The Last Sunday Musings For January

The weather warmed up after the recent ‘big chill’. We went from -7C one night, to +4C the next day. Still cold, especially in the wind, but nowhere near as bad as the previous weeks.


On Thursday the heating engineer returned by arrangement, this time to do a complete service of the heating system. We only needed one new complete part, a condenser, and its partly-perished hose. He even called in a colleague to help realign and tighten the flue pipe, securing it solidly into the system. Before he left, he looked at the main bedroom radiator, which had a ‘stuck’ thermostat. Two minutes later, and that was working too. I didn’t even have to pay him anything that afternoon, as his company will send me a detailed invoice by email, in due course. It was a great service all round, and I really don’t care how much the bill will be, as the heating is working better than ever.


Ollie began shaking his head again on Thursday evening, and we knew that he would have to go back to the Vet’s. When I rang them on Friday morning, I was pleased to be offered an appointment that same afternoon. Ollie was prescribed the same treatment he had last time, as it had worked so well. But this time he has to be checked over in ten days, to ensure that the swelling has gone down inside his ears. He hates me putting the tube into his ears, and sometimes gives me a warning growl. So we worked out a system where Julie shows him a treat, then holds his head still. When it is over, he gets the treat and soon forgets his discomfort.
If only we could be as resiilient as dogs! (Doughnuts would work as my treat.)


Julie has not been into work at all this week, due to a persistent cough and sore throat that made her lose her voice and kept her awake at night. Naturally, she tested for Covid, but was negative. And this time, I didn’t catch it! (Whatever it was…)


I am wishing you a happy and peaceful Sunday, wherever you are.


Musings On The Last Sunday Before Christmas.

As anyone who has read my blog this week will know, my musings are not going to be very cheerful this week. Julie tested positive for Covid-19, and has been very unwell. So far, I have avoided catching it from her, but I do sense it is inevitable that it will happen.


Then poor Ollie started to shake his head again yesterday, so I have resumed treatment with his ear-gel.


Our central heating is still not working properly, and the engineer will not come back to fit the part because Julie has Covid. So we are running out of wood for the log burner soon, and having great difficulties buying any locally that can be delivered before Christmas.


It has been excessively cold all week. Not getting above freezing at all, and dropping to -8C at night. (17F) On the bright side, it is supposed to warm up here from Monday morning, and that will help. But it will still not be warm enough to cope with unreliable heating, unfortunately.


With Christmas day falling on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are public holidays, causing everything to shut down here until the 28th. It really couldn’t be a worse time of year for all this to happen. But I am trying to stay positive, despite it all.


Whatever you are doing on this day, I hope life is trouble-free for you.
I really do.


A Domestic Annoyance

When I got up this morning, I turned on the central heating. It was very cold inside and outside the house, and the radiators soon warmed us up. Around 11 am, I started to feel cold, and when I touched the radiators, each one was cool. I inspected the boiler in the garage. There was no warning light on indicating failure, and it was making its usual ‘whirring noise’. But for some reason, the heat was not being transmitted to the radiators at all.

Julie rang a friend whose husband is a plumber/heating engineer. While she did that, I set about lighting the wood burner, and bringing in logs from the store outside. He suggested it could be faulty thermostat, and offered to look at it tomorrow evening.

By the time I went out with Ollie, the fire was blazing nicely, and the living room was incredibly warm.

When I got back from a freezing cold dog walk the whole house felt like the tropics, and Julie was almost overwhelmed by how warm it was. I felt the radiators, and they were all red hot! I had to turn the heating off, and that after contacting someone to come out to fix it.

But I know better than to cancel his visit. When a thermostat starts to act strangely, it is probably not too long before it stops working completely.

As my mum used to say, “These things are sent to try us”.

Sunday Musings For The First Week In November

An uneventful week that began with me coming down with something on Tuesday that I thought might be Flu. Sore throat, persistent cough, and aches. I spent three days taking various tablets and going to bed early, and by Friday afternoon it had gone away.


The weather changed, and became ‘changeable’, according to the BBC forecasters. This meant some very cold and crisp days accompanied by eye-blistering low sunshine, followed by others when it was stil dark at 11am, and pouring with rain. The shorts went back into the cupboard, and we have had the heating on for 2-3 hours each day. This small house is well-insulated, so at the recent temperatures those few hours are all we need for now. We have just had almost 17 hours of torrential rain, and it is still raining as I type this.


One positive about that rain was that it reduced the number of Firework parties on our traditional ‘Guy Fawkes’ Night’ 5th of November, also known as ‘Firework Night’. Unlike many pets, Ollie is not disturbed by those, but last night was the least celebrated I can remember since moving to Beetley.


My SAD lamp has also been used most afternoons in the office room, to combat the early onset of night-time darkness. It seems to be working, as my mood has been chipper.


Ollie has also had a quiet week. No need for him to visit the Vet for once, and his walks on Beetley Meadows have been enriched by the company of numerous dogs during the dry days. At home, he has recaptured some of his puppy youth, and gone back to playing with his toys in the evenings. That is very nice to see, and indicates that he is free of any illness for the time being.


Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you have a happy (and dry) Sunday.


An Alphabet Of My Life: C

C= Cold and Cars

I could not decide between these two choices for ‘C’, so included them both.


Many of my childhood memories are about being cold. Until I was fifteen years old, I did not live in a house with central heating. We relied on one main coal fire for warmth, with the addition of a paraffin-filled heater to ‘take the chill off’ in communal areas like landings. That thing chucked out enough fumes to give you a headache, and was the cause of many house fires too.

