The New Old School Bog and Cistern

The subject of toilet seat up or down has never been an issue between MrsB and myself and we both consider the conventional bog lid to be a rather pointless exercise. It is almost a denial of the fact that you have a toilet, or loo, or bog, yet alone have to see the bowl, which will briefly contain your bodily waste before it makes its journey to your favourite beach or river.
Most people just want to flush it away and have someone else deal with it, a sort of “dump and forget” policy.
This is all fine and dandy if you live in some swanky modern metropolis that has a mains sewer system, however once you live in a house that has its own septic tank and the performance of that tank, along with its associated pipework, is determined by what gets flushed into it, one tends to take more of an interest in the whole system and what happens to ones poo and pee once flushed down the pan of a septic tank connected toilet.

It is a fascinating process however I wont go into detail now, in fact I am unsure how I sidetracked myself into talking about the destination as opposed to the drop off point, which is the main purpose of this post.

I have never liked a bathroom where there is a bog in it, it shows a remarkable lack of forethought for the convenience of all concerned, however since profit became many peoples fundamental motive in housing, instead of a decent “home” and “space” to live in, the rooms became smaller and the space became squeezed until, in some houses, the person taking a leisurely bath is rudely interrupted by someone needing to have a dump, or the person who has “Tommy Turtle Head nearly touching cloth” is forced into the half crouched, clenched buttock dance outside the bathroom door accompanied by the ever increasing plaintive pleas of “I really have to go, let me in” so familiar to all who have ever been in urgent requirement of emptying their bowels.
The solution is obvious, have the bog in a separate room. A room of its own.
You can call it whatever rolls off your tongue the easiest, the toilet, loo, little boys room, powder room, washroom, shitter, bog, kharzy, it matters not, as long as if you are designing a bathroom in a house you endeavour to have it separate from the main washing area. If you have the space for upstairs and downstairs bogs then perhaps one of them (the downstairs) could be doubled up with shower for convenience sake (scuse the second use of the same pun)

We designed, into the space available, a separate bog for upstairs and were looking for a suitable pan.
We visited a friend’s barn conversion in Wales and they have this delightful old pan (self cleaning due to the turbo flush motion) that required no seat, but we found that it could be a bit chilly on frosty morning. However the seed was planted and a few months later we had a “eurika moment” when we remembered the school bogs from the days gone by, that had two semi circles of wood as a seat so you never had that cold arse feeling on a winter’s day.

Our search eventually ended up with an on line reclamation place called “mongers” ( absolutely superb and an extremely useful website and helpful crew. There in the gallery was exactly what we wanted but with the added bonus that they also had sand blasted and polished, cast iron, chain pull, cisterns. Whoop whoop!!

So this is how it panned out

First of all had to finish the plaster-boarding of the side wall and ceiling, fit the insulation on the front wall and affix the wooden plates for the main brackets.

Then get on the scratch coat and followed by the top coat of lime and mud render.

Now we had to turn the corner with the 3D tiles and head up the alleyway that leads to the bog

at which point MrsB took over the tiling

and completed through to the end

After the wall was painted and the bracket wood glossed black it was case of fitting the brackets and the cistern (not yet plumbed in and the down pipe will be brass when finished) to get the largest “drop” possible for the water.

And here is the run up to the bog (door yet to be fitted and plumbing connected but it is all there)

and a bit more detail shot of the pan and cistern with heavy duty chain attached.

So apart form a bit of fancy cutting work for the wobbly wall side tiles, the door to be fitted and bit of plumbing for the bog, we are nearly there on the upstairs bathing and ablution front.

I will post up the finished article with door etc later in the year

Love and peace


Cutting Holes in Tiles

Now some people, (more commonly known as professional tilers and builders) posses the knowledge of how to line up tiles and services in advance so that any holes that need to be drilled in tiles to allow pipes through etc would be as close to the center of a tile as possible.
However there are other people (more commonly known as enthusiastic DIY’ers) who do not are not in possession of this knowledge or if they are can often forget to check forward in advance.
It is these people (such as myself) who then need to buy specialist tools to ensure that a neat at proper looking job can be done.

I was informed by my plumbing guru Simon (who had come to make the wall connections for me (I think the items used are called robbitieres) which is a metal plate that secures to the placo with brass fittings that are attached to the water pipes leaving a female threaded fixing for attaching shower controls taps etc) that Brico marche (& depot) sold a diamond edged tool for exactly the predicament I found myself in. I then followed his instructions and am well chuffed with the results.

1- You line up the center of the holes you need to drill (using the laser is easiest I found and then dry lay the tiles in place (not forgetting the spacers) and make your mark at the center of the required hole. In this photo you can see the metal plate thing and fittings I am on about. You can also see where I had to carve out some placo to move the shower controls and also how the tiles meet in the corner.

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2 So you get yourself a large “wood bit” that is the same or 1mm less than the hole you want to make in the tile.
You select a piece of board (in this case 18mm marine ply) and drill a hole near the edge. This will be your guide.

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You have also purchased on of these puppies, I dont know what they are called bu they are about 40 quid each however I am assured by my plumbing guru that they last for ages and will drill through granite tops marble tops and any tile you care to mention

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So the full kit is a cordless drill fully charged (with spare battery on stand buy, two or three clamps, a one or two inch thick piece of solid insulation, a board with a hole near the edge and a suitable workbench.

Put the insulation down on the workbench
Put the tile on it.
Center the board with the cut hole over the tile, obviously centered on the target area.
Clamp the lot to the bench allowing yourself room to get the drill on the job unhindered.

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Using the drill at speed one start drilling using the guide hole and holding the drill as vertical as you can and not applying too much pressure. My first one broke because I applied to much grunt to the job.
Slowly gently and relentlessly and in less than a minute I was through and look how close to the edge of the tile it is

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Here is number two which clearly demonstrates the need for better prior planning or having the right kit to cut the holes without trashing the tiles or making a pigs ear of it.

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The lesson of the day is 30mm higher and 50mm to the left and I could have had it all in one tile, but I managed to salvage the day anyway.

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It turned out OK in the end
Love and Peace

Plastered and Tiled but not Grouted.

So now on with the tiling of the shower space.
We found some lovely textured (sort of wavey) white porcelain times in a bathroom / tile shop in Vannes. We wanted the white glazed brick sort of thing and they had a shower room set up with exactly the tiles we wanted in it.

I carefully measured using tiles and spacer where three rows would be and then used the lazer to make sure I had a straight line to run from.
I then attached a piece of metal framing to the two walls to act as an anchor, double checked with the lazer and spirit level and then started.

I had already established that the run along the long wall was an exact number of tiles so would be easy enough to do the staggered effect of brickwork.

What I had to do then was work out the sight line as you came into the bathroom of where to start and where to have the cuts on the small wall so they coincided with the long wall.
It is a bit of fannying about but needs to be done to make sure it looks right as your eye is drawn to it.
I think I am right in saying that most pro tilers start where the natural eye-line is drawn to.
Anyway decision made I am using a fairly rapid setting flexible tile adhesive. I will never again use the premix out of a tubs as from personal experience I think they are rubbish, unless of course you are doing a B&Q special and are scrimping on cost of materials. (each to their own on that one)
I find that I get about 40 minutes to an hour of workable adhesive (so dont mix too much) which once you are set up is plenty to do a few rows.
I have used one of the metal serrated edged application tools (not a trowel as some prefer)
The gap spacers are 2mm and I use them the way I have because I dont like putting them in the corners whole, because when they slip behind a tile it is pain to get them back out. It is personal preference and although I use twice as many they are about 2 euros for several hundred so its not breaking the bank.

I have a a couple of the lever type tile cutters and a wet cutter, (sadly a cheap one) but have found for accuracy a new sharp diamond tipped blade in my 4 1/2 inch grinder is the way to go when cutting. Not for all but when it needs to be millimeter perfect then that’s the way to go.

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Here you can see the bottom ones clean (just one of those green scouring pads used dry is ample) and the top awaiting my attention. I make sure I get right into the joints so that when the grout goes in it penetrates right in and there are no grey bits left showing You can also see where I have used the laser to mamke sure I am getting them level and staggered correctly on the way up.

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So now comes the long wall to join in

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To make sure I am getting the levels right and that all the straight lines join up I check with the laser level.

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Now I am getting ready to cut around the plumbing fixtures ion the wall that have been crimped in place and secured ready for the shower fittings.
Nearly made a big mistake here as I had the pipes for the shower coming up the back wall and realised just in time that we would have to go in and turn the water on then duck out of the way while it reached the temperature to avoid getting cold and then to change it you would have to get wet again so changed it to the side wall where you turn on, put your hand out to test, adjust as needed, then get wet. Simple and logical but so easy to get wrong and having lived in hotels for the last 8 days of my leave I can assure you lots of places get it very wrong.

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And there it is done

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It hasn’t been grouted yet and the gaps between the walls and where the tiles meet and where they meet the ceiling and the the glass block wall and the shower tray itself, will be done with flexible silicon joints, not grout.

Now it was case of putting in the main bathroom tiles to complete the picture before we bought the bath back in and plumbed it all together

Before we did the main tiling my nephew Will came over to do some plastering for me. I am not a fan of the taping and jointing method preferring instead to have a proper coat of plaster.
So with scrim tape at the ready and all screws tightened in he set about weaving his plastering magic.

It should be noted at this stage that I have learned many skills during this build and there are some that I have decided I don’t have the time to learn. One of them is how to be a proficient professional standard plasterer. I dont want an “alright” or bodged job, I want it right first time.
Sometimes it is easier and less time consuming to just bring in a pro and IMO this is one of those occasions.

Scrimmed up bathroom walls and ceilings and then some uni-bonding to ease out some curves and depth differences (in my boarding it has to be said

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(you can see where the LED lights have been popped out ready for re fitting later when dry)

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Here is Will at work, the gap with the wires showing will be inside an airing cupboard and will be the conduit for any pipes and wires yet to be run form the thermal store and heating manifolds directly below the bathroom.

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Once we had given it a few days to dry I pressed on with the room tiles

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Next up will be the bath put back into place and the bespoke made basin and wash stand etc.

I will post up shortly how I made the holes in the tiles for the various plumbing bits and drains to go though and it is a mighty but simple bit of kit indeed.

