In the early hours of this morning I was standing at the gates glancing up, then down, at the gates, and then back at the sky again.  The wooden gates were in desperate need of a coating of rich preserving and restoring paint but the weather was not conducive.  It will never be conducive in Northern Ireland.  Instead, brute force and ingenuity where required to overcome the drizzle.  Ten minutes later I found myself back at the bottom of the lane armed with a trolley jack and a piano trolley.  Removing the massive gates required more limbs than I felt I had, but I managed by holding a gate in the curve of my arms and jacking the trolley jack up with one leg.  Thankfully no one drove past to observe the spectacle.

Once the gates were transferred to the cover of the garage the painting began.  I started painting and got as far as half of one side of one gate. Then the lovely Sharon took over as she knows how much I despise painting.  I would consider myself a reasonable handyman but I will also admit that ninety percent of any painting done in our house is done by the lovely Sharon, I am useless at it.

The weather dried up but the sky did not clear, but it was dry enough for me to clean the chimney.  I have a set of poles that I mostly use to clear drains around the cottage.  I used to use them to clean the chimney annually in our old house.  It was a conventional open fire and therefore the job was a straightforward and messy one.  One of us would shove the brush up the fireplace while the other manically shouted from the garden, “it’s out, it’s out”.  However, we now have a wood burning stove.  There was no way around the problem, the brush could not be shoved up the chimney.  No, for a wood burning stove the cleaning is done in reverse and the brush is pushed down.  This is why I found myself with my climbing harness on and attached to the chimney stack by a daisy chain of climbing slings.  The view was distracting and the air was filled with the smell of soot and the remnants of wood smoke.  For a moment I considered trying a method of cleaning from the Edwardian period which involves dropping a chicken down the chimney but then I thought better of it.

After filling half a bucket with soot debris I threw myself into the endless collection of odd jobs that always needs to be done.  Hanging curtain rails, hanging mirrors, coat hooks, picture frames and the building of toy boxes for the little man.  I downed tools and the weary Sharon left the gates to dry in the garage overnight while we made another batch of blackcurrant jam.  I had a dream of preserving raspberries in jars of syrup with a touch of brandy and a leaf of basil.  I thought this would have been quite a singular character to add to our preserves collection.  My dream was dashed when I went out to collect the raspberries.  We had left it too late and the majority of the ripe berries were way past over-ripe and were ruined.  This was simply bad husbandry on our part.  We had grazed on them for weeks with the mind to pick the lot but never quite got round to it.  What I did collect was nowhere near the kilos that I needed to make the process worth my time.  The rest of the crop is now half rotting and will feed the birds and insects.  Unforgivable.

The strongest of the two bee hives here is now bringing in lots of pollen.  This is a hopeful sign that warrants further investigation tomorrow.  I also hope to visit Grelder out on her banished land, weather permitting.

The fire is now crackling and a glass of red is in hand.  The lovely Sharon has just volunteered herself to go and shut the gates.  She chuckled while she said it and it took me a few seconds to figure out why.

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