To be filed …

In a piece on careers in construction I once read, somebody was quoted as saying dismissively: “If you can piss, you can paint.”
That might apply in the painting of bridges or whatever, where all the painter has to deliver is square yardage of cover, but I have recently been reminded that decorating in an occupied and furnished house is a job requiring a rare delicacy and patience. It is not the area requiring paint that is the trouble but all the areas that do not – a lesson that some previous occupier of my new house was clearly never taught.
To improve one bit without making a mess of another involves a laboriously careful to and fro, with tools for use and for cleaning, and a lot of strain on the knees, hopping up and down steps or ladder and getting down to below where the eye normally sees. After taking on a new built-in wardrobe, with a lot of sides, ceilings and corners, I am knackered.
The cupboard was built in medium density fibreboard (MDF). Any kind of solid timber would have been twice as expensive and to make it from a timber worth leaving unfinished, or simply varnished, would have required weeks of careful joinery. I did look at some fine old second-hand wardrobes, at three or four thousand pounds each, and if they would have fitted, they would have looked like reasonable value.
As it was, we got to the point where somebody had to put in a day or two with a paintbrush. I volunteered and my joiner, I noticed, was happy to accept.
For ease and value, he recommended a Dulux Trade water-based emulsion, from Jewson’s, and for extra ease, I chose a matt vinyl. Satin vinyl would have been a bit harder and silk vinyl is the toughest and glossiest of the water-based emulsions. After that, you are into oil-based paints – harder to spread and harder to clean off the brushes – which usually come in a fairly matt eggshell, a shinier satin finish and then an old-fashioned hard gloss. For the ultimate in durability, I note that Jeff Howell, the Telegraph’s DIY guru, has recommended 10-year exterior gloss from International Paints (22.4.12).
Both the joiner and the man on the Jewson’s counter warned that it would be necessary to prime the bare MDF, especially the cut edges, with a 50-50 mix of the paint and water. They did not need to warn me that a thin mix like that will drip and spatter however hard you try. First job was to hoover up all dust, especially along the floor line, and the third – see below for the second – was to spend a good hour with masking tape, dust sheets and newspapers, covering all surfaces adjoining the wardrobe or within range of an accidental flick of the brush.
I also wanted masking tape to get straight edges where the wardrobe met the existing walls and ceiling. Professional decorators will rely on a good eye and a damp rag but I like to mask. Given a little more time to shop, I would have paid extra for tape with extra-light adhesion, because I knew I was bound to cause some damage when taking it off old emulsion. However, the second job in the preparation work was to make sure I had some touch-up paint for the existing décor and that I could get some clean spoonfuls of it out of the leftovers stored in the garage – not always easy when tins have been left to rust and paint to crust.
It is a basic rule of painting that two thin coats are better than one thick one and nowhere does this apply more, I can tell you, than in painting newly-sawn edges of MDF. The first priming coat disappears. After a second, a third and a fourth, you begin to have something a full emulsion might stick to
I worked some paint onto the screw heads in the construction and the joiner then finished off with Polycell decorators’ caulk, which likes a bit of paint to stick to. After the doors had gone on, there were not many caulked holes still visible but those which were required a final dab of paint for a good finish. It wasn’t a perfect job but I was pleased enough to decide it would do – and even more pleased that I didn’t have to clean the stair carpet or the tiles around the kitchen sink. If I was training an apprentice me, I would offer the following rules …
* Before you open your paint, have a bag of rags on standby and a bucket for the used ones, plus plenty of newspapers for putting pots and brushes and stirrers down on.
* Work in old shoes or socks and take them off every time you leave your painting space.
* Take a regular break to clean yourself down – your arms and hands and probably your head too – with rags and nailbrush, always brushing downwards into the sink.
* Carry your paint tin in a bowl or bucket, so you are not clutching a tin with a wet edge to your body.
* When finished, resist the temptation to use a hammer to get the lid back on the paint pot – the residues around the rim will spatter for yards.
After the job was done, I passed a couple of lads in a decorators’ van, finishing their lunch by rolling a couple of joints. I wished I’d had some. If cannabis is good for anything, it is inducing the methodical trance required for clean painting.

You can find the same advice all over the place, so I feel justified in lifting the following from a Guardian of 2006 …
Simply point the hour hand of your watch at the sun. South is to be found halfway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock (presuming you are in the northern hemisphere). If it’s British summer time, use the point midway between the hour hand and one o’clock. If you don’t have a watch, poke a stick into the ground so it’s standing vertically, and place a stone where the top of the stick’s shadow falls.
Wait 15 minutes (during which time the shadow will move round a bit) and again place a stone at the top of the stick’s shadow. The first stone is west (again in the northern hemisphere), the second is east. Stand on the line between the two, with your left foot on west, and you will now be facing north.

