The long weekend

Here in the UK we had another of our ‘Bank holiday Mondays’ break, a long weekend free from work for those who are employees. Those who are self-employed may or may not treat these extra days as a holiday and ever since I became self-employed I haven’t always observed the extra day off. This time I planned working at home on my project on Saturday and Monday. After breakfast on Saturday morning I part-emptied my van once more and drove off to a merchant who sells everything you might need for gardening projects from paving stones, natural stone, wooden or concrete fencing as well as plants and many other things. It is a relatively new establishment, maybe of five years standing and has grown considerably in that time. It was September/October last year when I last visited the place. I had bought natural stone slabs when constructing the flowerbeds on the patio. This visit was for the same thing, natural stone slabs for topping my latest brick construction. I chose not to drive directly home but to visit my local garden centre for a few plants. The other merchant has as yet a limited stock of plants and none that I wanted. I bought six plants, five to go in the new bed and one to be planted alongside. When I got back home I took to shovelling more soil  into the bed. I placed the natural stone slabs on top of the walls as a temporary measure basically to see how much I would need to cut off to make them fit properly when I came to cement them in place permanently. They would also keep the tops of the walls dry and prevent the holes in the top of the bricks from filling up with water when it rained. Rain was forecast for Saturday night. Having done that I dug in the new plants……Plot 14

The plants are at the rear (left-hand side) two ‘Myrtifolia‘ which can grow to a height of 7 ft (2.1 m) with a 6 ft (1.8 m) spread. When mature the two will form a high backdrop hedge. They are evergreen, have white flowers followed by black berries. In front of them are three plants, none of which are evergreen, one ‘Thunbergii atropurpurea’ otherwise known as ‘Red Chief’ which stands next to the high wall at the rear. It has pale yellow flowers in Spring and bright red berries in Autumn. The other two are facing the Laurel bushes next to the patio. They are ‘Berberis Admiration’, commonly called ‘Japanese Berberry’. They have pale yellow flowers and crimson berries in the Winter and drop their leaves in Autumn.  I may decide to put in a couple more evergreen shrubs but smaller to fill in the spaces later. The sixth plant, another Laurel but with coppery-orange coloured new foliage I placed in the ground alongside the structure and against the rear high wall. It will grow to a height of 8 ft (2.4 m) with a spread of 6 ft (1.8 m). It will cover the wall in that position. Incidentally, click on the picture to magnify and again to get a closer look. In a very rare moment I caught E in a picture for she doesn’t like having her picture taken, so she says. She is sitting on the patio reading in the bright late morning sunshine. I write this on Saturday evening and hope to continue with the work on Monday if the weather holds and if my electrical services are not required.

Shirley Anne


Surprised myself

As Friday was to be a warm and sunny day and as I had no electrical work scheduled I had the opportunity to do more work on the Plot project. First though I had to pay a visit to the builder’s merchant to purchase more sand and cement. I didn’t have to empty out the van completely because I wasn’t intending to buy much, Even so I still had six bags to take home. Whilst there I purchased twelve large paving slabs too but they will deliver them for me on Tuesday. I may need more depending on what I decide to do on the Plot.  That done I set everything up apart from the cement mixer which I have been leaving outside overnight. I have to cover the motor and bearings though just in case it rains. It means I don’t have to waste time having to get it out of the garage and setting it up each day. The plan was to lay the final course of bricks to the raised bed I have been busy constructing, point the inner brickwork where necessary and then begin to fill the structure with soil a little later. After mixing a huge amount of mortar I discovered there wasn’t enough to lay the last two bricks! I knew I would need more anyway in order to fill in the gaps inside so I mixed more in a large bucket by hand. All I can say is I am glad we have a cement mixer for mixing large quantities! Once upon a time I used to mix everything by hand but it is extremely hard work if a lot has to be mixed by hand and I am no longer a young person. So I got this far at the end of the day……Plot 13

I didn’t begin putting the soil inside immediately but waited a while until the mortar had become firm. I guess I must have filled the bed to about half-way then I had lunch at some time around one-thirty. I was planning to resume filling it afterward but just before I sat down to eat I got a call from an old guy who had recently moved to the area and was having problems with some fluorescent lights in his garage. He lives just over a half-mile away so after lunch I went there and sorted it out. Easy money and it went part of the way to offset the cost of the materials I had just purchased. At the time of writing I may have to put off doing any further work for a few days. It all depends upon the weather.