Love and Peace

The head board is starting to rattle, OOhh EErr

I think it necessary to show you this photo because it is what will become the headboard of the beds we intend to put in the master bedroom.
We have ample room for two 4ft divans to be the main bed with the frames bolted together but the mattresses independent of each other.
This enables us to use two double duvets so eliminates the problem with duvet hogging, enbales one of us to sit up later reading while the other kips without the fear of disturbing them when t you turn the light out and settle down, and because of the independent mattresses we can each have our own preferred firmness/ hardness (stop the giggling and chortling in what is a double entendre heaven) of sleeping arrangement.
With each one being 4 feet wide it also gives us the opportunity to” visit” each other for warm snuggles over morning tea or any other purposes that may arise like doing the crossword together or wathcinga film on the lap top or anyother lap top activities that may (or not) take place.
The idea from MrsB is to replicate a sort of Indian temple doorway effect using these doors we found in an old reclamation yard down near Pont St Aven .
I am asking her to keep a photo diary of the headboard transformation process so we can share it later. 


Love and peace 

Water inside the house at last Whoop Whoop

After 4 years of a stand pipe at the front of the house we decided it was time to bring the water in so we can get ready to connect up Richard (the thermal store) and it also give us the option of getting a flushing bog working for this winter, because we will have the septic tank in by the end of November.

We thought it would also be good to have a cold water feed to a washing machine and an indoor sink as well. (with spare tap for hose fitting that takes water down to the outside sink by the sheds)

Fortuitously for us, when we bought our latest vehicle (see blog) the people selling it also had a rather interesting sink (disconnected) in their garage which would make a perfect studio/scullery sink. 
I asked if we could buy it and they agreed. 

We ran the mains under the kitchen floor and up next to Richard where we had a three branch manifold with stop valves fitted.

The sink is the only one ‘on’ at the moment as we wait for the septic tank to go in. The ends of the washing machine and toilet hoses have been fitted with a male screw fitting 12mm (half inch) ready to take a flexi hose which I will able to sort out myself once the septic tank is in. 

Here is the temporary manifold as is 


Eventually coming out of richard will be:- 
A domestic hot water feed to a manifold taking hot water to sinks showers baths.
A domestic cold water feed taking cold water to sinks baths showers, toilets and outside rear tap.
A heating hot water feed taking water to UFH bespoke airing cupboard radiator and any other radiators upstairs that get fitted.

Each feed to sink or toilet or whatever will have its own stop valve at the manifold for ease of isolation.
Each manifold will have two spare outlets for “unforeseen additions” 

Here is the sink it is 1 meter long 45cm wide at the top and 35cm wide at the bottom 


On here you can see the sink tap and also offset at the end the tap with hose fitting that takes water down to the outdoor sink by the sheds. We set it off on the squint at the end so the hose didn’t get in the way of the sink.
The sink tap also has a push fit hose attachment for thewatering the front garden and also should be just need a hose somewhere sharpish 


Here you can see the channels cut out of the floor to take all the various pipe work and electrical gains



New Kitchen Floor

The paving slabs worked a treat, the windows went in well and the terrace drain situation was remedied and all went well and we were well chuffed with progress. 
We then had lots of preparation work to do ahead of laying the concrete slab for kitchen floor. 

First off we buried the mains water pipe that comes in through the kitchen door and goes through to the studio where “Richard” resides (the thermal store is called Richard) 

You can see the black pipe coming up next to him here on the left.


Once we did that we made sure all the scalpings were near enough level, as can be seen in this photo. The lumpy uneven stuff you can see is actually bits of insulation after we did the kitchen ceiling.


Then it was a case of laying in the electrics that go to the various points around the kitchen and into the studio room where we have the main junction box for all the lounge lights.
(sorry the photos are a bit blurry) 
They all lead to where the main boards will be in the corner on the left. (although Richard and all the circulating pumps and sensors etc will have its own isolated board) 


Here you can se the electric and communication gains going off to the studio room


Here are ones for the plug points cooker point (even though we are not having an electric cooker) extraction fan etc


Then it was case of getting the sand in to make the surface smooth for the membrane 


and then packing it down with the whacker plate and checking the levels again using the laser and a stick. 


Now we are on the morning of the concrete arrival and as I unrolled what I thought was plenty of membrane, it in fact only covered half the floor so a quick improvisation was needed and we doubled up with some thick plastic sheeting. 
We made the join with a sort of fold over pleat thing and some tape to hold it in place while we put the insulation down. 
Not perfect but the clock was running and I didn’t have time to go to town to get another roll of insulation .


Next came the insulation I had found that saves a lot of height. It is a multi foil type stuff with a foam sandwich and is recommended for sub floor insulation especially where height is an issue. 


Here is the main gain for Richards fuseboard and the plastic coated 22mm copper pipe for the back boiler on the wood burning range 


And here it is with the hot and cold for the sink and the electric feeds for the island that will go in later. You can also see the re-enforcing mesh down.


In this one you can see one of the electric boards and the spaggetti of wires that will be connected in due course


We finished just ahead of schedule and had a drop of lunch and waited for the cement lorry to arrive which it duly did. 
Big beasts are they not? 


Here is my son and I after the initial shout of “Let her roll matey!!!”


As soon as it started I thought “Hmm that’s a bit dry” however I decided it might just be the first bit down the chute but in another few seconds I realized it was way too dry and am shouting for him to stop the pour. However he had wandered off round the side of the lorry and doesn’t hear me and before he stops there is well over cube in already.

I am doing two things now beginning with S “sweating and swearing”, which I can assure you is not a great combination.

My son and I managed to drag the dry stuff about and then get him to wet down the next bit of the pour but he was being a complete t****r about how much water he was putting in and stopping before he put to much dry stuff in.

Suffice to say it was a struggle to get it spread out and even close to level with a reasonable finish but we did the best we could to make a good job of it.

I was even running over it with the whacker plate for a while to try and level down some of the humps, which proved to be fairly successful and we got it down to a level that at the most is about 15mm out in places. Not perfect but the best of a bad pour.



To say I was p!ssed off about it (as was MrsB) is an understatement as we both thought it looked like ploughed field and nothing like the lovely level smooth floor we did in the lounge that was nearly twice as big. However it was down and when it dried out in the morning wasn’t quite as bad as we first thought. 
You can see here where the pipes for the sink and electric for the island come up through in the places chosen. I will be building the island when I get home in November. 



We shuttered off the studio room as we wanted to re-arrange how the floors joined up which we did later by hand an with a gentle slope up to the studio floor. We were not able to get all the floors totally level as it would have meant taking another 30mm off the door height which is already low enough. 
To give a a level we are going to create a mat well by the door. This means we will have 20mm to play with using self leveling screed to bring the rest of the floor to a condition that we can tile onto. 
Just as a word of warning to others is that had I been thinking and measuring more carefully in the beginning I would have made the lounge floor 25mm lower to compensate for the low door in the kitchen but I am not a pro builder and it is fairly easy to put right. It is not as perfect as II would have liked but it is what it is and is fairly easy to remedy. 

It will be next year before I get round to screeding and tiling and in the meantime MrsB has put some jute matting down as a temporary measure to make it a bit more pleasing on the eye for the winter and the gang coming over for Christmas (our first one together in 6 years) 





Next up some plumbing. 

Making sense of the Windows

The windows and their story will make more sense when the big windows go in downstairs and I can get photo shot of the house full on from the back with the eyebrow windows showing as well. 
The photos dont always do it justice but in the flesh it makes sense and all the proportions work. 
There is some maths at work such as diameter of the arc of the upper terrace being exactly half of the width of the main terrace which is twice as high as the big downstairs window. It isn’t obvious because it isn’t square but it does seem to please the eye in real life. 
I have no idea where I learnt this sort of stuff but it might be something to do with a documentary I saw on the construction of the pyramids or it could have been working it out once at an old chateau that was having an open day, and me noticing the symmetrical similarity between the facade and the grounds. 
Who knows how we recover bits of stored info we have seen and thought “Hmm I see how they do that, or I get how that works and why my eye is being drawn in a particular direction, or how it just settles easy on the eye, and I will file that in my mind in case it ever comes in handy” 

It all comes back to the absolutely vital and crucial couple of years we spent planning and drawing it out on the mud floors. We were working out where the light would come from and how we would move around in the house and what spaces we wanted to perform what function for us and how the placement of doors and windows is crucial to that functionality.
As we begin to spend more time in the house we are reaping the benefits of the time we took during the design, and also our preparedness to adapt if we realised a better option was open to us.
Love and Peace

The Back Windows (well some of them)

So this is what the back windows have looked like since about 2009 when we put the roof on. 

Fitting actual windows hasn’t been a priority as there has been so much else to do but now we have lots of the insulation in the roof, and the front sealed up, and planning to have christmas in the kitchen this year we thought we should get them sorted .
If you go back a couple of pages you can see that we had the front windows bespoke made in traditional style for the 4 openings there however because of the proposed three pane design for the large back opening downstairs we decided we didn’t need the multi pane small windows, that way we could keep some balance and harmony to how it will look.
I have probably mentioned before that the big window upstairs and the big opening downstairs are in mathematical ratio to each other as are the smaller ones and the eyebrow ones. 
I think this gives a balance that is pleasing and easy on the eye, or at least will be when all finished and fitted and tidied up. 
The “end look” is an important factor when you are designing how the place will be, however you need to balance that with the functionality of the window and its effect on the interior in terms of placement and utility. That might sound a bit airy fairy but it is how we have approached every design phase of the project, with drawings and ideas changing hands until we agreed on a “look” and usability that we felt we could achieve and that suited our requirements for light and space and how we would live in each room. I admit that it is a lot to consider but it is proving to be worth the effort as the project enters the last half.

New window taken apart for a good rubbing down, filling and some extra coats of exterior undercoat.


Here was the gap they had to fit into


Just needesd some work with wood filler in some parts and a bit of chisel and rasp action in others 

And in she goes.
The green stuff is that frog tape seen advertised in UK as a more resilient and better quality masking tape. Seems to do the job very well and here is waiting for the first gloss coat.