Anyone who has ever wrecked a hard-boiled egg, trying to get it out of its shell, will be interested to know that it helps to add a bit of bicarb to the cooking water, as explained at
And that will lead you on to dozens more pages devoted to the many unexpected uses of sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. E.g. …
For further research lines, see Andrew Martin in Telegraph at
saying in part …
“it can also be used for making mushy peas, cleaning beer off a carpet, powering a model rocket made from a plastic camera-film, reducing the acidity of stewed fruit, curing spots, easing the pain of bee stings, as a base in the production of crack cocaine and as a general household cleaning agent.
“If a cure for global warming is ever found, it will probably turn out to involve bicarbonate of soda.”

Just spiking a cutting on choosing potatoes which looks as if it came from Observer Food Mag …
For wedges – Desiree
For baking – King Edwards
For mash – Maris Piper
For salad – Yukon Gold
More on this later.
Meanwhile, more similar summaries already on this site, tagged One-line Recipes.

See Late Vegetable Harvests on 2008 Telegraph page at
More tips on storing fruit and veg and turning them into preserves by Bunny Guinness, quoting Bob Flowerdew, at

Free to good home – Applemac classic: a 1990 G3 all-in-one fishbowl-type computer in Indigo; the original iMac?; with keyboard and mouse, original set-up instructions and some guidebooks. Collect from Horrabridge, Devon. Contact benfields@towers12.demon.co.uk/
Downsizing means I’ve got a few offers like that and I must try freecycle.org.uk/
Also might as well file here a cutting from Chris Hastings in Sun. Tel. Oct. 11/12 2008, saying …
In recent months there has been a huge increase in demand for websites such as Barterswap UK, ValueforPeople.co.uk or Tradeyourskills.co.uk which act as online marketplaces for those who want to swap their wares
The Time bank website, which encourages people to give their services and expertise for free in return for credits which allow them to call on the services of fellow members, has seen swapping schemes sprouting up across the country in the past two months.
Smaller barter websites are also reporting a significant boost to their businesses.
Judy Berger, who set up the Whatsmineisyours fashion website four years ago to cater for customers who were interested in trading and swapping clothes has noticed a huge increase in the number of swaps.
It is a similarly story for Readitswapit UK which was established in 2004 as a hobby site by Andrew Bathgate and Neil Fergusson.
The site is now swapping 7,000 to 10,000 books a week…
Also mentioned …
http://www.swapz.co.uk – for all sorts
http://www.swapcycle.co.uk – for all sorts
http://www.recycle.co.uk – for all sorts
http://www.u-exchange.com/barter-uk – for skill swaps
http://www.timebanking.org – for skill swaps
http://www.ukbartercard.com – business-to-business bartering
http://www.voxswap.com – language teaching swaps
http://www.downsizer.net – for crop swapping and more
http://www.ukhomeswap.co.uk – mainly for social housing swaps

Further to previous references to evidence of fact in the Noah story, the Telegraph recently reported that a Leicester Uni team has calculated that a boat of the dimensions specified in The Bible could have carried 70,000 animals …

Further to previous Filofacts on Cement Etc. …
I have a link to a good guide to mortar and renders which answers the questions …
* What mortar above damp-proof course?
* Will Fairy liquid do instead of custom-made plasticiser?
* How much mortar do I need for 60 bricks or 10 blocks?
etc. …

K for keyboard test programme recommended by Computeractive mag feb 2014 and available at http://www.snipca.com/11101

I liked the Guardian Mag’s answer to the question: What would happen to the earth if everyone on it jumped in the air at once?”
Find it at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/29/ask-a-grown-up-earth-if-everyone-jumped/
And more in the series, Ask A Grown-Up at

Experience: My bungee cord snapped …
And more in the series at

When properly operating again, must get round to pulling an extract from Dea Birkett, recalling her experience of running away and joining the circus in Sun Tel 16.4.2014.
Also, Teleg 15.3.14, and elsewhere, no doubt: “An Australian dog owner was left distraught after discovering her chihuahua-maltese cross had been eaten in its kennel by a python.”
Also good source material, if you can track it down, a summary in The Week 15.3.14 of good bits from all the essays on Vikings which came with the opening of the new exhibition in London. Title was Who Were The Real Vikings and it included good stuff on Viking executions and so on.
Jasper Copping in Telegraph 7.3.14 reported the release for broadcast, on BBC2, of interviews with WW1 veterans which were recorded in the 1960s but considered too subversive to broadcast at the time. All now available via the BBC2 website.

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