Battling with modern technology

I have come to the conclusion, all things considered, that I prefer living alone. Except, that is, for one thing. Instruction manuals.

Whether for my Dyson, washing machine, tumble drier, lawnmower, TV or Nikon camera, I am really phased when it comes to reading the instruction booklets. I can’t get passed the basic instructions before my eyes start to glaze over and I start to think what I want for tea. In the past, I would pass them to my ex asking him to read them and to give me a precis of what I needed to do.

But he is no longer here, so I need to cope with it by myself. A month or so back I took delivery of a super duper backpack sprayer which has an inbuilt battery and a little trolley on which to pull it. Great, I thought, not relishing the thought of lugging around 15 litres of weedkiller, not to mention the weight of the plastic carrier and inbuilt battery, on  my back!

It said that it came charged, but I thought I had better check. Read the instructions, up to the point where it said ‘charging the battery’. Didn’t read any further, of course, no need. Found all the correct holes to push leads into and, hey presto, a constant green light lit up, which the instruction booklet said meant that the battery was charged.

Okay, so I put some water in it. Needed to check that all the seals were tight and there were no leakages… Now to turn it on. Oer, nothing but a high pitched whining noise. Quickly turned it off. Perhaps I needed to turn the pressure knob up? Tried that, still no joy. After checking the ‘trouble shooting’ section in the instruction booklet, I discovered that the high pitched noise was indicating that the battery wasn’t charged. ( I could have seen that, if I had taken the trouble to look at the battery level dial – ho hum.) Oh, buggerations, I thought just my luck to have a faulty battery charger.

I had resigned myself to phoning the ebay supplier the next day when I heard my neighbour in his shed next door. Er, Andy, I said, do you think you could help me? He too, at first, was puzzled by the constant green light when we put the battery on charge. That is… er…. until he .. er.. read further into the instructions. At some point further on it said, “sometimes the charger will show a constant green light when it is on standby” (i.e. not charging). Say no more!

Last year, another neighbour, another Andy, funnily enough, promised to cut my beech/hornbeam hedge for me each year if I would lend him my cutter for his hedges. I was thrilled because my only means of cutting my hedges was with the hedgecutter attachment on my strimmer. The petrol strimmer, with this attachment on the end of its long arm, is very heavy and beyond my powers to use for more than 5 minutes at a time. So I readily accepted his offer.

(Starting the strimmer also seems to be beyond my powers at the moment. Twice this week I have been all set to strim off the paddock as it has been two weeks since the buttercups had been sprayed. But could I get it started? Nope.)

Anyway, not liking to be beholden to people, the independent creature that I am, I decided to buy a battery operated hedge cutter so I could cut my hedges when I wanted. After humming and haaing over two, I settled for the Bosch.

It arrived yesterday, and late last night I started to read the instructions. Er, not a good time to attempt to read instructions!  Looked at the diagram and learned what everything was and where it all was. Now, how do I charge the battery? Read the instructions and it said ‘press the battery unlocking button to remove the battery’. Eh? Went back to the little diagram. No, I wasn’t imagining things… no ‘battery unlocking button’ was shown on the diagram. How could they miss that off ? Mmm, I thought, why don’t they get a woman to write the instructions? Then, and only then, we might be able to understand them!

After a good night’s sleep I picked up the instructions again. They were no further help than they had been the night before. So I had to guess that the red button above the battery was what was needed to remove it. Wrestling with the cutter on the floor for several minutes I managed to, finally, unlock the battery and put it on charge. Hurrah, I thought, another battle won!

Next job this morning was to do some washing, as I see that insertions on Ebay this weekend are foc. Want to clear out office clothes from my wardrobe and this is a good weekend to sell them.

What’s that on the washing machine? A red light that I haven’t seen before? It’s not clean filter or empty water tray (it’s a condenser drier). Er, clean condenser? What’s that? That’s new. Now, where is the instruction manual? Oh, clean condenser every month? I didn’t know that. Only had the drier 18 months. What’s that? Failure to do so could result in a malfunction. Oh dear.

Another five minutes wrestling with the drier this time. It’s in a corner, up against a cupboard, so there is a finite angle it has to be in, in order to pull out the long condenser drawer. I won’t go into details here about the amount of gunge there was in it and how it blocked up the bath plughole.

Lesson is to read instructions from beginning to end, and then again. I wonder if I will next time?


Goodbye glory hole

When I was decorating the kitchen last year I had fully intended doing the pantry too, but when push came to shove, I didn’t. I’d had such a fight to get the wallpaper off in the kitchen (that I had pasted up 15 years before), I couldn’t face the same again in the pantry. Nor could I face finding homes for all the stuff that was in there.

