Out of harms way

Years ago at the funeral of a family friend, his wife described how, “every day of my marriage I felt cherished” and that as this didn’t stop just because he’d died she still felt happy and loved.

She did though warn of one character flaw that she learned early in the marriage, that ‘D.I.Y.’ stands for ‘Don’t Involve Yourself’ and that the best way to deal with his wandering off somewhere in possession of a tape measure and a speculative expression was to make herself scarce until the shouting, banging and sparks had stopped.

I’m reminded of this now as the bathroom is filled with men who may know what they’re doing, but who are tackling the aftermath of the previous property owners who didn’t. To tile around the bath they’d started at a random height on the wall, chosen purely for aesthetic merit, then left just enough gap above the bath that it was impossible to seal it properly without an element of plumbers’ metaphoric and literal fudge. The plug and taps were attached with sealant, from the inside. Underneath was filled with expanding foam, to add an extra element of surprise. We’re doing better than someone who had their toilet plumbed into the middle of the floor with nausea-provoking wavey tiles on every vertical or horizonal surface, but only just.

I shall sit quietly elsewhere listening to Silas Marner. Obviously this is a safely measure: if they hit something vital they’ll want someone free who can call an ambulance.

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Eating out

We’re having a Saga of the Bath here at the moment. At least all the sides match now as there’s duct tape running along every edge. I’m getting to know B+Q and Homebase better than I thought I would.

Yesterday we succombed to ‘something different’ and ate out. Over pondering the extent to which the fat-laiden food could be used to waterproof a bath that now leaks round the plughole too, we were able to see the antics of other diners. In the car park we’d met a gentleman of appearance and demeanor that no one would argue with getting out of a battered van. Inside we saw that he’d brought Daddy’s little princess in pink. It was just the two of them and they were smiley, quiet and she was giggly. He was singing nursery rhymes. He was playing ‘Thumb War’. He was helping her eat the messier parts of pudding. He was being cuddly as she got tired. He quietly encouraged her to politely ask for a balloon as she left. I have no idea of the background, whether he’s her main carer or sees her only on weekends, but I feel he should have been lent to parenting groups as an example.

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Culture clash

A member of the household doesn’t ‘get’ Monty Python.

Now they don’t get ‘Mornington Crescent’.

They’re younger than me so is this cultural difference or the times moving on?

And what do I do with them?!

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Academic paradox

The thoughts that come from trying to explain any research or construction project to someone who’s not involved in it:


Something wonderfully ineffable about this one.

No wonder everyone’s keen to write it all up!

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I’ve been learning to make Eton Mess, news that will upset my pancreas and teeth.

A few years ago at university this would have been fairly straightforward – I would have walked to my allotment, picked the fruit, eaten it fresh or frozen or jammed the remainder. Not bad for £26 groundrent a year shared between all of us. There was the small matter of what was in the soil, but given where it was it wasn’t that hazardous.

Now I have to buy it from a supermarket, shipped in from around the world, grown in ways I know not of and filled with I don’t know what.

Apparently, this is progress.

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The wind rises

Last Saturday I saw ‘The Wind Rises’ at Covent Garden. It is to be the last film from Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli.

It’s the first time I’ve seen one at the cinema. Studio Ghibli did ‘My Neightbour Totoro’ and won an oscar for ‘Spirited Away’ so it’s a bit off that there are only three cinemas in the country showing ‘The Wind Rises’ as Studio Ghibli is still not ‘mainstream’ here, when it is a household name in Japan. I watched the Japanese language version with English subtitles and could tell that it wasn’t 100% translation – there were words in the German parts that didn’t appear in the English underneath. It was a good film anyway!

I can see why it’s a controversial film!It’s the story of Jiro Horikoshi. He wanted to be a pilot but couldn’t because of his eyesight, something children of all ages everywhere will be familiar with. But unlike them, Jiro ended up being chief engineer for Mitsubishi, designing planes instead. The historic events are accurate, such as the Kanto earthquake and firestorm of 1923 and the planes (including Mitsubishi zeros), but the thoughts are partly fictionalised and partly taken from his diary. It explores how engineers ‘make dreams into reality’, and that his planes were beautiful pieces of design allowing the impossible, but that each one was cursed because of its intended use. “I can make it fly faster, as fast as you want… but you’d have to take the guns off.”

[An abstract comment on pacifism and a practical comment about the guns and landing gear occupying the same space. Very Ghibli].

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Another change of circumstances, which means I’m back to the computer.

Which means I must now, for various reasons, ensure that I don’t actually spend that much time in front of the computer. This isn’t about the cartoon in The Observer of “How can I write when the oven is so dirty?” but more that knowing of old that once I start researching something it’ll take nothing short of explosives or a large plunger to remove me from the chair.

So, in celebration of my new found interests I spent part of the day walking in the rain, washing the bathroom and kitchen floors and wondering which idiot decided that water-soluble wall paint was a really good idea. As the shower has broken, causing wails of torment from at least one member of the household, we decided that 11pm is the best time to take the bath apart and found what the last occupant did with expanding foam and a liberal approach to securing pipework. Long may such things continue as I hope they shall bring balance to life: getting constructive things done while also maintaining and improving the state of the place round here and making it a bit more liveable.

I think it must be an overhang of my student days that ‘improving a living space’ and ‘constructive’ count as different, parallel things. It relates to there being ‘maintenance’ and ‘progressive’ tasks – the first to go round in a circle to return to the same state, the second to move further forward by building on an earlier foundation: focusing just on maintaining means an eventual deterioration overall. I suspect part of it is a protest at those who feel that ‘progress’ involves staying indoors alone every day hoovering on the off-chance that someone might see it. Or to quote a mate from Uni, “When they think of the great scientists, they talk about their work, what they found, what they did – they never say, ‘And did you see the state of his kitchen cupboards?!'”

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