Montbretia at thirty paces

Another warm and humid day on Thursday yet I had determined to arise early and do some more work in the garden before it got too warm and sticky. Alas it didn’t work out that way as by the time I had finished breakfast it was already uncomfortable to work in. The repairs to the brickwork I had done on the raised bed the day before was now solid. The job I had in mind this time was to mix some, well quite a bit, of concrete made with granite dust (granno). I wanted to place it along the joints between the paving slabs and the border stones I had placed around the Mound and the west wall flowerbed. When I did the stone border along the long flowerbed a couple of months ago I formed a substantial joint along the whole length in order to prevent gaps appearing either caused by the weather or more likely the activity of ants! Ants have been very active lately along the west wall flowerbed border and also along the front edge of the Mound where they face the lawn and a couple of gaps have appeared along with the tell-tale sign of excavated soil. I’ll say one thing for ants, they certainly work hard. However I had to shelve the idea of doing the work until it gets a little cooler. I was sitting at the computer late morning when I received a call for my services. Someone not far away wanted me to replace a ceiling light. I was happy to do it and off I went. I was back home twenty-five minutes later. I waited a short time before having lunch after which I sat out on the patio for a while. I noticed the ‘bib tap’ (faucet similar to that shown in picture)  was leaking water from the handle yet it was valved-shut.

English: Metal engraved tap (valve) in Fužine ...
Metal engraved tap (valve) in Fužine castles yard, Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The garden hose is usually kept connected to this tap in the rear garden whereas we keep the hose for use in the front garden in one of the garages and connect it to the tap there when we want to use it. The packing seal, usually called the stuffing box, was worn so I used some PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) tape to wrap around the stem which effectively cured the leak. Now I was keen to do something else but there was little else to do so I sat it out again on the patio before watering the garden plants. I thought I would sit a while longer outside to relax and enjoy the view but I spotted a montbretia sticking out of the soil on the far side of the garden, about thirty metres away! When you have been digging out montbretia and bluebells for weeks on end (see earlier posts) you get to spot them as soon as they appear. Actually I don’t know how five minutes earlier I hadn’t seen it when watering the plants.

Shirley Anne


Just couldn’t resist

I often talk about putting off doing jobs or part of them until later or the next day. Throughout the time I have been refurbishing and redecorating the small lounge I have relented on my decisions to put things off until later and have done them sooner than I said I would. I simply cannot stand around knowing something needs doing and not doing something about it. As I write this on Thursday evening the small lounge lies empty and ready for the carpet to be laid on Friday morning. All the work that needed to be done to reach this point has been done, even the connection of the new radiator.

In yesterday’s post I said I would leave off connecting the radiator on its right-hand side as that would have meant draining down the system but this morning I just got on with it and drained the system. First of all I removed the radiator from the wall and painted the supporting wood work I had fitted the previous day. While the paint was drying (about a half-hour) I began tidying up the room and then drained the pipes. This radiator is connected at the bottom on both sides and the right side needed cutting back with a small length of pipe added to reach the radiator as the radiator is slightly smaller than the one I removed. When I finally attempted to refill the system nothing happened. The storage water tank at the top of the house had a blockage in the pipe. You have to remember the house is four stories high if you include the cellar so constantly having to climb the stairs is really tiring. Anyway the system filled and it was time to bleed out any air from all the radiators. I have no doubt I will have to pay special attention to the bathroom towel rail which always gives me problems after a drain-down. That will have to wait. So the room is empty as I write….

I managed to assemble the new floor standing lamp and replace the fitted 13 amp plug with a 5 amp plug as the lamp will be plugged into one of the several 5 amp sockets in the room. They are all switched from one of the three switches by the door. This means any lamps plugged into the 5 amp sockets can be switched on entry to the room. The added advantage of this system is the sockets are on a separate circuit breaker from the ceiling and wall-mounted lights. Incidentally at this point in time I haven’t replaced the two wall lights as I am thinking of purchasing new ones to match the floor lamp and maybe a couple of table lamps too. We’ll see.

I drove off to the retail store to purchase three LED bulbs for the floor lamp and a couple of door knobs to fit to the cabinet. Driving back I was praying and thanking God for supplying me in my need, I am always thanking and praising God by the way, and I was thinking out loud that I could do with some electrical work to help fund my projects. Thirty seconds later my phone rang and it was someone asking for my services! I thanked God and drove to the house. Following that small job I went to the pub for lunch. It was three o’clock and I hadn’t eaten since seven. I didn’t want to stand cooking, I’d had enough for one day though I did fit the two door knobs when I returned home later.

