Wednesday, 22 August 2012

I have a date tomorrow with mud

Heavy showers were forecast during today - fairly typical August weather in Lancashire, unfortunately. And right on cue, it started raining quite heavily as I was eating a somewhat late lunch.

As I listened to it getting heavier, I decided to check if it was splashing in through the open backdoor and as I was greeted by a patch of wet floor, I mopped up the wet patch and pushed the door closed, expecting it to be temporary until the shower passed. There was nothing especially noteworthy at that point - within 15 minutes that had changed considerably.

It progressed to raining substantially and then there was a flash of lightning. As I started clearing away my lunch dishes, braced for the imminent thunder, I spotted a large spider walking down the inside of the kitchen window and decided to catch it and put it outside - when I reached the window, it was evident that the rain was significantly heavier than I'd realised as I was greeted by the sight of the garden completely under a deep layer of muddy brown water a mere handful of minutes after there hadn't even been a puddle.

It was running like a river through the garden and over the low perimeter wall like a waterfall - as the stones at the base of the perimeter railings are about 10" or so deep, that must have been the minimum depth of the water.

The muddy rock-carrying water hurtling at speed past the front door.

I was now aware of the sound of running water and dashed to the front door, wondering whether it was wise or not to open it for a look out, so I cracked it very gingerly and was met by a torrent of incredibly fast moving water running down the path around the house and lapping over the front door step, just breaching the deep metal channel in the doorway. It was rumbling and rattling with the sound of rocks and debris being carried along in the stream of mud.

The water and mud poured over the pavement, garden and front path, deep enough to totally obscure the structures and differentiation between the levels.

The mud flowing through the garden a little while later once the peak level of flow had subsided a little.

I stood in the lounge and was aware of the sound of running water underneath me - I'd totally forgotten about the cellar underneath the house. I cleared the area at the top of the cellar steps so that I could open the door and peer down and was almost afraid to look. I could hear very fast running - no; gushing - water and a lot of crashing and banging. I shone a torch down the steep steps and could see muddy water lapping against about the fourth step up the stairs - the large marbled square above is a heavy kitchen worktop which had been stacked several feet away - now floating and bobbing about in the deep water.

I decided that there was nothing whatsoever that I could do about that and I'd just have to let it be and whatever happened happened. As I walked away I heard a large crash and a lot of banging and at the time, I thought it was just something large falling over, but we later saw that it was the window smashing inwards under the force and weight of the water and mud.

The cellar has an external window, but it's below ground level and there is a recess in the path around the house to allow light into it and there is a grid within the path covering this 'hole'. As this structure was right at the point where several flows of water converged, the large recess around the window obviously rapidly filled with water and the weight of it was clearly too much for the window frame and surround to hold. We can't yet fully assess the damage as everything is covered in mud, but can see shards of glass sticking out of the frame at one side and splintered wood on the other.

The entire events described above lasted for a period of no more than 15 minutes, from pushing the door closed as the rain increased and splashed my flooring to realising the extent of the event occurring and being largely helpless to mitigate the damage. After about 45 minutes of a pretty substantial thunder storm it eased and the flow of water slowed, only to return in another pulse a couple of hours later as people were assessing the damage and starting to clear up.

Locals and a couple of council workers built me a little wall at the end of the path (which goes round our house and the rest in the row) with sandbags and buckets of stones that they gathered from the middle of the road as the firemen had been up the top of the hill to source the deluge of mud and rocks and found that one of a pair of fishing lodges had burst it banks in spectacular fashion and it was their assessment that the second was close behind and if we got more rain of that magnitude overnight it certainly wouldn't hold. So the wall was to protect against a second potentially catastrophic event overnight. Thankfully although it rained several times overnight, it was rather more subdued than earlier downpours.

After the water subsided, it has left a layer of mud over everything in the area - my garden is going to need quite some cleaning. At the other end where the flow entered the garden, the gravel covering it has been swept away, even stripping back and displacing the liner fabric underneath and gouging a hole in the mud beneath.

The water levels have now subsided, but in its wake is a lot of mud, rocks and debris and the cellar (which thankfully has a large drain in the floor, at least some of the source of the flooding initially) is now under about 8" of stinking silty mud - all our considerable amount of junk (and thankfully, that's mostly what it is) that's stored down there has been tossed about it the torrent and left in a scattered filthy mess - and the prospect of trying to sort it out doesn't exactly fill me with joy. Mr Boo declared "I know I was overdue for clearing out the cellar, but this wasn't quite what I had in mind."

So my day will be filled with buckets of mud (I don't actually know where to start - how does one dispose of tons of mud?) and phone calls to insurers - suddenly the prospect of photographing and listing a lot of jewellery which had been my plan for today, seems far more attractive than it usually feels!

Post script:

It transpires that the deluge of mud and water wasn't from the fishing lodge (although it certainly overflowed), but purely the volume and force of rainwater, with nowhere else to go, cascading down the hillside above, dragging anything loose it crossed with it. The private drive to a large detached house much higher up has been removed down to the gas and water mains and most of that earth and gravel is what is now in our houses. The council have done a Sterling job this morning, using diggers and flat beds, to remove the bulk of the debris from the public roads and pavements and it looks significantly better than it did. They have removed many, many tons of mud and rubble.

