God, I’ve had a splendid few days. Like, properly splendid. I couldn’t put anything up here earlier as I didn’t want to rain on Rich’s parade having finally encouraged him to write something for nothing on the blog. Still, today’s news = tomorrow’s chip paper, etc. Over the weekend, I was doing a little bit of star fucking. Apologies for the language, but ‘star spotting’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. And anyway, my mum will never read this.
Kimmy P, lovely bloke from the Land Rover PR office (wearing somewhat ridiculous outfit. I kid you not, he had a flat cap in his pocket) very kindly sent me a couple of tickets for Burghley Horse Trials. The main aim was a) to see some horses b) not pay the extortionate entry ticket price and c) get Mr M to buy me some new riding boots, chaps and winter coat. B and C were well covered by midday but Kim had requested our presence at lunch. A simple ‘tailgate’ picnic, on the lawn, in front of Burghley House. I thought turning up was the least we could do.
Little did I know (because I hadn’t read the info) was that a ‘celebrity chef’ was cooking the scran. While waiting to be allowed access to the ‘picnic grounds’ we all (maybe 20 in total) hung out on the front driveway inside the sacred gates. I was encouraging a rather embarrassed Rich to take some pics of me outside our modest ‘country home’ and a man shouted at us to get off the lawn.
We were waiting there for some time. Our ‘chef’ Marco Pierre White threw a total wobbly about the barbeque he was cooking on and demanded a flunkie disappear off to buy a new one. Never mind watching the horses, or the starving guests, as long as the chef was happy. By the time the flunkie had been to Homebase and we’d been allowed access to the ‘tailgates’, Marco Pierre had had another fit and sent a minion to buy a gazebo – no doubt to stop his very French skin from burning. Oh no, he’s not French, he’s from ooop North somewhere. The tuna was lovely, Mark Peter, but I’d suggest your lamp chop was not properly seasoned and a little overdone 😉
Anyway, the next guest more than made up for Mark Peters’ behaviour. She was a proper princess. No really, she was, or should be any way. Zara Phillips rocked up, gave me a smile, said hello and introduced herself as ‘Zara’. We had a little chat about her success at the Olympics, the events she’s got coming up next, youngsters and the going at Burghley.
She also let on about what Granny thinks of Harry’s Vegas behaviour. No, kidding about the last bit. A slight change from the chefs’ behaviour earlier, and a very pleasant one.
Anyway, forget Burghley, that was so yesterday, or the day before anyway. Today, Monday, it’s all been happening. Finally, the roof is going back on. Those massive lattice beams that have been sitting on the driveway were finally lifted into place at about ten this morning. God, the guys from Ratcliffe’s are utterly brilliant. Just under eleven metres of 600mm deep beam swinging around on the end of a chain – actually, the beams didn’t swing at all because Justin (again assisted by Gary) is some sort of crane-age God.
As I said the other day, the spaces for the beams were pretty tight and the likelihood of beam-hitting-gable-end scenario was high. But it didn’t happen. It went more smoothly than a smooth thing and the lattice beams are now happily propped in the gables, ready for the rafters to go on. I just wish it was a Friday and I could have given them cake.
After the Ratcliffe boys left, Stu, Paul and Julian started getting the walls and beams in the right place for the wall plate. The thatcher needs a certain amount of space for his thatch ‘kick’ which means that every measurement has to come back from that. The rafters will be boarded, battened and counter-battened to allow room for the thatch to breathe (for the more anal of you, look up the ‘Dorset model’ – not strictly required for building regs as we’re not close to a boundary but if it’s a safer method, it can’t hurt).
The biggest problem for a build like this is that you can do all the planning in the world depending on drawings and measurements, but old houses aren’t necessarily square and it’s not til you get stuff up there that you realise some of the stuff you’ve planned just isn’t going to work. The beams will need some shimmying.
Upshot is that we had to do a bit more block-laying for the wall plate. Fortunately, I did a bricklaying course last year in preparation for this very moment. Stu did his side, DependaPaul helped me set up my side and we went for a block-off.
I think I laid them at a rate of five an hour. But I still did it, they’re square. They’re level. And they’re much neater than Stu’s. *
*Obviously Stu left about five hours before I finished because it was getting dark. They may be square, they may be level but it was too dark to tell. Find out in the next installment…