A sunny Sunday afternoon in July, and the opportunity for a bit of geocaching, especially as I’d been fiddling with this year’s Groundspeak souvenir hunting exercise – they do one every year, whereby they publish souvenirs to cachers who meet certain criteria for finds over the summer period. This year’s one include some massive complexity in the setup whereby caches were arbitrarily identified as being various parts of some crime detection game. You had to first find a policeman, or something. Then you had to find a handful of different “clues” and finally you had to locate five different “jewels” – On the previous day I didn’t really understand how it worked, and I ended up making a couple of finds that didn’t contribute towards my progress. A friend told me the best thing to do was to just go out and do a load of caches, and see what happened. So that’s what I tried.

I chose to visit a couple of relatively new series to the west of Cambridge, based around the villages of Eltisley and Caxton. One series between the two villages was mainly over agricultural land, and the second, running east from Caxton, skirted the edge of the nearby town of Cambourne.

I parked up in Caxton, which meant the series formed a kind of figure-of-eight shape from where I parked. I decided to head west first mainly because it was the larger of the two loops.

It turned into a very warm day, and like a complete numpty I wasn’t carrying enough drinks. I’d got some, but only put one bottle in my bag, which was barely enough to sustain me around the first loop. This being the countryside, there’s not exactly a plethora of corner shops en route. At least I was able to pick up another bottle when I got back to the car.

By the time I started the second loop my legs were starting to ache a bit. This part took me initially over a stretch of what I would call fields, but it might more accurately be called scrubland. No real agriculture, as such. It took me to the edge of a new housing development in Cambourne where the builder had obviously been forced to construct a small linear park along the edge, ideal for walking dogs, screening off noise, and hiding tupperware.

When I got back to the car it was still quite early in the afternoon, but I’d sort of run out of enthusiasm for a while. I decided to drive back towards home. On the way back I made a quick stop at Caxton Gibbet services to grab a McDonalds milkshake do a couple more caches.

When I got nearer to home I elected to have a pop at a few new caches in Milton Keynes. Pesh had planted a few new ones for his summer geocoin fair, and I hadn’t been to get them. I thought I’d be able to do them as a series of short walks, but once I started walking to the first one I concluded I’d be best off just walking around. They were in a housing estate where parking opportunities are limited, so leaving my car in the only large car park in the village seemed best. It did make for a slightly longer walk than I could have done with, but there was a Caribbean cultural event on one of the playing fields which seemed to involve a lot of loud music and barbeques, and also an ice cream van. I’m not sure how authentically Caribbean a 99 with flake is, but if it’s Caribbean at all then I did my bit to support the event.

The 79 caches I found on the day were:

Kitchen Refit

Kitchen Refit

There comes a point in the life of every house where you look at various parts and come to the conclusion that they just need to be changed.

In the case of our kitchen, this came just under 20 years after we moved into the house. We’d still got the original builders-fit in place. Much of it was starting to look worn or damaged, and it was generally a mess. On top of that, various gas service engineers had been telling us for years that the boiler would eventually become impossible to fix due to unavailability of spares. We also knew we had a problem with the floor in one corner as a result of some water leakage out of the back of the dishwasher. We didn’t know quite how bad the problem was, but a spongey floor is rarely a good thing. I figured if I was going to have to replace the floor, then that would mean the units over the top of it would have to come out, and hence the seed was sown that we should replace the cupboards with new ones rather than putting the old ones back.

We shopped around a little bit, including visiting a couple of the big chain suppliers, but in all cases these would require some extra effort in project managing the whole activity, and typically they also won’t quote for anything other than simply installing new units. Everything else becomes a job for “custom pricing” once the work starts. In this context, “custom pricing” means that you’re more or less held to ransom, because once the job has started and your old kitchen is done, you more or less have to do whatever the contractors say, and pay them as much as they ask, otherwise your kitchen doesn’t get done. Because we wanted more-or-less of a rip and replace job, we wanted to avoid this.

We visited a small local company called Lima Kitchens to see what they were about – partly because of a recommendation from a running friend of Kas’s. They had some nice stuff in the showroom, and very importantly they offer an end-to-end service. So we thought we’d get them to do a design for us to compare against the chain competitors. The design they suggested was so completely and utterly not like the big-chain suggestions that they more or less had us at that first step. They did it by actually sending someone round to the house and talking to us about what we wanted, what our gripes were, and how we wanted to use our new room. All very good, and when we went in to review the proposal we had a bit of a jaw-dropping moment. It was definitely good. It was better than good, in fact. It was fan-dabi-dozi.

So once we’d finished admiring the design and giving some basic hints on the types of finish we’d want, we needed some lunch. We went to a nice pubstaurant in Stony Stratford to get fed and to think about what we’d just seen. We didn’t think about it for very long, though. We kind of decided to just do it, and on the way home from Stony we went back to Lima and paid them a deposit.

There was a wait of several weeks after this while we finalised the design and they ordered all the stuff, but that suited us because we didn’t want to disturb Ami’s period of mock exams during May, so we asked them to start after that. Anyway, it meant that the guts of the job could be done while we were away.

Everything went more or less to plan, with the notable exception of the wet floor being somewhat wetter than anticipated. This required a small “upgrade” to the work schedule to bring in a builder to replace a fairly significant portion of the chipboard and underlying joists in the soggy corner. Apart from that, though, all was pretty good.

They left us with water, power and heating every night, which was a challenge for them on a couple of days, most notably the day where the plumbers changed the boiler – that was a late night for them. When we got back from our holiday we had a functioning kitchen albeit with a dusty floor still and with a few doors missing from the units. Subsequent work rushed along nicely and after 3 complete weeks we were basically done apart from the decorating and a few superficial bits on the cupboards.

Now that we’re completely done, we have started using the kitchen as intended. The layout allows us to sit and hold conversations whilst cooking is in progress, and there’s more than enough space to sit and eat at the centre island. Deep joy.