Tag Archives: stairway to heaven

Saturday 23rd January 2010 – I didn’t sleep through the alarm this morning.

I had all three going off in close proximity and that’s enough to awaken the dead – such as the OUSA Executive Committee. It’s well-known that they spend most of their meetings sitting round a table holding hands and trying to contact the living. So much so in fact that Caligula and her horse’s predecessor was once heard to say
Is there anybody there? Knock once for yes – and twice for no

So after I heaved myself from my stinking pit I made a coffee and went chaud-pied round to the Intermarche to find out why they hadn’t rung me (or Liz, for that matter) about this famous flight in a chopper.
We didn’t have time to ring everybody” the manager wailed. And me, having amongst my many and varied talents the ability to read upside-down, noticed that in general all of the people with a French name had been contacted, and none of the people with a foreign name had been contacted.

So we just turn up a l’improviste tomorrow. well, we’ll see.

Then it was off to Montlucon and shopping. Apart from the usual items I bought a pile of plasterboard, a load of wood and some more insulation. I’ll be starting on the cupboard on the first floor next week if it’s too bad to work outside. And learning from the work in the attic, I won’t be wallpapering it. In one of the cheap shops (the VIMA) they were selling indoor crepi (that’s the cement-based paint for brick and stone walls and looks a bit like fine pebble-dash) for €9:00 for 15 litres so I’ll be covering the plasterboard in that.

I also bought 12 x 3-metre lengths of shuttering for concrete. That’s 175mm by 25mm rough-cut and cheap. I’ll be making my raised beds for the new vegetable plots with that. The current raised beds are 1.33 square – these will be 1.50 square and I have enought wood to make 6 of them. I can salvage the others in due course. I like raised-bed gardening.

In the other cheap shop (the NOZ) they were having a DVD clearout with titles as low as €0.78. I spend €20 in there on seven or eight DVDs, including a copy of “the Definitive Barclay James Harvest”.

Now see if you can guess what the first track of this DVD is? Yes, you’re right. It’s “Mockingbird”. Barclay James Harvest is another one of these 1970s groups that lost its way after the first 4 or 5 albums and the early stuff is incredibly good. But no matter how good the group might be, it will always be remembered for “Mockingbird” and that’s one of these tracks a bit like “Hotel California”, “Freebird” , “Stairway to Heaven” and a couple of others. A reasonable example of a group’s output but by no means the best, and totally ruined and spoiled by being played and played and played to death.

BJH has done much better stuff that “Mockingbird” and thankfully “Medicine Man” is on the album. But where is “Galadriel” ? And where is “For No-one”? And about half a dozen others that I can think of? This is going to be some “definitive Barclay James Harvest” but at least it only cost me €1:99.

On the way back I noticed that is was 17:00 just as I was passing through Neris-les-Bains. So I went for an hour in the swimming baths. Twice in 8 days! I’ll wash myself away at this rate.

Tuesday 22nd December 2009 – This weather is getting on my wick

I Woke up this morning to a minor heatwave – in fact it reached 11 degrees outside at one point – there was no snow anywhere and that weird golden thing was in the sky. Of course it didn’t hang about for all that long and it clouded over again.

stairs staircase ground floor first floor les guis virlet puy de dome franceMeanwhile I cracked on and in wow! whoopie! mode, I’ve finished all of the stairs. I fitted the rails for the final step at the top angle of the stairs down to the ground floor and then scrounged some wood to make the treads. After that it was a mega-clear-up and then I cut down the stringers for this builders’ staircase that I’m going to fit down to the ground.

I’d got it on my temporary workbench to assemble and I quickly learnt to throw away the instructions. It’s all very well following them if there are two of you but when you are on your own you need to think again. I drilled some screw holes in the sides where the treads would be, then laid one stringer flat on the workbench. I “invented” a small trestle of about the stairs’ width and put that over the top and put the other stringer on top. After that I inserted the treads, tacking them in with screws as I was going along, and when I reached the end, clamped it all together with my two large speed clamps.

