Getting that way

It’s getting that way I shall be getting up before I’ve even gone to bed! Another early night on Wednesday and fast asleep just after nine o’clock. I awoke at three and paid a visit to see my porcelain friend but after returning to bed I couldn’t resume my slumber. I eventually arose ten minutes before four o’clock and was surprisingly rearing to go. I was downstairs and into the rear garden to water it before five. More on that in a minute or two. An hour later it was time for breakfast and then some computer time. To be honest I was a little bored after that because there was nothing to do. Come seven-thirty I was leaving the house to do the weekly shopping and arrived at the supermarket at my usual time just before eight. It is great doing the shopping early because there are fewer people in the store and moving around it is much easier. I find having to manoeuvre my trolley around other folks’ trolleys is a distraction and a pain when there are lots of them being pushed around. Anyway I wasn’t there long and was driving home after thirty minutes. On my way home I have the radio on and heard that our wonderful water supply authority has imposed a hose pipe ban because they say the reservoir levels are low. That means limited watering of the plants in the garden unless it rains in the meantime (I write this on 19th two days after it had rained all day long). I think it is disgraceful that they haven’t done something about this seasonal shortage by now after years of having to put up with it. The irony is that when we don’t need the extra water there is too much of it but when we do need it most there is a shortage! Build more reservoirs for goodness sake, it isn’t rocket science! Now I will have to resort to the watering can won’t I?
On my arrival back home and after unpacking and storing everything away I discovered I had forgotten two items though neither of them were important and can be purchased next time. It’s getting that way I can’t read my shopping list it seems but there was a very good reason for missing the items. When I walk through the store I normally use a set route but on this occasion I collected the canned food first which meant I ended up going down a couple of aisles in the opposite direction. Being so used to collecting items in a certain manner it confused me and I had to consult my list but even then I still missed one thing. Got to be my age eh?
Today I was going to prepare a chilli-con-carne, something different for a change and after half an hour it was complete.


I normally make this kind of dish well in advance and re-heat it later. Once the heat is removed after cooking the dish stands in the residing heat and cooks slowly for an hour or so more. It tastes far better as a result. Is your mouth watering?

Shirley Anne



During the last couple of weeks it has rained only once in earnest. I write this on 5 th with no forecast of rain for the next few days. If it continues this way we will be heading for a drought. It also means I have been engaged in watering the gardens with a hose else the plants would be suffering, even dying in some cases. For this part of the world the current weather pattern is very unusual and I wonder if it is just a temporary phase or something we can expect more often now. Parts of my country have plenty of water to hand and don’t feel the effects so much when there is a drought but other parts, the more densely populated areas for instance struggle. I hope we can avoid a drought but it is one thing totally beyond our control. I have always maintained that there should be more reservoirs constructed and interconnected with wetter areas to alleviate any possible problems. We do the same thing at home on a miniature scale, we have rainwater butts which are kept full throughout the year for use in drier weather if needed. I have been thinking of adding more for we do have the space for them. For instance I could install a couple behind one of the garages, where the bricks were stored in this old picture for instance,

in fact a very large tank could be installed in that spot if it were desired. We have never resorted to using either of the present water butts because of a shortage of water. So far it has never been necessary but that could change. The moment I decide to add another water-butt it will most probably pour down for weeks on end! It is nice to know I have the option anyway.

Shirley Anne


Just when things..

Just when things are beginning to look good something bad happens. Don’t you ever get that in life?  E and I but mostly I have been plodding along getting the gym/boiler room in shape over the past few weeks and by today, that is as I write on the 12 th, everything is coming along fine. There is still some way to go yet and part of the reason for that is that I am finding extra things I can do and have decided to do in the room. As for the decoration the ceiling isn’t quite fully painted yet as are some of the heating pipes. There are still some holes to be filled and this cupboard to sort out…

..and I have also decided to build a cupboard around the boiler, not to cover the boiler itself but the surrounding pipes and fittings.

I plan to fit a door over the switch gear and removable panels where necessary to make maintenance easier. all that will remain visible is the boiler itself for there is no need to hide it. You cannot see the base of the boiler in this picture (above) but it is standing on a square paving slab which is supported by bricks on top of another paving slab. The space between the slabs is open so I plan to fill it in. It was done that way by the heating engineers many years ago when the boiler was replaced. On the right-hand-side of the boiler is the drain cock and I plan to fit a small outlet pipe through the brick wall with a valve on the inside which can be connected to using a flexible pipe to drain down the system if required. The flexible pipe will only be connected when it is needed. The pipe will therefore remain dry at all times. Aside from being able to shut off the water when draining the pipes the valve will also prevent insects from crawling through the pipe when it isn’t being used. You just have to think of everything! Anyway it all sounds intricate and complex but in reality it is all simple to do. The bad thing had nothing to do with the room we are working in but the garage where my van is housed. The roof has been leaking or rather letting rain water seep in. I wouldn’t mind but it is the area we had reconstructed late last year to accommodate the new garage door. Although the sealant is the best so I am told, it looks as though part of the timber it is protecting has bent and has consequently forced a tear in the sealant. As I write a temporary cover is in place until it stops raining to allow a repair. Just when things were going right!