Shirley Anne

You’re ‘avin a larf!

Only When I Larf
Only When I Larf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the weather forecast hereabouts Thursday was supposed to be wet, at least in the afternoon but I saw no rain until five o’clock. I had shelved working at home on the Plot for the day and thought I might get some electrical work to do instead. As it happened I was hoping I would get work in order to reline my purse after having to pay for unexpected repairs to my van at an unexpected cost! I had one small job to do which would only go toward reclaiming a small part of my outlay. As I am a Christian I often speak with God during my day and as often as I might I mention that I could do with some extra work. He never lets me down. I had just returned home after the first job and was about to have a coffee when I noticed the indicator on the house phone was flashing. That meant someone had left a message. It was from an elderly gentleman and his wife asking if I could do some small jobs for them. Evidently a previous customer had recommended me to them as being efficient and reliable. It meant  driving into the countryside some distance away. The work entailed the installation of a couple of power outlets in a greenhouse and a large shed, replacing two large fluorescent light fittings with smaller versions and wire and install another fluorescent fitting with a switch in another shed. The house and gardens occupied a very large plot of land and the couple have their garden open to the public to view during the summer months. The proceeds go to charity and this year they managed to collect £4000 from visitors. Their garden is a veritable maze filled with flowers, trees and shrubs of all kinds. It is one of those places you never tire of exploring. The work took me three hours then I was off home. By the time I reached my home town it was three-thirty and I had missed lunch. I got another call whilst driving along and it was from a guy I had worked for many times who wanted me to do a small job too. As I was about to drive past the road in which he lives I took the job. Finally I arrived back home. It was now after four-thirty and I’d had enough. Sometimes I think The Lord is having a laugh but He certainly is generous and always makes provision for me. He never lets me down. The saying ‘be careful what you ask’ is something of which to be aware, God will take you at your word if He’s a mind to. Thankfully He also knows when I need a rest too. Anyway I earned enough in the day to almost completely offset the van repair.
Managers (1 Chronicles 29:11)
Everything we have comes from God. We’re managers or stewards, not owners, of what God places in our trust. The days we live, the positions we fill, the children we nurture, the money in our accounts all belong to God. Of all of these, money is perhaps the hardest for many of us to think of as a trust. We work hard to earn it. We naturally want to keep it. But God assures us he will provide what we need. And the Bible says over and over that we are to give some of our money back to him. Difficult yes, but the money itself isn’t the issue. God doesn’t need our money. He wants what our money represents. He wants our hearts. Don’t build a barricade around your possessions or your heart. Give God your heart and watch how he orders and provides all that you need.
Taken from NIV Busy Dad’s Bible

