Friday, 28 June 2013

Angus and Kate

Last night at a farm near us, Kate Humble was doing a book signing. In case you haven't heard of Kate Humble, she is a British explorer and naturalist. Find out about her here.

Angus has only seen Kate on two programmes which are extras on a DVD he has about the world's oceans. They were made ages ago (2001) but have really captured his imagination: Kate diving in the Amazon. Kate going in a submersible to the bottom of a ravine and seeing a six-gill shark.When we heard she was going to be a few miles away I wondered if Angus could meet her. I knew he had lots of questions and would be inspired by talking to her. He does, after all, want to be a naturalist!

Off we went in the car after school yesterday. We met a thoroughly lovely car park chap who said, "Wait a minute and I will see what I can do" in reply to my request. A couple of minutes later we were interrupting Kate eating her dinner! The poor lady was so gracious and Angus was desperately nervous seeing her in person but Kate obviously knows nervous boys: Do you think I might be dangerous and scary? Silent nervous grin Can you play thumb wars? Silent shake of the head No? Well you play like this...

Giggles, smiles, relaxing.

"Can I ask you some questions?" asked Angus. Summarized replies

"What was your most dangerous thing you have done?"
We try to reduce danger but diving in a submersible.

"What was the most exciting thing you have done?"
Seeing a six-gilled shark and swimming with Basking Sharks off the West Coast of Scotland.

"What do you most enjoy about your job? What makes you happy?"
Waking up early in the morning, going for a walk and hearing the birds wake up; feeling that you are in a private world. 

"How can I train to be a naturalist?"
Join something like the Wildlife Trust or the RSPB, volunteer, get your hands muddy and dirty and find out exactly what you enjoy the most. Then do more of it. 

"Have you ever met David Attenborough?"
Yes, I have worked with him, met him several times and even had dinner with him. He truly is a lovely person: charming, polite and a gentleman.  (Angus nearly died with excitement hearing this bit as David Attenborough is his real hero.) 

Kate signed Angus's wildlife spotting book and we went away leaving her to finish her dinner in peace.

Thank you Kate, you made a little boy very happy.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Grand Reveal...

I have been hassled and emailed and asked in phone calls to show what we did to the front of the house and have stalled. I must admit that I was reluctant for two reasons:

Firstly, after I came back from Africa I was embarrassed? felt uncomfortable? felt guilty? I am not quite sure, but the amount we spent on repairing the front of a house that could have sufficed although did need some repairing seemed immoral. I knew that in a British context it was justifiable, but on the grand scheme of things, I wasn't sure that I could justify that amount of money to someone in Senegal.

Secondly, I wanted to wait until the garage door had been fitted which took ages as they ordered the wrong springs. And until the gravel driveway had been restored (thanks Ken and Chris - it looks great!)

Anyway, enough philosophising, here is the house history:

What it looked like just before buying.

In February showing the new roof, smaller window upstairs, brown cladding temporarily replaced by render from the first work in 2011 but minus the porch.

Finished with only a bit of brick work around the porch to be completed. What do you think? Much better isn't it? We also removed the original external wall within the garage which meant it was divided into the original garage and a small triangle thing to the left. It is now all one space and a lot more useful.
To the right of the house you will also see that we are making progress in the front garden - we had to remove the decking in the back garden as it was causing damp. This has now been reassigned to raised beds in the front which are growing veg and fruit. Unconventional but they look fine and are proving to be productive.

So, only one important thing left to do: replace the patio doors in the back as the damp has rotted them. But for now, peace, weeding and painting the porch.