By now it was dark but I was on a roll so I rigged up a light using the Ryobi flourescent light, and then turned the stair assembly over onto the other side, made sure the treads were correctly positioned, and then screwed them from that side. I turned it back over, tightened up the screws that I’d tacked in place, released the speed clamps, and that was that.

It took just 15 minutes, a spirit level, the drill with the drill bit, the drill with the screwdriver bit, a handful of screws and some packing pieces, and the stairs were installed.

And now I’ve knocked off work for the festive season.

It was pouring down with rain this evening but at about 21:00 it all went quiet. When I went downstairs for tea I discovered the reason. The temperature had dropped to 2 degrees and it was snowing like hell!

And talking of snowing, I’ve ordered Caliburn’s Christmas present and I’m spending more money on him that I spent on me! One new road-going tyre and two Michelin Alpine snow tyres. I’ll need them in this weather. I just hope that the weather holds off enough for me to get to Montlucon to have them fitted.

Sunday 20th December 2009 – Wahey!!!!

Yes, the Stairway to Heaven is finished!

stairway to heaven stairs attic les guis virlet puy de dome franceWell, it isn’t actually because with not going to Montlucon this weekend I didn’t buy the wood that I need to make the treads. So I’m using scraps of wood right now and I’ll replace the treads in due course. Krys kindly sent me a message – she’d seen the scraps of wood that I’m using for treads and she was worried that they weren’t strong enough and concerned for my safety in case I fell through them. I thought that that was quite sweet. Most readers of this blog would pay good money to watch me crash through a tread and hurtle 6 metres to my doom.

I dunno why it is but this morning with no alarm clock (it’s Sunday) I managed to wake up earlier than I normally do when I want to have an early start. And dramatically, while I was drinking my coffee and watching the thermometer I noticed the temperature rise by about 1.5 degrees. It’s stayed a little warmer all day, and it’s now above freezing for the first time for a week. Which is just as well. I’ve been wandering around in about 10 different layers of clothes – woolly jumpers, fleeces, body warmers and the like. I feel like a cross between Nanook of the North and Eskimo Nell.

And that reminds me – I did hear of a story about the Brighton “Gay Pride” rally one Easter a few years ago, when it actually snowed!. Lee “I’m a Potty-mouth” Prostitute was taking part in the parade dressed in his fairy boots and about 10 jumpers to keep out the cold. He bumped into Rick Hollyoaks, and they discussed Potty-mouth’s attire.
“I bet you feel like Nanook of the North” said Hollyoaks.
“Well as a matter of fact I do” replied Potty-mouth. “But I’ve no idea how I’m going to find him in this crowd!”

heavy snow 2009 les guis virlet puy de dome franceSo I dug Caliburn out of a snowdrift and drove him up and down the lane to free off the road. And then the snow hurtled down again. Liz rang up and said that they were having a tempest out there and she couldn’t get to this carol-singing, and I didn’t think I could either. It was diabolical. You can get an idea of what the weather was like.

And that was how come I finished the Stairway to Heaven. It was dark when it was all complete so I’ll post a pic in due course.

It’s still warming up and I’ve already taken some layers off. I might even turn off the fire if it carries on.

Tomorrow I’ll be starting the stairs on the ground floor. This is looking quite optimistic.

Saturday 19th December 2009 – Sometimes I wonder …

… how far I might have made it in the world if I had had the ability to think straight!

This morning I woke up in the freezing cold and still more snow so the first thing that I did was to brush off the solar panels, or as far as I could reach anyway. As the snow continued to fall I had to do it a couple of times and although I was getting a charge off the first bank that I was keeping clear, the second bank had too much snow on it to register and so I was pretty much regretting the waste of energy when suddenly it hit me! So I rushed downstairs and sorted out the chimney sweeping brush, and then back upstairs and onto the roof.

sun clear sky les guis virlet puy de dome franceIt’s not very good and it’s difficult to wield but it’s better than nothing and it was just as well that I had a go because at about 16:00 that golden thing came out and hung around for half an hour or so – and we struggled up to 25 amp-hours of charge, the most I’ve had for a while.

