This Is Not A
OK, so what have I been doing that I couldn't spend any of my time wasting any of your time over the last few weeks?
Well apart from going through Al Stewart's entire YouTube-available back catalogue after posting this (a lot of superb material, and that which isn't superb is still nevertheless very engaging), I'm afraid that I have been indulging in more restorative decorating work.
Having done the doorframes and skirting boards in the kitchen shortly before the solstice, it was time for the living room to get the same treatment. But there was a problem, one which put me off for some time before diving into it; there was so much furniture to be moved away from the walls that it couldn't all be put into the middle of the room for the three to four days the job would need - the room simply did not have enough middle.
The only way through as far as I could see would be to do the back end of the room completely first, moving the display cabinet, my old man's now totally defunct Grundig radiogram (memorialised here) and my record cases to the middle; and then replacing them in their proper spots and moving my semi-knackered old Aiwa hi-fi and my workstation out to the centre and doing the front end.
This was not only cumbersome, it meant that the job would take twice as long as any other room (two days for each end, skirting boards requiring only two coats). But I had no choice, so set grimly to it.
Once more, background music was a must. Or, rather, foreground music. Given that I would be working where my PC is, and that all my music is stored on my external hard drive, it would be right on top of me the whole time.
So what could I choose, bearing in mind that there would have to be enough 'product' to see me through an entire session without my having to lay my gloss-smeared fingers on the keyboard?
I could I suppose have gone for something soothingly familiar that I had listened to recently but, as with the kitchen work, I have taken the opportunity to revisit stuff I hadn't heard in extenso for some time. Casting around my catalogue, I found what I thought would suit the job, the time-scale and my overall mood. And it couldn't be deemed remotely pretentious.
So it was that I spent four two-hour sessions wielding the troublesome brush to the backdrop of the first six Led Zeppelin LPs. I had forgotten somewhat just how damn good those boys were together, and the combination of the heavy drive of such as When The Levee Breaks and Kashmir, and the more nuanced tones of Tangerine and The Rain Song, helped me get the whole job done with a lesser sense of strain and exasperation than might otherwise have been the case.
But I'm afraid that this didn't mark the end of the glossing over of past neglect. You see, having done all the doorframes and skirting boards, those fixtures were now - and here I use a favourite phrase of my mother's in such circumstances - laughing at the doors. Clearly, they would have to be next in line for fettling.
This was a dreadful prospect in any case, because there were eleven of the bastards (well eleven and a quarter in actual fact; see below), and each one would need at least three coats given that it had been over sixteen years since they were last done. And they would have to be painted entirely in situ; whilst it might just have been feasible to take each one off its hinges, there would be nowhere in the house for me to lay them down to paint them (and putting them outside would be completely out of the question given both the time of year and the nature of our climate in general), and the certain impossibility of my being able to re-hang them without them pinning me to the floor; these all combined to mean that they would have to stay put while the job was done.
For these reasons, I held off for a couple of weeks before deciding that I had to try to make a start. Pondering which would be the least irksome place to start, I determined on my bedroom. But not the bedroom door itself. You see in times long gone, the hot water tank and the airing cupboard were situated in the corner of that room, closed off by a door; or rather, by two doors. There is one of standard height, and then a far smaller one over the lintel of that, which was needed to access the header tank. Well, when they put the first gas central heating system in in 2004 (which event caused me to paint everything last time round), they put a new hot water tank in there along with a cold-water tank (the header tank was banished to the loft, and I no longer had an airing cupboard), so the little door was surplus to requirements (and has remained so after the upgrade of three-and-a-half years ago).
But the swine still needed to be painted and as it reached up to ceiling level, this would entail The Big Ladder.
I'm no good up ladders, especially when despite them I still have to put my arms up above head level to do whatever it is needs doing; I've never had much strength in my arms in any case.
Having wiped down and roughed up both doors and removed their handles, I set to it on Monday morning last week. Up down, up down, up down (because the tin of paint was on the floor in default of having anywhere else to put it). Exhausting work it was, and things didn't get much easier when it came to do the larger of the two doors; any advantages from not having to use a ladder were more than outweighed by the greater surface area needing to be covered and the condition of same given that I appeared to have been rather slapdash when painting the inside of that door all those years ago.
And I couldn't even have the solace of music this time. Although it would have been possible in theory for me to have my mp3 player and headphones on, I resisted the temptation for fear of the paint getting into the equipment (or indeed vice versa).
