Many days and many miles later….

Wow! It’s been a long time between posts, a long time and more than 10,000 miles in fact.

The house was finished and photographed for listing on the rental market. It’s a totally different house than the one we moved into in June, and I’m pleased to say, the agent has now found a tenant.

Tom and Paul finished the shed without any hitches. We had all our belongings locked up inside and the house listed for rent by the the 10 October. We then spent a relaxing two days with my sister, Wendy, before flying over to Melbourne. We spent another two days there relaxing before the long haul flight to Manchester. After having crammed three months worth of renovations into three weeks, those few days of relaxation were so, so welcome.

Fast forward another two weeks – Paul’s dad, Glyn, came out of respite the day after we arrived and he’s improved remarkably since then. I have him (and us) on a low salt, high iron diet, and I think it’s helping considerably. He has a good appetite (that’s putting it mildly), and I certainly don’t have him on a calorie restricted diet. Yet he’s managed to lose approximately 6 kgs, which must be from fluid loss attributable to the lower salt. Previously he was buying pre packed meals, canned soups etc and warming them in the microwave. Not really the thing to be eating when you’re retaining copious amounts of fluid and are supposed to be on a low salt diet.

With his heart problems, fatigue is inevitable. Apparently, his heart is weakened so it struggles to get sufficient oxygen around his system. I figured high iron levels can only help, so we’re having one meal of liver each week, one meal with a lot of kidneys incorporated, and I’ve frozen lots of small pieces of liver to add to soups and sauces. We also eat copious quantities of fresh veges. We’ve always eaten more veges than most people I know but now we’re eating much more than we normally eat. It’s amazing how many veges you can get into a blended soup.

Thank goodness for my Thermo-mix. Yes – I brought it over with me. It’s invaluable for blending liver into sauces and soups, and works just like a stock cube for adding flavour. Tonight we had chicken cooked with a mushroom sauce. To make the sauce I used the thermo-mix to cook onion, garlic, celery, a few chunks of liver, a tomato and two large mushrooms. When cooked, I blitzed it all with a small amount of cream, and then added it to a cooked chicken thighs and sliced mushrooms. The liver was totally unrecognisable as liver, and it didn’t taste half bad, even if I do say so myself.

Sticking to a low salt diet means very little pre-bought products. Reading the labels on packaging, there’s way to much salt plus the dreaded corn syrup in so many things. Wow, how clever marketing is. The marmalade Glyn normally buys is marketed as having a reduced sugar content. Reading the label, sugar is listed third behind ‘fructose/sucrose syrup’ (another name for corn syrup). So, sugar has been replaced with dreaded corn syrup. Thanks, but no thanks – I’d rather take care of my liver. I’ll be pleased when they put back the sugar, and leave the fat in milk, yogurt etc back where it belongs. And now I’ll get off my bandstand….

Anyway, between shopping, cooking and gardening we’re keeping busy. The garden was very overgrown when we arrived. The lawn, which was almost a foot high has now been cut, the gardens have been weeded, re-planted and mulched for winter, and we’ve removed a lot of the moss from the paths.

dads back garden

Now with things sorted in the house, and with Glyn currently doing so well, we’re hopeful of being able to take advantage of our time here to experience England in more detail, and also to get to see some of Europe.

On the horizon at the moment:

This Monday, a night in the Yorkshire Dales.

A Week-end in Norwich and an opportunity to catch up with Kerriann. We were hoping to do that next week-end, but then we realised we have a Bridge commitment with our good friends Joan and Gordon on the Sunday, so perhaps we’ll have to put that off to the following week-end.

Early in December we’re hoping to have 3 – 4 nights in Prague. Prague apparently has the best Christmas markets in Europe, and being a bit of a Christmas freak, I can’t miss that opportunity.

And then before you know it, Christmas will be here. There’s talk that this year England may get a rare ‘white christmas’. That would be rather special…

Laying laminate flooring and other things

Last week saw a new roof put onto the shed, the flooring almost completed, the lounge painting completed, the kitchen almost completed, and some other small jobs finished, or on the way to being finished.