Here are the other openings waiting for their windows


As a little treat we wondered what it would be like to lie in bed in the Shedroom (which is what we call the big upstairs room which has been built in homage to the sheds we live in and that you can see nestling beneath our oaks and cherries).

Nice view to wake up to (especially for our townie mates) and in the autumn and winter will give views to the distant hills (well distant gentle slopes rather than hills but I am sure you get the drift)

This is the one from lying in bed 

And this one sat on the end of the bed 


Here are the bottom two in and a bit of fine tuning with the planer to get the top one to fit going on 


Shedroom Fitted from the inside


And from outside


Downstairs left


And right 


What you are looking at here is the window openings when we first made them and just before we put the roof on. You can see the beams that support the Shedroom above


And here with the roof bits on and its first window box in 


This is what it looks like with the top window still in undercoat and the downstairs side windows in and glossed and the upstairs wood treated for the first time in 4 years .


Still have to seal them in properly and put sills on the top one etc but all in all should look alright when painted and the bottom one will mirror the top one except the two side panels will slide open.

It will make more visual sense when the big windows go in downstairs and I can get photo shot of the house full on from the back with the eyebrow windows showing as well. 
The photos dont always do it justice but in the flesh it makes sense and all the proportions work. 
There is some maths at work such as diameter of the arc of the upper terrace being exactly half of the width of the main terrace which is twice as high as the big downstairs window. It isn’t obvious because it isn’t square but it does seem to please the eye in real life. 
I have no idea where I learnt this sort of stuff but it might be something to do with a documentary I saw on the construction of the pyramids or it could have been working it out once at an old chateau that was having an open day, and me noticing the symmetrical similarity between the facade and the grounds. 
Who knows how we recover bits of stored info we have seen and thought “Hmm I see how they do that, or I get how that works and why my eye is being drawn in a particular direction, or how it just settles easy on the eye, and I will file that in my mind in case it ever comes in handy” 

It all comes back to the absolutely vital and crucial couple of years we spent planning and drawing it out on the mud floors. We were working out where the light would come from and how we would move around in the house and what spaces we wanted to perform what function for us and how the placement of doors and windows is crucial to that functionality.
As we begin to spend more time in the house we are reaping the benefits of the time we took during the design, and also our preparedness to adapt if we realised a better option was open to us.
Love and Peace

The curved bit of the terrace.

Now some people call it a patio, and some call it a terrace (pronounced the French way of tear-as (the tear as in to rip not to cry) ) and for some reason we have always referred to it as the terrace even though at first I thought it sounded a bit poncy for some reason, however I have become used to it so “terrace” it is and here is the story of the laying of the curved part.

MrsB had manufactured all the slabs (see a few posts ago) so once we had sorted out the “sub sleeper drain scenario” it was time to get on with laying the first part.


Never having laid anything like this before I just applied some common sense to the job and worked out out the levels with a bit of a slope running the water down towards the drain. After that gravity should sort it out 
We then set up the straight edge guide rails so we could lay a slab then move the straight edge on to check if it was near enough in the right place. 

We used a mix of 6 sand to one cement and put it in dry after soaking the ground underneath.

No doubt a pro could have made the scalpings higher and a more level finish, or might even use a completely different process, but this is how I have seen workmen laying pavement cobbles and pavement slabs before so figured it would work for this. 
We had to remember that this is the back terrace of our rustic cottage dwelling, not the polished marble entrance foyer to the Ritz, that said we didn’t want to bodge it .

(Ha ha :lol: does that sound like me making excuses for why it might be a bit uneven in places?? Ah well we love it. 8) 8) 


MrsB who had not only made the slabs by hand also selected the slabs shape and colour to be laid and I gently coaxed them into place with some grunts and a rubber mallet .

At the end of the day we went over it with a couple of full watering cans and left nature to do the rest. 


Whata cracking pair of working boots


Here is the first bit taken from above and we were already pleased with the result and our decision to have ago at making them ourselves 


You can start to see the way it is going to pan out with the variety of slab colour and design. 
It is probably not everyone’s cup of tea because some people are bit more” straight lines and right angles” and then again some of us are not, but then again not everyone has to come and drink tea on it.


Here is how it runs down to level with the top of the step and also level with the stones that disappear into garden level.

Here is a bit more after a soaking 



And when its dry


New slabs in manufacture 


And here is the final pieces just laid in by MrsB this week up to the outdoor fire/oven/bbq that is still under construction. (0The stones are where you would stand to cook.)


We are well chuffed with the result of the home made slabs. 
We have been now been recommended a product called Lanko241 which we will put on the slabs to seal them and MrsB has also slightly altered her production method, making more use of an old orbital vibrating sander after the initial pour to the moulds in order to release more trapped air bubbles and also using a water proofing compound in the mix. 

The production for the main terrace slabs is already underway and will continue through the winter when its warm enough so that we can get it laid in spring summer next year. 

All that’s left to do for the curved part is to bed in the drain cover and the jobs a good’un.


Next installment is the windows

A new addition to the Bentley clan’

Aye Aye landlubbers (and a fellow seafarer I notice as well) who may take the time to read my ramblings from time to time.
Just had a frantic but fantastic 7 week leave that involved 3 days in the UK at the start of it for a wedding party and buying a new motor car for MrsB
The car ended up as sort of compromise because where as I was looking for a reliable run about that was easy to park and reasonably comfortable for longish journeys and in a nice tasteful sort of dark blue colour, MrsB wanted something that had at least a three liter engine 4 wheel drive with 6 speed auto/tiptronic transmition and that went like shit of a shovel (her words I can assure you) if so desired.
Imagine both out delights at finding an Audi TT 3.2 Auto Quatro for a bargain price and we even managed to get a superb french sink thrown in with the deal.

I had to go back to the UK to pick it up after about 10 days of being at home and had an “enjoyable and somewhat invigorating” drive from a place called Battle down to Pompey via M25 and A3.

Although it is MrsBs car I must admit to driving it like I stole it every time I get behind the wheel and yet even in my most derring do devil may care moments, utilising all my years of experience behind the wheel (many of them above the recognised speed limit) this car just laughs at me as though to say “You Wanker!!!, is that the best you can do?? is the that your best shot??? Ha you feeble pussy”  So much so that I have taken to driving it reasonably sensibly on occasions just to show it who its bosses husband is. Oh yes that will teach it.  

It handles like no other car I have driven (and I have driven and owned some gems) and its road handling and acceleration are quite remarkable if so desired. It is, in short, a right fucking bundle of laughs to drive and I haven’t got out of it yet without a big grin pasted on my mug.
One of the madder thing is that even though some people we know have had a little “tut tut, what about the fuel costs” (not that we have asked anyone to put fuel in it for us) but it does loads more MPG than the pick up truck whom many would consider to be a very noble and fitting vehicle for a pair of scruffy renovators.
Ah well you cant win em all eh folks?
I am guessing that some people cant see past the gleaming body work and the 4 exhausts and the 3.2 badge but if they looked into my laughing glinting eyes as I was driving it or being driven by MrsB in it then they might understand why.
After the pick up for the last year or two it is like being someone who usually rides donkeys on the beach jumping up onto the back of a prancing frisky racehorse that just wants to gallop like a mad bastard everywhere. I know not everyone will like it (we don’t care) or even consider it worthy of a blog but it is the newest addition to the Bentley family and a very welcome, exciting and enjoyable one too.

Yer tis in all its glory

and then with all it’s glory in it as MrsB looking very glam takes it for a spin


Remedial Rain soak-away work

One of the many tasks completed this leave was a quick bit of remedial work I had to do because of how I had set up the rain water run off that runs in the patio (terrace) and then under the sleeper steps and then under the crescent part of the terrace then away down to a large soakaway. 
(Ha I was going to say French Drain but I guess they only call them that anywhere that is not France, where they become just a Drain) 
Then there is to be fitted an overflow drainage pipe from the soakaway that leads down to a rock feature and then leeches out into the field and will take all the rain water from the back of the house away. 


The flaw in my cunning plan was that I realized I had made an error, in that I had no way of reaching in to remove debris in the trap (under the join of the sleepers) so I had to rectify that before we could start the terrace.
We lifted the sleepers and the metal cover I had installed. I then cut the metal channel covers underneath in order that the length of channel cover outside (on the main terrace) would be easy to remove and then we would be able to get a hand and arm in to unblock any leafy build up. 
The pictures are self evident as to the process as I had to make sure that the drain would work on the terrace and actually take the rain water from the crescent water into the save-all.



The solid metal covering over the channels is to protect debris from falling down between and behind the sleepers and blocking the save-all. 
You can see how with the solid metal debris preventers in place it will still be possible to remove the grating from next to the sleeper and either work a hose or a hand in to remove any crud.
the idea will be to have the first two feet of the channels filled with some scrunched chicken wire which will catch the usual autumn debris and be easy to draw out clean and replace. 

Once we had put the sleepers back it was time for us to start laying the terrace slabs that MrsB had made.
Happy days indeed 

Love and Peace

Back to Sea with tales to tell

Aye Aye Land lubbers, Back to sea again but with lots to write about:- 
Loads of electrical work done, 
Kitchen floor in (whihc is a story in itself) 
Insulation progressing well, 
Back windows in (apart for the 4 meter one) 
Workshop 50% relocated, 
Fosse to be fitted within the month, 
Temp hook up to cold water in house enough for one bog, one tap and a washing machine, 
lots of fiddly bits of ceiling work done to accept the light fittings towards consuel, 
Work underway to ensure a snug family christmas with a temporary 14KW wood burner in kitchen. (it is actually an insert fire resting on bricks in the fireplace where the cuisinaire will go so will chuck all heat into the room), 

Some of the patio laid with the homemade slabs and much more.
and other bits as well so I will get writing and get some stuff posted on here. 

Here is one of the the news addition to the Bentley clan, which is a purchase that MrsB made at a car boot sale nearby and is particularly proud of.