Shirley Anne

Waiting for the rain

Up early again on Wednesday to do more work on the Plot. Wednesday was an ideal day for working outdoors being as it was slightly cooler than of late. After an early breakfast I was outside at a little after eight o’clock and was soon working. I didn’t have to set up the mixer so I was pretty much able to get straight to work. My main object for the day was to finish building the walled enclosure, its inner walls. I managed to do that but I may take the structure up one more level of bricks as I have discovered I have sixty-three bricks remaining and to lay another course will take forty-eight bricks. As it stands (Wednesday) there are seven courses of bricks. Of course I will be topping the walls with natural stone in keeping with the patio brickwork. In this picture the work has been temporarily covered because rain was forecast for Thursday and I wanted the walls to remain dry.Plot 12    Now then, I had finished with mixing mortar for the day as it was approaching lunchtime and I wasn’t prepared to carry on working into the afternoon. Rather than do nothing I chose to remove part of the wall alongside the path and dig out the soil behind it as you can see in the bottom right of the picture. I then laid some old bricks and rubble as a base for some concrete upon which I will lay a paving slab later. Eventually there will be three steps to match those I constructed a couple of years ago shown on the left in the picture. The plastic sheet standing there covers what is left of the four hundred bricks I had delivered for the work. There are sixty-three of them as I mentioned. Before I can fill the structure with soil I have to ‘point’ the internal walls, that is fill in all the gaps in the joints. Later I will have to do the same with the outer surfaces of the construction. I had my lunch and then spent a few minutes on the patio but was disturbed by a phone call from the auto-electrician who had been repairing the fault of my van’s lighting switches. I walked to their workshop about a mile away and collected the van. The guy had to replace the whole mechanism which slides over the steering column and to which the control stalks are fitted. The cost for the replacement and fitting it? £246! I knew it wouldn’t be cheap but I didn’t expect it to be quite as expensive. I’m going to need a couple more electrical jobs to offset the outlay. Fortunately the work is still coming in.

Shirley Anne

Back on the job

I had not worked on the Plot for some days but was determined to get something done on Tuesday when the weather made a change for the better. The forecast for the following few days looked promising too so I hoped to make the most of them. I had to take my van in on Tuesday morning to have a fault on the lighting circuits repaired but the repair shop didn’t open until nine o’clock and I had to wait a while. It was almost ten o’clock before I returned home. I walked the distance as it wasn’t too far away. It meant a late start for my project work but soon I was in my overalls and getting organized. I had put everything away after I had last worked on the job which was just as well because of the heavy rain we had in the interim. I spent about three hours mixing mortar and laying bricks. Not having a helping hand made the work tiring for I had to do everything myself. I laid about nine bricks to finish the outer walls and then began to build the inner wall on one side. This is how far I got..Plot 11

I have almost completed the right-hand-side now and have also started building the inner wall at the front (out of sight in this picture). Part of the left hand inner side wall was built last week but hopefully I will get to finish it tomorrow, Wednesday as I write. I may have to find some more bricks to be able to complete the inner walls though I haven’t done a brick count yet to verify that. Hopefully I will be able to use some of the old second-hand bricks we have lying around if it comes to their need. I did no more work in the afternoon having finished tidying up at one-thirty to have lunch. I was also waiting for a call from the repair shop letting me know the repair had been done.

Shirley Anne

Another day at the office

Office (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing I have always maintained is that I couldn’t sit in an office all day long to earn a wage. Although office work might suit some people it certainly doesn’t and never has suited me, I like to be out and about being somewhere different each day. The occupation I chose has provided me with the freedom over the years and even when I was fixed in one location many times and for many months on construction sites and large commercial projects there was still that flexibility and freedom. I once worked as a maintenance engineer for twenty-one years and that job came close to keeping me in one place but even then there was freedom of movement as it was a large complex. Since working for myself these last nineteen years I have enjoyed considerable freedom of movement and of choice of work. It has given me the freedom to allow myself time off whenever I feel the need too. I had a non-planned full day at the office so to speak on Monday. Monday wasn’t really a pleasant day weather-wise until later in the afternoon. I had one job scheduled for the morning which took me up to ten-thirty and then I drove off to call into the service station where I have my van repaired and tested. Last Saturday on returning home from work I found I couldn’t switch off my van’s lights. If I opened the door to get out an alarm sounded but then stopped once the door was closed. I got out to see what would happen but found the lights still remained on. If I switched the column stalk switch to the ‘on’ position and went through the process once more the lights turned off after a minute. It needed an auto-electrician to look at it.

