Learn carpentry (Part one: making a table)

Finally after months of angst we have our own home; and I am going to become a legend at DIY. I have instructed Dave that he can have no part in my first project, it is to be an independent effort and a triumph of girl power. I am making a table. It is to be tall and long, and will create a study area in our hallway. It must cost considerably less than buying such a table. I have no prior experience of carpentry since I created a malformed duck at secondary school.

So. I have been foraging for materials and seeking advice. My first trip to Travis Perkins was inauspicious.
Er, I need some wood.
What for?
Making a table.
What is it going to be like?
Um. I don’t really know yet.
I think he found it difficult to know how best to help me. He showed me various pieces of wood, the price of which ruled them all out anyway, and suggested I draw a plan of the proposed table. I scurried off, feeling I had not come across in my best light.

So then I chatted to a few folk who know more of such matters than me. A vague design began to take shape. I measured the space in which it needs to fit. I estimated a height that would allow us to use the 3 chairs we already possess. I drew a picture.

The next time I ventured into Travis Perkins, thankfully there were different staff on duty. I spoke to another fatherly figure who was somewhat bemused by me. The prospect of a table 1.5m high stumped him. (I later realised that I had meant to say 1.05m, which would account for his confusion.) But, he introduced me to the off-cuts bin, and at last things began to make sense, price-wise at least. I returned home triumphant, with a bootful of fenceposts and other mismatched planks, for no greater outlay than a pocketful of change to their company charity. These, combined with the internal door that I had found in the garage loft would create my table for almost no cost at all. Perfect.

I got home with my spoils, and demonstrated the component parts to Dave. He scratched his head. ‘Mmmm. It’s hard to see how it won’t look a little bit shit’; were, I believe, his exact words of encouragement.
No matter. I was not to be discouraged. I erected the work bench by myself. I located a saw. I allowed him to offer me brief instruction in how to use the saw. I measured and I pencilled and I sawed and some legs took shape.

I trotted off to Screw Fix, and was offered an extraordinary amount of tuition for no cost at all, from a friendly chap who maintained a careful attitude of respect despite clearly doubting my capacities. ‘Are you, er, quite handy with a saw?’ he asked me. ‘Who knows?!’ I replied cheerfully. ‘I can’t see why I wouldn’t be…’ I may have discerned a hint of eye rolling at that point. But I came away with a sackful of screws, a much improved drawing, and a bottle of gorilla glue. The legs were going to need a little more work.

Next day I found the power tools. The day after that, Dave reluctantly agreed to show me how to use them. He clearly expects to find me dead when he returns from work.

But au contraire, I have spent a happy time sawing, and drilling, and screwing, and feeling generally delighted with myself.

Dave later pointed out that I was using most of the tools all wrong. The power drill was set to reverse, apparently, which hadn’t been helping. Even so, my progress was impressive. I have created 2 table ends, like this:
table leg
Then I put an extra support beneath the table top (aka door), ready for the support struts. If that is indeed what one calls them.

Eventually the table top was secured to the table ends… and then turned the right way up. The moment of truth. Would it stand up?

It did! Slight wobble. One more support strut thingy perhaps needed.

But, here we are, a week later, and this is what I have created.

It is neither neat, nor pretty. But it is functional, sturdy, almost free (£9 for gorilla glue and £6 for all the wood) and I have done it all by myself. I am delighted beyond measure.

Next up, we are going to create a tree house. Woo hoo!

Trashing the house

As the day of departure from our minging bungalow (known affectionately throughout our acquaintance as the B.O.D. – bungalow of doom) drew near, I began to discuss with the landlord whether we really needed to spend £200 on cleaning the carpets to protect our deposit.

‘Good God no,’ he replied. ‘I wouldn’t even bother wiping the surfaces. We’re knocking it down the next week’.

‘Hmm’, I said, cogs whirring. ‘Well in that case, could we have a bit of fun with it? Do you mind if we trash it properly?’

We established that he didn’t. Don’t break any glass, and don’t trash the curtains; these were the only ground rules.

So with much delight I invited 10 families round for a comprehensive house trashing party. Bring paints, glue, wallpaper, water pistols, and some very low value clothing.

It was the talk of the classroom for a week or two. Finally the big day was upon us.

At first the children looked rather anxious about the whole thing! We may have drilled them a little too convincingly on the disastrousness of making mess and ruining their clothes!

‘Mummy, help, I have got paint on my hands! Get it off!’

‘Caroline, I have accidentally spilt a bit of paint on the carpet. I am sorry.’

‘Mummy, there is paint on my trousers!’

‘Am I allowed to paint on the wall?’

‘Am I allowed to draw with pens? Really? Am I? In real life? Mummy, really??’

No one could quite get their heads around the level of freedom and carnage suddenly permitted. Some of them looked positively fearful!

So the adults got stuck in. Greg threw the first paint bomb, it burst in a flurry of red paint and the girls squealed as paint went in their hair. We graffitied the walls. We painted our hands and made prints. We created splendid faces looking down from the ceiling. We painted amusing shapes on one another’s heads.