I should have gone shopping today as it is Saturday but the snow put paid to that idea. There’s no point going out in this kind of weather if you can manage as you are. I was also supposed to go to a birthday party tonight and I was really looking forward to going, but there isn’t just the snow to contend with, the temperature had dropped to minus 6 while it was still daylight and it was still snowing! God knows what it will be like at midnight coming home. But it’s so cold that the kettles, that I filled from the water butt after smashing the ice, froze to the concrete floor and the tin of peas and carrots that I opened yesterday and put the rest in a container for tonight – they were frozen solid.

fitting stairs upright stud wall les guis virlet puy de dome franceSo today in between keeping the solar panels clear I carried on with the Stairway to Heaven. I’ve fitted two more uprights as you can see – this is where the turn in the stairs will be. I’ve started to fit the rails that carry the treads and if the weather is too bad to go to this Carol concert tomorrow I’ll be finishing them off and hunting down some scrap wood to use as the treads. It won’t be long now until it’s finished.

And once that’s done I’ll be fitting the stairs in to the ground floor. There’s two that I need to fit that I’ve already cut, and I have a cheap builders’ staircase that I’ll use for the rest. That shouldn’t take much longer either and my plan to have them in for Christmas may well come to pass.

Friday 18th December 2009 – I wondered why it was dark this morning …

snow december 2009 les guis virlet puy de dome france… when the alarm woke me up. The skylights in the roof had about 3cms of snow all over them.

And so after breakfast I went for a wander around and a bit of a photography session. You can see how much snow fell during the night, and it was still chucking it down as I was a-wandering.

After my little perambulation I rang up Liz and spoke to her about the proposed group meal. We had a good chat for half an hour or so. They had had the snowplough down their lane at 10:00 and by 11:00 it had all snowed over again.

heavy snow 2009 les guis virlet puy de domeI was having charging issues in this weather so I shinned out of the side window with the yard brush up onto the roof and brushed the snow off the solar panels where I could reach. That generated something and I had to do it a couple of times during the day. I’m going to have to work out a remote way of doing that in due course. Heated trace wire seems to be one possibility.

I went to brush the snow off the panels that are on the roof of the Luton Transit and which power the barn but I couldn’t find the ladder – half of the old wooden green one. it was there last winter and I do remember lying it down but it seems to have disappeared. I wonder if I lent it to someone. I had to improvise a ladder to get up there and brush things down.

caliburn heavy snow 2009 les guis virlet puy de dome franceI started to fit the turn-round step in the Stairway to Heaven but I’ve hit upon a major design fault. Not that this is any surprise – I was wondering how it was that I have managed to avoid that fate so far. I haven’t allowed for the height of the extra beam that I fitted. It’s not a major issue and I can work round it by having several angled turn-round steps in the corner that will drop me nicely underneath it. It just means that I could have better-managed my staircase. Ahh well.

And at 14:00 precisely that strange golden thing appeared again – and loitered around for about 10 minutes before it started snowing again.

This afternoon Bill rang me up and invited me to his house for Boxing Day. He’ll be having some friends round. That was nice of him. He was telling me about the over-60s dinner that his village organised and to which he was invited. He said that never mind the hairdos, most of the women had had a good shave. It wasn’t the “blue-rinse brigade” that I used to deal with when I worked at Shearings but the “blue chin brigade”. I blame it on all of the hormones that they pump into the cattle round here.

Claude came round for a chat too and he was here a while. We heard the snow-plough arrive and dashed out just in time to see it disappearing back up the lane. It had managed to get within 50 yards of me before it pliddled off, leaving me still snowed-in. But then again it’s much closer than he got last year when I was left snowed-in for four days.

But all of that explains why I haven’t done too much today. I cut another vertical and cut a couple of lets into the beams to take it. And much to my surprise it fitted absolutely perfectly and went into tension without even being screwed in. Now I call that an achievement! If it goes light tomorrow I’ll screw it in. It will be nice to see what I am doing.

Meanwhile, it’s now 28 days since we had a day without any kind of precipitation at all. Today was enough snow for the equivalent of 5cms of rain. And apart from that one morning last week it’s now been 22 days since I’ve had a decent amount of solar energy and 6 days since we had any temperature above freezing point. It’s starting to get on my nerves.

