Posts Tagged With: Sam the dog

RIP Sam: The First (and possibly last) Aberaeron Terrier

With a heavy broken heart, I have to report that Chez Snail is now one dog down, after Sam, that doyen of squeaky balls and eaten zips, passed away a couple of weeks ago. She was 15½ and had still been trying to eat the post and see off those audacious neighbours who dared to open their car door or worse, close their car door, up to about a month before she reached the end.

Sam was a rescue. She had been found living on the streets of Newport in South Wales and had been in the dog pound for the allotted nine days. She was due to be put down but was rescued with about three hours to spare. We happened to be at the rescue looking for a dog the following day. I picked up Sam (then called Ripley for no reason) and she put her head on my shoulder and went to sleep. Two days later, Sam was in the car, coming back home with us.

She wasn’t an easy dog in that she was HYPER all the time, but we were given some great advice which was “get another dog, but with the opposite energy to Sam”. So we did, and Sam and Max formed a great partnership, what with Max being half dog, half soft furnishing. Sam calmed down, Max sped up and I think they bonded in a quite extraordinary way. After Max died, Sam went into a decline so, by happenchance, we acquired Daisy, who Sam seemed to rub along with very well.

Sam leaves two squeaky balls (with no squeaks) and what looks like an antler bone but may be a piece of the postman. She is at rest, facing the setting sun, next to her Max, in the raised bed she so loved to climb in and dig up.

To say we at Chez Snail miss her is an understatement. She was a part of our lives’ fabric, the part that used to have a zip.


Categories: Universe | Tags: | 17 Comments

The Value of Value


It’s a bit ranty this blog, so here’s a fun picture to balance it out

I saw this story first on Facebook and then elsewhere. It rather neatly, I think, demonstrates how value and cost are often not related to each other than through the perceptions of the protagonists.

Someone, having visited a York café and paid £2 for a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon, complained on Trip Advisor (rather than directly to the owner of the cafe in person). This customer did apparently ask the waiter why the cost was set as it was, to which he replied that it was the same as a pot of tea for one, presumably in an attempt to make the cost seem reasonable. However, the owner replied on Trip Advisor, with a somewhat more detailed breakdown:

I’m sorry that you feel that you were “ripped off” and I’ll try to explain why you weren’t. You entered the cafe and the waiter showed you to your seat, gave you a menu, waited for a time and then took your order. He entered it into the till, collected a cup, saucer and spoon and took them into the kitchen. There, he selected a knife, chopping board, got a lemon from the fridge, cut off a slice and put it in the cup. Then, he returned to the dining room, drew off the necessary hot water and carried the cup to your table. When you were leaving, he printed off your bill, took it to you, processed your credit card payment and cashed off the till. After you left, he cleared away your cup, saucer and spoon, took them into the kitchen, washed and dried them, along with the chopping board and knife and put away the lemon. Then, returning to the dining room, he restacked the cup, saucer and spoon, wiped down your table and replaced the menu, awaiting the next customer.

That’s at least 2-3 minutes work for the waiter.

The cost of overheads for the business, ie rent, business rates, electricity costs, bank charges, etc, works out at £27.50 per hour of trading. I pay my colleagues a decent living wage and after taking into account holiday pay, national insurance and non-productive time prior to opening and after closing, the waiter who served you costs me £12.50 per hour. Therefore, together the cost is £40 per hour or 67p per minute, meaning that the cost of providing you with 2-3 minutes of service was £1.34 – £2.00. Then the government add on VAT at 20% which takes the cost of that cup of fruit infusion to between £1.60 and £2.40 irrespective of whether you had a teabag costing one and a half pence or a slice of lemon costing five pence.

I have to pay my suppliers otherwise the facilities won’t be available to other people who use them in the future. I accept that it makes the price of a cuppa in a city centre cafe look expensive compared to the one you make at home but unfortunately that’s the cruel reality of life. It’s actually the facilities that cost the money, far more so than the ingredients. Perhaps, the rudeness that you perceived in me was triggered by the disrespect that I perceived in you by your presumption that you could use our facilities and be waited on for free.

What does this tale say to you?

I think it shows a problem that our society has sleep-walked into over the last few decades. We don’t know the value of anything, only the pounds and pence cost. We don’t stop to consider the true cost to the supplier, the manufacturer or the originator. There is a belief that, with the Internet, everything ought to be free. Nothing has a value, nothing IS a value. I should have that printed on T-shirts and give them away as examples of post-modern irony gone mad.

Actually, for me, one of the really short-sighted aspects of this story is the charging of VAT on café food. The benefit to a society of having free speech in public places over a cup of tea, coffee, lemon infusion or even a skinny-organic-moccha-macciato-with-extracts-oh-yes-from-yoga-mat-infused-a-chino is incalculable. And, in the last case, undrinkable.



