Friday, 4 September 2009

Seven Quirky Personality Traits About Myself

I've been tagged with this meme by the poetic Gadjo Dilo. Brought up in a house with lead pipes I'm told I have eccentricities, but some of these I've admitted before, and others...well, I don't have Gadjo's courage. But their side-effects show up around the house and garden, so I'm going to cheat and use those.

The Flyer

Some years ago I was throwing out an old ladder and the children's pram, when I had a silly idea. This was the result. It steers by a small handle between the driver's knees, and there is a rudimentary handbrake. It was intended for the children but was invariably appropriated by the grown ups. For a year or two, after a certain stage of inebriation, most of our barbecues migrated to the grassy hill behind the house, where we careered down the Downs in the gathering dark at terrifying speed, not always succeeding in making the necessary handbrake turn at the bottom. It's the best toy I've ever had.

Later my father-in-law gave me a windsurfer sail he'd picked up at a marine boot fair. This only works well in a full gale, which is hairy. We need to try it on a beach.

The Cannon

This is my version of a garden gnome. It needs a coat of paint. We had some timber left over from building work, and I was working in Chatham Historic Dockyard at the time. The barrel was moulded of papier mache around a stack of plastic flowerpots, together with chicken wire, a drainpipe, some washing machine hose, the tubes from two kitchen rolls and half a football. After drying the mould was covered with fibreglass. The cannon balls are ground-down boules. For a year or two, after a certain stage of inebriation at barbecues, we used it to launch fireworks towards the village below...

The Dog Window

Not very exciting this, but it brings the dog pleasure. It used to be a cat flap in the kitchen, but we didn't have a cat, so I double-glazed the hole and put a shutter on it. The pheasants have learned they are safe on the other side, and tease the dog mercilessly inches from her nose.

The Bookcase

I'd always wanted one of these. The catch is operated by a false book (I wanted it to be 'Tales from the House Behind' by Anne Frank, but that wasn't wide enough), via parts of a bicycle cable brake and bits of a Reliant three-wheeler door mechanism. It was intended to have a security function, but also provides useful extra book space. The Social Secretary once carried a tray of tea through it to some decorators who hadn't been warned, and they dropped a tin of paint.

The Graveyard

One of our predecessors was a landscape gardener who'd worked on churchyards, and I kept unearthing old gravestones in the garden. I set them up in a disused corner when the children were going through their goth phase. They used to hang out down there with their goth friends and think gothic thoughts. They're all real except the Adam Boddy one ('a damn body' geddit?), which I made from an old paving stone.

The Intercom

Bits of this house are hard to reach from other bits, so we use this rather retro communication system involving three wartime Fuller Phones. There is something satisfying in winding the handles to make the bells ring - one ring for this one, two rings for that, etc.


Being remote, we are slightly paranoid, and there are a number of quirky security measures, some of which I can't mention (or I'd have to kill you). This catch on a shed actually just raises a magnet past a magnetic switch, tripping the alarm. It's the obvious thing to try a door, and I care for the idea of a would-be thief setting the alarm off themselves, before they've even gained entry. I know it to have worked on at least one occasion. In the picture below, the green door is one we seldom use, because there is access from inside. If you look closely you'll see the handle and lock are on the hinge side. My theory was that someone working in the dark might try and jemmy the wrong side.

Another measure I enjoy is our prominently placed switch marked 'Burglar Alarm, On/Off'. It stays permanently at 'on', but is reverse-wired and if switched 'off', triggers the alarm.

Scarily there are a lot more quirkinesses, but that's quite enough. I maybe should see a doctor. Gadjo?

I'm not going to specifically tag anyone, but invite you to take this meme on, in either its original or modified form.


  1. i love the bookcase doors, sugar! how delicious would it be to live next door to all y'all? re the meme, i might have to take a swing at composing one...xoxoxo

  2. That is all ace! The bookcases are great, but I love the look of the stepladder go-kart thing. Absolutely brilliant!

  3. Bloody ingenious! And as for the cannon... pure dead brilliant.

  4. I want your ladder toy, and the cannon and am now going to set up a communication system with cocoa cans - brilliant!

  5. I want your bookcase! It would solve our perennial "Wouldn't it be nice to knock these rooms through but where would we put the books??" problem. What a thing of true beauty. did you design it yourself?

  6. I am green. Green with envy. The cannon in the garden is great in itself but the bookcase doorway... could only be topped if it was a vast fireplace like in Indianna Jones & The Last Crusade. You got style in spades. Please come and redesign my house. I will pay you.

  7. I want it all. Fabulous set of answers. I think the go kart is the fave though.

  8. I can't decide which is my favourite of your quirky inventions so they are all my favourites! You are truly a madly creative person! I think, on two second's reflection, the bookcase is my favourite, but if we ever do make it round to your house-can I please have a go on the wheeled toy? Thanks in advance!

  9. I definitely want a go on the new sport of windsurf ladders...and a set of book case doors

  10. I knew you were my sort, I JUST KNEW it!
    This post thrills me.
    I have a scret compartment on my boat, and have always longed for hinged book cased, my own cannon, graveyard, and some great garden parties.

    You ROCK!!!!!!

    Comfort Spiral

  11. Wow you are clever. The bit about the alarm switch made me laugh, love it. I MUST have one of those bookcase doors. MUST I tell you!

  12. Savvy - I really don't think you want to live next door to us (it may be no accident that no one does). You can come and live with us, though.

