Archive for September, 2012

Driving me mad…

September 24, 2012

This post isn’t about recycling. This post is about manners; specifically, about manners on the road. Over the last week or so, I’ve clocked up a fair few miles in the course of business & pleasure, mostly on rural & “A” roads, and I’ve been so upset by the way that some people behave when they get behind the wheel that I have to let off some steam!

Last Sunday I was driving back down from North Dorset when a big silver Audi screamed up behind me and hung so close to my back bumper that I couldn’t see the bonnet of his car. We were on a National Speed Limit road, and I was going well over 50 as I do know the road quite well, but it’s narrow & twisty with high hedges & goes down to one track in places. So as soon as I could, I pulled into a farm gate & let him pass. Within 100 yards a big white BMW had pulled up right on my tail again, and we were into the bit that goes single-track with no place to pull in. And there he stayed for about 15 miles, so close that if I’d had to brake unexpectedly, say for a vehicle coming the other way where’s there’s no passing place, he’d have found himself in my boot; the best braking system in the world can’t stop you within 10 feet at 60MPH. There were plenty of opportunities for him to overtake in the last 5 miles, but he was too close to see past me!

There have been other incidents during the week, culminating in an unpleasant run from Bridport to Dorchester this afternoon. I had a pale green VW far too close behind me from the end of the dual carriageway; at the A37 roundabout he attempted to undertake me, but another car got in his way. Straight up close behind me again, he pulled into the left-turn to Dorchester lane at the next roundabout, signalling left; I was going straight ahead in the A35 lane, breathing a sigh of relief, when I spotted him in my lefthand mirror, having attempted to undertake again. He shook his fist at me when I didn’t slam on my brakes to let him through. At the Kingston Maurward roundabout he shot into the right-hand A35 lane, and careered round the roundabout, still shaking his fist at me, and his elegantly-dressed wife, probably in her early 60s, gave me a V-sign! I watched as they shot up behind the next car in front, kept on edging out to try to overtake despite the oncoming traffic, then caused mayhem weaving in & out of the traffic accelerating up the next stretch of dual carriageway, when there was no need to weave & cause the overtakees to brake, as there was nothing else in the overtaking lane.

Why do people do it? I know I’m not the best or fastest driver on the road, or in the most expensive car, & I recognise that for some people, driving will always be a race because of their competitive nature; they have to be in front, usually driving a car that cost more than a year’s salary for most people. But driving so close that you are putting yourself & other people in mortal danger is lunatic, especially at speed, no matter how good your airbags. Not to mention intimidating; I don’t let it get to me whilst I’m actually driving, and I’m not going to go faster than the limit just because they want to, but nor am I going to slow down deliberately to annoy them because that’s just childish & only likely to cause more problems. I would love a “Back Off!” sign, but I’d also love a “Thank You!” sign for people like the person who was behind me from Dorchester to Wimborne, who kept a sensible distance, or for people who let you out of difficult turnings.

And for the person who boxed me in where I was quite legitimately parked this afternoon; if a Mum with a pushchair, or a wheelchair user, had come down the pavement you were parked half across, they’d have had to go out into the roadway on a blind corner to get past. Luckily one of my friends helped me inch out, but if I’d had to stay put until you returned, you’d have faced the wrath of – well, a very cross middle-aged Mum!

Made crosser still by the fact that some of the charity shops in our area are now charging more for clothes than they cost originally, but that’s another story…

The final curtain!

September 10, 2012

Sorry, but I’m not actually going to shut up yet… really it’s now the final curtains,  the last one from the Laura Ashley set, lengthened with the strip cut from the conservatory ones & made into a pair for the front door. It all looks rather posh now! I’m amazed how quickly it all happened; it’s almost as if they wanted to be used rather than being sent off for ragging, because despite the sheer weight of the fabric and the fact that half the time I was finger-pressing rather than doing a proper job with the iron, somehow I hardly put a stitch wrong & my quick-unpick was only used to remove the header tape, which was then re-used. So now I have three pairs of matching warm, lined curtains, which kind of fit nicely in a house this age & size, for the princely sum of £3.50 – one of the 50p curtains poles was not needed so went off with a friend, but I had to buy a few more pin-hooks to hang the last set as the rings on that pole are metal. One reason why the old curtains looked so tatty was probably that one of them only had two pin-hooks left; the rest of the rings were attached with a motley selection of safety pins!

I have a feeling it’ll take me a while to get round to doing the cushions, though – there are other projects crying out to be done, and I need to find, and I do mean find , some suitably eclectic fabrics to patch them with!

Startled but rather pleased…

September 8, 2012

A few weeks back I picked up a big, heavy bag of what I assumed were vintage curtains as part of a job-lot that I paid £10 for. I have since revamped & sold on the main item from the job lot at a profit; not a magnificent one when you consider the time & expertise that I put into it, but still worthwhile. So anything else I can either sell on, or use myself, from that job lot, is pure gain.

