Less was more

Dining out

Tuesday turned out to be a wet and miserable day during the afternoon and although it had been a dry morning it was very cold. I was to take my van in to have a part replaced in the braking system, a compensating valve as they called it, and to have the van serviced at the same time. I had been informed that the valve wouldn’t be inexpensive so I was ready for a sizeable invoice accordingly. I drove there to arrive just before eight-thirty as they had requested then sat there for twenty minutes waiting for E to come and collect me. There never seems to be a sense of urgency in anything E does, especially if it doesn’t affect her in any way. She is willing though and that is appreciated. I add here that I reciprocate her good deeds though I never keep her waiting! Anyway we returned home for a couple of hours whilst they sorted out the van. Just before noon they called me to let me know the work had been completed. E duly drove me there then returned home whilst I sorted out payment. As it happened they hadn’t needed to replace the valve for they had in their own words ‘loosened’ it. It had simply required manipulating and lubricating and if they done that during the MOT test there would not have been the need to check it in for replacement of a supposedly faulty component. It didn’t really matter as I had arranged for a service on the vehicle anyway . The good news was the valve didn’t need replacing and accordingly the invoice was much lower than I had thought it would be. I still had to pay £161 though but it had been worth it. The van was always lively to drive but now it felt more so. When I arrived home E was still backing up the drive. We decided on which vehicle we would use to go for a meal and we opted for her car. After going indoors to change (though I was already dressed for the occasion) we drove off to our destination. When we got near to where we thought the place was located we couldn’t find it. As it was getting late (for lunch) and we were quite hungry we chose to return to another venue we had passed by along the way. We would hopefully check out the original venue at a later date when we had more time. The last time we were at this other place was about three years ago it had changed dramatically since then and for the better too. We were glad to have chosen to dine there. The food and service were excellent and they can expect us to return in the future. So what looked like a day that was going to remain miserable it surprised us and turned out to be the opposite. We just wished it had been a slightly warmer day.

Shirley Anne

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That time again

I received a personal letter a couple of weeks ago from the vehicle service centre I use whenever I have work done on my van or to have the van checked over in its annual MOT test. The letter was headed ‘Dear Ms ****….It’s that time of year again’ referring to the MOT test. The current test certificate expires at the end of February theoretically speaking though a test may be carried out two weeks prior. That happened last year and for a couple of years prior to that too. Of course the test can be forward dated to the actual and original date of the first test that was carried out when the van reached its third year. I don’t remember asking the service mechanic to forward date any test and so at each successive yearly test the date creeps backward. At any rate the certificate of compliance has to be obtained before the van can be taxed so it has to be in place before that can happen. There also has to be a certificate of insurance before the tax can be paid too. The appointment to have the van checked over was on Tuesday 23 January, a couple of days ago though the existing MOT certificate doesn’t expire until a few weeks hence. I say certificate but in fact one isn’t issued unless asked for as the certificate these days is kept electronically in a data base. The police and other authorities have access to the data whenever it is required. It’s all about producing less files on paper but it also enables rapid examination by the police for example if they wish to confirm whether a vehicle is properly taxed, tested and insured for they are all on a data base somewhere. I cannot say at this time of writing (16th) whether my van passed its test but I am hoping it did. I haven’t really used the van much over the last twelve months, probably less than three hundred miles, so there should be little difference from last year’s status. It turned out to be around six hundred miles but still a low distance. I have been cutting back on my expenditure in regard to my van’s recovery and roadside assistance membership with The AA and have switched to another group. I am now covered by Green Flag. That switch has saved me over £110 per annum. Previously my AA membership cost around £120 which included recovery and many other benefits should I have wanted them, though many of those I wouldn’t have used anyway. This year they wanted over £160 so I switched. I don’t go on long distance trips but with Green Flag I still get the same cover for only £56. I cannot change my insurance premium though as I am not carrying electrical goods now I might get some small discount. The tax will be a little higher though as promised by our wonderful Government! One good thing is I hardly ever visit the service station for fuel! That has been quite a considerable saving for me over the last year. Yes, I could claim tax-relief on purchasing fuel but now I don’t even pay for the fuel, well only on the few gallons I now use each year. It’s that time of year again.

