Why Is Nothing Ever Simple?

Is this the longest winter ever? It certainly feels like it. And there’s still another week of January to go.

The garden bears the hallmarks of the exceptionally wet autumn followed by intermittent bouts of further rain, wind and blasts of freezing air. We’ve even had a sprinkling of snow, rare for the south west. You have to admire any bloom that dares to stick its neck out in these conditions but the few that have look miserable specimens indeed.

 
 

Hedychium spicatum

 

Hedychium spicatum

At least the ginger seeds are coming on well. Five pots in all. A little bit of sunshine on the window sill. Reminding me on the many occasions it is needed that spring is just around the corner. OK, several corners. But come it will and I will be ready.

In the meantime any prospect of gardening is a big fat no-no, the soil is saturated, leaving me with time on my hands and a problem: the absence of any credible excuse for further avoidance of the long list of indoor tasks. And if I’ve learned anything at all from the ten years or so of working on this house it is this: Nothing Is Ever Easy. A prime driver of chronic task avoidance if ever there was one.

 
 

 

Take the sitting room blinds as a classic example.

It started out well enough. The fabric could have been designed specifically for the room, it’s that perfect. Every colour is represented somewhere. The blue from the sofas, the light beige tones in the floor, the brown of the ceiling beams, the dark grey from the granite in the fireplace, the white from the walls. Perhaps I should have just propped the roll up in a corner of the room and called it done. Now there’s a thought.

 
 

 

We agonised for weeks over how to treat these windows. Bare fits in well with my minimalist style but the room needs some soul, especially on a winter night when three windows leave black holes bigger than even Prof Brian Cox could summon up. We’d have preferred curtains for cosiness but where to put the curtain pole? Outside the window recess, the traditional place, would have largely covered up the gorgeous original oak lintels that all the effort, angst and not inconsiderable pounds had been poured into restoring in the first place. Putting a pole inside the recess, on a window this small, would have looked rather odd and the curtains blocked out much of the light.

Roman blinds seemed the logical way forward. Which brings us straight to the next problem. The header rail for the blind would need to attach to the underside of the lintel and the lintel is far from square. It bows downwards in the middle. That would mean inserting spacer blocks above the rail at either end to ensure that it finished up level. Blocks which would then be visible above the top of the blind, unless.. maybe if I scribed the top edge of the blind to the exact curve of the oak beam, thus covering up the fixing blocks?

 
 

 

Mike rummaged the far depths of the toy box and emerged triumphantly clutching a device. A contour tool. Pressing the independently mobile red rods up against the beam cunningly replicates the curve, a section at a time, which can then be drawn direct onto paper and cut out to provide a template.

It works a treat. Of course manipulating the fabric to form that curve, without causing any distortion on the front face of the blind, is a different matter entirely.

 
 

 

An element of faith is involved here..

 

And so to the moment of truth. Hanging the blind. The top edge was spot on. Take a bow Jessica. But in less time than it takes to crack open a bottle the realisation of the critical flaw hit home. As is often the case with old buildings, where the walls tend to be thick, the sides of the window recess splay outwards. Thus the window alcove is narrower at the window itself, getting progressively wider towards the room. If the recess had been rectangular, with the same width front to back as in a modern window in a thinner wall, we’d have been looking at the window through a tunnel. Think of the slit windows in a four foot thick castle wall. Great for defending against incoming arrows but not so great for access, the view looking out, or for the quality of the light entering the room. Where attack from rampaging enemies was less of an everyday occurrence the occupant of the ancient dwelling could get away with slightly larger windows but the issue of the light remained. Hence splays became commonplace. Fast forward to 2021. A roman blind stacks its fabric in folds as it pulls up, the folds falling mainly behind the front face of the blind where the window recess is narrower. Of course a smart cookie blind maker would have allowed for this. Yes? Doh.

So what to do.

Mike had the very clever idea of moving the blind rail further forward in the window recess, thus putting it into a space with greater width. We tried it and it worked. But there was a reason we’d put the rail in its original position. The blind had looked so much better there. Even if it did have to stay permanently closed because I didn’t have the option of pulling it up! It left only one realistic solution. Take the blind down and remake it from scratch. Only narrower this time..

 
 

 
 

 

The second one. Lessons learned.

Note the diagonal top edge this time, just to ring the changes.

After all, we wouldn’t want anything to be too easy now would we?