I have always had a steady flow of work since becoming self-employed back in September 1997. Prior to that time I worked for others and in my last job doing that the workload had become minimal and the routine checks I had to make on equipment became tedious and boring. My colleague and I were well on top of things and little needed to be done to maintain things. I left that employment at just the right time it seems. What actually happened was my employer was streamlining the industry (asset stripping) and encouraging those who were of suitable age and thereby could retire voluntarily to do so. I was of suitable age and because the terms were so favourable I chose to take early voluntary retirement on a full pension with the added bonus of a ‘golden handshake‘, a tidy lump sum. That lump sum and the fact that I was ensured a monthly income from my pension with immediate effect meant that I could continue working as a self-employed person. I have never looked back since that day and in fact my fortunes took a turn for the better. Over the years since then my workload has been steady and often too much at times for me to handle. Gradually I have wound things down and no longer take on projects I consider too much for me to do at my age.
The strange thing is there still is plenty of work I am able to do, small jobs that no-one else seems to be able to fit into their schedule or perhaps are not interested in doing. I did one such job on Thursday morning. I had to disconnect and remove a hard-wired bell circuit and replace it with a wireless type. Next, I had to replace a light unit on an outside wall and finally replace the base box (called a pattress) beneath a power outlet in the garage as it had been broken. Simple little jobs yes but nevertheless financially rewarding. I also discovered that a plug-in type of RCD unit they had been using whenever they used their electric lawnmower was faulty. They told me that they had used it for years and I asked if they ever tested it before use. It appears they hadn’t even though printed on the unit are instructions to do so. The test simply involves pushing the device’s test button! I thought to myself why have a safety device and never test it to see if it is working? As for the work I do, the way I look at it is this, if I am continuing to work I might as well get paid for it! Whilst at the house I received phone calls asking for my services. So despite there being no work on some days there is enough to keep me going, to tide me over as it were.
Loft (2005 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This past week has been very similar to the week before in that the work I have done has been concentrated at the latter end of the week leaving me nothing to do for the first few days. It isn’t often you will see me crawling about in someone’s loft but on Wednesday I did exactly that. Naturally I put on a pair of overalls (coveralls) before doing so in order to keep my clothes clean and to protect them from damage. Some lofts are surprisingly reasonably clean but whilst that is so most are not. Most loft areas now are fitted with layers of insulation material which hides the timber construct of the ceilings below and so there is always the danger of accidentally stepping on the fragile ceiling and putting a foot through it. In all my years as an electrician I have never had that misfortune. Other hazards in loft spaces include the roof beams and rafters and the many cardboard boxes or other stored items people have put up there. Having peeled back the insulation I was able to gain access to the lighting cables on this occasion for my task was to reposition and at the same time replace a ceiling light and remove another together with the pull-cord switch controlling it. Having done what was necessary in the loft I was soon able to close the hatch and continue the work in the bedroom below. Another problem I was faced with was the huge bed beneath where the new light (a chandelier) would be fitted and which couldn’t be moved. Have you ever tried balancing on a wobbly bed whilst trying to fit a heavy light above it? With a little help from the lady of the house who supported the light whilst I connected and fitted it I soon had it done. Of course the bed had been covered with a sheet to collect any dust and always there is! The lady asked me all sorts of questions regarding why I decided to become an electrician and how long I have been working as such. She was very much impressed when I gave her a brief description of the things I have done over the (almost) 53 years I have been in the business. She then asked if I enjoyed my work! I could only reply with a ‘yes’ for how could anyone stick at a job so long and not enjoy it unless they were completely bonkers? Maybe I am a little bonkers but I do enjoy my work.
Finally! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Things have been sluggish for me lately but I think I am beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Exactly one week after my last electrical job I received a request to do a small job on Thursday in another town twelve miles away. Having quoted my minimum price, which was accepted, I went along to do the job the following day as asked. That one job is just enough to pay the cost of my advertisement for the one week. At least I am not running at a loss! In reality my previous weeks of profitable gain would in any case allow me to take a few weeks off before I would start to make a loss. It meant though that I had a week free to myself. I am happy to see that work is once again beginning to trickle in if only to relieve the boredom. There is work to do in and around the house but at this moment in time I am reluctant to do anything at home until E changes her attitude. It has been difficult to take an interest in anything at home lately so I have been getting away from the house more and more. I have spent therefore more time dining out and going for walks or shopping but what I really want to do is what I enjoy the most and that is my work at home or in my electrical job. The weather hasn’t been too good for getting out and about but it is finally but slowly improving. My bank accounts are healthy once more, not that they were anything otherwise but it has at last been possible to save more now my main annual expenditure has ceased and with the prospect of more electrical work that should continue to improve. Hopefully with the coming of Spring there will be improvements all round on the home front. If nothing else the sunshine will produce a sense of well-being! I am looking forward to it. I know in that in the coming weeks I will be dusting off the lawnmower for use again and soon after then maybe I can begin to wear lighter clothing again just like the girl in the picture!