Back in March I bit the bullet and started stripping wallpaper. Only a tiny space, but a pain to do.

Pantry during decoration

The contiboard shelves had to be 25+ years old and definitely needed to be replaced. Pine I thought, would be fine. I could paint them with some of that Cuprinol wood wash, in an ash colour. That would sort of fit in with the limed oak effect in the kitchen proper.

As I was driving to B & Q one Wednesday evening to take advantage of their 10% discount day for oaps to purchase said wood, I started to think that it would look quite nice if I could resource a double base unit like those in the kitchen. So my trip to Norwich to save 10% on just some sandpaper and varnish was a bit of a waste of time!

I scoured ebay and found similar kitchens, in Manchester, the south west and Essex. Mmm, Essex isn’t far, I thought. But it was a whole kitchen and was sure they wouldn’t want to let me have just one double base unit. Back to the drawing board.  Then I remembered John, the carpenter, who lived in the village. I know he’d made whole kitchens for various other village folk. Perhaps I could get a quote from him to replace the shelves and build a front, to make a cupboard?

To cut a long story short, he came over and said that yes, of course he could do that for me. So we agreed a price. He was to make a cupboard across the alcove, in oak (that he had) with two shelves, and I was to lime wax it.

It took a bit of time to arrive, and when it did it was a piece of furniture ! He had made a proper cupboard with sides, top and shelves. Only thing missing was the back. It looked brilliant and, thankfully, slotted in fine, despite the wonky cottage walls! He also replaced the shelves above the cupboard and along the back pantry wall, and over the fridge.

I spent a happy morning roughing up the grain with wire wool and applying lime wax.  I think it looks great. I wonder what you think?




With two young cats around the house there are also lots of toys about the place. These include 4 or 5 ping-pong balls that they love kicking around. Minnie, especially, loves it when I throw one up the stairs to the corner where it hits the wall and, barely before it has the time to bounce off the wall, she is there. Kicking it between her legs, turning somersaults and chasing it down the stairs, trying to catch it as it bounces high in the air when it hits the wooden floor.

As you can imagine, these ping-pong balls are always disappearing under the furniture; two bookcases, a dresser and small plan chest of drawers. All these pieces have fishtail designs around the bottom, so it is difficult for the cats to get their paws in to scoop them out.

I know when one has gone under the furniture as Minnie, as it is nearly always she, sits by the bookcase or whatever, or sticks her arm leg in, to try to scoop it out.

It happened thus, this morning. “Lost your bally?” (sorry, cat-talk), I said. Using the handle end of a dressage whip, kept indoors for just this purpose, I got down flat on my tummy to peer under the bookcase. Aha, there it was, in the gloom, right at the back. So I bashed it, with the handle of the dressage whip, as is my want, expecting it to come shooting out the other end. But it didn’t.

I looked again and there was nothing there. “Oh dear,” I said to Minnie who was breathing down my neck, “there’s nothing there after all!”

Not wanting to disappoint her, I checked on the other side of the fishtail. Aha, there was one there! So, again, head flat on the floor in front of the bookcase, but more gently this time, I tried to scoop it out. In the gloom, at eye level, not six inches from my nose, I saw some tiny scrabbling legs. EEeeeeeek!! its’ a mouse!!!!! I said, as I jumped up, glad that it hadn’t shot out into my face!

I walked away, feeling awful that I had bashed it with the dressage whip and leaving Minnie to her efforts to extricate it.

Minnie - Butter wouldn't melt......

Minnie – Butter wouldn’t melt……

A red letter day

Friday, day off, yippee.  Plans to clean out the greenhouse and prune my roses went awry during the yearly visit from my plumber, to service the boiler.

Last week I discovered that everything, yes, everything on the shelf under the sink was sodden and all rather strangely coloured blue!  Closer inspection revealed a packet of those blue thingeys that you put in the toilet had burst open and had mixed with the water leaking from the sink bowl, with the colourful result. As it appeared to be a slow leak from around the plug hole, I was confident that my plumber could sort it out in a jiffy.

How wrong can you be? After backing out from the bowels of the sink unit Chris, the plumber, had bad news. Yes, he could solve the leak around the plug hole, but there was a hairline crack in the sink and, worse than that, water was steadily dripping from the hot and cold pipes feeding the tap. All that water was dripping down and saturating everything at the bottom of the sink unit. *Groans* Luckily it was where I kept old Tshirts, etc., to use as rags, so they had soaked up a good bit, but judging by the blue colour on the pipes, it looks as though they had been leaking for some time. You’ll need a new tap unit he said, and we should replace those old pipes with flexible ones, and it’ll be difficult to do that with the sink in place……

So, while he was doing his bit in the boiler room outside, I was surfing the net looking for a cheap replacement sink and monoblock mixer taps. *Groans* again.