(Having taken my van to have it tested on 23rd I am pleased to report that it passed!)

Shirley Anne

Maniacs and the rat race

Vehicle activated sign (VAS) being used to enf...
Vehicle activated sign (VAS) being used to enforce a 30 mph speed limit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Funny how things in life look different when viewed from a different perspective. I retired from full-time and even part-time occupational work back in April. My tax returns were always easier as I chose to keep my accounting in-line with the UK tax year which begins at the beginning of April. I always hated doing my tax return in the past but now that is one task I will be glad to be rid of. All that aside, life has become far simpler since April. I haven’t driven my van much since then either though for a few months prior to April my workload had dropped significantly anyway. Now it is non-existent except for private domestic work where having a van has proved to be very beneficial. Last year for instance I barely covered 1000 miles between MOT tests! Now, when I go out walking I see things from a new angle and notice things I probably didn’t notice too closely beforehand. Then I was behind the wheel but now I am on foot and see the bad behaviour of many motorists. Yes, there were times, many times, I came across bad drivers and their antics but I get to see far more of them as a pedestrian! As with most towns in the UK there are speed limits to adhere to, 20, 30 mph zones are commonplace and are there for good reason. As a motorist I was and am well aware that speeding motorists are a danger to both motorists and pedestrians alike, even to themselves. It seems however that some motorists don’t think the limits apply to them and regularly flout them. I sometimes walk along the seafront where the speed limit is 30 mph throughout the year, generous in my estimation especially during the warm months when there are always plenty of pedestrians about and the likelihood of accidents are greater. I say accidents but really they are the result of a lack of concentration and usually caused through speeding.

Beware of the Maniacs
Beware of the Maniacs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lately I have taken that walk in the early hours of the morning when it is still dark yet I see motorists speeding along at easily twice the speed limit in some cases, that is 50 to 60 mph! What would they do if suddenly there was a pedestrian crossing the road or a dog running wild? There are many people walking dogs on the beach sometimes and they have to cross the road from the car park to get there. They are madmen, maniac drivers who, instead of setting out earlier find they now need to speed because they are late for work. Not all motorists I see act that way I hasten to add, just a few of them. Each time I go out walking it is usually in the morning and often before the ‘rush hour’, the rat race to get to work but sometimes during that time. The bad driving isn’t limited to car owners either, many large commercial vehicle drivers are just as bad. Yes, things look far different when viewed as a pedestrian and from the perspective of someone who has no need to rush anywhere!

Shirley Anne

The good…….

The blue 'three triangles' logo, which station...
The blue ‘three triangles’ logo, which stations have to display, identifies approved MOT test stations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

