The Pig Yard

July 2012

Another busy month has whizzed past us but we were well prepared and everything went pretty much according to plan except of course the issues with the house planning consent. The month got off to a very exciting beginning with a couple of days in London staying overnight with Jane's brother, Richard and Nicola. They are conveniently situated in north London and are very good hosts leaving us to come and go as we please.
For two weeks of the month we were acting as hosts to friends from Australia, Ian and Sue. They were no trouble and all we had to do was give them a bed and breakfast for most of the time with a few hours here and there between their visits when we went for walks and enjoyed their company.

Picasso Exhibition

Picasso Exhibition at Tate Britain

Of course Picasso is a surrealist and a cubist so it was interesting and puzzling in equal measure. It also introduced some of the British artists who were influenced by Picasso like Wyndham Lewis. The works of art were displayed in what we thought was a confusing way because it was neither chronological or by style however we're never surprised by our own ignorance in such matters. For Steve his innate desire for pattern and order may well crowd out creative understanding.
The exhibition created some interesting discussions about shape and form and we had a debate about paintings that were seemingly child like (“I could have painted that”) but alongside the “childlike” were well crafted drawings and paintings so obviously Picasso had skill as well as an eye for the surreal.
The following day we saw an old, oriental looking beggar on the streets “playing” a battered guitar by bowing a broken biro across the strings. It wouldn’t be possible to call this music but in some ways it was the equivalent of some of Picasso’s work. Art like beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the observer.

Regina Spektor at the Royal Albert Hall

This was our third visit to the Royal Albert Hall and the seating is unpredictable. This time we were in the second row of a box directly in front of the stage but Jane had a six foot tall fat person sitting in front of her. She did manage to move her seat sufficiently to get a reasonable view.

Jane discovered Regina Spektor some years ago and her quirky style has kept us both entranced ever since. She cannot get away from her Russian Jewish roots but that enhances her music and lyrics. Her concert just proved she is a really lovely person and would be the kind of person you would like to call a friend. Her set list included all of our favourites and her finish with Samson was a great conclusion. It was a superb concert and we were really pleased that we’d made the effort. I think we would go and see her again if the opportunity arose. The walk back from the Albert Hall to Knightsbridge station in the rain wasn’t unpleasant as we could relive the event.

Regina Spektor

Sea World London

Sea Life Aquarium

Steve would be the first to admit the visit to Sea Life Aquarium was not a “must do” experience for him. Having visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California a couple of times he couldn’t see how Sea Life could be a patch on that, but thankfully he was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t as spacious as Monterey but the designers had made really good use of the space available and some of the tanks were enormous. There was an open tank with rays and large fish swimming about which Jane took delight in stroking the fish and it wasn’t until we walked away that we noticed signs saying don’t put your hand in the water or feel the fish. The fish didn’t seem to mind and some of them seemed to enjoy it – no harm done and Jane got a lot of pleasure from it. Even Steve stroked the odd passing ray.
The only downside was the number of small children walking though in their droves. Call us old curmudgeons but we think our parents attitude that children should be seen and not heard was a really great concept and we regret the day it was lost. So it was a good morning and we rounded it off with lunch at Costa in Islington with Jane’s brother before catching the train back to Northampton.

Spider Man

Tesco cinema vouchers have a lot to answer for. Last month we went to see Prometheus and this month we got tickets for the Amazing Spider-Man. Jane has always been a great fan of Marvel comic superheroes ever since she was at college and she particularly likes Spiderman because of his ability to trapeze through the air, like flying, but not. Steve isn't such a great fan but it’s reasonable sci-fi and he just like immersing himself in films, whatever the content. We did think this would be a follow-on to the previous films but it is in fact a remake of the film made ten years ago and of course it was in 3D.
The story was well trodden and so few surprises. The special effects were excellent however we're not sure the 3D part was as effective as it could have been and really only became “in your face” in the last 15 minutes of the film. Overall we enjoyed it but was a little disappointed that it wasn’t an extension to the previous films.
Spider Man

Hedda Gabler @ Royal Theatre

Hedda Gabler at The Royal Theatre

We knew nothing of the story of Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen and so we were not sure about what we would be seeing. We were in for a great evening firstly because the players were very professional and believable and secondly because the story is intriguing with the main character someone who is both neurotic and manipulative.

