Deck improvements

17 01 2015

We’ve been living at this house for just over a year. Something I needed to do soon after we move in was to stain the deck which was completely untreated. However there are two problems with the deck that will require it to be re-laid.

Picture of deck before work

The deck before remedial work begins.

  • The warm sunlight (the deck faces NW) of New Zealand has caused all the boards to shrink and there is now a 7-8mm gap between each board.
  • A heavy concrete garden table sits  at this end of the deck (where the camera is), and its weight has caused the deck to dip slightly which you can see by the lopsided puddling on the table top when it rains.

The strategy is to, from the side of the house outwards, creating a gap of about 4 boards to give room to manoeuvre, and then re-fix one row of board, this time with screws instead of nails.

Four boards out to create room to manoeuvre.

Four boards out to create room to manoeuvre.

The approach is partly defeated by two issues:

  1. The butt joints of boards in a single row are an angled overlap with the boards at the house end being the upper boards. Access to lift the first boards against the house is poor.
  2. The supporting framework at the end furthest from the house has to be re-levelled before boards can be re-laid. In fact at the end closest to the camera the entire width of boards will have to removed.

A numbering system is required to facilitate fitting the boards back together again. I named rows ‘A’ to ‘R’ as I lifted them right to left, and within a row boards were numbered ‘1’ to ‘6’ as they got closer to the house.

Board showing its unique number.

A numbering system is required.

Each board was marked on the underside in chalk, and I tried to stack them in such a way that I could re-lay those that I had least recently lifted.
I show some of the tools used in the picture to the right. As time went on I found I could use the claw-hammer as a sort of wrecking bar and managed to lift entire lengths of board using just the hammer.
Demonstrating improved nail extraction

Adding padding under the claw-hammer to improve leverage on long nails.

As an aside. When a nail is already pulled most of the way out of a board it can be almost impossible to use the lever of the claw-hammer to finish the job. Any hard padding (like a block of wood) can act as a base of the hammer reducing the relative length of the nail and improving leverage.
Rain stopped play.

Rain stopped play.

Needless to say it started to rain about 2 hours after I started.
(To be continued.)

Leftover nails from previous deck

A lazy deck constructor?

Getting there

Getting there

Looking back on a day's work

Looking back on a day’s work

The problem with the supporting piles

The problem with the supporting piles


Coping with a broken foot

25 04 2014


Here I am 24 hours after having broken my foot. Quite simply achieved by rolling my ankle down a kerb in the dark at 6.15 in the morning. I would have soldiered on to work but my wife suggested I should stay at home and within a couple of minutes I was inclined to agree, feeling somewhat unwell.
20140425-140303.jpgI have learnt over the years to look after myself. I always know where my finger repair kit is ( an old shoebox with all the plasters, tapes, finger dollies and everything else you would need to repair cut and damaged fingers). Since my butler is currently on leave, I settled down with my foot raised, an ice-pack (in the form of frozen peas) on my ballooning ankle, and some ibuprofen down my throat to tackle the pain systemically and reduce some of the inflammation.

A thorough examination by my GP gave rise to a visit to the local X-ray department. When the doctor said “Come and have a look at your X-rays.”, I knew it was not going to be the news I wanted to hear. A plaster cast, crutches, and no weight-bearing on my left foot were going to be my sentence for the next 10 days.

A discussion with Gwyneth about how I would tackle shaving and washing on the first morning gave rise to her suggestion that I should take a height-adjustable swivelling bar stool into the bathroom. I had already decided that I would have a strip wash each day. The stool reduces the danger of falling over and a child’s hop-up is a good way of steadying myself when I am standing on my good leg without the risk of me putting any weight on the broken foot.20140426-234106.jpg

Early morning lessons learned

  • Don’t try to shower
  • Sit down when you can
  • Make sure you have a clean flannel by the basin for each new day
  • Always insert the bad leg first into underwear and trousers

Using the crutches

  • Take it easy the first few days.
  • Keep the crutches close in to your body and close to vertical.
  • Your hands will get sore. Get some cycling gloves to relieve the pressure.
  • (I didn’t feel confident enough the first 24 hrs to tackle the stairs, and went up and down on my butt.)
  • Going upstairs start with the crutches next to your feet, push your body up and lift your good foot up one step in a smooth motion with your bad leg trailing behind.
  • Coming downstairs start with the crutches one step below you, bad foot out in front and support your body weight as you transfer your good foot down one step.

Day 3
Turned a corner today. The swelling (and consequently pain) went down overnight. I’ve been told to support my leg on pillows at night but the bedding was too heavy (or tight) and I’ll need to find a better arrangement tonight.
I could go stir crazy sitting around all the time and so I took myself off shopping in the late morning. In the supermarket I asked for a carrier bag so I could sling it over the handle of the crutch. At the green grocer’s they carried everything out to the car for me, including a sack of potatoes. I sat in the afternoon sunshine, reading although I had to change the setup on my Kindle app so I could read the words in the bright light.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cheap fix for a broken tumble dryer door

25 11 2012

With both the catch broken, and the tumble dryer door warped, this was going to be an expensive repair. I had in mind some sort of bonnet catch that I remembered seeing many years ago, and ebay turned up a suitable item for £2.80 + P&P. Four pop rivets and some careful positioning and I now have a door that doesn’t leak condensation and actually completes the drying-cycle.