It is a manual cement mixer. Roll a Mix


I have to say that I did laugh when I first saw it but for small mixes it really works as demonstrated here by MrsB

First load it up


Then take it for a little stroll


Then begin the emptying process step 1


Followed by step two


And voila a little mix for those little jobs that need doing sometimes


Of course the other alternative is to muck about “photo bombing” when I am trying to be serious 

I think the caption should read “MrsB stop fucking about and come over here and have a look at this. Its all French to me” 


  Ah well happy days 
Will write more in the next few days 
Love and Peace

Captains report about collision incident.

just read this and couldn’t resist posting it up 

 It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you, regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get this report before you form your own preconceived opinion from reports in the world press. For I am sure that they will over dramatise the affair.

We had just picked up the pilot and the apprentice had returned from changing the “G” flag for the “H” flag and, it being his first trip, was having difficulty rolling the “G” flag up.  I therefore proceeded to show him how.  Coming to the last part, I told him to “let go”.  The lad although willing is not too bright, necessitated my repeating the order in a sharper tone.

At this moment the Chief Officer appeared from the chart room, having been plotting the ship’s progress, and, thinking it was the anchors being referred to, repeated the “let go” to the Third Officer on the forecastle.  The port anchor, having been cleared away but not walked out, was promptly let go.  The effect of letting the anchor drop from the “pipe” while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour speed proved too much for windless brake, and the entire length of port cable was pulled out “by the roots”.  I fear that the damage to the chain locker may be extensive.  The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in that direction, right towards the swing bridge that spans the tributary to the river up which we were proceeding.

The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my vessel.  Unfortunately, he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic, the result being that bridge partly opened and deposited a Volkswagen, two cyclists, and a cattle truck on the foredeck.  My ship’s company are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise are pigs.  In his efforts to stop the progress of the vessel, the Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of practically use, for it fell on the swing bridge operator’s control cabin.

After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer, I gave a double Full Astern on the engine room telegraph and personally rang the Engine Room to order maximum astern revolutions.  I was informed that the sea temperature was 53° and asked if there was a film tonight: my reply would not add constructively to the report.

Up to now I have confirmed my report to the activities at the forward end of the vessel.  Down aft they were having their own problems.

At the moment the port anchor was let go, the second Officer was supervising the making fast of the stern tug and was lowering the ship’s towing spring down onto the tug.

The sudden braking effect of the port anchor caused the tug to “run in under” the stern of my vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring Full Astern.  The prompt action of the Second Officer in securing the inboard end of the towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes thereby allowing the safe abandoning of that vessel.

It is strange, but at the very same moment of letting go the port anchor there was a power failure ashore.  The fact that we were passing over a “cable area” at that time might suggest that we may have touched something on the river bed.  It is perhaps lucky that the high tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, possibly being replaced by the underwater cable, but owing to the shore blackout, it is impossibly to say where the pylon fell.

It never fails to amaze me, the action and behaviour of foreigners during moments of minor crisis.  The pilot for instance, is at this moment bundled in the corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying after consumed a bottle of gin in a time that is worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records.  The tug captain, on the other hand reacted violently and had to forcibly be restrained by the Steward, who has him hand‑cuffed in the ship’s hospital, where he is telling me to do impossible things with my ship and crew.

I enclose the names and addresses of the drivers and insurance companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the Third Officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle.  These particulars will enable you to claim for damages they did to the railings of no. 1 hold.

Here I must conclude this preliminary report, for I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and their flashing lights.

It is sad to think that had the apprentice realised that there is no need to fly the pilot flag after dark, none of this would have happened.

The Shed Room takes shape

The Shed Room 

The large dorma extension at the rear of the house has always been known as the “shed room” and the intention was to clad the interior with wood in homage to the sheds we live in and love. 
The sheds themselves will come down as soon as the house is habitable ie the toilets and plumbing and heating all working. 

We decided to leave the ceilings in here vaulted but thought that it might become a bit “woody” or “sauna” looking if we clad the whole thing in wood so a compromise was reached where the inner gable would be plaster and the three walls would be wood. 

Here it is bare naked when first constructed 


And here with its full outfit on apart from finishing under the eaves


Here is a side shot so you can get an idea of the angles and shapes of the roof and the amount of space it affords us inside 


Here is the interior as it was and has been used for a while as a “Glamping” room when pals come to stay and is very popular. 
The interior size is 4 meters by 4 meters and the window is 2 meters by 120cm 


We have had to leave this bit of the insulation incomplete as it is where the flue form the log burner downstairs will exit the roof through one of those angled roof things. It will be a double skinned insulated stainless flue coming up from the fire which I have seen before that you can easily touch as they don’t get too hot.

A good mate of mine in the UK fitted a lovely wood burner into his lounge (which was in a small end of terrace place) by building an inglenook outside and then beating through to it. He then place d the wood burner in that and had one of those double skinned insulated stainless jobs running up the outside of the house. 
The fire inside would be roaring but you could touch the flue outside with no burns. It is a great way of fitting a wood burner into a room if limited on space. 
Anyway I digress


Here is my son and I installing the thick stuff (125mm) over the chevrons . Like the roof all over the house it is tiles hooked to batten, over a plastic membrane, over chevrons. 
The insulation is 30mm Quinntherm between the chevrons (and level with the bottom of them) leaving a 25 to 30mm air gap above. The 125mm Quinntherm is screwed and counter-battened to the chevrons. 
Then it is placo and followed by plaster. I have 180mm screws which means with the thickness of the batten 10mmm plus the insulation 125mm I have at least 35mm of screw holding into the chevron which is plenty. 
You have to make sure you mark the run of the chevron well as with screws that long it can be easy to miss if you don’t have the drill at the perfect angle. 

For the “must use breathable membrane” converts the air gap above the membrane and also below it ensures there is never any danger of condensation. 
I am aware that some would prefer to use breathable membrane which is fine and dandy however with proper air-gaps there is no problem doing it the way we have. 


This shows one side insulation complete and the other side not started.
The top end of the gable is made up of 22mm Douglas fir, membrane (roofing felt I had spare) then 10mm airgap, then 75mm of celotex, then multi layer foil (35mm) then 10mm air gap then placo. 


This shows the Celotex/ Quinntherm going in on the side walls of the shed room. 

The triangular gap leads down to the lounge and will be insulated with 100mm acoustic/thermal rockwool type stuff from the other side once the wood cladding is up inside the shed room.

The wall is made up of on the outside slate on batten over membrane (plastic) then 10mm air gap then 75mm celotex / Quinntherm then 35mm multi foil, then 10mm air gap, then 22mm douglas fir on inside.


Here you can see one of the walls and the lower end of the gable ready for the wood cladding on the inside, with the roof insulation above in place and waiting for the placo. 


Now the ceiling gets it placo


And the internal gable gets its placo


And the walls get their wood cladding (and before I have had chance to get any photos of the empty room it is full of stuff again ha ha 




None of the beadings are in place yet until after we have skimmed the ceiling with plaster. (we are not fans of the taping and jointing malarkey and would rather have a proper coat of plaster) Once the ceiling is done and we have painted the beams the beading and fiddley bits would go in to tidy it up and finish the job. 

The wood (Douglas fir) has been treated with 2 coats of 5 star wood preserver and has had 2 coats of Danish oil / thinners 50/50 mix and one neat coat. 

It will probably get another neat coat or two once all the beadings are in place.


So there we are that’s the “shed room” 75% done . The window has been made in hard wood and is comprises of three even sized panes, with the outer two opening and we will be fitting that when I get home. 


Magical transformation under the feminine touch

I have just received the latest photos in from MrsB who has been busy creating the semi circular area and step that leads from the terrace/patio and then blends into the garden. 
It has involved cladding the first part of our outside fire and oven in stone and creating a natural progression from the terrace into the garden space utilising stone that has been taken from the various works done on the house. 

I am well chuffed with the work she has completed and the way it joins the two spaces. Even though I might be a bit biased it is still a quite stunning piece of work that adds a beautiful natural feature to the project.
I always thought it would be impossible to be able to love or admire her more than I do but I do believe we have just gone past 12 on my love dial and it only went up to 10 in the first place. 

It has been transformed from this scraggy pile when I left for work 4 weeks ago 


Into this today


You can see in the photo above two of the homemade slabs that are undergoing field trials (ie getting walked on a lot) to make sure they will be robust enough for the main job. 


I am aglow with great pride.

(ps the semi circular bit will be slabbed with the same as the terrace ie our homemade coloured slabs)

Love and Peace Bentley 

What a Slab

Finding the slabs for the terrace/patio (call it what you will) 

Despite a fairly exhaustive search we found nothing of interest for ‘sensible’ money at any builders merchant or Brico sheds. To give you an idea, one fairly ordinary contoured slab we spotted was

Sit down and wait for it……

“The “very special price for you Mr Bentley” because I am a good customer at this builders yard”

75.99 euros a square meter!!!!!!

FFS I could carpet it with Axminster pure wool cheaper than that.

So we flashed up the computer and started searching on line for something that would be to our taste. 
The best looking and most suitable paving slabs for what we wanted were (surprise surprise) sourced in the UK and were imported “Indian stone” that had some plant fossils in them as well. 
Not sure about their carbon footprint, what with all the volcanic activity and the tectonic plate movements that resulted in their making, plus the extraction, trimming and then transportation to the UK from the sub-continent, but they looked very good. 
A mate of mine who is landscape gardener has used them on many occasions and vouched for their durability. 
They looked great had colours similar to our back wall and came in at about 23 quid a square meter. However then we would have been faced with getting them to France and at about 7 or more tonnes in weight, not particularly cheap or convenient as they would only be able to be dropped at the front of the house then lugged through by sack truck, and so the cons started to outweigh the pros.

Having read about people making their own paving slabs we did some research and decided to have a go. I remembered seeing some slabs being made on this site a few years ago and after showing MrsB the idea on line she agreed that while I was at sea she would be able to make a few every day and also add some flourishes of colour and inlaid objects in the slabs, to give them some of the quirkiness and originality that we prefer.

As usual the end of the time at home came before the end of the jobs I had to do and so I quickly made some molds on the morning I flew back to sea. Unfortunately they proved to be a bit awkward and fiddly (because I had rushed them a bit) (bloody hell I could have had a lie-in instead), so with some advice gained from the pages from French Entree (an expat living in or connected to France website  that is a rich mine of information an all sorts of subjects) and the help of Sylvie (a long standing friend who lives nearby and has created and built her own beautiful and quirky house)  MrsB worked out a system of manufacture and they are looking jolly good judging by the photos I have seen so far.

