Toilet troubles

A day or two after we moved in we both started to think our bathroom really smelt of stale wee. Now our bathroom had some rather lovely cork floor tiles in it, so the assumption was that the smell was a residual from those. A few days and a lot of scrubbing later we realised the toilet was leaking. Moreover, it was leaking from the soil pipe. More moreover, it was leaking from behind a boxed in part of the bathroom. Joy. A few hours later I had managed to pull all the floor tiles up to find the leak had made it a disturbing distance away from the toilet. Double joy. A bit later I smashed the boxed in part away and found the leak. It was kicking out about half a shot every time the toilet flushed. The thing is, where it was leaking from makes me think it’s been leaking for years. Yummy.

Much bleach and a plumbers visit later we had a functioning toilet once more. Luxury.

Power to the people

One of the things we hadn’t really appreciated was that our flat had two analogue electricity meters – one day time and one off peak. Coupled with this was a rather retro mechanical clock that turned the peak meter on and off. So far that seems reasonable enough – a digital clock would probably have been the size of our flat in the 60s. Where it began to get a bit frustrating was when we realised the immersion heater is wired into the off peak meter. This meant the hot water came on all night, and we had no way of turning it on ourselves. Ever. The obvious solution was to get our electricity company to come and sort it out. Simple. It would appear that the folk at EDF had absolutely no idea what we were talking about when describing the meter. It took several sessions of Becca shouting at people before they understood what she was talking about. In fact EDF have sent a letter saying they are processing our complaint – what complaint? That’s just how she talks to people!

Anyway, they have finally come and taken the off peak meter away and wired it all into the main meter, so we can now have hot water whenever we want. Well about an hour after we want it. Luxury.

The laundry and the tramp

One if the things I quite like is to have clean clothes. Our new place didn’t have the fittings for a washing machine installed, or any real way to dry clothes. This was a problem. So in the interim we thought we would give a launderette a go, how hard could it be?

The first problem was that launderettes don’t seem to have websites, or be listed anywhere googlable. We eventually found one not too far from us (a car drive still though).

When we went the launderette was unmanned, so we had to figure it out ourselves, I’ve used a washing machine like a thousand times so it should be easy enough. No. It is not. We filled the machine up, picked a setting (this was a random choice since the labels were non-existent), and stuffed it full of cash. Then it started leaking. Ummm. I managed to mega force the door shut so that stopped that problem.

After five minutes of watching the clothes go round we decided that launderettes should have bars, but since this one didn’t that we should go find one elsewhere. But how to know when to come back? This is where I struck upon one of my brighter ideas – I’ll go and ask the chap sitting at the other end of the the launderette how long a washing cycle takes. So I did. And so the chap looked at me, informed me that he had no idea. It very quickly became apparent that he was in fact a tramp, of course he doesn’t know how long it will take. The bar was going to have to wait.

Fifteen minutes later the next dilemma presented itself – the washing finished. Clearly we had picked the ‘cursory attempt at washing’ cycle in our random program picking. Alas given the exuberant prices for doing laundry (we had already spent £8) we had no choice but to accept our fate as wearing only slightly cleaner clothes for the next week.

It was rather soon after this that we bought, and installed, a washer-dryer in our flat (an almost hobo-free zone).

Our new house

As some of you may already know; we have bought a flat. It’s all part of our relocation to Bristol for work (which I shall write about at some point). It does give me a (good?) excuse to revive the blog I wrote about our last place.

It’s a 1960s flat in the Clifton area of Bristol, so it is a short walk to work in the morning. I think it is fair to say that it is a ‘project’, all the usual cosmetic stuff needs doing, the kitchen and bathroom both need doing, the wiring needs some TLC, the garage needs water tightening, and it needs some heating. In fact it might just be easier to knock it down and start from scratch.

You can have a look at some photos of the flat before we moved all our stuff in. Needless to say it looks a lot more crowded now.


Becca and I have bought a couple of antique maps of places we have lived over the years, but we have never got around to getting them properly framed. Well we finally did, and they look awesome!

Leicestershire Kitchen map 1764

This is a 1764 hand coloured engraving of Leicestershire by Thomas Kitchen.

Environs of London by R. Phillips

This is a 1806 hand coloured copper engraving of of the Environs of London by R. Phillips of New Bridge Street.

Buckinghamshire c1880 by G. W. Bacon
This is a c1880 ordnance survey map of Buckinghamshire by G. W. Bacon. Those sharp witted amongst you will know that we used to live in Milton Keynes, which wasn’t invented (in its current form) until 1967, but Milton Keynes village is just about visible if you know where to look.

We got them framed by out local map shop. Just need to get a nice one of Norfolk and Sri Lanka and we will be done.

Whisky show 2011

This weekend we went to the whisky show in London, and it was goooood. It was an all-in day ticket that gave us all the free samples we could drink from all the stands, as well as a few nice extras. As part of our tickets we got to have some ‘dream drams’, these are some very nice (read as rare/expensive) tipples to tickle our taste-buds. We wanted to go for the Bowmore 1964 White, but alas it was all gone when we got to the stand. Gutted. Still, the Auchentoshan 1957 went some way to counter my disappointment.

One of the things that got my gastronomic seal of approval was the food pairings with different whiskies. One of their tasters had gone to Borough market and bought some nice nibbles (cheese, sausage, chutney, chocolate etc) and matched them to various whiskies. It really highlighted some of the different aspects of whiskies that I know well, bringing out an almost new flavour to them.

I tried to scribble down the whiskies I tried on the train on the way home and I got a respectable list, there are at least two or three more that I can’t remember the name of.

