Let there be light!

‘Oh my God’, there has been mess! This tests me as I don’t do mess AT ALL but I am staying focused on the end place which is a total facelift for the kitchen. I have a front and a back kitchen (don’t ask why!) and both are in a state of unbelievable naffness and antiquatedness, apart from the fact I painted over the ‘hospital green’ walls when I moved in and recently put in a beautiful biomass stove. So with limited budget to challenge my resourcefulness, both kitchens are in a state of transformation over a number of weekends.

First, however, the dark and dingy space needed more light, so two velux windows were installed in the back kitchen, along with some hidden LED lighting. I stood there in vain holding the hoover when the roofer cut through the ceiling hoping to catch the dust and debris but most of it ended up on me! I also had a velux put in the equally antiquated bathroom while I was prepared to tolerate mess but unfortunately, that’s the only bathroom improvement for the foreseeable future. The next morning, I wore sunglasses to brush my teeth and was thrilled to find the velux framed the weather vane on the roof opposite and made a lovely picture!

The kitchen windows are well worth the mess and not inconsiderable expense. Light has completely transformed the area. It makes both kitchens look bigger, it’s a joy to walk into light from the dark stairwell and there is no doubt that natural light lifts the mood. My new mantra is ‘let there be light’! It comes before all else when you are improving a property. I am now exploring the possibility of a ‘sun-tube’ for the dark corridor upstairs (currently lit by a long string of fairy lights) and a new piece of kit which tracks the sun and mirrors it into a dark spaces, for other rooms in the house and possibly Talisman’s stable too!

Meanwhile, the electrician resembling Darth Vader, with a massive tool which could easily be a weapon, has drilled through two foot thick walls to give me more sockets and lighting in the front kitchen. The house pre-dated electricity, so is annoyingly short on power points. The kitchen fitter has stripped off some tiles and taken down the bent piece of plaster board over the Rayburn (very messy indeed) which has been replaced with a flat surface so that a mirror can be fitted to reflect what light there around the room and I can see what I am cooking (in the mirror, if not in the pan)!

Naturally, I did a ‘mad woman cleaning’ impression after each session of work! The kitchens will be unrecognisable with more light, wooden work tops, a china sink, new tiles and cupboards freshly painted (by yours truly) in due course. It’s been a surprisingly intense and detailed project to put together but I can’t wait to see the new look. I can visualise elements of it but can’t quite get the whole thing in my mind’s eye in one go. So there is still an element of surprise!

Other areas of challenge (with no enjoyable upside) include the quad bike – again! It was getting distinctly dodgy, rattling and shaking and losing power at vital moments eg. on a steep hill with a heavy roller behind, so I asked my current mechanic to take it away and have a look. He is a complete professional (why are good mechanics so hard to find?…the one before him sacked himself and the one before that got sacked) and he went through it with a fine toothcomb. Turns out, it was falling apart (literally) and a million things needed fixing or replacing, totally some £2000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In his opinion, I was sold a bike that was not fit for purpose by a long shot and had been hammered by the previous farming owner, as most second-hand bikes are, it seems. Still, it was cheaper to repair it than upgrade it. I find it astonishing that quad bikes are virtually as expensive as cars?

To top it off, I was without a telephone line, internet or mobile phone (as that’s on a signal booster connected to the modem) for a week! Not good when you are isolated and have to stand on a hill in the pouring rain to try to get a signal or drive miles for one and then be put on hold in a call centre in India for an eternity, just to find out the status which, of course, no-one knows! Thankfully, there were no emergencies. Turns out a BT engineer cut me off when connecting a phone line to a new property down the road, so now I have to argue the toss about compensation after being offered an insulting £10! At least it happened post Horse Hero, as outages of communications used to be a nightmare when I was running the business, as you can imagine. On the flip side, it meant relative peace and quiet to focus on training, catch up on quad bike work (topping, harrowing and rolling) and solve the jigsaw puzzle that was the kitchen project.

On the subject of training, Talisman is feeling great after a couple of small setbacks at the start of the build up to his third and final 120K of the season on 2nd Sept. I wondered if we would have enough time (there were only two months between the last race and the next one including his rest period) but he’s on target now and currently in the peak period for training before winding down a week before we leave – he does like his lie-ins though when he’s working!

Our preparation has varied a bit for each competition, largely depending on the availability of cantering fields. Last time, I lost some ground which had been set aside for hay; this time, it’s very wet after a prolonged dry period plus I still don’t have use of the canter hill, which isn’t cut yet. We have managed by adapting work a bit, eg. more variation of speed in the canter intervals (technical term Fartlek) and more uphill sprints but Talisman has a session at the gallops tomorrow and one next week to top things up and give him a couple of trips out before the long journey to Norfolk in just under three weeks time.

Talisman is not the only one in training. As I write this, ‘flying school’ (feathered youngsters under instruction from their elders) are going ballistic outside the window, doing their own version of interval and gymnastic training in preparation for a return to warmer climes this Autumn. And guess what, just for fun, they are bombing my new velux windows, more mess!

Pics: New velux windows in the back kitchen; work in progress in the front kitchen; bathroom window with a view; cats in love; off to the field; Talisman has a lie-in; view at the top of the ridge when Talisman does his canter work; training in stunning countryside; balanced cantering downhill; working on rhythm during the canter interval; moving the pace up on a gentle incline; posing for the camera while he works; total focus; happy with the work as we finish; a pat for Talisman; balancing through the turns.





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