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Floorboards – Sand, Paint and Reveal The Beauty

You know what? Underneath that tired, possibly stained, dust mite-infested carpet, there’s very likely a wooden floor that could look a million times better – if you knew how to sand and paint it.

Luckily, I did just that recently, so here are my tips for doing it yourself…

1. Clear the room – Sanding a wooden floor can be dusty, especially if you have gaps between floorboards to fill. Take all your furniture out, cover shelves and mantels with plastic sheeting and take the curtains or blinds down. This will save you hours of time (and heartache) later, and it’s never a bad idea to stick the curtains into the dry cleaners when you’ve got them down.

2. Prepare the floor – Your wooden floor may have cuts in it from electrical or plumbing fitting, or from various repairs. You may even need to replace a board or two if they’re badly damaged. Fill any gaps you find with two-part wood filler. If your gaps are wider than 5mm, you may need to roll up some newspaper and press it into the gap to give you something to fill up against. Carefully lift any mouldings you find, which can sometimes sit between floorboards and a skirting board. If you lift these gently, you might be able to salvage them, otherwise most DIY stores have huge moulding selections you can replace them with. If you had carpets down, you’ll need to lift the gripper rods and any staples that held your underlay down. Also, if you’ve taken carpet up, you’ll need to get a different profile of threshold strip for any doorways into the room. If you’re going to paint the floor, fix down any loose, squeaky boards by screwing them down before you start filling. However, if you want to varnish your floor, use brad nails to secure your boards instead, as it’s a better look on wooden boards. It’s very important not to screw or nail down the middle of the end of your floorboard, as this is where the pipes and electrics will run if you have them. This is why floorboards are secured in the corners instead.

3. Get sanding – If your room is small, you have the time – and if your fingers could stand up to the grating they’d get – you could sand your floor by hand. But the best plan is to hire a drum floor sander from any building hire shop. They are a bit heavy, but you can have them delivered with plenty of sandpaper, and they’ll do the job very quickly and easily. Use 40 grit sandpaper to start, if you have old varnish or lots of ground-in debris, then use 120 grit to finish, so the surface ends up smooth. Work methodically up and down the room, making sure you don’t sand in one place for too long – the coarse sandpaper can really eat into the boards. Finish sanding the edges of the floor where the sander can’t quite reach by hand (or you could also borrow an edging sander), and then sweep and vacuum up the dust. And it’s a good idea to shake out your dust sheets now, so no dust falls on your floor while you’re painting.

4. Choose the right paint – You can paint, stain or varnish your sanded floor in a wide range of colours and finishes, but make sure you buy products that are specifically for floors – they are harder wearing and certainly worth the small extra cost per litre. You can use 3″ or 4″ brushes to paint with. If you use a roller, which is quicker, it will leave your floor with a stippled effect, which doesn’t look so good on a painted floor. With a brush, you can lay off your paint work for a smoother finish – this means painting in the direction of the grain of wood, and painting any drips back into the wood. If you are painting your floor, you’ll need to put at least two coats of undercoat down first. Make sure you use a compatible undercoat to the top coat you are using – they are often designed to work together. I used Farrow & Ball paint for my floor, so two coats of wood floor primer and undercoat, followed by two coats of Charleston Gray Modern Eggshell.

5. Don’t paint yourself into a corner – Most importantly, start on the far edge of the room and don’t paint yourself into a corner (this does happen, and is a right laugh when the apprentices do it!). If you intend to keep your doors on their hinges during the job, make sure you paint the floor behind them before you paint yourself out of the room. Also, open the windows so you don’t poison yourself with fumes. Pay attention to the drying times, so you can get multiple coats on efficiently, and paint the top coats in the same way. For stains and varnishes, apply in the same way, just don’t forget that ventilation – they can be really smelly.

Britain’s Top Rankin Photos

Anyone can be a photographer these days, and even if we can’t reach the higher echelons of A-list snappers, we all have the ability to capture a moment in time.

That was the challenge photographic community Photobox set users when they invited submissions for their This is Britain project. Published and produced by Photobox, the coffee table book features images of the colours and characters that make up our society, all taken by members of the public, with a final selection curated by celebrity photographer Rankin.

More than 300 pictures reflecting the passage of the day sit alongside essays by personalities such as Kelly Hoppen MBE, Ben Fogle, Lorraine Kelly OBE and Denise van Outen. We asked Rankin to tell us about some of his favourite images from the book, which could of course be a lovely Christmas gift for someone.

1. Natural arc – I love this photo. The beautiful rainbow seems to perfectly span the length of the bridge. The row of local fishing boats reminds me of the thriving fishing industry of the past.

2. Wallflower – This is a great photo. The giant wall appears intimidating with the small child looking up at it. The beautiful apple tree growing up the wall pops out against the red brick. It’s stunning.

3. Monochrome beauty – This photographer certainly knows what they’re doing. The viaduct fades beautifully into the background while the harsh black and white colourings on the dog are so impactful.

