Posts Tagged With: sustainability

Somebody to Cove


Replacement Front for Darth Vader’s face mask


For me, coving is as necessary as allowing fish to take part in the Tour de France. So, you can imagine my delight when the piece above the fireplace decided that it really wanted to visit the carpet, via the top of the fire. Sadly, the trip was too much for it and it went to pieces. About a million of them. Some of those bits are now decomposing in a raised bed. They can be squash plants in a year or two’s time.

Surprisingly, it turned out that thesnailofhappiness’s Mum had three lengths of coving in her barn. More surprisingly still, she also had a Cove Mitre which I later learnt was a really useful thing and not a piece of headgear for a pope to wear on DIY Sunday, which is probably a festival in some sects. Papa Snail had, apparently, coved (that must be the verb) their previous house and I believe that such coving was not the reason they moved out, so he must’ve been good at it.

It took me a while to figure out how to use the Cove Mitre – actually thesnailofhappiness worked it out while I swore – but cutting the coving was quick and easy. Sticking it up would have been too, if the glue had had the quality you expect of glue, you know, stickiness – but some panel pins held the coving in place while the glue thought about what it should be doing.

Eh voila! Coving up and waiting to be painted. And I thought afterwards how not only did Papa Snail make a snailofhappiness for me to love, but also gave me a Cove Mitre and two and a half metres of coving. That’s quite a debt I owe him!


All my Coving



Categories: repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Hedges should be shared

Prickly - but sooo cute

Prickly – but sooo cute

I went up to the wonderiffic place that is Denmark Farm to see Spike. Spike is a hedgehog that appears to have been abandoned by his Mother – I don’t think he was left in a basket, wrapped in swaddling clothes (Spike, not the basket), on the doorstep but he may have been. Given the correlation between stork migration and human births*, anything is possible.

Something very lovely about Spike's spines, close up

Something very lovely about Spike’s spines, close up

Spike is amazingly friendly to humans, not rolling up into a spiky ball when handled. He is going off to overwinter at a sanctuary (a Hogspital, no less, whose website is before being returned to Denmark Farm in the spring, to start exploring the habitat he was born in.

All together now – ahhh…

Spike strikes a pose - a sleepy pose

Spike strikes a pose – a sleepy pose


* There isn’t one, not really.

Categories: camera, wildlife | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

From Dinosaurs to Electric Horses

Diesel out of thin air? Maybe...

Diesel out of thin air? Maybe…

A couple of weeks or so ago, I read this article on the venerable BBC website and borrowed the picture from it (I hope Carbon Engineering won’t mind). The story started me thinking about (i) how ingenious Humans are (ii) how useless Humans are and (iii) how we should start to transition from being useless to being ingenious.

It feels as if there are two different species of Humans on Earth (plus the apparent-superhuman one that inhabits the International Space Station).

One of our ingenious-turned-useless(or indeed deadly) technological inventions has been the internal combustion engine. Having helped us quite literally to shape our planet (our only planet by the way, in case anyone needs reminding – oil exploration companies seem to have forgotten this decades ago), it is now part of the problem rather than the solution. It is a dinosaur that should have become extinct, certainly in non-industrial applications, long ago.

Replacing all private fossil-fuel powered transport has to be a start, but it couldn’t happen overnight (for practical reasons apart from anything else). So, how about a transition period where fossil fuel cars are gradually, but quickly, replaced with renewable-powered alternatives, whilst using a non-fossil derived fuel to power them through the changeover?

The technology the article describes is quite ingenious – it scrubs the carbon dioxide from the air, where currently there really is too much of it, producing a pure stream of carbon dioxide. The carbon atoms can then be joined together in long chains to create fuel. OK, it isn’t quite that easy, but it uses well-established chemistry (the Fischer-Tropsch process from 1925, now you ask). If renewable energy is used to power the energy-hungry CO2 extraction process, the diesel produced can be close to being carbon neutral. Burning it would release carbon dioxide back into the air from whence it came.

Lots of these please!

Lots of these please!

What is needed right now, though, is a major car manufacturer to start properly mass-producing low cost electric vehicles and set in place the infrastructure of refuelling stations. My vision has always been of a garage forecourt where you drive in, the battery slides out from your car to be replaced with a fully charged one, and you drive off. The old battery is charged from solar panels mounted on the expansive roof that every petrol station has over the forecourt.