Shirley Anne

Not before time

English: Bidden ash This pool has been dry for...
Bidden ash This pool has been dry for at least a couple of years, but the heavy rain of November and December raised the water table, so flooding the pasture. The roots of an ash tree help drain the water; the rest forms the River Whitewater. The same pool can be seen here: and (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’d had many days of warm, even hot sunny days but by Sunday evening we were feeling a little tired by it all. I mentioned to E that I couldn’t remember the last time we’d had rain and it didn’t look as though we would get some anytime soon. The heat drains the energy out of me and as I had been very busy doing electrical work and the work in the gardens too I was hoping for it to cool down a little. My friend, who lives in New York, had been trying to contact me but as the weather was so fine I had been spending most of the time outdoors. She had left me a message on the phone which I responded to via an email. In the mail I mentioned we had been having good weather and that I couldn’t remember when it rained last. About an hour later just after E and I had eaten our evening meal it began to rain! Then it got heavier and then it got heavier still. There must have been a week’s supply of it in the space of a half-hour! So much rain at once put pressure on the gutters and drains to cope with it. I had to go outside to clear away some debris that was preventing the water from getting down one of the grids at the rear of the house. Even under an umbrella I still got a little wet. Soon though it eased off and it was dry again. Due to the lack of rain I had been using a hose every day in order to water the garden plants and in fact it was only an hour earlier I had done that and then the heavenly downpour came. Although I can water the surface plants and shrubs it takes an awful lot of water to satisfy the trees, something I couldn’t do with a hose pipe. Tree roots generally reach down to the water table anyway if the trees are big enough. That water table certainly got topped up on Sunday evening. On the plus side I wouldn’t need to water the garden for a day or two. On the other hand the grass will now start growing faster and I’ve only just mowed it!

Shirley Anne

A quick meal

English: This is a roll of Gaffer tape. It was...
This is a roll of Gaffer tape.

I had a little electrical job to do on Thursday morning and I arose early so that I could be there early too. I knew the weather was going to change by evening time and we were to expect heavy rain throughout the night and on into the middle of Friday. I have to say the weather over the last couple of days has been tiring for me. I don’t like it when it is too warm for it drains the energy from me. The rain would be bringing a fresher climate, one that I much prefer. Nevertheless I watered the rear garden plants, those which would otherwise suffer without a watering, those newly planted. Their roots have not yet spread deep enough to where water should be present so I have been keeping the ground moist while there has been no rain. Similarly I watered a few plants in the front garden too for the same reason. Established plants are more resilient to dry spells but even they get a soaking if it hasn’t rained for a time. After breakfast I had enough time to read my emails and write to a friend before driving off to work. It was a simple job but then I only do small electrical jobs these days. I had to fit a few new light switches and power outlets as the old ones had been removed by the decorator working at the house. He had also used gaffer tape to wrap the bare conductors but I couldn’t see the reason for that. He should have used proper insulating tape of course but most folk don’t understand and think any tape will give adequate protection.  Not that it mattered in this instance for

Electrical tape
Electrical tape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the conductors were not separated so in the event that someone should reinstate the supply there would be a short-circuit. Secondly gaffer tape is not insulation tape and finally it was most difficult to remove. Maybe I should have got the decorator to remove it himself. I had been at the house back in March carrying out similar work. It appears the owner is having the house redecorated room by room as slowly as possible it seems! One of the power outlets was in a very awkward place beneath a new piece of fitted furniture without regard to accessibility. It was the very devil of a job trying to fit the new outlet I can tell you. Why oh why don’t people think things out before proceeding with a project? I had one ceiling light to fit but the bracket that attaches it to the ceiling had not been removed prior to the ceiling being skimmed with new plaster. Yes, it was now beneath the surface and had to be removed causing some damage in the process. It drives me mad that I have to correct other people’s mistakes before I can do the work I was asked to do. Soon I had it all done however and drove homeward, stopping along the way to carry out a little job for an old lady who had earlier phoned asking if I could disconnect her meter! She really meant that I should disconnect an off-peak fuseboard from the meter which was going to be replaced with a ‘smart’ meter. The off-peak circuits were no longer wanted. Why the engineer doing that couldn’t disconnect the fuseboard is beyond logic but I hear this attitude often, nobody wants to do anything beyond their strict obligations. I had it done in a couple of minutes then drove home. It was eleven-thirty so I parked my van and walked to the pub for a quick meal and it was quick, as soon as I had eaten it I left and walked back home. There was no point in staying at the pub once I had finished for there was no-one there to speak with, a now regular thing in my life unfortunately. I spent the afternoon alone at home once again. I needed the rest, I needed to relax for I wasn’t feeling at my best. I should by now be taking things more slowly but I am always on edge, always ready for something to do.

