Another Job Jobbed

When I was young, my parents would always say that anytime they finished doing something around the house. As young as I was, I always thought it was a rather silly expression.

Now I am older, I still avoid using it. However, I have come to appreciate the sense of relief, if not satisfaction, when those routine jobs are over.

After ten days with a broken heating/hot water boiler, and trying to remember to keep switching on (and off) the electric back up, the boiler has been fixed. My son-in-law arrived earlier, and has been working for three hours to replace faulty parts, and get it going. The amount of dirt and soot inside the relatively small boiler cabinet had to be seen to be believed, and I was once again glad that it is situated in the garage, rather than the house.

It didn’t help that it has been raining torrentially all day, and walking in and out has left the floors of the garage and connecting shed covered in a wet sooty sludge that cannot be walked on until it has had time to dry out. Unfortunately, the freezer and large second fridge both live in the shed, so I have had to dump old towels onto the floor to be able to walk back and forth to the house without treading in sooty footprints.

After a week when the kitchen cupboards were painted, and the flooring measured ready to order and have fitted, I am relieved that the boiler has been fixed too, allowing the possibility of actually having a ‘day off’ of household disruptions on Sunday.

And I found myself thinking, “That’s another job jobbed”.

Domestic Disruption Ended: Almost!

After delays due to the Coronavirus lockdown, and then a problem when the first painter had to leave the job halfway through, the kitchen/diner has finally been painted! The new painters finished the units and cupboards yesterday, and they make the room look a lot more modern now.

Ollie has had to be kept out of there for two days, and his routine was disrupted, which he hates of course. And he had to sleep in the living room, with his food and water bowls moved into the small hallway outside the bathroom. As a treat, we took him to Castle Acre yesterday, for a change of scene. Of course, he would have preferred to stay at Beetley Meadows, so spent his walk around the Priory grounds hanging back and crying…

Today’s job is to investigate new flooring for the dining section. It previously had horrible old carpet tiles, which we threw away last year. Now we have to get something laid under the table and chairs, and when that is done, it will finally be finished.

I am definitely not getting any other tradesmen in until 2021, and maybe not even then!

My Last Year Of Hedge Clipping

Front of bungalow from across the road

In the photo above, (click to see full size) you can clearly see the larger and smaller beech hedges that are in front of our house. They are taller than they look in this photo, which was taken after they had just been trimmed, in late 2013. From street level, they reach to about eight feet in height, and are considerably higher than that when fully grown before they need cutting. On the plus, side, this height is reduced when cutting the back, as the ground level in the front garden is some twelve inches higher.

I bought some very good clippers when I moved here, as I also had to tackle the huge rows of leylandii hedges at the back. Compared to those, the beech hedges at the front were a breeze, easily finished off in a morning or afternoon. But then I got vertigo a couple of years back. And then I got older of course. I could no longer cope with the ten-feet high leylandii, and had to pay someone to cut them earlier this year. But I was sure I could still deal with the beech hedges.

After deciding that they were unacceptably shabby, I made up my mnd to cut them this morning. It is a hot day, 27 C, so I took Ollie out early, just after nine. On our return, I got straight on with the beech hedges, sweeping up the mess as I went. After managing just one quarter, the first battery gave up. I put it on charge, and went on with the second battery. I was very hot, and finding it difficult to stay steady on top of the step ladder as I tried to get the straggly stems in the middle. After two hours, I swept up, and had a lunch break.

When I went back out, I decided to use a proper ladder to reach the top, and jammed it as hard as I could against the hedge. But is was very wobbly once I got up there, and I was having real difficulty keeping my balance and cutting at the same time. When the second battery went flat, I had at least finished the biggest hedge, and can do the small one easily tomorrow. Sweeping up and tidying the things away, it dawned on me that will be the last time I can safely cut these hedges.

As of next year, I am going to have to pay someone to do it.

More Domestic Upheaval

Part two of the kitchen decorating saga begins! With the tiling completed, and the tiles having had time to ‘settle’, the painter has started the considerable task of painting the kitchen-diner this morning. We are also havng the dated units rubbed down and painted a light colour, so probably looking at a minimum of four days, possibly five.