……the bad and the ugly. To be truthful Monday presented me with the good, a wee bit of the bad but none of the ugly. Come to think of it there is no such thing as the ugly. If we are talking about people every one is beautiful…..in their own way (sounds like a song), we are all God‘s creatures. Monday was the day I took my van in for a service and an MOT test. The appointment was for eight-thirty but as usual with me I arrived almost thirty minutes early. It didn’t matter as some of the staff were there. I left them to get on with it and took the mile and a half, well a little bit short of that, walk into the town centre. I had a large sum of money to deposit. I arrived there half an hour earlier than the bank opens its doors so I popped into ‘Nero’s‘ for a large latte and waited. Although the weather forecast was for rain it remained dry until mid-afternoon but by that time I was at home again. I made the deposit and then did some browsing in a department store looking at clothes. Whilst in there the service station called me to verify the level of service I had asked for. The MOT test had by that time been completed and my vehicle had passed the test. It wouldn’t take long for them to complete the service so I made plans to walk back but first I had some more browsing to do. The service station is located on one of the main trunk-roads out-of-town where  several large stores are located. Before calling at the service station I visited two of the stores, the second of which was an electrical appliance and computer outlet, ‘Currys‘, part of the ‘Carphone Warehouse Group‘. I called in to ask about a problem I was having with my Windows 10 laptop which won’t connect to the Internet even though there isn’t a problem with the adapter. It recognises the router and connects to it. Apparently it is a Windows 10 program fault. The odd thing is I had been on-line using the machine the previous night! As I seldom use the machine there was no urgency in solving the problem. My main machine runs Windows 7 which in my estimation is far superior and gives me no problems whatsoever. Anyway while in the store I browsed the fridge and fridge/freezer stock and immediately saw the fridge/freezer I would buy if the one I mentioned in yesterday’s post doesn’t improve. It was time to get to the service station to collect the van. It had cost £40 for the MOT test and £85 for the service. I was happy enough with the charge and paid up. I didn’t drive home though, instead I drove to the pub and treated myself to a meal. So everything was good. I have been keeping a close eye on the flowerbeds at home looking for bluebells appearing and when I finally got home I saw a few in different places in the front garden. Soon after I had gotten indoors to change my clothes and put on my overalls I went into the front garden and dug out those I had seen. I went into the rear garden and likewise saw a few more dotted about here and there so dug those out too. That was the bad part of my day but it is something I am going to have to do for quite some time yet.

Shirley Anne

Back to the usual

Not Enough Rope
Not Enough Rope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had electrical work to do on Thursday so I made sure I was up early from bed. My first job was not until ten o’clock and I had plenty of time to hand after breakfast before I needed to make my way there. In the meantime I decided to return the flag to its pole now that the storm-force winds had died down. The problem with the flag is getting it to hang from the guide rope without there being any weight attached to the flag by the weight which is supplied for the guide rope to keep it taut. The flag has a toggle at the top which is supposed to pass through an eyelet in the guide rope but the bottom of the flag only has a length of rope attached to it with no instructions as to how to tie it off. The proper set-up I think should be a guide rope that has two eyelets attached to it into which toggles attached to the flag can pass through them. The guide rope can then be attached to the weight whilst the flag is only attached to the guide rope and not the weight. The guide rope therefore has to be knotted in two places to form the two eyelets and the end of the rope will be fixed to the weight. This would make the flag easy to attach and remove when needed. 1222Every time I have raised the flag I have tried to think of the best way to do it so that the flag isn’t put under any strain. So on Thursday I decided to make the necessary adjustments to form two eyelets in the guide rope at the correct distance apart then attach the weight. If the flag had been supplied with two toggles it would be very simple to attach but as I said only one is fitted. That meant I had to make the bottom connection just using the rope that is attached to the bottom of the flag. It all sounds complicated but it isn’t, it is just a pain in the proverbial having to think of ways to do it properly given that the system is poorly designed. At least now it will be easier to attach and remove the flag when we need to. I thought it was only certain items of electrical equipment which were poorly designed. It was time to go to work, installing an extra floodlight at the side of the customer’s house. Although the area was under cover it was open at one end and where it met the adjacent garage roof along its length. That meant it wasn’t as warm as I had been led to believe, in fact it was bitterly cold. Just my luck. After almost two hours I was driving to the second job a few miles away to an elderly lady who wasn’t enjoying the best of health and who had put up with not having any lights working in her apartment since Boxing Day. Nobody it seems could find the distribution panel in order to check the circuit breakers. I had trouble myself in locating it. It was situated in an extension building remote from the apartment! I saw what the problem was immediately, one of the breakers had tripped or had possibly been turned off accidentally by person or persons unknown as they say. Even her care workers couldn’t find the panel but I found it odd that the problem had been left for almost three weeks before someone called me to go and have a look. As fortune would have it a new neighbour called and I explained everything to her so that she could be of assistance if the problem returns. Now I was off again to the third job which was in the direction of home but this time only to survey it, not to do it. The guy wanted two existing outside lights replacing but would only be available at home the following week. It suited me and I drove off to the electrical supplier to purchase what would be required when I return.
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However I made a detour first of all to the service station where I have my van checked and booked a day at the end of February for a service and an MOT test. Yes, it is that time of year again for my annual MOT on the van, insurance renewal, excise duty (used to be called road fund licence) and breakdown recovery fees with The AA (Automobile Association). Spend, spend, spend…….now you know why I still work…..LOL

