new pad to watch the game.  All I had to do was hook up the cables, right?  Wrong.  Nothing worked.  Cue, plan B, hook up the free to air digital signal from the antenna on the roof, right?  Nope.  Plan C.  Purchase a Slingbox to spin the signal from the old house to the Apple TV.  It sucked.  Cue – despair.  At this point I have bought more signal boosters, splitters, cable, ends, a new antenna, been up on the roof 3 times, been in the crawl space 3 times, and it is now 6pm the day before the England game and I have no picture in the family room.  This was undoubtedly the high watermark of swearing in this period.

Now it was time for plan Z.  Could it be there was something wrong with the cable I had put in?  I went to Lowes, bought 200ft of cable, added ends, hooked it up and VOILA!  Fucking magic!  Except, now I had to run 200ft of cable from one end of the house to the other, but the drywall has all been sealed up.  I devise a play to run it temporarily through the workshop, out through the back door, along the wall, into the crawlspace through an existing crack in the wall and through the basement up into the old lounge.  piece of piss.  I was on a roll, I even said to Alex as she went to bed at 10pm, I’ll be 10 more minutes.  Oh, but I was wrong.  Very wrong.  Y0u see, the thing is that I had sealed up said crack in the wall with spray foam, and also said crack in the wall is at the very very end of the crawl space, at which point you have to lie on your back and reach up with your arm as far as it will go, and then scritchy scratch out stupid spray foam with your fingers.  Oh and in this corner, the crawlspace is about only 2 feet high and is insanely dusty.  It took over 3 hours.  We reached 11 on the swear-o-meter.  (BTW if someone says why didn’t you just drill a new hole, I’ll remind you that this old house has foundations that are large boulders that are about 24-30″ thick in places.  It took 2 days and some heavy artillery to create the only hole that I have!)

Finally, at 2:30 am on the Saturday morning, covered in dust, and completely out of swearwords, I switched on the satellite in the family room, and Ta-Da! pictures!!!!  Whoop de-fucking-doop!

Anyway, I digress.  We had a great party on the Saturday, despite the result, the whole space worked exactly as we had planned it.  Everyone was very complementary, which was nice, and by the end of the evening I was very drunk.  Which was just fine.

We are delighted with the final results of the space and now we are really looking forward to spending time with our friends and family in it.

At a loose end..

28 05 2014

I wonder how many blog posts start with the phrase “it’s been a while…”

The temporary hiatus in the already infrequent blogging on behalf of yours truly was largely the result of my life going into overdrive for 3 or 4 months.  I barely had enough time to shovel the snow from the driveway, let alone find time to write a witty and thoughtful missive.

Anyway, time now is something I have plenty of.

For those of you not in the know, I quit my job (hence the last 3 months being all manner of carnage as the company sought to bleed the last remaining drops of value from me before I walked away).  What makes this interesting is that I do not have another one to go to, nor do I intend on finding one.  We are in an extremely fortunate position of us both being able to take a couple of years sabbatical before we decide on the next stage of our lifestyle/work requirements.

So we are now in the process of adjusting to Al and I both being at home all day everyday, with the kids in school/daycare.  It sounds idyllic, and let’s be honest, not having to put on a shirt and drive into an office and give yet another sales presentation is quite frankly a breath of fresh air.  However, it does mean that Al and I are having to find our rhythm during the days.  Al has been off for about 18  months now with Evie, so there is very much a routine that she has established – partly to keep her sane – and partly to maintain some manner of efficiency with a small child of willful destruction doing her best to wreak havoc everywhere.  Now add me into the mix, with my focus on DIY stuff and laissez faire attitude to domestic chores, and there are the classic ingredients for a British farce or Greek tragedy, we’re not sure which.

So the days roll on and slowly we spend less and less time stepping on each others’ toes, but we are compensating for this by doing jobs pretty much at opposite ends of the building!  Al is pushing on with the veggie plot, while I’m either in the garage or working on opening up the pool.  Is this normal?  We’ve achieved a lifestyle that so many couples aspire to, in that we have the resources to not have to work, and therefore can spend quality time together, but yet all we do is throw on the work clothes and disappear off into our own little worlds, reconnecting briefly at lunch and then again at child collection time.

I guess this is part of owning the type of house and property that we do (as well as the recent addition) in that there are a lot of jobs that simply have to get done at certain times of the year, and our schedules have to adjust to that; grass has to be cut, vegetables have to be seeded, the pool needs to be opened etc, etc.  Therefore, at present, our daily routine is somewhat pre-ordained by the nature of the beast within which we live.  I’m hoping that once the initial push of work associate with addition, as well as the inevitable chores of springtime, once they are complete, that we can find a more collective lifestyle that we can share together.

So we will see how this all plays out.

There are two absolutes here:

1) we’re certainly not spending our days decamped in front of the TV as this great opportunity passes us by.

2) this is very much a first world problem, and we are very much aware of it!



Cozumel 2014

10 03 2014


Cozumel 2014, a set on Flickr.

So here are some of our pictures from our trip to Cozumel this year. There are some family ones at the end, but the first half are from a walking photography tour I took. I did a similar tour with the same guide when we visited 3 years ago, but this time I asked for more of a ‘street photography’ type tour, so we wandered round the back streets and alleyways of the island, and form me it turned out to be a much more interesting experience than the traditional tourist tour, as we got to see the way that many real Mexicans live and what passes for daily life on this island.

The long and the short of it is that we had a great time and my kids are still beautiful!!! 🙂

Breaking Bad…

13 02 2014

Ok, so I know I’m a bit late to the party here, but I have just finished watching Breaking Bad.