After all the stress with Ollie recently, I went to bed at 9:30 pm last night, and slept like a log. Up early this morning to take down the lampshades, strip everything out of the kitchen, and pile most of it into the living room. It’s amazing to realise just how much stuff you have stacked around on kitchen worktops, as well as Ollie’s bed, food and water bowls, boxes of biscuits and food, and his treats container. Fortunately, no rain is forecast, so I was able to put the waste bins and kitchen chairs outside on the lawn. Other than the dining table, which I did not want to dismantle, the room is now completely empty, and ready for work.

I suspect we might be eating out or getting food delivered for a couple of days, as the prospect of having to put everything back and move it all again in the morning definitely does not appeal to me.

It is only 9:15, and it already feels like late afternoon after such an early start.

When the painting is finished, new flooring is next on the list.
Fortunately, we don’t have to move every single thing to allow that to be done.

If any other projects are taken on in 2021, I will want to make them outside ones! 🙂

Some Domestic Disruption

This year was planned to be the year we finally tackled the kitchen/diner. Unchanged since 1995, it is a style that is beyond getting away with calling it ‘Retro’, and definitely better described as’Dated’. After new windows, interior decoration, and carpets last year, I had to wait to save up the money to get someone in to spruce up the kitchen. In an ideal world, I would have used a kitchen planning company, and had all new units installed. But we all know that the world is not ideal, and I just cannot afford the many thousands of pounds that would cost.

The compromise was to change the multi-coloured tiling for something fresh and neutral, and have the cupboards rubbed down and painted. Once the tiling is finished, the painter can come in to do his job. Unfortunately, the painter is not adept at tiling, so we had to engage someone else to do that. He was so busy after not working during the lockdown, that he has to do the job over this weekend, instead of a weekday. So no morning lie-in, and everything shifted out the way of the numerous surfaces requiring his attention.

One good thing about the layout of this house is that social distancing from the tiler is easy to achieve. He is doing a good job so far, (Saturday) and plans to continue until 5:30, coming back to work all day tomorrow in order to get the job done.

As soon as the tiling is in place, we have to arrange a date for the painter to come. He estimates perhaps four days to make a good job of the fair-sized room, especially as he will also be painting all the woodwork and cupboards. To be honest, left to me, I would have tolerated the 1990s look.

I’m sure it will soon be back in fashion.

All At Sea In A Shop

With the partial renovation of the kitchen imminent, I had to bite the bullet and drive to a DIY shop yesterday. Two of them in fact. They are more rightly known as ‘Warehouses’ here, as they are quite cavernous, and industrial inside. We went with the intention of choosing tiles and paint.

For my part, I went with the intention of watching my wife choose both tiles and paint, so that I could never be accused of deciding on the wrong style and colour, no matter how long I lived.

Off we went, to the branch of B&Q (No, I don’t know what it stands for) in the town of Fakenham.

For someone like me, they are the strangest of all shops. I am uncomfortable in them, feeling all at sea. I watch the other customers as they choose huge sheets of wood, weigh up different power tools on the displays, and confidently load large barrows with piles of fixings and metal clips that I don’t even know the function of. Some are undoubtedly regulars, heading straight for the rows of this or that, knowing which direction to head in, and picking up exactly what they need.

Men are supposed to feel at home in such shops. They are even expected to be excited at being able to visualise their next project, and looking at improved tools and labour-saving devices. The TV advertisements portray the customers being able to revamp a garden almost overnight, or create a futuristic kitchen over a weekend. I see none of that. Instead, I see things I don’t understand, tools I have no skill in using, or desire to learn how, and endless hours of DIY drudgery as I attempt to end up with a result that is even halfway pleasing.

I am missing that part of my masculinity, I have no doubt. Or perhaps I am just realistic, and aware of my limitations.

Not for them the aisle-by-aisle circuit forced upon me by my lack of knowledge of the shop’s geography, not helped by a Covid-19 inspired one-way-system in place that meant more than one unnecessary loop to get back to tiles or paint. After a great deal of comparison of tiles in colours that looked very similar to me, a choice was made. As luck would have it, bad luck in this case, they only had one box of our choice in stock, and we needed five. So it would mean a trip on another day to the much larger branch in Norwich.

