Category Archives: General DIY

Wills’ Cigarette Cards No 10: Making a Dog Kennel

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Wills’ Cigarette Cards No. 9: Distempering

Distemper may seem a somewhat outmoded decorative option, but anyone who has an old property will undoubtedly have come across it.  Also, anyone who is involved in conservation will be familiar with it, as well as lime mortar.  However, this is entirely separate from the veterinary condition and under no circumstances must you attempt to paint your dog, however shabby his appearance.
For more information on distemper and lime mortar click on Building Conservation.com.

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Horror and achievement in equal quantities

Yesterday was a funny old day.  Despite several urgent administrative matters which reared their heads in the morning, I managed to complete my entire list of things to do, except the shelves.  These were not done because I ran out of red rawl plugs and I was buggered if I was going to drive five miles just to get some more – the TP  round the corner only sells them in batches of 20,000.

After I had done my jobs in the hall, I got the vacuum out to clean the carpets.  Because we are still hauling boxes and moving furniture, I have left a piece of off-cut carpet in the hall so the real carpet doesn’t get dirty.  I vacuumed the top and then lifted it up to vacuum underneath.

To my horror, the underside was absolutely crawling with maggots.  After the shock had worn off,  I tried to work out where they’d come from.  The carpet off-cut was relatively new and I had vacuumed under it recently, so it couldn’t be the carpet.  I checked for any rogue food which the boys might have dropped but there was nothing.

Then it dawned on me.  Last week we had very heavy rain and something organic and dead had been washed out of the gutter and, as I went out of the front door that night, the whole of the front step was covered with maggots.  I had poured boiling water on them and swept them up the next morning, but  clearly, some of them had got inside and snuggled up under my carpet.  Yuk. I would even go so far as to say ‘Eeooow’ in that slightly affected way of the Californian teenage girl.

I cleared up and carried on with my tasks.  Hooks were hung, steps were scrubbed, windows cleaned, ‘phone calls made, Boy the Younger was collected from school. I then went out to pick up Boy the Elder from the bus stop.  It’s only a ten minute drive and the first part is along a narrow road where one has to drive slowly because of parked cars.  20-25mph is about as fast as you can go.

As I came round a wide bend, I saw a group of little girls standing at the side of the road.  I slowed down a bit more, just in case, but they saw me and stepped back from the kerb.  Then, just before I drew level with the girls, two of them suddenly made a dash for it and ran straight out in front of my car.

I slammed on the brakes and literally, and I mean literally, stopped short of  the girl at the back by about four inches.  I stopped the car and got out, shaking.  Both sets of girls were stock still at the side of the road, obviously terrified that I was going to give them a bollocking.

I didn’t shout.  I checked that they were ok and then gave them a very serious but gentle lecture about crossing the road and how important it is to look both ways, twice, before crossing the road, looking and listening all the time.  The girls who didn’t cross were very upset and full of apologies.  The girl who I nearly hit just kept saying “I didn’t see you, I didn’t see you”.  Absolutely horrible.

I had a dear friend once who accidentally killed someone in a car and he never got over it.  He was driving down a main road and he saw a car coming out of a gateway and he slowed down just in case it pulled out.  The other driver saw him and pulled back.  But then, inexplicably, just as my friend was about to drive past, the car pulled out at speed and my friend ploughed into the driver’s side killing him instantly.  Fortunately the little girl who was in the passenger seat was unharmed.  My friend developed a crippling stammer which never left him.

Drive safely all of you.  And clean out your guttering.

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Filed under Children, Cleaning, Family and Friends, General DIY, Life in general, Transport

Ticking off jobs on the ‘Things to Do’ list

I’m afraid I can’t provide you with anything devastatingly intellectual or life-changingly useful on the domestic front today because I am too busy.  I have a clear day and I’m going to mop up as many of the little DIY and organizational jobs that are playing on my mind as I can.