Mini bonnet catch

How to fix a broken tumble-dryer door

Last chance for Fine Photographs

20 08 2011

Today, Saturday, 20th August is the last chance to find me at my photographic stall in Timor Court, Stony Stratford (near Cock Hotel). Yet more new material available. Very good prices for fine photographs.

a picture of my stall

Stall in Timor Court

Second week of Photograph Stall

12 08 2011

I’m buzzing with the anticipation of pitching my fine contemporary photograph stall in Timor Court, Stony Stratford this Saturday, 13th August. Last week proved to be a steep learning curve and there are many refinements that I still need to apply. However, given that I’m only doing it for 3 consecutive weeks, there’s a limit as to what makes sense to address.

What are the key features of the stall;

  • all images are my own original work
  • most have been printed by me on archival quality paper
  • the matts (mounts) have been cut by me
  • they are all hand-finished and ready for framing
Picture 1 of stall in Timor Court

My stall in Timor Court

Since last week I have got my own website up ( but it is still not populated with any of my photographs, and I’m not entirely clear what strategy I’m going to adopt for populating it. At the very least it will have all the stock currently on offer on the stall.

The next essential is to create a business card. I want to use one of my ‘iconic’ photos, but it’s interesting that some of the prints I really like haven’t sold (yet). I think I will just follow the courage of my convictions.

Mounting the pictures has been a challenge. The ones on vertical display I don’t want to wrap in cellophane because it destroys their impact. I am thinking of velcro dots and just need a scheme that enables me to remove them without spoiling the product. Last week I used pins, but as the day wore on some prints fell (damaging one corner) and after selling a print I need to be able to quickly put up a replacement. I’m also going to try to create some mounts that enable the prints on the table to be angled for better viewing.

There will be a folder of work for people to browse and possibly order from. Every print for sale has a unique identifier, the other variable is the colour of the matt. I will probably add some information notices to the stall so that people understand what I am achieving using HDRI techniques.

This is an ongoing project that doesn’t have an end in sight. Maybe I need to define when the project will have ended and when selling photographs just becomes something I do.

Going public with fine art photography stall – 6th August 2011

5 08 2011

This Saturday I am going public with a market stall in the historic town of Stony Stratford (NW Milton Keynes) at Timor Court, which is just north of the Cock Hotel. I have been slowly building up a portfolio of prints which are largely based around Milton Keynes and celebrate some aspects of the variety of MK life. Most prints are inkjet printed on Somerset Enhanced Fine Art Archival paper and mounted on acid-free board. They are ready for framing and mainly 10″ x 14″. Prices start at around £15. Don’t imagine the price reflects the quality. I’m just trying to test the market.

Picture of stall

Pictures for sale at a recent fair

I will also have a selection of individual Christmas cards based on photos of sculptures in Campbell Park during last December’s snow. Do come and have a browse, express an opinion and maybe even buy something to grace your home.

Picture 1 of stall in Timor Court
a picture of my stall

Stall in Timor Court

My stall in Timor Court

JR’s recipe for Tarka Dahl

17 07 2011

I’ve had so many requests for this recipe I’ve decided to post it. It’s based on a recipe from the Natco website, but you might find this easier to follow. The ingredients are in the order you’ll need them. I am somewhat generous in my interpretation of teaspoon quantities. You can substitute different types of lentils.

  • Red Split Lentils (200g)
  • Yellow Mung Dal (200g)
  • 1 Litre of Vegetable Stock
  • Ground Turmeric (2 tsp)
  • Ground Coriander (½ tsp)
  • Salt to taste (2 big pinches)
  • Ground Black Pepper to taste

For the tarka

  • Rapeseed Oil (2 tbsp)
  • Butter (1 oz)
  • Cummin Seed (1tsp)
  • 4 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
  • 1 medium to large onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 or 2 finger chillies (chopped into small rings)
  • Dried chilli seeds (up to 1 tsp)
  • 2 tomatoes finely chopped

Added later

  • Garam Masala (1 tsp)
  • Fresh Chopped Coriander (up to 3 tbsp)


I soak the lentils in cold water for 5 or so hours, changing the water hourly. Overnight is okay but change water last thing before bed and again when you get up. Rinse the lentils through until the water is reasonably clear then transfer to a large saucepan. I make up the stock with boiling water. (You can choose here whether to use gluten-free stock mix). Pour into the saucepan, add the turmeric, the coriander and bring to the boil and simmer very gently for at least 20 mins. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Whilst the dahl is cooking prepare the ingredients for the tarka. This is how you introduce the interesting flavours into the dahl. Heat the oil and butter in a medium frying pan and briefly fry the cummin seeds (15 secs) then add the onion and the garlic. Cook gently over a medium heat until the onions start to brown. Add the chopped chillies and dried chilli seed. Cook for a minute or so then add the chopped tomatoes and cook for up to 5 mins.

To make sure I get every trace of the tarka into the dahl, I ladle some of the dahl into the frying pan with the tarka, stir it well and transfer everything back into the saucepan. Add the garam masala and continue to cook on the stove for as long as you like or transfer to a slow cooker. If leaving on the stove be careful it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Twenty minutes on the stove is sufficient for a very acceptable tarka dahl. Cooking longer makes it softer. You may need to add boiling water. Don’t let it get too stodgy. Add the coriander a few minutes before serving. Serve with naan bread, baked potatoes or plain rice. As a main meal it will serve about 5 people.