They didn’t have the paint we wanted in the colour we wanted either. They had the exact paint in huge quantities in almost any colour known to man, but not in the Ivory ‘we’ had chosen. We had to settle for two packs of kitchen doorknobs, and a plastic storage box. God forbid we could have left empty-handed.

It was decided to go back into Dereham, to the smaller DIY store called Homebase.

They didn’t have the tiles, but they did have the paint. Fortunately, they did not stock the same doorknobs or storage boxes, so it was agreed that our trip to Fakenham must have been worthwhile.

I would honestly have felt more comfortable in the female lingerie department of Marks and Spencer. I am far more familiar with ladies’ underwear than power tools and plasterboard.

If not one thing, another…

When I posted about power cuts yesterday, I feared that I was tempting fate. However, we survived that part of Storm Dennis, and didn’t have a loss of power.

But when I got up this morning, I soon discovered that we had no hot water, or central heating. I tried to reset the boiler, to no avail. We had power, but no heating.

I had to smile, I really did.

Luckily, we have an immersion heater in the water tank, so I was able to switch that on to get hot water. And once the sun dipped behind the house, I got the wood-burning stove going, for the first time in over a year. It is now 4 pm, and so hot in the living room, we could happily dress in swimwear.

And someone is on the way to try to fix the boiler.

The next two storms are on their way.

Storm Ellen, and Storm Frank. We wait to see what they will hit us with.

Thinking Aloud On a Saturday

Getting a man in.

This occasional Sunday post is a day early this week, because I woke up thinking about that phrase this morning. I remember in my youth when a widow or elderly man would say “I will have to get a man in”. That referred to having to get a job done, or something fixed. Generally, it was because the elderly person could no longer do it, had no idea how to do it in the first place, or didn’t have a relative nearby who could help.

My Dad took pride in never getting a man in to do anything. If he couldn’t do something himself, it wasn’t done. But a change in his job meant that he wasn’t always around, so when we needed new wallpaper in the house, he got a man in. This was done with a sense of achievement, not regret. He now had the income to pay someone to do jobs that he was capable of doing, but didn’t have the time to do them. He could even be boastful about getting a man in, as it meant he no longer had to do repetitive or manual tasks.

When I was old enough to own my own home, I also had a good income. I got a man in to do things I was capable of doing, but didn’t want to have to do after a hard week at work. I got a man in to paint the outside of the house, and someone else to do electrical wiring. When some fencing fell down, I got a man in to fix that too.

Some time later, living alone, I no longer had the luxury of spare cash to pay people. I did my own painting, and turned to friends to help with two-man jobs. The only thing I didn’t attempt was anything to do with electrics, but if a friend couldn’t help, I had an uncle who was an electrician. When he got older and moved away, I finally had to get a man in to sort out electrics.

Then I retired in 2012, and had more time on my hands, though only one third of my previous income. I tackled most things on my own. I painted rooms, cleared gutters, maintained the garden, and cut all the hedges. Very soon, I started to realise that this hard work was getting beyond me, and if it was going to get done, I was going to have to get a man in to do it. It was no longer something to be proud of, and I certainly didn’t have the funds to pay for everything at once.

But I got someone in to do the painting. Then I got someone in to do the electrics, and someone else to fit new carpet. As I wandered around the house watching them work, I had to face the fact that I had arrived at that time in my life where getting a man in was going to be the first option, not the last resort.

Last Friday, I got a man in to give me a quote to cut all the hedges and shrubs. That used to take me close to sixteen hours, over the whole weekend. Then I had to remove all the cuttings, and take them to the recycling centre in two or three trips. The genial garden man looked at the job, and announced it would take him around four hours. He would dispose of the cuttings and branches, taking them away in his pick-up. We agreed on his very fair price, and he will do the job in January.

I am now sitting here wondering what else I might have to get a man in for.
If it comes down to employing someone to type up my blog posts, then I will know it is close to the end.

A Small Domestic Positive

Yes, I am still writing about washing machines and household electrics. Unbelievable, I know.

After the fiasco with trying to get the new washing machine installed last week, I managed to get an electrician to come out on Wednesday to fit the required ‘safe socket’. That added £60 to an already big enough bill, but he did a good job.