My short-term memory is appalling and, unless I have a list, or a Filofax entry, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, when I need to do it or to whom.  I therefore have a paper list, which is updated at least weekly, which has four columns; Priority, Area of Life (ie home, school, Wartime Housewife, other work etc), Item and Date Done.

This keeps me on the straight and narrow and also allows me to cross off ‘X’ amount of jobs before I allow myself to do something nice, like have a tea break or watch ‘Doctors’ at lunch time.  It also means that if I’m really steaming ahead, the jobs that have been wallowing on the list for some time, start to float to the top.  The list is currently 1 ½ sides of A4.  But I did get the table and chairs built for my kitchen yesterday, so no more porridge on the dining room carpet.

Therefore, when I have dropped the boys off at school, my jobs will be as follows:-

  • Put up hat racks in the hall so I can empty the bag of hats that is sitting in the dining room
  • Put up a key rack in the hall so I stop screaming for my keys every time I go out
  • Put up a shelf in Boy the Elder’s room so that he doesn’t leave his schoolbooks in tottering piles in the sitting room
  • Put up a bracket for the ironing board  in The Bunker(after all it’s rarely going to be used)
  • Buy a curtain pole and put it up at the dining room window so that the curtains are no longer sitting in a pile in the dining room
  • Clean the window in The Bunker as it’s half underground and covered in crap
  • Make a hair appointment as I haven’t been to the hairdressers for nearly two years.
  • Take the new ‘British Pigs’ review to my local bookshop for a bit of mutual PR

And by the by, what bastard thought putting ‘Downton Abbey’ on at the same time as ‘Spooks’ on a Sunday night was a good idea?  Luckily, ‘Spooks’ is going to be repeated tonight at 11.10pm.  And wasn’t Downton Abbey a cracker last night – talk about starting the series with a bang.

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Filed under General DIY, Life in general, The Wartime Housewife Blog

My unexpectedly flat-packed table and chairs: some tips on home assembly

Tips on home assembly of flat-packed furniture.

My new house is bigger and generally of a different layout to my old house and, therefore, the furniture, shelving and storage needs are different as well.  I am blessed with a kitchen just big enough to have a table and chairs in it and on Sunday afternoon I hot-footed it into Kettering Argos and purchased a small pine table and four chairs.I was slightly taken aback when two flat boxes appeared on the conveyor belt, but I had ordered them and it was the cheapest set I had found, so I wrestled them manfully into the car.  I arrived home with the enormous boxes and took them into the kitchen.  I peeped gingerly inside.

Oh my God.  Four hundred and eighty thousand pieces of cut and drilled timber, screws, bolts, washers, dowels, brackets.  I may even have seen a floral oilcloth, a vase of flowers and a kitten but I may have been hallucinating by this time.  I was expecting to have to put the legs on the table, but I genuinely was not expecting to have to carve the bloody chairs out of pine tree trunks which I had cut down myself whilst whistling The Lumberjack Song and eating a Yorkie.  No, no not the little dog you ghastly people (the hairs gets stuck in your teeth for one thing).

This afternoon I rolled up my sleeves, READ THE INSTRUCTION LEAFLET and began to remove the pieces from their packaging.  I am a methodical person so I laid all the wooden pieces and the associated ironmongery out on the floor in their groups; 4 x legs, 1 x tabletop, 4 x brackets, 8 x bolts etc.  I then counted out all the small fixings and placed them into ramekin dishes and bowls.  Next, the tools needed for the job were laid out on the worktop with the precision of a Harley Street Surgeon; “Allen key, small hammer, tape measure, screwdriver – no NOT a flathead, Nurse, for heavens’ sake where DID you do your training!” I barked to myself (barking, I suspect, being the operative word).

I soon had the table up and very nice it looks too.  The chairs are tomorrow afternoon’s little project.

It’s very important not to be intimidated by a flat-pack.  Nine times out of ten, all the pieces are there and the instructions are relatively clear.  It is sometimes necessary to substitute your own screws, particularly with shelving units as the screws provided are nearly always of inferior quality. But with furniture, it ultimately boils down to reading the instructions and being orderly in your conduct.  I also often use my own socket set rather than the miniature spanner provided as this will usually offer more leverage for manual tightening.