I’d bunged the bag of fabric into the porch whilst I finished updating DS3’s bedroom. Vintage curtains do sell on my stall, albeit not for very much; ’tis all grist to the mill, though, as my mother would say. I used to take the header tapes off them & sell them on as lengths of fabric, but so many people told me that they were going to make it into curtains (again) that I decided it was easier just to leave them be & let the buyers cut them up if they want to. Anyway, yesterday I hauled the bag out to investigate further…

You could have knocked me down with a feather; it contained two large pairs of very-acceptable cream & terracotta cabbage-rose Laura Ashley linen/cotton curtains, complete with tie-backs & pelmets. They show no signs of ever having been used as the fabric is still crisp & there are no fingermarks, dust or fading; there are a few plastic track hooks, but I suspect that they’re far too heavy to hang from a plastic track in daily use; the big pair are well over 3m wide each at the hems & both pairs are 230cm long. So possibly they came from a show-house & weren’t liked, or someone tried to hang them from a track that wasn’t strong enough & they were swiftly replaced by something lighter? It’s not a current pattern, but the closest I could find on their website (Baroque Raspberry) in the larger size, lined, with tie-backs, would cost £990 a pair!

It just so happened that I had recently bought fabric to make new living room curtains; I made some about 8 years ago & decided I hated the pattern about 7½ years ago, so it was high time to replace them. But I wasn’t totally sure about the new fabric, although I’d paid £9.90 a metre for it; the night before last I actually dreamt I had made it (with some other scraps) into some curtains & blinds for the kitchen, which completely changed the look & feel of the kitchen in a positive way, making it feel much less of a left-behind 80s “farmhouse” style & more of a deliberately-retro country kitchen. So that fabric isn’t going to go to waste, because the Laura Ashley curtains are perfect for the living room windows & the conservatory doors; it would be very hard to find anything to suit the space better. I have a feeling there’s enough there to do the front door, as well, if I halve the big ones widthways; they’d cover both gaps more than comfortably. As our ceilings are quite low for an old house, the pelmets would be de trop so they’ll be deconstructed & turned into cushion covers, which will take a bit of jiggery-pokery or possibly patchworking skills. The only money I’m going to have to spend is on acquiring some new curtain rings, which isn’t going to break the bank. Needless to say, I will check that my favourite suppliers down at the Tip don’t have any first!

So although I’m trying to be very strict with myself about bringing unnecessary items into the house, sometimes, just sometimes, my magpie instincts do work in our favour.

Edited to add: needless to say my favourite suppliers did indeed have exactly what I needed, and one of the big curtains has now been split into two, shortened slightly and is gracing the conservatory doors. Pic duly added; door & frame yet to be painted. Total expenditure now £3, £1 for two curtain poles complete with rings & £2 for some metal hooks on the market this morning.

Best of British…?

September 5, 2012

As those of you who know me personally know, whilst DS3 is studying in Chile, I am making use of the space he isn’t using to try to earn the money to go out to visit him. To that end I’ve spent the last few weeks emptying his room of all the shop & other debris that had come to rest there & redecorating it. As the lovely old sash window in there doesn’t “fit” properly any more following a doomed attempt at revamping it, I also made up a roman blind from two inexpensive remnants of rather-exclusive furnishing fabric, an old slatted blind & some leftover calico. Although I didn’t get the slats quite straight, I’m really quite pleased with the result (for £11.50) & hope it will make the room far more pleasant in winter as it’s 3 layers thick & fits the window recess very snugly.

So now we have a young German student staying for 2 weeks in there. He’s a lovely studious lad who DS3 would have got on with very well. This is the first time we have played “host family” as we’ve never had any spare rooms until now, and I’ve been perplexed by some of the instructions I’ve been given; to start with, the organiser told me, “Don’t go to any great trouble with food; they don’t like British food anyway, so just get in some extra pizzas – you know, the sort of thing teenage boys like.”

Hmm – here we are, in the middle of some of the UK’s finest farming country, with easy & relatively cheap access to some of the best fresh food that Britain has to offer. Surely we can do better than additive-laden supermarket pizzas? And these kids come from rural Germany’s agricultural heartland; I was saddened to find that his parents had sent him with a suitcase full of vitamins & fibre supplements. They had evidently been forewarned that British food was awful… it seems it’s a self-perpetuating situation! They don’t like British food, so only offer them the very worst of it because they’re not going to eat it anyway. Bless the boy, he’s tucked happily into pasta, rice, potatoes, pancakes, chicken, eggs & vegetables, which is the sort of thing he likes best & we eat all the time, and hasn’t cost us a penny in extra pizza rations!

I’ve had many friends who have tried doing this in the past, and I’m well aware that we have been very lucky in “our” undemanding student, but one constant complaint has been that they’ve cost more to feed than you’re paid to have them. This is definitely not going to be the case with ours! I’m also aware that I’m very lucky to be in a position to make huge economies of scale when it comes to catering; I can scoop up a big bag of parsnips, say, for £1 towards the end of Sunday’s market, and know that I will have no trouble at all using them up before they become inedible. Though if there were only one or two of us, I’d still buy them, and preserve the ones I couldn’t use straight away.

And the preserving season is going into full swing now; hardly a day goes by when I’m not out foraging for more wild food, making jam, jellies, butters or curds, loading my dehydrator or trying to hollow out more space in the freezer. It’s an awful year for apples & figs down here, but the cherry plums are so laden that we’re in danger of losing more branches, the quinces have done OK, the Japanese Wineberries have exceeded all expectations, the raspberries seem to have got a second wind, and if the weather stays reasonable for a couple more weeks, it promises to be a bumper blackberry crop. So I shan’t repine for my missing Blenheim Oranges, but will make the most of what I’ve got, and be utterly thankful for the freedom to get on with it this year!