Update: that single job changed into three at different locations! You wait ages for a bus to come along then three arrive all at once!
Winter sun on farmland. Open farmland with winter sun shining down on the road to Henllan from Bont Newydd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So here we are almost two-thirds of the way through the calendar of Winter and the weather is beginning to get warmer again. Now I have written that you can be sure we haven’t done with lower temperatures just yet. The sun is shining as I write this on Monday afternoon having been out working during the morning. I had to pay a visit to my main bank in order to deposit a large sum of money. Usually I take the cash to my nearest bank, my main current account provider and transfer the cash or the bulk of it to another bank using the Internet. I had no work scheduled when I arose but as I was getting dressed someone called and asked if I could do a couple of small electrical jobs for them. The caller was what you might call one of my regular customers for I have been to the house many times over the last couple of years. I explained that I had planned to go into town to do some banking and also a little shopping but that I would do the jobs later in the morning. I didn’t have a breakfast as such, simply a banana as it was almost nine o’clock and I wanted to get out as soon as possible. I drove to town but parked outside the meter zone as I usually do and walked the half-mile or so to where I needed to be. An hour later I was back in my vehicle driving off to do the job. I had scheduled another job for Wednesday but as it was on the same route I thought I would call at that address first to see if I could do that job too. Fortunately the folk were in and were in favour of getting the job done there and then if it was possible. It took me about a half-hour and soon I was off to the main job for the day. Even so that job didn’t take me much longer than an hour or so before I found myself driving homeward again. It wasn’t yet twelve o’clock and I’d pocketed £100 having spent nothing! My next two jobs would be the following day, Tuesday, after which nothing else had been planned. I wanted to get out into the garden for an hour or two whilst the sun was shining but I gave up on the idea in preference to a rest instead. No doubt there will be other days in the near future for gardening and no doubt they will be a necessity rather than a desire as the warmer weather brings out the weeds!
See You Next Tuesday (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How different this week has been to last week. I talked about this in yesterday’s post and since Tuesday I have received more requests for work. I returned on Wednesday morning to the house I had been working in on Tuesday to replace the second of the electrical panels. I didn’t expect the second one to be as awkward as the first one was but even so it wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped. I soldiered on of course and had it completed in a couple of hours. However, there were a couple of things I had to check out before I could finish but was unable to do so until the lady of the house had returned home from her shopping trip. I needed access to a locked area in which the boiler was situated outside and I also needed to inspect the garage installation to ensure it had been wired from the panel or board I had fitted which had the RCD unit. As it happened it had been wired to the board I had replaced with the RCD unit fitted. There had been no markings on the original fuse board. Alas inside the area in which the boiler had been installed was a separate power outlet that had been supplied from the other fuse board. I hadn’t replaced that board with one fitted with an RCD as it wasn’t deemed necessary. The power outlet was faulty in any case and wasn’t in use so I disconnected it. Now I was finished. As I was driving home, for I had no other work, I got more calls for work but turned them down. They were too remote and out of my catchment area. Once home I got more calls and these I put on my schedule, one of which I am doing next Tuesday morning. I seem to get a lot of work on a Tuesday!
With the amount of work I am offered it is difficult to think about retirement and it isn’t hard work, that is strenuous, so as long as I can do it I carry on. I try not to do too much though. I am the type of person who simply finds it difficult to sit down too long. I often think I am going to wear myself out but it doesn’t seem to happen. People ask me how I manage to continue and I tell them that I am afraid I will seize-up if I stop! There’s a lot of truth in that you know, I have heard many people tell me their experiences once they stopped work and how much it affected them. I cannot go on forever I know but I will always remain active one way or another if I can.