A woman who is really seeking thrills in her life but finds boredom at every turn. She even gets married to someone who is quite dull, not because she loves him but because it is something that brings drama into her life. To manipulate the men that surround her she needs to flirt and draw them into her web of neuroticism but even that power is short lived. We really enjoyed the evening and would recommend it to others.

Root Canal Work

It’s a long time since Steve has had any major dental work. About 3 years ago he had a tooth break and rather than have it extracted he asked the dentist to fill it. Eventually the filling fell out and there was some infection which led to toothache, the kind that just won’t go away unless one takes a cocktail of paracetamol and ibuprofen. So he had to decide – extract or try to repair. There’s something psychological about losing teeth, a sign of weakness and of course aging so he opted for repair but before a post could be inserted in the broken tooth, the root canal had to be removed. He knew it was going to be a long process, over an hour and there would be two sessions but he wasn’t prepared for his mouth to be wrapped in latex and it to be stretched open for the whole process. No it wasn’t painful thanks to plenty of anaesthetic but it was uncomfortable and six hours later his jaw still felt as though it had been dislocated and the numbness hadn't receded completely. There was no pain or discomfort for which he was really grateful. Is he looking forward to the next session in August? Certainly not but it isn’t as bad as he imagined. For a YouTube demonstration (not for the faint hearted) click here…

Root Canal Work

WI Car Rally

WI Car Treasure Hunt

When we agreed to go on the WI Car Treasure Hunt we might have got a little over excited. There were no racing starts, nobody dressed in flameproof underwear, or at least not as far as we were aware but it was a lot of fun. We turned up at the end of the start period so we didn’t see many others on the route. We were accompanied by our friends Ian and Sue from Australia and they just loved the “quaint English villages with all the stone cottages”. It was a well directed route and although we nearly missed a couple of clues we didn’t lose our way and before long the evening was coming to an end at the Walnut Tree.
After a bar snack and a drink there was a drum roll and the announcement was made – we’d come a close second.
The evening was great fun and we added to it by gate-crashing an American country/folk music session that was taking place in the back room. They were having a good time.

Ian & Sue Visiting from Australia

Our friends, Ian and Sue, who live outside Brisbane, Australia have been on a long tour from China, through Mongolia to Russia and then Germany before coming to stay with us for two weeks. They used us as a base to see their friends and relatives and to enjoy some of the more touristy places and events that we take for granted.

We managed to get out with them on several occasions despite their gruelling itinerary and of course Jane working several days a week. They are both fanatical about wildlife and spent several days looking for butterflies in their old haunts around the county however the cold start to the year and the wet weather for most of the spring meant that even in the last few days when it has been very warm there were not many butterflies around. We took a stroll across the meadow down by the lakes and there were butterflies in profusion so it was a good end to their stay.

Ian & Sue

Batman Film

Batman - The Dark Knight Rises

We had some Tesco cinema vouchers that were going to run out at the end of the month so we decided to spend a very hot evening in the air-conditioned surrounds of the local multiplex. The film was too long in some places with quite a bit of sentimentality in the middle when this could have been cut out. The producer seemed to temporarily forget that Batman is an action hero and without the action there is no story.

There was one section where Batman had been beaten and is dragged off with bare feet. There is a similarity with Jesus being dragged off to the cross. Later Batman manages to escape from a prison by climbing out of a hole and the symbolism to “rolling away the stone” is fairly obvious - so the super action hero is not a new story by any means. We know the film is a complete invention and we tried hard to lose touch with reality, we honestly did, but when Batman gets out of his wonderful flying vehicle that could destroy anything in its path so that he can go hand to hand with someone who had already beaten him – no, sorry, it was an act of insanity and jarred with us both. Eventually, after two and half hours, all’s well that ends well. The baddies are dead and the good guys live to fight another day. So what’s new? We cannot recommend the film but we’d watch it again when it reaches TV.