Holy shit, what an amazing show.

It’s interesting that some of what I think is the best entertainment is currently happening on TV, and not in the movies.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some  pretty good movies out at the moment, but the standard of TV shows had just gotten so much higher than it’s ever been before.  It helps that a TV show has the time to let characters develop over hours and hours of shows, vs the 2 hour time limit that most movies have, but that said TV is certainly making the most of its time.

It kind of goes without saying that the writing and direction in Breaking Bad is spectacular.  I don’t think he dialogue is all that great, but the way the story grows and twists and turns totally had me hooked.  And obviously, with that many intricate scenarios to dive in and out of, the writers used a fair amount of good luck and coincidence to get the characters out of normally terminal situation, but very little of it was truly unbelievable.

The actors performances were just amazing; everyone is lauding Bryan Cranston and rightly so, but there are so many other great characters in there that again are totally convincing.

The highlight for me, was actually at the end of season 4, and without spoiling anything, I’ll just say Lily of the Valley for those that have seen it.  I was watching it, and no word of a lie, my jaw dropped open in disbelief as that twist was revealed.  A truly staggering moment.

Anyway, if you haven’t watched it, then do it now.  Don’t blame me if you get hooked as I did, and you end up watching a couple of episodes at 5am before you head to work, it’s truly an amazing piece of work.


The Italian Job…

5 02 2014

Talk about polar opposites!

Milan and Rome.

I had a week in Milan and a day in Rome, and boy do I wish it had been the other way round.  I made a flippant comment on Facebook that I salute the Milan marketing team for being able to position the city as an international destination when really it’s a dump.  I guess it has the reputation through it’s fashion design centres, which is probably fair, but I am hardly the target market, and I’ve yet to find a city that doesn’t have a set of Prada/Gucci/Dior store of some kind.  Not sure why you would need to traipse to Milan just for shiny shoes.

Aside from the Duomo, La Scala, The Last Supper and a few other interesting things in the city centre, everything else is just fucking miserable.  Acres of boring grey flats and run down shops fill the streets and the whole place is covered in graffiti.  I know some people think that it’s an art form, but 99.99999999% of graffiti is just total crap.

Anyway, more importantly, Rome is simply staggering.  Sure, on the outer parts of town there are tower blocks and grubby shops – it is still Italy after all… – but the city centre is just mindblowing if you like history and architecture.

Now I’m going to say something stupid here, and I figure that’s fine, you can use it against me if you wish but I’m going to go ahead and say it.

I don’t think I’d ever really made the connection between ancient Rome – heart of the Roman Empire – and modern Rome; a city you can get a high speed train into.  Now obviously, I know that they are one and the same, but it’s still staggering to be wandering around a modern city and find the Colosseum, Pantheon, etc all within the heart of the city.  Maybe I expected it to be like Stonehenge where you are miles from anywhere. I don’t know.  But it’s just amazing to find these extraordinary constructions right there next to traffic lights.  In fairness, some of them, notably the Colosseum would be extraordinary anywhere, but you get my point.  It was funny, we were at the San Siro football stadium on the Sunday in Milan, admiring the sheer size and audacity of the building for a sports building, and Rome pretty much says, “yeah, we did that 2,000 years ago…”.

So, I’m not going to do a TripAdvisor review of Rome for you, there are people better qualified and more experienced than I who can do that in their sleep, but what I would say is that I genuinely believe that it’s a city that everyone should visit before they die.  You can see the foundations of so much about the way that we live our life now right there in the brickwork laid in BC times.  We are constantly marveling at technology and how advanced our lives are, but so much of it has its origins in a little city on the river Tiber in Italy.

An example; we were sitting having a delicious cup of tea in one of the million piazzas, and I said to Paul, “how did the fountains work before electricity”?  Now obviously, we’re a pair of oafs and not engineers so we had to Google it.  And as it turns out, they just used the water pressure from a higher water source (admittedly outside of the city) and had one fountain feed others lower down and then drain out the bottom into the sewage system.  Simple really, but did not occur to us for 1 second.

Anyway, enough of this wittering, I’ve posted some of the usual tourist snaps over in Flickr for your amusement.

But seriously, visit Rome before you die.

Rediscovered Pleasures…

28 12 2013

So this Christmas I was fortunate enough to receive a number of very nice presents from Santa, including an excellent selection of books.  The list included; Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, Fear and Loathing in La Liga, How the Scots Invented Canada, 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, Why I Jump, and James Hunt the Biography.

A very masculine list for sure, but should keep me busy for a while.  Or so I thought.

I’m 3 days in and I’m 3 books down.  I’ve already completed the 2 ‘Intos’ and the Why I Jump book.

I realized that I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading a really good book.  I blame the iPad and the internet.  Seriously. I think the iPad is fucking up my reading.  It’s no great surprise that it’s a massive thief of time, just open it up, fire up Reddit and pop my head up again 3 hours later.  And all the time, having read no paragraphs longer than 5 sentences.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great device but it really isn’t conducive to extended periods of reading.  What’s more, I’d forgotten just how much I love the feel of holding a book, turning the pages, and generally not being plugged into a screen of some kind.  It certainly helps that the books I have read have been massively captivating stories, and considering that I had already seen the movie 0f Into the Wild, that’s no mean feat.

But there is something infinitely more relaxing about sinking into a book, than diving into an iPad.  Not that I’ll be giving up the iPad just yet, but it’s a nice timely reminder of the more tactile world around me.

%d bloggers like this: