Orange is the Warmest Colour

November 2, 2018

Gosh, it’s been a bit quiet here, hasn’t it? Somehow the week ran away with me without anything too blogworthy happening, although I did witness a sheep-related miracle

Winter has also firmly arrived, forcing us to turn on the heating properly and also finally get around to installing some foil behind the radiators that are sitting on outside walls. This is probably of marginal benefit, but comes under the heading of ‘might as well’ – especially when I realised it gave me the chance to use that fabled substance from my Blue-Peter watching youth, double-sided sticky tape.*

morning sunshine

So far the weather has been erring on the cold and sparkly side, which is how I like my winters. This has led to another revelation. It turns out that cork-lining your study (and possibly also painting it orange – the brain is a funny thing) does seem to have an appreciable affect on how warm it is, or at least feels. There have been mornings when the sun has been pouring in and I have actually had to not only remove my woolly freelancer hat but also my outermost jumper and I was still Too Warm.

This is marvellous.

This afternoon I’m off to Edinburgh and then Dundee, before briefly returning home and then heading out to Stirling again, all in the name of stirring up trouble. This could mean much more frequent updates or it could mean more radio silence – keep tuning in to find out which.

* Sadly, in practice, this comes firmly under the heading of ‘never meet your childhood idols’ as it turns out that it’s fiddly and annoying to use, and not particularly brilliant at sticking things to other things, at least the brands we used.

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Box Ticking

November 18, 2017
duns recycling

No reason for posting this photo except that I spotted this slightly disturbing sight on a visit to the Duns recycling depot and I felt it should haunt everyone else’s dreams as well as mine

Bzzt-bzzt – my phone vibrates with an actual phone call (I find if you leave it on silent, you rarely actually have to answer the damn thing, which suits me as I dislike telephone conversations and I consider my mobile to actually be a handy camera and Tweeting machine, which has an annoying bug whereby someone can interrupt you by wanting to talk to you on it) and it turns out to be someone ringing for feedback about our adventures with Home Energy Scotland.

This made me realise that although we had a visit from a home energy adviser back in August last year when we moved into the house, I never actually got around to writing about it for the blog, which is somewhat remiss of me. I had feared that I might just get some bored youth with a clipboard running by rote through the basics of low energy lightbulbs and turning down your thermostat and not overfilling your kettle – but what I actually got was a visit from a proper, massively well-informed, insulation and renewable energy geek who wouldn’t know a box-ticking exercise from a hole in the ground. He stayed for around two hours, during which time he clambered into every corner of the attic, found the places where our cavity wall insulation had gone in (something the actual bored-youth-with-a-clipboard who clearly did the home energy report for our house sellers had utterly failed to do), explained the ramifications of the Eskdalemuir Listening Station on the local windfarms and introduced me to the concept of the wind-driven rain index (our house is on the high end of it).

I imagine that there are people who would be run a mile at the prospect of two hours talking renewable energy and loft insulation, let alone wind-driven rain indexes, but I love nothing better than delving into a relevant subject with someone who knows their stuff, so I was keen to give my extremely positive feedback to the survey company who rang. This left the poor chap on the other end of the phone struggling to squeeze my responses into his pre-ordained boxes, although I think he was enjoying the challenge (Him: “Was it important for you to have your home energy advisor visit you in person?” Me: *enthusiastically describes how he found the injection points for the cavity wall insulation by looking under the windowsills* (top tip if you ever need to check your own home) Him: “So I’ll put that down as ‘very important’ then”).

attic space

Look, just because I found loft insulating fascinating to talk about, doesn’t mean I’ve actually cracked on and finished it

Anyway, the call reminded me that I had neither written the visit up, nor implemented more than the very basic recommendations that came out of the visit. The latter will take a little time, but as for the former – if you live in Scotland and want to make your house greener and warmer, then the service is absolutely free and definitely worth every penny and I highly recommend it.


Crawl Space

October 3, 2016

After months and months of what has felt like October weather (wet, blowy, chilly but not freezing), October has decided to get going with a couple of days to gladden the soul.

october skies

The only thing distinguishing it from June (platonic June, that is, not the actual June we had, which was a bit like October, or at least the way October usually is, rather than the October we are actually having, which is a bit like – oh, never mind) is that it’s been a bit nippy at night. Not quite frost, yet, but getting there.

Which is bringing the matter of our insulation into sharp relief. The good news is that the new house has plenty of insulation in the loft. Some of it is even installed where you would expect it to be, between the joists, some of it was installed against the coombes or whatever the slopey bits are, and is now falling off in places, and some of it is still in its roll after whoever it was who installed it got bored of the project and left it in a discreet corner of the attic. In a way, it’s quite encouraging because sorting out the insulation is doable and not particularly expensive if you do it yourself, and it makes a massive difference to your bills – all in all, a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, the shape of the upstairs means that doing it ourselves means me inching along in the triangular gap between the roof and the bedroom wall, using my elbows and toes, because it’s too narrow to properly crawl. My reconnaissance mission on Friday was a good reminder that it’s been far too long since I went to yoga (and besides, I don’t think there’s a pose called downward SAS commando), and I woke up on Saturday wondering if I was coming down with a chest infection because it hurt to breathe, until I remembered that I had spent Friday using muscles that I clearly otherwise only use when I cough.

At some point – perhaps after an intensive yoga retreat to get bendy enough – I’m going to have to go back in there and actually start putting in insulation, which should be interesting. It’s fortunate that I’m not claustrophobic, although I can report that when you’ve crawled as far as you can into a tiny narrow space under the roof, and realised you can’t get any further because there’s a board missing, and you’re going to have to work out how to reverse – then that is a very bad time to have the thought ‘what happens now if the house catches fire?’

house on the hill

The joys of home ownership, eh?


Ready or Not

September 19, 2016

It was a beautiful start to the day this morning with the blue skies over our garden full of darting swallows, but we’re not fooled – the dew was heavy on the grass and the nights are drawing in.

first autumn leaves

We’re getting ready though. The chimney sweep came and gave the woodburner a clean bill of health. It’s a Clearview (the ‘Rolls Royce of stoves’, apparently) and it does seem to have kept the glass remarkably clear so far. It makes it slightly hypnotic to watch

clearview stove

It has a back boiler, so we’re hoping it will cut a little bit off our electricity bills by heating some of the water tank, which is also ready for winter now:

lagged hot water tank

Most of the DIY on the house has left me struggling – I’m neither patient enough to stick with the preparation and finishing required, nor handy enough to do a decent job, but fitting a jacket to a hot-water tank is much more up my street. It’s closer to knitting than anything really technical, and if it isn’t exactly a tailored fit, the tank isn’t going to complain.

And speaking of knitting…

latest socks

I think I might be getting faster as this only took three and half months …


Snug as a Bug in a Rug

April 30, 2013

The landlords spent this morning topping up the insulation in our loft which is exciting – at this rate, we may even get the roof fixed and the window in our bedroom replaced which has been jammed slightly open since before the worst of the snow. Apparently the new window will actually be double glazed when it arrives, which has left me looking thoughtfully at all the other windows. It would, of course, be terrible if any more of them were to suffer accidental damage at the hands of a careless tenant…

Naturally all this has happened on the warmest day of the year to date – could it be that spring has actually sprung? Moderate clout casting (I know, reckless or what) has even taken place: I am down to just the one jumper and have put the lobster gloves away although not very far. I’m still firmly sewn into my merino baselayers though. There’s reckless and there’s downright foolhardy and if last summer was anything to go by I’ll still be wearing my thermals in July…


Let it Bleed

January 22, 2010

So, yesterday evening saw us at a talk entitled ‘how to have a warmer, drier house’ which, curiously enough, was packed out (this seemed to come as something of a surprise to the organisers). It started off with the depressing fact that, even though the housing stock of the UK is gradually getting less draughty and easier to heat, electricity usage is still rising due to everything else. Still, a quick glance at the sensibly layered audience soon convinced our speaker that we probably couldn’t muster a plasma screen between us – and that as far as ‘put on another jumper’ went, he was preaching to the converted – and so he dove straight into the real business of the night. Soon we were deep into the minutiae of U-values, thermal mass, convection currents, radiant heating, sheep’s wool insulation (other than in jumper form), forced-air vents, Olfs, the insulating value of rubbish, the folly of heat pumps, and many other things I have now forgotten.

The combination of a fair-minded speaker who really knew his stuff  and whose answer to every question began ‘it’s complicated…’ and an audience of fairly knowledgable people with a really pressing interest in the subject meant that the advertised ‘half an hour talk with questions at the end’ quickly morphed into a ‘free-ranging discussion and God is that the time?’ For us, as we rent our colder, damper cottage, the talk was largely academic (although it did mean sitting in a warm room for an evening, which was nice). However we came away with a renewed enthusiasm for draught proofing and this morning it looks like we will be graced with a visit from the plumber to see whether we can’t do something about the fact that our radiators need bleeding on a pretty much hourly basis.

He’s actually likely to be our first foot. I’m not sure if this is a good sign for the coming year or a bad one, but it’s definitely a sign that our social life might need some work. Although in fairness to us, we have been seeing people, we’ve just been choosing to do it somewhere warmer than at home….