Don’t let anyone tell you laying laminate flooring is easy – it most definitely isn’t. Poor Tom and Paul would put anyone straight that would suggest it’s easy. It took them three solid, hard days, most of which was spent on their knees. They finished around 3.30pm on Friday, but at 2pm I seriously wondered if they weren’t going to curl over. They looked absolutely done in. It’s almost finished now, with just a small amount of edging quad to go in on Monday morning.

The newly laid floor and newly hung curtains.

The newly laid floor and newly hung curtains.

Whilst the guys were laying the kitchen floor, I finished off painting what I could in the lounge. After Tom went home each day, Paul would finish painting the bits in the lounge I couldn’t reach, behind the fire place and most of the ceiling.

The heat pump looks much better on white walls. The Eagle was only temporary for today's football final.

The heat pump looks much better on white walls. The Eagle was only temporary for today’s football final.

Last night with the painting virtually finished, and the floor almost completed, we moved the lounge suite, rug and TV unit back into the room, and we hung the curtains. What a pleasure it was to be able to sit in front of TV in a nice room, with curtains shutting out the world for an hour or two last night. None of it’s a perfect job. How could it be in a far from perfectly built house. But wow, what an improvement. We’re very, very happy with it.

So much nicer than dark wood walls.

So much nicer than dark wood walls.

Today Paul had made several tip runs to get rid of a weeks accumulation of rubbish. On the last one he brought back a trailer load of pine chip mulch. It’s not a mulch I particularly like, but it’s very successful at retarding weeds and lasts well. My sister, Wendy, came across from Lonnie for the day and helped me to cut old carpet into strips which we’ve laid around the edges of garden beds and then piled the pine bark mulch on top. Hopefully it’ll keep the gardens easy care and weed free for tenants. Then they’ll only have the lawn to content with, and hopefully when we can come back to the house, the hard work we’ve so far put into the garden won’t have been completely negated.

The kitchen is almost finished. Still to do is the tiling, a bit of painting around the windows and door and hang the blind. We have valances that match the lounge curtains but I don’t thing we’re going to get a chance to get them up. It won’t matter. Hopefully Paul will get those small jobs finish tomorrow.

Next week the guys will complete the shed ready to store our belongings at the end of the week. We have the real estate agent coming on Tuesday to photograph the house for finding a tenant. By Saturday it all has to finished, everything has to be in the caravan ready for when we can come back. All our other belongings have to be packed in the shed. Our caravan and ute have to be in storage and our bags have to be packed for the UK. Next Saturday and Sunday we’re staying with my sister in Lonnie before leaving for Melbourne on the Monday.

It’s been a hard, hard slog, but we’re on the home stretch now. Well, that’s the home stretch on this side of the world. We haven’t had time to think about what awaits us on the other side of the world yet. We just haven’t been able to let ourselves think further ahead than taking each day as it comes here, head down, bum up, and nose to the grindstone.


We’ve had a busy week-end painting.

Paul has almost finished painting the kitchen. There’s still some trims to paint around the windows, and the tiles still to lay above the bench.

Paul's almost finished painting the kitchen

Paul’s almost finished painting the kitchen

Fridge is still in hallway until after floor has been fitted.

Fridge is still in hallway until after floor has been fitted.

My sister Wendy and I painted some primer on the lounge room walls. The pantry was stored in a corner of the lounge until the painting was finished in the kitchen, so we couldn’t paint that corner. Also we couldn’t reach to paint above the fire place, or above the window and pelmet. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get to finish the missed corner, and if Paul lifts off the pelmet I should be able to paint above the windows. I’ll try and reach the ceiling beams too as they have to be painted with primer before the ceiling white’s painted on. Paul will have to complete above the fire as there’s no way I’ll reach that, and he’ll do the ceiling. We’ll put the top coat on between the two of us.

Wendy and I couldn't reach above the Pelmet and window.

Wendy and I couldn’t reach above the Pelmet and window.

The remaining unpainted wood is where the pantry was being stored.

The remaining unpainted wood is where the pantry was being stored.

We’re happy with the progress made so far. We still have a long way to go though. We’re hoping at the end of this coming week that all the painting will be finished, the kitchen will be completed, the flooring laid and the curtains and blinds will be fitted to the lounge and kitchen. Plus we’re hoping the outbuilding is finished ready to store our belongings.

We have done soooo much, but theres still soooo much left to do. We’re whittling it away, and each job completed is another job less to do. At the moment though there’s a lot of jobs in progress nearing completion, so still feels like a momentous task. But it’ll only be a matter of days and there’ll be loads finished, and it’ll feel like we’re nearing the end.