The design is simple enough as we have used the three size approach, with a square 400 x 400, an oblong 200 x 400, and a square 200 x 200, that way you can lay them how you like, in whatever random pattern you like (as is our want) and they always end up fitting together. 

MrsB soon came up with a more productive method of manufacture than the three molds I had left by utilising some of the many bits of timber and concrete blocks we have hanging about.

After a few experiments with various mixes she finally found the one that gives good results every time and is currently undergoing stress testing by placing a few in the main route in and out of the house so they get walked on a lot to see if they are thick enough (about 4cms) which I believe to be plenty.

As is normal with MrsB and concrete or render of any kind it provides a home for the many varied pieces of metal that we have found in the house and the varying colours are exactly what we want. 

Although it is many people s choice what we didn’t want was a load of perfectly square slabs all laid in exact lines forming some regimented, controlled surface that was millimeter perfect. Dont get me wrong as it can look great in a shopping malls, around swimming pools and in many other paved floor settings, but not for us. 

We are both already thrilled with the way it will look and when complete we are sure it will add yet another original dimension to the house the Bentleys built. 

Here are the molds as made by Mrs B



These were the first ones released form the molds and “yes” I did have a small attack of the vapours at seeing one of my best wood chisels being used to open the mold. 


I didn’t moan as much about the rasp being used to tidy them up as I also use it for tidying up the edges of newly cut plasterboard. 


These were made using white cement and with no colouring added 




On checking the price of white cement MrsB decided to have a go using normal colour cement and then adding some colour using either poster paint or powder paint and some nits of metal etc and these are the first results of that experiment 



MrsB has now been to the “Pigment” shop in Ploermel and is starting to produce some even more interesting effects. Once aged down it will (in our opinion) create a quite marvelous terrace. 





So the next time you see them will be when we start laying them and I am not sure when that will be yet but it wont be long. 

Love and Peace 


Shed 3 from Two Sheds Bentley

Shed Three from “Two Sheds Bentley” 

The house has slowly but surely become full of bits of wood, beams, insulation, tools, bits of furniture, scaffolding, tools and materials of all sorts and as we progress from upstairs to downstairs it was becoming obvious we needed some storage space that would cope not only with the current “stock” but also become the “workshop” once the project was finished.
As cosy and well organized as the current workshop is it also happens to be in what is to become the utility room and MrsBs studio, an concept I have been reminded of on several occasions . 

We also need to get the kitchen floor laid with the water main underneath it, along with the UFH, other plumbing and electrics to the various areas of the kitchen, plus the drain our from the sink etc. 

We toyed with the idea of putting up a temporary shelter in our bit of land across the lane because we own a massive “eurocamp” tent but were not sure if it would do the whole winter erected. 
In the end, rather than sort a temporary fix, we decided to go for as large permanent shed, as big as allowed under what we understood to be the current planning law. 
General consensus was that if it was under 20M2 we didn’t need planning permission but that it was polite to inform the mayor of our plan. 
We duly popped into to see the mayor to be informed that we had to submit a plan and that I would not be allowed to use corrugated iron or corrugated cement board (as was the original plan) for the roof or walls. This is despite the fact that there are half a dozen buildings sporting such materials within eyesight. 

Anyway rather than spend any pointless, and somewhat gormless, time arguing against the mayor or logic of the French planning system we submitted plans as requested only to be told that we couldn’t build it where planned (I wanted to leave a meter around the back for mowing strimming etc and also for some rainwater butts) but it either had to be on the boundary or 3 meters from it. 

Although I think it doesn’t make any sense to do it that way, they are the rules and we were not going to get permission otherwise, so with some new measurements of the location ie right on the back border, but 3 meters in from the sides we just ended up with a longer thinner shed rather than a shallower deeper one. The end result of floor space is the same 19.5 meters.

We also decided it would be built in concrete block (which was acceptable to the mayor ) and then clad it in wood later when we take the sheds down form the back of the house that we currently live in. 

I had already graded the land down to near level and so now we had to try and peg out Mr Pythagoras 3-4-5 to get the right angles we needed . My son is doing the ground work while I look important (and inot the distance) on the digger. 


We went for the measurements of 3.5 x 5.6 to give us about 19.6 M2 floor space and so then it was a case of putting in some rudimentary footings to take the blocks. It is only going to be one skin of blocks, so we laid out some footings and then went through the task of leveling them with the laser level. We used an upturned rake and a bit of tape to work out higher or lower and applied some “boofing” (using the rake to tamp down high spots) or putting in and leveling extra cement where required .

Here is MrsB on the rake and me trying to get the laser level itself to be level. 


And here is ZFB getting his own bit of “lazing about on the digger”. 


Here goes up the first days blocks running to a string line. We had 4 pallets of blocks delivered and placed as close to the job as we could get them. It made for a few awkward turns with the muck filled wheelbarrow though.


Here it is after day two


After a couple more days it is starting to look a bit more like it



So the plan was to have a simple sloping roof, during the planning palarva we were told that we had to use the flat metal f roofing (with ridges) so we bought enough to do just the roof of the shed for now.
The plan is to overhang the chevrons to create a lean to later as you will see .

Once I had fitted the door frame ( a railway sleeper is the bottom bit) sleeper I then laid on the extra blocks for the height differential to give the slope. I then fixed heavily treated chevrons to the top of the wall for the roof supporting chevrons to sit on (and be nailed to)


You can see the idea here with a 5.2 chevron laid across the span, although we did go up another block course


Here you can see the treated chevron on top of the wall and the supporting chevrons holding up the roof. We treated the wood with a mixture of creosote engine oil and some black bitumen stuff all mixed together. I think they will still be there long after the concrete blocks have crumbled to dust. 


The roofing material is flat metal with pressed ridges. We double treated the wood where it will be in contact with the ridges to make sure it didn’t rot. We used 68 x 43 chevrons (or near as dammit) and the 43 bit just sits in the ridge perfectly. 


I will fill the sloping gap with blocks at the end shown and with timber on the other end that you can see in place in the second photo


This is the overhang that will become the wood store when roofed. Didn’t roof it straight away as unsure of the rules regarding lean to’s so we may just wait a while and do it at later date when no one will really notice. The chevrons will be extended a bit further and guncked up with treatment. 


Once I had done the roof I thought it was a bit “bouncy” so decided to retro fit a support beam. The lateral span for the chevrons is about 3.6 meters which is a bit long for a chevron so I bought a 250 x 50 for the 5.6 meter longitudinal span to add some “beef” to the roof and also give me a solid beam to act as lifting point inside.



Here it is before the doors so hopefully you can now see that it will have the extended wood store roof on the right hand side and on the left hand side it will also have a lean to roof with wood paneled fencing sides that will become the home for our Harry Chuffer the tractor


Here it is with the doors on and the scalping floor down. I will probably lay a concrete floor and when we do the kitchen we will order an extra cube or so. (a golden rule I have learnt during tis is that if you are getting concrete delivered for a floor etc then always have another job that they can put the excess in, because they wont take it away with them and the last thing you want is a big blob of unwanted concrete hanging about) 


It will also have one of the three spare small wood burners installed for using up old wood when I am in there in the winter months creating masterpieces. The wood cladding will come later as will the proper work benches and tools etc. WE don’t intend to run a separate supply down there and will just have a heavy duty extension with its own plug and breaker up at the house to cope with some high kilowatt machinery in the future. 

So Shed three is nearly complete apart from its wood cladding and the side lean-to roofs.
It has already swallowed all the excess stuff we had lurking in the house and has bags of room to spare

Simple design, easy to build, total time 8 days total cost 800 euros. It has already proved its value.

Love and Peace

Outside Fire/ Cooker / BBQ

The outside Fire/Cooker/ BBQ and Oven.

I was chatting to one of our neighbours over a cold beer and mentioned that I was going to build an outside fire/ BBQ area with the plan of having a sub fire oven for those delicious long slow roasts. He said he would be up the next day with something that might be useful.
He turned up with one of those cast iron fire plates with a cast relief of a blacksmith on it although it might be a saint I don’t know and as I helped him lift it from the boot I realised I had another plan forming about the sub (under) fire oven.
I would build a fire with the fireplate in the middle and leave behind it hollow and create an oven/hot box on the other side that would use the heat that radiated through.
The idea was to knock it up in block then render it in fireproof cement and have fire bricks at the outer edge to protect the stone cladding the whole thing would receive.
So these are the first few photos of that starting to occur with the blocks going up and the fire plate installed


Here is the gap behind that will allow the hot air to rise to the oven


So what do you reckon? is it a saint or just some blacksmith bloke? Or is it the patron saint of blacksmiths?


Then cutting the blocks around the fire plate

Here is the block work complete (using up some old blocks I had hanging about) and also the bottom line of fire bricks. The void behind them was filled with fire cement to make the fire base. This was the last bit I did because I had to go back to sea and so MrsB took over to complete the first stage. AS ever she has created some great featured stonework on what will become (I think) a very useful and much used feature for the outside of the house.


ImageThen putting the fire bricks on the outer edges, the basket in the middle toning down the red plate and rendering the blocks with fire cement . We bought the fire cement at a brico shed and the mix used is 3 sand 1 cement 2 fire cement.

There will be a lintel in behind the plate to enable me to build up and seal it off form the main fire but as I have said I may have some controllable vents to let more heat in should it be required. The shelf in the oven will also be hinged to allow stuff to be put lower down.

Now MrsB links up the wall to blend it into the fire. All of our exterior walls have some pieces of metal in them that were all found in the original house or garden.
The intention is that when finished the fire will have an arched top (like a dutch barn) done in fire brick then covered in stone. The front will remain open, down from the height shown, with a lintel across and built up from there to meet the arched top. No-one would want to stand in front of the fire to cook which will be done from the left side where the oven door will also be situated.



Here you can see the wall being made and the earth and debris used as packing which will also act as a good insulator.



And now the rounded back which will then be rounded vertically to meet with the arched roof to give it the look of an old bread oven (albeit a small one) that are native to the local area. The large piece of metal is from the old cider press. You can also see in the first photo the void I have left to allow the radiation of heat to the oven which will be above (when it is built). I may even go to the extravagance of putting in some vents to allow more heat in from the fire box in case the radiated heat isn’t enough. In arched roof I will also be installing removable lattice for smoking food.