This meant we had to have hot water bottles placed in the bed early, or face that freezing feel of ice-cold cotton sheets in an unheated bedroom. I also wore thick pyjamas, and in the dead of Winter, socks too. I still remember my feet coming into contact with the hot water-bottle when it had got cold, and kicking it out of the bed.

Once I was aged ten, I was considered to be old enough to light the fire when I got home from school before my parents returned from work. This was a lengthy process, and quite tricky to achieve. Old twisted newspapers would be placed in the grate, topped with kindling wood, then just enough coal to get the fire started. It could sometimes take ages for the coal to ‘catch’, and if I added more coal before it was actually glowing, I was in danger of extinguishing it completely.

We lived through some harsh winters too. The bad one of 1963 lives on in my memory. It was the coldest for 200 years, and even froze the sea around the coast. We had frozen pipes that caused water shortages, and I can remember arriving at school shivering, despite wearing my duffle coat, balaclava helmet, school cap, a scarf, and gloves. Although the school had heating, the old Victorian building seemed to retain the overnight cold, and we were not allowed to sit in class wearing our outdoor coats.

Small wonder I hated being cold as I got older, and even now I dread the arrival of snow and ice.


My dad had a car when I was very young. I remember being in the car as a child, and watching him change gear as we drove along. Cars were very different then. They frequently broke down, had tyres with tubes that punctured easily, and required a fair level of mechanical knowledge on the part of the owners to keep them running reliably.

By the time I was 14 years old, all I could think about was driving, and having my own car. Even before I could apply for my driving licence, my dad bought me a used car. He stored it in the garage, and showed me the controls, how to check the oil, and how to do routine things like adjusting the points, changing spark plugs, and checking the tyre pressures. He would reverse it out of the garage so I could wash and polish it at weekends, but as it was not insured for me of course, I never got to try it out properly.

Some time later, once I had my learner licence, I was put on the insurance so that friends who had already passed their test could sit next to me as I drove around. Though I resented having to display the prominent ‘L’ plates front and back.

When the time came to apply for the driving test, I learned in a driving school car that was much smaller than mine, because it made sense to have dual controls. On the day I passed my test, I put three gallons of petrol in my own car, and drove the fifteen miles into Central London, into the busiest traffic in Britain.

That started me on a lifetime of driving, during which I drove almost every type of vehicle imaginable, including quite large trucks before the need for a separate Heavy Goods Licence. Then later I drove emergency ambulances around London, using blue lights and sirens. In between, I passed my motorcycle test, and used a motorbike to commute to work.

It has taken me almost a lifetime to stop being excited about cars. My current car is 15 years old, and is the oldest car I have ever owned and kept. It was 5 years old when I bought it second-hand, and I hope to hang onto it until I am no longer driving.

I wrote about the cars I have owned and driven on this blog, with photos of the models concerned. Here’s a link.

Cars: My Life On The Road

I also featuured the various ambulances I drove and worked in in London. Here’s a link to that.

The Ambulances I Worked In

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.

An experiment with heating

Like most people, I have become used to the comfort and convenience associated with centrally-heated homes. As long as you have the system serviced, and do the routine checks, it is generally so reliable, you hardly remember that it is there. Hot water all year-round, and heat when you need it on cold days.

This wasn’t always the case for me. As a family, we didn’t have central heating until the late 1960s. Before that, it was one coal fire in the living room, hot water bottles before bedtime, and the occasional luxury of a paraffin heater, or electric fire. When I first married in 1977, it was back to basics; one gas fire in the flat, and a single-bar heater over the bathroom door. But since the early 1980s, I have always had some form of central heating, and I am fairly certain that I would not want to return to life without it.

After moving here to Norfolk, we thought that it might be nice to have a wood-burning stove installed. It wasn’t a simple task, as we had no chimney in this modern bungalow, so had to make additional arrangements and alterations to accommodate our wish. Anyone who has read my numerous posts about the problems with this device, will know that there have been times when I thought it would never work properly, or be resistant to intrusion from the elements. I grew to hate the thing, and seriously considered having it removed.

However, since the recent work done to secure the chimney, and rearranging waterproofing and tiles on the roof, it seems to be working as it should. We have enjoyed some relaxing fires over the past couple of weeks, and they have been most welcome, since the weather turned much colder. We have still had the central heating on as well though, a sort of ‘belt and braces’ approach. Yesterday, I decided to discover if the fire could really heat the house, from its spot near the west wall of our living room. Starting early, I lit the fire before 9am, and got in enough wood to make sure it didn’t go out. Within two hours, it was giving out a really good heat, and I kept adding logs as required.

After returning from my walk with Ollie in the late afternoon, I was pleased to see that it was still glowing nicely. I added some coal to the embers, as it is slower-burning, and keeps its heat. Admittedly, it was only cheap coal, and it smoked quite a bit, so obscured the normally crystal clear glass door. This took away the main pleasure of having the fire, that of watching it through the glass, enjoying the look of it, as much as the heat. When that had burned down, I went back to logs, and by the time Julie arrived home, the warmth could be felt in all the rooms, and the living room was almost too hot. I carried on during the evening, adding logs occasionally. We both remarked that the whole house was now warm, and no extra input from the central heating was required. Even after Julie had gone to bed, the coal was still glowing; and this morning, we felt no need to switch on the heating.

So it seems that one small (5kw) fire, burning for twelve hours, using about twenty split pieces of wood, with a few (optional) scoops of coal, can still be enough to heat a modern well-insulated home. It felt like a step back in time, but in a good way. It doesn’t do the hot water of course, but you can’t have everything.