4. End of the day – Wow! We’re so lucky to have an amazing coastline in the UK which provides a natural canvas for photographers to get creative. The warm light from this sunset bounces off the shoreline to create a mind-blowing photo.

5. Time for play – Nothing says playtime better than some puddle jumping and this photo captures it perfectly. I love the rows of beach huts in the background – very British.

Rankin’s top tips for taking pictures:

1. The first and most important thing for photography is light. Whether you’re on the bus or in your kitchen, think about light and where it’s coming from all the time to help sculpt the world around you.

2. You don’t need a big expensive camera – use a smartphone. They’re perfectly good enough to take great photos. The phone is just a tool, so use your imagination, get creative and take risks.

3. There are no rules. Photography isn’t meant to be prescriptive or strict. It’s supposed to be fun, so get out there and enjoy it.

This is Britain is produced and published by Photobox, in aid of BBC Children In Need, and available now. It’s priced at £25, with more than 40% of the sale price donated to the charity.

First Drive: BMW M5

What is it?
So here it is – the all-new BMW M5. Following in the footsteps of some of the best-regarded super-saloons ever made, this latest four-door powerhouse has got a tougher job than ever to remain top of the pile thanks to some hugely capable rivals. Utilising the very latest engine technology, it’s also the first M5 to feature all-wheel-drive, as well as a host of other features designed to make it sharper and more capable than ever before.

What’s new? – There’s a lot going on. The new BMW M5 makes use of a 4.4-litre V8 turbocharged engine as well as that all-important all-wheel-drive system – one of the biggest changes to the M5’s layout, with most M-cars traditionally powering the rear wheels only. That said, this new car can still be locked off to rear-wheel-drive only – so purists need not be too aghast. Not only this, but this sixth-generation car is lighter than ever before too, making use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic to keep its overall weight down.

What’s under the bonnet? – As mentioned, the new BMW M5 uses a 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 engine to power all four wheels. Here, it produces 592bhp and 750Nm of torque, allowing it to hit 60mph in 3.2 seconds before reaching an electronically limited 155mph top speed. All that fury is sent to the wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. BMW claims that the M5 will do 26.9mpg on a combined cycle, while emitting 241g/km CO2 – so there’s still some degree of sense despite the performance madness.

What’s it like to drive? – BMW M5s of old had a reputation for being somewhat spiky to drive. This latest one has been designed to offer a little more traction – and it’s well and truly achieved this. Despite packing close to 600bhp, the M5 rarely feels out of control, instead offering a lot of balance and adjustability. The biggest factor in this is that all-wheel-drive system. There’s no doubting the car’s rear-drive-bias; when the system is set to allow a certain amount of slip, the M5 will fall into delightful mini-drifts, sliding you through corners without ever feeling like it’s going to spin around and bite you. Turn all the systems back on, and it transforms into a point-to-point weapon with all of the traction you could want.

Then there’s the engine. Anybody who doubted turbocharged engines in performance cars needs to experience the way the M5’s V8 deploys its power. There’s no lag to speak of, just shove throughout the rev range. Of course, lower down is where you notice the power the most and any press of the throttle is accompanied by a deep, mechanical bellow. The steering also has a decent weight to it, though it feels its most capable in sport mode – the middle of the three. Comfort feels too light, while sport plus is granite-heavy. The middle ground, unsurprisingly, is the best bet.

How does it look? – The M5 exudes all of the classic styling that we’ve come to expect from big, powerful M-cars. It’s certainly not as wild as the current-generation M3, but it still looks special. At the rear, four exhaust pipes to give some hint of the car’s performance, as do the gills at the side of the car, but all in all it’s still instantly recognisable as a BMW saloon – and that’s no bad thing at all. M-cars aren’t meant to be shouty and brash in terms of exterior styling, as they let their performance do the talking – and that’s just the case here.

What’s it like inside? – The interior of the M5 uses the vast majority of components from the standard, but excellent, 5 Series cabin. That means you still get an infotainment system which is simple and easy to operate, as well great build quality and good materials. The M5 builds on this with additional ‘sporting’ touches, such as carbon-fibre finishers for the dashboard. The biggest changes come in the form of driving mode selectors. Two red ‘M’ buttons sit at either side of the steering wheel, and allow you to customise the suspension, steering and engine responsiveness to one of three modes. There’s also the drivelogic selector, now found on the top of the gear stick, which controls how quickly and sharply the car changes gear.

Of course, as it’s based on a standard 5 Series saloon, the M5 remains hugely practical. There’s loads of space for both sat up front, while rear seat legroom is excellent too. The cabin, as a whole, feels special as well as comfortable – and this makes it ideal for those who are planning to undertake longer journeys but still want plenty of ‘star’ factor.

