58: Jam today?
So we’re in, but eating off packing cases wears thin after a while, and with the first guests a week away the odd stick of furniture would enhance the place.
First essential? Well the pool table, of course. Fortunately friends Tim & Lynda were to hand and lured with the offer of lunch gamely weighed in to bring the beast up from it’s last home 200 or so metres down the road. Ever tried moving a slate-bed up 2 flights of stairs? Relationships start to unravel under this type of pressure, especially with two alpha-females vying to call the shots. The menfolk wisely buttoned up and tried meekly to follow contradictory instructions. Right said Fred.... anyway it’s in and any bias (right hand cushion North end) can only give a deserved home advantage in tournaments to come.
While the ground floor remained uncluttered the opportunity was seized to celebrate Tynwald Day with some local friends both French and Brits warily mingling. Regular readers will not be surprised to learn Callow timing played it’s part with the new all-singing all-dancing barbecue being purchased 24 hours before the event...flat-packed. Assembly? ‘Half an hour tops’, breezed the salesman – I’m now boycotting Carrefour. 2 hours that evening saw the frame assembled with the tricky bits like burners left for the following morning – shouldn’t I be Corgi registered for this? – but with 6 hours to go all the parts were attached – but neither hose nor regulator in sight. ‘Bought separately’ – damn! Back down the hill... This is eerily reminiscent of many Tynwald Days at home when a last minute barbecue decision was nearly thwarted by an empty gas-bottle and a mad career around the Island looking for stockists. Today the propane cube is speedily exchanged for a full one but in two hardware stores the only regulators available are, inevitably, for butane. A last minute panic call to the Boss dog-walking in Taninges produces a butane regulator and compatible hose and a road test 45 minutes before the first guests arrive proves positive. All goes swimmingly – literally! The newly-lined pool sees its first midnight dippers under the stars and a great night is had by all.
With the refurb works scheduled for September deadlines start to loom for ordering tiles, doors and the thousand other essentials before France takes off for its annual break. We are on first-name terms with the helpful chaps at Entrepot de Bricolage and feel a warm glow when we secure trade prices on our bulk orders. Builder Rich demonstrates endless patience as we revise and rethink each aspect of the works. Groundworking neighbour Denis, freshly home from the TT has parked the new filter beds in the drive, dug up half the garden and killed a 20ft high rose bush (he does it to all my flowers, confided wife Annie) then vanished. Traa di Liooar translates well into the local patois, no wonder he loves the Isle of Man so much.
Away from the building we have started attacking the garden, initially hacking back the neglected undergrowth and slowly seeing the underlying structure emerge; paths snake around the steep contours and evidence of past husbandry poke through; swathes of redcurrants, branches heavy with mirabelles and best of all a bumper crop of cherries. The only problem is the best fruit is way too high in an ancient tree unpruned for many a long year; we do our best with ladders, crooks and loppers and glean 3 kilos of luscious fruit, now converted to the first jam laid up for the winter season. This of course cannot be achieved without a gleaming new copper fruit pan and associated ladles & skimmers; more doubtful expenses to be charmed past our grudging accountant.
And as we pass the magic midsummer and start looking to the winter season we proudly launch our new website, the result of long collaboration with the excellent and long-suffering Dave of DK Webdesign, somewhere in the wilds of Onchan. Website 1 lasted four seasons limping gainfully on towards the end; if we can get another four out of the new version I’ll be well pleased – check it out and let us know what you think.