This is where you will stand to cook with the oven on the left and the grill in front of you. The interior will also have brackets sticking out which hold the cast iron BBQ fire-pan when a log fire is not required. It would work as normal BBQ in summer or in colder times a useful outdoor fire with oven and slow cooker above.

(In the above photo you can also see how the sleeper ends have been left clear should we ever need to lift them to get at the land rain and sump below as mentioned on the previous thread.)

Here is this side wall finished although we may just cut the big stone back into the garden a bit more to give more standing room in front of the cooking section.

Here you can see the marble slab that will be a work surface. This will join a wider piece on the left near the back I front of the oven door.


Here if apply a bit of imagination you should be able to see in your minds eye the arched roof with a little chimney and lovely roaring fire on an autumn evening with a sorts of delicious foodie smells emanating from the same



Chinese whispers created noahs ark

Aye Aye landlubbers, Yo Ho HO! barrels of rum on dead men’s chests, black spots from blind Pugh and all that malarkey.

T’was with a twinkle in me eye that I sat pondering all the animal names on board a ship that are in regular use and realized that I could have a scenario where I asked the bosun, who was keeping the dog watch, to do job on the monkey island.
I would have to call the engineers to get them to flash up the donkey boiler to provide steam for the winches in order to operate the derrick booms in union purchase. 
That would mean making sure that a monkeys face was fitted, but we would have to make sure to properly mouse all the shackles holding it in place.

They would need to use a goose neck scraper to clean the swan neck vent and then use a dogs leg to paint it. 

If they need to rig any staging they would have to use a lizard to secure it (but not with a cow hitch) and if one end of that was frayed they could quickly put a dogs dick in to tidy things up. They could tie it up under the crows nest and if the lizard was too long they could put a sheep shank in it.  

If they needed to throw a rope to the other side they could put a monkeys fist in it. 

Of course, in the olden days, if they made a pigs ear of the job I could always have administered the cat.

I now understand how the myth of noah’s ark was created by Chinese whispers developed by landlubbers on overhearing sea dogs having a chat over a few rums when up the road on a rabbit run.


Dog Watch:– Normally the 1600 to 2000 split into two.

Monkey Island:– The deck directly above the navigational bridge

Donkey Boiler:– Boiler used for jobs that require steam that can be provided without diverting steam from the main boilers of a steam driven vessel 

Monkeys face (or in earlier times a Dead man’s face) :- A triangular metal plate with a hole near each angle apex and when looked at resembles a simple caricature of a monkeys face. Used for attaching two cargo runners and a cargo hook in order to effect two derricks into union purchase (or yard and stay as it is sometimes called) rigging 

Mouse:– To secure the end of a shackle pin to ensure that it doesn’t come undone when under load or after constant vibration during operation. 

Goose neck scraper:– A double ended metal scraper about a foot long with a sharpened scraping head at each end with one of the ends bent over at 90 degrees 

Swan neck vent:- A tubular vent that comes up from the deck with the top 10 or 15 % bent back on itself in a u turn so it resembles a swans neck 

Dogs Leg:- A long handled paint brush about a foot long to 18 inches with the brush head at an angle of about 30-40 degrees. Known ashore as a radiator brush so I am told. 

Lizard:- A piece of rope approx. 2 fathoms long with a hard eye spliced into one end and a palm and needle whipping at the other. Used when a rope such as stage gantline or bosuns chair gantline is to be run through it to prevent chaffing. 

Cow Hitch:– A knot similar to a clove hitch except the running ends emerge from the center of the knot in the same direction as opposed to a clove hitch where they emerge in opposite directions. 

Dogs dick:- A back splice in a piece of rope. 

Crows nest:- A look out station set high on a ships mast. 

Sheep Shank:- A simple knot that is used to temporarily shorten a length of rope. Often found on grab lines fitted to the keels of lifeboats.  

Monkeys Fist:- A knot that can be tied in the end of a piece of rope(usually a heaving line) that adds significant weight to the end of rope allowing it to be thrown further. Sometimes nuts or lead weights are added in the knot and as you tighten the strands of the knot it grips the weights much like a monkey putting its hand in a hole in tree to grab a treat and then not letting go of what it finds. 

Pigs ear:-Not a seafaring expression and in cockney its rhyming slang for Beer, but in its context of messing something up it was first used in 1950 in Readers Digest although it is thought to be a extrapolation of the 16th century saying of “making a silk purse out of a sows ear”.

Cat (‘o nine tails):- A multi tailed whip made with knotted cord. 

Sea Dog:- Slang for a seafarer

Rabbit run:– Going ashore with the intention of buying souvenirs but usually has the potential to (and normally does) descend into an extended tour of bars in the dock area, and sometimes beyond, with the money originally set aside for presents etc being otherwise invested into alcoholic beverages.

May fair winds fill your sails and clear skies please your heart
Love and peace

Terrace or patio

Drainage for the Terrace and the construction of the Terrace itself.

“Terrace” pronounce  “teh- rass” is just a poncy French way of saying “patio” isn’t it?

I might be awry with that observation as I am not sure about the sizes and what the rules are regarding the square meterage when a patio become a “Teh rass”. That said I prefer it to “patio” which sounds dreadfully suburban middle class England to me and I would be mortified to be mistaken for one of that mob. .
Anyway enough of my little peccadillos regarding the vagaries of language and class system  because it is of little consequence regarding the creation of our terrpatioase. 

After we had dug down to the rough levels required and laid the scalpings at approximately the correct angle to take any rain water away from the house once the slabs are fitted on top. We then had to make a decision about the surface of said terrace and also the drainage form it.   

We need to be able to drain the terrace and substantial rear roof of rainwater so it had to receive some serious thought as no open ditches or drains in place for it to go to.

We have opted for two drain channels (I don’t know their proper name) with metal tops that have to be laid into and level with the terrace (or more accurately the terrace will be laid around and level with them)

These take water from the drain pipes (and also any water that falls on the terrace) in a V formation from the house to a central sump and then via land drain to a large soak away. 
From the other side of the soak away, and just lower than the input, there is more land drain (the yellow stuff with holes in it wrapped in a silt proof blanket) that will go around the garden for a while slowly dropping to the field level behind our garden. I will diffuse the final outlet by another stone filled soak away on the edge of our border so as not to p!ss off the farmer by sending a torrent of rainwater out into his crops every time it rains.

It has been a bit of a palarva so far becasue once I scraped the topsoil off the ground it is either crappy rock or clay. I have had the digger at full stretch down in the ground and cant get past the clay to aid the soak-away so it has to be given another route out hence the extra land drain .  

We are having two railway sleepers as the step up from the terrace so first we had to set them at a level that made a decent step and then make sure the drain channel would fit underneath them. 
I then found a concrete sump and cut a hole on one side to allow the water out. 

Here you can see the process of the using blocks to get the sleepers level and the sit at height above the concrete sump to allow the drain channels to fit underneath. 

The string line gives us a nice straight edge to make it all look neat when the slabs go down. 

I will explain about the bizarre looking concrete block structure on the left later on.  

Here is the trench and the start of the hole for the soak away. The trench is lined the bottom with throw away stones to help spread the drainage. Then it is smiple case of putting thye land drain on the stones and use a spirit level to make sure the angle is right to allow water to flow. The angle used is about 2 cms per meter drop. It runs for another length of pipe and then drops into a stone filled h
You can see the first piece of land drain in place with its silt and root protective blanket which is a sort of nylon material thick membrane . 


Here is the digger reaching down into make the hole bigger. They are just random sized old stones that were not going to be used in the wall. The size of the hole is about 1.5 meters down from the inlet and about 1.5 square.


Here are the sleepers in situ with the back fill complete for the drain you can see the plastic pipe running into the concrete sump, the entrance I cut with an angle grinder. 
I fitted a piece of guttering plastic pipe about 300 long  into one end of the land drain which I fixed into the sump by splaying out the ends and using a couple of tubes of silicon and “Weather Mate” to seal in place. I then set the whole thing in water proof cement to make sure it was fixed. 

You can see the cement surrounding the sump and also the gap beneath the sleeper step and the sump that will take the drain channel This means the top of the drain channel will be level with the top of the terrace which will be level with the bottom of the step (phew) which is the desired effect.

And here are the two drainage channels in place. They go off to the two drain pipes and end up central to the steps, which lead to a small curved area which in turn is stepped up with natural stone onto the garden.

Hopefully you can see now how the terrace slabs will be laid up to level with the top of the drain channels. The drop from the house to the drain is about 1cm a meter and also there is a slight drop in from the sides to ensure that all water ends up in the drain channels.
Looking at the photos and knowing how I made a metal cover for the channels under the sleepers to prevent any soil etc from slipping in I realise that I was a bit liberal with the weather mate and so will have to move the sleeper steps back out in order to be able to clean the drain out should it ever become clogged. No big deal as MrsB has not built her wall over the end of them as previously planned. To help prevent clogging (leaves etc) I will be putting some rolled up chicken wire in these last bits before connecting the rest of the drain channel.   

Next up the slabs 

The 8 Bells Reunion

I first experienced the special space of the 8 Bells in Beaminster Dorset in early summer 1977.
My mum had moved to the village but I hadn’t seen her for about 2 years as I had either been at sea gallivanting around central America or having a laugh with shipmates from various vessels whenever I did arrive for a week or so in the UK.
I though it high time I paid her a visit and made my way to the Dorset village where she lived with her new chap, a genial but slightly weird fellow who was postman.
They lived on the outskirts of the village on the Broadwindsor road (just opposite the home of the now legendary Henry vacuum cleaners).
After the telling of tales of derring do of the last couple of years (the edited version to my mum) I decided to check out the village pubs to see if there were any good ones to frequent and also if there was anyone who was likely to enjoy a spliff or three as was my want in those days.
My first stop was the Knapp Inn (we will return here later) which was a tiny little snug and bar type pub that was friendly enough but seemed to cater for a more elderly clientele than I was looking for, being only 19 years old at the time.
The next stop closer to the center of the village was the Royal Oak and that was more of the same as the Knapp except without the friendliness or character.

