How one thing leads to another…

You may remember me posting recently about a leak inside the house. That necessitated the fitting of a new shower pump, which I mentioned previously. At the time, the plumber suggested that due to the hard water, it would be an idea to have a water softener fitted. I agreed for him to this, along with new taps in the bathroom sink.

And there was all that new guttering. Remember me mentioning that too?

Today, the plumber was due early, to get on with the arranged jobs. I went out into the shed to make sure his access to the heating boiler was free, and noticed the sound of running water. A quick investigation showed that part of the new guttering had come adrift, presumably unable to cope with more than two month’s worth of rainfall in four days. So I rang the guttering company, and arranged for a man to come and look at that.

Meanwhile, the plumber arrived, and needed to turn off the hot and cold water supply so he could get on with the jobs. But the valves wouldn’t turn off. They were both seized up, no doubt also corroded by the notoriously hard water, and the resulting limescale. So the tanks had to be drained, and a new master valve fitted on the mains water. No point leaving the faulty hot water valve, so that was replaced too. Then the stopcocks in the cupboard, necessary for isolating the bathroom supply. Also unable to be moved, so both replaced as well.

So to replace the taps and fit the water softener turned into an all-day job that required replacing four valves and four stopcock handles.

Then the man arrived from the guttering company. He was unable to get the curved piece of plastic piping to remain in place, so ended up securing it with four screws. But he warned me that the problem might actually be in the way that the rainwater drains away once it goes into the ground. He mentioned this might be a ‘big job’. (When is it ever a ‘small job’?) At least there was no charge for screwing the guttering in place, as his previous work was guaranteed.

So as I sit here with substantially depleted savings, four new valves, two new taps, a new water softener, and the recently-installed shower pump; safe in the knowledge that the guttering section will not come adrift any time soon, I should finally be content.

But you will forgive me when I say that all I can think about is “What’s next?”

Some colour in the garden

(Photos can be enlarged, by clicking on them.)

With nothing but green to look at in the garden, I was pleased to see this shrub come into flower this week. The nice pink flowers add a much-needed break, in a sea of green.

Every year, I always promise myself to add some more colourful plants, and then never seem to get around to it. I don’t know the names of most flowers, bushes, or shrubs, so I am hoping that someone (yes you, Jude) will be able to tell me what this is called.

One step forward, two back

Regular readers will recall me posting about the recent renovations on the house. New windows, new guttering, some decoration in a bedroom and hallways, and nice new carpeting.

On Sunday, we noticed that part of the new carpet was soaking wet, just outside the door that leads to the water tank. There appeared to be nothing obvious, but the carpet was well and truly soaked. There was no odour or colour, so was unlikely to have been Ollie having an ‘accident’. (He never does anyway) That also confirmed that it wasn’t a leaking container of shampoo or other fluids stored on a shelf in that cupboard. Around the same time, the hot tap in the bathroom sink began to drip after being turned off.

Time to call the plumber.

I rang our regular man yesterday, and he arrived as promised this morning. A quick glance inside the cupboard, and he spotted the problem. The power shower pump unit was leaking. Just a small drip, but he told me that when the shower is being operated, the water would escape under pressure, hence the wet carpet around the doorway. Given the age and cheap quality of the old unit, he advised complete replacement. He also suggested moving it to the other side, where it can be properly secured to reduce vibration.

Then he checked the lever-operated tap, and declared that it was scaled up, so would need replacing. That means a pair of course, as you can’t buy just one tap. He explained that the hard water in this area will damage anything; from simple taps, to shower pumps and washing machines. He suggested we use him to install a water-softening device. Not one of the incredibly expensive ones that use salt, but an economy model that is recharged just once a year, with special ‘balls’.

I have used this plumber for years now. I know him and his family well, and he lives within walking distance of the house. I have recommended him to neighbours, and they have all been pleased with his reliability, and completed work. So, I trust him.

I will be telling him to go ahead with all of it. New pump, new taps, water softener, whatever is necessary. No point in taking half-measures, or cheap shortcuts.

But it is the old story. Just when I thought I was getting on top of this house, something else pops up to slap me around the face.

The joys of home ownership.

Ollie and The Painter

For the last three days, poor Ollie has been discombobulated. When the painter arrived early on Monday morning, as far as my dog was concerned, he was just a guest, and a potential playmate. He wagged his tail enthusiastically, and brought his most treasured toy, a tattered and smelly stuffed lion. But there was no time for play, as much work needed to be done.

Living in a one-level bungalow, there is no escape from having to go in and out of the two small hallways. We did our best, by leaving one of them free, which meant I was exiled from the small office room. But the other hallway is essential for access to both bathroom and kitchen, so disturbance of the tradesman was inevitable.