Embed from Getty Images

Even though I have worked on many electrical systems motor vehicles is one area I gave a wide berth over the years. I have never been that interested in vehicle maintenance and only have a basic knowledge of motor vehicle circuitry. These days much of the circuitry is now computer controlled anyway. Unfortunately my service station don’t employ an auto-electrician at their premises but the gave me an address of one who lives and works locally. I drove there and the guy had a quick look and booked my van in for the next morning. As I write this on Monday evening I cannot say what has been the outcome. Whilst there it rained heavily and continued for the next hour or so with more bursts until the early afternoon. It was lunchtime so I prepared and ate lunch and then decided I would do some preparation work so I could carry on with the bricklaying on my project on the Plot on Tuesday which supposedly was going to be a fine day together with Wednesday. I had just begun to move the remainder of the bricks. about two hundred of them, close to the Plot itself when my phone rang. Ir was a call for help from a regular customer. Part of their kitchen wiring had an intermittent fault and they could hear the sound of arcing beneath the kitchen units. I had done work in their kitchen a couple of years ago to put right part of the installation which had been done by her husband who had then abandoned her and went to live elsewhere. The final part of that installation needed rewiring on its own circuit but at that time there were no funds available. I arranged it to still function at a lower capacity by connecting it temporarily through a plug thus limiting the current to 13 amps. The lady was to call me when she was ready for the rewire of the circuit to take place. She didn’t call and the temporary arrangement finally gave way because she was making too many demands on the plug. I made the repair. She really ought to consider getting the circuit rewired. I returned home and managed to get  the bricks moved and some groundwork done too before calling it a day. It was time for my evening meal already!

Shirley Anne

Summer baking

English: They baked up into a wonderful tender...
They baked up into a wonderful tender and flaky scone! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As usual I rest on Sundays, that is I rest from the work, my usual occupation throughout the week I might do other things instead but I wouldn’t call them work, more like hobbies or leisure activities. Mowing the lawn could be an example, it is basically going for a walk whilst pushing a mower! Seriously though I would count baking or cooking meals not really work unless they were a part of my normal work during the week. If for example I were a chef or cook or ran a bakery business I would consider doing the same things on Sunday to be work and not leisure. So it was I found myself gazing out of the kitchen window and looking around the garden and wondering what I could be doing with the day. Work wasn’t an option. I had been cooking fresh pears and preparing a meal and was washing the crockery and pans by hand as I usually do . Although we have a dishwasher I seldom use it. I started thinking about baking cakes, something I had been doing a lot of through the colder months, more of a comforting pleasure than anything else. Sunday wasn’t a particularly warm and sunny day though it wasn’t cold, it was the wind which made being outside less inviting. It felt more like Autumn than Summer and staying indoors was at times preferable. Usually I don’t bake much during the warmer months but I decided whilst the midday weather was trying to improve I would bake a cake. However I changed my mind and took the easier option of baking some scones instead. I hadn’t lost the touch but still had to refer to the cookery book to remind myself of quantities and temperatures. If I am baking often naturally I remember how much of each ingredient to use though even so I have to double-up as I tend to make twice the number of scones or make a cake twice the size. I had one of the scones soon after they were baked and just as E entered the kitchen. Funny how she turns up when the baking is done but then I do bake nice things.

