If today is anything to go by it looks as if we are in for yet still more hot weather. Yesterday was hot enough and today has followed suit. It is the last week of the month, even the last Monday and I am glad I am not still working as an electrician. It always seemed the way that during the hot weather I was stuck inside a house or inside somewhere on a building site but in the cooler and colder months I was asked to do outside work. I looked forward to the days when I could decide to work in conditions I preferred and better still not have to work at all! I used to dream about such days. As a youngster I dreamt about growing up and especially how I could become a girl. I didn’t wish for anything else.As I grew up I realised life had other ideas and there were things I had to do before any of my wishes and desires could come about. My future didn’t quite turn out as I had originally intended but you can read about that in my pages section of this blog. In the winter time I used to yearn for warm weather but not so much these days. Much as I like the warm weather it can be too much for me to cope with sometimes. I prefer it to be cool though not freezing cold! You might therefore assume I am at present wishing for cool weather and to a point you would be correct. I am however enjoying the fact that I can walk about in a swimming costume and a slip-on skirt. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we wish does it? Now I am retired I have a more controlled future and can pretty much have things the way I want. These are the days I dreamt would never arrive until they did. I used to imagine what life would be like for me at different stages of it. I was born in 1945 which is of course the last century. Not everyone will be able to claim to have lived in two different centuries! At ten years of age I thought about what I would be like twenty years later and then when those days arrived I thought about 2005 and my sixtieth birthday. It was too far ahead to worry about so I carried on and gave it no more thought. When I did reach that age I realised that it had crept up on me and suddenly there seemed to be nothing to look forward to, nothing to dream about, in this world at least. These are the days though that I once could only dream about.
Not me, it was E Apart from going for a walk and popping in next door to fix my neighbour’s light I remained at home. I was up, showered, dressed and eating my breakfast before nine o’clock just as E was coming down the stairs. I ate a breakfast because going for a walk had been deferred for an hour or so. I usually don’t eat a breakfast now if I am taking an early walk but just an item of fruit, most often a banana. I had promised my neighbour I would see what was wrong with her light so after breakfast that is what I did. The problem had been caused by the old tungsten lamps originally supplied with the fittings and over the years the heat produced by the lamps affected the electrical circuit between the lamp and the contacts. Modern LED lamps produce little heat whilst providing the same amount of light. I carried out some adjustments until finally the light worked. I returned home and prepared for my walk. Meanwhile E received a telephone call telling her that her mom wasn’t feeling well. She said she would most probably be late returning and I was to go for my walk. A couple of hours later I returned home and the phone rang. It was E letting me know that her mom had been taken to hospital again. She had been in hospital a couple of times in the last year or two. I ate lunch then went into the garage, the one where my van is parked and where we store the scaffolding tower, cement mixer, wheelbarrow, mower and numerous other things like bicycles. At the moment there are some wooden pallets and I was about to start dismantling them for the timber. Have you ever tried breaking down pallets without destroying them? With the best intentions I dismantled just the one but unfortunately couldn’t salvage some of it. Still, I managed to salvage about twelve pieces of usable timber each about a metre in length. Once that was done I stopped for the day. It was then three-thirty. I will do some more when the moment seizes me. As I wrote this at six-thirty in the evening I had still not heard any news from E and I feared the worst. It is now Tuesday and we received information that E’s mom is back home after the doctors gave her a clean bill of health. She is today (8th) 90 years old and still going strong.