(Plain) Flour and (lite) milk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As I write this on Thursday afternoon I have had no electrical job offers that I am willing to take on-board since last Thursday and no work therefore since last Friday. Swings and roundabouts of course and I may yet get requests before this week is out. One good thing to come out of this, or maybe two good things would be the nice long break and a chance to really rest from my labours and to know what it would be like to be fully retired. I am not interested in the latter as such and I know that whilst I am fit and healthy I shan’t be idle once I do decide to retire from my formal occupation. For someone who doesn’t much care for travel and going places just because they are there or spending my whole later life roaming about like a hedonistic modern-day gypsy, I need to be doing something else instead. As I like working with my hands I know there will always be something for me to do, as long as I am fit and able. Besides I am more or less done with roaming for the sake of it except for taking the occasional break should I feel the need. Thankfully now the weather is slowly improving, the sun has been shining a lot over the past week raising my mood as it does. Funny how sunshine promotes activity, of any kind. More opportunities for outdoor pursuits or work, whichever of those I choose to do will keep me occupied. I have been offered work though but they have either been not cost-effective to do or they have been too far afield or too large for someone of my age. I tire of life sometimes, not the living of it but the things we all are expected to do living in a modern society. Jumping off the merry-go-round, the treadmill or getting out of the rat race would suit me fine but alas I am stuck with it. Once in the system, always in the system. The less of that system’s effect on my life the better as far as I’m concerned. For the time being I am expecting to get through this week work free…………….maybe. So what else did I do on Thursday afternoon? I cleaned the windows at the front of the house from the outside. They can be cleaned from the inside as they open inwards but reaching the fixed windows above, at least downstairs, are best done from the outside. They needed a hose pipe and a squeegee for they were heavily soiled and the higher ones had to be reached from a ladder. The sun was drying them as fast as I could wet them! Soon I was back indoors and baking some more scones having to use baking powder in the mix having discovered we had no self-raising flour but only plain flour. Adding a little baking powder to a self-raising flour mix makes them rise even more. E had been out shopping with her mum and can always tell when I have been baking in her absence, the house is filled with a lovely aroma.
St George’s Cross – the flag of England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Funny how things go sometimes. I was talking about flying the flag or rather not flying the flag a few days ago because of the very high winds we had been experiencing. I had to lower the flag and remove it for a few days until the wind subsided. The recommended upper speed limit of the wind when flying the flag is 35 mph and it has been far windier than that lately. A couple of days ago I resumed flying the flag, well the one we have that isn’t damaged for we had to take down the Union flag because it was showing signs of wear. It had been of lesser quality than we had expected and not as good as the other flag which is the cross of St George but not like the one shown in this picture! Anyway to cut a long story short I decided to purchase a new and better quality Union flag which should have arrived by the time this is posted. It cost a little under £65 inclusive of tax and postage. Having decided to fly the flag again the weather has now turned quite mild with little wind, just typical. Not only has there been little in the way of wind there has been no snow either. Some parts of the country have been less fortunate though to see the smiles upon the children’s faces they are happy about it. I don’t like snow or wind myself. I’ve not been too busy lately and I am in grave danger of getting used to that. I hope my electrical work picks up a bit as I am not receiving many requests just at the moment. Nature of the beast, sometimes I am swamped with work and at other times barely get any. It’s a bit like the wind, it comes and it goes and at the moment neither is in abundance.
Disposable Income (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was a few days ago I wrote yesterday’s post and the work has been coming in little by little since then. The weather has been all over the place this week and it has been difficult to get a day where all is settled, in fact we’ve not been that lucky. I tell myself it can only improve as the weeks pass. E and I haven’t been dining out lately, not because we don’t wish to but at this moment in time I am trying not to spend my disposable income. I am trying to save it instead as there are one or two domestic maintenance jobs to be paid for. Of course when I retire our dining out escapades will be paid for out of my pensions but whilst I am working I prefer to use the income from my jobs. We don’t much do the dining out thing over the Christmas and New Year period anyway so we’ve not really missed it. Last week I had four electrical jobs whilst so far this week (Tuesday) I have had three. At least my overheads are covered with a little over. E went out with her mum on Tuesday afternoon whilst I was out working and she didn’t come home until well after six o’clock. I was preparing an evening meal when she came into the kitchen to tell me that she had dined out with her mum! Evidently her mum had treated her whilst they were out shopping but E didn’t let me know. I’d have thought she could have at least phoned me. It meant I had to dine alone and put the left-overs in the fridge. What can I say? She did tell me that the automated lighting circuit in the garage she uses had failed to operate properly. I wired the existing fluorescent light to switch on if the garage door was open and if it was dark outside. This means the light would only come on automatically if those two conditions were met. It also means I have another small electrical job to sort out! I used to dread coming home after work sometimes. E would tell me that there was something I needed to look at, which usually meant something had either stopped working or had broken in some way. Nowadays I half-expect her to say something! Half the time I find problems myself too.
