My grandfather was a carpenter. I don’t seem to have inherited many of his skills, but I enjoyed woodwork at secondary school in Doncaster, and was disappointed when I couldn’t continue the subject when we moved to Elgin. In the distant past I made a kitchen, and a bed which is actually still in use. More recently I decided to have an attempt at making a bench under the window in our breakfast room.
Above is the room with its original decor. It took three coats of paint to make it presentable.
I found some boards in our shed, and bought some more wood from B&Q, then set to work.
Lindsey tested the structure.
The next stage was painting the uprights and front edge the same colour as I’d painted the skirting boards.
The thing you notice when attempting to make such things as this bench is that nothing is perfect. The floor is not 100% level, the walls are not 100% straight, and even the wood planks I bought at B&Q turned out to have slightly different dimensions. My saw cuts were also not completely straight, but in the end it doesn’t matter. More important is that the bench is structurally stable, and level, which it is.
The finished bench with cushions. This will give a maximum of five extra seating spaces. Unfortunately, there’s a slight design problem with the bench! The cushions were harder than I expected, and as a result, the height of the finished bench is slightly too high for some people, but it still functions.
In Ghosts of Happy Valley, Juliet Barnes writes about the houses built and owned by a group of white, hedonistic aristocrats in the area of Kenya known as the ‘Happy Valley’, a region of the Wanjohi Valley near the Aberdare mountain range, from the 1920s to the 1940s. The Happy Valley got its name from all of the debauchery and naughty goings-on that happened there, largely led by Lady Idina Sackville. You may have seen the White Mischief movie, which featured some of the participants.
The buildings in question were not fantastic constructions, and there were not all that many of them, and some of them are now little more than ruins, but Juliet Barnes makes them come alive once more in the pages of this book. Barnes made numerous visits to Wanjohi Valley, mostly in the company of a chap called Solomon Gitau, who works tirelessly for various conservation projects and who despises the recent destruction of large parts of the Aberdare forest as a result of population growth and unenforced regulations.
Ghosts of Happy Valley is a fascinating book, though at times I found it difficult to follow all of the historical characters involved, as they are numerous and many had nicknames. An awful lot of them seem to have had character flaws, many became alcoholics and several met with untimely deaths from one cause or another. The murder of Josslyn Hay (Lord Erroll), who was married to Lady Idina, has fascinated a lot of people, as no-one was ever convicted of the crime, and Barnes examines the evidence once more.