Monday, November 28, 2011

Wot kind of fule gets excited about a boiler?

Don't answer that....

This sleek beast is our new boiler. It cost the same as our first house did in 1975. Gulp.

Over the course of the last 6 years our fuel bills have risen astronomically - each time the LPG tanker refills our gas tank we have to go and have a lie down to get over the shock of the bill. That bill for gas last year came to nearly 1/3 of the cost of that same house in 1975. Gulp indeed.

We've spent a lot of time mulling over those facts - thermostats have been turned down, log burners lit and vests tucked in in order to save burning gas. We know that the house is insulated to a high spec - (don't like to think what it would be like if it were not) - and we'd like to think that we are not too profligate energy-wise but the bills were getting a bit hard to stomach.

The Glam Ass investigated sustainable alternatives - alternatives which, if we'd had the benefit of a crystal ball, we should have installed when we built 7 years ago. Hindsight is a wonderful thing is it not?

His first proposal was a log burning 'furnace'. This was not top of my list as it looked as if it needed too much stoking and poking and daily attention - the sort of contraption that attracts the male of the species. Don't men like fires? There must be an inner stoker in every bloke. Me, I'd go for something that ran on fairy dust and could be maintained by giving it a passing thought once a year - a sort of girly thing with a cute little pink button or two to press....

I digress.

For expert advice we consulted Llani Solar, renewable heating specialists who had fitted a couple of solar panels for us a few years ago. They are obviously in business to make a living but their remit does seem to be a profound belief in renewables and in providing the best service for their customers. There was no hard sell - no pressure to buy the biggest, the shiniest or the most expensive. Instead there was advice to wait until the right boiler became available and to wait until we could take advantage of any government grants coming on stream. So we waited - with only a bit of a nudge to remind them that we were still keen and committed. Last week their recommended system arrived and with quiet efficiency was installed - the transition from money-burning to wood-burning almost seamless. Well done Llani Solar.

Our new boiler burns pelleted wood - which seems easy enough. One loads the hopper with as many as necessary and those pellets trickle through to burn as the boiler calls for them. We receive a grant of £950 for installing it and a generous annual payback under the Renewable Heat Incentive. We hope to have covered our initial outlay in approximately 4 years. Fuel, in the form of pellets is half the cost of LPG. Sounds pretty good to me.

Time will tell I suppose. We've had a particularly mild November (unlike this time last year) but I imagine cold weather will hit us sooner or later. Excuse me while I go and turn up the thermostat a notch or too. Warmth. Bliss.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In which we do Nature Watch

It's not just an inner city* street you know. This is a wild life habitat. We are on safari.
Hmm. Believe that and you will believe anything.

We are half an hour early for a funeral and lucky enough to find the only parking place in Withington. Having little else to do we scrutinise our surroundings. In fact I suspect that the residents of this multi-occupied semi probably think we are undercover cops on a stake-out. I can't think which cop duo we might be. (The Glam Ass is a bit too beardy for Cagney and Lacey and I can't imagine Holmes and Watson in a Mancunian side street...)

Sleuth-wise we are a bit obvious - the Glam Ass is quite animated and there's me with the car window down pointing my phone in lieu of a camera and squeaking 'Ooooh look! There it is - how cute!'

If you click on the picture and zoom in onto the second bin from the left you will hone in on a cute pixellated rat. It was having a great time, rambling through the bin bags, furtling about, ducking down when passers by passed and coming up for air every now and then. Hello ratty! See how its little whiskers bristle!

Just a bit to the right is a blue bin and this had a load of old chips to offer. Magpies soared in and swung out, grabbing a beakful of chips as they went. What a feast for these busy handsome opportunists.

So. Our mini-survey indicates that a few square metres of a built up area has arguably as much wildlife as acres of Welsh mountain side. Reassuring? I think so.

Having said that all the cattle which graze in a fairly free range manner in the fields around us have today been taken to their winter quarters. Except some seem to have been left behind and they are making one helluva noise on the other side of the wall to me right now. It sounds pretty wild out there.

* The residents of Withington would probably argue that it isn't 'inner city', maybe more of a suburb.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Little Digger

Here's Little Digger driven today by Adrian - driver extraordinaire and all round good guy.

Little Digger was hero of the hour yesterday in a slithery incident involving a slope, a tractor and a trailer - nothing to do with us I'm glad to say as the rescue mission took over 3 hours in pitch black and pouring rain. Little Digger dug out a bank and helped with his long and flexible arm to hold the trailer back and prevent further slipping and expensive damage. Three cheers for it - or is it him?

Today its back to work as usual - and spreading out the heap of Criggion scalpings which have lain in my path for nearly a fortnight now, making each hen keeping expedition a task of Himalayan proportions.

I'm beginning to wonder if I might have a story along the lines of Thomas the Tank Engine in the making here? A series? Film rights?

Today Trelystan, tomorrow the world.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Madonna, Child and Goldfinch

The Glam Ass wanted to learn the art of guilding. Being the man he is he wanted to Do It Properly; no short cuts, no cheap imitations....

The vehicle for his learning was icon painting which I've mentioned  previously.  For almost 4 years he has driven up to Chester on a Sunday to join a class held in the Stanley Palace. It's a time consuming process and each stage has its own skills and complications; from preparing the ground of multi-layered gesso to painting in egg tempura - an art in itself to those of us more familiar with the plasticity of oils and acrylics. Then the gold leafing itself; applying sheets of fine and precious metal so delicate that a breath can blow them away.

And this is his latest piece - which took my breath away when he unwrapped it this weekend. 'Madonna, Child and Goldfinch':

The Goldfinch in art comes with a history; the ornithologist Herbert Friedman traced no fewer than 486 devotional pictures containing the Goldfinch attributed to 254 artists, 214 of them Italian. The little bird is said to symbolise the Passion and also Redemption. A folk tradition has it that the red marking on the bird's head came from Christ's blood on the day of the Crucifixion.

Isn't it beautiful?