Wasting my time

Result improperly joined aluminum and copper w...

Result improperly joined aluminum and copper wires in old USSR apartments, done by qualified electrician (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well I pottered about on Tuesday with nothing to do but come Wednesday some work came my way. The first job was to refit a fan unit in someone’s sun-bed. Now I had already told the customer over the phone that I do not carry out repairs to appliances as a rule (I once did) but because her description of the fault made it sound such a simple task I said I would call in and have a look. A little after the phone call someone else phoned for my services, someone for whom I had worked previously on a couple of occasions. Most of their household lighting was out of action through a fault. I told them I would call after I had done that first small job. Now when I arrived at that first job I remembered that I had been there previously too, a couple of years ago when they had moved in and wanted some outside power outlets and other things fitted. I looked at the faulty fan and discovered it was unserviceable,  the fan blades were broken and the fan bearing had worn dramatically because of that. Instead of getting the fan repaired immediately they had continued to use it making the fault even worse. A replacement fan should be easy enough to order over The Internet and I offered to fit it once they had bought the replacement unit, though in fact it could be done by themselves it is that easy. In some respects my journey there was a waste of time though I could end up returning there at a later date. That job, or non-job, was more or less en-route to the second, though the second job was twelve miles distant so although it had been, if you like, a waste of time, it wasn’t an inconvenience. Tracing a fault in a lighting circuit is far more of a challenge, especially where the circuits were installed some time ago when under the floor junction boxes were used. Fortunately this house wiring had been installed in more recent times so that all the connections could be found inside the ceiling roses or behind the ceiling light fittings. No need to lift floorboards. That was just as well for they had laid new oak flooring over the old floorboards in most of the rooms! I discovered a faulty cable inside one of the roses and disconnected it. I was then able to switch on the power. To my amazement all the lights worked despite my disconnecting that cable. Evidently someone had installed a replacement cable from the distribution board to the lights as the original one had been faulty perhaps because a nail had been driven through it. Unfortunately when the new cable was installed they had forgotten to disconnect the faulty one! How it had managed to continue to work is a wonder in itself. Perhaps the original fault had temporarily disappeared only to reappear again later. If the fault was caused by a nail in the floorboards for instance, walking on the boards might cause an intermittent recurrence of that fault. It had to be disconnected completely. In this instance it appears not to have been. I was paid well at this job which more than compensated for the first where I wasn’t paid at all, though I wouldn’t have accepted a payment in any case. I joked about my fee which didn’t include a basic lesson in electricity generation and distribution for they had asked why we now have in this country, brown and blue wiring. I had to explain some of the history behind it too. Actually (for those who are not electricians) there are three ‘live’ conductors or supplies, brown, grey and black and a blue neutral. Those colours used to be red, yellow and blue with a neutral in black. For domestic simplicity and safety the basic colours chosen within a house would be red and black (with a green earth) in the old system but brown and blue (with a green or green and yellow earth) in the new system. Electrical generation and distribution is far more complicated that this of course and I cannot expound any more here. I arrived back home and had put the van in the garage around two o’clock. A message awaited me on the house phone (why people insist on calling me on the house phone during working hours is beyond me), it was from an old lady who lives about three-quarters of a mile from my house and for whom I have done several jobs in the past, though I hadn’t been there for two years. During that absence her husband had developed cancer of the bladder and had died. One of her grandchildren had been playing inside a cupboard where an electrical cable was exposed and she wanted it disconnecting thinking it was still ‘live’. I decided to go there immediately but found that it had actually been out of use for many years and in fact had already been disconnected at source. I made the ends safe just in case and pushed the cable beneath the floor out of harm’s way. Whilst there I saw her deceased husband’s collection of cast metal toy vehicles, cars, buses and other things all inside display cabinets. They were all in pristine condition and she told me that their original cardboard boxes were stored away and were also in pristine condition. Furthermore he had a large collection of silver teaspoons in display cabinets also in pristine condition. In total there must be many thousands of pounds worth of collectables in the house. She told me they were insured to a value of £20,000. That is probably a conservative estimate considering what these things sell for at auction. I advised her to have them evaluated so that she can sell them at a fair price. She intends to do just that.I am sure her departed husband would encourage her to sell them rather than just have them taking up wall space. That would be a waste of time and money!

Shirley Anne


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