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?

A Domestic Positive

Unusually for me, I have something very positive to write about.

On Wednesday morning, we were due to have the carpet fitted in our living room. This has been outstanding since March, as we were waiting for the decorating to be completed.

Given the recent trials and tribulations on the home front, I woke up with a sense of dread. Would the carpet arrive? Will there be numerous issues?

Will it even be fitted?

Things didn’t start off well. One man arrived, and there should have been two. It’s a pretty big room, 25 by 15 feet.
He wasn’t aware that the room would be full of furniture, so I had to help him shift it.
(Not a simple task for me, given my age, and physical ability.)

Then he realised that we already had very good carpet underlay in place, much like the £248 worth he had on board that I had paid for.

Frantic phone calls to the shop later, he spoke to them and told them that there was no need to replace perfectly good underlay with exactly the same thing.
As well as that, it would save him a great deal of time, and as he was a self-employed contractor, that was a good thing. The other good thing was that I got the £248 refunded to my account, and he took away the new underlay that was no longer required.

After a cup of coffee, he set to the job with obvious skill. I had to help him shift heavy and large items of furniture back and forth, reminding me how weak I am now, since Statins ruined my arm muscles. But his thirty years of experience showed, and before too long we had a perfectly-carpeted living room, with the old carpet cut up and taken away for removal.

Once he had packed up and left, we were able to tidy up, and by 4 pm, the room was restored to how it used to look, albeit with different coloured walls, and carpet.

After all the decorating, the washing machine breaking down, and various other niggles, I was finally happy to sit and relax in what once again felt like home.

Life can be bad sometimes. But not always.

More domestic irritation

Monday, 25/11/2019.
(Yes, my American friends, that is the right way round)

Just when I thought it was safe to start feeling positive…

The decorating is finished, at least until the kitchen is tackled next year. On Wednesday, barring Acts of God, the new carpet should be fitted in the living room. Everything has been paid for, and anything unexpected is covered by savings. I am hopefully approaching the end of my awful cold, and although Ollie’s fur continues to refuse to grow back, at least he has no sores or itches.

Could all finally be well, in the world of Beetley?

You guessed it. Not a chance.

After a load of washing finished at lunchtime, I went to the machine to get it out. My usual routine is to sort out what can go into the tumble drier, and after that is loaded, I hang up what cannot be tumbled on a clothes airer. As it is winter, nothing can be hung outside, for fear of rain and cold.

But everything in the washing machine was still soaking wet. Wet enough to drip copiously over the floor as I tried to take it out.

Undaunted, I closed the door, selected ‘Rinse and Spin’, then pressed the button. Other than a constantly flashing red light, nothing happened.
Wash it again, I thought. I set the dial to a 40-degree wash, pressed ‘Start’, and waited. Nothing.

Try ‘Spin’, my mind informed me.

I set ‘Spin’, and pressed ‘Start’. Nothing.

Hmm… It is over eight years old, bought in summer 2011. It has earned its keep, and decided to ‘die’ gracefully.

I can go to the shops today, and buy a new one. Though I would sooner not have to spend up to £400 this close to Christmas.

But will it be delivered and installed this week? If not, we have a problem.

And Houston cannot supply the answer.

Spaceships and Curtains

With the current upheaval in my living room occupying my attention, it has made me stop to consider some of the small niggles in life.

For one, why is it that we can put a vehicle on Mars to show us images of that planet, yet we have never thought up a better way to hang a pair of curtains?

Poles, end-caps, rings, supports. Assorted screws in different sizes, some so small you can’t even actually see them, and have to fix them by touch.

Rings with clips attached that have to be threaded through some eighteenth century needlework. Miss one, or get one through the wrong hole, and you have to take them down and start all over again. Curtains haven’t changed in my lifetime, or even in my grandmother’s lifetime. Or her grandmother’s. It’s as if there is a joint conspiracy by the Guild of Curtain Manufacturers, and the Association of Pole and Ring Crafstmen. Not to mention the Federation of Annoyingly Small Screw Makers.

I have a vision of them all meeting in secret, examining any new invention in curtain hanging, then contriving to kill the person that is trying to patent it.

We have the ‘Dark Web’, and ‘The Deep State’, but they cannot compare to the ‘Curtain Conspiracy’, believe me.

I am not very technical, but in an age of a life lived online, mobile phones that can do almost anything, and a ‘Digital Assistant’ that can check your fridge stocks and order food for you, I flatly refuse to believe that there is no better way to hang a pair of curtains.

I was going to continue about three-pin plugs with fiddly terminals that have to be wired up, but I am too upset about the curtains now.

A Domestic Update

After my recent post about being disrupted by the arrival of the painter today, it seems that the disruption was not as bad as I anticipated.

With everything piled into the middle of the living room and covered in dustsheets, I have been exiled into the office since 8:30. That meant an early trip to the supermarket, to get out of the way, and a slightly longer dog walk for Ollie after that.

Julie went into the bedroom to listen to music on her phone, and I was unable to sit and watch the midday news whilst eating my sandwich, as is my habit.

Otherwise, we have no curtains at the windows until later this week, and will probably be spending more time in the kitchen. Whether or not I will be able to get anything on the TV later, after having to disconnect the aerial, that remains to be seen. I had forgotten just how many wires sit unseen behind the unit that the TV stands on. Moving it right out this morning, I was actually surprised by the amount of cabling required to be able to watch stuff. There is the TV of course, then the Blu-Ray player. Add to that the streaming box, the PVR cabling, and lots of extra bits for a device that boost the signals, and there is enough electronic gadgetry there to facilitate the 1969 Moon landing, I’m sure.

One family member was very disrupted though. Poor Ollie the dog had his world turned upside down. His toy box had to be stored in another room, and he was unable to lie against the wall until we went out, as he usually does. Having to go out of the front door, along the side of the garage, then back in through the kitchen door confused him completely. Every time he followed me outside, he thought we were going out for our walk.

His frequent disappointment had to be seen to be believed.

This evening, I have to get at least one sofa out of its covers to sit on, and try to get something working on the TV. I suspect a very early night is in the offing.

But the main job will be trying to keep Ollie away from the walls, without shutting him in the kitchen. If we did that, he would think he was being punished for something, and wouldn’t understand.

The painter tells me he might have to give the woodwork a second coat on Thursday, so only three more days to go…