If you live in an old house you soon realise that there is no such thing as a small job. When something stops working, or breaks, or crumbles to dust, it is seldom a case of just renewing or repairing it, since doing so generally uncovers another problem that must be addressed. So it has been with our rat-infested drains issue. (I exaggerate slightly – one rat under the house in nearly 30 years hardly counts as an infestation, but try telling that to my ‘soft southerner’ husband who grew up in a town and – he claims – had never come face to face with a rat before moving to rural Yorkshire.)
On the plus side, I soon tracked down a couple of expanding drain bungs at a very reasonable price (£8.99 per pair from Screwfix, since you ask). It was a doddle to fit them and the disused drains are now, hopefully, rodent-proof. The bungs have a small pipe down the middle with a cap on it, because they’re meant for temporarily isolating drains so they can be pressure tested, and the pipe allows for the testing. This means that we can check the two drains aren’t actually doing anything useful by waiting until it next rains for a while and then removing the cap to see if water pours out. All well and good.
Unfortunately, while opening up the manhole to fit these bungs we discovered that the cast iron ring into which the cover fits is not attached to the ground. As we drive over this manhole to get to the garage, this is far from ideal – it would be all too easy for a wheel to knock the cover off and we’d end up with the car stuck in a hole and a buckled wheel. My dear husband has therefore hacked out all the tarmac around this manhole and some of the hardcore beneath it in order to make space for a few inches of concrete to hold the cast iron ring securely in place. We’ll then have to re-tarmac it. Once upon a time that would have meant getting in some ‘boys from the blackstuff’ with a gas-fired cauldron of hot tar, but nowadays cold setting tarmac is available and we’ve had quite a bit of success with it. You just have to compact it down very hard. I find that belting the surface repeatedly with a brick does the job.
Here comes the sun
Spring is definitely in the air and I’ve sat outside in the sun for the first time this year. I was well wrapped up as the air temperature was only 8°C, but a bit of sun makes all the difference. Friday’s solar eclipse was, however, an almost total disappointment as well as an almost total eclipse, thanks to the cloud cover. But there were a few seconds at the peak time when the cloud thinned a little and it was just possible to see the almost-obscured disc of the sun peeking through.
I’m not much of a one for gardening, but when the weather is good I don’t mind pottering. I’ve cleared out an ivy-covered patch of ground and planted some hellebores and evergreen hebes which should brighten up that corner of the garden in the winter.
With the better weather, I can see my cotton/linen Ginkgo shawlette being required soon. It is well on the way to completion but, despite my best calculations, it’s clear that I haven’t enough yarn to do an extra half repeat of the lace pattern, I’ll have to be satisfied with a quarter repeat instead. That makes ending it trickier than I was expecting, because it is by no means obvious (to me, at least) why the final lace row is as it is. It is undoubtedly there to make the tips of the “leaves” more leaflike. I have done my best to chart out a new final row to suit the different ending point (my last rows of leaves will be leaning left instead of right) but I won’t be sure it works until I’ve knitted it.