Thursday 17th December 2009 – "In the bleak midwinter frosty winds made moan ….

severe winter 2009 les guis virlet puy de dome france…. earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone”
You know, I had no idea that Christina Rossetti lived here in the Combrailles. Last night the temperature outside dropped to -7.1 and in the heat exchanger it plummeted to -10. Consequently in order to get through the ice in my water butts so that I could have some water, I went in search of the pickaxe.

Now that a wind has sprung up blowing the snow everywhere the temperature has warmed up to a balmy -1.5. It might even struggle up above freezing point tomorrow if we are lucky – the first time since Sunday afternoon.

This morning I actually managed to hear the alarm and so I was up and about comparatively early. I went straight into St Eloy to purchase my Christmas present at LIDL and luckily they still had some in stock. Of course I can’t tell you what it is as I don’t open my presents until Christmas morning. On my way to St Eloy that weird golden thing put in an appearance for 10 or 15 minutes and then it was back to the snow again.

From there I went round to Pionsat to speak to the new owners of the “Queue de Milan” where our group meets on the first Monday of every month. It turns out that the previous owners had forgotten to mention us to him.
“Do you eat here then?” he asked
so I explained to him about our group and how, as it happens, he might be able to do something for us for our Christmas meal.
The conversation then turned to other matters and one of the subjects we discussed was the football and how they were discouraged by the previous owners. With the ground being right next to the hotel I reckoned he should do his best to talk to them.
“Will they eat here after the match then?”
Ahhhhh – right. Not a hotelier, not a bar keeper, just a restauranteur.
Pionsat is a typical small Auvergnat town of maybe 1200 people if it’s lucky. It’s true that there’s no other restaurant for a good few miles but then again the place is hardly heaving with people. A place like the “Queue de Milan” should be the focal point of the area with its hotel, its bar, its little salle de fetes and, yes, its restaurant. It should be all of those things. The previous owners tried to run it as just a restaurant, closing down the bar as the football ground turfed out and things like that, but that of course went tits-up. So if the new owners are trying to follow the pattern then it will end in its own logical conclusion.

Which of course reminds me – the “Queue de Milan” being the hotel-restaurant for the area. Many people are now getting into the detailed planning for Christmas and looking for places to eat out over the festive season. Many ex-pats such as myself live in deplorable circumstances in the middle of house renovations and the like. This is the time that family and friends like to be together and if you don’t have the facilities to lodge your guests you stick ’em up in the local hotel.

So it’s no surprise to anyone for me to tell you that the “Queue de Milan” is closing down tomorrow and reopening on the 4th January once the festive season has ended. And they complain that the business isn’t paying. It beggars belief.

After that I went round to Claude’s. He’s finished with my acrows (he’s only had them for 8 years) and he’s also found the rotavator attachment for my brushcutter, the three-wheeled lawnmower and a few other things. So Caliburn and I went round to pick them up. And what a surprise! He’s been tidying up and found in the pigsty his reserve stock of metal window shutters. They are now surplus to requirements and so he heaved them into the back of Caliburn. That was really nice of him!

So having got the morning out of the way this afternoon I fitted the vertical that I was trying to fit in the dark yesterday – it’s amazing just how easy everything is in the daylight when you can see what you are doing. I followed that by cutting and shaping another vertical which I then installed. And that then split up the vertical length by a good foot. Luckily it’s split outward from the joint so that the weight is still being taken by the unsplit part. I drilled and screwed it to keep it together but I’m fed up of this awful crappy wood from Brico Depot. This is the second one that’s split on me. Someone ought to take the quality control manager outside and shoot him.

Tomorrow I’ll be cutting and fitting the three last beams and once they are in position I can do the remainder of the stairs. I also have some floor to fix as well – I narrowed the stairwells as you might remember so the part between the old beam and the new beam needs to be floored over. That has to be done before I fit the second half of the stairs.

And I also have to go to Glastonbury in the very near future. Someone had seriously annoyed me and they and their entourage are going to be on the receiving end of a really good kicking.