It looks like we might avoid having to deal with the worst of the mess ourselves, it seems that the insurers employ specialist clean up companies for just such tasks, who have the right gear to do it quickly and efficiently and they'll also assess what needs replacing for the contents claim.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

New adventures in bronze

Apologies again for the tardiness of my blogging recently; sometimes events just run away with you despite the best intentions. Thankfully, it's in large to being busy with orders, so I'm certainly not complaining. I still have a collection of photos from our holiday in June to post, but I haven't even looked through them all yet - I have a lot of the Olympic torch, but they'll need some editing as many are poor due to atrocious weather and the resulting low light levels.

Having done a considerable amount of work in copper, I don't know why I haven't worked in bronze - I think it perhaps looks even nicer left bare than copper does as it's a nice rosy warm gold colour, at a fraction the price of gold and you can do things with it that you can't with gold plated or filled.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

Large feature bronze earwires with deep pink dyed stabilised Tiger Eye beads, wrapped on ball ended bronze headpins.

I did get a small sample some time ago to check how it melted etc., but never really had the spare funds when ordering wire to add some bronze to my basket. But as I was placing a large order for copper wire, thought I'd buy a small quantity each of a few common gauges to see how it worked.

One of my molten bud designs featuring lots of glossy molten bronze buds trapped in a double wire wrapped loop. The bronze does seem to take on a slightly pinker colour after heating than the raw wire, even though it's been extensively pickled and tumbled.

I've thoroughly enjoyed working with it - it's harder and springier than copper and a bit tougher on the fingers to work with, but the results are worth the effort. It especially melts nicely to make ball ended headpins and the molten 'raindrop buds' that feature a lot in my work. It also takes some more hammering to form shapes, but that means you have a little more control over your finesse, as it's slower to take form.

I got these gorgeous turquoise coloured translucent torpedo shaped semi precious beads with a square cross section and they look lovely with the bronze. I'm not sure what stone they are, but they look similar to some hemi-morphite that I've had before.

I was curious as to how it would oxidise and antique and finally got to try that with a few early samples I'd done just for that purpose. To all intents and purposes it oxidises just the same as copper - I did both copper and bronze pieces at the same time and at the point they were fully darkly oxed, they looked exactly the same.

Some turquoise magnesite beads with bronze headpins and earwires, after antiquing.

Once removing some of the darkness, the more gold colour of the bronze was evident and the antiqued appearance of finished pieces was much the same as copper, just with a slightly more yellow base colour. In fact, when they're first polished, the bronze and the copper look very similar, but copper mellow warmer within 24 hours of the initial polish, where bronze retains its initial bright appearance for longer.

A large faceted amethyst spiral wrapped in bronze, then antiqued.

I have some antiqued gold chain and wondered how well the antiqued bronze would match with it, so put together some earrings featuring some turquoise magnesite cubes on bronze balled headpins and the antiqued gold chain. After polishing, the two metals are a slightly different tone, but this is more evident in the photographs than in the actual jewellery when viewed life-size.

I think there will be a lot more bronze in my portfolio in future, it has been fun to work with it and I have no idea why it has taken me so long to get around to it.

Other recent work:

This pair of earrings were one of those designs that emerged from a problem-solving session and one that my sub-conscious largely worked out without seemingly much conscious intervention. The solution flirted away at the corners of my mind, tantalising me with snippets of thoughts that took a while before they popped into my mind, fully formed.

I had a particular brief from a customer and it became evident that I wasn't going to be able to do exactly what she wanted - which was something very small and fine and in copper and I didn't think that the idea she had would be sufficiently robust, so I'd been trying to combine methods that would give rise to greater stability at the small scale required.

These earrings resulted from that thought process and were somewhat at a tangent to the initial thinking and I don't know why I haven't tried something like this before. The outer diameter is a smidge over 15mm (0.6") and they're about 3mm (1/8") wide and once inserted in the piercing, they pretty much close around the lobe and look like a complete loop in wear. My methodology needs a little further thought as the pair I made in silver highlighted an issue that I'd simply been lucky with on the two successful copper pairs I've made.

The silver pair have been made for a gift, but I shall be making myself a pair too.

As is often the case, once I make a design, my mind either gets fixated on making more of the same, or lots of variants come to mind. I'm perpetually striving to find different and interesting ways to make nice beads into everyday earrings, as alternatives to straight headpins. I've spent quite some time in perfecting a method for combining my rosebud knots with beads and have a pile of new beads waiting to get some of this same treatment.

And finally . . .

I am often heard to curse at how my lovely, albeit tiny, garden gets ravaged by snails - my plant selection is heavily informed by what they don't like the taste of. I have a gorgeous stripy hosta that looks like the leaves were made in lace. Only this last couple of weeks, I had to abandon a beautiful new mauve Campanula that was razed to a few tiny spiky stems in a few days. My husband came in from the garden commenting that the snails had seemingly got it and I replied that they had indeed pretty much had all the open flowers. "When did you look at it?" asks he . . . "there aren't even any leaves left". Looks like Campanula are off the list too!

Now normally, the snails only do their damage after dusk and when I feel brave I go out after dark, armed with a torch and re-locate a few to improve the odds for my blooms, but I went out one afternoon and there was this big bugger, brazen as you like, gorging himself right at the top of my poor bedraggled hosta.

And something pretty to calm you after that horror . . . that's better!


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