Stock Taking… Stock taking a close look. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having passed my sixty-ninth birthday almost two months ago I have been thinking a lot about my work, how much of it I want and for how much longer. I have spent almost fifty-three years in the electrical business in one form or another and I suppose I have worked in most areas of the profession. There is very little anyone can tell me about my work now that I’ve a lifetime’s experience. However I have been taking stock of my situation lately insofar as I don’t wish to be swamped with work but only wish to spend a few hours each week doing it. It is a fine balance at the moment for on the one hand it is costing me to advertise and yet if I don’t advertise the work will drop off almost completely. I need to work a minimum amount of hours just to pay for the advertisement and the other overheads associated with a business of this type. At the moment my workload is very low and actually insufficient to maintain my business if it were to last. If it doesn’t pick up I shall most certainly go into retirement but I don’t see that happening, the workload picking up I mean. Of course I am not getting any younger and will want to retire eventually I suppose. It may happen sooner than I think, who knows? I was discussing these things with E a while ago for at that time I told her that I was as bored as hell with nothing to do. I wasn’t referring to my electrical work though for at the time I didn’t have any, I was referring to a lack of opportunity to work in the garden doing those things I knew wanted doing. It was all down to the weather being so appalling but we sis speak about what I might find to do if I were to retire from my electrical work. The thing is I do get bored very easily if I have nothing to do whereas many others might find that doing nothing is fine. Some may find travelling is what they want to do or indulging in the high life or a hobby of some kind. I am less inclined to do those things too often if at all. I prefer to be working at something so I am hoping my work picks up before I am incapable of doing it!
People Are Crazy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Since Christmas Day I have received a couple of offers for work both of which I turned down. Despite my advertisement not being published until January 7 and having last been published a week before Christmas I still get the calls. The latest request was indeed quite a simple one and tempting as it was in my own town. A fluorescent light fitting was overheating and indeed had failed. I explained to the gentleman calling that I wasn’t available for work until the second week in January for I was determined to take at least the two-week break I had promised myself. I worked very hard during the weeks preceding Christmas accommodating almost everyone who had a request. Now all I wanted to do was rest from that work. Yes I could take on the work but why should I? I am not a machine. What I think is happening here is people have found my advertisement in an older publication and have made note of the details without checking to see if my advertisement is currently being published. Common sense would indicate that if I am not advertising for work I am not available for one reason or another. One of my recent calls was from a previous customer who perhaps thought I would waive my intentions to stay rested for a while and go and do their job. I appreciate their calls and to have chosen me to do the work but I have to draw the line and turn work down else burn myself out. A girl can only do so much, especially if she is my age! I do propose to be working a little in the next week or so but only at home. I am afraid everyone else will have to wait.
No, not coming down with something. That’s probably not possible just now as I have been pretty much isolated from my fellow human beings lately. No, I’ve got the work bug. After spending a little time out in the garden on Christmas Day (well I had to do something!) I am now itching to do some more if only to remove the boredom and of course to get some exercise. I am glad I moved the gooseberry plants. Their roots were beginning to spread after the couple of years they have been there but even so I had to cut some of them back before I could get them out of the ground. I simply replanted them a short distance away and now they will be far easier to maintain and to gather the fruit. It will be a couple on months yet before they will spring back into life. You can see the cut-down gooseberry shrubs beneath the laurels which have been moved along the same line but close to the (now removed) small slabs on the left in the picture. The laurel shrubs will now have no nearby competition to stem their growth, not that they were being held back. They have grown quite a few centimetres since they were planted early in the year. Hopefully in the next few months we shall see them beginning to have the effect for which they were planted, to provide a colourful wind-break whilst enhancing the view from the patio. If the weather holds fine I hope to finish laying and positioning the few remaining stones around and near the ‘mound’ (see summer posts). It will be a couple of weeks before I am available for electrical work so I need to make the most of the free time I have now. There is work to be done inside the house too but I fancy I shall be leaving that to one side for a while as much of it requires funding. I will however do as much as I can and am able to do without spending out on the major things which can wait.
By doing a couple of extra hours work on Thursday I was able to have Friday all to myself for there was no more work scheduled for the week. I needed the day to rest and took it.