Decorating the Fourth Bedroom

We've lived in the house for over sixteen years and there were two rooms that we'd never decorated because we rarely used them and they didn't look too bad. With the prospect of moving next year we thought we had better start to improve the decor.

Back in April we bought the paint and Steve started by removing the wall lights and doing one undercoat on the stained wood skirting. He then declared that there's only one thing worse than watching paint dry and that's applying it in the first place. Having made this observation it was down to Jane to finish the job who defiantly claimed that she enjoyed painting.

Several months later the woodwork and walls have been painted, a new carpet fitted and the wall lights installed. Now we need to think about the third bedroom.

Fourth Bedroom Decoration 


Cycles this month

Jane is the real cycling enthusiast and enjoys the journey whereas Steve uses it as a means to keep his weight in check and remain reasonably fit. This difference of approach means our cycles are not necessarily the best approach to team working. Jane will take hills at her own speed whilst Steve just goes for it using every muscle and sinew to get it over and done with as quickly as possibly and then collapses at the top, gasping for breath. The weather makes a big difference - we cycled over to Wilby and felt really good when we got there not realising that we'd had the wind behind us all the way. Coming home was a different story.

We've completed a few shorter cycles of ten miles or so and then there have been a couple of rides that have taken us to 30 miles or more. To be ready for our cycle4cynthia sponsored ride of 50 miles at the end of September we need to have completed 45 miles at least twice and hopefully more than that. Our longer routes are available by clicking here and here 


House Project

As it was coming up to 8 weeks since our planning application was submitted I decided to contact the planners at West Lindsey Council. I received a very helpful response:

I am waiting to finalise a comment from our tree officer but apart from that I am recommending the proposal for approval and hope to get everything finalised in the next couple of days

This sounded so positive that we nearly cracked open the champagne however we are aware of the travails of local government and decided to hold fire until we had absolute confirmation in writing. A week later, in fact on the very last day after which the planners would miss their target the tree officer raised some objections:

The trees around the edges of this land are protected by the Tree Preservation Order Market Rasen No.2 2000.

The root protection areas (RPA’s) are drawn on the proposed site layout plan and show that the dwellings are clear of the RPA’s, but the garage of plot 3 is within the RPA of one adjacent tree, and the access road runs across the RPA’s of many trees along the southerly boundary. It would be preferable if this dwelling and garage could be repositioned a bit further north to reduce the amount of encroachment within the RPA on its southerly side.

My main concern is the driveway shown across the RPA’s of the trees along the southerly boundary. Using traditional methods of excavations, hardcore and compaction I would not be in support of these proposals with the access drive across the RPA’s of these TPO trees. The driveway is possible using alternative methods by using a geotextile membrane over the ground surface and then a cellular confinement system on top. The individual cells are then filled with appropriate clean hardcore and a finished surface can then be laid on top or left with a gravel finish. A cellular confinement system avoids the need for excavations and spreads the load to minimise soil compaction and root damage. It also allows air and water to reach the roots below the cellular confinement system. Some of these trees are in poor condition and the report recommends removing four trees, but this would still leave several trees with the proposed driveway across their RPA’s.

This news after getting such a positive message from the planner was devastating and I went into a very dark place. Our architect has been very helpful and has agreed that we will do what is necessary to protect the roots under the drive and suggested that we remove the tree nearest our garage and replace it with another once the building work is complete. We are still waiting for a response.

The power of the tree officer far exceeds what is natural and whilst we wouldn’t want to harm any of the trees on the site as they are a wonderful asset we don’t want this to stop the project.

House Project 

Next Month...

  • Planning is finalised
  • Purchase the land
  • Start building regulations process
  • Steve completes his root canal work
  • Friends birthday celebrations
  • Longer, faster cycle rides

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