Home Improvements

I am reblogging one of my earliest ever blog posts here. It has hardly been seen by anyone, since 2012. It made me smile, as the jobs mentioned are either still waiting to be done, or have been done by someone else! 🙂


In the U.K., we know this as DIY (Do-it-yourself). I am not a person who has ever naturally taken to this concept. I did my job, and if I needed a plumber, I called someone who had chosen that job as their career. To go to work all day, get home late, and have two precious days off, only to spend all that free time working on my house, did just not compute in my brain. Besides, I had never learned those skills, I had been too busy pursuing my own chosen career.
My Dad had tried to teach me. When I was about 12 years old, he would have me holding car tools; strange spanners, grease guns, and other oily, hard objects. I had to pass him brushes as he hung wallpaper, stir paint, standby with the correct size screw, or hold a torch steady, whilst he was upside-down…

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‘Stuff to do’

Is your life full of ‘stuff to do’? Mine is.

I have so many jobs waiting to get done, I have given up on even proritising them. Let’s face it, they are known as ‘chores’ for good reason.

a routine task, especially a household one.
“the early risers were up and about, doing their chores”
synonyms: task, job, duty, errand, thing to be done, burden; More
a tedious but necessary task.

Note the two important words in the above definition. ‘Tedious’, and ‘Burden’.

I also decided to read a lot this year, and downloaded a lot of books to my Kindle Fire. As I was in the mood, I bought some used paperbacks and hardbacks too. Since January, I have managed to read sixteen books. But now the others are crying out to me. “Read me!” “Read me next!”

I charged up the batteries for the cordlesss hedge-trimmers last night. The front hedges are beckoning. I can hear them calling through the open window. “Trim us, trim us”. Don’t even get me started on the back hedges. They will have to be satisfied with admiring the job I do with the front ones. Presuming they get done, of course.
Then after wearing myself out weeding a few patio slabs recently, the rest of the slabs are whining. “Weed us, weed us”.
I might have to mow the lawn though, as that is pretty ‘visible’, and best not left to its own devices.

Did I mention all the wood staining? Probably not, as I am trying to forget that. Panels of fences, bars of gates, and the sides of a huge shed. Oh, and the bits around the garage door.
Did someone say “side gate”, or “bin storage fence”? I hope not, as they have zero chance of being done.

Cleaning windows? Where they are concerned, I am actually hoping it rains again. Who cleans windows when it might rain? Not me, I can promise you.

Washing cars? I haven’t washed a car in ten years. The rain does that too. Doesn’t it?

I can tell you, ‘stuff’ mounts up. There is never less ‘stuff’ to do, only ever more.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Unrealistic expectations.

I woke up thinking about electrical items this morning.
Bear with me, and you will see why.

I had to buy a new TV recorder this week. The old one was bought in 2012, and had recently stopped working properly. I hadn’t suspected the device at first, and thought the problem was TV reception in this country area. You may recall a recent post where a young man in a local shop gave me some good advice that cured the problem.

But that cure didn’t last long, unfortunately.

After having to retune the box numerous times in one week, followed by its complete failure to work at all on Wednesday, I knew there was only one solution. I had to buy a new one. I went off to the same shop, saw the same young man, and he happily showed me the selection. When I expressed some doubts over his recommended model, as I had never heard of the brand name, he allowed me to play with one, connected to a TV in the shop. After ten minutes familiarising myself with the device, and remarking how it operated in a similar way to the old one, I decided to buy it.

Handing over £190, I was very pleased to have been able to see it working, and to discover that it was one third of the size of its predecessor, and had double the potential storage too, with 1 TB available.

Of course, once I got home, I found that the old one had decided to come on after all. Had it just been teasing me? I left it on that night, and waited to see if it failed again. Sure enough, the picture began to break up around 10 pm, so I knew that the new one would be going into service the next day.

I am pleased to say that it came with a comprehensive instruction manual, and one that was actually easy to understand too. In a few simple steps, it was set up, and working well. I hope that now I have typed that sentence, it doesn’t decide to get me back!

As I sorted out the old one, ready for disposal, I wondered about why it had suddenly started to work erratically. I realised that it was more than seven years old, and had been on pretty much all day, every day for all of those years. The hard drive had been spinning more times than I could ever have imagined, and the recorded programmes had been stored, watched, and deleted on a daily basis. And this had cost £200, in 2012. That is around 2,555 days, working out close to just 8 pence a day. On balance that old Humax was pretty good value, considering what else you can get for 8 pence.

Yet I expected it to carry on working, for some reason.

As I settled down to configure the new recorder, I concluded that my expectations had been unrealistic.

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.