Shirley Anne

Safe? Mmmm…not so sure.

English: Mwamanongu Village water source, Tanz...
Mwamanongu Village water source, Tanzania. “In Meatu district, Shinyanga region, Tanzania, water most often comes from open holes dug in the sand of dry riverbeds, and it is invariably contaminated.” . Français : Point d’eau du village de Mwamanongu, en Tanzanie. “Dans le district de Meatu (région de Shinyanga, Tanzanie), L’eau provient le plus souvent de trous creusés dans le sable de lits de rivières asséchées. Elle est systématiquement contaminée.”

I am sure most of my UK readers will have seen an advert for a well-known charity concerning the need for clean water in many African nations and no doubt readers from around the world will have seen similar requests for support on their television networks. There are many charities seeking support in this way and although the adverts are probably subsidised they must still cost something to run. I subscribe to certain charities but not to all of them of course, not because I don’t wish to but for obvious financial reasons. In the UK we enjoy the convenience of pure clean water or do we? Looking at the advert and the way some children have to drink dirty water and often water that is infested by harmful bacteria I realise just how fortunate we are to be able to simply turn on a tap (faucet) and not be worried about such things. Apart from the additives that have been put into our drinking water it is pretty much as pure as it can be but the water, depending on which part of the country we live in, is not as innocent as we might assume. Yes, there will be no harmful bacteria or bits of debris floating about in it because it has been filtered and treated with chlorine. Incidentally, although sometimes we can smell minute amounts of chlorine when we run the tap it soon dissipates if left to stand for a few seconds after which you would never know it was ever there. It isn’t the chlorine which is the problem nor the fluoride added for dental reasons, though some say fluoride can be harmful and shouldn’t be in the water supply but I digress. It is the acidity of the water which is more the problem. Now I’m no chemist and didn’t take that subject at school but I know that water, H2O (actually H4O2 I believe, as it isn’t stable as a single molecule), is considered neutral and mid-way between acids and alkalis, neither one nor the other as far as being corrosive is concerned. We get ‘hard’ water which contains lime and this coats the insides of pipes and water tanks over time. A nuisance for kettle elements or any other kind of submersed electrical element. They say hard water is of more benefit to the drinker than is soft water which contains little or no lime. Washing with hard water is another problem as much more soap is needed. It must be about fifteen years ago that I put a new immersion heater element inside the hot water storage cylinder but it has hardly ever been used because the cylinder is also heated indirectly by the gas boiler, having a copper coil inside through which circulates hot water from the boiler. I remember fitting the element because I actually replaced the whole hot water cylinder as it had sprung a leak and damaged the kitchen ceiling below! Did I mention that I do a bit of plumbing too? LOL. The problem with having the gas boiler heat the tank or cylinder (which is a more accurate description) is that they are fairly distant from one another, the cylinder is up on the first floor in the bathroom and the boiler is below the ground floor in the cellar and not directly beneath the bathroom! The circulating pipes between the two, although lagged, still must lose some heat and of course when the system is off overnight any hot water lying in the pipes is wasted. Over the years this must have amounted to a lot of money being thrown down the drain as the saying goes. Of course the number of people living in our house at that time warranted having a constant flow of hot water during the daytime hours which only the boiler could keep up with. Since there are only two of us here now there is far less hot water required and the immersion heater would be able to cope with that demand. With this in mind a few days ago I isolated the boiler system and switched the immersion heater on instead. Everything worked fine for a few hours and then I noticed the power supply to the immersion heater switch was no longer there as the neon indicator wasn’t lit. Checking the circuit breaker I saw that it had tripped. I knew immediately what the problem was. The element, even though having not been used much in the preceding years, had been eaten away by the corrosive action of the water. I’ve seen this many times in the past when I have been asked in my capacity as an electrician to check why the immersion heater is faulty. On removing the elements I have always found them to be eaten through thereby causing a short-circuit. So now I have to replace my own immersion heater element at home for what is probably the same reason. If the water supply can eat away at metal elements it must be doing some damage to teeth! Water it seems isn’t as safe as you might think!

Shirley Anne