Shirley Anne

Had to do something

Why is it that something goes wrong just at the wrong time? Talking about the leaking radiator in yesterday’s post it was now a case of do or die, I chose to do. I had to wait in for the guy to install the curtains and he didn’t arrive until eleven-thirty. He finished by one o’clock but as he was working I had to point out two things that were wrong , first the rail dipped in the middle and second the wood packing beneath the right-hand side bracket was longer than those beneath the other two. He was going to leave it that way until I insisted he did something about it. In the end I took the packing into the cellar and cut it to the right size for him and provided a thick washer to place beneath the centre bracket to straighten out the dip. The company booklet tells us that they employ professional installers who have years of experience. I guess the guy they should have sent wasn’t feeling well on the day! Incidentally the organisation doesn’t provide their workforce with ready-made spacers which considering they are often needed is not good practice. I should have been able to leave him to do the work and find a quality job when it was finished. That wouldn’t have been the case had I not stepped in. Anyway he left at one and a little later the radiator was delivered minutes before the new floor-standing lamp arrived. At the time of writing the lamp is still sealed in its box as I hadn’t the time to open it. I had a quick-lunch then drove off to the supplier who had delivered the radiator as I wanted to ask them a couple of questions regarding the connections. Having discussed what was needed I purchased the items for around £12 and drove back home. I spent a couple of hours trying to decide which way I could support the three radiator brackets because the shape of the skirting board made fitting them difficult. I managed to fit them and temporarily hang the radiator on them, even temporarily connecting it to the left-hand valve. Unfortunately the right-hand pipe and valve are too far away at this stage to connect them too. Added to that, the valve needs to moved to the lower position for the new radiator requires that way of connection. That will mean a complete drain-down of the system in order to cut the pipe and fit the connections. You can see in this picture taken at the end of the day.

I would be dropping the radiator the next day to enable the painting of the wood work supporting the radiator’s brackets and then replacing the radiator and making the left-hand connection permanent in the process. The other connection will have to wait until I get time to drain the system, something I am not looking forward to because refilling it can be a nightmare getting the air out in places. In any event it will take all day, perhaps two to do that work. The last time I drained the system down was when I installed the towel radiator in the wet room last year and at that time I carried out some minor alterations to pipes to make bleeding out the air easier. Maybe it will be so this time. The carpet fitter would arrive on Friday morning so I had to clear out the lounge on Thursday too. Happy days.

Shirley Anne

Eleventh hour

I took the short walk of about a half-mile to the doctor’s surgery on Tuesday morning to have my blood pressure checked and to arrange a repeat prescription. Actually the doctor presses a couple of keys on the keyboard to place the order at the local pharmacy and about three days later I collect my prescription. It has been a few years since it was all done on paper and the patient took the prescription to the pharmacy themselves. That done I walked back home for my belated breakfast just before nine o’clock. The morning was supposed to occupy my time clearing out the lounge of paint cans, brushes and all the other paraphernalia associated with decorating but it didn’t work out quite that way. Yes, I did clear out the room but in the process I noticed a small brown stain at the bottom of the radiator near-to but not where the lower valve was. In a recent post I mentioned there being a small leak on the valve connection but I had solved that problem, this was a short distance away. I wiped it clean and felt for the presence of water and there was an extremely slight amount. I wiped that away and it appeared again. The radiator was showing the first sign of corrosion. It meant a replacement but first I had to drain it down and avoid spoiling the decorations doing it. I set everything up and released any pressure using the bleed valve beforehand. The mess was kept to a minimum and it was just as well that the new carpet hadn’t been laid for some dirty water ended up on the floor. The old underlay absorbed most of it but that will be getting replaced when the carpet is fitted. I struggled a little but I managed to get the radiator outside and parked it near the entrance to the garage for disposal later. Now I had a space where the radiator had been and brackets fitted to the wall and skirting board which most likely wouldn’t be suitable for use with the replacement radiator. I decided to go and purchase a new one immediately but the store didn’t have the size I wanted (about 6 ft x 2 ft) in stock but they would deliver one the following day which was fine. I wanted to at least fix the new one to the wall before the carpet was laid and if I couldn’t do the plumbing immediately I could do it later. I would have to drain down the whole system if it was not possible to connect the radiator without altering the pipework. I would only discover that during the fitting of the radiator. The new radiator cost me £88. It was now well after two o’clock and I went to the pub for my lunch. The following day would hopefully be better.

