Before we took on international roles at work Mr W and I were regular fell walkers and could climb like mountain goats. These days not so agile. So after moving to Cumbria I had made it my mission to get us hill fit again. All was going well with the training until yesterday when I broke Mr W. After 10 miles of up and down fells he could hardly walk and I had to abandon him to go and fetch the car. He’d have been sat on that bench by the roadside for 2hrs if the 2 old fellas I’d asked for directions hadn’t given me a lift back to the car park. Cumbrians are lovely people. The 2 guys were old school friends, one local and one now living in Truro. They meet up annually for 2 weeks in Sept to fish on Bassenthwaite Lake (technically the only lake in the Lake District, all others are called waters or meres). During the drive back to the car park they asked me about Mr W’s injuries and I explained that he would be fine, but there had been a risk of me killing him if I’d had to listen to his moaning much longer……I mean look at the beautiful views!
On the plus side we got home a little earlier than planned which gave me chance to finish my bar stool project. A few months ago I picked up 6 cast iron pub stools that were missing seats in a junk shop in Greenwich. Since then I’d been looking for the perfect perches to top them. I found them in Lille in the form of old French tractor seats. These days farmers like upholstery and suspension, but farmers used to be made of tougher stuff and the seats were moulded iron. I wire brushed 4 of them to remove old paint flakes and scrubbed the bases which were already bare. I drilled holes into the bases to fit the new seats and then painted the bases and seats with smooth black Hammerite. I love Hammerite; you can paint directly onto rusted metal, it rarely needs more than 1 coat and the finish is smooth and leaves the metal gleaming like new. Voila!
I only managed to find 5 tractor seats in Lille, so I’m on the hunt for one more, unless I find something more interesting for the remaining 2. In the meantime I’d better go and check on the chucks. Phyllis has been nesting in the same place for 48hrs now even though the rest have been roaming free – in the garden, the lane, the neighbouring fields and the neighbours gardens……Hopefully it’s just broodiness and nothing more as she is my second favourite (after Harriett) and was named after my Aussie friend Phil. He’d be very upset if something happened to his namesake.
Success at Mitchell’s Auctions means I am abandoning eBay as a seller and going old school from now on. My net profit after their 17.5% commission was £221 which was more than I would have expected to make on eBay. I didn’t incur any listing fees as I gave them my own list which they just photocopied. I didn’t have to answer any questions from prospective buyers, and I didn’t have the hassle of couriers or collection. Last time I sold stuff on eBay 2 buyers bought and then didn’t pay, 1 demanded a discount when she said the item wasn’t as I described (it was), and I lost money when I made a mistake calculating the postage costs of one item. I will continue to buy from eBay because you can still pick up bargains and unique items but my days of selling on eBay are gone, unless I open an online retail business (I have an idea in the works) as I can see the value in combining this with an eBay shop. If you want to give an old school auction a try but don’t know where your nearest one is just get online as they all have websites these days, and many even sell online with live audio and video feeds. Check out i-Bidder.com, they hosted over 2000 live auctions and sold £45m online in 2013. Not so old school after all.
If old school means going back to the old ways of doing things then I am also embracing this for my house renovation. Furniture is getting cheaper and cheaper as businesses offshore to lower cost markets and find new ways of automating processes. But if you want good quality wooden furniture it can still be quite pricey. I wanted 2 large wardrobes for my bedroom that would fill the alcoves either side of the chimney to make best use of this space. But finding the right size was proving tricky and was starting to look like it could be very costly too. So I decided to look at custom built. I wanted a Georgian style that would look like freestanding furniture. Using photos I found online, and a drawing, I explained this to my joiner, and he worked with the same small business that made my staircase to produce the facades which he then fitted over the internal shells he created. The result is stunning as you can see from the photos below. Georgian townhouses typically had their living rooms on the 1st floor so the windows were larger than the other floors. This effect was often replicated in panelled furniture with the middle panels being larger. The panelled doors you can buy from places like Howdens all have equal sized panels so I knew I would need to have them made if I wanted to create this effect in my Georgian cottage. I have also seen many examples in Georgian homes of fitted cupboards which don’t reach to the ceiling, which creates the illusion of freestanding furniture. This is what convinced me to have them made. The final cost including fitting was under £2000 which is less than I would have paid for freestanding furniture, they make full use of the space, and I could decide on the internal layout. I encourage you to explore this as an option if you’re looking at bedroom furniture.
One area where I think it’s difficult to be old school is soft furnishings. There is so much choice these days, and the standard sizes for curtains, bedding and cushions can accommodate most needs. I compared the cost earlier this week for a pair of standard curtains versus custom made. John Lewis offer 2 services; a 7 day service which delivers factory made curtains for certain fabrics and styles, or a 3 week handmade service. For the fabric I’d chosen the cost was either £281 or £340. They had a pair of ready made curtains in a similar fabric for £70. The fabric was so similar I went for the ready mades and had them make matching cushions at £60 for 2 which included a make up charge of £17.50 per cushion. I have employed a seamstress to make curtains for my office though. Largely because I wanted them to match a chair I had upholstered (see the Edwardian chair on my projects page). It is much more expensive but I can understand why having been on a one day curtain making course at The Goodlife Centre in South East London. Even if you’re an expert it takes time, particularly if you don’t want standard pencil pleats. The make up cost for the 2 sets of curtains is approx. £275 but considering this is 2-3 days work I don’t think that’s unreasonable. It all comes down to whether you want something special or not. Curtain making was great fun, but now I’ve seen what goes into it I’m going to leave difficult jobs to the experts and wait until I have a small unimportant window before I try myself…