  • Caol Ila Moch
  • Caol Ila 25yo
  • Lagavulin Distillers edition 1995
  • Port Askaig 30yo
  • Amrut intermediate sherry matured
  • Glengoyne 40yo
  • Auchentoshan 1957 (50yo)
  • Jameson Vintage
  • Bunnahabhain 25yo
  • Bunnahabhain 30yo
  • Hakushu Bourbon barrel
  • Springbank 18yo
  • Bowmore 21yo
  • TWE Port Ellen x2
  • TWE Springbank
  • Whisky society Bruichladdich
  • Ardbeg 10yo
  • Craggenmore 12yo
  • Amrut
  • Aberlour 10yo
  • Caol Ila 12yo
  • Mortlach 32yo Cask strength
  • Balvenie 12yo
  • Mackmyra first edition

I think I shall definitely be making an annual pilgrimage to this!

My friend – you left us too soon :(

I don’t usually talk about emotional stuff on our blog but needed to vent somewhere.  Our friend, Echo, who had been fighting leukaemia sadly passed away on 19th May, she was just 29 years old. We found out whilst on holiday for my birthday which kind of put a damper on things 🙁

Olly and I only knew Echo for ~ 2 years, since we moved to Leicester and I started in the chemistry department. Echo was a PhD student in Chemistry but in a different research group to myself. A testament to her strength of character is that she left her home country (China) to come to the UK to pursue her PhD, and was writing up her thesis when she found out she was ill.

Echo was a positive, quirky person, always making everyone laugh and smile.   She would come out with some of the funniest things….. such as asking whether Olly’s pot-belly was real or whether it was a fake belly!!!!!!! Even the last time we spoke we were laughing about how she had taken up knitting as a hobby in the hospital.

Below are some of my favourite pictures of that I have of Echo that capture her cheeky fun loving ways.  Rest in peace. xxx

Gorgeous chemistry girls all dressed up for my 28th bday

Alan disrupts things and makes everyone laugh!

We eventually managed to convince Echo that apple bobbing was a great British tradition.... she had a go at it!

My favourtite photo of Echo!

Echo as Chun-Li from streetfighter!

From her 29th birthday....Echo fell asleep in the pub after drinking too much!

Echo's alcohol tolerance was never much!

don't tell our boss we bought a dog in to the office and it peed on the carpet!

Echo and Archie in the office

Dr and Dr us.

So Becca and I have finally finished our Ph.D.s. We have the certificates, the photos and the scars. All that is left to do now is bask in our own smugness and get some leather bound copies of our thesis made up. If you are really bored you can read my thesis. One day I will upload Becca’s thesis too 🙂

Olly looking smug with his phd certificate

Boulder, CO – A Working Holiday Day 6!

After another big home cooked breaky at Allenspark Lodge we went in search for the Allenspark Trailhead. Its quite remote and starts fairly high up. Infact the car park to this trailhead is just a dirt track. On the drive up to the trailhead we passed some very posh looking log cabins with glass fronts! They were nestled in between all the pine trees and looked very pretty.

The trail we took towards Calypso Cascades was a forest trail, which was quite rocky and a little snowy/icy in places. We only saw one other person on our way out there to the waterfall. The trail itself was built after a lightening storm caused forest fires in 1978. So a lot of the trees have been cleared leaving great views of Longs Peak. You can also see places where landslips have occurred.

We ate lunch sitting on a boulder at Calypso Cascades and were pestered by a rather persistent Blue Jay! On the way back to Allenspark Trailhead we saw some the interesting site of a tree growing within a tree (presumably after the forest fire!).

Allenshead Trail Stats:

6.2 mile there and back.
Allenspark trailhead elevation: 8520 ft / 2597 m
Calypso cascade elevation: 9200 ft / 2804 m

After our hike we went back into Estes Park for some souvenir shopping and even found time to sample some ice cream and local beer : )
We are currently staying in the Colorado Cottages and even have a log fire in our room. We had a soak in the hot tub before heading out to dinner (I sooooooo want a hot tub!!!! we should definately have more in the UK!). And finally we have internet and phone reception again so can upload lots of posts and pictures!

Boulder, CO – A working Holiday Day 5!

After a hearty home cooked breakfast supplied by the Allenspark Lodge, Zoe and I ventured out on our first trip to RMNP. We went in through the Beaver Meadows entrance. We started out at Bear Lake ranger station and took the Bear Lake Trailhead. It started out really easy – a concrete path up to Nymph Lake. We stopped here to have lunch amongst the wildlife including a boisterous chipmunk that was trying to get in to Zoe’s backpack, a blue jay and another grey fluffy bird that tried to beg for food. The lake itself was partly frozen over still.

We ventured on and got to Dream Lake which was completely picturesque! Again the lake was partly frozen, and the mountains were in the background. Here we deviated from the path the majority of people were taking. We decided to tackle the snowy and seriously icy trail up to Lake Haiyaha – native American for “Big Rocks”. En route we got some scenic views of Glacier Gorge and Longs Peak. The “Big Rocks” refer to a massive boulder field you have to scrabble over to get to views of the lake.

After a short stop at Haiyaha Lake we began the descent back to Bear Lake – there were some moments where I was ice skating down the trail!!!!

Hiking stats:
Lake Haiyaha Trail – 4.2 miles there and back.
Bear Lake elevation: 9,475 ft / 2888 m
Lake Haiyaha elevation: 10,220 ft / 3115 m
High point of hike: 10,240 ft / 3121 m

After the hike we head into downtown Estes Park to have a look at tourist tat! We found a nice mexican restaurant to eat in – although portion sizes were ridiculous! My fajitas could have fed three people!!!!! We headed back to Allenspark Lodge for a dip in the hot tub after dinner and I was out like a light! I didn’t even hear Zoe get up the next morning to go for her run!

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