Shirley Anne

Never fails

On the face of it I would have little to do on Wednesday but I was eager to do something to support the progress in the small lounge. All the decorating was done so it was down to getting the other things out-of-the-way. One of those was to refit the radiator and I did that first. All seemed to be fine with that once I had bled out the air to prevent it circulating and finding its way to the upper rooms. I raised the room thermostat to test it under operating conditions for a while before throttling back on the thermostat. The day, even that early in the morning, was warm and the heating didn’t need to be on. I moved to the coffee table and placed it back on its legs after I had painted the underside the previous day and sanded down the top surface. I then painted it again and touched-up the paint on the radiator where I had missed when painting it the day before. It was then that I noticed some water on the floor at the base of one of the supply pipes, the lower connection was leaking! It never fails does it? I try my best but sometimes it isn’t good enough. The radiator was now full of water so slackening off the connection would result in more water escaping, much more. Why couldn’t it be the top connection which wouldn’t leak out much water once the valves were closed?  It had to be the lower connection didn’t it? Anyway the problem as I saw it was not the fitting (valve) itself but grit trapped between the surfaces preventing a water-tight seal. With that in mind I slackened off the connection, the one on the right of the valve body with no paint on it and actually part of the radiator and re-tightened it a few times to allow the water to flush out anything that might be there. It worked but I checked it out a few times during the morning just to be certain. I had nothing further left to do but wait for the delivery of the piece of furniture I had bought the day before. It wouldn’t arrive until the afternoon so a visit to the pub was out of the question. You will know now that soon after the cabinet was delivered yesterday I had it coated with the primer. It was a gloriously sunny and warm day on Wednesday, ideal to sit out on the patio, if I could be tempted!

Shirley Anne

Slight detour

Work on the redecorating of the small lounge took a slight detour on Wednesday because I went to install a replacement cooker hob for someone. The job was easy enough but I ended up chatting with the woman for longer than perhaps I should have. Still I was back home after an hour and a half ready to do something in the lounge. Now that the ceiling and frieze are completed I decided to make use of the tower whilst it was in the room in order to clean the chandelier. Although it hadn’t been cleaned for years it was not that bad. However it didn’t compare to its condition after I had cleaned it! It is a five-light unit with lead crystal glass decorations, quite an expensive light when we bought it from the previous owner of the house and no doubt probably more so if bought today. It is one of the reasons I am loathed to replace it, the other being that I like it, it goes with the house.

That took me an hour. The next task was to empty and remove the radiator to allow decoration behind it and to repaint it later before refitting it. Refitting it will be far easier than it was to drain and remove, especially as I have no assistance. 

I wanted to do more work after lunch but decided against it. The following morning I was expecting the council team to take away the old furniture and they could possibly arrive as early as six-thirty which meant an early night for me. I was also expecting the representative who would be measuring up for the new curtains. After he would be finished I proposed to roll up the old carpet and underlay.

Shirley Anne

Goal achieved

I can relax a little now that all the major projects I had set myself to do this year have been accomplished. I will not remain idle though for even now I can think of things I can do to keep me occupied. On Wednesday morning after breakfast I undertook to finish the small project I had started the previous day which involved alterations to floodlights at the rear and one side of the house. Basically all I had left myself to do was to fix a new floodlight and a connection box then terminate the wiring after which I painted the remaining section of the main cable I had been unable to do the day before. rear-floodlights-4-and-5