Categories: Sustainable Stuff, Universe | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Bolshy Pallet or how a neighbour’s rasp saved the day

Everybody, meet…

Our old, slightly dangerous Garden Bench

Our old, slightly dangerous Garden Bench

Our old, slightly dangerous Garden Bench…everybody. Good, now we all know one another, we can start.

This bench was given to thesnailofhappiness by her parents, probably about 20 years ago. Since then, it has done sterling service in the Welsh weather and, save one treatment with Ballistol pine oil, has had little TLC (Timber Looking-after Care).

It, like me, started to sag in the middle a few years back and I fashioned it an extra leg (there are a whole host of reasons why we won’t dwell on that particular terminology) and, you know what? It was almost completely useless…

The third man, er, leg, er stop sniggering at the back

The third man, er, leg, er, stop sniggering at the back

What was needed, said the SOH one day last week, was a support that could be obtained from a piece of pallet, suitably placed under the bench to shore it up and thus allow us to drink wine outside without the nagging fear that any creaking sound might not be from my knees but from the bench about to give up once and for all.

Like the man who just LOVES such things, I accepted this new DIY challenge with alacrity, that bordered on sheer stupidity. The first thing was to find a suitable pallet, like those I picked up from the wonderful Felin Ganol Mill – flour and pallets, what can you ask for?* – this blue one was just right (and the one on the top of the pile, too).

Full Wooden Pallet

BEFORE: Full Wooden Pallet

AFTER: mini-pallet

AFTER: mini-pallet










In theory, I would only have to cut a groove in the middle leg to fit it over the, er, middle strutty thing on the bench and then shave a few millimetres off the legs of the mini-pallet and hey presto! A bench, as good as one that was safe to sit on.

Have a look at the picture I started this post with. Look at the tools. A saw, for slicing the pallet with; a hammer, for putting a couple of nails to hold the structure together; a box with some nails in; the previous middle leg (I won’t say it again:stop your sniggering) to get in the way of things. Ah, the naivety of it! The sheer foolish optimism that guides the idiot male-snail on his journey of sustainability and planet-saving.

Groovy baby!

Groovy baby!

Not-so-groovy-more-a-bit-of-a-mess baby!

Not-so-groovy-more-a-bit-of-a-mess baby!










My idea was simple (as you might expect) – the wood is that sort that is layered so should split nicely down the grain. Indeed, the two end bits were and required just a small chisel and a hammer to remove them. The problem with the main chunk of wood in the middle was that it wasn’t orientated in such a friendly way. The grain runs vertically, as in the right hand picture. This meant the the chisel approach wasn’t going to work.

It took me about two hours to realise this. Without the groove, the whole thing would be useless. I needed it to support the planks on the bench you sit on – it was them that were flexing the most each time anyone sat down. The cross-piece (and I was cross with it) in the middle helped to spread the weight to the back of the bench so needed to stay. Having a bench to sit on come wine o’clock was looking like a distant dream, up there with personal jet packs and politicians with common sense (or indeed, common sense politicians with personal jet packs).

After lunch and a trip to the local hardware store to buy a plane and/or wood file that they didn’t have (well, it was a cheap shopping trip if nothing else), I realised that I should be neighbourly and see if our wonderful next door neighbours might have something of use. They had a rasp which, quite by chance, fitted exactly into the groove (was this what Madonna meant in her song? I am guessing not.). So, if I could remove most of the wood in the middle, I should be able to rasp the rest away, if that is indeed a verb.

One of our dogs, Sam, came to “help”. She couldn’t be bothered to bark, so wore a cap saying “Woof” for effect.

Sam helping by holding my cap

Sam helping by holding my cap

It took another twenty minutes to rasp out the groove but eventually it was done. I fitted the pallet under the bench – the groove worked perfectly.

It was just a shame that the back legs of the pallet support were too long and so the whole bench now rocked in an even more precariously way than before (in that before, it didn’t actually rock at all).

Taking stock, I realised that I would have to remove one of the slats on the back of the pallet in order to reduce the height of the legs. The offending leg was about 2 millimetres too long – I thought it was too good to be true when, at the beginning of this ordeal, er, project, the height needed under the bench exactly lined up with the bottom of a slat.

I removed the slat, and reduced the height by exactly 2 millimetres. OK, I guessed and removed “a bit”. This time, it worked and the bench was once again, safe to sit on.

I used the wood so preciously rasped and cut from the pallet to boil the Kelly Kettle and make a cup of tea.

The fixed bench - just in time for wine o'clock!

The fixed bench – just in time for wine o’clock!

The groove doing its groovy thing

The groove thing doing its groovy thang










Later, thesnailofhappiness and I sat out, in the evening sun, supping a very nice Chardonnay; the only thing creaking was my knees. And my arms. And my hands. And my back.


* Don’t answer that.



Categories: Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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