I am surprised at my age that I am still working though not as hard and as long as I once did each day. These days my work is simpler in element (forgive the pun) than it used to be and that is totally my choice. It is my choice because I don’t wish to do too much in my semi-retirement. Sometimes I do work for longer periods than I expected but those times are rare. Usually I work no more than four or five hours whenever I do electrical work for others and part of that time is spent travelling anyway. Whilst at home I may put in more hours and often do on my own projects but I get tired if I try to do too much. I am a victim of my own good fortune though. I do not look anything like my age and that encourages people to ask more of me than I am prepared to undertake. When I tell people how old I am I get comments like ‘You’re never. I can’t believe you are that old’ they say. Once or twice I have had to produce my driver’s licence to prove it! Then the compliments start pouring in, ‘How do you keep so young-looking? Your complexion is amazing, not a wrinkle in sight’. I tell them that I plug myself into the power supply each night which brings a laugh. Seriously though I have never looked my real age at any stage in my life. I have always looked younger than I am. It is a blessing I guess. I was working in a house occupied by two elderly people on Monday morning, a married couple who hailed from my old home town (city), Liverpool and they like myself moved away from there some years ago. We reminisced about the old days and what it was like when we were younger. They were about ten years my senior. Naturally I was asked how long I had been an electrician and when I told them they couldn’t believe it as they said I looked far too young to have worked for so long. Once they saw me in action though their doubts soon faded. I was replacing faulty and dated under-the-unit lighting in their kitchen, rewiring the system and installing LED strip lights.
They had no idea what I was talking about when I suggested the type of replacement fittings I had in mind so I took the old guy off to the supplier and showed him. I selected the equipment and he made the purchase. He was surprised at how little he paid for them though the guy at the counter offered them at a discount because I was with him. When I had finished the work the couple were highly impressed at the result because the new fittings were brighter and gave a uniform light over the work surfaces. The old fittings gave a poor light output at ten times the cost in running them. I had to explain what ‘LED’ lights were and why they are so efficient. Now they are talking about replacing other lighting with LED units. When I left their house it was approaching noon and I drove to another house to do a job there. I finally returned home at one-thirty. I had been away from home exactly five hours. Just right. I took the rest of the day off!
The advantages of having a house with 53 steps in it means I get plenty of exercise. The disadvantages include the extra time it takes to do any work at the top of the house! I reckon I am reasonably fit for my age (70+) but climbing those stairs a few times leaves me exhausted. For example, if I begin working on our current project too soon after breakfast and climb those stair steps (40 from the breakfast room) I am a little out of breath. After a while though descending and climbing them isn’t so bad but it is still tiring if I have to do it two, three or more times, which is often the case. Again the same thing happens after I have eaten my lunch. Obviously, well to me anyway, my body is being starved of oxygen whilst my food is being digested so exercise becomes more difficult. At the other end of the scale tiredness sets in through lack of sustenance and my age. Doing any work at the top of the house is always going to take longer because of these factors. Still I plod on. E will be finding it even more difficult I know as she suffers with her condition (spina biffida) which, though not severe, nevertheless impedes her movement somewhat. More recently she has been suffering with a problem around one of her knees and even as I write she is booking an appointment to have it X-rayed. Despite her afflictions she works quite hard and sometimes doesn’t know when to stop. I have to insist she stops before she will do so herself. So things take longer when we get older and we need to be more careful that we don’t rush. There isn’t a need to rush anyway but there is the need to keep active else seize-up! Progress has been good on the project, the walls and ceiling are fully painted and the woodwork that needed to have an undercoat, that is most of it, has been painted. E painted a large section of skirting but somehow managed to twist her back in the process. It took her quite a few minutes to manoeuvre herself into a position whereby she could get up off the floor. I could do little to help (she’s very independent). I had to suggest that I do the low-level painting in future for there is plenty of painting that has to be done at waist height which will be more comfortable for her if she insists on painting something. To be fair she doesn’t usually have problems but it proves just how susceptible we can be if we don’t take care.