The children began to relax. Requests for their own paint bombs flooded in. Greg spent the next hour filling up balloons.

As the devastation got underway, everyone became more comfortable. After an hour, we had a lull and fuelled the kids with hot dogs. More parents began arriving to collect. The adults congregated outside and chatted idly among themselves, slightly losing track of both time and parental responsibilities. The remaining children seized the day. They found all manner of ingenious methods to get paint on every corner of the house, and indeed themselves. By the time we remembered them, they looked like this.

Holy moly.

It was brilliant though. My kids were the envy of their class, 20 kids had enjoyed freedom beyond their wildest imaginings, and now all my friends live in fear that similar creativity might be applied in their own homes! Tee hee. The only down side is that we have to live in it for 3 more days before we officially move out!

Learn to Eskimo roll

This was on the original 100 list, and for various reasons I never got round to it.  But now, hurrah!  I have joined the local canoe club, endured my half day ‘start session’, and thus was allowed to attend their swimming pool session: by far the best way to learn skills that involve capsizing repeatedly.

So, off I went, swallowing the indignity of learning my new skill alongside a bunch of 10 year olds, and prepared to take full advantage of the availability of willing coaches.  The pool was full, the youngsters were many; the boats were not quite numerous enough to go round, and the coaches were in short supply.  It threatened to be a frustrating wait.  But, eventually, a large chap called Dave was able to give me some time.  I spent a lot of it hanging on the side of the pool upside down and trying to right myself with the critical hip flick. 

Dave moved on to assist a youth, but I then caught the attention of the venerable Doug, who I quickly realised was something of a legend in the canoe club.  I later discovered he was the very founder of the club.  He took charge of me, and relentlessly tipped me upside down for half an hour, at first moving the paddle into correct position for me, then gradually intervening less and less.  He had all manner of useful tips.  Any protest was answered with an impatient ‘Don’t worry about that.  Go on, get on with it.’ And over I’d go again. 

By the end of the session I had done 5 rolls under my own steam, and went on my way utterly delighted.  I finally understand all the elements that I am supposed to bring together.  It would be a whole different thing to do it in a crisis situation, but at least I have mastered the movements and I know what it is supposed to look like.

(2 days later and Dave suggests we sell our kayaks.   What!!??  After 10 years trying to enlighten me, it is now me trying to persuade him that we still want to go kayaking.  What the f***!?)

Eat ALL the food in the house (before shopping again)

So, this is the challenge. Do not go grocery shopping again, until we have eaten ALL the food in the house.

I am allowing 2 exceptions, namely milk and fresh fruit. The first to make our existing food edible, and the second to avoid the children getting scurvy.

We have to eat everything we own that has some calorific content. Herbs, spices, tea bags and the like are exempt. (I do not want to be reduced to eating a neat pot of curry powder before we can restock.)

We are allowed to forage from the natural environment, and allowed to accept freebies if they are spontaneously offered, BUT we are not allowed to go about scavenging or begging or dropping heavy hints to our friends. Conscience will know the difference!

I have not done a big shop just before starting. So supplies are not vast.
It is likely to necessitate some creative recipes. And the lunch boxes will probably draw comment before long. I know we are pretty well served for tinned beans and lentils, so there could be a windy couple of weeks ahead.

I wonder how long we will last!

Does anyone want to join me? It will save money, reduce food waste, fuel your creativity, and, (in my case), REALLY give the children something to complain about when they come to the dinner table! (that last delights me in a most unmaternal manner!) Come on! We can trade recipes! Only yesterday I made a splendiferous prawn-and-mushrooms-in-salsa-dip-sauce, with rice! Delicious!

Let the fun continue!

Right I am simply too bored to go back to normal life! The challenges must continue, albeit alongside writing the internationally acclaimed bestseller. I am aiming to average 2 a week, a mixture of the new and random, and those which address the personal demons exposed by the first 100. (Suggestions for future challenges are again very welcome, the more bizarre and ridiculous the better!)

So this week:
1 Eat ALL the food in the house, before I go grocery shopping again (it may take more than a week but it starts now)
2 Write a motivational talk and create an occasion to deliver it.

Does anyone want to join me in the groceries one? I’d love to hear from anyone who joins in too! I will post my rules in a moment. You are obviously free to adapt them as you see fit!

And do check back next week for progress.

#97: Aqua Aerobics

I managed to squeeze this one in this morning, in between preparations for #98 – organise a party in my own honour!

Thus I spent the last day of my 30s back in the company of the retired community. 15 people gathered in the pool; the vast majority were over weight and over 60. There were some substantial swimming costumes in evidence.

Nonetheless, they were a cheery bunch, though not hugely compliant: the softly spoken lad who ran the class had his work cut out.

Round the pool we went in one direction, then the other. Forwards, backwards, sideways, and then jumping, which reduced the water level considerably. We all got weights and moved them around the pool. It was definitely ‘exercise’; though it didn’t seem to be winning the battle against the bingo wings.

The last 15 minutes saw a relay race that involved everyone lunging from one end of the pool to the other. Everyone was cheating unashamedly.

