Tuesday, 11 August 2015

It's a dirty job but someone has to do it... Dawn

The creepy crawlies here are a regular source of fear for me as well as occasional (but rare... in fact, only once) amusement.

In the latter category, one night last week after I finished a bag of Marmite crisps while in bed I tied a knot in it and threw it at the bin, missing by a country mile. At about 2am next morning I was woken by a tiny insistent clicking sound and put the light on only to find a black beetle carrying it aloft to an unknown destination. It was struggling, admittedly, but it was making impressive progress nonetheless.

In the former category was the rather pretty but utterly terrifying black-and-orange sexton beetle that Dawn and I spotted on Saturday afternoon as it literally rolled the corpse of a vole around on the owl perch. I like to think it was checking the unfortunate rodent's pockets rather than dining on its squishy insides because that's what nightmares are made of and The Lodge is giving me enough of those already.

And then, in a category all of their own, are spiders.
I've mentioned before that I don't get on with spiders, and I'm not kidding. At best they're accomplished and powerful pugilists and at the other end of the spectrum they are lightening-quick insatiable carnivores which will attempt to swallow you whole given half a chance.
I've even been known to scream and throw a laptop computer at such a beast in our old house when it caught me by surprise as it scuttled across the carpet by my foot. It was so big that I heard it before I saw it. The spider lived whereas my Sony Vaio didn't.

So that's why I was more than delighted for Dawn to venture into the loft on Sunday to pull out all of the fibreglass lagging while I played the role of trembling wing-man below the hatch in Bedroom 1.

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My folks half-way through a 500-mile round trip... to paint a shed.
At least it keeps them off the roads.

My parents (who live a couple of hundred miles away and haven't been here since March, before we got the keys) were over for the weekend, and they can't do much in the way of heavy manual labour so we put them to work painting the shed to keep them out of mischief.

Meanwhile, in order to support my fragile ego, I was determined to spend at least a few minutes in the loft with Dawn - who was much more eager to get up there than she should have been - so whereas we both dressed sensibly in thick disposable hooded coveralls, masks and gloves, I added to that a balaclava, goggles, a Bible and gaffa tape around the wrists and ankles. I also asked my folks to check in on us on the hour, every hour in case we were being devoured while encased in giant Temple of Doom-style webs.

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The idea behind the loft incursion goes back to a previous post about managing moisture in the house. Fibreglass is a man-made material that is pretty much impervious to moisture so won't allow it to escape upwards and outwards, and when the weather gets chillier the moisture in the warmer air rising up will condense beneath it and create problems with damp, as evidenced by heavy marking and cracked Artex on the ceiling just outside the bathroom doorway.
Ripping all of the lagging out was one of our priority jobs when we first moved in but we were initially distracted by other things and, because it was going to be thoroughly messy and horrible, we had planned to throw it straight out of the window - a plan thwarted by two months of scaffolding blocking the casements in Bedroom 1.

Our only knowledge of the loft up until this point was from the day of our survey when we poked our heads through the much-too-small hatch and saw formidable darkness, lime-torched laths beneath the roof tiles and the evil insulation, so we were keen to see what surprises lay in store other than certain death.

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Horrible work performed by a lovely lady

Dawn went first, naturally, and I waited below to receive the first installment of what turned out to be two thick layers of lagging. In a house which has seen precious little cash thrown at it over the years, this is one area where no expense seems to have been spared.
After the first few rolls of the filthy stuff came down and went straight out of the window the intrepid explorer came down for a quick breather and to explain what she had seen up there, which amounted to precious little other than cobwebs.
Buoyed by her unlikely survival I ventured up alone and bravely pulled out a few rolls of insulation myself, in the process discovering a fair amount of straw scattered around below it which, as Dawn quite rightly suggested, turned out to be The Lodge's 150-odd-year-old original insulation, great wads of which were still packed tightly beneath some of the harder-to-reach rafters. The irony is that straw is an excellent natural insulator that breathes, so it would have been far more effective overall than the rubbish that replaced it. But hey ho.

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Original straw insulation stuffed under the beams among the filth

Almost at the same time that I spotted large amounts of mouse droppings among the filth on the upper surface of the lagging I also found part of a sachet of poison beneath it, so the message there was pretty clear although there didn't seem to be any evidence of recent rodent activity in terms of nests or... well, I don't really know what else. A tiny kettle still hot to the touch? A miniature smouldering cigar, abandoned in the rush to evacuate? A copy of Good Mousekeeping, complete with date? I'm no pest expert, as you can probably tell, but there were certainly no furry rodents scurrying away in the torch beam and we heard nothing suspicious during the whole time we were up there. There were no bats either which was a blessed relief because, as a protected species, that would have thrown a right old spanner in the works.

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The King Post
Other than two very small abandoned wasp nests, some V and IIII carpenters' marks on the woodwork and a very old piece of honeycomb which had survived remarkably well beneath the fibreglass there wasn't much else to see so, acutely aware that I was being watched from the darkest recesses, I all-but fell out of the loft and let Dawn get on with it, occasionally nipping back up quickly to take a few photographs.

One thing that the wife got excited about was the rediscovery of what our surveyor had described all those months ago as a King Post in the roof, which is a curiously-shaped vertical column that goes from the apex down through the wall between Bedrooms 1 and 3 and does things I don't understand for reasons I understand even less, and as a result I can't get all giddy about it myself, to be honest. But it's a good-looking piece of timber so should we ever knock the two bedrooms through it would be nice to keep that exposed as part of the original fabric of the (extended two-storey) building. Maybe I should look it up.

Anyway, too many hours after we first started we were left with a massive pile of lagging on the ground at the front of The Lodge which we piled onto the old carpet we had removed earlier in the day from Bedroom 2 and dragged around the back. We're finally getting a skip at some point today so that'll be the first thing to go in there.

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The result of many hours of hot, sweaty, dirty work

Which left just one more job.
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The business
Because Dawn hadn't been dicing with death enough in the loft she went back up to run the cables for the CCTV cameras through holes in the torching underneath the rafters.
Up until Thursday the CCTV system we bought in the wake of our unburglary had been temporarily attached to the scaffolding, but its departure meant that we had to sort it out on a more permanent basis which required proper cable routing.
I installed the cameras in their final positions around the house and property yesterday and hooked everything up again so we're back online in that respect, which is nice because I felt naked without them up-and-running. It's surprising how much peace of mind they offer.

So that was it - we're now ready for sheep's wool insulation when we work out if we can get a grant for it or not, which would be helpful, and we can watch the comings and goings of SausageTheCat from the comfort of our camping chairs should we so wish. Lovely.

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Two down, more to go
Meanwhile the shed is looking all fine and dandy with a lick of green paint highlighted with white bits, courtesy of the olds, who left for home yesterday afternoon with the warm glow of satisfaction that can only be earned by a job well done.

So pleased were Dawn and I with the glammed-up shed that we played host and held a mid-point celebratory barbecue on Saturday night, and as all good BBQs should go we warmed home-made lemon and chilli burgers gently for two hours over the tepid coals before chucking them under the grill in the house then ate them reluctantly while very aware of the possibility of food poisoning.

I think we're in the clear now though.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like one of those dodgy-looking 'unburglars' has come back to nick the CCTV camera!!!!! =oD


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