Try as I may to cut down on work I am finding it difficult sometimes especially when some people have great expectations of me. This past week I worked at the same address twice and all the work was in the kitchen either changing existing switches or power outlets or moving them in the process and replacing light units beneath cupboards and on the ceiling. No new circuitry was involved just simply rearranging one or two things. The first visit was on Tuesday followed by the second on Thursday after the customer had decided they wanted more work doing. No sooner as I had finished the extra work on Thursday when I was asked to install a new cooker hood where none existed once they had purchased it. Sadly I could have done part of the work which would be required whilst I was there on Thursday thereby making the installation of the hood easier when that time arrived. I agreed I would do the work which will probably take place this coming week. I don’t mind the frequent visits as each time I am there it is only for two or three hours and besides, the pay is good! However as soon as I had agreed to do the work I was asked if I would carry out some wiring installations at another house which means lifting floorboards and coverings and channelling out walls and such. I had to draw the line by refusing that work having found out what that work really entailed. It would be far too much to take on board when I am trying to do less rather than more. Too much is expected of me at times and although I know I can do the work offered I have to be sensible and say no sometimes. One guy phoned me a few nights ago asking if I could basically rewire his kitchen power outlets whilst at the same time install a few more. Now this work can take days rather than a few hours and is something I am not prepared to do at my age but the guy insisted that he would install the wiring and all I would have to do is make the connections. However it isn’t that simple for I would have to oversee his work and ensure he was doing it correctly and using the correct methods too. I might as well do it myself than educate someone else to do it especially if they are not qualified in any way. When I politely asked him to employ another electrician as I no longer take on such involved work he tried to persuade me otherwise. Maybe he just wanted a female electrician around the house. I wouldn’t mind so much but my advertisement does indicate that I only do small jobs these days. Great are the expectations of those asking of my services.
It was the seventieth anniversary of my birthday last Saturday. I don’t much remember the first few though I can remember incidences in those far off days of yesteryear. Recent events and especially people I sometimes have immense difficulty in remembering though specific instances and the more memorable I do remember. It isn’t an age thing, I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Yes I do remember that! In fact I find that I can remember factual information more readily than many other things. I have noticed over the last few years in particular that I am getting progressively absent-minded. I accept that this is due to age for I never used to be this way. Simply put, I forget things more easily these days. Now we are all no doubt guilty of that to some extent and for the most part it is more of a nuisance than a liability, fortunately. Leaving home without an important document that is required for a meeting or leaving an umbrella on a train can be classed as a nuisance, an inconvenience but neither poses a real problem. It is when we forget to do something which in doing so might result in a calamity or a danger to ourselves or others. Thankfully I am not at that stage and hope I shall never be. As we get older though we do forget things. I have joked about this with people I have met during the day. I will tell them that sometimes I will go upstairs to collect something or do something but once there I sometimes have to think what it is I was intending to do! It appears I am not alone in this either, many of us do exactly the same thing. It doesn’t help when my mind is filled with other things, for instance whilst at work. As I am working my mind is often two, three or even four stages ahead of my current activity and I can therefore be prone to forgetting minor details. I have to be aware of that. Now recently we had repairs done under guarantee on some of our windows and the front door of the house. We had lived with the problems for quite a number of months but were in no hurry to have the repairs done as long as they got done at some point. The main two faults were on one of the upstairs windows in a room currently not in use as it needs refurbishing and the lock mechanism on the front door. As we were not using the room the faulty window wasn’t the main problem. The door lock was more important though having said that it was more of a nuisance than a problem. When the doors were installed we could leave the house, lift up the handle and the door would be locked. The door handles look something like those shown in the picture.
Unless we had the key we would not be able to get back indoors so it was essential that we took our keys with us if we went outside. Of course if we were leaving the house and going off somewhere we would also lock the door further using the key. The lock therefore is a two-stage device but even set at the first stage will prevent re-entry. We had gotten used to not having to do this by simply locking the door with the key whenever we left the house because whilst the lock was faulty simply lifting the handle wouldn’t lock the door. If therefore I was out in the front of the house say putting garbage in the bin I was in no danger of locking myself out by lifting the door handle. Since it has been repaired there is every chance of locking myself out unless I take the key with me. Now I do not carry all my keys around with me whilst at home but there is a single key we keep to hand that we can take outside with us and it is used to lock and unlock the door whilst we are inside the house. Now here is the funny part. On Thursday E had just gone out to do the weekly shopping with her mom and I was at home. I decided to put out the accumulated plastic and cardboard waste and duly took it to the wheelie bin lifting the door handle as I left the house. A force of habit. I had however not taken that key with me for I had forgotten that the door lock had been repaired. Fortunately I had my mobile phone attached to my belt as I usually do during the day and I was able to call E for help. It took some time to get through to her but after four or five attempts she answered and returned home ten minutes later. I wasn’t dressed to be outdoors in the cold but I was glad it wasn’t raining too. I could have sat in my neighbour’s house had that been the case. E tried her key in the lock but it wouldn’t fit, the single key was in the lock on the inside where I had left it when unlocking the door! Why oh why didn’t I take it with me? There was one other possibility, try the rear door which leads into the cellar but we usually leave its key in the lock so that it cannot be misplaced. As the door is solid with no panels the key is safe left in the lock. Would E’s key be able to unlock it from the outside? We had to open the garage door then two more internal doors to get to the rear garden and on to the rear house door. She put the key in and turned it, we were in! I thanked her and sheepishly went inside whilst she returned through the garage to her car and drove away. I must remember to take a key with me next time. Whenever I am leaving the house to go anywhere I have my handbag with me. My house keys are always in it. It is only whilst at home I don’t carry them around and it is only the front door which is waiting for me to make a mistake.