Later and after a snack at home I went on-line and purchased another pair of high-heeled court shoes (sneakers I think my friends in the US call them). Well I have to treat myself once in a while!

Shirley Anne

Rolling along

English: Four 1 (single) pole circuit breakers...
Four 1 (single) pole circuit breakers fitted in a meter box. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was sitting having my evening meal on Sunday and had almost finished when i received a phone call from a lady living a half-mile away and for whom I had worked twice previously. She told me that she had lost power to her lighting circuits and cooker but that all her power outlets were still working. I didn’t think it sounded like an emergency as she did have some power but I decided to drive there anyway. As is usually the case in many homes she had to empty out the space to enable me to get at the distribution board. I don’t know why people do that but it is often the case that they do. As I was removing the front cover in order to check all the connections the lights suddenly came on. Obviously there was a loose connection of some sort and I discovered that it was the connection between the main switch live conductor and the bus-bar it supplies. That meant all the circuit breakers connected to the bus-bar would be without a supply. I tightened the terminal screw and all was fine. I went back on Monday morning to find out why her fridge wasn’t working and discovered it was switched off!
I had no other work scheduled for the day and indeed for the week at that point so I donned a pair of overalls and did some repair work on the bedroom ceiling and then I patched up the walls where I had channelled in the power cables to the outlets I had installed a week or so ago. E did a little painting. Progress is slow but rolling along in the right direction at least. In a couple of days time we hope to get the ceiling painted and some of the walls as well as nailing down all loose floorboards, though one or two will be screwed down where access to cabling might be required some time in the future in order to make lifting them easy.


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This week I have my van serviced and an MOT test done, in fact today, Thursday, so I won’t be doing electrical jobs for anyone but maybe I will be working at home instead.

Shirley Anne

Time’s up

Time's Runnin' Out (album)
Time’s Runnin’ Out (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It had to come. Failure to act would mean the end of an era. Failure would mean loss of income, loss of a lifetime interest and a loss of mobility. On 21 November this year I will have reached my seventieth year on this planet and the day before I will lose my drivers’ licence for good unless I renew it. Here in the UK all drivers must renew their licences every three years once they reach the ripe old age of seventy. Naturally the application must be submitted long before that date but no sooner than three months before. For me that date came on Monday so I set about renewing my licence online. The process was surprisingly easy though it would have been easier had I known what references were required beforehand. They ask for your drivers number which is on your licence. They also ask for my National Insurance number and Passport number as well as the usual personal information. I was fortunate to know where that information was to be found, the passport and NI numbers that is. A declaration has to be read and ticked as appropriate to declare an ability to continue to drive by indicating a bill of good health and eyesight. Failure to declare any ailments which might affect safe driving is met with a hefty fine or imprisonment or even both. I should receive the replacement licence within two weeks.but in the meantime I have to cut into two pieces my old licence and post them off to the DVLA. That’s it, no fees and no complications. At the very least I shall be able to continue to drive for the next three years or until my time really is up! By that time I shall have been driving for 51 years.

Shirley Anne

PS. I wrote this post a couple of days ago and on Thursday morning I received my new driver’s licence card. Now that is what I call service!

I wonder

MOT test stations have designated test bays wh...
MOT test stations have designated test bays where the tests are conducted. VOSA is the government agency responsible for the MOT scheme.