Old houses have stories to tell

The end of day four into the kitchen renovation.

End of day four.

End of day four.

Today the remaining 70s brown carpet was removed from the dining end of the kitchen revealing some very colourful old tiles, and we’ve also found the remnants of some plain grey vinyl tiles in another part of the kitchen.

This would have been a colourful kitchen.

This would have been a colourful kitchen.

Under the carpet we found the remnants of what must have been the wood fired oven. The boys have had to chip away concrete from over the bricks and have poured in a self levelling compound to smooth over the floor. Unfortunately, the local hardware store were low on supplies of the levelling compound, so we’re hoping what they had will be enough. We can now see there once was a single door going from the kitchen to the lounge.

The remnants of the old wood stove fireplace.

The remnants of the old wood stove fireplace.

We can see the original kitchen was wall papered. Then at some stage the wood panelling was added over the original walls.

We keep asking ourselves why they didn’t do the job properly and remove the existing wall finish before adding the wood panels. Now, because we’re short of time and because we’re tidying the house up to be used for renting, we’re doing what the last people did. We’ve added another layer rather than remove the existing layers.

Some time in the future we may be re-doing the kitchen for our own use. This will include adding a wide verandah and cutting out french doors from the kitchen to provide access. At that stage the house will have been rented for some time, so a new kitchen, or at least a bit of a make over will not doubt be needed again, and that’s when we’ll do ‘the proper job’. If, however, we don’t get to add those touches for ourselves then I’m sure some future owner will be scratching their head and wondering what on earth possessed this particular owner to add ‘yet another layer’.

Paul’s dad has been moved from hospital to a temporary medium level care facility. He’ll stay there until we arrive. We’ve booked our air fare for 14th October. So, we’ll fly to Melbourne on the 13th and arrive in Manchester on the 15th. OMG! I hope we get everything finished.

Kitchen in progress

Tom the builder is here and has ripped out old kitchen. Paul is acting as his apprentice, and he’s loving it.



This is the kitchen we’ve been living with. The hole above the window and the unfinished wall beneath the window have only been there since the new double glazed window was fitted. We had to raise the window to allow for a bench to be fitted underneath.

Tom and Paul working in the gutted kitchen.

Tom and Paul working in the gutted kitchen.

Paul’s chipping away the remnants of some 50’s carpet that had been left in place under the cupboard unit.

Carpet that the boys found in place under the cupboards.

Carpet that the boys found in place under the cupboards.

We’re in speed mode now. Paul’s dad is in hospital for the second time this week and isn’t doing so well. We’ve been told medically there’s no urgency, but he’s not able to cope caring for himself at the moment, and it’s doubtful if there’s any chance for improvement. He is being assessed over the next few days. We don’t know what the outcome will be for the short, or long term.

We’ll be going back to the UK as soon as we can, to do what we can. Our hope is to assist his dad to live out the remainder of his time in his own home. Until we get there we hope the Social Services will perhaps place him in some interim care. If, however, the time has already arrived for permanent full time care, we’ll need to be over there to organise the sale of his home. We hope that’s a bridge we don’t have to cross.The joys and tribulations of either being an only child, or being married to one. Especially difficult when we live a 30 hour plane trip away.

Although we had been expecting this, the suddenness of the situation becoming urgent has us at sixes and sevens trying to get things organised here. We have two choices, the first being to take a short trip to the UK leaving this house vacant. We don’t like that idea for many reasons, not the least of which is, it would prove a costly drain on our finances.

The second option, which we’re pulling out all stops to make happen, is to get the house rented out so as to be able to stay for as long as needed in the UK. Tom, the builder fortunately has agreed to help. They should get the kitchen finished this week. Then Tom will patch the ceiling in the lounge. It really needs replacing, but we’re going to make do for now. We’ll be using our evenings to paint the walls.

After the kitchen is finished Tom is going to help Paul to get an outbuilding re-roofed and weather proofed. We’ll use that to store and secure our belongings. That will probably take another week if we don’t hit any hiccups. Then our laminate floor can be laid. Again, Tom has agreed to help if needed.