……early to rise, makes a man (or woman) healthy, wealthy and wise. Do you remember this snippet of wisdom taught to you when you were young? I used to think it applied to others and not myself but then I got wise. Staying up till the late hours and then sleeping in the following day has never been a way of life for me ever since I began my working life. Of course there were days when I did stay up late and did sleep in the following morning but they have been few. Being as I am self-employed and that since 1997, the saying has more of a meaning than it once did. When working for someone else or an organisation the tendency is often to do only that asked of you and no more. That principle doesn’t apply to everyone for there are those who give their all irrespective of whether they are self-employed or not and that is a good thing, Speaking as a Christian it is right and proper to put 100% effort and interest in your work, especially if it is for and on behalf of your employer. Now if that employer happens to be yourself you can see the reason for this approach for if you are lazy you will be the one to suffer. Even before I became a Christian I applied this principle to my approach to work. I took pride in my work and was rewarded for it by way of promotion and better prospects. Since becoming self-employed, which incidentally was only eight years after I became a Christian, it was natural for me to continue to give my all. It is a biblical teaching too. So from the first tentative days of being self-employed to the present day I can say that I have become (more) healthy, wealthy and certainly more wise! I have been telling everyone that I am now working part-time, have become semi-retired but in reality I am finding my income remains almost as it was a few years ago and I am better off than ever. I try not to work too hard but occasionally I find myself putting in more hours than I had intended though nothing like I used to, after all I am approaching seventy years of age! I meet other people of a similar age and find that those who seem to be more agile and hard-working into their old age fare much better than those who don’t. They too retire early and rise early ready to catch the proverbial worm. Laziness is the seed which produces poverty and poor health.
Some old people put themselves in danger because they forget things or they do things without due consideration for the consequences of their actions. I came across one such incident on Tuesday morning. A couple of days earlier an elderly gentleman asked if I was available to change some power outlets in his house but as it was a weekend and specifically the request was for Sunday I declined. I was then asked if I was available on Monday but I had work scheduled for that day too. I arranged to do the work therefore on Tuesday morning. There was no urgency to have the work done as I expected that the original outlets were still in use. However, when I arrived on Tuesday morning I discovered that not only were the old power outlets disconnected and removed so also were several lighting switches. The power supply had not been switched off! That meant all the bare and exposed wiring was still live! It had been that way for a few days as the old guy had evidently removed them himself but why did he then leave the power switched on? One or two lights and power outlets were still in use and that was why he didn’t switch it off. How he managed to avoid electrocuting himself is an absolute miracle but that was only because of the RCD trip switches in the supply panel. It took me about three hours to sort things out and to re-site one of the outlets because of a lack of wire to reconnect it. One had to be removed as it sat directly above his cooker! The old guy’s son appeared shortly after I had arrived and was somewhat helpful. When I had finished the work he told me that now he could rest assured that his dad’s environment was now electrically safe. I thought I had seen it all during my years in the business but a house full of exposed live wiring was a first. I have seen incidences of perhaps one or two bare live conductors but never a house full! I drove off to the pub for lunch.