The one consolation for  my lost day was… Eureka… a beautiful new laid egg!! Dear ol’ Polly, my Light Sussex hen, had laid her first egg for 5 months. Probably be the only egg this year, the way things are going. Still, we have to be thankful for small mercies.

Getting old….

Most of my adult life I’ve had to fend for myself as, the majority of the time, I lived on my own. I used to spend most of my spare time creating a cosy  home – decorating, diy, gardening and riding, competing and caring for my horse. Gradually, after moving to the cottage 22 years ago, I stopped riding and competing my horse, as I was far too busy creating a rose garden, building trellises and rose tunnels and sorting out the cottage.

Then, when 11 years ago, my then partner moved in with his cat and his horse, I let him take over the more mundane tasks, drilling holes in walls, putting up shelves and generally fixing things. I gradually stopped decorating or tending my gardening.

Instead, my poor horse was dragged out of retirement and most weekends were taken up with grooming and going out for lovely long rides together, sometimes three hours or more. We loved being together, enjoying the peaceful countryside and quiet country lanes surrounding the cottage.

When we split 14 months or so ago, my daily routine absorbed the diy, decorating etc. After 10 years of doing very little, I decorated three rooms and the stairs and landing in the last 14 months. So, when my nephew came over for lunch one Sunday, with a huge picture, I had no worries about hanging it. Piece of cake I thought. A very kind gift. One of my late brother’s watercolours which is beautiful. He was very talented.

A lovely memory of my late brother

A lovely memory of my late brother

As it was quite a large painting, I felt that a picture hook would not be robust enough, so I needed to drill a hole.  Under the wall light. Now, I  wondered, would the electricity cables feed down from the ceiling, or up from the floor?  As the hole I needed to drill was directly under the light, I was a little concerned about electrocuting myself. Wish I had one of those thingeys that would tell you where the wires were. But I didn’t. Okay, use a circuit breaker I thought, then if you do hit a live wire you will just frizzle yourself a little but you wouldn’t go up in a huge puff of smoke!

So I found the circuit breaker and tested it. Miraculous, it was working!  I carefully laid out the extension lead and plugged it in to the circuit breaker. Then found the drill and went to plug it in and discovered ….. it was cordless! What a wally I am, felt so silly. Was so glad there was nobody around to mock me! Is this what happens as you get past 60?

Not to be deterred, I picked the bit that I thought would be the right size and corresponding rawplug. Size 8 drill bit it said on the rawplug, but there was nothing written on the bit or in the lid of the drill box. Ho hum, I thought and tried to drill into the hard, concrete blocks with which the extension was built. After huffing and puffing and putting lots of welly behind it I had drilled just a quarter of an inch. Must need to put it on ‘hammer’ I thought. 10 minutes of fiddling I managed that and carried on, sweating and huffing and puffing. Eventually I drilled in up to the end of the bit. Phew, I thought, that was difficult! Had to put in a smaller rawplug before I could screw in a screw I felt would be man-enough to hold the picture.

It wasn’t until later in the evening when I was eating supper, admiring my brother’s painting, and my handiwork, that I realised that I had drilled the hole with a wood bit, not a masonary one. No wonder it was such hard work. Oh dear, derrrr!


Space saving idea for kitchen cupboards

It’s lovely living in a little cottage, but it means that storage space is at a premium.

Because of the limited space, I take some of my supermarket carrier bags to the local farm shop for reuse, but like to keep some back, as they are so useful. But it’s incredible just how much space they can take up in already bulging kitchen cupboards!

On a visit to my brother in Sweden I noticed how he dealt with the problem. It was so simple that I thought I’d share it with you, so that you too, can free-up space in your cupboard.

Lay your bag flat on a flat surface, smoothing out towards the open end to remove all the air.


Then fold it lengthways three times, again smoothing towards open end.


Then fold diagonally starting from the closed end.


Then fold again.


Keep folding until you get to the open end.


Then just tuck in the handles into the open part of the folded bag.


Hey presto, one large bulky carrier bag folded into a little ‘wedge’ of plastic that will take up very little space in your cupboard! I fold up all my big horse feed bags like this too, which saves even more space out in the feed shed.