We’ve put our little car on the market, and later this week after we’ve taken the old kitchen to the tip, we’ll put our little trailer on the market. Hopefully they’ll sell quickly without us having to sell them at too much of a loss.

We’ll put the caravan and ute into paid storage, ready for our planned two year trip around Australia. Our original, tentative plan was to get the house ready and rented for the end of next summer, with our belongings secured on the property, and then we were going to set off around Australia for a good two year period. So, plans aren’t deviating to much, just not as relaxed getting to the departure date for Australian trip, and we don’t know when it’ll start.

We’re hoping 3 – 5 weeks will see everything finished, and see us on our way. We’re due for some good luck this year, so we’re hoping it arrives now. I hope we’re not hoping against the odds for that 3 – 5 week grace to get ourselves organised.

Time out in Strahan

We came back yesterday from a four day break in Strahan on Tassies west coast.

Accommodation - lovely restored Victorian B & B

Accommodation – lovely restored Victorian B & B

Strahan is often listed as the highlight of tourist’s visits, so our expectations were high. As often is the case, high expectations leave one open for disappointment. Although that’s probably being a little harsh, as it is a lovely place. We just expected more.

We did the six hour cruise on the Gordon River the day after we arrived, and followed the cruise with the must see local comedy play, ‘The Ship that never was’. We enjoyed both.

Cruising on the Gordon River

Cruising on the Gordon River


The following day we visited two local nearby towns, Zeehan and Queenstown. Both towns are only ever talked about, quite correctly, as places of ‘no interest’. And on our last day we did a short walk into a water fall near the town.

Hogarth Falls

Hogarth Falls

We did enjoy the break away, but really, two days would have been plenty. If anyone asks me how long is needed to see the West Coast of Tassie, I’d suggest two nights. One to see the waterfall (by no means one of Tassies best), and the second day to do the cruise and the play.

Strahan is famous as a location of the famous Huon Pine tree, and sawmill. The Huon Pine grows one millimetre a year in diameter, so a tree needs to be about 1000 years old to be of much use – not a tree for sustainable foresting. Its a unique wood that gained fame as a boat building material, but of course it’s now protected. It also makes beautiful, unique furniture which now owing to the rarity of the timber is super expensive.

When it was been forested, the foresters had to go deep into dense forest, and the trees had to be taken out on the river. The foresters only took out the most useful of the trees, but often less useful trees were chopped down to access the best trees. These less than perfect trees already chopped down and left behind, form todays supply of useable Huon Pine wood. It is the most beautiful wood – creamy yellow in colour with small pitting called birdseye, and the most beautiful perfume. I can’t describe the smell, but once you’ve had the pleasure of smelling it, you’ll be hooked. I know we are. Varnishing seals the beautiful perfume in, so most people oil the wood to allow the perfume through.

And that brings us to the highlight of our trip to Strahan, but I’ll have to back track a few months. Before we went to the UK in April of this year we were buying up second hand furniture on Gum Tree. One of our bargains was our bed, a latex queen bed hardly used (the marriage had broken up). It was on the market for the bargain price of $500. There was a big chunky bed head in the house which I cheekily asked if was also for sale. Yes, we could have it for $50 if we wanted it. I bartered him down and we ended up getting both the bed and bedhead for $500. The bedhead had been made for them as a wedding present by a friend. I think he was pleased to be rid of it.

We’ve since harboured a hope that the badly varnished bed head could perhaps be made of Huon Pine. However, everyone who’s seen it has discounted that, mainly because of the size and thickness of the wood, and the fact that we got it virtually for nothing, but no-one has been able to identify the wood.

While in Strahan we asked a 5th generation Huon Pine Saw Miller to look at a photo we had of the bed head. Prior to looking he said it would be Baltic Pine, but his interest was definitely tweaked when he saw the photos. He identified many characteristics in the wood that suggested it could very well be Huon Pine. He gave us a sample piece of wood and suggested we sand back some of the varnish from the bed head to expose the perfume of the wood, and compare the scent with that of the sample.

Having now done that, we have little doubt that we have scored a Huon Pine bed head. The smell is unmistakable. We can’t wait till we get time to remove all the varnish and oil it up to its full beauty. We’re over the moon.

