PHOTOS JULY 2009
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Strawberry has a huge circle of friends. He takes every opportunity of widening the circle of his friends whenever he can.
Here he is in Yorkshire having lunch with his Uncle Doug. A fine pair of friends these, and they wreaked havoc together at the recent Open University Conference. Frankly I'm not sure who was leading who astray back then.
He made pretty short work of the veggie-burger too.
We were actually on our way to Newcastle upon Tyne for a meeting of some society or group of fans of Kramer guitars. Kramer guitars were something of a short-lived phenomenon, the typical one where someone has a phenomenal idea and goes off and produces it but in the long run there is really only a niche market and once that market is fulfilled then it is not sustainable.
Kramer guitars are still being produced, by Gibson if I remember correctly, but I am told that they aren't a patch on the originals.
Of course, this means a photo opportunity for His Nibs.
Keen readers of these pages will know about the mega-scaffold that Terry and I bought earlier this year. As I was passing through Liverpool (where the scaffolding had originated) and as there was still some room left in Caliburn I went to get another 20 sq metres.
The back of Caliburn is now pretty full up and I put the long stuff - a couple of extra diagonals and some scaffolding poles - on the roof rack. Some old dexion racking and a handful of saddle clamps do wonders for this. And now here we are at Toddington Services on the M1 and we are on our way home.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you don't want to be in a hurry if you live round here as there are all sorts of things that can detain you in your progress.
Because of the weird inheritance laws around here many modern farms consist of fields scattered around like a patchwork quilt and the local farmers won't waste a litre of diesel to move their beasts in a tractor when they can herd them around on foot. Still, it's all part of life's rich pageant, as they say.
So here we are then, one old farmhouse without a roof. We put up the scaffolding as you can see, and then Terry and I went berserk with a couple of large crowbars. And that was your lot.
Mind you, the roof needed doing as the slates were pretty much perished and the chevrons didn't promise all that much for the future. If I want to be living here in some kind of reasonable timescale then the sooner I start, the sooner I finish. The old slates will come in handy for making paths and what chevrons I can't reuse in casual building projects I can turn into firewood.
My favourite photography spot again - the birdwatching point near St Gervais with the superb view over the Puy de Dome. And I arrived here this evening just in time to see this low cloud go casually sailing by.
The Puy is actually 1465 metres high so that gives you an indication of how low the cloud was. And it also gives you an indication of the weather today. Wet and miserable. But at least the rain will be clearing all of the dust off my roof.
Terry and Liz have this whacking great barn and it's home to a couple of owls. Whenever anyone opens the barn door first thing in the morning the owls fly out of the air vent.
I lay in wait for a couple of days to try to photograph them leaving and I finally managed to snap one as it made its exit. You've no idea just how impressive it is to see them take to the air. I was really pleased with this shot.
This is what the attic of the house looks like with no slates on the roof. Old pallets on the floor that I used back in 1999 to replace the rotten and infested planks that were there.
My plan for this year is to have that attic refurbished and kitted out into some kind of decent living accommodation - and before the end of October too. I'm going to have to put my skates on as I don't want it to be done "any old how" like so may conversions that you see. I want it to be done properly and in some kind of style if this is going to be where I am living for a couple of years.
I surely don't need to remind you about the scandal of the Viaduc des Fades. After all of the criticism that I have heaped on other people for their lack of effort in the conservation of historic monuments, I am ashamed to have this on my back door.
The viaduct and the railway line that went over it were closed just a year ago because the railway company "suddenly discovered" that it was structurally unsound. Here is my mate Dave the Plumber putting his finger in, not a dyke, but a totally rotten railway sleeper. Is anyone really trying to tell me that this sleeper has rotted away into this state in the period of just a year?
Well, here we are. The end of July and one roof practically finished. All we need now is to fit the second bank of three solar panels, to tidy up around the chimney and to seal the sides of the exposed chevrons with offcuts of the slates.
"Offcuts of the slates?" I hear you say? Yes indeed. Because although these look like real slates they are in fact slates made from recycled plastic which I think is an excellent way of preserving scarce natural resources and dealing with the waste plastic mountain. And of course they are far easier to handle when you are up on a roof on a ladder.