By the end I noticed I was the only one to have got my hair wet! But it was jolly enough. I have made a note to return in 2035.

#98 is to organise a party in my own honour (the mighty 40th bash scheduled for the morrow); #99 is to attempt the yard of ale (a worthy finale; hopefully to be performed during #98) – and then #100 is to turn all the material into some sort of book. So this is the last report of my 4th decade!

#96: Buy a meal for a homeless person

This has been more difficult than you would imagine. I am rather privileged I suppose, in that homeless people seem to be in short supply around these parts. I asked around, and was told of one that had been sighted in Cirencester, but alas when I headed there to find him there was no sign.

I spent yesterday morning driving around the centre of Swindon in search of someone to offer a lunch to, but to no avail. (I saw several people who looked as if they may well have unmet social needs, but nobody seemed homeless beyond doubt. And one doesn’t wish to offend.)

So, I made up a food parcel, and sent it into Bristol with Dave this morning. Delegation is not really in the spirit of the 100 list, but what else to do, at this stage!? I made the lunch myself at least, and a homeless person will be fed, so hopefully it kind of comes to the same thing.

Dave reports that he found 2 men sleeping near his workplace and deposited the offering. They were too groggy to really acknowledge it, due to having their lunch delivered at 7am, but in Dave’s judgement they may have looked at him with ‘grateful eyes’.

We will never know if it was eaten, but it can’t do any harm anyway! Maybe I should make an extra packed lunch on a more regular basis?

#94: Go to a nightclub and actually dance

The ‘most avoided’ challenges are coming thick and fast this week! And once again, thank Heavens for mates who can be persuaded into joining such enterprises!

I have no weekends left, so the offer I put out to my local acquaintance was the opportunity to go clubbing, in Cirencester, on a school night. Apparently this mid week event is ‘popular with students of the agricultural college’. I checked whether student status was compulsory, and was assured that EVERYONE is welcome to ReVA on a Wednesday. Nor would we need student cards to take advantage of the extraordinarily well-priced drinks.

My suggestion met with a mix of enthusiasm and incredulity, but in the end, a small but committed party of 3 left the village at 9.55pm last night, to the astonishment of our friends and other halves, who were all going to bed. We popped into the pub for a couple of sharpeners, then it was on to the main event.

One of my friends was appalled to be recognised as soon as we walked in! We did not imagine we knew anyone at all in the 18-21 bracket these days, and certainly she almost fell over in astonishment to see him in that setting! She and her friends were all drinking an unpleasantly sweet looking concoction out of a jamjar, filled half full with gummi bears. How queer. We resisted that temptation and ordered a round of jager bombs instead. For £10 we were given 5. We realised we had not brought enough people. No matter. We got through them!

Each round cost £10 and consisted of 5 drinks to share between the 3 of us. A quick round each, and it was time to hit the dance floor. And imagine, the cage was vacant! We got involved. We were on fire!

For the first hour or so, we did not recognise any of the music. So we amused ourselves surveying the youth. We played a game of ‘If you really had to, who would you ‘do’?’ The more we considered it, the more preposterous the prospect seemed. Fresh faces abounded. No one looked a day over 20. There were really no contenders other than the security staff! (This was unlikely to be a problem, as we were not drawing any interest whatsoever from the younger clientele! Oh, and of course we are all happily married anyway.)

Around midnight, they played Teenage Dirtbag. And the 3 of us went wild! We had a whole dance floor to ourselves at this point, and we made most excellent use of it. We flung ourselves the full length of the space available, strutting, leaping, air guitar-ing, throwing out shapes. God we looked good. From then on, the 90s classics came thick and fast, and we paused only to see off another round of jager bombs.

I can offer some very poor imagery of our exploits:
20140508_005524 (Large)

me on dancefloor
I had taken the precaution of booking a cab for 1am, which we were all thankful for next morning. But we left wondering why on earth we spend our time going to sedate dinner parties these days. Why stop leaping around a dark room to some banging tunes?? Club night might become a regular event!

Certainly we were looking good….
me and adam in cage

#89: And then bury all your clothes

bury all my clothes (2)
Yes I know, it is entirely pointless, ridiculous, etc.

But it does amuse me slightly, to think of the builders coming to knock down our sorry little bungalow in a few weeks’ time; then digging the foundations of the 2 swank pads that are going to replace it, only to unearth a random selection of my pants, not very far from the surface.

Am I abnormal?

#88: Fly a jumbo jet

Well not exactly a jumbo jet, but I have been flying one of these bad boys!
Check it out!

We have been viewing Ashton Keynes and the surrounding area from the air, and while I cannot claim to have been in any way instrumental in surviving the experience, I did get to fiddle with the control stick rather a lot (oo-er). And I must say it was extremely responsive!

Here is Ashton Keynes from above:
AK from the air
And here is me, looking more than slightly anxious at wobbling about 1800 feet in the air or thereabouts (if I understood the controls correctly, which is enormously unlikely).
anxious pilot

Thank you very much Auntie Tina for my early birthday present! Very splendid.