These last couple of weeks has seen me rather less active at work than I would like but it appears from what some of my acquaintances say, there isn’t much work to be had anyway. Strange as it may seem the beginning of the year has been quite profitable for me over the last few years despite people generally having spent a lot of money over the Christmas and New Year breaks and indeed January has been the same this year too even though I didn’t return to working till after the first week had passed. February thus far at least hasn’t been so good so I am wondering what the week ahead has in store for me work-wise that is. Today, Tuesday I have to take my van for its MOT early in the morning so I shan’t be available for a couple of hours. I am hoping it will sail through with no problems. We’ll see. On Friday I arranged payment for my road-fund licence or road tax via the Internet and on Saturday I received the reminder and a new proposal for the van’s insurance cover, which as it happens is actually about £65 less than it was last year! That’s a bit of a bonus isn’t it? The proposal was £409 for the fully comprehensive cover I normally take out (I pay the first £100 of any claim) and naturally I have accepted. I paid that over the Internet on receiving the proposal the same morning. To be honest I was expecting my cover to cost me more for two reasons, one, nothing ever usually drops in price and two, I had wondered if the new legislation to level-out male and female insurance contributions might have had an effect on mine but it appears not. The reason it went down I think was that my agent (Autonet, who specialise in commercial vehicle cover) decided that my previous insurance company wanted too much money so they found me another. It would be great if my van’s MOT could be done over the Internet too but of course that will always be impossible. So here I am almost ready for another year with my little van to do some more electrical work. I wonder if I’ll get any?

Shirley Anne

Update: The van passed the test with flying colours and just as I got back home I had a call to do a job which covered the cost of the test with plenty over. I’m just happy I don’t have to repeat all of this until next year!

More than I thought

I had a couple of small jobs to do on Monday but had nothing planned after that until Thursday, which will be today as you read this. I had another sleep-in on Tuesday, something I am finding I do often these days, either it’s because I work hard or am just getting old, probably both theories are correct! So there I was sitting at home when I got a call for help. Someone I had done work for in the past and for her daughter and friend too called to say that she needed my services as she had lost all power in her house. I told her I would be there within a half hour as she only lives about ten miles away. It had been raining rather hard for the previous couple of days and was still raining hard when I left home. I took the road which cuts across country rather than the main trunk route which I know is undergoing resurfacing at the moment with all the unavoidable delays that result. The roads I took to however were severely flooded in parts and I might have been better off using a canoe! I got to her house and soon discovered which circuit was causing the problem and I isolated it. Unfortunately it was the circuit supplying all the power points. Splitting the circuit into two halves quickly pointed to which area the fault lay and further analysis pointed to a junction box up in the loft area. I discovered the faulty cable and disconnected it. I had to locate where it was going but it wasn’t connected to any of the power points I could see. At that moment the lady told me that she had a power point behind the fireplace that she had forgotten about! I removed the fire to find a single socket that appeared wet. I removed it and tested the cable which I found to be alright. It was the same cable I’d disconnected in the loft. I tested the socket, now removed, and found it to be faulty, this was due to the fact that water had gotten inside. It was then that she told me that the chimney stack had been leaking water and that someone was waiting for the weather to change so that it could be repaired! Had I been given that information in the first place I could have solved the problem much sooner and it wouldn’t have cost her half the amount I was obliged to charge her.
E had been waiting for her car to be repaired but by the time I returned home around three o’clock they had not called her to say it was done. I needed to visit my wholesaler for the materials I needed for today’s little job so I asked E if she would come along with me and afterwards visit the repair depot which is only a half-mile from the wholesaler. We saw her car on the forecourt meaning that it had been repaired but they still hadn’t phoned her to let her know! They had repaired the fault but said that there was another issue that needed investigating but would cost more money for it to be done. We couldn’t understand why, when testing for the other fault on the same diagnostic computer they couldn’t have checked for this new one at the same time but they made some excuse why they couldn’t do that. We were told that this ‘new fault’ would not cause the car to break down but it was more of an irritation rather than a serious problem. We were shown the invoice and found they had added an extra £18 to their original quote and for no apparent reason so we questioned that and had the bill reduced to the original quotation. However, it wasn’t the £800 I had originally thought it was. Although E had told me how much I had misunderstood, the cost amounted to £894 approximately! Definitely more than I’d thought