The light which used to be where the black connection box is just around the corner (top-middle) has now been re-positioned where you see it on the right of the kitchen window. A cable now runs from the connection box to a new position beneath the other kitchen window here in this picture …side-wall-floodlightIt now shines directly upon the Plot when activated and will better illuminate the area and especially the passageway beneath it. The faulty floodlight will be partly dismantled and tested and if it is only the sensor that is faulty and not the LED lamp I will keep hold of it and use it elsewhere. It didn’t take long to dismantle the tower and store it away until it is needed again. It was almost lunchtime but I waited an hour before indulging. After lunch I had set myself a little plumbing job to do. If any of my readers will remember, I drained down the central heating system radiators and pipework a couple of months ago while it was still Summer in order to fit new radiator valves where I could get at them, though not all of them needed replacing. That meant air in the system when I refilled it of course, most of which I vented off manually. However, the bathroom towel rail heater remained air locked even though I had made alterations to the pipes in the airing cupboard to enable me to release any trapped air. I needed to get to grips with the situation but what with all the other work I had been doing I never really had the time. I attached a previously made length of hose pipe with a connecting pipe and fitting to the valve I had installed when the system was empty of water and allowed the water to gush out and into the bathtub. Surprisingly there was no air but just a little sludge, enough to stem the flow of water when in use. Thankfully the towel rail heated up and I was able to pack everything away.

Shirley Anne

Rising stones

Variegation in holly leaves
Variegation in holly leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was sitting at home on Monday morning not expecting any calls for my electrical services mainly because I had cancelled my advert the previous Wednesday for the week. I mentioned in a post that it might not prevent my getting calls and indeed I had two jobs at the end of the week. Anyway I got a call on Monday on behalf of a former customer whose shower unit had sprung a leak. I arrived there about fifteen minutes later and attempted to secure the leak but discovered it wasn’t possible to gain a permanent repair. The lady was keen to simply have the unit replaced so I invited her along to purchase one. She is the type of person who takes an interest in things electrical or mechanical and she wanted to get involved with the replacement but there was little she could do aside from handing me the tools though I did give her a small job to do. Soon the new unit was fitted and working and I was on my way back home. It was too early for lunch so I watched a little television. E was busy in her new ‘workshop’, the top room we had refurbished recently. I had arisen very early and consequently had an early breakfast so I decided to have my lunch, it was one o’clock. E didn’t eat until around two o’clock and soon after she went out for a couple of hours. Having nothing special in mind to do, though there are plans afoot in the garden, I made a coffee and sat out on the patio but soon got bored so I wandered around and ended up at the ‘mound’ (see previous posts or search the word). Since reconstructing and developing that corner of the garden a couple of years ago numerous stones have appeared on top of the soil. This is quite normal where stones are present in the soil mass, even if they are quite deep under the soil. The smallest particles always get washed down to the bottom of any pile eventually and therefore the largest stones are systematically ‘pushed’ upwards until they arrive at the top. If you have the time to read the posts I wrote in the early summer of 2014 you will understand why the soil was so full of stones in the first place. There were even pieces of glass, slate and metal in among the original composition. Much of those things were filtered out as best as we could do at the time but not all of it. This is why we have stones still appearing on the soil. I put on a pair of gloves and with a trowel and a large bucket in hand I set about collecting as many as I could find both on the surface and beneath. It didn’t take too long before the bucket got filled. I plan to fill more of the empty spaces with plants and perhaps one or two more stone slabs of which we still have plenty. All the natural stone in and around the mound and in the flowerbeds in both the rear and front gardens were dug out of the original much larger mound that filled that corner of the garden in 2014. Having cleared away the stones my attention was drawn to the variegated holly tree that I had rescued from the jungle that had surrounded it in December (see post on 10th) last year. At that time the holly was leaning far to its right trying to reach daylight and after clearing the surrounding trees I propped it up to encourage it to grow more vertically. Well it has begun to straighten up but to encourage it further I removed the now redundant old prop and fitted a new one which is applying more force. I did the same thing with another variegated holly further along the same flowerbed a few years ago and which stands tall, full and erect. It was time to water the garden, especially all the new plants which need that extra attention until they are fully established. I was happy that my day had ended up anything else but wasted and I’d had something to do.

