Cottaging

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 17 October 2020

They call Gaffer tape Duct Tape in the US.

We used it when we had a band. Strong, durable and perfect for covering up cables and sticking together battered instruments. It comes in many colours and if you bite into it it rips into a nice, straight line.

The 45th commander in sheath could use some Duct tape for sticking together his crumbling regime.

Our cottage has been the recipient of an awful lot of gaffer. It has been through many incarnations. Part of Mr. Fenner's Blacksmith business many years ago, the old forge is still to the left of us, and the view to the right. The cellar is from 1690, the cottage burnt down in the 30's, was rebuilt, we added a bit here and there and now it is the very model of a modern major general overhaul. It was called 'Prosperity' cottage for a bit, in the hope that by renaming it it would attract prosperity.

Did it fuck?

We've had two Feng Shui masters come and clear it; hang crystals, display pot plants and place Bagua mirrors in strategic places to fend off the evil eye. We face north/north east which is just about as bad as you can get when building a house. It's called a HUNGRY GHOST, tell me about it if we were a Chinese bank we would have gone bankrupt in the Ming Dynasty. We've had energy clearers and psychics who've got rid of metal angels hanging by the door because they were full of malevolence, and cleared Mr. Fenner from the cellar who was banging on his anvil at all hours.

I am now thinking of renaming it Gaffer Mansions, or Duct Hall. We've lived here for thirty six years next week. And over that time we've had parties and floods, babies and chimney fires. We've had a new kitchen and bathroom, new furniture and new windows. Over thirty six years we have seen the walls shift due to subsidence, the roof leak due to faulty tiles. We've seen light switches crumble and shower heads droop. We've watched the garage deconstruct itself and the graveyard behind the shed fill up with dead cats and dogs.

Living here, as an East Ender, has been an education. Who'd have thought I would learn how to lay a fire, prune a euonymous, cope with total blackouts and live without internet in the garden. Who'd have thought a bint from Aldgate would live two miles from anywhere and learn how to walk and shop carefully so she could carry celery and chick pea tins in a back pack and still walk home. But best of all who would have thought that a girl with Hollywood pretensions would end up living with an old git who is a bodger extraordinaire.

I have long wanted him to create a little DIY book with all his suggestions. A strip of gaffer here - keeping the shower up. A strip of gaffer there - shielding us from the icy blasts coming through the window frame. A strip of gaffer to hold up the cellar ceiling and a roll of gaffer to secure the vacuum cleaner case which holds the pipes and accessories.

Our cottage now has an idiosyncratic life of its own; here's half a dozen to be getting on with.

  1. Count to six to light the front right gas ring.
  2. One bum push to close the fridge.
  3. A hefty thrust to the heavens and a full left lock to close the front door.
  4. A dummy light pully for the bathroom.
  5. A defunct light switch in the bedroom.
  6. A swift drop kick to open my cupboard door in the attic.

Since we've been here, next door have have had three different occupiers, the new ones have extended their kitchen to the size of a Hackney warehouse. The other side has built another house and moved out. The other-other side have rebuilt on the old footprint and installed a hot tub. The lodge has new owners. Up the lane another new comer has just arrived with six dogs and a barrow of artichoke plants. Down the hill have attracted new inmates, across the road have built a house opposite their old one and sold their old one to a family with three children. A dentist, a doctor an artist and a family of South Africans have all moved into three other properties, the pub has different landlords and the farm down the back road now sells organic veg and dead pig. All since we moved here in 1984.

My friends in Devon have moved seven times since we've been here. My friends in Monmouth have moved twice. My friend in Goudhurst lived out the back of her car for fourteen of the 36 years that we've been here whilst our friends in Sweden have had heart attacks, three marriages, run a theatre and become grandparents, all whilst we've been gaffering our life together.

Our friends in Chatham have an allotment and perennial flowering shrubs, bee hives and rather healthy retirement pensions, our friends in East Sussex, have moved three times, had their showroom burgled on countless occasions and have renovated a barn that is even bigger than the big kitchen next door which is as big as a big warehouse in Hackney, all while we have taped our lives together with duct tape and blind optimism. Coming from such uncertainty, as I did, the cottage has been the one constant since I was thirty five years of age. I've never seen it as a money maker, quite the opposite, but as the world tumbled around our ears our little cottage has been a sanctuary.

This little cottage has seen breakdowns, births, deaths and marriages, it withstood the storm of '87, the Beast from the East and now provides shelter for the lockdown.

Why only today DIY SOS OLD GIT has unpeeled the gaffer on the raiser rail in the shower installed a new shower head bracket and plugged in a brilliant CORK from our last bottle of bubbly, to complete the look. I sprayed the cork with white paint and the shower looks as good as new.

Now if we count the longevity in my family I should be here until 2045, and him a little less, so by my reckoning the gaffering that is now in place should last until I'm at least 91, and then if all goes to plan the dawter will have some kids who will take after their grandfather and continue the tradition of bodging to keep it all together. That's as long as the climate change deniers are silenced, the deforesters are incarcerated, the selfish short sighted pillocks are removed from office and our little spinning globe hasn't gone the way of the dodo's. If we are still around, along with little ladybirds and horned puffins, if the planet is delivered into safe hands and we haven't snuffed out our own existence I trust that the gaffer factories will still be in tact.

'Men make history.' said Mr. Truman. 'And not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better', wielding a roll of gaffer of course.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At October 18, 2020 1:03 PM Lyn Misselbrook wrote:

The only leadership apparent around the globe is the New Zealand PM. Do you still know someone who lives there? I’ve lived here since January 1983 - that’s nearly 38 years! Goodness we were only neighbours for so short a time ...

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