It should be said that at this time (ie the late/mid 70’s) in the rural areas of the UK there were many more pubs about and they all mainly survived with various days of the week being given over to pub sports teams like darts, long alley skittles, table skittles, crib, dominoes and bar billiards etc. Most pubs had teams in many different leagues so had a guaranteed few in most nights of the week.
At that stage they hadn’t mostly all become “restaurants that used to be bars” that now infest the countryside and often prefer people not to just turn up for a drink without eating as well, which is the sad fucking blight that has befallen most decent old rural boozers.
I think the breathyliser may have had something to do with the decline of the more isolated pubs as well.
It had to happen I suppose with less and less people employed in agriculture, the insidious start of second home ownership (holiday homes occupied for two weeks a year and the odd weekend) pricing locals out of the villages as more people became “inheritors” in the general dash for cash inspired by the foul bane of Thatcher.
This meant that people all spent longer at work trying to afford labour saving gadgets in their home that they had to borrow ever increasing amounts of money to buy from ever increasingly eager to lend lenders which in turn meant they had to spend more time at work to make more profit for the banks but in turn  had less time and disposable income for their own leisure. (whoops off on a political rant tangent there for a moment)

Pubs were only open from about 11am till 2.30pm and again about 6pm till 10.30 most nights, except 11 on a Saturday.
Sunday opening was 12 till 2 and 7 till 10 (if at all) so if you were a young seafarer used to drinking in countries that had always embraced 24 hour bars the it was important to find a pub that did “lock ins”, the delicious nirvana of after hours, slightly illegal drinking that always seemed to be a bit naughty but was also well worth the effort.

My next stop was the White Hart just off the village centre and when I entered the public bar things started to look up, at least as far as the clientele were concerned. The 6 or 7 slightly hippyish looking characters who were in the pub that day are still mates to this day.
As an aside the landlord, who’s name escapes me, was a great big fat miserable bloke with the look of an ex copper about him (which turned out to be accurate). When he wasn’t behind  the bar one of his equally corpulent and, it has to be said, miserable daughters would be on duty.

 It is normal to undergo a certain amount of surreptitious scrutiny of the sort any “newbie” gets when never seen before in a pub and as I ordered my pint there was bit of that going on which I forestalled by asking if anyone fancied a game of pool. That lead to several more games of pool and plenty of chat about how I had turned up in the village, what I did , what they did, what other pubs were about, where bands played,   where to get a smoke etc etc. A little later they said they were popping down to the 8 Bells for a couple and did I want to join them.
“Does Snow White need a stepladder?” says I and off we go for the two minute walk to what would turn out to be a 36 year (and counting)  acquaintance with the 8 Bells, or more accurately, the myriad of magnificent characters that frequented it.  

A corner setting just below the church and off the main square of the village, the Bells was build of hamstone and the downstairs facade was a heavy studded oak door was flanked on the left by a large mullioned square bay  window and on the right a smaller version of the same . On stepping inside there was another door which the opened into the bar from a sort of internal storm porch I guess is the best way to describe it.
Working from left to right was the bay window with built in benches all round but a bar billiards table in the middle of it. (It was moved later as the pub became ever more popular and a  table was installed that would seat 6 to 8 at a squeeze and gave them a view of “up the lane” to the square.)
The benches followed round to the next wall  with a table infront of them, and then to an open fire with a bench the other side running to the bar. There were 4 low slung 60’s style bench seats (that could seat about 6 to 8 with some budging up and buttock juggling) with a low table near this.
Then the bar itself with 4 high stools with backs facing the main door and window. The bar was polished wood and behind were two large shelves that held 4 casks of the local brewery’s beer (Palmers) called BB and IPA beer and two cider barrels.
In each case (beer and cider) there was one settling and one ready to go.
There were mirrored shelves with some glasses on them and optics Rum Whisky Brandy Gin Vodka attached to the front. Next to the bar on the right in a small alcove was an old looking fruit machine (which remained for the next 10 years and took only 2ps) then a door out to the rear indicating toilets.
Following right was another area with a dart board, wall mounted  juke box and some more seating dotted about the place and in the window.
The overriding sense I  (and many many more after and before me) experienced on entering was “This is it!!!”
What a wonderful vibe.
It must have been on the most perfect set of lay lines, or the planets were aligned with the plankton in the Adriatic on the day it was built, or the builders involved had all been loved up, but whatever the reason the 8 Bells had that special, homely, welcoming, safe, embracing, warm, party invoking, loving feeling that very few buildings have.
The Bells had it in abundance and it had me hooked from the first moment I stepped in the place.

The landlady at that time was a tall thin woman called Margret who carried the presence of an austere schoolmarm straight out of the pages of a Hardy novel. Her normal attire of smart navy blue skirt suits with white blouse with Cameo broach at the neck, seemed more suited to a trip to a sunday church service as opposed to pulling pints in a bar.
That said once you got past the initial frostiness she was a hard working pleasant woman who had been left to run the pub after the husband had either done a runner with a customer or died (I cant remember which). She always had the look of being ever so slightly disgusted with something or wishing to be somewhere else, but she performed her role with dignity and due care if not a little coldly on occasions. I don’t remember her laughing much except in that sort of slightly exasperated way that some people do.
What she presided over was a renowned “cider house” ie a pub that sold a lot of cider, and because it sold a lot it was always fresh and enjoyable. (there will be a separate blog on the golden nirvana called the “cider triangle” which is situated in the area where the three counties of Dorset, Somerset and Devon meet.)

My new pals had asked me if  I drank “Skry” (the local nickname for cider from the barrel) and I most certainly did, but one of them suggested I try a VC .
This most glorious of drinks is made up of cider (rough) and a top or dash of Vimpto  which turns it into your most favourite fruity tasting drink (with the kick of a mule) you could possibly imagine.

Margret ran the Bells for about the first 2 or three years of my usage and then whilst I was at sea a transformation took place that was to take the Bells to another level and made it one of the most popular pubs for many miles around.

I returned after a few months away on a vessel working down in central america and so, as was normal after a long trip, I was all bronzed up, fit as fiddle and flush with cash. I had become quite a popular new addition to the pub and party scene in the area over the previous three years and had developed a bit of a reputation as someone who turned up from some exotic location (after months away) for a few weeks, had a whale of a time normally surrounded by laughter and occasional mayhem, burning the candle at both ends (and in the middle) and would then go dissapear back to sea for a few months.
I had arrived back in the middle of the week on a lunchtime and as normal made a beeline for the Bells. I looked in the window as the cab dropped me off and saw just one old local at the bar and someone I didn’t recognise behind it.
I strolled in, plonked my bag down and said my customary “Aye Aye landlubbers”, and the lady behind the bar broke into one of the loveliest, warmest, most welcoming and genuine of grins and said in a wonderful full Brummie accent  “Ohh Hello, so you will be the Bentley I have been hearing about then. I am Ann the new landlady”  
And so began a friendship which lasts to this day.
I found out they had moved from a pub up near Shepton Mallet and had been running the Bells for about three months. Later that evening I met her husband Colin who although  6’5” and with the physique of a rugby player was also a wonderful warm friendly and ready to smile person. Their marvelous children Lisa and Richard (well into their teens by then) shared their parents wonderful smiles and gusto for life and fun.

Over the next few months they slowly transformed the place with their warmth, generosity of spirit (and letting you run a tab when skint) and zest for fun without really doing any alterations as such to the decor, although the bar billiards had to go to make way for the ever increasing number of people who began using the pub.
As I mentioned earlier in those days not every pub had to turn itself into some sort of  phony gastro experience and in the Bells, if you were lucky, there might be a cheese and onion roll available or the occasional delicious winter soup of curry that Ann would make. That said we didn’t go out to eat, we went out to go on the piss and have a laugh which was always a distinct possibility in the Bells.

Some of the nights there are worthy of a blog post on their own merits so I wont waffle on because you really did have to be there to get it.

What made the 8 Bells so special was not only the arrival of Colin and Ann at exactly the right time, nor was it the vibe of the building itself, but the secret lie in the incredible eclectic mix of characters that called it their local or who drank there occasionally and when I started to write this I began to remember the names of some of the better known ones

 Gibbers – Hunky – MartinP – Spot – Merv – Liz – Hebbies –  Fi –  Nemoid – Wendy – Hawkeye – Helen –  Nellie – Jo – Trev – Debbie – Benny –Troub – Shorty – Dilly – Tina – Dixie – Janet – Hack – Sid – Huck – Adam – Moses – Geraldine – Vinnie – Mary – Buzz – Pringo –  Cloughy – Clemmo – Hannsy – Anna – Sarah – Chuck – Ali – Bunt – Sherfer – Lisa – Duck – Tracy – Cornel – Meatman – Shane – Anna –  Alex – Janet – Gay Chris – Gay Pete –  Ian – Bomb head – PeteC – Yosser – Andy – Mandy – Dawsey – Sterling – Anne – Big Bunny- Jayne – Little Bunny –Badger – Old Blue – Little Blue – Sneeze –  TittySarah – Drunk Sarah – Joker – Scruff – Topsy –  Paul – Sandra – Mathew – Mike – Cosy – Andy – Derrick – Graham – Shaun the Smackhead – MS Mike – Liz – Duncan – Tractor – Hippy Paul –  Hippy Alan – Suzi – Kim – Jenny –Jayne x 4 – Clair – Mark – Fiona   Sally – Jilly – Jill – Margret – Mark – Baby Sarah – Micheal – Lisa – Colin – Ann – Richard  and many many more whose names escape me or who I never knew in the first place.

The line of work these people had were as varied as their names and included but were not limited to 

Farmers – Builders – Nurses – Carpenters – Scrapmen – Binmen –  Cabinet Makers – Cleaners – Army boys – Navy boys – Antique Dealers – Car Dealers – Drug Dealers – Petty Crooks – Proper Crooks – Poachers – Chancers – the occasional undercover Police Person (who were surprisingly easy to spot and to my knowledge didn’t get anyone pregnant) Factory Workers – Net makers – Digger Drivers -Stable lads – Secretaries – Supervisors – Civil Servants –  Social Workers – Housewives – Managers – Dentist – Roofers – Retirees – Engineers – Labourers – Carpenters – Students – Seamen and one bloke who made rubber fetish clothing and I kid you  not his name was “Richard Glidewell”.