Shirley Anne

On the move

As I write this on Friday afternoon I have had no more requests for my electrical services since Monday which has enabled me to get on with tasks at home. This week’s advert is not being published at my own request so that I can have a break. It may be however that I will get offers of work between now (Friday) and the middle of this week (Wednesday) when the weekly newspaper is distributed. The advertisement is printed in each Wednesday’s paper. Anyhow the way I am feeling just at the moment I think a break will be nice. Again as I write this on Friday I have not long completed the installation of a new towel radiator in the wet room downstairs…..(click on images to magnify)

Wet room towel radiator 1


Wet room towel radiator 2

I confess it may look as though little work has been done but much of the work was carried out in the little room in the cellar which is directly below the wet room. If my readers will remember that during this past week or so I drained down the heating system in order to fit new radiator valves in various rooms in the house and at the same time I altered a pipe supplying the towel rail/radiator in the main bathroom (fitting a valve to aid in venting off any air trapped in one section of pipe). I also was able to fit two gate valves in the pipework in the room beneath the wet room so that I wouldn’t need to drain the system again to install the above radiator. The radiator does have its own valves too and they are located at each side at the bottom just above floor level. The work took me four hours this morning (Friday) as I was working at a leisurely pace. During that time the joiner (carpenter) I had asked to supply and fit a new door to the top room called to see what was involved, (See yesterday’s post). He hopes to do the job early this week, probably today, Tuesday, if all goes well. In the meantime the fridge/freezer will hopefully have been repaired as the engineer was due to call on Saturday and the carpet should have been fitted yesterday too. I’ll let you know if everything was done in tomorrow’s post. After I had replaced the valves and refilled the heating system a few days ago the towel rail in the main bathroom didn’t get hot or even warm when I tested the system. When it was first installed we had the same problem and I put it down to air in the pipes. Eventually we got it working at that time and we’ve had no further problems since then until this drain down session which is why I installed the valve to vent any air manually in one particular section of pipe where it was likely to be. During the test I had most of the house radiators opened wide so I am thinking the bathroom radiator was being starved of pressure. Some time in the near future I will check it again as I should have plenty of time on my hands. At this very moment all I want to do is nothing!

Shirley Anne

Got started

English: Radiator of a central heating system ...
Radiator of a central heating system . Transparent background & converted to SVG by Rugby471. Original picture is here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was talking about the possibility of starting the task of replacing many of the valves on the radiators on our heating system. Not every one needed to be changed and some couldn’t be reached anyway because of the things stored in the rooms they are in. Those rooms are currently not in use of course except for the storage of furniture, the furniture belonging to my sons. Should it be necessary to replace the valves in those rooms at a later date it won’t be too difficult but it will necessitate draining down the system again. So it was that in the afternoon on Thursday whilst E was out doing the weekly shopping I set about making a start in replacing the valves. First point of call, the top of the house into one of the two small loft areas in which the water storage tank for the heating system is located in order to isolate the water supply to the tank. It was then possible to drain the water out of the radiators without it being automatically replaced by the storage tank! Second point of call, the lowest part of the house, the cellar, where the boiler is located. I attached a hose pipe to the drain cock and led it out of the door into the garden then opened the valve. It was a case then of waiting a half-hour for the water to completely drain out of the system. I returned to the top of the house and opened the air bleed screws on each of the radiators in turn to test whether the radiators were empty. As soon as the first one was empty I began to replace its valves. I continued with each of the radiators in turn until I reached those on the ground floor. Of the five down there one didn’t need its valves replacing and one couldn’t be reached because of the furniture stored in the room. I managed to replace the valves on two of the three remaining radiators before E returned home with the shopping. At that time I stopped the work. It had taken me a little less than three hours. At the time of writing this on Thursday evening one radiator remains to be done. I have also to alter some pipework in the cupboard in the main bathroom in order to fit an air release valve there and then I have to fit a couple of ‘gate’ valves in the cellar beneath the wet room floor in readiness for the installation of a towel rail at a later date. The only form of heating in the wet room at this moment is from a fan heater at high level which is fine if wanting to heat the room whilst having a shower but not to have switched on all day long (in the colder months). Having a heated towel rail will keep the room reasonably warm whilst at the same time keeping the towels dry.

Embed from Getty Images

I am hoping there will be no leaks when the water is turned back on after the work is complete because that might necessitate a drain-down of the system again in order to fix it!

