Sunday, 30 October 2011

Bless my Sole

Ever since last winter Ive been carefully treading the boards. Not a regular Theatre type performance, although it has at times resembled a pantomime. No, these are the boards which lay over the steel framework above the engine room and form the sole (nautical parlance to you landlubbers) of the wheelhouse.
As such, they not only bear the brunt of heavy footfall and inclement weather but the gaze of all who enter herein, and Im sure, set the tone of expectation for the rest of the vessel. Combined with the previously mottled and shabby exterior appearance, I can only but wonder at the apprehension which befell my visitors who had not yet had the benefit of venturing further aboard.

So it has been incumbent upon me to furnish the entryway with a sole befitting of my abode, one which will not only return me many years of dutiful service but in fine style. In other words,I wish my sole to have a soul.
Once again I have recourse to bless my good fortunes for the abundance of prime Maple in my possession and I resolved there was no finer use for this noble bounty.

Please accept my sincere apologies for my lyrical waxing, for I have purposefully employed the one extra hour of daylight afforded to me this morning by the return to Greenwich Mean Time during which I furthered my appreciation of Emily Bronte's ‘Wuthering Heights’ and have absorbed its most eloquent and colourful language.

Anyway, each board had been cut to fit over each opening in the steelwork below, and no two openings are either the same size or indeed the same shape. That is to say, they are by no means perfect squares or rectangles and therefore, the corner angles cannot be relied upon to be 90 degrees. It has therefore been a labour of love these past 8 days to accurately and skilfully manufacture each and every corner joint in a bespoke fashion.

After much faffing and fitting, and several good sandings, I have applied three liberal coats of boiled linseed oil which has enhanced the wood grain and given a warm and comforting glow to the Maples normally pallid demeanour.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Paint job that almost cost an arm and a leg

Ive wanted to get a few more coats of paint on the exterior all year, but at first it was too cold, then spring sprang early and with it came the flocks of Swallows which nest in the farm buildings. They obviously come here for the insect life and between the two, its been a summer long of bird crap and flying bugs, and combined with the farm yard dust, it would have been impossible to even try and get some painting done.

Then came the last week of September and the much fabled Indian summer. Over a week of near perfect weather which saw temperatures rise to the upper 20s by day and a balmy 18c over night. There would be no better opportunity before winter to kill the rust which has been slowly but surely growing on the deck and cabin sides. Ive grown weary of the fading red shades so I bought 15 lts of grey oxide primer.

What a delight and rare treat, one which ive not enjoyed since my Sardinian adventure 2 years ago, to don a bikini and catch some rays but with the mid day temperatures getting well into the 20s, it was soon apparent a double shift was required.

So, I spent the mornings rubbing down and prepping, followed by a siesta, and finally painting an area in the cooling sunset, just before dewfall.
Im realy relieved and pleased with the results. It’s a weight off my mind to have stopped the rust before winter and will make the final paint job easier next year, plus it’s a much prettier thing to look at.

Now for the cost. Life has a way of evening the score and nothing comes for free. As such, I shall bear the scars for the rest of my life, as a reminder of the perfect Indian summer of 2011.
On the final evening of painting, I had cleared all the equipment away and was planning to start a pot of spaghetti bolognaise cooking whilst I had a shower. I have had 4 tomato plants growing on the foredeck all summer and they were laden with ripened bounty, so I decided to gather some for the pot.
With both hands cradling as many tomatoes as I could hold, I was trying to step over a locker and gunwhale onto the planks resting on a steel trestle alongside the hull. I couldn’t reach far enough to put my foot down and so I hopped the last foot or so.

The next part happened in slow motion and is now the focus of my recurring nightmare. The planks slipped off the trestle, my mid right thigh hit the top of the steel and slid all the way up until I stood for a moment on the ground. The planks, which had sprung back up now fell back against my left thigh and once again bounced, hitting my leg once more. I dropped the tomatoes as I extended my hands towards the ground and I went head first over the trestle and rolled over onto the patch of nettles.
I jumped to my feet in an instant and looked down at my right thigh. The muscle was gathered at the top in a huge lump and the area above the knee was a sunken hollow.
I immediately hopped and skipped along to the wheelhouse steps, made my way up and then down into the galley and got a frozen bottle of water from the freezer.

For the next 10 minutes I rhythmically rocked about on the saloon floor rubbing the muscle with the bottle, trying to flatten it back into shape whilst yelling a mantra of expletive obscenities.
‘Oh gosh it didn’t hurt, no, it realy didn’t hurt’ and other oft used phrases in times of woe.

Yeah right, of course it didn’t hurt, but just the look of it made me feel ill but then the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) kicked in. Its the most important thing to have in any survival or emergency situation. Look for the good in a bad situation, so I looked and was pleased the skin wasn’t broken on either leg. The irritation of the nettle stings did little to divert my attentions away from the rapid swelling and I briefly thought about Spagbol and decided I needed to get back out and collect the tomatoes before the creatures of the night claimed them. They were scattered in the grass and nettles, some slightly marked but otherwise intact.

I did eventually drive myself to hospital to check out the damage and was told nothing was broken or detached, but I knew that as I had just managed to drive there. The check list of health and safety gathering questions got short shrift and I explained I had fallen down the stairs. Its easier that way and I don’t need a lecture about site safety thanks.
A bottle of wine, a sickly chocolate gateaux and a couple of ibuprofen seemed in order but after half a glass I didn’t fancy anymore and went to bed.

The next morning I admired the damage in a full length mirror. My left leg was black from mid foot to above the knee covering all the front half. The right leg was worse. Black from ankle to buttock covering more than a hands span across the front and outside in a spiral fashion. The bulging displaced muscle had settled a little but resembled those of a Russian weightlifter on diabolical stairods.

Now three weeks on, the bruising has passed through all the rainbow colours and finally left but the muscle is still prominent and still more than painful. Doc says it will take a while for the deep haematoma to come out.

What have I learned from this? Well, as an avid ‘Blackadder’ fan, I recall a scene when Queen tells Nursey shes had a good idea and Nursey says, ‘Oh you don’t want to have one of those Poppet, or your foot will fall off’ – ‘My brother had a good idea to cut his toenails with a scythe, …..and his foot fell off’

So, if applying the ‘Blackadder’ logic, I suggest you always use tinned toms for making Spagbol because growing your own causes bruises to your legs.