So there it was, this wonderful mix of people all sharing a great pub. I knew of at least three generations  of 16 to 23 year olds who passed through and then continued to use it until it was closed down by the brewery after pricing the rent beyond the reach of the capacity of the pub.
The bastards then turned it into a private house, rumour has it for their mother.
I confronted one of the brewery owners on the subject when he came into MrsB’s and my own bar to try and flog us some of his piss-water beer.
He couldn’t work out why our little cellar bar was outselling every other pub in the area for Stella (although it was the only draft beer we had) and I said that considering they owned so many I didn’t believe he knew what a good pub was as he had just shut down what was considered by many to be a classic, namely the 8 Bells. He said “You can rent it if you like”
I responded that as free man I didn’t have to enslave myself to a bunch of corporate gangster like themselves, and if they had any sort of compassion or sense of tradition, over and above shoving loot into their trousers, they would have let it (and a couple more similar great pubs already lost) run on peppercorn rents to keep the “country pub” alive.
He smirked that it wasn’t possible I said “yea right” and we left it at that.  

Imagine my unfettered joy when MrsB is invited by the ever lively and bubbly Suzi, through facebook, that there is to be an 8 Bells reunion 16 years after it had closed and it was to be held at the Knapp Inn in Beaminster.
I found out in February and immediately booked flights from Rennes across the water and organised a hire car. I also e-mailed my back to back on the ship and informed him we needed to change our rota a little as I had a very important date to attend on May25th that I was not prepared to miss.

To say it was like walking into an incredibly happy time warp would not do it justice.
We arrived at about half 7 and it was already heaving with a few familiar faces out on the pavement having a smoke.
After a few quick hellos and hugs and “wow look at you’s” I needed to get the drinks so I ventured in to be met by a very familiar face that I couldn’t place and he stuck out his hand and said “I know your face but cant remember you name.”
 I said “I’m Bentley and he gives me a huge hug and says “For fuck sake its been over 30 years Bentley, I’m  Trev, Gibbers brother” and that was the start of several hours of similar re-unions full of  laughter and reminiscing, with lots of  “Oh Wow is that you’s” and  “you haven’t changed a bit’s” and “do you remember the such and such night”.

If the world needed a boost of love and laughter and good feeling towards its fellow man then it received  a massive dose of it on the 25th of May and it emanated from the Knapp Inn Beaminster and came form the shared camaraderie and happy memories of the regulars from the 8 Bells.

The first I saw of the Bakers was when I turned to see the daughter Lisa making a beeline for MrsB and myself, beaming her wonderful open smile, that could give light to a blind man, and it has to be said she looked identical to the last time I had seen her 17 or more years ago.
Then Colin and Ann were there for hugs handshakes as the “stars of the show” and I suspect they will be surfing on the wave of love they received for many moons to come.
We had taken our son and daughter now 23 and 25 to say hello as one of the last times Anne and Colin had seen them together Ann was a witness at our wedding when they were 2 and 4 so a few tears were shed but they were happy happy ones of fond memories and good times.
Later on I bumped into the son Richard who is as tall as his dad and nearly a carbon copy and also shares the genuine smile of someone who enjoys life for what it i

It was the local that MrsB and I spent many happy nights together when we first met and had fallen forever in love, and Ann still remembers the day when I first introduced Mrsb to her and when she had nipped out to the loo said “Oh Bentley she is adorable I can see why you are smitten”
Not everyone I remember from the regulars was there (in body) but then again they were never all there even on a busy night. (It could only hold 30 or so to seem quite busy, 50 to seem ram packed and 70 plus to be heaving and people having to use the courtyard out the back.)
As the years went by life moved along and people moved away or died or whatever, but that said all the characters absent and present were spoken of and remembered with great fondness.

Afterwards, in the days following the reunion, as I began to process the nights feelings and after effects I was split into two different emotions:-
one of fondly remembering a significant part of my youth where we all partied hard and enjoyed a special bond through the Bells and of course thought we were invincible;
and the second part was noticing for the first time the reality of my age and that, different from when the future seemed endless, I am now conscious I am using more and more of the less and less time that’s left.
Perhaps that’s why I enjoy it so much, but then again self diagnosing you have a terminal disease called “mortality” can have that effect on you .  

Love and peace


The Journey, Dailymailreading Moaners and the 8 Bells.

Aye Aye You frisky bunch of beauties, back on board again after a relatively uneventful trip out to Songklah via Southampton, Denmead (Portsmouth) Bridport, Lyme Regis, Somerton, Heathrow, Singapore, Hat Yai and finally Songklah and the an added hike to NST whihc is the chopper base three hours north along the coast form Songklah and then 5 different landings on platforms and rigs until arriving on the Champion.
Left the loving embrace of MrsB at 1200 (french time) on the 14th at Rennes airport and arrived on board at 1000 (french time) on the 18th.
The trip out included my annual offshore medical (which I passed with flying colours magnificent specimen etc ) I then had a evening sat outside the Harbour Inn in Lyme with an old mate piuttiong nthe world to rights for several hours. The next day was lunch at the wonderful LuLa’s (used to be the cavity) in Bridport with my stunning daughter Pearl (who never fails to amaze me with her energy and enthusiasm for life and also her determination to live in a field in a van or wig wam,)  and my wonderful nephew Will (who I haven’t seen for over year and who has retrained from being a plasterer and now is a well qualified specialist carpenter working on beautiful bespoke yachts in Ipswich.)
The only downside is that he now wont pick up his plastering tools any more so I have to remember what he showed me and take it from there on the re-build. My cunning plan is to get him over and say Oh will I was trying this and it doesn’t come out right am I doing it properly? Que to Will taking over to show me and saying “I just as well do this bit in case you muck it up”
Ha a fiendish plan I know, but worth giving it shot I think.
Pearl is off down to St Tropez for the summer working for family as child minder on what sounds like bloody good terms. I wont see here now until she stops of on her way back to the UK in early September.
 Zak has been on an advanced  rope climbing course to enable him to get work filming at height and immediately landed a job filming from one of the high wires above the stage at this years Glastonbury. Sop the Bentley clan are in fine order. MrsB is continuing with creating the terrace and garden as well as emptying the house of all superfluous items into the small barn garage we built this time ready for the preparation work needed for the kitchen floor and the rest of the electrics when I get home again.
I expect to get a significant amount done not only to the first project but also the second which is need of some tlc and we intend to put a ring beam around it this year to protect whats there although my building guru has told me we need to cast a thicker lintel over the big opening french doors first.
All that work to do and yet in August and September we have quite a few of our favourite people stopping over for visits which we always enjoy. It is great to hear from them about the progress we have made as when you are in it doing it you can easily lose sight of what it looked like a year or more ago.
Also when you have people staying whose opinion you value and know you well enough to be honest about their view when asked, they can give you feedback about the lay out of the house and the flow through it. It is always refreshing to hear.            

I will spend some of the next 6 weeks entering into arguments with some of the dailymail reading (and all the right wing paranoia that reading that piece of shit invokes) retired types who populate a french forum I use. (
I shouldn’t just highlight the mailreaders as there are some very good interesting people on the site with whom it is always enjoyable sharing opinions with (even with some of the mail readers who I would in real life avoid like the plague fall into that category). It is great fun and a good mental exercise  to test out ones own opinions in an arena that is often quite hostile to anything that comes from left wing bias.
It is a bad thing to find out just how insular, narrow minded and full of bitterness angst and in some cases abject disappointment with their own lives some people are but they are out there and they don’t just exist on forums. I have met a few in real life lately and I having trouble staying civil in their company. I may just resort to “Is this conversation going to last much longer because to be honest I am loosing the fucking will to live”
Some people just don’t ever find happiness, or even contentment in their lives, and as such seem to project that no-one else should either. Maybe they do have it fleetingly, but it slips through their grasp to be condemned as something they will never have again, and in most cases they are right.
That in itself is bad enough but when they seek to garner a glimmer of joy, they can only do so by reveling in others downfall or by deriding the achievement or happiness of others as some sort of fluke and nothing to be celebrated.
It is that sort of miserable bastard that I would prefer if they fucked of out of sight or hearing and wallowed alone in their own misery away form the rest of society and without trying to drag the rest of us down to their own sorry woeful level.

Cor Blimey guv’nor were did that little unloading rant com from eh?? Funny the things we bottle up for releasing at an appropriate stage eh??

Now I was going to go on to write about one of the happiest events I have been to in my life but I have to  do some work on the ship as we are about to move into 10 meters of one of the largest production platforms in the Gulf of Thailand so I had best be on my bestest most professionalist super concentrating, do what I am actually paid to do behaviour.
See you later for an insight into the 8 Bells reunion and what it meant to me.
Love and Peace


Floor Plan

K so here is a rough not very to scale drawing of the floor plan.



Looking from the outside from the front working from bottom left and going round clockwise 
Window into Studio
Window into office
Velux into upstairs loo
Window into master bedroom
Velux into master bedroom
Kitchen door
Kitchen window 
Window into downstairs shower/toilet
Door (yet to be amended) into Studio


At the back starting at the bottom right 
Window into lounge
Eyebrow above balcony and end of landing (on other side there is the same eyebrow over the top of the stairs)
Velux into bathroom above bath (on the other side of the roof there is a same size skylight going into master bedroom)
Skylight into Mezanine
Main window for Shed room (above lounge)
Left hand window for lounge and the middle bit is one 4 meter wide window with glazed doors into lounge


Hope that puts it into context.
When I get home I am building a large shed / store for all the timber and other bits currently stored in the house. When that’s done I will be able to get some photos of the room layouts as they are now. 

When your son makes you laugh

I had to have a long hearty laugh and said to myself  “That’s my boy!” when I read these words of thought from my son, who is now living in London working towards his goal of becoming a recognised filmmaker.   

Sometimes when I’m on a crowded tube I think, am I just part of the rat race? 
Am I the same as these people? 
Just another bored cog in the system? 
Then I remember that I wheelied a tractor once, and that was as cool as fuck.

It was so good I bought him the T shirt that says “I Do Tractor Wheelies”

Love and peace