Shirley Anne


Central Heating Pump
Central Heating Pump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday I had to go to the little township where I once lived. It is only eight miles from where I am now. I was to sort out some wiring and reposition a power outlet. When I arrived there was no-one at the house so I left a message on their phone in case they had forgotten I was coming. That has happened once or twice in the past. However I was a little early and so I waited and would have done for a half-hour, then the lady of the house arrived. We went inside and she explained what she wanted to have done. There was a cupboard that had been fitted inside an old fireplace and inside the cupboard was a single power outlet. To the left of the cupboard the wall was recessed but some old water pipes and the remains of an old central heating system, pump and controls together with another power outlet were positioned behind the cupboard and could be seen. There was a large hole in the wall. The lady was going to remove the cupboard as part of a refurbishment so I offered to do it for her as I needed access to the redundant equipment and wiring and to gain access to the power unit she wanted moving and the one she wanted to be removed, the one inside the cupboard. Once the doors had be taken off I could get at the fixing screws which held the cupboard in the space. I could now do the electrical work and remove all unwanted and redundant electrical equipment. Although the space had originally housed a fire it had long since been sealed to allow a boiler to be installed. That boiler had been removed and the cupboard had been installed in the space a few years ago. All the redundant material had been part of the boiler system. A new boiler and central heating system had been installed elsewhere. Whilst there I also removed a redundant burglar alarm. I was paid a little extra for my efforts and soon I was off to the second and last job for the day ten miles back into the outskirts of my town. I was back home before noon and was pleased by the amount of money I had earned in only a couple of hours. Whilst I was out driving I received a call from a lady living outside of my catchment area who wanted an immersion heater replacing but as it was too far away and as I no longer do that sort of work in a professional capacity for others I declined. After my lunch I was out on the patio when this lady called again to tell me that she had called a plumber to change the heater and he had charged her £180 for the privilege! What? I could have done it for £80 and still have made a profit. The heater would not have cost more than £16 to buy! The job would have taken me an hour maybe and a plumber would have done it faster no doubt. That means he made approximately £164 profit for say an hour’s work! I felt sorry for the lady who had obviously been ripped-off. She should have shopped around. The greed of some people.

Shirley Anne

Had to do it

Embed from Getty Images

A couple of months ago I bought several new radiator valves to replace those which have become worn or stiff or have simply stopped working properly. Changing the valves is relatively simple and straightforward. Is anything ever straightforward? For the most part though it should be a simple job. It all started with the radiator in my bedroom which had two faulty valves on it, the control valve and the lockshield valve. In real terms they are exactly the same. One, once set through balancing the whole radiator system, remains in a fixed position usually facilitated by removing the control knob and replacing it with a cap which cannot be turned and the other  can either be left as a manually controlled unit or be fitted with a thermostatic control. As long as the correct tools are available then the hardest part of the job is in draining down the system and then refilling it and bleeding out the trapped air and that isn’t difficult at all. On Wednesday evening I noticed that the lockshield valve on the radiator in my bedroom was leaking water but I knew that already as I had wrapped the valve with a cloth to absorb it until I could get around to changing the valve. The leak had become too heavy so the replacement was now a matter of urgency but it was late at night and I was about to get into bed. I wrapped more cloth around the valve and closed it off. The following morning I arose early, that is six o’clock, and after breakfast I began the process of replacing the valves on my radiator. Up to the loft to valve off the header (expansion) tank water supply then down into the cellar to affix a hose pipe on the boiler drain point. I then switched off the electrical supply for I didn’t want the system starting up for the day whilst I was working on it. I opened the drain cock on the boiler then went upstairs to the radiator in my room to open the bleed screw and wait for the water to cease flowing before returning to the cellar to close the drain cock and stop the system from draining down completely. There was no need to drain off the lower floor once the radiator in my bedroom was drained. It took about twenty minutes to replace the two valves then I returned to the loft to open the water supply to the header tank. Slowly opening the bleed valve on the radiator I waited for the air to escape. Finally everything was done so I switched on the electrical supply at the boiler and raised the room thermostat setting to force the heating system to come on so that I could check the radiator was operating correctly. That was it, end of the work so I put away my plumbing tools. Now I could have replaced more valves and done some other planned work whilst the system was down but I didn’t want to tie myself down in case I received any electrical work as it was Thursday, part of my normal working week. If and when I tackle the remaining plumbing work I will probably take a few days off to do it. At the moment I have no plans to do that, or anything major at home.