  • Lay all the pieces out and check them carefully
  • Place small items such as screws or dowels into bowls to stop them getting lost
  • Make sure you have the correct tools to do the job
  • Make sure you have left yourself enough time to complete whole elements of the job, eg the table or a whole chair, otherwise bits may get lost or you just irritate everyone because you’ve left things lying around
  • If you are easily irritated, try to be alone in the house when attempting an assembly.  This way no-one gets hurt
  • Read the instructions carefully before you start
  • Look at the photograph of the thing you are going to build so that you understand what it should look like when you’ve finished.  This avoids a Dali-esque item which, although perfect for draping soft boiled beans over, serves no functional purpose and will almost certainly not be displayed in The Tate

Failing that, many handy-persons now advertise that they will assemble flat-pack furniture for you for a hefty remuneration.  Whilst this undoubtedly stimulates the local economy, your first duty is to yourself and with petrol now marginally more expensive than ground unicorn horn and bread at £47 per slice, I would advise you to do as much for yourself as you are able in the interests of domestic economy.

This time tomorrow I shall be sitting on a solid and reliable pine chair.  Hurrah!

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Heartily sick of DIY (or how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a relentless Black & Decker)

Tool Academy

The Wartime Housewife?  Tired of Doing it Herself?  This can’t possibly be true!

But, friends, Romans and countrymen, it is true.  For the last five years, all I have done is put up curtain rails, shelves, cabinets and racks, assembled furniture and applied locks and bolts to various doors.

This has been closely followed by taking down curtain rails, shelves, cabinets and racks, disassembled furniture, and the buying and fitting of new locks and bolts.

Not long afterwards I begin putting up more curtain rails, shelves … you get the picture.

I have always been grateful that I not only have the skill and the will to do these things but that I also have decent tools – to say nothing of the finest set of chisels that money can buy (one of my best birthday presents ever) – but, as of today, the novelty has absolutely, categorically worn off.

Today I have:
put up two curtain rails and put up curtains
applied a bolt to the bathroom door
sorted through and relinquished the entire contents of the airing cupboard and relocated them
sorted through all my tools and DIY accoutrements, put them into labelled baskets &  thence into the shed
sorted through all my curtains and packed away the ones that can’t be used
changed the beds
put some things in the loft (I have a huge loft – hurrah!)
done two loads of washing

… and in between that, cooked meals, been to work, tidied the sitting room, sewn half a dozen name tags and broken up two fights.  And the bloody cat ate all the ham out of our sandwiches at lunchtime.

If I never see my tool box again, it will be too soon….

Oh my lore my blimey; I haven’t put any pictures up yet. Now where did I put that hammer….

The Wartime Housewife falls forward onto the kitchen table, a single lightbulb illuminating her floral pinny damp with pitiful tears as the tumble-dryer provides a fitting Bennett-esque musical motif.  She blows wind and cracks her cheeks.  Exeunt all pursued by a bear etc etc.  The curtain falls.

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A solution to the problem of lost chargers: a Charging Station

Thousands of electrical things in our house need charging rather than replacing batteries, seemingly on an hourly basis.  Although I attach little white labels with the name of the appliance to which they belong onto all my stuff, the boys shuffle, weeping, around the house looking for the chargers for NDSs, cameras, ‘phones, video players and, if things have gone really critical, toothbrushes.

I have solved the problem.  I have erected two shelves just outside The Bunker, next to the electric sockets and have run two long extension boards to each shelf.  Into these I have plugged the chargers (which I have carefully labelled).  When anyone needs to charge something, they bring it down to the cellar and just plug it in.

There is the danger that they may wilfully attempt to use the appliance whilst it’s charging (not the ‘phones of course children, as using a ‘phone whilst it’s charging will fry your brain).  In which case, if they then lose said charger, they have only themselves to blame.

I, however, will never lose sight of a charger again.  She said smugly.

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