Well my week has been a little on the boring side at times as far as work goes, I had very little of it, though I did turn down a few offers, they unfortunately were too large for me to undertake at my age. I was offered the chance to rewire a house in one instance, install many power outlets in another and to undertake the repairs of a host of electrical problems somewhere else. Great opportunity for someone twenty years my junior but alas no longer for me. It isn’t the work itself, more the time I would take to do it and its effect upon me! On Thursday I was offered a smaller job which I have taken and scheduled a day for doing it and I did get some other work before the week ended. In the afternoon I was sitting out on the patio yet again but this time not for long, a couple of minutes at most and then decided to take a stroll around the garden beginning with the vegetable plot behind the patio. Various weeds were threatening to overtake the area in which we have some of our gooseberry bushes and laurel shrubs. I simply had to begin plucking them out by hand and before long I found myself covering the whole plot. When I took the weeds to the green bin I had thoughts about watering the border plants including the small rhubarb patch as everywhere had become so dry. Out came the hose and I went around the whole garden watering the plants, though not the lawn, it grows too quickly at this time of year and in fact was looking green and lush anyway. The plants that suffer the most are those in pots and we have a few of them which desperately needed water. There is only one plant in the large greenhouse at the moment as E hasn’t bothered with her usual tomato, pepper and cucumber planting as yet but there is still time for her to do that. I don’t bother with such things, in fact I only bought the greenhouses for her benefit really. The one plant I did feed and water was the only one in there, the grapevine which has started to break out in leaf. After I had done the watering I noticed a hole in the cement between one of the natural stone slabs in the new path that we had constructed last summer. Ants had been busy making the hole larger. Obviously the cement there had been undermined at that spot for when I pressed down on it my finger disappeared partially down the hole. It needed refilling so I mixed a small amount of fresh cement mortar and refilled it, filling in two other minor holes at the same time. One sure way of keeping ants at bay if they are a problem outdoors is to brush diesel oil where you don’t want them to go. They hate the stuff! I know it works as I have used the method in the front garden around one of the gate pillars. Each year the little blighters were taking out the sand beneath the street pavement around our wall and pillar which of course over time upsets the level paving stones and can even undermine the walls if nothing is done to prevent it. I applied some diesel there last year and the ants moved home! Even now, many months later, the area is ant-free. I may need to reapply the diesel of course at some point. I think it was my late father-in-law who told me about using diesel. So I didn’t sit around doing nothing much as I perhaps wanted to, I find I get restless and have to do something. I just can’t help myself.
Nobody believes me when I tell them my age. I meet hundreds of people each year in my line as an electrician and often I am asked how long I have been in the business. I tell them the truth but sometimes I play them along before I answer and say, ‘Guess my age’. My advertisement states that I have 40 years experience though in fact this year it will be 53 years! Those who forget what the advertisement states will guess my age between say 48 and 56 and some have even said 42. Those who have remembered the advert will come up with an age of 56 thinking that I was 16 when I started in the business. Even 56 is 13 years too little but the essence of what they are saying is that I look far younger than my actual age which is nice. Those who may not have seen or remembered the advert or perhaps have gotten my details from another source may ask how long I have been an electrician too thinking I started just a few years ago. They are very much surprised when I tell them. Most have no idea in which fields of the industry I have worked or have specialised and when I run off the list they are amazed. They begin to understand why it is that now I only take on small jobs. I am in fact versed in many things. When people call me on the telephone and then see me in person many of them are taken by surprise for they were expecting someone much younger. I got a call from a guy a few nights ago asking me if I was interested in doing a small job for him but unfortunately I had to refuse. He wanted an appliance repairing but I do not work in that field any longer and in fact it has been years since I was involved in such work. The thing is most electricians will specialise in what they do and it is only the larger companies who will be equipped for the many diversities that make up the electrical business. It would be impractical for an individual to multitask, at least in too many fields. The guy praised me for being honest with him in explaining the reasons why I don’t do appliance repairs. He asked the usual questions regarding how long I have been an electrician and when I told him he gasped, ‘Crikey love, I thought I was talking with a 20 year-old’. Evidently to some my voice over the telephone sounds much younger and more feminine than I had thought. So it should. I have a feeling he is going to call again to do some other work for him in the future.