Shirley Anne

Easy Peasy


Two light switches in one box. The switch on t...
Two light switches in one box. The switch on the right is a dimmer switch. The switch box is covered by a decorative plate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am always a little apprehensive when it comes to the start of another working week. I am never sure what the first day will bring, how difficult it may be or how the customer will be. My first and only job of the week scheduled for Monday morning turned out quite well and I should have had no reservations or concerns at all. Whilst I was at the house I received a call for another job somewhere else which I scheduled for the next day. I find this happens a lot, I start the week with next to nothing and end with the week filled with work. Getting back to Monday, I entered the house and it felt like I was stepping into the past. The decor, carpets, furnishings and the atmosphere of the place made it feel I was stepping into a cross between the 1940’s and the 1970’s. The husband and wife seemed to be living in the past by the way they spoke and acted too. One thing I did notice was the excessive fuss they were making instead of just allowing me to get on with things. I have to be very patient with people but it can be a little frustrating at times. For instance, on this occasion I was invited in by the lady of the house and shown the work I was to do, replacing two wall lights, securing two others (which meant removing them and re-fixing) and to replace an existing dimmer switch. All very simple. Then the husband came down the stairs, introduced himself and then proceeded to repeat everything his wife had told me. She began to empty the cupboard beneath the stairs to allow access to the mains distribution panel despite my saying I didn’t think it was necessary. All the articles she removed now stood in the hallway and more to the point in my way! Replacing the wall lights in the hallway was very easy and straightforward but the two lights in the front room that needed securing were a little more difficult but still easy for me to do. When it came to replacing the dimmer switch I discovered that the metal box in the wall was too shallow to accept the fitting of the new switch. That, I find, is a quite regular problem and simply resolved by fitting a deeper box. However, that requires digging out the brickwork and is best done before any decisions are made regarding decorating. They had the room decorated a few days earlier. The old switch therefore remained in situ. That was it, easy-peasy and I left for home after being paid. I intended to do no more electrical work that day but as I began to wonder what the next job might be like another call came in around 1 o’clock and hoping it was going to be just as easy I decided to do it immediately. The job was to connect a new oven unit. Now the father of the woman in whose house I was to connect the new cooker had phoned on Sunday to ask about my availability to do the work as at that time the cooker hadn’t been collected. I told him that I would need little notice so when he called on Monday I wasn’t surprised. I remember visiting the house last year in order to fit an under-the-unit power point for the woman but whilst doing so discovered many things wrong with the installation. I told them it would need attention at some point as it could become a hazard. I went along and connected the oven and the hob units together, providing the proper connection point for the job and making the previous poor installation now safe. Whilst there I assessed what was required in more detail to put the power circuit right that I had discovered incorrectly wired on my last visit. I reached the point where I could tell them roughly what would need to be done. That job has again been shelved for the moment. I had finished the work I had been asked to do and the woman asked if I knew anything about plumbing!

English: Under Slab Leak Repair
Under Slab Leak Repair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well I told her that although I have done a lot of plumbing in my life I don’t carry out such work for others. A little history is required here: the woman had been deserted by her husband about two years ago leaving her to bring up their two children and at the same time leaving the house in an awful state, especially some of the electrics. The essence of what I am saying is she has been struggling financially and her father has been doing all he can to help out. I asked her about her plumbing problem, a leaking drain pipe beneath the kitchen sink. I checked it out and discovered one of the silicone rubber seals missing on one of the connection points. She and her father went out to buy a new drain assembly and I told her that I would hang around until their return. When they returned I fitted the new unit but a leak developed and it took some time to secure it. Finally it was complete and I went home. I refused payment for the plumbing work but was given a little extra for the electrical work. I was happy, they were happy and that was enough for me. I had missed lunch in the process though!


Shirley Anne


More plumbing!