When we returned home yesterday, Kelv, who has been staying with us for the past few weeks had received news that his work in Darwin is about to start. So, sadly today he left for the ferry to take him across Bass Straight, and tomorrow he’ll commence his return road trip up to Darwin. We had been hoping he’d find work here and would settle in Tasmania. Unfortunately, not to be at this point in time. He did love Tassie though, so perhaps one day in the future…..


The house is taking shape despite outward appearances.

The bathroom has now been completed.

New bathroom.

New bathroom.

The old, brown bathtub was removed to make room for the addition of a toilet. The window has been replaced and relocated, and we now have a lovely, big shower cubicle complete with both a removable and large overhead rain water shower head. What a difference – especially nocturnal loo visits which previously meant a trek to the back porch. Although enclosed, the porch is freezing, so nocturnal visits were only manageable with slippers. Now its a quick barefooted visit to the bathroom adjoining our bedroom, and we hardly need open our eyes. Size constraints meant we had to forfeit having a double vanity, but we can live with that.

We’ve had the windows to the living area and our bedroom replaced with double glazed aluminium framed windows. The kitchen window has been raised which meant new weather boards were needed, and also on the same wall a lot of weather boards had deteriorated so needed replacing. Our kitchen has been ordered and we’ve booked Tom the builder for the 21st of this month to come and fit it. Paul will be his labourer.

New double glazed windows - soooo heavy. It took four men to lift them off the truck.

New double glazed windows – soooo heavy. It took four men to lift them off the truck.

The hedges and trees have now been pruned, and garden beds have been started. New perennial plants ordered on line are now planted, along with cuttings, bulbs and other bits and pieces donated from both my sister, and our good friend Peta.

Rather than remove old concrete slabs around the property, we’ve utilised them. One concrete slab had the remnants of an old built in barbecue on it. We’ve placed the old brown bath on that, have filled it with good soil, and have planted some herbs and spring greens. We intend to place large pots of herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes etc around the bath garden. In a month or two I think that’ll not only be looking aesthetically pleasing but it’ll be supplying food for our table as well.

Bath makes good raised garden bed. Potted herbs are yet to be added to make full use of disused slab.

Bath makes good raised garden bed. Potted herbs are yet to be added to make full use of disused slab.

On another slab Paul erected a little green house that just fits perfectly. We now have a good few containers of seeds sprouting in there ready to transplant when the weather allows for it. So far we have Sweet Alice, Cosmos and Snapdragons for the flower beds, and several heritage types of tomato seeds planted.

Making use of another disused concrete slab with a green house for seed raising.

Making use of another disused concrete slab with a green house for seed raising.

Digging new garden beds is a lot harder here than in the sandy soil of Perth WA. This garden bed dug out of the lawn took almost a full day to dig. It was like digging refrigerated butter. Hopefully the three Just Joey rose bushes planted here, along with some Bearded Iris, peonies, geraniums and dianthus will thrive and reward us for our hard work.

Small rose bed cut out of lawn - a full days work to dig.

Small rose bed cut out of lawn – a full days work to dig.

New garden beds aren’t all hard work though. Years of pruning neglect inflicted on the hedges and trees around the garden have resulted in mounds of hidden leaf litter underneath. Now the pruning has been done the result is lovely friable, easy to dig soil underneath. Whilst the garden beds are yet to be defined properly, I’ve started planing in them anyway. A bit of pea straw to mulch and a bit of lawn edging will define the beds when we get around to it. I’m hoping the recent plantings of Oyster Plants, Peonies, Hostas, Lambs Ears and Foxgloves will soon be providing a spectacular show.

Huge, neglected hedges have been hard pruned exposing ready made gardens with lovely friable soil.

Huge, neglected hedges have been hard pruned exposing ready made gardens with lovely friable soil.

Two huge Rhodos named Alice (how could I resist them) planted under this tree, and nasturtium seeds sown along the outer border.

Two huge Rhodos named Alice (how could I resist them) planted under this tree, and nasturtium seeds sown along the outer border.

These should be looking pretty next spring.

These should be looking pretty next spring.

Despite all the hard work though, apart from the bathroom, nothing else looks very different yet. Most of the work done has been groundwork, both inside and outside the house. Give it all another 4 – 8 weeks though and I think our hard work will be showing. The kitchen will be in, the laminate flooring to the living area will have been laid, and the gardens should be well on the way to flourishing.