What’s the spec like? – You’d expect any high-powered executive saloon to pack a lot of toys and, thankfully, the M5 delivers in this respect. Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights and dynamic LED brake lights on the outside, with BMW’s professional media system, 10.25-inch colour display and front heated seats just a variety of the long list of included technology for the inside. Being a BMW, there’s still a long list of options to choose from. Highlights include ceramic brakes, a sports exhaust system and a full carbon engine cover. That said, the car’s price starts at just shy of £90,000 which means, even by ticking just a few boxes, the M5 could easily nudge into the six-figure bracket – and that’s a lot, even for a car with as much performance as this. That said, it’s in line with its competitors – the Mercedes-AMG E63S matches the BMW in the price department.

Verdict – The M5 certainly came into this world with a lot of competition. However, thanks to better all-round capability than ever before, it’s likely to come out on top when it goes on sale next year. It’s relatively expensive, but given the sheer amount of technology and performance on board, it feels more than worth the money.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Model: BMW M5

Price: £89,640

Engine: 4.4-litre turbocharged V8

Power: 592bhp

Torque: 750Nm

Max speed: 155mph

0-60mph: 3.2 seconds

MPG: 26.9

Emissions: 241g/km

Victoria Pendleton On Going Vegan and Why Horse Riding Keeps Her Happy


Victoria Pendleton is one of Britain’s most successful female Olympians.

The cyclist won a sprint gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. and later went on to win gold for the Keirin event at the 2012 London Olympic Games. By the time she retired from cycling in 2012, she’d also won nine gold medals at the World Championships.

After a glittering career, she swapped one saddle for another and is now an amateur jockey and horsewoman.

Victoria, 37, who lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, talks about falling in love and being fearless…

How do you look after your health?

“I thought I’d be a party animal when I retired from cycling, but it just doesn’t suit me. I love eight hours a night sleep and early mornings too much. I’m out by 7am walking or jogging with our Doberman dogs, Stella and Mr Jonty, or I’m riding my bike to the stables.

“As I’m an animal lover – and a person that’s quite conscious of my carbon footprint – I’m now almost completely vegan. I have no dairy and only plant-based food with the occasional egg. “I really appreciate being able to eat what I want, which I couldn’t when I was competing. I could never choose food for its taste. Instead, it was about eating for nutritional content and with a strict routine – which took the pleasure out of it.

“I also had to be a complete carnivore as vegetarian food wouldn’t have given me enough protein and amino acids to maintain muscle mass.”

What’s your biggest achievement?

“Olympic medals aside – horse riding. Last year, in just 12 months, I went from never having ridden to coming fifth in the Foxhunter (cor) Chase, over a course with 22 fences. While the medals for cycling were a long time in the making, being able to devote myself in a short, intense period to something completely new, was incredible. Afterwards, I knew I couldn’t have given any more of myself than I did. That’s such a good feeling.”

What makes you happy?

“I fell in love with riding on my first lesson and being in the equestrian world gives me a joy that I wouldn’t have believed possible. “Working with horses is good for me as I’m a naturally impatient person, but you can’t be with animals, so it’s tempering that strong streak of wanting everything done ‘now’.


“I’m retraining my racehorses with a long-term aim to compete at eventing – which comprises dressage, show jumping and cross country. I love having nothing to prove or chase in this new world. I can just indulge my obsession, which is being with horses. I literally get unhappy if I don’t see them every day.” Who’s the love of your life? “My horse, Vesper [Vesperal Dream]. He’s a black beauty – French-bred, elegant and very slender. He’s very confident, loves looking at himself in the mirror and has such a nice way. All the girls at the stable yard have fallen in love with him as well.”

“Oops, actually I’ve just thought that’s a bit embarrassing as I should have also said my husband, Scott! I’m such a horsey lady now. It’s the same when I talk to other female riders – we all mention our horses first and husbands second.”

Do you have any regrets?

“I regret not giving myself more time off during my cycling career. I’m such a perfectionist and was so desperate to keep achieving that I was too frightened to take a break and appreciate my success. Instead, I always had my head down and was focused on the next goal. I think that’s typical of life these days – people are always seeking more. With hindsight, I’d have been a more balanced individual if I’d allowed myself to step away occasionally.”

How do you feel about cycling now?

“I’m just a fair-weather cyclist now. Most of my cycling is to and from he stables. Occasionally Scott and I go on a ride for fun, but that’s about it. I’ll keep track of the competitive cycling results out of interest and for commentating work.

“My biggest disappointment was ending my career when I was 32 because, although I ended on a high, inside I felt I still had more to achieve. That’ll always be a frustration. Even so, I have no desire to compete again.

“Retiring’s been fantastic as it’s opened up an exciting new world of possibilities for me. I’m an adventurous person who loves change. I’ll give any sport a go – I’ve actually just taken up surfing.”

How do you want to be remembered?

“For being honest. I’ve always tried to be open and honest about who I am, what I do, my challenges and my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve never tried to be anything other than myself. I’d like to be seen as a hard worker who took opportunities, but above all, as someone who’s fearless and prepared to try anything. I’m not scared of failure, because I think life is all about experiences.”

Victoria Pendleton has developed a range of women’s bikes exclusively for Halfords. The Pendleton E-Somerby and Bayley are available now in shops.

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