The Plumber
The Plumber (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never wanted to be a plumber. I used to see plumbers and still do, whose overalls or jumpers are covered in a sealing compound like ‘Plumbers Mait’. I used to think ‘What a mucky job that must be else they are simply just untidy workers’. However that can be said for many trades persons, especially those who are decorators whom I think like to decorate themselves in the process. I don’t think I ever met a really dirty electrician though. Now although I would never have dreamed of becoming a plumber I have found having plumbing skills is a definite advantage for anyone wishing to do their own work at home. Over the years I have taken it upon myself to do my own plumbing installations and repairs, starting with small tasks and progressing to full installations in the two houses I have lived in since I left off living with my parents many years ago. Actually, as I recall, I did do some minor plumbing work when I lived with them. They had gone on holiday and whilst they were away from the house I did some much-needed alterations for them in the kitchen which involved a little plumbing. Fortunately they were pleased with the work as it had been done as a surprise. My last major domestic plumbing adventure involved the complete installation of our new bathroom. A minor leak had developed on a valve a few days ago and I carried out the repair but realised that I would have to carry out an alteration that would prevent any future air-locks developing in the pipe work inside the airing cupboard where the leak was located. Although the air lock has now cured itself and the towel rail that was affected is again working normally the alterations will still get done once we are not using the central heating in a few weeks time. Now over the years I have been promising myself that I would drain the system and replace all the radiator valves that have become broken or seized, as one or two of them are. Whilst the system is drained down I will do that work too. I purchased the new valves a couple of days ago with this in mind. So it looks like I will be doing more plumbing in the weeks to come. One thing I forgot to mention too is I have it in mind to install a water-filled radiator/towel rail in the wet room. There used to be an ordinary radiator in the room when it was used as a cloakroom and before then, a bathroom. In the cellar below the old pipe connections still remain though they will need replacing if I am to use them to supply the towel rail I plan to fit. Doing all of this work is fairly easy, it is checking for any subsequent leaks which can be a pain as the system needs to be filled with water again and that might require another drain-down to effect a repair! Did I mention, I hate plumbing? Ha ha. I am much happier being an electrician.

Shirley Anne

For a reason

Porridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After such a nice day on Sunday things started going downhill in the evening. By that I mean I found myself getting a little bored and unusually tired. I decided to have an early night and started upstairs at around 9.30 but by the time my head hit the pillow it was around 10.15. I had the television on whilst I was getting ready for bed, something that has become a habit over the years and there was an interesting program on the channel I’d switched to so I watched it until 11.00 and then nodded off to sleep. I awoke about three times after that until finally at 0430 I had to get out of bed and stay out. I just couldn’t sleep any longer. After my ablutions I dressed and went downstairs but decided not to apply my make-up until I had eaten a breakfast, something I was determined to have that morning having skipped breakfast for a few days. I wanted to wait until daylight to put on my make-up which would have been after 6 o’clock. I prepared some porridge with sultanas in it. I poured on the milk then added some blueberries. This is how I eat porridge. I had the last of the fruit and vegetable drinks I wrote about yesterday (Sunday), this time it was beetroot, cucumber and lemon! Just as I placed the bowl on the table I noticed E had written a short note telling me that a leak had developed in the airing cupboard upstairs in our new bathroom. I ate my breakfast then went to investigate thinking to myself all the possibilities where a leak could occur and hoping it was accessible. I opened the door to the airing cupboard and saw that E had placed some containers beneath a dripping valve but they were now full. The leaking valve was part of the pipework supplying the towel rail/radiator on the bathroom side of the wall and it was accessible. What do I do now I thought? First, go into the loft and shut off the water supply to the header tank supplying the radiator system. Second, go into the garage for some tools stored in the van. Third, switch off the heating controls (though the heating doesn’t switch on until 8 o’clock), Fourth, fit a length of hose pipe on the boiler drain cock in the cellar and drain off half the system. Fifth, remove the faulty valve and replace it. Finally, carry out all the previous stages in reverse then going around each of the radiators to bleed off any trapped air. I had started the process at 0640 and when I next looked at the clock it was 0720. All this before setting out to do my electrical work, though the first job wasn’t scheduled until 9 o’clock. Still, I never expected to have to do all that on a Monday morning before work! I suppose my going to bed early was for a reason.

Update: Although the leak was fixed the radiator now doesn’t get hot and I will have to leave it that way until we have finished using the central heating (usually sometime in April). I hadn’t realised that the way the pipes are arranged in the airing cupboard there is always the possibility of air becoming trapped and preventing water flow to the radiator, the cause of the present problem. The reason for this decision is that whilst I have the system drained down again to alter the pipe in the airing cupboard to prevent an airlock in the radiator supply pipe in the future I plan to replace some radiator valves around the house and make provision to install a small towel rail heater in the wet room too. I will be better to do everything during one drain-down rather than draining it all down just to cure the airlock in the bathroom radiator supply pipe.

Update 2: It is Thursday morning as I write this. The radiator is now working so I guess the air found its way out of that part of the system. The other work will still get done as and when I can get to it.

Shirley Anne