The second coat didn't go on until Wednesday because I couldn't face all that again on Tuesday, and the third coat (and a fresh coat on the doorframe because it looked like I skimped on that last time as well) on Thursday. I put the handles back on on Friday morning but still left the doors open for an extra twenty-four hours after that just to make sure that the paint had completely dried (another screw-up from the time before - when I had obviously been over-eager on this point - meant that I had had a big problem with unsticking the little door this time).
Then it was time for the main door into the room itself, which I figured in my usual over-optimistic way wouldn't be too much bother, given that I only needed my small stepladder (just slightly higher than a kickstool) to reach the top of the door. Well that was all well and good, except that I ran once again into my constant bugbear; the brushes. I really don't know why it is that, no matter how closely I follow the rules for cleaning them, they turn into useless lumps of paint-logged bristle after a couple of uses; nonetheless, I wish the sods would stop doing it.
Even after three coats, I could still see the blotchiness and uneven-ness of the work, but I was in no mood to be fussy about it, and that's how they will stay as far as I'm concerned. 'Sides which, I don't think I've got enough paint left in the tin for another coat.
There was one annoyance left, however; when I had done the boiler cupboard, I used a clear plastic sheet to cover the floor. This was OK for that purpose, if over-large, but the drips of paint didn't dry at all quickly and taking the sheet up afterwards meant getting them all over me. So when it came to doing the main door, I got an old bedsheet and put that down. Except that, when the paint dripped onto the sheet...
...it went through the effer and got onto the floorboards. By the time I took the sheet up, it had dried on and will all have to be scrubbed/scraped off sometime this week.
I can't face any more doors at this point (not even to the background of The Doors, which would be wilfully cute of me anyway), and I'd need more paint, more white spirit and more fwigging brushes anyway. I look at all the ceilings and walls which need emulsioning and I'm starting to think that I'm never going even to be capable of getting those done.
But it's not just the house that I've been trying to upfettle in the last few weeks.
I'd become aware that there were rather more typing mistakes all over this site than I - in my conceited way - had considered likely. Following on from my own discoveries (and from the occasional oblique reference by the very splendid and worthwhile Philip Challinor), I decided that Something Must Be Done.
So, I went a-hunting. This meant completely proof-reading some two thousand pages; some short, some longer, some (like the infamous end-of-year pieces) fucking enormous. At the same time as correcting typos (and I cringed at some of them), I adjusted some punctuation - I really have used commas as pebbledash down the years - and some formatting, and made the occasional change to wording to clarify meaning (or sometimes simply to provide meaning where the way I had originally expressed something was ambiguous or just plain gobbledegook).
I have, however, not changed anything which would make me look less clueless or look more perspicacious than I was at the time; such things have been kept on the Permanent Record for future readers to shake their heads at. I'll have no revisionism here, I'll have you know.
Having done this, a further thought occurred to me. As the site is now approaching its eighteenth birthday (the pandemic has ruined its intention of going out with its mates to celebrate, which is probably just as well as it'd only get rat-arsed, come home with a traffic cone and then have someone knocking on the door nine months later holding a screaming little web-page which is alleged to be my grandchild), there must, I reasoned, be quite a few dead links even after I last checked them about eight years ago.
Sure enough, I found quite a few dead links. Some of them I was able to restore after having recourse to The Wayback Machine, but others remained - or have since become - totally lost. These - along with links to outdated petitions, appeals or which are similarly no longer relevant - will be marked by struck-through text
I then went through the YouTube links as well, finding a few goners there too, although I have been able to find alternatives for most of them.
As a useful (well I think so) afterthought, I went through the Gallery pages making a few factual changes in the light of events since those pages were first published and increasing the number of links between pages where relevant.
And then it was time to validate all the pages to make sure that the coding was correct. Hell, this was tedious! Well, you can imagine with two-thousand-odd pages. It took me a couple of days to do, and one page simply wouldn't go through properly (this one to be precise) because of the numerous language characters needed for it; it's the only page to be coded with the UTF-8 character set rather than ISO-8859-1 as a result.
I stuck with it - mostly because I wanted to get it all done so that the completely revised site could be part of my end-of-month archive which I was due to run last night - and finally got through it shortly after 2300 hrs on Sunday. This morning, I uploaded all the pages to the server, hence what you are now seeing here.
Lessons for the future? Well, I can only review things so often and I'm sure that the odd typo has evaded capture, and if there's anything to be learned it's that I should proof-read and validate properly before I post anything. And I should stop using so many bloody commas!