On Sunday morning, the shop was due to re-deliver and install the new washer, as well as removing and disposing of the old one. Luckily, they work on the Sundays before Christmas, so they fitted us in. Of course, I didn’t expect them to turn up. I was sure that they would forget about it, claim that the truck had broken down, or the men had gone off sick.

Yes, the phrase ‘Oh Ye Of Little Faith’ was written for me.

Then the phone rang, and the shop said they would be here between midday and three in the afternoon. I had to get into gear to take Ollie out early, so that I would be back just before twelve. I didn’t want them to have any excuse to drive off because I wasn’t at home.

To both my surprise and delight, they arrived at twelve-thirty. Ollie was pleased to see them, and enjoyed extra pats and strokes. The electrics were pronounced acceptable, and the old machine removed first. Then the new one was fitted in and tested. After that, one of the men explained the basics of how it worked before they left.

This new model, an update of the one before, has an electronic screen. It also has a great deal more washing options, and a completely different control set-up. The old one had just two dials, and a start button. One dial set the temperature, the other selected the desired wash cycle. As it worked, one dial moved around to show the progress. When it finished, a red light flashed, showing me I could open the door. Then the machine switched off. With little training, even a small child could have operated it.

In the new one, the manufacturer has abandoned such basic tried and tested methods. The large dial visible on the photo above chooses one of many (confusing) programmes, and then the screen illuminates. The load is weighed by a device in the legs of the machine, and the temperature and wash time set automatically. To change any of the ‘recommended’ settings, I have to move small increments on a digital screen by touching it.

I wish I had my dial back.

As soon as they had left, I loaded up some bedding, and fired up the first wash. Fiddling with the screen, I reduced the washing time down to just over one hour, which is recommended for saving on water. (If we could use rainwater, we wouldn’t ever need to save any of course)

I nervously pressed the screen next to the word ‘Start’, and the door locked as the machine filled with water. As soon as it began washing the bedding, the screen began to countdown the time remaining until it had finished. When it had stopped washing, a loud beep sounded three times, informing me I could open the door. I then had to return the dial to the ‘Off’ position, and the screen went black.

It was a case of ‘so far, so good’. It had worked.

This new machine won a ‘Best Buy’ award, and comes with a two-year guarantee. It should save quite a lot of water through our meter, and runs on less electricity too. As I tried to make some sense of the forty-page instruction book, before deciding that I was happy to always use ‘Easy Care. 40 degrees.’, I should have been content.

So why am I sitting here expecting it to break down soon?

Pete’s Law

Experience has taught me to live by this simple law.

‘IF SOMETHING CAN GO WRONG, IT USUALLY WILL’

Yesterday, the new washing machine was due to be delivered and installed. Things started well, with a phone call at 9 am to let me know the men would be here between 1 and 4. I took Ollie out early, so I could make sure to be around when they turned up. After a decent walk on a cold bright day, I arrived home and waited.

As promised, they arrived just after 2:30. The procedure was to remove the old one first, then while they unpacked and prepared the new machine, I could clean out the space that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. The water supply was turned off, and they used a special ‘slidey mat’ to move the heavy washer out into the main part of the kitchen.

Seconds later, ‘Pete’s Law’ applied.

It turned out that the guy who had installed that machine in 2011 had ‘hard-wired’ the electrics, using a junction box, and isolator switch. The new machine has to be plugged into an existing socket, and there wasn’t one at the back. There wasn’t one in range of where the machine was to be installed either. The men from the shop are not allowed to connect the machine by hard-wiring. That has to be done by a qualified electrician. In this case, it is now apparently illegal to wire a washing machine like this anyway, as it is not ‘waterproof wiring’.

The men were sympathetic. They made phone calls to the shop. But nothing could be done until a proper socket is installed in the space, and the previous ‘dangerous’ wiring removed. They put our new washing machine back on their van, and said they would return on Sunday, as long as I could get the electrics in place by then.

I was now faced with having to get our (very good) electrician to come and do the job in five days at the latest, and of course have to pay him for that work too.

After two phone calls and two emails, he has agreed to come tomorrow morning, to do the required work. Meanwhile, my wife has to drive 28 miles each way to her daughter’s house later, with two bin-bags full of washing that cannot wait until the weekend. And I am left wondering what further electrical issues might be discovered on Wednesday.

Is it any wonder that I am a pessimist?