    Imaginary - The kart thing definitely brings out the inner child. Especially in the Social Secretary's twin.

    Jimmy - I'm glad you approve of the cannon; it's been worrying me that no one's ever tried to nick it. Now I know it's all right.

    Lulu - I suppose I can admit, now that the damage is done, that I've always had a hankering for speaking tubes. If we ever have central heating put in, it's going to be hard to resist getting them to include a second set of pipes.

    Lucy - I did do a sketch of what I wanted, but it was my splendid builder who went thoughtfully off and worked out the details. I just made the mechanism.

    I saw a secret library door - I think it was at Wooburn - when I was a child; it just used book spines, which wasn't very convincing. This one carries an enormous load, but hasn't dropped a fraction in about 12 years, so it can be done.

    We were also breaking through (a party cavity wall in this case), which was an advantage, because the hole was sized to fit (the carpenter built the bookcase round the edges of a standard door, rather than on the face - something I wouldn't have thought of). If you ever really contemplate it, I can send you more details of hinges, etc. On the other side it just looks like a normal, panelled door. The downside is it doesn't open as wide as a normal one. Room to carry a tray or small pieces of furniture through, but we had an external door on the other side, so didn't have to worry about big stuff.

    On a different note, two recent books draw to a small extent on my mother's diaries. 'Outbreak 1939' by Terry Charman, and 'Words of War' by Marcus Cowper. (Not suggesting you buy them, but if they pass across your desk...!)

    Steve, the inside of this house can only be described as 'distressed' and 'shabby chic'. If I even came near yours with my planner's clipboard, spiders would multiply and paint begin to peel.

    Madame DeF - Good choice; it's the best of fun!

  13. Sarah - Of course! (Have you really never been? Come). They'd have to move the two gay bulls that are out there at the moment.

    NB - Just bring a bottle!

    Cloudia - A girl after my own heart! Although I know you don't do things by halves...a big motorcycle, living on a boat, published author...You put the gneiss in Rock!

    DJ - Quirky clearly appeals...I think you should try this meme.

  14. Gadzooks, sir - you are a veritable Heath Robinson, or Wilf Lunn (but more successful). Now, about that patent application...

  15. Oh the secret room, the secret room! Though the cannon surely comes a close second - working, I take it, to scare off would-be marauders....?

    What a dazzling array of innovations though - Sylvester McCoy would be proud!

  16. Oh, the cannon!
    I have been agitating for one to set up on our weir ever since we bought this house. I also want to put up a notice
    'You are now entering British territorial waters'
    and arrange to have a remote controlled gunboat a la Palmerston to sink the canoes and kayaks that think they can swan past the house on a private stretch of water, rather than portage same down the weir and drag them down the stony river bed which is a public right of way.
    I am sick of the water birds being disturbed by yelling dumbos.

  17. Good lord, this is treasure chest of inventiveness - I've always admired people with engineering talent, having tried and failed to acquire it myself. I go for the cart too, but still can't get the image of Compo, Clegg & Foggy (was it?) careering down the hill in a bathtub out of my mind.

  18. These are not quirks, these are facets of genius!

    I suddenly have an urge to papier mache something. Possibly he rabbit if he's too sedentary.

  19. You have a graveyard in your garden, I'm so impressed.

  20. Oh fan-bloody-tastic! Pure genius the lot of it, super impressed. My dad made a swing out of an old vacuum cleaner once...

  21. Dotterel - You are nearer the truth than you might imagine;the drive on the mower we've been working on mow engages with the help of a piece of shock cord!)

    Laura - The cannon does command the drive...

    Fly - It sounds as if you have an intractable problem there. I remember in the 1970s sailing close enough to the Hebridean island of Gruinard to read the MoD anthrax warning signs; they deterred us pretty effectively. Perhaps a wee sign saying, 'Canoes will be clamped'?

    Gadjo - A bathtub? Now there's an idea! (Driving back from Bristol on the M4 once, we overtook two men tucked up under a duvet, driving what appeared to be a double bed. Really).

  22. Jules - Papier mache-ing pets is a lost art. My attempts with goldfish were a complete failure.

    Eryl - There is a reclusive man who lives in a little cottage by the woods near here, who has buried his wife and son in his garden. It's perfectly legal, but apparently reduces the property value!

    Amanda - Are you serious about the vacuum cleaner? That's fantastic, although hard to picture. Or am I being very gullible?

  23. No, serious! It was one of the old 'long' type cleaners and he set it up like a rocket-type swing. I have a photo somewhere of my older brother riding it. For many years we had a family joke that Dad could never let anything be used for it's true purpose!

  24. That was just so bloody...familiar Brother Tobias. You said that 'INTERCOM' was a phone? Heh, looks similar to one we had on the farm, which strikes me as very odd (aunt K would love this post)...

    Wots gone wrong with the Sign-in mode on your blog!!!

  25. Just catchingup,again. I LOVE the intercom - we have 3 storeys and the girls are at the top and usually have their doors closed and headphones on or music blaring out so (until I gave up and started texting them) I either had to shriek like a banshee or go up two flights of stairs. I always wanted one of those systems they have on ships with the pipe down to the engine room, but I really like your idea

  26. I am very keen to learn the steering mech of your kart.Do you have anymore pics or drawings as i would like to build one for the kids.
    I would be most grateful.
    Ian Clarke

  27. You are someone after my own heart. :o)
    I LOVE all the quirky stuff....... and the imagination that goes with it. Inspiring!!! :o)
    Kevin (Taunton, Somerset, UK).