But worst of all, Ollie’s habit of following me around had to be curtailed. He could not understand why he wasn’t allowed to accompany me into the kitchen or bedroom, and why he was not allowed to lay down against the freshly-painted skirting boards. Much of the day was spent telling him to ‘Lie down’, ‘Stay’, or ‘Move’. He just didn’t understand what he was doing wrong, and took it as if he was being scolded for something. The sorrowful expression on his wrinkled face was painful to behold.

By yesterday afternoon, as all seven doors were in the process of being painted, the area available to the distressed dog had been reduced to not much more than twice his own size. Refusing to rest, he just stood staring at me, wondering why I wouldn’t throw his toys, or play tug-of-war with them. Even extra strokes and fuss couldn’t shake his gloomy mood. Once the painter had finished, and left for the day, Ollie naturally presumed that he would be granted his usual freedom to roam. But no. We had seven wet doors and some skirting boards to contend with, and he could not be allowed to brush past them, or lean against them.

I took him out to the kitchen for his dinner, shepherding him carefully past the wet paint. When he had eaten, he expected his evening play as usual. But once again, I had to disappoint him, as I could not risk him swiping one of his large stuffed toys across the fresh paint. His gloomy visage returned, and he slumped down on his rug with an audible sigh. I felt so guilty, and wished he could understand it was only temporary. But he couldn’t of course, and spent the evening stressed, and unable to relax, constantly seeking reassurance.

Today, we have no work going on. Ollie has crashed out, fast asleep on his rug. He is catching up on all the rest he has lost over the last three days, and dreaming his canine dreams.

I dare not mention the carpet layers, who are arriving next week. I will let him rest for now.

A tribute to tradesmen

Talking of decorating, I found this post from 2014. Only a few of you have seen it before. 🙂


And I should add, tradeswomen too.

I have been decorating a small room in our house. It was a relatively easy project, as I did not have to paint the windows, or gloss the door and surrounding wood. Clear the room, fill the cracks and screw-holes, sand down and wash the walls. This was followed by two coats of paint on the ceiling, then two coats of a different colour, on the walls. Some fiddly finishing touches followed. Making good the straight lines, going over tiny bits that were missed, and clearing the dust and spills from the carpet. This was not a mammoth task, and many readers could have probably completed this in a weekend, without giving it a second thought. However, I was hampered by a serious decorating liability.

I am just no good at it. Adding to that, I hate doing it, and can get absolutely no…

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An Englishman’s Home

With work going on around the house, I got to thinking about the old proverb, ‘An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle’. I looked it up, and it dates from 1581, used in legal terminology to assert the right to defend and protect your own home. In 1781, Pitt The Elder made this law, with his famous quote.
“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.”

Home ownership is something of a national obsession in Britain. Unlike many other countries, especially France and Italy, where rented houses and apartments are the norm, owning a house, flat, or even a humble hovel, has always been the aspiration of the British way of life. Since the 1970s, the steady increase in property values in most parts of this country has also made it good financial sense to buy your own home, as it can often make you a great deal of money too. As a rented tenant, you have less rights, can be asked to leave, or be subject to rent increases that make it increasingly difficult to balance your finances.
Home ownership has come to represent security.

In more recent times, it has also become something out of the reach of all but those with good regular incomes, excellent prospects, and substantial savings. The last ten years have seen a steady increase in the number of people returning to renting, as the only way to be able to move with jobs, or leave the parental home. The selling off of state and council-owned properties during the time of Margaret Thatcher has also severely reduced the amount of homes available for social rented housing, and many young people are stuck in the family home well into their thirties, or beyond.

But owning your own home also brings with it great responsibility. It needs to be repaired and maintained, and if you are unable (or unwilling) to do this yourself, you can expect to spend a great deal of money above and beyond the purchase price, just to keep that much-desired roof over your head.
So perhaps it is time for us to rethink that national obsession. Relax about home ownership, and stop worrying about our ‘castles’. We will hopefully see a time when you just live somewhere, and nobody asks how much you paid for your house, and what it is worth now.

Napoleon once famously described the English as a ‘Nation of Shopkeepers’.

I wonder what he would make of our now empty shopping streets, and Amazon deliveries?

Domestic disruption, and blog absences

For the next 7-8 days at least, I will not always be around on the blogs. We have a painter coming in to decorate some rooms, as well as new windows being fitted to the whole house.

Things will have to be moved around of course, and I will have to try to keep out of the way. I should get some chance to look at the blog in the evenings, and hopefully reply to comments sometimes, as well as reading your posts.

But I have to apologise in advance if I end up missing many of them completely, and if some comments you leave might appear to have been ignored.

I wanted to let you know, in case you wondered where I had gone, maybe even thought I might have finally dropped off Pete’s perch. 🙂

Best wishes to all, Pete.