Wednesday 16th December 2009 – The Stairway to Heaven …

stairway to heaven stairs to attic first floor les guis virlet pionsat puy de dome france… now has five steps in it! I started this morning to fit the second upright and much to my surprise and amazement it was in in about 15 minutes. It didn’t need much shaping at all.

That made me feel so much better than I was yesterday – even more so after I’d fitted the rails for the two extra steps, and once the treads were in then it was better still.

I’ve made a start on fitting one of the uprights for the final row – the one where the turn will be in the staircase – but once again I ran out of light. If I hadn’t missed my aim when employing Ashley (my rather large wooden mallet) to fasten one of the beams and I’d have hit the beam that I was aiming for, I might have had some electric light. Guaranteed for 40,000 hours, these LED lightbulbs, but I’m sure the guarantee must exclude being wallopped to smithereens by a wooden mallet.

And I suppose that had I heard the alarm at 08:00 this morning instead of sleeping through until 10:00 I might have fitted the new uprights long before it went dark.

Mind you, a strange thing happened today. Round about 13:30 this weird golden object appeared in the sky. It only stayed around for about 15 minutes and then it started snowing again. I wonder what it was. I have vague memories of seeing something similar but it was so long ago that I can’t remember what it was.

In other news, have you seen the latest headlines? NATO has gone cap-in-hand to the Russkies to beg them to lend some helicopters to use in Afghanistan to crush the Taliban.

Of course, back in the old days those of you with long memories will recall that NATO armed the Mujahadeen (which was what the Taliban was called in those days) to attack the Russians and drive them out of Afghanistan after the Russkies had invaded that country. And now NATO, having invaded Afghanistan in its turn, is begging the Russkies to come and help them fight against the Mujahadeen (or Taliban) that is armed with the weapons that NATO gave them all those years ago.

NATO’s humiliation must now be complete. Are there any further depths that the west can plumb in this disgraceful and obscene invasion?

Friday 11th December 2009 – I now have three stairs …

stairway to heaven stairs les guis virlet puy de dome france…into my attic – It’s becoming a veritable Stairway to Heaven, isn’t it?

You can see the additional step and its cantilever outriggers. And seeing as there was 1m92 headroom over the head of the stairs to the ground floor once I had fitted the step, I decided to extend it so that it now makes a handy shelf for storage.

The step itself is at a nice height to step off the step ladder There’s none of the mauling and messing around like I had to do on the ladder. So I’m totally puzzled as to how I managed to spill a load of coffee on the step when I have been safely manoeuvring a full mug of coffee up a ladder for the last month or so.

So having done that, I set out to measure up for the rest of the stairs. Now I don’t know if you can recall any ancient legal documents – before the days of computers – where amendments had to be made manually. And different coloured inks were used to amend the amendments and so on. Well on the pillar where I was making the measurements I have red blue and black ink and pencil markings. But now I’ve decided on where I want everything and if my visitors don’t mind steps of 29cms then it takes just 10 steps to get into my room with a footprint (minus the angle of the turn) of just 54.5 cms, which is pretty impressive!

So this afternoon I’ve been cutting pillars and beams and on Monday I’ll be installing the first two. Well, I won’t – Terry needs a hand and I owe him plenty of favours so on Monday afternoon I’ll be tootling off there. I’ve heard a rumour that Liz might be baking.

Im other news, I had a couple of shocks this morning. Firstly I do vaguely recall hearing the alarm go off at some point but it usually does this at 5-minute intervals throughout an hour starting at 08:00 with another alarm clock joining in at certain moments. It’s not at the first crack that I haul myself out of bed – I usually have to wait for a while to wake up so I didn’t pay much attention to the alarm at first. The next thing that I remember was that it was 9:24. Did I really sleep right through 2 alarms for a whole hour?

And there was this strange golden thing in the sky and the sky around it was all blue instead of the traditional grey. That was surprising. I was disappointed that my prediction last night was all wrong. But as the morning developed I realised that it was all a question of a sense of timing and by lunchtime we were all properly overcast.

Tomorrow is St Eloy shopping. I wonder if I’ll find anything exciting there. I forgot to check the special offers at LIDL