On Saturday morning I arose with nothing at all in mind to do but soon after breakfast I got a call from an elderly man living some twelve miles away who asked if I could do a small job for him. It turns out that he was a retired electrician. He was now 85 years old and was forbidden by his family to climb ladders at his age. He was somewhat confused about the fault he’d asked me to fix. A chandelier ‘blew up’ he said when he switched it on but that he was able to reset the circuit breaker. He told me all the other lights remained working when the circuit breaker had tripped but in fact when I checked it out that wasn’t the case. The circuit breaker controlled all of the lights on that floor. What had happened in fact was the neutral wire up at the ceiling had blown itself clear of the connector and had therefore simply prevented the light from working. I suspect it hadn’t been secured properly when the light was installed. I reconnected it but discovered the dimmer switch controlling the light was also faulty so I replaced it with an ordinary switch as I don’t usually carry dimmer switches in my van stock. He had asked me to fit an ordinary switch anyway. He was grateful that I had arrived so promptly and he paid me something extra for my services. As I was driving back towards home I received another call from a guy asking if I could check out his cooker circuit. He lives fairly close to my house so it wasn’t even out-of-the-way for me to call. The problem was the wall switch which had become faulty. I didn’t have a new replacement switch of the same type he had fitted but I did have a second-hand switch of the same type which I carried in case of an emergency. By now it was too late to visit the supplier and it would be Monday before I could buy a new switch so I told him that I could fit the one I had and that he wouldn’t be charged for the switch but just for my visit. I explained that the switch was all right but simply needed a bit of a clean and that he should have no problems with it. A new switch could easily be fitted later if required. He seemed happy with that and I was paid for my time. So much for a rest from work! I am not expecting any more work before Christmas Day as I write this on Saturday afternoon but I know I shouldn’t speak too soon.
Nine Days to Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There comes a time when it all becomes too much. I work best under a bit of pressure and find I get more done too. On the approach to Christmas I expect and get a lot of work. It seems everyone wants electrical work done in the few weeks preceding the holiday. These past two or three weeks have been an exceptionally busy time for me but it is the same every year. It’s not as if the type of work I am doing has to be done right now, most of the work could be done at other times in the year. I sometimes get the feeling that people just want to spend more at Christmas. The season itself it seems is a time for redecoration of lounges, new light fittings, perhaps an extra power point to accommodate some new piece of electrical apparatus and even a power source outside for a lit-up Christmas tree. Unusually this year no-one has asked for an outside power point. Most of the work I have been doing lately is to do with lighting, changing them or wiring for new ones but I have done many other things too. Whilst the work is good to receive it can be overwhelming at times and I have to reject offers else burn myself out. I will try to accommodate where I am able but I cannot do everything for everyone. One lady asked me the other day to disconnect a cooker and remove a ceiling light both of which were to be taken to her new address a couple of days later. She told me that no-one seemed to want the work and she was desperate to get it done as soon as it was possible. I accordingly offered to squeeze her job into my schedule and she was relieved that at last she had found someone to do it for her. A couple of days later she left a message on the house phone saying, ‘It’s Mrs…from such and such a place….I don’t need you to come, someone else has offered to do the job as a favour (not getting paid)’ and put the phone down. It didn’t matter to me that I’d lost the work for in the next couple of minutes I received more requests but what annoyed me more was that she had practically pleaded with me to find the time to do her job and I accommodated her. Now she didn’t even thank me or apologise that she had cancelled at the last-minute. It really is too much. Earlier in the morning whilst driving to a job a man called me asking if I could help with a problem, a loss of power to some circuits but at that time there was no way I could do anything for him as my appointments prevented me. Normally in the past I would have tried to do something about it but these days more often I have to draw the line and refuse. I am not a machine, I need time out.
Main distribution board in old apartment building, build in 1949. Lot of metal conductive parts are not insulated, so it is danger to work there without rubber (dielectric) gloves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My week started much as it had last week, with plenty of work to do. I had one job scheduled for Monday morning and it did last the whole morning too, well from ten ’til one! I was replacing a power distribution board in someone’s house though actually all the work was carried out in their garage where the old board was situated. I suppose I could have done nothing else for the rest of the week after that one job. I was paid well enough to have done so, however I did have more work scheduled for later in the week. I received a call soon after I’d finished the job to do another! The second job was small and was in an apartment block a mile and a half from home. I had it done within an hour. I was still back home by three o’clock. Whilst sorting out my paperwork I checked the house phone for messages and found one asking me to do a small job when I could find the time. Had the person called me on my mobile phone I could have done the work that afternoon but by now it was three-thirty so I arranged to do it on Tuesday morning. I had no plans to work on Tuesday but I had planned to do other things in the morning meaning I would have to go out anyway. I could do both and still have plenty of time to dine out with E, which is exactly what I did. My next job on Wednesday was to take me quite a few hours, maybe four or six, though it would be in a nice warm apartment. The phones never stop ringing at this time of year and by the time it is Christmas I will be ready for a well-earned break. To that end I called the advertising department of the newspaper which runs my advertisement to tell them not to publish on 24th and the 31st. That will give me two weeks free from work………maybe……..knowing me I will probably respond to any requests I might get or find something to do at home and there’s certainly plenty of that to be had.