It strikes me that the path from useless to ingenious actually isn’t that hard a journey. It’s a bit like that phrase “it isn’t easy being green”. I would say “Oh yes it is, unless you’re a frog with a pig as a stalker. Then nothing can be easy.”

Next time on “Mr Snail goes on and on about renewable energy”: what to do with old bridges.


Categories: recycling, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Palletable DIY: Breaking the Pallet

*Magic* Yellow Bar thingy

*Magic* Yellow Bar thingy

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, I had a birthday cake (which was yummy), a promise of driving fast cars round Silverstone (in October, can’t wait) and this magic yellow bar thingy which is definitely its technical name because it is a bar and it is yellow. And it is MAGIC!

The age-old problem of dismantling pallets is well-known to those of us who, well, dismantle pallets in the (in my case) oft-mistaken belief we can re-purpose the wood into something else – a chair, a gate (ha ha) or a scale model of the Severn Bridge (only kidding, at least for now). Well, this device just slots in either side of the planks and with very little pressure levers them up in a it-uses-physics-and-leverage-cleverness fashion.

Using physics-and-leverage-cleverness

Using physics-and-leverage-cleverness

So, from this:

In one piece...

In one piece…

to this:

...into several pieces

…into several pieces

took 9 minutes. Another 16 minutes elapsed whilst I removed the vicious nails.

Gnilain - nailing in reverse

Gnilain – nailing in reverse

Not quite sure what to do with the three supports – having used two of them to put the planks over whilst doing the gnilain, I think I’ll leave them in case the assemblies are useful as they are.

Next time on Palletable DIY: the DIY begins. What could possibly go wrong? There could be a list…


MAGIC YELLOW BAR THINGY – it comes from, er, somewhere, the Snail knows, I’ll put it here when she reminds me. It was some guy on Twitter apparently. Or Hogwarts.

Categories: General silliness, recycling, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments


The Deerly Departed

The Deerly Departed

As some of you know, I have, in the past, worked as an IT consultant of sorts attempting to bring all kinds of chaotic data to peace and understanding. Much of this activity took place in a galaxy far, *ahem*, a county far, far away from West Wales and when the project finished in 2010, I decided to become a best-selling author instead.

I became a selling author – the ‘best’ is yet to come!

Two weeks ago, I was asked by the same Reading-based company I left in 2010 to go back and fix all the mistakes, *cough*, help them with a new project involving the migration of data of the most unruly nature. Naturally, I cancelled all my book signings (in total, zero) and all my guest appearances on “The Graham Norton Show” (in total, go on guess) and jumped at the opportunity.

After proving to the company that I was who I said I was (or rather, I was who they thought I was when they ‘phoned me in the first place), I embarked on finding a flat to live in. Last time, I had found a place to live for the final two and a half years with no real bother – I looked round a place I liked, I signed a form, paid a massive fee for apparently being allowed the privilege of signing the form, and that was that.

Naively, I thought that the process wouldn’t have changed much.

Having ended up having to go down to Reading because I can’t just stump up a couple of month’s rent via a BACS transfer and move in without the letting agency actually seeing me, I decided to use a local hotel rather than a big chain one for my visit. The big chain hotels in the middle of the town are uber-convenient, sure, but boy don’t they charge you for every little thing – parking, wi-fi, water, air etc. I found one on the edge of town (it took me about 10 minutes to walk into the centre), which had its own car park and free wi-fi and was cheaper (well, I booked very last minute and had the last room they had left). Not only that, but when I asked on the day I left whether cheekily I could leave my car in their car park for a few hours until I was ready to leave, they replied that there was no cheek required and to take as long as I needed.

The hotel had already impressed me though because of their policy, attached to the fridge door:

Local supporting Local

Local supporting Local


How great is that?

It is heartening to think that amidst the global corporation take-over of our lives, sustainable communities are still thriving, albeit in unlikely places!

Of course, the march of the all-encompassing consumerist monsters continues everywhere. As I walked to one of my favourite places in the country – the cemetery that gives the junction its name – I passed the old shop I used to use for emergency biscuits, milk, chocolate and other essentials such as chocolate. It was about 50 yards up the road from where I lived back in 2008/9/10.

Tesco 1Crown Colonnade 0

Tesco 1       Crown Colonnade 0

Sadly, for whatever reason, Tesco have now taken it over and it will no doubt destroy any of the local businesses in the vicinity that try to compete.

Happily, the Muntjac deer are still sustainably grazing the cemetery and still avoiding my lens. Some things never change!

I can see you, you know!

I can see you, you know!


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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