.Credit Card

I used my credit card to pay, at least I will be credited with a small refund as my card operator offers ‘cash back’ on all purchases. I pay off my credit card by Direct Debit from one of my current accounts so I only have to ensure the money is available. I do not run up credit card debts but always pay them off in full when they are due. You can now see why continuing in work is still a good idea so it is a good thing that actually like work!

Shirley Anne

Never-ending story

AA van, Bristol, England
AA van, Bristol, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you ever get the feeling that you are a walking bank? Hand always in your purse for someone else’s benefit? Well money is made round to go round they say and even the fifty-pence pieces will roll if there is enough impetus! Having children is an expensive affair and I have two of them, grown up but still reaching for assistance from time to time. It’s all a part of life and I have no reason to stash the cash other than to support whatever needs I may have in the future. That is the point though isn’t it? We never know what the future holds or even if we have a projected one. For me, money seems to come into one hand and straight out of the other in recent times and I struggle to save but I manage to anyway, little by little it all mounts up. My parents always told me to put a little something away for a rainy day and I have maintained that advice throughout my life, always putting something aside whenever I could. In the past few months I have forked-out cash to help our youngest son, not that I ever neglected our eldest son, he has benefitted from my support too. On Friday I spent all day installing new light fittings in a large house and didn’t return home until five o’clock. I was preparing something to eat when I received a call from E who asked me for assistance. Her car had stalled and would not restart. She drives a semi-automatic so couldn’t be towed in the normal way as the front wheels, the drive wheels, will not rotate if there is anything wrong with the clutch. The clutch is controlled automatically in her type of vehicle. The car can only be towed if the front wheels are lifted from the road, which requires a special vehicle fitted with the necessary lifting gear. that meant the car would have to be repaired where it stood else be carried  on the rear of a wagon. I drove to where she was, about 3/4 of a mile away and asked if she’d tried starting the engine again but she hadn’t. She tried it whilst I was there and it started. I had called my emergency breakdown service, the AA, as she hadn’t one and they came to our assistance within a half-hour. The guy explained to E what the problem was and that she would have to have the car examined but that he would drive behind her as she drove back home in case the engine failed again. It didn’t. Evidently the fault was intermittent. On Saturday E had her monthly meeting date with her friends some twenty miles away in another town or to be more precise a pub/restaurant outside of that town, a place we have often gone for a meal together. She was planning to drive there but I offered to drive her there instead. She insisted to drive herself but I advised her to take up membership of a breakdown service, something she agreed she must do anyway and she arranged that on-line with Green Flag.

Green Flag logo
Green Flag logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile I did my routine exercise on the treadmill. By eleven I was dressed and ready to take her should she change her mind. She normally leaves the house around one o’clock so she had plenty of time to change her mind but didn’t. Around twenty minutes later she called me to say that the car had broken down again a mere half mile or so away near my local pub. This time the engine refused to restart so she was stuck. Eventually she called for assistance and they came to her rescue, however they could not do a roadside repair and arranged for her car to be taken to a service station in town. She missed her meeting because it was after four o’clock before the vehicle was recovered and half-past four before it was taken to the service station where I had arranged to meet her. The car will be checked on Monday morning. We drove home in my van. I have no idea how much the repairs will be and she doesn’t know it yet but I shall be paying for it and for her fee to the recovery service for her. Well what else should I do? It’s the never-ending story called love.

Shirley Anne