Shirley Anne

Wet and dry

Raining Pleasure (EP)
Raining Pleasure (EP) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well it didn’t know what to do on Saturday, one minute it was raining and the next the sun was shining. These are the kind of days I like the least, I want to know if it is going to be wet or dry, not wet and dry! If I’ve to do any work outdoors it is essential it remains dry unless if wet it doesn’t affect what I am doing. At the moment I need some dry days so that I can get on with my project and it does matter if it is fine weather or not. On Saturday I was employed doing electrical work for someone else and except for installing a replacement outdoor light fitting all the work was indoors. I took the opportunity to do the outside work while it was dry. It didn’t stay dry for long though but long enough for installing the light. I seldom do electrical work at the weekend and will only work on Sunday if I consider it to be an emergency so it was unusual to find me working on a Saturday. The house was full of young women and even the dog was female and they had only moved in a week or so before from an adjacent street and wanted some replacement lights installing. Evidently their former home wasn’t as good as the one they had moved into and the mother told me that they had bought it at a knock-down price because the previous owner had many cats living there. It sounds a ridiculous reason for selling a house at a lower price I think but the buyer wasn’t complaining! I had the work all done by noon and soon found myself back home. I prepared my lunch as E left the house to drive to her once-a-month meeting of her group of hobbyists, in fact the members’ main occupation is entering competitions. I get abandoned and left to my own devices at such times….LOL. The afternoon turned out very bright and sunny, a tempting time to do some outdoor work maybe? Not a chance, I was too tired and it could still rain.

Shirley Anne

He got the message

There are many people like the man in the short video below who simply did not understand for one of many reasons. Something in him directed his thinking and he began to reason things out for himself. Rather than remaining as he was he was open-minded and had a determination to seek the truth which in fact is very near to us all. It just needs a willing heart and an inquisitive spirit but each one has to make the journey in their own way. Here is his testimony….

I hope you found it interesting enough to take stock and examine your own beliefs and maybe realise that there is something lacking in them.

Shirley Anne

Too popular

"My Two Sweethearts". Harry Houdini ...
“My Two Sweethearts”. Harry Houdini (1874-1926) with his wife Beatrice (1876-1943) and mother Cecilia Steiner Weiss, half-length portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is always nice to be popular, to feel wanted and appreciated I’m sure you’ll agree. It is even nicer to know that people will actually pay you to have you around, ah but only to work for them. I can honestly say that the older I get the more offers of work I get too! Sounds ridiculous and it is but it is also true. My phone has been ringing a lot lately which means I have the opportunity to earn some money if I am inclined. I actually reject many offers but what I accept is just fine thank you very much. Earlier in the week I was doing a balancing act between my home project work and that of my electrical work. It rained on Friday as expected which put paid to working on my project but I was fortunate to have a couple of electrical jobs to do by way of compensation. I would be doing electrical work on Saturday and on Monday too which meant the home project would remain on hold for a few more days. I am keen to carry on with the work however so I will be keeping an eye on the weather outlook and if it is going to be fine I will put off doing any electrical work. Much of my work is received by word of mouth, happy and satisfied customers forwarding my details on to friends and family. The first job on Friday entailed various lighting repairs and the replacement of fittings for an older couple on behalf of their daughter who it seems has had a rather difficult time these past few years with health problems, divorce from a cheating husband, a special needs child and other children to look after as well as trying to hold down a job. Her parents were paying to have the work done as a surprise for her. Well the work took almost the whole morning though I did have to travel to and from the electrical supplier for materials as well. My second job was to be much simpler. A faulty twin power outlet needed replacing. there was just the one drawback, it was sited beneath the kitchen sink and over to the right high up inside the cupboard with the only access through the opening beneath the sink. There was a waste-disposal unit suspended beneath the sink which added to the difficulty in just reaching the outlet. I often think to myself who on earth would install a power outlet or any other electrical device in such an awkward position? I’ll wager even Harry Houdini would have found it difficult to reach let alone replace but replace it had to be, mind you he is remembered best for escaping from awkward situations rather than getting into them. Now I know I can squeeze myself into unusual spaces if the need arises but I had my doubts about this one. I managed the replacement after much groaning and wiggling about and told the gentleman in jest not to let it happen again. I was well-paid for my efforts though so I suppose it was worthwhile. You may remember in a recent post I wrote about the impossible access to an electrical panel beneath the stairs in a cupboard that could not be accessed because the door was too narrow and the space was filled with wine racks and other things which couldn’t be removed through the narrow doorway. The doorway must have been fitted after the space had been filled! It defies logic. Basically it is stupid.

Shirley Anne