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Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘buildings’

Solidity

In which FP becomes a rather paranoid architectural historian

In field archaeology, there’s a subtle process that field workers undergo called “getting your eye in”. A plain brown swathe of earth, after a few hours’ work, becomes suddenly a complex landscape of shade and texture. A mass of tumbled stone becomes a distinct sequence of structural building and collapse. All of a sudden, the things on the ground start to make sense.

When you’re buying a house, I’ve found, the same sort of thing starts happening on an architectural level. All of a sudden I can spot cracks in plaster I’d never have noticed before, or the slight dimples in walls that can indicate buried wires. All this, of course, is a result of reading surveyors’ reports, reports that are paranoid to mention every slight little thing that could potentially cause a future problem.

“Large degree of springing in floorboard” first makes me think: oh no! We only have to jump too hard and we’ll disappear into the basement. But then, I think back, and start comparing it to other places. I start walking lighter and paying more attention to my feet in every building I enter. The flat we live in now, for example, has very springy floorboards. If you walk too heavily in the living room, you can see the bookshelves moving slightly. In the hallway there’s a big gap between two boards that you can feel through the carpet with your toes, and another patch where you can feel the boards have been cut then never put back securely. And even this isn’t as bad as another flat I lived in briefly a few years back, with floors so uneven I always think of it as: not so much a flat, as a slightly rippled.

Now, I’m not saying that being sharp-eyed is a bad thing. But sometimes it’s possible to be too sharp-eyed, and spot so many little details that it worries you. This “new” house might have bouncy floorboards here and there, but of all the houses we looked at, it probably has fewer of these little flaws than any others of similar age. It is fun, getting the chance to be an archaeologist again, poking around to work out what’s under the garden gravel and how usable the chimneys are.* I hope that eventually, though, we’re going to be able to relax a little, sit back, and not worry that one moving floorboard means the house is doomed to crumble into its foundations.

* One of the chimneys is definitely still open and functional, but that fireplace appears to have had its damper plate patched up with some sort of papier-mache or cardboard, so I wouldn’t fancy lighting a fire in it.

Renovation

In which we're not looking forward to a new kitchen

Next week is going to be hell. I’m dreading it. Our kitchen – which passed its 25th birthday last winter – is being ripped out, torn up, and being replaced by something nice, new and shiny. The only problem: it’s going to take all week. The house is already in uproar, and I have no idea how we’re going to eat. Lots of dinners out next week, I think.

It’s a bit of a milestone, doing all this. I can only very faintly remember the kitchen we had before, at the old house. It had a sliding door from the dining area. Erm, that’s it. I’ve lived with the current brown cupboards, brown tiles, freezing cold green tiled floor for so long, it’s going to feel very strange living in something different. This morning, I took photos from the kitchen doorway. I’ve never taken many photos of the inside of the house, itself,* so when things do change I rarely have a proper record of them. If you want to see what our house looked like over the years, you have to look in the backgrounds and the corners. So, I took photos from the kitchen doorway, and I’m going to keep taking them next week as the old kitchen is pulled apart and the new one is built.

The mother didn’t get the point. “I don’t want you taking pictures of it and showing everybody when it’s a mess,” she said. “Wait until the new one is finished, then you can take pictures of it.” I will do. But I want pictures of it how it is now, too, because I don’t want to remember something that’s new and novel. I want to remember something that’s old, faded, and comfortable.

* except for, once, the big green Victorian mirrored ball, round, not tiled, that hangs in a corner of the dining room.

Land Of Green Ginger

In which we go to Hull

Was over in the Republic of Hull at the weekend, and popped in a pub in the city centre, called Ye Olde White Harte.* It’s a very old pub indeed, full of tiny rooms, alleged ghosts and dark wood panelling, and it’s been on the site for around five hundred years or so. Back in the seventeeth century the Siege Of Hull, one of the opening skirmishes of the Civil War, kicked off in the upstairs room of the pub.**

I was in the pub to go to a meeting, in the aforesaid upstairs room, with swords on the wall and portraits of men in seventeeth-century styles. Just as you could imagine it being back in the civil war, in fact. We sat around having our meeting, just like the seventeenth-century city leaders plotting to change the government whilst downing jars of ale. But, of course, there was a little sign on the wall next to the swords: “found during the Victorian restoration”.

Like many buildings of its age, not much of the Olde White Harte is genuine. It might be a genuine sixteenth-century pub, but much of the interior will have been redone in the 19th century, if not since, to look like the modern ideal of a genuine sixteenth-century pub. For one thing, bars were only invented in the 19th century, in railway station refreshment rooms. I have no idea what it would have actually looked like when first built, but almost certainly not how it does today.

* I don’t see why they can’t call it the Old White Hart, but apparently it’s tradition or something.

** Well, they didn’t exactly start a bar-room fight with the King, but it was where the city leaders decided to bar the gates to the royal army.

Sweaty

In which things get hot and sticky at the office

It’s still only spring, and it’s becoming rather clear that our new office was rather badly planned. It’s a two-person office, with lots of computers in it,* no windows, no air conditioning, and a door which, we’re told, must remain closed. The only concession to ventilation is a small extractor fan – the only incoming air is from the corridor. The fan itself was an after-thought, installed after the office secretary started campaigning for us.

It was only a mildly warm day outside today, but the office was already unbearable. I sat in a sleepy stupor all afternoon. In a couple of months, it’s going to be a danger to our health. I really must bring in a thermometer to see just how hot it gets in there.

* five at present, including the company mailserver, which lives under my desk and occasionally gets an accidental kick.

Security

Or, a story of incompatibility

As part of all the building work that’s been going on at the office, we’ve been getting the security systems upgraded. A new alarm system, new motorised front gates,* and new electronic locks on most of the internal doors. All to be worked by RFID tags, kept on our keyrings and carried round all the time.

Now, being logical and sensible, we assumed that the company had specified either a single system, or compatible systems, so that we could use one single tag to unlock everything. Therefore we were pleased to spot, as the contractor** started to install the hardware, that all the sensors we could see came from the same manufacturer. Very sensible.

We each get a tag the other week, and start using it to open and shut the front gates. Three days ago, the contractor pops his head round the door to say he’ll be issuing us with the rest of the tags, the ones for the indoor locks, soon.

“The rest of the tags? We’ve already got one.”

Apparently, we need separate ones for the outdoor locks, the indoor locks, and the alarm system itself. Because “the systems are from different manufacturers.”

“But they’re not from the same manufacturers! We’ve seen them, and they’re identical! If you hold an outdoor tag up to an indoor sensor, it recognises it!”

“No it doesn’t.”

I held my “outdoor tag” up to the newly-installed sensor by the office door. It bleeped, and flashed a little green light at me.

“Well, I can try to set it up so that that tag unlocks this door,” the contractor said. “But it won’t work.”

(to be continued, otherwise this post would get a bit long)

* This is a Good Thing, because guess who’s job it is to unlock and open the old front gates every morning.

** Our usual security contractor, a friendly chap, who is very anal about making sure his cabling is put in and terminated neatly, but isn’t very good at setting up the security systems themselves properly.